Stargazer Page 1



Transfixed, I watched lines of frost lace their way across the stone of the north tower’s records room. The pattern swept up from the floor, covering the wall, even icing the ceiling with something flaky and white. A few small, silvery crystals of snow hung in the air.

It was all delicate and ethereal—and completely unnatural. The room’s chill cut deeper than my skin, down to my marrow. If only I hadn’t been alone. If somebody else could have been there to see it, I might have been able to believe it was real. I might have been able to believe I was safe.

The ice crackled so loudly, I jumped. As I watched, my eyes wide and breath coming in thin, quick gasps, the frost etching its way across the window obscured the view of the night sky outside, blocking the moonlight, but somehow I could still see. The room possessed its own light now. All the many lines of frost on the window broke this way and that, not at random but in an eerie pattern, creating a recognizable shape.

A face.

The frost man stared back at me. His dark, angry eyes were so detailed that it seemed as though he were looking back at me. The face in the frost was the most vivid image I’d ever seen.

Then the cold stabbed into my heart as I realized: He really was looking back at me.

Once, I hadn’t believed in ghosts—

Chapter One


Dark clouds scudded across the sky, blotting out the stars. The quickening wind chilled me as strands of my red hair blew across my forehead and cheeks. I pulled up the hood of my black raincoat and tucked my messenger bag beneath it.

Despite the gathering storm, the grounds of Evernight still weren’t completely dark. Nothing less than total darkness would do. Evernight Academy’s teachers could see in the night and hear through the wind. All vampires could.

Of course, at Evernight, the teachers weren’t the only vampires. When the school year began in a couple of days, the students would arrive, most of them as powerful, ancient, and undead as the professors.

I wasn’t powerful or ancient, and I was still very much alive. But I was a vampire, in a way—born to two vampires, destined to become one myself eventually, and with my own appetite for blood. I’d slipped past the teachers before, trusting in my own powers to help me, as well as some dumb luck. But tonight I waited for that darkness. I wanted as much cover as possible.

I guess I was nervous about my first burglary.

The word burglary makes it sound sort of cheap, like I was just going to barge into Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house and ransack the place for money or jewelry or something. I had more important reasons.

Raindrops began to patter down as the sky darkened further. I ran across the grounds, casting a few glances toward the school’s stone towers as I went. As I skidded through the rain-slick grass to Mrs. Bethany’s copper-roofed carriage house, I felt the queasy pull of hesitation. Seriously? You’re going to break into her house? Break into anyone’s house? You don’t even download music you haven’t paid for. It was kind of surreal, reaching into my bag and pulling out my laminated library card for a use other than checking out books. But I was determined. I would do this. Mrs. Bethany left the school maybe three nights a year, which meant tonight was my chance. I slid the card between door and doorjamb and started jimmying the lock.

Five minutes later, I was still uselessly wiggling the library card around, my hands now cold, wet, and clumsy. On TV, this part always looked so easy. Real criminals could probably do this in about ten seconds flat. However, it was becoming more obvious by the second that I wasn’t much of a criminal.

Giving up on plan A, I started searching for another option. At first the windows didn’t look much more promising than the door. Sure, I could have broken the glass and opened any of them instantly, but that would have defeated the don’t-get-caught part of my plan.

As I rounded a corner, I saw to my surprise that Mrs. Bethany had left one window open—just a crack. That was all I needed.

As I slowly slid the window up, I saw a row of African violets in little clay pots, sitting on the sill. Mrs. Bethany had left them where they would get fresh air and perhaps some rain. It was weird to think about Mrs. Bethany caring for any living thing. I carefully pushed the pots to one side so I would have room to hoist myself through the window.

Getting in through an open window? Also much harder than it looks on TV.

Mrs. Bethany’s windows were pretty high off the ground, which meant I had to kind of jump to get started. Panting, I began to pull myself through, and it was difficult not to just fall flat on the floor inside. I was trying to come down feet-first. But I’d gone through the window headfirst, and I couldn’t exactly turn around halfway through. One of my muddy shoes hit a windowpane hard, and I gasped, but the glass didn’t break. I managed to lower myself the rest of the way and flop onto the floor.

“Okay,” I whispered as I lay on Mrs. Bethany’s braided rug, my legs still up above my head, braced against the windowsill and sopping wet from the rain. “So much for the easy part.”

Mrs. Bethany’s house looked like her, felt like her, even smelled like her—strong and sharp with lavender. I realized I was in her bedroom, which somehow made me feel like even more of an intruder. Though I knew that Mrs. Bethany had traveled to Boston to meet “prospective students,” I couldn’t help feeling as though she might catch me at any second. I was terrified of getting caught. Already I was shutting down, withdrawing deep into myself the way I did when I was afraid.

But then I thought of Lucas, the guy I loved—and had lost.

Lucas wouldn’t want to see me being scared. He’d want me to stay strong. The memory of him gave me courage, and I pushed myself up to get to work.

First things first: I took off my muddy shoes, so I wouldn’t track any more muck into the house. I also hung my raincoat on a nearby doorknob so it wouldn’t drip water everywhere. Then I went to the bathroom and grabbed a handful of tissues that I used to clean up the mess I’d already made, plus my shoes. I tucked the tissues in my raincoat pocket, so I could throw them away somewhere else. If anyone was paranoid enough to go through her own trash can to find evidence of an intruder, it was Mrs. Bethany.

It was surprising that she chose to live here, I thought. Evernight Academy was grand, even grandiose, all stone towers and gargoyles—very much her style. This place was hardly more than a cottage. Then again, here she had privacy. I could believe that Mrs. Bethany might treasure that above anything else.

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