Evernight Page 47

If I was going to do that, I’d need the few friends I still had at Evernight.

I glimpsed Raquel making her way through the crowd, huddled over and nervous. I realized why she was so nervous when I turned my head and saw Erich watching her intently from the top of the steps. Quickly I went to her side and shouldered one of her bags. “You came back,” I said. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

“I didn’t want to.” Raquel kept staring down at her feet. “No offense. I would’ve missed you. But I didn’t want to see him again.” There was no need to explain who she was talking about.

“Didn’t you tell your parents?” I’d figured they would call Mrs. Bethany, furious that Erich hadn’t been expelled, and maybe withdraw Raquel from the academy altogether.

She shrugged. “They thought I was making a big deal out of nothing. They always do.”

I remembered how moved Raquel had been when I’d said that I believed her; now I understood why. “I’m sorry.”

“Whatever. I’m back. I have to deal. Besides, I lost my favorite bracelet here right before the break. Had to come back to find that, at least.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Erich. His dark eyes remained locked on us. When he saw me watching him, one corner of his mouth lifted in a smirk. Disgusted, I turned my head back toward the crowd—

Lucas.

No. It couldn’t be. It was just my imagination trying to fool me again, so that I’d get my hopes up. There was no way Lucas would ever come back to Evernight, not after what he’d seen and what I’d told him.

But then the crowds parted, and I saw him clearly, and I realized that I was right. Lucas had returned.

There he was, just a few steps away. He looked scruffier than he had before—his bronze hair unruly, his threadbare navy sweater more beat-up than his Evernight uniform was. On him, it looked amazing.

I brightened when I saw him; I couldn’t help it. As soon as our eyes met, Lucas turned away, like he didn’t know what else to do. It felt like a slap in the face.

My first impulse was to drop Raquel’s bag and flee to the restroom before I started bawling right there on the steps. But that second, a plaid blur raced by me and tackled Lucas from behind. “Lucas!” crowed Vic. “My man! You’re back.”

“Get off me.” Lucas laughed as he pushed Vic away.

“Check it out.” Vic fished in his backpack and pulled out an honest-to-God pith helmet, like they used to wear in old safari movies. He showed it to me and Lucas both; apparently Vic hadn’t realized that we weren’t standing together. “How great is that?”

“You’re never going to get away with wearing that to class,” I said, pretending that everything was okay. Maybe Lucas would pretend, too, and that would give me an opening to talk to him. “They let you wear the Chucks, but I think a pith helmet is pushing it.”

“I intend to wear it around Casa del Lucas y Victor.” Vic placed the hat on his head to demonstrate. “For casual relaxation and study time. Whattaya think, Lucas?”

Nobody answered. Lucas had already vanished into the crowd.

Vic turned back to me, clearly confused by his roommate’s disappearing act. I was confused, too—but I couldn’t imagine why Lucas had come back at all.

Obviously it was going to take Lucas a while before he could talk to me again. Given what he’d learned about me, Evernight, and vampires, I figured he probably deserved as much time as he needed. Until then, there was nothing for me to do but wait.

A couple of days later, as I got ready for class, I pretended to be really fascinated by Patrice’s tales of her Swiss holiday.

“I’m always shocked that there are people who claim to prefer skiing in Colorado.” Patrice wrinkled her nose. Did she honestly think every place in America was tacky? Or was she compensating for something, pretending to be more sophisticated than she really was? Now that I kept so many secrets myself, I was starting not to take everyone at face value. “Switzerland is so much more civilized, I think. And you meet a more interesting cross section of people.”

“I don’t like skiing,” I said blithely as I brushed on my mascara. “Snowboarding’s more exciting.”

“What?” Patrice just stared at me. I’d never dared disagree with any of her opinions before. Even on a subject as unimportant as skiing versus snowboarding, apparently, she didn’t like being contradicted.

Before I could state my case, the door burst open. It was Courtney, who actually looked rumpled—Courtney, who had perfectly polished hair and makeup even when you ran into her in the bathroom at two A.M. “Have you guys seen Erich?”

“Erich?” Patrice raised an eyebrow. “I don’t remember inviting him to my bedroom. Did you, Bianca?”

“Not last night, anyway.”

“Cut the sarcasm, okay?” Courtney snapped. “I would think you’d care that one of your classmates is missing. Somebody runs away, and you act like it’s a big joke. Genevieve’s crying her eyes out over here.”

“Wait, Erich’s missing?” Raquel appeared in the doorway, along with a couple of the other students, all in various stages of readiness for class. The news was traveling fast.

“You know his roommate, David? He only just got back today.” Courtney’s concern, I noticed, wasn’t too deep for her to enjoy being the center of attention. With relish, she continued, “David says that Erich’s room looks like it’s been ransacked. The place is completely trashed! And there’s no sign of Erich at all. He and Genevieve were supposed to hang out this weekend, and now she’s crushed.”

“We’ll only laugh silently from now on,” Raquel promised, obviously not that worried about Erich. Who could blame her? Courtney scowled at us, then flounced out again.

Later that morning, on the way to our first class, Raquel muttered, “I just bet Genevieve hates missing out on that prime opportunity for date rape.”

“I guess Erich got sick of school,” I said. “I hear that every year, a lot of students leave before the term is up.” Of course, I knew that Erich had been just one of the dozens of vampires who came to Evernight to learn the ropes of the modern day, got bored with being treated like a student, and took off to amuse himself elsewhere. Or maybe Mrs. Bethany had seen the danger in him that I had seen, and she’d ordered him to leave the premises immediately.

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