Stargazer Page 36

“We’re clear.”

We hurried inside the records room. Someone had definitely been up there since the time I’d seen the vision—Mrs. Bethany, probably, investigating. Boxes and trunks had been shifted around in every direction; and for the first time in my memory, the room had been cleaned from top to bottom. The windows were so clear that they were invisible, and it looked as though the gargoyle outside the window might hop in at any second. Cobwebs had been expelled from every corner.

“So what are we looking for?” Balthazar said.

“Anything that explains why humans are attending Evernight Academy now. Lucas needs to know. If we can tell him when we’re explaining about Charity and—and the rest, it will go better. Besides, don’t you want to know?”

“I’ve always thought Mrs. Bethany did it for the money. People will do a lot of things for money.”

“If she wanted money, she could’ve started admitting human students years ago. Like you said, Mrs. Bethany hates to change the rules. Why did she change this one? Besides, if it was only about making cash for Evernight Academy, she wouldn’t offer scholarships to human students, but she does. Raquel’s on scholarship, and she’s not the only one.” Balthazar nodded, acknowledging that I had a good point, but he didn’t look any more thrilled to be there. “The last time you were up here, you awakened a wraith.”

“If you want to go back downstairs—”

“I’m not leaving you here alone,” he said so firmly that I felt embarrassed for even joking that he might’ve been afraid.

“I think I’ve seen wraiths three times now. Three different places—

the great hall, the stairwell, and here. I don’t think it had anything to do with this specific room.”

Balthazar was obviously not convinced, but he said only, “So, what are we looking for?”

“Any connections between vampire students from long ago and human students today.”

“That doesn’t narrow it down much, Bianca.” That was an understatement; despite Mrs. Bethany’s cleaning job, the room was still stacked with crate after crate of documents dating back more than two hundred years. “I guess we’d better begin.”

We opened lids and started sifting through yellowing old pages. Dust puffed up from the fragile, yellowing documents, and I had to keep brushing my dress clean; we couldn’t go downstairs all dirty. Balthazar called out one series of names while I silently read another: Tobias Earnshaw. Agatha Browning. Dhiram Patel. Li Xiaoting. Tabitha Isaacs.

Noor Al-Eyaf. Jonathan Donahue. Sky Kahurangi. Sumiko Takaha-ra. The names we found came from different countries and centuries; all they had in common was that they didn’t tell us anything. Evernight Academy was a fairly small school, so between Balthazar and me, we knew the names of pretty much all the human students. None of them connected in any obvious way to the vampires we found in the records room.

“So much for that idea,” I groaned, brushing filmy dust from my hands.

“We didn’t prove your theory, but we didn’t disprove it either. The trouble is—there’s just too much paper. We can’t look through this usefully without knowing more about what we’re looking for.” Balthazar pulled a pocket watch from his jacket and frowned. “We need to get back soon. They’ll notice that we were gone, but if we come back, they’ll assume—”

“Right.” Thinking of what people would assume made me bashful, and I couldn’t quite look Balthazar in the eye.

“We’ll keep looking into this. I promise.”


We made the trip downstairs without being seen, and Balthazar sounded relieved. “Good. I don’t want to give you a scandalous reputa-tion.”

“Vampires can be scandalized?”

“You should know better than anyone.” He took my hand as we headed back to the dance floor. “Come on. Let’s start a scandal.” This time, when we started dancing, it wasn’t just for fun. Balthazar held me closer then he had before, closer than anyone but Lucas had ev-er held me, so that our bodies were pressed together tightly. We weren’t part of the whirling procession of dancers all around us. We moved more slowly, as if pretending that there was nobody else in the world, and that we were all alone. In truth, I was more aware than ever that we were being watched. I could sense the chaperones’ amusement, others’ interest, and Courtney’s glowering jealousy.

It’s all a game, I told myself. It doesn’t mean anything to either of us.

It’s okay to enjoy a game.

At one point, Balthazar’s hand brushed against another girl’s gown, and he winced. “What the—”

We fell out of the dance, moving to the side of the room. I took his hand in mine and saw a small red droplet on his index finger. “She must have pinned her dress.”

Balthazar shook his hand, then stopped. Slowly he brought his finger close to my lips—offering me his blood.

The vampires around us would recognize that as flirting. Drinking each other’s blood was intimate for vampires. The one who drank could sense the other’s most secret desires and emotions. Had Balthazar offered his blood to me only to complete the illusion that we were together, or did he mean it?

Either way, I couldn’t exactly say no.

My lips closed around his fingertip, and I brushed against the pad of his finger with my tongue. He tasted like salt. Though it was only one drop of blood, that was enough for me to sense a glimmer of what he felt, a strobe-light flash of his mind’s eye: me dancing in the green dress, darker and older and a thousand times more beautiful than I really was.

I swallowed, and it was like the world flashed black, then light again.

“Much better,” Balthazar said, his voice low, as he slowly pulled his finger from my lips. I realized I’d shut my eyes.

Flustered, I tried to pull myself together. “Okay. Good. I mean—

okay.” He smiled down at me, and he almost looked proud of himself.

Turning toward the dance floor, I said, too brightly, “Let’s dance, okay?”

“Let’s.” Balthazar’s hand closed around mine, and at the perfect moment, just on the beat, he pulled us back into the dance. The swirl of people all around us caught me up, as if I could feel the tempo of the music in my own pulse. The taste of blood had made me dizzy with excitement. Never again, I thought. Lucas wouldn’t like it. At all.

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