Stargazer Page 15

We drove to one of the abandoned buildings around back. Kate flicked the van’s headlights: off, on; bright, off, bright. A metal door, like for a loading dock, started to open, revealing a driveway that sloped down sharply. We drove into an underground parking garage that looked pretty much like any other, except that it was illuminated by lanterns hung on the walls or the concrete pillars. As Kate pulled around a corner into a spot, I saw that a few partitions had been set up—walls of boxes or just tarps hanging over a stretched cord—to carve rooms out of this dank space.

I couldn’t keep the surprise from my voice as I said, “This is Black Cross headquarters?”

Everyone laughed. Lucas squeezed my hand, reassuring me that the laughter wasn’t meant to be unkind. “We don’t have an HQ. We go where we need to go, find places to crash. This is secure. We’re safe here.”

To me it looked incredibly bleak. Had Lucas grown up in miserable places like this? The air still smelled like exhaust and oil.

As our crew got out of the van, another half-dozen people walked up to us, including a tall, forbidding man with twin scars across one cheek. I recognized Eduardo, Lucas’s stepfather and quite possibly his least favorite person. His dark gaze embodied everything that frightened me about Black Cross. “I see this is the big emergency,” he said, staring at me.

“You’d prefer another kind of emergency?” Kate said it like she was teasing, but she wasn’t. I could hear the real message in her words: Lay off my kid.

Either Eduardo didn’t hear that message, or he didn’t care. “The vampire got away? Again?”

Lucas’s jaw clenched at that again, but he said only, “Yeah. She’s fast.”

“Did you see her gang?” Kate shook her head, and I thought, What gang? I knew the lonely girl I’d seen tonight didn’t have any friends, much less a gang.

“You go to school with vampires for a year and can’t figure out why they’ve admitted humans, then you luck into a shot at this vampire and completely lose her while you’re hanging out with your girlfriend.” In the lantern’s light, Eduardo seemed to have been roughly carved from weathered wood. “This isn’t what we trained you for, Lucas.”

“What did you train me for? To shut up and follow your orders no matter what?”

“Discipline matters. You’ve never understood that.”

“So does having a life.”

“That’s enough,” Kate interjected, stepping between her husband and her son. “Maybe you two aren’t sick of this argument yet, but the rest of us are.”

They’re still freaking out about the human students at Evernight, I thought. If I figure that out and tell Lucas, we’d show Eduardo. Seeing how dismissively he treated Lucas made me want to take Eduardo down a notch or two. Or ten.

“Bianca looks really winded,” Dana said. “Lucas, you better get her to the first aid room and make sure she’s all right.”

“Oh, I feel—” I realized what Dana was doing and stopped myself. “That might be a good idea.”

Kate didn’t say Kids, but I knew she was thinking it. She waved us off. Eduardo looked as if he might object, but he didn’t.

The murmur of conversation welled up behind us as Lucas led me toward a side door. I realized that this led to the room the parking lot attendant had sat in when this was a garage. “Are they talking about us?” I murmured.

“Probably talking about that damn vampire. But as soon as they get done with that, yeah, they’ll start talking about us.”

“Who was that vampire?”

“I was kinda hoping you could tell us something,” Lucas said as we went up the short stairway to what was now the first aid room, “seeing as how you guys were hanging out.”

“She just sort of came up to me. I never met a vampire on the street before—I was curious.”

“Seriously, Bianca, you’ve got to be more careful.”

Before I could say anything else, Lucas turned on the small electric lantern in the first aid room. The area was hardly bigger than the one cot that was pushed against the wall. Dark gray carpet covered the floor, and this room was small enough for the lantern to fill with soft light. This was almost cozy, and definitely private. Lucas shut the door behind us. I felt a river of warmth flow through me as I realized that we were alone together at last, really alone.

Lucas grabbed me and pushed me hard against the wall. I gasped and he kissed my open lips, then kissed me again harder, as I started to respond. My arms slipped around his neck, and his body was pressed against mine from our knees to our mouths, and I could breathe in the scent of him, the one that reminded me of the dark woods near Evernight.

Mine, I thought. Mine.

We kissed frantically, like we’d been starved for each other the way people can be starved for food or water or air. The way a vampire can be starved for blood. I cupped his face in my hands and felt the stubble of his beard against my palms. His knee pushed slowly between mine, so that both my thighs straddled one of his, and one hand came up against the small of my back, beneath my shirt. The touch of his skin against mine made me dizzy but not weak. I felt stronger than I ever had in my life.

“I missed you,” he whispered against my neck. “God, I missed you.”

“Lucas.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say but his name. It was like there was nothing else worth saying.

I kissed him again, more slowly this time, and that only intensified the kiss. Both his hands pressed against my back now, and we held each other tighter, and I started to wonder how much closer we could get—and then I remembered what it had felt like when I drank his blood.

“Wait.” I turned my head away. My breath came in shaky gasps, and I couldn’t quite look directly at him. “We have to slow down.”

Lucas closed his eyes tightly, then nodded. “Mom is outside.” He was saying it to himself, not to me. “Mom. Outside. Mom. Outside. Okay, that kinda sobers me up.”

Our eyes met, and then we started to laugh really hard. Lucas stepped away from me, enough that I could breathe normally again, but he clasped both my hands tightly. “You look gorgeous.”

“I just got chased down the street. I probably look like a train wreck.” I knew my hair was mussed every which way, and my jeans were dusty.

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