Evernight Page 66

“They didn’t get as far as Riverton, not before we left,” I said hastily as I scooted into the center and Lucas got in beside me. “The running water stopped them.”

She froze that second, with one hand on the keys in the ignition. She stared at Lucas, not the usual upset-mom stare, the one that clearly says you’re two seconds from being grounded. This was harder—the way I imagined army leaders looked when they sent traitors to firing squads. “You told her?”

“Mom, you need to listen for a sec.” Lucas took a deep, steadying breath and held his hands out, as if he could actually hold her back. “Bianca knew the truth about Evernight already. I only explained Black Cross because I had to. It’s not like she didn’t realize vampires existed before. Okay?”

“No, it’s not okay. Your mistake might be understandable, but it’s still a mistake. You should know that by now.” She shoved her bangs back and studied me more intently than she had at first. Kate’s casual attitude had dissolved. “How did you find out about them?”

I thought she meant Black Cross at first. It took a second for me to understand that “them” meant “vampires” to her. Lucas hadn’t told her what I truly was—and I realized, as he shifted in his seat next to me, that he was hiding the truth for my protection. Undoubtedly he also hadn’t mentioned the fact that he now had some measure of vampiric power himself.

So I did what Lucas and I were apparently best at: I lied. “There were all kinds of clues. The fact that the school never served food for its students, so everyone ate in private—the dead squirrels all around—the way that so many people had attitudes and ideas that came from other centuries. It wasn’t that hard to figure it out.”

“Doesn’t sound like much evidence.” Kate, unconvinced, gunned the motor and sped out down a frontage road that led us out of the city area. “You never ran into the supernatural before, and you put it together from no more than that?”

“Bianca’s hiding part of the truth because she’s trying not to scare you,” Lucas said. “She was the one who helped me after this happened.” He then carefully pulled open the neck of his shirt. There, still dark pink against his skin, were the scars left from my second bite.

“Oh, my God.” Immediately Kate reached across me to touch Lucas’s arm. So she really was a mom after all, even if she didn’t always show it. “We knew this could happen—we knew it—but I told myself it wouldn’t.”

Lucas ducked away, abashed. “Mom. I’m fine.”

“You got away. How did you manage it?”

“I killed one of them—a vampire called Erich, one who had been threatening other human students. We got into an altercation. He had the worst of it. That’s really all there is to say.”

Lucas’s talent at lying was easier to admire when I wasn’t the one he was lying to. Of course, the genius of it was that Lucas wasn’t actually making any of it up. Every word he’d said to his mother was factually true. He’d simply unfolded those facts in a way that led his mother to believe in an alternate sequence of events, one in which Erich had bitten him and I was the sweet, savvy, totally normal girl who had helped him recover afterward.

“You’ve seen what we’re up against.” Kate spoke to me more respectfully than before. Anybody who had helped her son was apparently okay in her eyes. She never looked away from the road as she sped over the badly paved streets, steering us into a smaller suburb, one that looked older and fairly run-down. “This is dangerous work, and you’re not ready for it, but I realize that we have a responsibility to keep you safe. If that demon Mrs. Bethany realizes that you’re helping a member of Black Cross, your life won’t be worth a dime.”

I’d always known that Mrs. Bethany would do a lot to protect her secrets, but I still couldn’t quite believe that she would be willing to kill, much less kill me.

“All that time, all that risk, and what was it for? Because I don’t guess you managed to figure out the big secret after all,” Kate said to Lucas. “Seems like the kind of thing you would’ve mentioned in one of your reports, if you had.”

Wearily, Lucas shook his head. “I didn’t get it. So cut me some slack, okay?”

“Secret?” I wondered if maybe it was something my parents might have mentioned. If I could help Lucas, if there was information I could reveal that wouldn’t hurt my parents or Balthazar, I would do it. “What were you trying to find out at Evernight?”

“This is the first year they ever let humans in like regular students. The Black Cross fighter who got in before, the handful of other humans over the years—those were special cases, exceptions the Evernight vampires made to get their hands on a lot of money and avoid attention. Whatever they’re up to now is different. They let in at least thirty humans. Why did it change?”

Mrs. Bethany had said that “new students” were allowed into Evernight so that we could get a broader perspective upon the world. In reality, that was the last thing she really wanted. Yes, the students were there to learn more about the world, but Mrs. Bethany had another agenda—and for that agenda, having human students at Evernight was a risk. Raquel understood that something was wrong, if not exactly what, and Lucas’s example spoke for itself. The vampires were also forced to hide what they were in one of the few places on earth where they could’ve expected to relax and be themselves. Only a powerful motive could lead Mrs. Bethany to permit such a thing—but what? “I don’t know,” I admitted.

“How could you?” Kate shrugged as she took us down a shady lane. The houses on this street all looked shabby, and one or two of them appeared to be abandoned. She pulled into what appeared to be the rear driveway of one of the abandoned buildings, though I realized quickly it wasn’t a home. It was an old-fashioned meetinghouse, the kind nearly every town in New England possessed, though nobody had held a meeting here for decades at least. The white paint was chipped and water-stained, and at least half the windows were broken. “Just the fact that you kept your head after you learned about the bloodsuckers is more than most people could manage. Lucas is a pro. If he couldn’t figure it out, they buried that secret deep.”

“A pro, huh?” Lucas grinned as we got out of the truck. I got the sense that his mother didn’t praise him much, but he ate it up when she did.

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