Evernight Page 15

“I’ve kinda messed things up, haven’t I?” Lucas sounded almost as bashful as I felt. “I’m not used to this.”

I raised one eyebrow. “Talking to girls?” Looking the way Lucas did, I doubted that.

However, there was no mistaking his sincerity when he nodded. The devilish glint had faded from his eyes. “I’ve spent a lot of years moving around. Traveling from place to place. Anybody I cared about—it seemed like they were gone too soon. I guess I learned to keep people at a distance.”

“You made me feel like I’d been stupid to trust you.”

“Don’t feel that way. This is my problem. I’d hate for it to be yours.”

My whole life had been spent in a small town, and I’d always thought that made me worse at meeting strangers. But now that Lucas said it, I could see that a peripatetic existence might have the same effect: isolate you, turn your thoughts inward, so that reaching out to others was the hardest thing in the world.

So perhaps his anger was a lot like my shyness. It was a sign that we were each lonely. Maybe we didn’t have to stay lonely too much longer.

Quietly, I said, “Aren’t you tired of running and hiding? I know I am.”

“I don’t run and hide,” Lucas retorted. Then he was silent for a second, considering. “Well, damn.”

“I could be wrong.”

“You’re not.” Lucas watched me for a while longer, and just when I was starting to feel like I’d been too open, he said, “I shouldn’t do this.”

“This?” My heart began to thump a little faster.

Lucas just shook his head and grinned. The devilish look was back. “When it gets complicated later on, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Maybe I’m the complicated one.”

He smiled even more broadly. “I can see it’s going to take us a while to settle this.” I loved it when he smiled at me that way, and I hoped we’d hang out at the gazebo for hours. But at that moment, Lucas cocked his head. “Do you hear that?”

“What?” But then I did hear it: the faraway sound of the school’s front door opening repeatedly and footsteps on the front walk. “They’re coming out to bust the party!”

“Sucks to be Courtney,” Lucas said. “And it gives us a chance to get back inside.”

We ran across the grounds, listening to the sounds of the party being broken up, and gave each other big smiles as we sailed through the front door, home free.

“See you soon,” Lucas whispered as he let my arm go and headed toward his hall. And as I ran back to my own room and my own bed, that one word kept ringing in my ears: soon.

Chapter Four

I REACHED MY ROOM JUST IN TIME TO JUMP under the covers before Patrice walked in, accompanied by Mrs. Bethany. Pale light from the hallway outlined the headmistress, so that all I could see was her silhouette.

“You know why we have rules here, Patrice.” Her voice was soft, but there was no mistaking that she was serious. It was more than a little intimidating, and I wasn’t even the one she was scolding. “You should understand that those rules need to be obeyed. We can’t go running across the countryside at night. People would talk. Students would lose control. The result could be tragedy. Am I clear?”

Patrice nodded, and then the door swung shut. I sat up in bed and whispered, “Was it awful?”

“No, just a mess,” Patrice grumbled as she started stripping off her clothes. We’d been changing in the same room together for more than a week now, but I was still kind of embarrassed by it. She wasn’t. Even as she yanked off her shirt, she was staring at me. “You’re still dressed!”

“Um, yeah.”

“I thought you left the party early.”

“I did. But I—I couldn’t get back into the school right away. They were patrolling. Then they realized where you guys were and took off. I only got in here about three minutes before you did.”

Patrice shrugged as she reached for her nightshirt. I did my best to get changed without turning away from my corner. The conversation was over, and I’d successfully lied to my roommate for the first time.

Maybe I should’ve told Patrice why I was late. Most girls would probably be bubbling over to tell everyone all about the gorgeous guy they’d just made a connection with. But I liked the secret. That made it more special, somehow, the fact that only I knew. Lucas likes me, and I like him back. I think maybe, soon, we’re going to be together.

That last thought was probably taking it a little far, I decided as I slid beneath the blankets again. All the same, I couldn’t help myself. My mind was racing too fast for me to sleep, and I smiled against my pillowcase.

He’s mine.

“Heard there was quite a party last night,” Dad said, as he placed a hamburger and fries in front of me at my family’s table.

“Mmm-hmmm,” I answered through a mouthful of fries. Then I caught myself and mumbled, “I mean, that’s what I heard, too.”

Mom and Dad traded looks, and I got the impression that they were more amused than ticked off. That was a relief.

This was the first of what would be our weekly Sunday dinners. Every second I could be back with my family in the faculty apartment instead of surrounded by Evernight kids was good with me. Even though they were trying to act all casual about it, I could tell that my parents had missed me almost as much as I’d missed them. Duke Ellington was on the stereo, and despite the parental interrogation, everything was again right with the world.

“Things didn’t get out of hand, did they?” Mom had apparently decided to ignore the fact that I’d denied being there. “From what I heard, it was mostly beer and music.”

“Not that I know of.” It wasn’t really a denial; I mean, I did only attend the party for about fifteen minutes.

Dad shook his head and said to Mom, “It doesn’t matter if it was just beer. The rules have to be obeyed, Celia. I don’t worry about Bianca, but some of the others—”

“I’m not against rules. But it’s natural for the older students to rebel against them occasionally. Better to have a few minor slipups from time to time than some major incident.” Mom turned her attention back to me. “What’s your favorite class so far?”

“Yours, of course.” I gave her a look, asking if she really thought I was silly enough to answer any other way, and she laughed.

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