Evernight Page 22

“We’re okay,” I said hastily. This was not the time to discover that chivalry wasn’t dead. “Honestly, it’s okay.”

Lucas acted like he hadn’t even heard me. He glared at the guy and snapped, “This isn’t any of your business.”

That was like dropping a match into a pool of gasoline. The construction worker swaggered closer, and his friends all stood up. “You go treating your girlfriend like that in public and damn straight it’s my business.”

“He wasn’t giving me trouble!” I was still angry with Lucas, but the situation was clearly getting out of control. “It’s great that you guys are, uh, looking out for women—seriously, it is—but there’s no problem here.”

“Stay out of this,” Lucas said, his voice low. There was a note in it I’d never heard before, an almost unnatural intensity. A shiver went up my spine. “She’s not your concern.”

“You think you own her or somethin’? So you can treat her however you want? You remind me of the pig my sister married.” The construction worker looked angrier than ever. “You think I won’t give you what I gave him, you’re dreamin’, kid.”

In desperation I looked around for a waiter or the store owner. My parents. Raquel. Basically, I was hoping for somebody, anybody, who might put a stop to this before the drunk construction guys beat Lucas to a pulp—because they were huge and there were four of them and by now they were all clearly spoiling for a fight.

I never imagined that Lucas would strike first.

He moved too fast for me to see. There was a blur of motion, and then the construction worker was sprawling backward into his friends. Lucas’s arm was extended, his fist clenched, and it took a moment to sink in: Oh, my God, he just hit somebody.

“What the hell?” One of the other workers came at Lucas, who dodged him so quickly that it was like he was there, and then he wasn’t. Instead he was at an angle, able to shove his opponent away so hard that I thought he’d fall down.

“Hey!” A man in his forties, wearing a sauce-stained apron, walked into the dining area. I didn’t care if he was the owner, the chef, or Papa John—I’d never been so glad to see anybody in my life. “What’s going on here?”

“There’s no trouble!” Okay, I was lying, but it didn’t matter. I slid out of the booth and started backing toward the door. “We’re going. It’s over.”

The construction workers and Lucas kept staring at each other, like they wanted nothing more than to kick the fight into high gear, but mercifully Lucas followed me. As the door swung shut behind us, I could hear the owner muttering something about kids from that damn school.

As soon as we were in the street, Lucas turned to me. “Are you okay?”

“No thanks to you!” I started walking quickly back toward the main street. “What’s gotten into you? You started a fight with that guy for no reason!”

“He started it!”

“No, he started the argument. You started the fight.”

“I was protecting you.”

“He thought he was, too. Maybe he was drunk and gross about it, but he didn’t mean any harm.”

“You don’t understand how dangerous a place the world really is, Bianca.”

Every other time Lucas had talked like that—as if he were so much older than I, and he wanted to teach me and shelter me—it had made me feel all warm and happy inside. Now it made me angrier. “You act like you know everything, and then you behave like an idiot and start a fight with four guys! And I saw how you fight, too. You’ve done this before.”

Lucas had been walking alongside me, but his steps slowed, like he was shocked. I realized that what had really shocked him was that I’d figured it out. I was right. Lucas had been in fights like this before now, and more than once.

“Bianca—”

“Save it.” I held up my hand, and we walked in silence back to the rental bus, which already was surrounded by students milling around, most of them with shopping bags or sodas in hand.

Lucas swung into the seat beside me, like he was still hoping we’d talk, but I folded my arms across my chest and stared at the window. Vic bounced into the seat in front of us and crowed, “Yo, guys, what’s up?” Then he got a look at our faces. “Hey, looks like it might be a good time for me to tell one of my long rambling stories that goes nowhere.”

“Great plan,” Lucas said shortly.

True to his word, Vic went on and on about surfboards and bands and weird dreams he’d had once upon a time, and he didn’t stop talking until we were back at school. That saved me from having to talk to Lucas; and, for his part, Lucas didn’t say anything at all.

Chapter Six

AFTER THE TRIP TO RIVERTON, I FELT LIKE A fool who had thrown Lucas away for nothing.

Those construction workers had been drinking. Plus, there were four of them and only one of him. Maybe Lucas had needed to show them he meant business to avoid getting beaten to a pulp. If he’d done the only thing he could, what right did I have to judge him?

“No way,” Raquel said when I confided in her the next day, walking across the grounds. The leaves had finished changing color, so that the hills in the distance were no longer green but crimson and gold. “If a guy gets violent, you get out. Period. Be thankful you saw his temper in action before you were the one he was angry at.”

Her vehemence startled me. “You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”

“What, you never watched a Lifetime Original Movie?” Raquel didn’t meet my eyes, just fiddled with the braided leather bracelet on her wrist. “Everybody knows that. Men who hit are bad men.”

“I know he overreacted. But there’s no way Lucas could ever hurt me.”

Raquel shrugged and pulled her school blazer more tightly around her, as if she felt a chill, though it wasn’t that cold out. For the first time, I wondered how much of her quiet demeanor and boyish appearance were a means of hiding herself from attention she didn’t want. “Nobody ever thinks that something bad can happen until it happens. Besides, he kept telling you how much everybody here sucked and how you shouldn’t be friends with your roommate or just about anybody else, right?”

“Well…yeah, but—”

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