Stargazer Page 32

“Whoa!” His arms circled my back so tightly that my feet dangled above the floor. I held on to his neck and grinned. Balthazar laughed.

“You’re in a good mood.”


“I can guess why.” He sighed, settling me on my feet again. “See you at the bus.”

Balthazar was defying the unspoken rule that the “Evernight type” didn’t go on the Riverton trips with the human students. I think most of the human kids believed it was a kind of snobbery, the in-crowd shun-ning the outsiders. That was partly true. But mostly, the vampires feared revealing their ignorance of the twenty-first century once they were outside the controlled environment of Evernight Academy.

Balthazar would break ranks tonight. Partly this was to go along with the fiction that we were so hot and heavy that we couldn’t let each other out of our sight. Also, when the time came for me to slip off on my own, Balthazar had promised to make sure that Raquel was taken care of and having fun.

Until then, she and I were going to stick together, whether she liked it or not.

“There’s nothing to do in Riverton,” Raquel groused as I linked my arm in hers and drew her toward the waiting bus. She wore Doc Mar-tens, jeans, and a peacoat. “I’d rather hang out in the room, honestly.”

“You’ve done enough of that lately. Come on, at least it’s something different, right? We can eat at the diner, and I know you have to want something besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a change.”

“Well. When you put it that way.” She cast a glance at my outfit—

white ruffled shirt, gray jumper that showed off more of my legs than I usually displayed, and the gorgeous high heels I’d only worn twice because they kind of threw me off balance. “Looking good for Balthazar, huh?”

I wondered what Lucas would say when he saw me in this and began to smile crazily again. Raquel laughed, seeing my delight even as she misinterpreted it. We skipped the rest of the way to the bus, me wobbly in my heels, not caring if anyone laughed at us. When Balthazar tugged me onto his lap, it was only to make room for Raquel to sit on the same seat. At least, mostly for that.

We laughed and talked the whole way, Balthazar doing his best to be charming and draw Raquel out. Soon she was telling him about skateboarding, which she’d been into back in middle school, and laughing at how little he knew about it. The whole trip, only one moment jarred us from the fun. As the bus turned onto the bridge to cross the river, I felt Balthazar’s body tense, and his hand closed around my shoulder.

Vampires hate to cross running water. They can manage, but usually they need a long time to work up to the crossing. Balthazar had to do it cold, and it was going to be difficult. I took his hand as if I were flirting, really to give him strength. The bus headed over the water. Balthazar shut his eyes tightly.

A wave of nausea hit me. I felt like I’d just had the breath knocked out of me, and I couldn’t quite tell which way was up or down anymore.

Everything went sparkly and dark, the way it does sometimes when you stand up too quickly. I clutched Balthazar’s hand more tightly; his palm was as cold and clammy as my own had become.

Then, as swiftly as it had descended, the sick feeling passed. Sucking a deep breath, I looked around, trying to orient myself. The bus had just finished crossing the river.

The barrier that vampires felt at running water—now I felt it, too.

Balthazar gazed at me curiously, and I wondered if he’d been able to sense my distress. I stared at the window, unwilling to acknowledge to him what I wasn’t ready to admit to myself.

We all ate at the diner together, right at the counter. Vic put french fries on his hamburger, between the meat and the bun, which made us all laugh but then turned out to taste pretty good once we tried it. It was strange to see Balthazar eating onion rings and drinking a milkshake; he chewed slowly and deliberately, maybe because he had to remind himself how to do it. But he managed. Nobody else noticed anything strange about how he ate.

Afterward, Balthazar suggested everyone check out the used bookstore. Once Vic and Raquel were on board, I casually said, “I’ll catch up with you guys, all right? I think I’m going to run to the theater and say hi to my parents. They always chaperone there.”

Raquel shrugged. “We could all go to the movie.” Oh, no, I thought, but this time it was Vic to the rescue. “No way.

Did you see what they’re showing? The Philadelphia Story. Seriously misogynistic take on the causes of marital infidelity.” Raquel blinked at the sound of Vic using so many big words. I wanted to defend any film with my beloved Cary Grant, but I’d have to take the out. “Right. You guys wouldn’t want to see that. I’ll come by the bookstore later.”

Then they were gone, and I was alone. I started walking toward the movie theater, just in case any of them happened to turn and glance behind them, but then I passed the blinking lights of the marquee and kept going.

Almost there. Almost there. My feet had begun to ache from the high heels, but with every step, I felt it less, not more. Every second brought me closer to Lucas.

Within a few minutes I reached the riverbank. Instead of shops, there were houses here, but not all that many. A sidewalk ran along the river-side, one that had been laid down a long time ago; the concrete squares had cracked, and weeds poked their way through the gaps. Here and there, tree roots had pushed the concrete slabs upward at odd angles, so it made for uncertain walking, especially in heels.

I watched the lights of the bridge reflecting on the water. How was it that driving over it today had upset me so badly? Being this close to the water didn’t affect me the slightest. The river looked pretty, and that was about it.

Then I heard footsteps on the sidewalk behind me. Lucas. My heart leaped, and I spun around with a smile on my face to glimpse a shape coming closer in the night.

All my hopes crashed.

“Hey,” Dana said, emerging from the shadows. “I know I’m not who you wanted to see tonight. Sorry about that.”

My disappointment vanished, replaced by fear. “Lucas isn’t—He’s okay, right?”

“He’s fine. Absolutely fine. But his cell is on lockdown right now.

They got themselves surrounded by a nasty crew of vamps in Boston.

For the next few weeks, he’s stuck. Can’t get out, can’t leave. I was somewhere else, so when they told me about the lockdown, he asked me to come find you. I’m supposed to schedule your next secret rendezvous, which, I gotta tell you, makes me feel a little dirty.” Though I tried to laugh at Dana’s joke, it sort of turned into a sob instead. Dana patted me awkwardly on the shoulder and said, “Hey, hey. You know he would’ve come if he could, right?”

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