Evernight Page 60

Thunder rolled over us, blotting out whatever Professor Iwerebon said in response. Wearily I pulled my feet out of the mud they were sinking into; Balthazar took my elbow, balancing me as I got to more solid ground.

All this time I thought Lucas was protecting me, but instead he put me in danger. How can that be true?

Then Balthazar’s fingers tightened upon my arm. “This way. Over here.”

When lightning forked through the sky again, I saw what Balthazar had glimpsed: mucky, foot-sized holes in the mud, leading toward the river. Lucas had been forced to pull his feet out just like me. Despite the new powers we shared, he wasn’t as quick or as unearthly graceful as the older vampires all around me. Lucas was just a guy, running as fast as he could through a terrible storm and knowing that, if he was captured, he might die.

It was raining too hard for footprints like that to last long without being washed away. We’d already nearly caught up to him.

He lied to me from the beginning. From the very first day. All those fears I had about keeping secrets from him, and Lucas was playing me for a fool every single time we kissed.

“Hurry!” Mrs. Bethany urged us forward. Despite her long skirts, she could move faster than anyone else. I straggled behind, breathing hard and cold to the bone, but I was able to keep close enough to hear the rain pattering against their coats. “He will have crossed the river. We’ll lose time there.”

The river.

All my life, my parents had joked about how terrible running water was. When we took road trips, they would always try to arrange it so that we never crossed any rivers on our way. If we had to, they could do it, but usually it took a while—Dad pulling the car over once we were in sight of the bridge, Mom biting her fingernails anxiously, me laughing at them for the entire half hour or so it took them to get up the nerve. They both described their shipboard voyage to the New World as the absolute worst experience they’d ever endured.

Vampires have trouble crossing running water. Some of the human students had wondered why the teacher chaperones traveled into Riverton ahead of us, but I’d always known it was because they wanted to cross the bridge in their own time, without revealing how badly the experience unsettled them. Now I realized that Lucas had understood, too, and he was counting on that fact to keep himself alive.

We kept going, until the others stopped in front of me. I didn’t need the lightning to show me the path anymore. Breathing hard, I caught up and kept walking past Professor Iwerebon, past Balthazar, past my parents, and finally up to Mrs. Bethany, who stood only a few feet from the bridge.

“Wait here for us,” she commanded. “We will proceed shortly.” She pressed her lips together, perhaps willing herself to conquer her one weakness.

“He’ll get away.” I walked past her.

“Miss Olivier! Stop this instant!”

My feet touched the bridge. Old wooden planks, waterlogged with rain, were easier to cross than thick mud.

“Bianca!” That was my dad. “Bianca, wait for us. You can’t do this alone.”

“Yes, I can.” I started to run, drops of water pelting my face, my side aching from exertion and the raincoat heavy across my shoulders. All I wanted to do was fall down upon the bridge and cry. My body didn’t have the strength for this.

And yet I ran. I ran even though my legs were as heavy as lead, and my throat was tight with unshed tears, and my parents and my teachers and my friend were all shouting for me to come back. I ran anyway, and with every step I went faster.

Ever since I’d come to Evernight—no, really, throughout my whole life—I’d counted on other people to take care of my problems. Nobody could take care of this for me. I had to face it myself, alone.

I didn’t know if I was chasing Lucas or running with him. I only knew I had to run.

After I’d made it over the river, I didn’t have much trouble tracking Lucas on my own. It was dark, and I didn’t have the extrasensitive sight or hearing of true vampires. However, it was obvious that he was going into Riverton, and at this point, there were only so many routes he could take that weren’t far out of his way. Lucas would know that he didn’t have much time to waste, and he’d want to get away as fast as possible.

I’d spent a while at the bus station with Raquel before she left for Christmas, after Lucas was already gone. Although she’d been eager to get out of Evernight, her family wouldn’t be home until late, so we’d waited for a later bus—one that left for the Boston area at 8:08. It was almost 8 now. I felt certain that Lucas was going to try to be on that next bus. The one after that one probably wasn’t for another couple of hours, and that was too much leeway. Mrs. Bethany and the others would have him for sure by then. The Boston bus was Lucas’s only real chance at escape.

The downtown area was almost entirely deserted. No cars sped down the streets, and the few businesses that had bothered staying open appeared to be empty. Nobody wanted to be out on a night like this. With my hair plastered to my scalp with rain, I couldn’t blame them. I looked in a couple of the open businesses, including the shop where we’d found the brooch. Lucas wasn’t there.

No, I realized. He knows that’s where they’d look first.

I knew then that I had an advantage over Mrs. Bethany and my parents, something that even their centuries of experience and supernatural senses couldn’t give them. I knew Lucas; that meant I knew what he’d do.

They, too, would probably guess that Lucas wouldn’t try to hide in public. They might even make the next inference I made, which was that Lucas would hide as close to the bus station as possible, so he wouldn’t be exposed in town for long before he could jump on the bus and make his getaway. However, the bus station was in the dead center of town. A dozen shops surrounded it, and as far as they knew, Lucas might be in any one of them.

Lucas had gone with me to see an old movie and bought me the brooch at the vintage clothing shop. And he had said that he loved me.

Which meant that maybe, just maybe, he would have chosen the same place to hide that I would have.

I walked toward the antiques store on the southeastern corner of the square, jumping over puddles as I went. Any doubts I might’ve had about my hunch vanished as soon as I reached the store’s back door and saw that it had been left slightly ajar.

Slowly I pushed it open. The hinges didn’t squeak, and I trod carefully upon the wooden floorboards. With the lights out, the darkness was nearly complete inside. I could barely discern the shapes of the strange items that surrounded me. At first I didn’t trust my eyes: a suit of armor, a stuffed fox, a cricket bat. I realized that the jumble wasn’t meaningless. These objects were the antique store’s spare inventory, the things fewer people would want to buy. It felt completely surreal, as if I’d somehow fallen into a bad dream while wide awake.

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