Evernight Page 61

At first I tried to keep quiet, but as I stepped farther inside, I realized that could be dangerous. Lucas might hurt anyone else who was coming after him, but I still believed that he wouldn’t hurt me.

“Lucas?”

No answer.

“Lucas, I know that you’re here.” Still no reply, but I could tell now that I was being watched. “I’m alone. They aren’t far behind. If you have anything to say to me, you’d better say it now.”

“Bianca.”

Lucas said it as a sigh, like he was too tired to hold it back any longer. I peered through the darkness but couldn’t see him; I knew only that his voice came from someplace ahead.

“Is it true? What they’re saying about you?”

“Depends on what they’re saying.” I heard footsteps now, coming slowly toward me.

I laid one shaking hand on the nearest thing I could use to steady myself, a chair slipcovered in threadbare velvet. “They said that you’re a member of some group called Black Cross. Vampire hunters. That you’ve been lying to m—lying to us all along.”

“All true.” Lucas sounded wearier than I’d ever heard him. “Were you telling the truth when you said you were alone? Won’t blame you if you weren’t.”

“I only ever lied to you once. I’m not doing that again now.”

“Once? I can think of a lot of times you just ‘neglected’ to mention you were a vampire.”

“Like you didn’t say you were a vampire hunter!” I could’ve slapped him.

My fury didn’t seem to move him at all. “I guess so. I guess it’s the same kind of thing, in the end.”

“I told you the whole truth in that e-mail! I didn’t hold anything back!”

“Because you got caught. Doesn’t count, and you know it.”

Why did he keep pretending we were the same? “I didn’t choose to be what I am. You—you people plot to hunt down my family, my friends—”

“I didn’t choose this either, Bianca.” His voice was rough, as if he were choking up, and my anger dissolved into another emotion, one I couldn’t name. Lucas took another couple of steps forward. When I squinted into the dark, I glimpsed his outline several feet away. “Not who or what I am, not even coming to Evernight.”

“You chose to be with me.” Though he’d tried to talk me out of it, hadn’t he? Only now did I understand why.

“Yeah, I did. And I know I’ve hurt you. I’m sorry for that. You’re the last person in the world I ever wanted to hurt.”

He sounded completely sincere. I wanted to believe him as badly as I’d ever wanted anything in my life. After the night’s revelations, though, I was done taking anything on faith. “Can you just tell me why?”

“It would take a long time to explain, and we don’t have much time left.”

The 8:08 bus to Boston. I glanced down at my watch; the hands, phosphorescent, told me we had no more than five minutes left.

I walked toward Lucas, my hands in front of me to feel my way. My fingers brushed against ostrich feathers, dusty with age, and something slender, hard and cool, perhaps a brass bed frame. Lucas dodged to the left, behind a panel—but no, I could see through that a little. As I got closer to him, I realized that the panel was a stained glass window.

This was the front room of the antiques store, and it was both less crowded and slightly brighter. Greenish watery light from the streetlamps trickled through to us. Lucas remained behind the stained glass window. Was he afraid of me? Ashamed to face me? Instead of circling around the panel, I walked to the opposite side of it, so that we saw each other through the tinted panes of glass. Lucas’s face was cut into four squares of color, and his eyes were dark and haunted.

For a moment, neither of us knew what to say. Then Lucas gave me a sad smile. “Hey.”

“Hey.” I smiled, too, then nearly started to cry.

“Please, don’t.”

“I won’t.” One sob escaped me, but then I swallowed hard and bit down on the side of my tongue. As always, the taste of blood gave me strength. “Am I in danger?”

Lucas shook his head. Through the glass his face was the color of jewels—topaz, sapphire, and amethyst. “Not from me. Never from me.”

“Tell it to Erich.”

“So you found him.” Lucas didn’t sound even slightly sorry. “Erich was stalking Raquel. Remember? When I heard her talking about her lost bracelet, I knew she’d run out of time. Stealing possessions is a classic sign of a vampire stalker getting ready to strike. Erich wanted to kill her, and, given a chance, he would have done it. Deep down, I think you realize that.”

It scared me that I believed him. If I hadn’t tasted Erich’s blood and felt his malevolence for myself, maybe I wouldn’t have. But I had seen the evil in Erich’s mind, and I suspected that Lucas was telling the truth, at least about this. “It’s still hard to think about.”

“I realize that. I know it’s got to be tough for you to understand.”

“Tell me what I need to know.”

Lucas was quiet for a while, and I wasn’t sure that he would answer me. At the moment when I was ready to give up, though, he began to speak. “At the start I lied to you for the same reason you lied to me. Black Cross is a secret I’ve kept all my life, something my mother signed me up for when I was born.” Lucas’s voice was distant now, lost in his own memories. “They taught me to fight. Taught me discipline. Sent me on missions as soon as I was old enough to hold a stake.”

I remembered what Lucas had told me in the past about his mother being hard core, and about how he sometimes felt he didn’t get to make decisions for himself. At long last, I understood what he’d really meant. Even when he was five years old, running away from home, he had brought a weapon.

“At first I thought you were one of the other human students at the school. When you told me about your parents, I thought that they’d killed your real parents and adopted you. I figured you didn’t know what they really were.” His eyes met mine through the stained glass, and his smile was sad. “I told myself to stay away for your sake, but I couldn’t. It was like you were a part of me almost from the second we met. Black Cross would’ve told me to push you away, but I was tired of pushing everyone away. Once in my life I wanted to be with someone without worrying about what it meant for Black Cross. To live like a regular person for a little while. After that first conversation we had—would you believe I thought you were such a nice, normal girl?”

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