Evernight Page 32

“He’s all right,” I whispered.

“You didn’t drink enough blood to hurt him.” My father looked at me for the first time since he’d run to the gazebo. I’d been afraid of seeing condemnation—or, given what I’d been doing when the urge to bite hit, embarrassment—but Dad was calm, even kind. “You have to make an effort to drink more than a pint or so at a time.”

“Then why did Lucas pass out?”

“The bite does that to them,” Mom said. By “them” she meant humans. Normally she made an effort not to draw a distinction, because she liked to say that people were people no matter what, but the dividing line between us had never been clearer. “It’s like they’re—hypnotized, maybe, or under a spell. They’ll fight hard at first, but soon they slip into this trance.”

“Good thing, too, because that means he won’t remember a thing tomorrow.” Dad held Lucas’s wrist in his hand, checking the pulse. “We’ll invent a story to tell him about the wound, something simple about an accident. That old gazebo has a couple of loose crossbars—maybe one of them could’ve fallen. Whacked him on the head.”

“I don’t like lying to Lucas.”

Mom shook her head. “Honey, you’ve always understood that there are things that the people around us don’t need to know.”

“Lucas’s not most people.”

What I knew, and they didn’t, was that Lucas was suspicious of Evernight Academy already. Of course he didn’t know the truth about this place—if he had, he’d never have walked through the front door—but he understood that something was up, that there was more to this school than met the eye. I could be proud of Lucas’s sharp instincts at the same time I recognized that they made everything a lot more difficult.

But how could I even think of telling him the truth? Sorry I almost killed you last night? I nodded slowly, accepting what I had to do. Lucas couldn’t know how badly I’d failed him. He’d never forgive me—if he even believed me when I started talking about vampires. He might as easily think I’d gone insane.

“Okay,” I conceded. “We have to lie. I understand.”

“If only I understood,” Mrs. Bethany said crisply. She walked through the bedroom doorway, hands clasped in front of her. Instead of her usual lacy blouses and dark skirts, she wore a deep purple ball gown and black satin gloves that came up to her elbows. Black pearl earrings shimmered as she shook her head. “When we invited human students to join us here at Evernight, we knew there could be security troubles. We’ve lectured all our older students, monitored the hallways, kept the groups as separate as possible—and with good results, I thought. I would never have expected an outburst from you, Miss Olivier.”

My parents both rose to their feet. At first I thought they were showing Mrs. Bethany respect as their boss—they’d always deferred to her and taught me to do the same. But then my father stepped forward to defend me. “You know that Bianca isn’t like the rest of us. This is the first time she’s ever tasted living blood. She didn’t realize how it could affect her.”

Mrs. Bethany’s lips turned slightly upward in a prim, unpleasant smile. “Bianca is of course a special case. So few vampires are born, rather than made. Do you know, you’re only the third one I’ve met since 1812?”

My parents had told me that only a handful of vampire babies were conceived every century; they’d been together for almost 350 years before Mom stunned them both by getting pregnant with me. I always thought they’d been exaggerating a little to make me feel unique. Now I realized it was the absolute truth.

Mrs. Bethany wasn’t done. “I would think that being raised by vampires—with a knowledge of our nature and our needs—wouldn’t that be an advantage? A reason for more self-control, rather than less?”

“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t let my parents take the blame for this, not when it was my fault alone. “Dad and Mom always told me how it would happen someday. That I’d feel this need to bite. I still didn’t understand, not really. Not until it happened to me.”

She nodded, considering this. Her dark eyes flicked over to Lucas once, as if he were litter we’d left in her room. “He’ll live? No permanent harm done, then. We’ll assign Bianca’s punishment tomorrow.”

Mom shot me an apologetic glance. “Bianca has sworn to us she wouldn’t do anything like this again.”

“If word should get around the school that someone has bitten one of the new students and suffered no consequences, there will be other incidents.” Mrs. Bethany gathered her skirt in one hand. “Some of them might not end as well. It is vital that no more human students are so much as touched, as we cannot afford even a whisper of suspicion. Such a transgression must not go unpunished.”

For the first time ever, Mrs. Bethany and I were in complete agreement. I felt terrible for having hurt Lucas, and a few evenings of hall-cleaning duty were the least I deserved. But I saw one difficulty right away. “I can’t have detention. Or be forced to clean up or anything like that.”

Her eyebrows arched even higher. “Are you above such menial tasks?”

“If I’m being punished in some obvious way, Lucas will ask why. We don’t want him to ask any questions. Right?”

I’d made my point. Mrs. Bethany nodded once, but I could tell she was displeased that I’d bested her. “Then you will write a ten-page paper on—let us say—the use of the epistolary form in novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Due in two weeks.”

It was a measure of how depressed and freaked-out I already was that this assignment couldn’t make me feel any worse.

Mrs. Bethany stepped closer to me, the full skirts of her gown rustling like birds’ wings. The fragrance of lavender curled around me like smoke. It was difficult for me to meet her eyes; I felt so exposed, so ashamed. “For more than two centuries, Evernight Academy has served as a sanctuary for our kind. Those of us who appear young enough to be students can come here to learn about how the world has changed, so that they can reenter society and move freely without arousing suspicion. This is a place of learning. A place of safety. It can remain so only if the humans beyond our walls—and now, within our walls—have safety as well. If our students lose control and take human life, Evernight would soon come under suspicion. This sanctuary would fall. Two centuries of tradition would end. I have safeguarded this school almost all that time, Miss Olivier. I do not intend to see the balance upset by you or by anyone. Am I quite clear?”

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