Evernight Page 63

“And this is why most vampires don’t attack humans. Humans hit back. They scream. They throw up. They call nine-one-one on their cell phones. One way or another, humans cause more trouble than they’re worth. It’s a lot easier to buy blood from butcher shops or eat small animals. Most people always take the easy way, Lucas. I know you’re cynical enough to understand that much at least.”

“Nice and practical. I bet you told me just the way your parents told you. But you never said that killing people is wrong.”

I hated that he’d recognized the explanation as my parents’ and not my own. I hated that I only had their word to go on. “That goes without saying.”

“Not for a lot of vampires, no, it doesn’t. What you say makes sense, but it’s not as reassuring as you think. One of us is wrong about how many vampires kill people, but I know that a lot of people get killed. I’ve seen it happen. Have you?”

“No, never. My parents—they’re not like that. They’d never hurt anyone.”

“Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

“Have you seen it?” I challenged him.

My stomach sank as he nodded. Then he said the worst thing he could’ve said. “They got my father.”

“Oh, my God.”

Lucas stared at the window, even more tense than he had been before. We had to be very close to the overpass now. “I wasn’t there for that. I was just a little kid. Hardly even remember him. But I’ve seen vampires attack other people, and I’ve seen the bodies they’ve left behind. It’s horrible, Bianca. More horrible than I think you realize, maybe even more than you can imagine. Your parents only ever showed you the pretty side. There’s an ugly side, too.”

“Maybe you’ve only seen the ugly side. Maybe you’re the one who doesn’t understand the real balance.” My stomach was churning, and my fingers tightened on the back of the empty bus seat in front of me. Were we about to have to fight for our lives? “If my parents hid the full truth from me, maybe your mother hid the full truth from you.”

“Mom doesn’t pretty things up. Trust me on this.” Lucas breathed out. “Get ready.”

The bus took a sharp turn, shaking the few passengers from side to side. Through the blur of rain, I could see the overpass lights coming up. I squinted at the darkness, trying to make out shapes or movement, some hint that Mrs. Bethany might be waiting there for us.

Lucas took a deep breath. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Two more seconds, and the bus rumbled beneath the overpass. Nothing happened. Mrs. Bethany had led the group into town after all.

“We made it,” I whispered.

He folded me in his embrace. As Lucas sagged against my shoulder, I realized for the first time how exhausted he was and how frightened he had really been. I combed through his wet hair with my fingers to soothe him. There was time to have arguments later, to talk about Evernight and Black Cross and everything else that divided us. For now, all that mattered was that we were safe.

I hadn’t been to Boston since I was very small. Dimly I remembered what it was like to be in a city rather than the countryside—noise and trash, asphalt and traffic signs instead of earth and trees, and lights everywhere, bright enough to hide the stars forever. Though I braced myself for a seemingly inevitable panic attack, by the time we got to our destination—an area on the outskirts of town, and so far as I could tell one of the skeevy neighborhoods—it was late, and we were exhausted. I wasn’t scared; I was only numb.

“We should figure out what we’re going to do tonight.” Those were the first words Lucas had spoken to me since we got off the bus. Our hands still tightly clasped, we wove our way through the shifty-looking characters. They wore clothes that were too large, laughed too loud, and stared sharply at every car that rounded the street corners. “It’s going to be morning before anybody picks us up.”

“Picks us up? Who’s picking us up?”

“Somebody from Black Cross will come. Once I broke in the antique store, I used their phone, left a message that I was headed here. I’ll call back and tell them where to pick us up, once we know ourselves.”

“I don’t want to walk around this neighborhood for too long.” I cast a suspicious glance at a broken-out window.

“Bianca, think.” Lucas stopped in his tracks and, for the first time all night, looked like his old snarky self. “Who should be afraid here? Us or them?”

Why would these people be scared of me? Then it hit me, the punch line to the joke of my life: I’m a vampire.

I started to giggle, and Lucas joined in. When I lost control, tears welling in my eyes, he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight.

I’m a vampire. Everybody’s scared of me. ME. And Lucas? He’s the only guy who can scare vampires. All these rough-looking people—if they knew—they’d run for their lives.

When I could breathe again, I stepped back from Lucas and tried to examine our situation calmly. It was hard to think about anything besides him, though, and how lost we were. The fluorescent streetlight drained all the brightness from Lucas’s bronze hair, so that it looked simply brown. Maybe it was exhaustion that made his face so pale and drawn; I could only imagine how tired I looked.

“It’s nearly midnight. Where are we going to stay?” My cheeks flushed with heat as I realized what I’d said—which sounded a lot like an invitation for Lucas and me to spend the night together. Then again, hadn’t we run off together? Maybe it was natural for him to assume that we’d go to bed. Maybe it would’ve been natural for me to assume that, and there had been times I’d wanted to be with him too desperately to sleep. Tonight, though, on top of everything that had just happened, the prospect only made me feel awkward and nervous.

Lucas seemed to have realized our predicament at the same moment I had. “I haven’t got my credit cards with me. Kinda left in a hurry. We just spent the only cash I had in my pocket.”

“The only thing I brought was a flashlight.” Too-bright signs from the few open stores made me squint. “We’d have been better off with a slingshot and Oreos.”

The rainstorm that had been raging in Riverton hadn’t made it here, so we didn’t have to worry about getting soaked as we walked around, trying to think of what to do. We were damp and exhausted and unsure of each other, and we did a poor job of acting casual as we passed bail bondsmen and liquor stores. Spending the night curled on different benches in some run-down park wasn’t an appealing prospect.

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