Evernight Page 62

That was both the funniest and the saddest thing I’d ever heard. “You know better now.”

“What you are—it doesn’t matter to me. I told you that already, and I was telling the truth when I said it.” He turned toward the window, so that I could see his profile and the worry deeply etched there. “There’s more to say, but the bus is about to go—Dammit, maybe I can catch a later one—”

“No!” I pressed one of my hands against the stained glass. Although I still didn’t know if I could ever trust Lucas again, I knew now that I could never hurt him, much less stand by while Mrs. Bethany and my parents tried to kill him. “Lucas, the others aren’t far behind me. Don’t wait. Go quickly.”

Lucas should’ve run out of there that instant. Instead he stared at me through the glass and slowly unfolded his hand opposite mine so that our hands were pressed against the same pane of glass, finger to finger, palm to palm. We each moved closer, so that our faces were only a few inches apart. Even with the stained glass window between us, it felt as intimate as any kiss we’d shared.

Quietly he said, “Come with me.”

“What?” I blinked, unable to grasp what he was asking me to do. “You mean—run away from home? For real? Like you told me to do on that first day?”

“Just so I can talk to you about everything that’s happened and—and so we can say good-bye like we should instead of—” Lucas swallowed, and I realized for the first time that he was just as upset and scared as I was. “I’ve got enough money to buy us both tickets out of town. Later I can get more money to send you home again if you want. We can go right this second. Run across the street, hop on the bus. We’ll get out of here together.”

“Are you going to turn me over to Black Cross?”

“What? No!” Lucas honestly sounded like he’d never considered that. “As far as any human can tell, you’re human. I’ll take care of you if you’ll just come with me.”

Slowly I said, “Tell me one thing before I answer.”

Lucas looked wary. “Okay. Ask.”

“You said you loved me. Were you telling the truth?”

If he’d lied about everything else, even his name, I thought I could handle it, as long as I knew this.

He breathed out, not quite a laugh or a sob. “God, yes. Bianca, I love you so much. Even if I never see you again, even if we walk out of here into an ambush you set up with your parents, I am always going to love you.”

In the midst of all the lies, at last I had one thing that was true.

“I love you, too,” I said. “We have to run.”

Chapter Seventeen

AS I SANK ONTO THE SEAT OF THE BUS, TREMBLING with exhaustion, I said, “We made it.”

Lucas shook his head. “Not yet.”

The bus jerked into motion, rolling slowly onto the road. We had been the last passengers to board; another three minutes, and we would have lost our chance to escape. “I know my parents are fast, but I don’t think they can catch a bus on the highway.”

An older lady a few rows ahead of us glanced backward, obviously wondering what the hell we were talking about. Lucas gave her his most charming smile, which made her dimple up and turn back to her novel. Then he took my hand and led me to the very back of the near-empty bus, where we could speak freely without any of the other passengers overhearing talk about vampires.

Lucas slid into the seat next to the window. I thought he might take me in his arms, but he remained tense, staring at the water-blurred glass. “We haven’t made it out of here until we make it past that overpass. The one three miles out of town.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. Obviously Lucas had made a more thorough tactical survey of the area than I had. “What do you think they would do? Stand in the middle of the road and make the bus stop?”

“Mrs. Bethany’s not stupid.” He never took his eyes from the window. Passing streetlights illuminated him in soft blue, then dimmed as we passed them, casting us back into shadow. “Yeah, they might’ve followed me into town. But she might’ve figured out that I was going to take the bus. If she did, her hunting party is going be to waiting on that overpass. They’ll jump down on the bus, snatch me out, let the cops try to explain it to the passengers later.”

“They wouldn’t!”

“To stop a Black Cross hunter? You bet your ass they would.”

“If you’re with this Black Cross, why did you come to Evernight Academy?”

“I was sent to infiltrate the school. It was my assignment. You don’t refuse Black Cross assignments. You get them done or die trying.”

The dull certainty with which Lucas said this frightened me as much as anything about vampires ever had. “Did you guys just now learn about the school?”

“Black Cross has known what Evernight was almost since it was founded. Those places, where the vampires stay—”

“Where we stay.”

“Whatever. That’s where vampires do the least damage. Nobody wants to create a scene or make people nearby suspicious; vampires always control themselves in those areas. They don’t hunt, don’t cause trouble. If vampires acted like that all the time, there would be no need for Black Cross.”

“Most vampires don’t hunt,” I insisted.

The bus hit a pothole, jarring us all, and fear made me gasp out loud. Lucas put one hand on my knee to steady me, but he turned his eyes back toward the window. We were almost out of Riverton at this point, getting closer to the overpass every second. “Remember what you said to me at the antique shop?” he muttered. “Tell it to Erich. He was damn sure hunting Raquel.”

How could I make him understand? I cast around for an example I could use. “You like hamburgers, right?”

“We have seriously got to go over the right and wrong times for small talk. Dinner party, yes. Five minutes from a vampire ambush, no.”

“Hear me out. Would you eat a hamburger if there was any chance it could punch you in the face?”

“How is a hamburger supposed to punch me in the face?”

“Just say that it can.” This was no time to bicker about metaphors. “Would you bother? Or would you eat something else?”

Lucas considered this for a couple of seconds. “Leaving aside the weirdness of a hamburger that can attack—which is a lot of weirdness to leave aside—no, I guess I wouldn’t.”

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