Stargazer Page 21

“There are ways to do it without high school. You could earn a GED, easy.”

“Then what? No scholarships for GED students, and there’s no way Mom would ever pay. What money she has is for Black Cross. That’s the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Maybe I could work my way through, but—I don’t know.” He swallowed hard, and I could tell he’d thought about this a lot. “I guess I haven’t given up the idea. But it doesn’t seem likely.”

There was nothing for me to say that was equal to how trapped he felt; I had no information to share, no comfort to give. I simply took his hand. “What would you study? In college, I mean.”

“Law, I think.”

“Law? I can’t see you with a briefcase and three-piece suit.”

“I’d wear it if it meant I got to put the bad guys away.” Lucas tried to smile. “Wore that stupid Evernight uniform, didn’t I?”

“Don’t laugh. I still have to wear it.”

He brushed a strand of hair from my cheek. “I don’t have to ask you. You’d study astronomy.” I nodded. “What is it that you love so much about it? You’ve showed me every single constellation, but you never said why it is you watch the stars.”

I put my arms across my knees and rested my chin against them, considering. Although I knew the answer, it was important to tell Lucas in a way that he would understand. “My parents told me what I truly was when I was very small, as soon as they thought I could keep a secret. They made it sound like something special. A big adventure. I thought it was like in the fairy tales, when the girl who sweeps out the cottage finds out that she’s really a princess and one day the prince is going to come for her. Like the secret inside me was magic.”

Lucas looked as though he wanted to ask a question, but he must have seen that I was struggling for the right words, because he watched me in silence.

“The first time I realized that it wasn’t just fun and magic—the first time I knew there was anything bad about being a—” I glanced around. This area of the bookstore was still empty, but I talked around the V word anyway. “—anything bad about it was the first time I realized that I would never die, but all my Arrowwood friends would. Carrie and Tom and Renee—they were all going to die. All of them. They would get old and be gone, and I’d be alone. It scared me, because I realized that of all the people I loved in the world, there would be so few I would ever get to keep.”

Softly, Lucas cupped my cheek in one hand. I swallowed the lump in my throat and kept going. “So I tried to think what I could keep. If there was anything that would stay with me always.”

“The stars,” Lucas said. “You knew you would always have the stars.”

I nodded, and I knew he understood everything. He took me in his arms and held me so tightly that I could believe Lucas would be with me forever, too.

In the late afternoon, Lucas drove me back to Evernight Academy in Kate’s old pickup truck. We got there at dusk, though the weather was so gloomy that it seemed almost like night. Fog had crept into the hills, obscuring everything more than a few feet away and painting the world milky gray. It wasn’t like Lucas could drop me off at the front door, but he pulled up on a side road on the edge of the nearby woods. From there it would be easy for me to hike back—ten minutes’ walk, tops. I knew I needed to put in an appearance soon to keep Raquel from asking questions, but I lingered in Lucas’s embrace as long as I could. We kissed until the truck windows fogged up inside, and I didn’t want it to ever end. But I could feel the nearness of Evernight, as if the building’s shadow were falling over us.

“I can’t go another six months without seeing you,” Lucas murmured into my hair. “We have to meet up soon.”

“Anytime. You know that. Just e-mail me—I can give you my Hotmail account, and it’s not like Mrs. Bethany has the password to that one.”

“Won’t work. We aren’t allowed to have laptops or anything, not since we got caught out three years ago by a couple of vampires who had learned about hacking.” Lucas sighed. “I could try to get to a library sometime, but I never know when we’re going to go into lockdown. When that happens, we get stuck in the cell so that we can’t go out for any reason.”

“Then how are you and I supposed to see each other?”

“We’ll set up each meeting as we go. This time, we figure out where to meet next time. Next time, we figure out the time after that. And we get there. No matter what. We just have to do it.”

“I know we can. And next month is as good as set up,” I said. When Lucas looked at me, uncomprehending, I punched him gently on the shoulder. “Riverton. Evernight has a Riverton weekend coming up. Remember?”

“Of course—that’s perfect.” Lucas grinned, delighted with the idea. Then he hesitated. “There are going to be a lot of people around who’d recognize me.”

“Not if we arrange to meet up someplace where there won’t be a crowd. What about the riverbank? Nobody ever walked down that way but Vic, and if Vic sees you, it’s not the end of the world.”

“I’d rather leave Vic out of this for his own good, but, yeah, we could swing it. Besides, he’ll probably hang out at the diner instead anyway.”

Delighted with our solution, I kissed him again. Lucas held me close for a few long minutes. If only we could be alone together for longer—was there anywhere in Riverton? I’d have to think of something.

The fog had become even thicker, and I knew nightfall was at hand. “I’ve got to go,” I said. “I should’ve gone a while ago.”

“Go. Hurry. This isn’t good-bye. Not for long.”

We kissed once more, and he laid his hand against my heart. The touch made me shiver. Somehow I managed to turn from him, get out of the truck, and start running. Behind me I heard the truck’s motor rev up, then tires spinning away.

He’s gone. My heart ached, and I paused in my run to look back over my shoulder as the truck’s red taillights disappeared into the fog.

A deep voice behind me said, “I guess I don’t have to ask who that was.”

I whirled around to see Balthazar.

Chapter Eight


Balthazar stood with his hands folded across his chest. With his tall frame and broad shoulders, he seemed as imposing as the oaks in the forest. My stomach seemed to drop to my knees. “I—I can explain.”

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