Evernight Page 42

That, at least, I could do something about.

Later that evening, well after curfew, I got up and slipped into jeans, sneakers, and my warm black sweater. My black knit cap slipped over my head and hid my red hair. Briefly I considered painting black smudges across my cheeks and nose, like cat burglars do in the movies, but I decided that was overkill.

“Going out for a snack?” Patrice mumbled into her pillow. “The squirrels are hibernating. Easy meal.”

“I’m just looking around,” I insisted, but Patrice was already asleep again.

The night air was cold when I lifted myself onto the windowsill, but my dark gloves and sweater kept me from shivering. Once I’d balanced myself on the tree branch, I began stretching my arms to catch the higher limbs, then bracing my feet against the bark of the trunk to find purchase. Some branches creaked from my weight, but nothing broke. Within a few minutes, I had made it to the roof.

The roof of the lower part of the building, I mean. A few feet away, the south tower reached up toward the night sky; if I craned my neck, I could even make out the darkened windows of my parents’ apartment. Across the way was the vast north tower. Between was the shingled roof of the main building—not a single flat surface, but one that sloped at different angles, reflecting the fact that the school had been built slowly, over centuries, and not every new addition perfectly matched the rest. It looked a little like a stormy sea with waves that jutted up and down, all of them gleaming blue-black in the moonlight.

Gritting my teeth, I crawled up the slope nearest me and made sure to move as quietly as I could. If anybody was out for a snack, it wouldn’t matter if they saw me or not. However, if anybody was up here for another reason, I wanted the advantage of surprise.

I was scared to death, even though I kept telling myself that there was really no reason to be afraid. I knew that I was no good at confrontations; when challenged, I usually wanted to curl up into a ball. Still, somebody had to stand up for Raquel, and it looked like I was the only one who could. So I ignored the butterflies in my stomach and told myself to deal.

I tried to imagine the layout of the rooms below, doing my best to figure out where Raquel’s room would be. She was well down the hall from me. The room I shared with Patrice was below the south tower, but Raquel wouldn’t have that same luxury. No, somebody could stand right on top of her room, only a few feet above her sleeping head.

Once I had the location fixed in my head, I started walking. Fortunately there was no ice, so I didn’t slip and slide too much as I climbed up one gable and down another, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling. The whole way, I listened carefully for any sound: a footstep, a word, even a breath. Even the thought of danger had awakened my darker instincts, and every sense was sharp. I was ready for anything—or so I thought.

When I got within a few feet of the area above Raquel’s room, I heard a scrape along the roof: long, slow, and probably deliberate. Somebody was up there. Somebody wanted Raquel to hear.

Cautiously I pulled myself up the next high slope. There, crouching in the shadows, was Erich. He clutched a broken-off branch in one hand and was dragging it back and forth over one of the slate tiles.

“You,” I said quietly. Erich jerked upright, startled. Something about his reaction and the way he hurriedly drew his long coat around him made me wonder just what his other hand had been doing. Grossed out and nervous, I wanted to run, but I managed to stand my ground. “Get lost.”

“We’re both breaking the rules now,” Erich muttered, glancing from side to side. “You can’t turn me in without turning us both in.”

I stepped closer to him, close enough to touch. His skinny face and sharp nose made him look more like a rat than ever. “Then—then I’ll turn us both in.”

“Big damn deal. Breaking curfew. So what? Everyone does it. They don’t really care.”

“You’re not out to grab something to eat. You’re harassing Raquel.”

Erich gave me the most disgusted look I’d ever seen on someone’s face, like I was something he would step over on the sidewalk. “You can’t prove it.”

Anger flared up inside me, submerging my fear. All my muscles tensed, and my incisors began pushing forward, lengthening into fangs. Reacting like a vampire meant never backing down. “Oh, really?”

Then I grabbed his hand and bit him hard.

Vampire blood doesn’t taste at all like human blood or the blood of anything else living. It’s not filling, not even food, really. It’s information. The taste of a vampire’s blood tells you how that vampire is feeling at that very instant—you feel it, too, a little bit, and images flash in your mind that were in the other vampire’s mind just a moment before. My parents had taught me this and even let me try it out on them a couple of times, though the one time I asked them if they ever bit each other, they both got really embarrassed and asked whether I didn’t have any homework I should be doing.

Tasting my parents’ blood, I had felt only love and contentment and seen only images of myself as a child prettier than I really was, curious to learn about the world. Erich’s blood was different. It was horror.

He tasted like resentment, like rage, and a bone-deep craving to take human life. The liquid was so hot it burned and so angry that it made my stomach turn over, rejecting it and rejecting him. An image flickered in my mind, bigger and brighter every second like a fire blazing quickly out of control: Raquel as Erich wanted her to be—sprawled on her bed, neck ripped open, gasping for her last breath.

“Ow!” Erich wrenched his hand back. “What the hell are you doing?”

“You want to hurt her.” It was hard for me to keep my voice steady; I was shaking now, freaked-out by the violence I’d seen. “You want to kill her.”

“Wanting isn’t the same as doing,” he retorted. “You think I’m the only guy here who wants to tear into some fresh meat once in a while? No way could you get me punished for that.”

“Get the hell off her roof. You leave tonight and you don’t ever, ever come back. If you do, I’ll tell Mrs. Bethany. She’ll believe me, and you’ll be out of here.”

“Do it, then. I’m sick of this place. But I deserve a good meal before I go, don’t you think?” Erich laughed at me, and for one horrifying moment, I thought he meant to fight me after all. Instead he leaped off the roof, not even bothering to catch a tree branch on the way down.

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