Evernight Page 4

“It’s okay, honestly. I realize you were trying to help. I meant, before you saw me. Orientation doesn’t start for another few hours. It’s really early. They told students to arrive around ten A.M.”

“I’ve never been very good at playing by the rules.”

That was interesting. “So—you’re a morning person, getting a jump on the day?”

“Hardly. I haven’t gone to bed yet.” He had a fantastic grin, and I’d already noticed that he knew how to use it. I didn’t mind. “Anyway, my mom couldn’t bring me herself. She’s away, on business, I guess you’d say. I caught the red-eye train in and thought I’d walk up here first. Get the lay of the land. Rescue any damsels in distress.”

When I remembered how fast Lucas had been running after me, and realized that he’d been doing that in an attempt to save my life, the memory changed. The fear was gone, and now it made me smile. “Why did you come to Evernight? I’m stuck here because of my parents, but you could probably have gone someplace else. Someplace better. So, like, anywhere else.”

Lucas honestly didn’t seem to know how to answer. He pushed branches back as we kept walking through the forest, keeping any of them from scraping my face. Nobody had ever cleared a path for me before. “It’s a long story.”

“I’m not in a hurry to go back. Besides, we’ve got a few hours to kill before orientation.”

He lowered his head, but kept his eyes fixed on me. There was something undeniably sexy about that move, though I wasn’t sure he meant it that way. His eyes were almost exactly the same color as the ivy that grew on the towers at Evernight. “It’s also kind of a secret.”

“I can keep a secret. I mean, you’re going to keep this whole incident secret for me, right? With the running and the freaking out—”

“I’ll never tell.” After a couple more seconds of consideration, Lucas finally confessed, “An ancestor of mine tried to go to school here almost a hundred and fifty years ago. He washed out, I guess you’d say.” Lucas laughed, and it felt like the sunlight had broken through the trees. “So it’s up to me to ‘restore the family honor.’”

“That’s not fair. You shouldn’t have to make all your decisions based on what he did or didn’t do.”

“Not all my decisions. They let me pick out my own socks.” I smiled as he tugged up his pants leg to reveal a sliver of argyle sock above his heavy black boot.

“How did your great-grand-whatever wash out?”

Lucas shook his head ruefully. “He got into a duel during his first week.”

“A duel? Like, somebody insulted his honor?” I tried to remember what I’d learned about duels from romance novels and movies. All I knew was that Lucas’s history was definitely a lot more interesting than mine. “Or was it over a girl?”

“He would’ve had to move fast, to meet a girl in the first few days of school.” Lucas paused, as if he were just realizing that it was the first day of school and he’d already met me. I felt this tug, like something was almost physically pulling me to lean toward him—but then Lucas turned his head and glared at the towers of Evernight, just visible through the pine branches. It was as though the building itself had offended him. “Could’ve been anything. Back then, they’d duel at the drop of a hat. Family legend has it that the other guy started it, not that it matters. What does matter is that he survived but not without breaking one of the stained glass windows in the great hall.”

“Of course. There’s one that’s just clear glass, and I never understood why.”

“Now you do. Evernight’s been closed to my family ever since.”

“Until now.”

“Until now,” he agreed. “And I don’t mind. I think I can learn a lot here. Doesn’t mean I have to like everything about it.”

“I’m not sure I like anything about it,” I confessed. Except you, added the voice in my head, which had turned awfully bold all of a sudden.

Lucas seemed to be able to hear that voice. There was something knowing in the way he gazed back at me. With his chiseled features and school uniform, he should’ve looked like the all-American boy, but he didn’t. During the chase, and in the moments afterward when he’d thought we’d be fighting for our lives, I’d glimpsed something a little wild lurking just beneath the surface. He said, “I like the gargoyles, the mountains, and the fresh air. That’s it so far.”

“You like the gargoyles?”

“I like it when the monsters are smaller than me.”

“Never thought of it that way.” We had reached the edge of the grounds. The sunlight was bright now, and I sensed that the school was waking up, preparing to receive its students, to swallow them through that arched stone doorway. “I’m dreading this.”

“Not too late to run, Bianca,” he said lightly.

“I don’t want to run. I just don’t want to be surrounded by all these strangers. Around people I don’t know, I can never talk or act normal or be myself at all—why are you smiling?”

“Seems like you know how to talk to me.”

I blinked, astonished at myself. Lucas was right. How was that even possible? I stammered, “With you—I guess—I think you scared me so badly that I got all the fear over with right away.”

“Hey, if it works—”

“Yeah.” Already I sensed that there was more to it than that. Strangers still terrified me, but he wasn’t a stranger. He hadn’t been since the first moment I realized that he’d been trying to save my life. I felt as though I’d always known Lucas, as if somehow I’d been waiting years for him to arrive. “I should go back before my parents realize I’m gone.”

“Don’t let them hassle you.”

“They won’t.”

Lucas didn’t seem sure of that, but he nodded as he stepped away from me, edging back into the shadows while I walked into the light. “See you around, then.”

I raised one hand in a farewell wave, but Lucas was already gone. He’d disappeared into the forest in an instant.

Chapter Two

STILL SHAKY WITH ADRENALINE, I WALKED BACK up the long spiral staircase until I reached the top apartment in the tower. This time I didn’t bother being quiet. I slipped my messenger bag off my shoulder and flopped onto the sofa. A few leaves still clung to my hair, so I picked them out.

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