Evernight Page 68

Eduardo shook his head. “The vampires might have traced you there. We should get you to a safe place. What about your home?”

The simple question knocked the breath out of me. My home—Mom and Dad, my telescope and my Klimt print, old phonograph records and even the gargoyle—seemed like the safest place in the world and the farthest away. I’d rarely felt so lost. “I can’t go there.”

“If you’re worried about a cover story, we can help you with that,” Kate said briskly, unwilling to be dissuaded. “We just have to get you to your family. Where are your parents?”

The back door slammed open, venting light and cold air into the room. I jumped, but I was the only one—all the Black Cross fighters, including Lucas, were instantly on guard, weapons in their hands, to face the enemies at the door. The vampires.

Standing in front of them all were Mom and Dad.

Chapter Nineteen

“BIANCA!”

My father’s voice and Lucas’s rang out at the same time, each of them trying to warn me about the other, and I felt as though I were being torn in two. Other people started shouting, words overlapping, and the buzzing in my brain mingled with panic so that I couldn’t tell any of the speakers apart.

“Let her go!”

“Get out of here!”

“Step back or you die. That’s all there is to it.”

“If you try to hurt her—”

“Bianca? Bianca!”

That was Mom. I focused on her and only her. She stood in the doorway, holding out one hand. The sunlight dappled her caramel-colored hair so that she was outlined with a sort of halo. “Come here, sweetheart.” She opened her hand so wide that every tendon and muscle tensed, so wide it had to hurt. “Just come here.”

“She’s not going anywhere.” Kate stepped forward so that she stood between us with her hands on her hips. One of her fingers rested on the hilt of the knife in her belt. “You’re finished lying to this girl. In fact, I’d say you’re finished, period.”

“You have ten seconds,” my father growled.

“Ten seconds until what? Until you storm inside to finish us all off?” Kate held out her arms, a gesture that took in the entire room—including the faded outline of the cross upon the wall. “You’re weaker in a house of God. You know it as well as I do. So go ahead. Run inside. Make it easy for us to finish you off.”

All around me, the members of Black Cross were armed. Eduardo wielded a huge knife, and Dana handled an ax like she knew how to use it. Even little Mr. Watanabe held a stake. How could people who seemed so friendly be so instantly ready to kill people I loved? In the doorway, behind my parents, I could see Balthazar’s profile. He had accepted his rejection, become my friend, and even risked his life to protect me. He deserved better than this. So did Lucas. It was so clear to me but invisible to everyone else.

“We’re not coming in.” My father’s smile was crooked and strange—the broken nose changed his face somehow. “You’re coming out.”

“Look out.” Lucas put one hand on my arm, but he obviously wasn’t talking to me. What had he seen?

Instantly Balthazar shouldered a crossbow, moving swiftly, giving my mom just time enough to flick a silver lighter next to the arrow. Then a bolt of fire zoomed through the room, shimmering with light and heat, before striking the wall—which instantly burst into flame.

Fire. One of the only things that can kill us—one of the only things we all fear. And yet Balthazar kept going, shooting arrow after arrow into the church, not aiming at any of the ducking and dodging members of Black Cross or anywhere in particular, just setting the place ablaze. My mother stayed by his side, creating every fireburst with her lighter and never flinching. An arrow shattered the light fixture above us, sending thin shards of glass spraying out in every direction and the burning point thudding deep into the ceiling. All around us, the old, dry tinder of the meetinghouse flared immediately into a conflagration. Already dark smoke had begun to obscure everything.

“Run!” Kate shouted, turning toward the wide front doors, which Mr. Watanabe was opening even then. But when the doors swung open, others were waiting: Mrs. Bethany, Professor Iwerebon, Mr. Yee, and some of the other teachers stood in a dark, forbidding line. None of them brandished weapons; they didn’t have to in order to make the threat clear.

“Hang on!” Dana threw down her ax and grabbed what looked like a Super Soaker. “We’re gonna give these bastards a shower!”

“Holy water?” Mrs. Bethany called over the crackling of the flames. I couldn’t see her very well, not with my eyes stinging from acrid smoke, but I could imagine the sneer on her face. “Useless. You could soak us in every fountain in every church in Christendom and it would do no good.”

“Most priests can’t make holy water,” Eduardo agreed. Disturbingly, he sounded like he was enjoying this. “Most preachers of any faith aren’t true servants of God. But those servants do exist—as you’re about to find out.”

Dana squeezed the trigger and sent a jet of water toward the teachers. Mr. Yee and Professor Iwerebon immediately yelled and fell back, as if they had been sprayed with acid.

“That’s it!” Kate cried. But even as Dana fired again, the next jet of water failed to make its mark. The air was growing so hot that the water was evaporating right away.

The timbers overhead creaked ominously. I could hear Professor Iwerebon shouting in pain and Mr. Watanabe coughing hard from the smoke. The floorboards beneath my feet were beginning to feel hot. I no longer wondered which side would die; I wondered if we all would.

“I’ll go!” I cried. “I’m going out!”

“Bianca, don’t!” Lucas’s face was painted in firelight, red and gold. “You can’t go!”

“If I don’t go, you’ll die. All of you. I won’t do that.”

Our eyes met. I had never imagined saying good-bye to Lucas before; it had seemed like there couldn’t be a good-bye, not for us. He wasn’t just part of my life—he was part of me. Leaving him was like cutting off my own hand, sawing through sinew and bone, bloody and horrible and terrifying.

But for Lucas, I could do anything that had to be done. That meant I could even do this.

“No,” Lucas whispered, his voice almost inaudible above the crackling of the flames. The Black Cross group were edging toward the center of the room, creating a circle of defense. “There’s got to be another way.”

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