Evernight Page 59

Mrs. Bethany stepped closer and peered down into the trunk. Her face remained imperiously cool as she bent her knees and picked up a skull.

I screamed, then immediately felt stupid for doing so. “That’s got to be really old. I mean, look at it.”

“When we die, our bodies decompose rather rapidly, Miss Olivier.” Mrs. Bethany kept turning the skull that way and this. “To be precise, they decompose to the stage they should have reached since the time of human death. Though the flesh is gone, a few scraps of skin remain—which suggests this skull belonged to a vampire who died decades ago, perhaps even a century.”

“Erich,” Balthazar said suddenly. “He said once that he died in World War I. Lucas and Erich always had it in for each other. If Lucas lured him up here, and Erich had no idea that he was dealing with a Black Cross hunter, then it would’ve been no contest.”

“Not if Lucas had one of these.” My father had opened another box nearby, from which he lifted a huge knife—no, a machete. “This thing could make quick work of any of us.”

Balthazar gave a low whistle as he looked at the blade. “Those two used to fight, but Erich always got the better of Lucas. Either Lucas threw the fights on purpose, or he knew if he showed what he could really do, we might have caught on.”

I protested, “I thought Erich ran away.” Surely that had to be the truth. Lucas and Erich had fought, but Lucas couldn’t have killed him.

“We all thought that, but we were all wrong.” Mrs. Bethany let Erich’s skull drop unceremoniously back into the trunk. “Keep searching.”

The others did as she said. Trembling, I stepped closer to the trunk to look inside. There lay a jumble of bones, a dusty Evernight uniform, and, in the corner, a tan hoop. With a jolt I realized it was Raquel’s leather bracelet, the one that had been missing. Lucas wouldn’t have stolen it. No, Erich had taken it, and he’d had it on him when he died.

When Lucas killed him.

“Bianca? Honey?” My mother came to my side. She wore jeans and boots; normally she refused to dress in what she still thought of as men’s clothes, but to catch Lucas, she’d made an exception. “You should go to our apartment. You don’t need to see any more of this.”

“Go to the apartment and do what? Read a nice book? Listen to records? I don’t think so.”

“We should be able to track him despite the rain. You will never tell anyone else at this school what transpires here tonight.” Mrs. Bethany glared at me over Iwerebon’s shoulder.

Slowly I shut the lid of the trunk. “I’m coming, too.”

“Bianca?” Mom shook her head. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Don’t.” Balthazar stepped closer to me. “You’ve never done anything like this, and Black Cross—they’re good. Deadly. Lucas might be young, but he knows what he’s doing. That much is obvious.”

“What Balthazar is too polite to say is that it’s dangerous.” Dad looked furious. His nose was red and swollen—probably broken. Even vampire injuries take a while to heal. “Lucas Ross could hurt you, even kill you.”

I shivered, but I stood my ground. “He could kill any of you. You’re still going.”

“We’re going to take care of everything,” Balthazar insisted. “The worst part of all of this is what he did to you, Bianca. Your parents won’t let Lucas get away with it, and neither will I.”

Mrs. Bethany raised one eyebrow. Obviously she didn’t consider my broken heart the “worst part of all this,” and I expected her to shoot me down as usual. Instead she said, “She may join us.”

My mother stared at her. “She’s only a child!”

“She was old enough to bite a human. Old enough to give him powers. That makes her old enough to face the consequences.” Her gaze bored into me. “Will you require a weapon, Miss Olivier?”

“No.” I couldn’t imagine plunging a knife into Lucas’s body.

Mrs. Bethany misunderstood me—on purpose, maybe. “You might as well complete your transformation tonight, I suppose.”

“Tonight?” My parents said as one.

“All children must grow up eventually.”

She wants me to bite Lucas again. This time, she wants me to kill him. They’d set fire to the body before he could rise again as a vampire. Lucas would be gone forever.

Mrs. Bethany went to the door and pushed it open. Balthazar draped one of the slickers across my shoulders, and I struggled to slip my arms into the overlong sleeves. “Let’s go.”

We began our trip downstairs into the dark.

My parents had told me they were vampires as soon as I was old enough to understand about keeping secrets, so that was as ordinary to me as the fact that Mom’s hair was the color of caramel or that Dad liked to snap his fingers to jazz from the 1950s. They drank blood at the dinner table instead of eating food, and they liked to reminisce about sailing ships and spinning wheels and, in Dad’s case, the time he saw William Shakespeare acting in one of his own plays. But those were little things, more funny and endearing than frightening. I’d never thought of them as unnatural.

As soon as we began our pursuit, I realized how little I truly knew them.

They moved faster than I could, faster than most humans could. Lucas and I had thought we were stretching our powers when we’d run across these grounds a few weeks ago, but that was nothing compared to this. Mom, Dad, Balthazar, every one of them—they were sure-footed despite the mud and able to see their way in the dark. I had to rely on the flashes of lightning and their voices to guide me.

“Here!” Professor Iwerebon’s Nigerian accent was thicker when he was agitated. “The boy came this way.”

How could they know that? I realized that Iwerebon’s hand rested upon the branches of a bush. When I touched it as well, I could feel the soft buds of new leaves fuzzy against my chilled palms. One of the branches was broken. Lucas had snapped it when he’d run by.

He’s running for his life. He must be so scared.

He said he loved me.

Lightning flashed once more, making it bright as day for a split second. I could see Mrs. Bethany’s profile against the dark forest, and I recognized the landscape enough to know that we were very near the river. It was the first time in a while I’d had any idea where we were, because the rain clouds shrouded the stars. “This isn’t one of the usual paths the students take,” Mrs. Bethany said. “Black Cross would’ve trained him well enough to have an escape plan. That means he’d marked this route in advance.”

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