Evernight Page 35

That was the worst dodge imaginable, but to my astonishment, Lucas seemed to believe it. He relaxed in my arms and nodded, like he understood everything now. “I’ll never let you down again. I promise.”

“You never let me down, Lucas. You never could.” Guilt crushed me, and I clung to him more tightly. “I won’t let you down either.”

I’ll keep you safe from every danger, I swore. Even from myself.

Chapter Nine

AFTER THAT, IT SEEMED AS IF I LIVED IN TWO worlds at once. In one of them, Lucas and I were finally together. That felt like the place I’d always wanted to be my whole life. In the other, I was a liar who didn’t deserve to be with Lucas or anyone.

“It just seems weird to me.” Lucas’s whisper was pitched low, so that it wouldn’t carry through the library.

“What seems weird?”

Lucas glanced around before he answered me, to make sure nobody would overhear. He needn’t have worried. We sat in one of the far archways, one lined with hand-bound books a couple of centuries old—one of the most private corners of the school. “That neither of us really remembers that night.”

“You got hurt.” When in doubt, I stuck to the story that Mrs. Bethany had come up with. Lucas didn’t wholly buy it yet, but in time he would. He had to. Everything depended on that. “Lots of times, people forget what happened just before they got hurt. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That iron scrollwork is sharp.”

“I’ve kissed girls before…” His words trailed off as he saw the look on my face. “Nobody like you. Nobody even close to you.”

I ducked my head to hide my embarrassed smile.

Lucas continued, “Anyway, it doesn’t make me pass out. Not ever. You are a seriously great kisser—trust me on that—but not even you could make me black out.”

“That’s not why you passed out,” I suggested, pretending that I really wanted to go back to reading the gardening book I’d found; the only reason I’d picked it up in the first place was some lingering curiosity about what the flower was that I’d glimpsed in my dream months before. “You passed out because this huge iron bar whacked you in the head. Hello.”

“That doesn’t explain why you don’t remember.”

“You know I have some problems with anxiety, right? I freak out sometimes. When we first met, I was in the middle of a huge freak-out. Huge! There are parts of my great escape that I don’t remember very well either. When you got hit in the head, I probably freaked out again. I mean, you could’ve been killed.” That part, at least, was close to the truth. “No wonder I was scared.”

“There’s no bump on my head. Just a bruise, like I fell or something.”

“We put an ice pack on it. We took care of you.”

Unconvinced, Lucas said, “Still doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t know why you’re still thinking about this.” Even saying that made me a liar again, and worse than before. Sticking to the story was something that I had to do for Lucas’s own protection, because if Mrs. Bethany ever realized that he knew something was up, she might—might—oh, I didn’t know what she might do, but I suspected it wouldn’t be good. But telling Lucas that he was wrong to have doubts, that the good and sensible questions he had about Evernight and his memory lapse that night were just foolishness—that was worse. That was asking Lucas to doubt himself, and I didn’t want to do that. I now knew how bad it felt, doubting yourself. “Please, Lucas, let it go.”

Lucas slowly nodded. “We’ll talk about it some other time.”

When he dropped the subject and stopped worrying about the night of the Autumn Ball, our time together was wonderful. Almost perfect. We studied together in the library or in my mother’s classroom, sometimes with Vic or Raquel along. We ate lunch together on the grounds, sandwiches wrapped in brown bags and stuffed into our coat pockets. I daydreamed about him during class, rousing myself from my happy stupor only as often as I had to in order to keep from flunking out. On the days when we had chemistry together, we walked to and from Iwerebon’s room, side by side. Other days, he found me as soon as classes were over, as if he’d been thinking about me even more than I’d been thinking about him.

“Face it,” Lucas whispered to me one Sunday afternoon when I’d invited him up to my parents’ apartment. (They had tactfully greeted us, then let us hang out in my room for the rest of the day.) We lay together on the floor, not touching but close beside each other, staring up at the Klimt print. “I don’t know anything about art.”

“You don’t have to know anything about it. You just have to look at it and say what you feel.”

“I’m not so great at saying what I feel.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Just give it a try, okay?”

“Well, okay.” He thought about it long and hard, staring up at The Kiss all the while. “I guess—I guess I like the way he’s holding her face in his hands. Like she’s the one thing in the world that makes him happy, that really belongs to him.”

“Do you really see that in the painting? To me he looks—strong, I guess.” The man in The Kiss certainly looked in control of the situation to me; the swooning woman seemed to like it that way, at least for the moment.

Lucas turned to me, and I let my head loll to one side so that we were face-to-face. The way that he looked at me—intent, serious, filled with longing—made me hold my breath. He said only, “Trust me. I know I got that one right.”

We kissed each other, and then Dad picked the perfect moment to call us for our dinner. Parental timing is uncanny. They made the most of dinner, even eating food and acting like they enjoyed it.

Being close to Lucas meant that I had less time to be with my other friends, though I wished it didn’t. Balthazar was still as kind as ever, always greeting me in the hallway and nodding to Lucas, as though Lucas were his pal and not someone who had nearly tackled him the night of the Autumn Ball. But his eyes were sad, and I knew that I’d hurt Balthazar by not giving him a chance.

Raquel was lonely, too. Even though we invited her along for study nights sometimes, she and I never shared lunch anymore. She hadn’t made any other friends that I knew of. Lucas and I had a half-baked idea of setting her up with Vic, but the two of them simply didn’t click. They hung out together with us and had fun, but that was that.

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