Stargazer Page 14

As soon as I was sure she was gone, I called out, “Lucas?” No response. “Lucas?”

I heard footsteps farther down the road. Rising to my feet, I saw Lucas running toward me. He motioned for me to duck down again, but I ignored that.

“She’s gone,” I promised. “We’re safe, okay?”

Lucas slowed to a walk, then took another couple of heavy steps and leaned forward, bracing his hands against his knees. I still felt shaky myself, and I’d had a couple of minutes to get my breath. “You sure?”

“Pretty sure. Are you all right?”

“As long as you are.” Lucas straightened up again and brushed back his sweaty hair with the back of one hand. “God, Bianca—if she had come after you—”

“She wasn’t dangerous. Not until she got scared.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” It hit me: For the first time in more than six months, Lucas and I were alone together. I threw my arms around him, and he held me so tightly that I could hardly breathe.

“I missed you,” I whispered into his hair. “I missed you so much.”

“Me, too.” He laughed softly. “I can hardly believe this is real.”

“I’ll convince you.” I took his face in my hands, and we leaned closer to kiss—until headlights swept over us and made us both jump.

The van sped toward us, screeching to a halt only a few feet away. In the brilliant light, I could barely make out that there were apparently several people crowded inside.

Lucas groaned, “Oh, no.” When one of the van doors opened, he yelled, “Crisis over. Way to take too long, guys.”

“It hasn’t been five minutes since your page.” The woman emerging from the van sounded familiar. Even before I could see her features, I realized it was Kate, Lucas’s mother.

Then the passenger door swung open to reveal a tall, heavy-set black girl with braided hair. I searched my memory for her name: Dana. As we looked up at her, Dana’s expression shifted from concern to a broad smile.

“Look who we have here.” She leaned against the hood and gestured toward us with a crossbow she apparently no longer intended to use. “Lucas, didn’t anyone tell you the emergency number isn’t to alert us to your booty calls?”

Kate folded her arms. “Now I see why you insisted on joining the Amherst hunt.”

“Okay, you found me out,” he said lightly, refusing to be cowed. “Can we get Bianca someplace safe? The vampire just scared the hell out of her.”

“I realize that,” Kate said, more kindly. She liked me, mostly because she believed I’d saved Lucas’s life once. The people in the van were nodding and murmuring welcome. “Come on and get yourself cleaned up. Don’t worry; you’re safe now.”

Safe with Black Cross? I was safe only as long as they didn’t realize I was “the enemy.” Just the thought of turning myself over to a gang of vampire hunters made me feel cold and frightened inside. They’d been kind to me last time we’d met—but the last time had nearly ended in disaster. This time, if they learned the truth, it could get a lot worse.

Lucas and I shared a look, and I knew he understood how I felt. But there was nothing to do but smile, say thanks, and climb in the van.

Chapter Six

LUCAS’S HAND CLOSED AROUND MINE AS THE VAN drove into an industrial park—one that had seen better days, to judge by the fact that half the buildings seemed to be vacant. My head still whirled from the suddenness of the vampire’s attack and our escape; I don’t think I’d even fully processed the fact that Lucas and I were together again.

Or maybe, I thought as we stole sideways glances at each other, it’s just that it feels like we’ve never really been apart.

“I don’t guess you kids met up at random.” Kate glanced toward us, and her eyes narrowed as she glared at Lucas. She wore olive cargo pants and a black shirt with a lot of pockets; her dark-gold hair was slicked back into a no-nonsense ponytail. “Lucas, don’t tell me you went back to that place.”

“I didn’t go to Evernight,” Lucas said. “I asked Bianca to meet me here. But if I have to return to the school again to see her, I will.”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Can you tell me where in the world we aren’t in danger, Mom? Because I just had a closer call than I ever had at Evernight Academy.”

Lucas was exaggerating somewhat, given how my father and Balthazar had pursued him last year, but I didn’t want to undermine him while he was defending his decision to meet up with me.

Kate sighed, then shook her head. She looked at me next—not gently, because nothing about her was gentle, but in a way that made it clear she didn’t blame me for the danger Lucas and I had been in. “Glad to see you’re okay, Bianca. I didn’t trust the bloodsuckers to keep their word last year.”

Those bloodsuckers are my parents, I wanted to retort, but instead I replied, “They did. I’m back in school and we all sort of—pretend it didn’t happen.”

Lucas helped me out. “Probably they figure even if you did tell, nobody would believe you.” I hoped our explanation sounded convincing.

“That was a brave thing you did, giving yourself up to save us from the fire,” said an elderly man who sat in the back beside Dana. He’d told me his name—Mr. Watanabe, I remembered. “I think you saved us all.”

“Yeah, Bianca, that was pretty badass of you.” Dana slapped her hands on my shoulders and gave them a hearty squeeze. “Seriously, you’ve got guts.”

“It wasn’t badass. I don’t really do badass.” That made the half-dozen or so people in the van laugh, even though I hadn’t actually been making a joke. Still, my tension eased a little.

Last year, when Lucas had been discovered as a member of Black Cross, he’d been forced to escape from Evernight Academy; I’d fled with him. Together we’d reached Kate and Eduardo’s cell, and safety—at least as long as Black Cross remained ignorant that I was a sort of vampire, too. But Mrs. Bethany, my parents, and several other vampires had tracked us down. When I’d gone back with my parents, I’d not only escaped that confrontation, I’d gotten away before Black Cross found out what I really was. They still believed me to be a human child kidnapped and raised by vampire parents—something I needed them to keep on believing.

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