Evernight Page 13

“Hello there,” Balthazar said. I hadn’t seen him coming up behind me. He wore a black suede blazer and held a bottle in one hand. The firelight painted his face in warm light; he had curly hair, a strong jaw, and a heavy brow. He looked like a tough guy, a bruiser, somebody who would be quicker with a punch than a joke. But his eyes made him approachable and even sexy, because there was intelligence there and humor, too. There was no cruelty in his smile. “Want a beer? There’s still some left.”

“That’s okay.” He had to know I was blushing, even in the dark. “I’m, uh, not legal.”

Not legal? Like anyone here cared about that. I should’ve just painted GEEK on my forehead and saved everybody time.

Balthazar smiled, but not like he was laughing at me. “You know, children used to drink wine at the dinner table with their parents. And doctors used to advise women whose babies didn’t nurse well to feed them a little beer as extra food.”

“That was then, this is now.”

“Fair enough.” He didn’t press me, and I realized that he wasn’t drunk in the slightest. I began to relax. Balthazar had a way of putting people at ease, despite his size and his obvious strength. “I’ve been meaning to say hello to you since the first day.”

“Really?” I hope I didn’t squeak.

“I warn you now, I’m up to no good.” Balthazar must have gotten a good look at the expression on my face, because he laughed, a deep, rumbling sound. “Your mother said she’d taught you before, so I wanted a few hints on how to read her. I need to know my teacher’s secrets, right?”

I decided that Mom wouldn’t mind my telling him. “You want to watch for her bouncing on her heels.”

“Bouncing?”

“Yeah. That usually means she’s excited about something, interested in it, you know? And if she’s interested in it, she thinks you should be, too.”

“Which means it’s going to show up on a test.”

“You got it.”

He laughed again; he had a dimple in his chin that made him seem almost playful. I almost felt disloyal to Lucas, noticing how handsome Balthazar looked, but it was impossible not to. After the way Lucas had ignored me this past week, I wasn’t sure he had a right to my loyalty. Besides, it felt good, having a gorgeous guy paying attention to me.

Balthazar stepped a little closer. “I’m going to be glad we met. I can tell.”

I grinned back at him, and for a whole three seconds it looked like the party was going to be fun. That’s when Courtney showed up. She was wearing a black skirt cut really high, and a white blouse open really low in the front. She wasn’t very curvy, but she made up for it by not wearing a bra, which was now very obvious. “Balthazar. I’m so glad we get to catch up.”

“We’re caught up,” Balthazar seemed even less happy to see her than I was. She didn’t get the picture, or she ignored it.

“Seems like ages since we’ve hung out. Too long. We last saw each other in London, right?”

“St. Petersburg,” he corrected her. He could toss off the city’s name like throwing away a paper cup. Apparently he was bold and worldly enough to cross the oceans without a second thought.

Courtney’s hands smoothed down the front of his blazer, the movement of her fingers outlining his powerful physique. I envied her then—not her starlet looks or her continental travels, but her daring. If I’d been half as brave with Lucas in the woods, been able touch him or use his “good girl” comment as a way to flirt, maybe he wouldn’t act like we were strangers now. Courtney’s voice sliced through my fantasizing. “You’re not really doing anything here, are you, Balthazar?”

“I was talking to Bianca.”

Courtney glanced over her shoulder at me; her long blond hair hung loose to her waist, and it rippled as she tossed her head. “Do you have something interesting to share, Bianca?”

“I—” What was I supposed to say? Anything would’ve been better than what I did say, which was, “Um, no.”

“Then you don’t mind if we take a few moments, do you?” She started towing Balthazar off without waiting for an answer. He shot me a look, and I knew that if I spoke even one word, he would stop. But I just stood there helplessly and watched them go.

A couple of people giggled. I glanced to one side and saw Erich, and despite the shifting shadows of the firelight, I was pretty sure he was pointing at me.

I slunk away from the fire, meaning only to be someplace out of the way until I could grab Patrice or somebody else who might pass for friendly. But every single step I took away from the others felt good, and before I knew it, I was leaving.

If we hadn’t sneaked out after curfew, I would’ve run straight through the door and up to my room. I remembered my law-breaker status in time, though, and stopped myself. Instead I headed westward to the gazebo on the lawn to pull myself together, then plan my reentry.

As I made my way up the steps, I saw someone standing there. At first, though, I didn’t recognize who it could be—whoever it was held binoculars in front of his face. When the moonlight highlighted his bronze hair, I knew. “Lucas?”

“Hey there, Bianca.” It took a few seconds for him to lower the binoculars and grin at me. “Nice night for a party.”

I stared at the binoculars. “What are you doing?”

“What’s it look like I’m doing? I’m spying on the party.” He was almost as abrupt as he had been in the hallway—until he got a good look at my face. I must’ve still looked miserable, because he asked, more gently, “You okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m a loser, but I’m fine.”

Lucas laughed. “I saw you cut out of there in a hurry. Anybody giving you trouble?”

“No. Not really. But the whole thing felt—threatening, I guess. You know how I am with strangers.”

“Good for you. That’s not your scene.”

“No kidding.” I stared at the binoculars. Only somebody with excellent night vision would be able to use them to see anything, though I guessed the bonfire’s light helped. “Why are you spying on the party?”

“Looking to see if anybody gets drunk or careless, or wanders off on his own.”

“What, are you Mrs. Bethany’s hall monitor now?”

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