Evernight Page 64

For reassurance, I lifted my hand to my sweater, the place just beneath my collarbone where I’d pinned my brooch this morning. It seemed like a thousand years ago. But the brooch was still there, the carved jet edges of each petal cool against my fingertips.

At that moment, we walked past a pawnshop, three golden spheres outlined in neon above its door, and I realized what I had to do.

“Bianca, don’t,” Lucas protested as I pulled him inside the seedy little store. Shelves were piled with randomly stacked junk, all the things people had to get rid of, like brightly colored leather coats, sunglasses with metallic frames, and high-end electronics that were probably stolen. “We can go back to the bus station.”

“No, we can’t.” I unfastened the brooch from my sweater, trying hard not to look at it. If I caught sight of the perfect black flowers, I’d lose my nerve. “This isn’t about being comfortable, Lucas. It’s about being safe and having a place to talk. And—” And to say good-bye, I thought but could not say.

Lucas thought that over for a second before he nodded.

We probably both looked completely dejected as we walked to the pawnbroker, but he didn’t seem to care. A skinny man in a polyester shirt, he hardly paid any attention to us. “What’s this? Plastic or something?”

I quickly said, “It’s genuine Whitby jet.”

“I don’t know from Whitby.” The pawnbroker tapped his fingernails against the carved leaves. “This thing is pretty old-fashioned.”

“That’s because it’s antique,” Lucas said.

“I hear that a lot,” the pawnbroker sighed. “Hundred dollars. Take it or leave it.”

“A hundred dollars! That’s only half what it cost!” I protested. And it was worth so much more than money. I’d worn it virtually every day for months, the visible symbol of the love I felt for Lucas. How could this man look at it so coldly?

“People don’t come here for the best return on their investment, sweetie. They come here to get some cash in their hands. You want the cash? You’ve got my offer. Otherwise, get outta here and stop wasting my time.”

Lucas wanted to take the brooch back rather than let it go for so much less than it was worth. I could tell that much by the stubborn set of his jaw. I was learning that Lucas would often do something he felt strongly about, even if it wasn’t the right move—and for us, keeping the brooch wasn’t the right move. Resolutely, I held out my hand, palm up. “A hundred dollars, then.”

For our sacrifice, we received five twenty-dollar bills and a paper ticket that promised us we could reclaim the brooch later, if we somehow came into a fortune in the next couple of days. “I’ll get the money,” Lucas insisted as we walked outside and turned toward the one motel we could see. “I’ll get it back for you.”

“You said you were rich, when you bought the brooch for me. Was that true?”

“Uh—”

I raised an eyebrow. “Not exactly?”

“I have access to Black Cross money, and there’s a decent amount of that. But I’m supposed to spend it on supplies. Necessary stuff.” He shrugged. “Not jewelry.”

“You got into trouble, for buying that for me.”

Lucas shoved his fists into his pockets, his mood black. “I told them that I work for them, basically. But I don’t get a salary or hazard pay, so as far as I’m concerned, they owe me. That’s exactly what I’m going to tell them when I explain that I’m buying the brooch back. Because it’s yours, Bianca. It belongs to you, period.”

“I believe you.” I put my hands on either side of his face. “But it’s not the most important thing, okay? The most important thing is that we’re safe, we’re together, and we get a chance to figure this all out.”

“Yeah.” Lucas’s damp, rumpled hair was warm against my fingers, and he closed his eyes as I brushed it backward. “Now let’s find a place to stay.”

We had to walk only a couple more blocks before we found a cheap hotel. At the front office, a small room that smelled like beer and cigarettes, Lucas made sure to get us a room with two beds, which made the clerk look at us funny from behind her wall of bulletproof glass. I tried not to think about the precious brooch being sold to pay for one night in a small room with rickety twin beds and dark blue woolen covers, with only the light from one small porcelain lamp to see by. We didn’t touch each other as we walked in, not even to hold hands, but I was incredibly aware of the fact that we were alone together in a bedroom. He turned on the lamp between our beds, but that didn’t put me at ease. Instead, I found myself noticing how Lucas’s white shirt was slightly stuck to his body because of the rain. The near-transparent cotton outlined the muscles of his back.

“You want to get undressed in the bathroom?” Lucas asked gently. “I’ll slide under the covers. Turn off the lamp. By the time you come out, I won’t be able to see a thing.”

I laughed, both relieved and nervous. “You have some of our powers now. And some of us can see in the dark.”

“Not me. I swear.” He gave me a lopsided grin.

So I went into the tiny bathroom and peeled off my waterlogged clothes, piece by piece. At least my T-shirt and underwear were fairly dry. I washed my face and braided back my damp, curling hair; on the other side of the door, I could hear Lucas speaking briefly, then hanging up the phone. No doubt he had just left the message that would tell Black Cross where to find us.

Then I stared at myself in the mirror. It wasn’t as if I’d never paid attention to my body before, but I’d never looked at myself and wondered how somebody else would see me. Lucas would see me, any second. Would he think I was beautiful? I realized that I felt beautiful, that I wanted him to see me. I brushed my hands over my stomach, then down the sides of my hips, newly sensitive to my own touch. The whole time, Lucas was just on the other side of the door. Getting undressed. Waiting for me.

The sliver of light beneath the bathroom door went dark. I took a deep breath, snapped off the light, and opened the door. Only the dim glow of city lights, filtered by the curtain, illuminated our room. Peering into the dark, I could see Lucas in the shadows; he’d taken the bed farther from the bathroom. He was already beneath the covers, one bare arm and shoulder visible.

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