Evernight Page 40

Okay, it had also been stupid, but she had a right to expect that one of her classmates wouldn’t try to kill her.

“You know what?” Erich said casually. “I’m hungry.”

Raquel’s face paled. She couldn’t have known what Erich really meant by that, but she sensed what I sensed. What had been taunting was about to become something else. The energy between them was changing from potential to kinetic. She said, “I’m going.”

“We’ll see where you go,” he replied.

I yelled, as loudly as I could, “Hey!”

Both Raquel and Erich whirled around to see me. Raquel’s face instantly melted in relief. “Bianca!”

“This is none of your business,” Erich snapped. “Back off.”

That startled me. I’d assumed he would be the one backing off as soon as he’d been caught in the act. Apparently not. Normally this would be the moment when I started getting terrified, but I didn’t. I felt adrenaline pumping through me, but I wasn’t going cold or getting shaky. Instead, my muscles tensed with the same kind of anticipation you feel before a race. My sense of smell sharpened so that I could detect Raquel’s sweat, Erich’s cheap aftershave, even the fur of small mice in the underbrush. I swallowed hard, and my tongue brushed against my incisors, which were lengthening slowly in my excitement.

You’ll start reacting like a vampire, my mother had said. This was part of what she’d meant.

“I’m not leaving. You are.” I stepped closer to them, and Raquel stumbled toward me, trembling too hard to really run.

Erich’s irritation made him scowl. He looked like a petulant child denied an after-school snack. “What, are you the only one allowed to break the rules?”

“Break the rules?” Raquel’s voice was confused, near hysteria. “Bianca, what is he talking about? Can we get out of here?”

I went pale. He smirked at me. I recognized the threat at last. Erich was on the verge of telling Raquel who and what we both were. If he revealed the secret of Evernight, and he convinced Raquel that we were really vampires—and Raquel’s earlier suspicions made me believe that he could—then she’d run from us both. That would give him the perfect opportunity to bite her. He could even claim he’d done it to erase her memory. I could try to stop him with the fighting instincts I already felt sharpening within me, but I wasn’t a full vampire yet. Erich was stronger and swifter than I was. He’d beat me. He’d get Raquel. All he had to do was say a few more words.

Quickly, I said, “I’m reporting this to Mrs. Bethany.”

Erich’s smarmy grin slowly faded from his face. Even he had sense to be afraid of Mrs. Bethany. And after all her big speeches about how everyone had to keep the human students safe to protect the school? Oh, no, Mrs. Bethany wouldn’t like Erich’s attitude at all.

“Don’t,” Erich said. “Just drop it, okay?”

“You drop it. Get out of here. Go.”

Erich glared at Raquel one more time, then stalked off into the woods alone.

“Bianca!” Raquel stumbled through the last few branches that separated us. Quickly I ran my tongue across my teeth, settling down so that I looked and acted human again. “Oh, my God, what’s wrong with that guy?”

“He’s a jerk.” It was true, even if it wasn’t the whole truth.

Raquel hugged herself tightly. “Who comes after—acts like he would—Oh, man. Okay. Okay.”

I peered through the darkness to make sure that Erich was really retreating. His footsteps had faded, and I couldn’t see his pale coat any longer. He was gone, at least for the moment, but I didn’t trust him. “Come on,” I said. “We’re going to make a quick side trip.”

Too numb to ask questions, Raquel followed me as we walked back toward the river. We only had to go another quarter mile before we found a small footbridge made of stone. It hadn’t been used regularly in a long time, and some of the stones were loose, but she didn’t complain or ask questions as I led her to the other side. Erich could cross the river if he really wanted to, but his natural aversion to running water, coupled with his fear of Mrs. Bethany, would almost certainly be enough to keep us safe. Once we were on the far bank, I asked, “How are you?”

“Fine. I’m fine.”

“Raquel, tell the truth. Erich came after you in the woods—you’re still shaking!”

Her skin was clammy, but Raquel insisted, her voice shrill, “I’m fine!” We stared at each other in silence for a second, and then she added in a whisper, “Bianca, please. He didn’t touch me. So I’m fine.”

Someday Raquel might be ready to talk about this, but not tonight. Tonight she needed to get out of here and fast. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s get back to school.”

“Never thought I’d be glad to go back to Evernight.” Her laugh sounded broken, somehow. We started to walk away, but then she paused. “Aren’t you going to—to call the police or the teachers or somebody?”

“We’ll tell Mrs. Bethany as soon as we get back.”

“I could try to call from here. I have my cell—it worked in town—”

“We’re not in town any longer. You know we don’t get reception out here.”

“It’s so stupid.” She was shaking so hard that her teeth chattered. “Why don’t those rich bitches make their mommies and daddies pay for a tower?”

Because most of them haven’t even gotten used to landlines yet, I thought. “Come on. Let’s go.” She wouldn’t let me put my arm around her shoulders as we made our way out of the frosty woods. Instead she just kept twisting her leather bracelet over and over.

That night, after Raquel went to bed, I went to see Mrs. Bethany in her carriage house office. Given her disdainful attitude toward me, I’d assumed she would doubt my word, but she didn’t. “We’ll see to this,” she said. “You are dismissed.”

I hesitated. “That’s it?”

“Do you think you should be allowed to discuss his punishment? To mete it out, perhaps?” She arched one eyebrow. “I know how to keep discipline at my own school, Miss Olivier. Or would you like to write another essay as a reminder?”

“I just meant, what are we going to tell everybody? They’ll want to know what happened to Raquel.” Already I could envision Lucas’s handsome face, maybe questioning again if something strange was at work within Evernight. “She’ll tell people it was Erich. We’ll just have to say he was playing a practical joke or something, right?”

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