Evernight Page 58

I half expected Mom to tell Mrs. Bethany where she could shove her attitude, but Dad grabbed her good arm and pulled her upstairs with him. Long skirts in her hands, Mrs. Bethany followed.

The moment we were alone, I turned to Balthazar. “What just happened?”

“Shh, Bianca, calm down.” He put his hands on my shoulders, but I wasn’t having any of it.

“Calm down? You guys just attacked my boyfriend, who attacked back. I don’t understand this, none of it! Please, Balthazar, just tell me—tell me, oh, God, what? I don’t even know what to ask!” So many questions welled up inside me that they seemed to stick in my throat, choking me.

Balthazar said evenly, “You’ve been lied to. We’ve all been lied to.”

One question rose to blot out all the others. “What is Black Cross?”

“Vampire hunters.”

“What?”

“Black Cross is a group of vampire hunters who have plagued us ever since the Middle Ages. They track us down. They separate us from others of our kind. And they kill us.” Balthazar wiped the drops of my father’s blood from my face as tenderly as though they were tears. “They tried to infiltrate Evernight Academy once before. Every so often, a human talks or bribes his way in here, and they tolerate it as a way of avoiding attention. One of those humans turned out to be a member of Black Cross.”

“Around a hundred and fifty years ago.” The story I’d told upstairs, the one Lucas had revealed when we first met, suddenly made sense. “The fight in the story—it wasn’t a duel, was it?”

Balthazar shook his head. “No. The Black Cross operative was discovered and fought his way out. The same thing happened tonight.”

Black Cross. Vampire hunters. Lucas hadn’t mentioned finding them in the books Mrs. Bethany gave him; I realized he had kept them from me.

Lucas had come here to hunt down and kill creatures like me. He’d even coaxed me into biting him again—and giving him the strength and power to truly fight back. He’d used me to become a more efficient killer, and then he’d tried to murder my parents, and he’d lied about everything, all along.

In the beginning, before Lucas knew I was a vampire, he kept trying to protect me. I thought he was taking care of me because I was lonely, but it wasn’t that at all. He thought I was a human surrounded by vampires, and that’s why he kept looking out for me.

But ever since he found out what I really am, he’s been using me to get deeper inside Evernight. To gain our powers. To get whatever he wanted. He made me feel guilty about lying to him when he was telling an even bigger lie.

What had seemed like love was betrayal.

Chapter Sixteen

I SAT NUMBLY ON THE BOTTOM STEP OF THE staircase, listening to the preparations taking place all around me.

Mrs. Bethany’s team contained only five vampires: her, my parents, Balthazar, and Professor Iwerebon. All of them wore heavy slickers and knives strapped to their calves and forearms.

“We should have guns.” That was Balthazar. “To deal with situations like this.”

“We have only been forced to confront ‘situations like this’ twice in more than two hundred years.” Mrs. Bethany, icier than ever. “Our abilities are usually more than sufficient to deal with humans. Or do you not feel up to the task, Mr. More?”

Lucas is a vampire hunter. Lucas came here to kill people like my parents. He told me to distrust them; he probably thought they stole me as a baby. He tried to drive a wedge between us. I thought he was just being rude, but maybe he was really going to kill them after all.

“I can handle myself,” Balthazar said. “But it’s possible that Lucas has armed himself as well. He’s Black Cross. There’s no way he came here unprepared. Somewhere on campus, he’s got a stash of supplies. You can bet that includes weapons.”

We went up the stairs of the north tower together, and he protested the entire way. I thought it was because Lucas was scared of me, scared of vampires, but that wasn’t it at all. Even when we were making out on the floor, he asked for us to be together again somewhere else.

“The room at the top of the north tower.” My voice sounded so strange, hardly like mine at all. “That’s where it is.”

Mrs. Bethany drew herself up. “You knew about this?”

“No. It’s just a hunch.”

“Let’s check it out.” Balthazar held out his hand to help me up. “Come on.”

The room didn’t look any different to me than it had when Lucas and I were up there together. Mrs. Bethany closed her eyes for a moment in dismay. “The records room. If he’s been up here, he’s read almost all of our history. The hiding places of so many of us—now, Black Cross knows.”

“A lot of these records are decades out of date,” Dad reasoned. “The more recent years are in the computer.”

“He broke into that, too, I think,” I said, remembering the day I’d found Lucas sneaking out of Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house office.

Mrs. Bethany whirled on me, her temper clearly at the breaking point. “You saw that Lucas Ross was breaking rules, yet you never warned anyone in authority. You let a member of Black Cross run rampant at Evernight for months on end, Miss Olivier. Don’t think I’ll forget this.”

Whenever she spoke to me like that, I usually cringed. This time, I shot back, “You’re the one who admitted him in the first place!”

After that, nobody said anything for a second. I’d spoken only to defend myself, but I realized that Mrs. Bethany had screwed up—really, seriously screwed up—and her attempt to pin the blame on me had just failed.

Instead of strangling me, Mrs. Bethany stiffly turned back to searching the room. “Open every box. Look in every closet and in the rafters. I want to know everything Mr. Ross kept up here.”

Memories of Lucas and I together nearly overwhelmed me, but I concentrated on one moment in particular. When we’d first come into this room, Lucas had immediately taken a seat atop the long trunk against the nearby wall. I’d thought he just wanted to sit down, but maybe he’d done that for a different reason: to keep me from opening it.

Balthazar followed my eyes. He didn’t say anything out loud, but he raised one eyebrow, questioning. I nodded, and he went to the trunk and opened its lid. I couldn’t see what was inside, but my mother gasped and Professor Iwerebon swore beneath his breath. “What is it?” I asked.

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