Evernight Page 41

“That sounds reasonable.” Why did she look so amused? I realized the reason when Mrs. Bethany added, “You’re becoming quite adept in deception, Miss Olivier. Progress at last.”

I was afraid she might be right.

Chapter Ten

THE FIRST SNOWFALL OF WINTER DISAPPOINTED us all—only an inch and a half, just enough to melt into ice and slick the sidewalks. The countryside appeared patchy and dull, yellow-brown hills spotted with watery clumps of snow. Outside the bedroom window of my turret room, the gargoyle wore beads of frozen water over his scales and wings. It wasn’t enough snow to play in or even to enjoy looking at.

“Suits me,” Patrice said, artfully draping an acid-green muffler around her neck just so. “I’m glad we’re getting more sunshine.”

“Now that you can go back out in it again, you mean.” I had been so frustrated with Patrice and the others with their constant “dieting” before the Autumn Ball; like all vampires denied blood, they’d become thinner—and more vampiric. Courtney and her admiring clique had all been staying out of the sunlight, something that didn’t bother a well-fed vampire but was painful to a starving one. I’d had to put up with Patrice spending hours in front of the mirror trying to see herself as her reflection faded more and more, approaching invisibility. I thought they’d seemed bitchier, too, but with that crew, it was hard to tell.

Patrice knew what I was referring to and shook her head, so exasperated with me. “I’ve been fine since the day after the ball. It was worth a few weeks of hunger pangs and staying in the shade! Eventually you’ll learn the value of self-denial.” Her round cheeks dimpled with amusement. “But not while Lucas’s around, right?”

We laughed a long time at one of our few shared jokes. I was glad we were pretty much getting along, because between Raquel’s trouble and exams approaching, I needed as little stress in my life as possible.

Finals were brutal. I’d expected as much, but that didn’t make the papers for Mrs. Bethany write themselves or the trig exam any easier. My mother revealed an unexpected sadistic streak by covering every single thing she’d ever mentioned in class—though the main essay on the Missouri Compromise had at least been signaled in advance by some bouncing on the balls of her feet. Guess that means Balthazar is doing okay, I thought as I wrote so fast that my hand cramped around my pen. I hoped I was doing half as well.

I threw myself into my studying during finals week, not only because of the intensity of the tests but also because work served as a distraction. Making Raquel quiz me nonstop took her mind off what had nearly happened in the woods. It helped that Mrs. Bethany had Erich on penalty, which involved him spending virtually every free moment scrubbing down hallways and glowering at me furiously when he got the chance.

“I don’t trust that guy,” Lucas said once as we walked past him.

“You just hate his guts.” That was true as far as it went, though I knew other, better reasons for not trusting Erich.

Despite our efforts to keep Raquel busy, she remained haunted. Whatever fears she’d always carried within her had been magnified by Erich’s harassment. I knew that she wasn’t sleeping at night because of the dark circles under her eyes, and one day she came to the library with her hair freshly hacked off—obviously something she’d done herself, and not very carefully either.

In an attempt to be tactful, I shifted my books to one side so she could sit next to me at the table and began, “You know, I used to cut hair for my friends in my hometown—”

“I know my hair looks crappy.” Raquel didn’t even look at me as her backpack thudded onto the floor. “And, no, I don’t want you or anybody to fix it for me. I hope it looks crappy. Then maybe he won’t keep looking at me.”

“Who? Erich?” Lucas said, immediately tense.

Raquel sank into her seat. “Who do you think? Yeah, Erich.”

Until then, I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t the only one Erich was staring at. I’d interrupted Erich in the middle of a hunt; he’d made up his mind to drink Raquel’s blood, maybe—maybe even to hurt her. Most vampires never killed, Mom and Dad said. Was Erich the exception to that rule?

Surely not, I thought. Mrs. Bethany wouldn’t let anybody like that in Evernight.

As Lucas quickly changed the subject, asking Raquel for a copy of the study sheets for my dad’s biology class, I looked at him and felt, once again, the surge of longing—of possessiveness—that I always knew in his presence. Mine, I thought. I always want you to be mine.

I’d always thought that was emotion talking, but maybe it was something else. Maybe that need to claim someone else was part of being a vampire and therefore more powerful than any human longing.

Erich certainly didn’t care about Raquel the way I did for Lucas, but if he felt one-tenth as much possessiveness toward her as I did toward Lucas—

—then there was no way Erich was done with Raquel yet.

That night, in the bathroom, I ran into Raquel again. She was shaking the sleeping pills I’d recommended into her palm—four or five of them. “Watch it,” I said. “You don’t want to take too many.”

Raquel’s face was bleak. “And never wake up again? Doesn’t sound that awful to me.” She sighed. “Trust me, Bianca, this isn’t nearly enough to kill anybody.”

“It’s more than you need to sleep.”

“Not with the sounds on the roof.” She popped the pills into her mouth, then bent over to gulp a couple of swallows of water directly from the cold tap of the sink. After wiping her face with the back of her hand, Raquel continued, “They’re still there. Louder now, I think. All the time. And I’m not imagining them.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “I believe you.”

It was just something to say, but Raquel’s eyes got wide. “You do?” Her voice was no more than a whisper. “Really? You’re not just saying it?”

“Really, I believe you.”

To my shock, Raquel’s eyes teared up. She quickly blinked them away, but I knew what I’d seen. “Nobody ever believed me, before.”

I stepped a little closer. “Believed you about what?”

She shook her head, refusing to answer. But as she walked past me to go to her own room, she touched my arm—just for a moment. From Raquel, that was almost like a bear hug. I had no idea what troubled her in her past, but I knew that Erich had her spooked. Probably he had no intention of actually hurting her, but he seemed like the kind of guy who would enjoy making her afraid.

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