Stargazer Page 40

“I keep telling myself that it’s not really any worse than eating a cheeseburger that used to be a cow.”

“It’s not.” Balthazar paused before he asked, “Have you told Lucas this?”

“Yes,” I lied. I hadn’t revealed everything, but I’d hardly had a chance. I also wasn’t going to tell Balthazar about the vampirelike powers Lucas felt in turn.

“Does he understand that you’ll be a true vampire soon? Is he ready to deal with that?”

“I won’t be a true vampire until I kill a human being, and it’s going to be a while before that happens, okay?”

“I’ve never met anyone like you, Bianca. Anyone born to be a vampire, I mean. But as I understand it, you can’t put it off forever. Sooner or later, you’ll have to kill.”

“There has to be a choice,” I insisted. “Do you know what would happen if I never killed anyone?”

“No.” I didn’t doubt that he told the truth. “Do you?”

“All I know is that Lucas loves me regardless of what I am.” Balthazar pressed his lips together and put the car back in drive.

“Let’s get this done,” he muttered, and he stomped on the gas.

When we pulled up outside the movie theater, Lucas already stood there, hands in his coat pockets. He lifted his head and smiled—then saw Balthazar. His entire body went still, instantly on guard. I smiled to show him that nothing was wrong. He didn’t look reassured.

“Hey,” I said, as I ran toward him from the car. “It’s okay. Balthazar is helping us.”

“And why would he do that?” Lucas’s eyes narrowed.

Balthazar folded his arms. “You’re welcome.”

“You guys stop it,” I said. The marquee lights flashed in a pattern, and the poster on the wall showed Bogey and Bacall, To Have and Have Not. I kissed Lucas lightly on the cheek, which finally made him stop glaring at Balthazar. “Lucas and I are going to talk for a second. Okay, Balthazar?”

Lucas didn’t look thrilled that I’d just asked Balthazar for permission to do anything. I hurriedly took his arm and walked him toward the side of the theater. Balthazar simply leaned against the car, eyebrow raised.

As we got to the corner, I whispered, “I can explain.”

“Of all the people in the world you could tell about this—”

“I didn’t tell him. He found out. Basically, he caught me coming in after the last time you and I saw each other. But he won’t give us away, Lucas. He’s even willing to help us see each other, as long as we help him with Charity.”

“What, like, a fund-raiser or something?”

I’d forgotten he didn’t know her name. “The vampire girl in Amherst.”

“Wait—Charity? That’s her name? You were able to figure out who she is.” He smiled so proudly that all the tension of the moment instantly melted. “I fell in love with a genius.”

“Not exactly. I only know her name because it turns out that Balthazar is her brother.”


I gave as much of the history as I thought Lucas would understand: their lives together in colonial New England, their slaughter by vampires and Balthazar’s insistence that he needed to find Charity and take care of her so that she’d be safe.

“Safe for who?” Lucas asked. “Safe for herself, or safe for the human beings around her?”

“For herself, of course. I told you she wasn’t a killer.”

“And I trust your call on that. But this girl—Charity—she’s hanging around with some vampires who are definitely trouble.”

“Well, if she’s fallen in with a bad crowd, Balthazar can get her out of it, or at least he thinks so. If we help him do that, he’s willing to help us. He’ll tell us a lot of what he knows about vampires and ghosts—”

“Whoa, whoa, hold up. Ghosts? Where do they come into it?”

“A ghost is haunting Evernight Academy.” The look on Lucas’s face made me smile despite myself. “Yeah, just when you thought it couldn’t get more fun.”

“Holy crap.”

“I’ll tell you about it later, okay? The point is, Balthazar can give us a lot of information we couldn’t get any other way. He’s even willing to help me get off campus to see you. All he wants is a chance to find his sister. We can help him do that, can’t we?”

Lucas was silent for a few long seconds before he said, “I thought that guy hated my guts.”

“He’s not in your fan club. But he’ll keep his word.”

“So how is he helping you leave Evernight? Does Balthazar know a secret passageway out of there or something?”

Now we’d come to the tricky part. “Well, actually, he’s older and pretty responsible, and we’ve made it sound like he’s teaching me about being a vampire, so my parents and Mrs. Bethany let him do it.” I took a deep breath and plowed ahead: “We’ve sort of convinced them that we’re dating.”

Silence. Lucas stared at me, his eyes wary.

“We’re not dating. Completely not together. You understand, right?

Because I definitely do, and he does, too.” At least, I hoped Balthazar understood that.

“Yeah, I get it.” Lucas didn’t sound convinced. “But he’s always had his eye on you. I remember how he was the night of the Autumn Ball.

Possessive. Real possessive.”

“He actually was my date for the Autumn Ball, remember? Because you lost your temper in Riverton and freaked me out?”

“My whole life, I’ve settled things with my fists, Bianca. When you’re hunting vampires, that’s the best way to stay alive.” I stepped closer to Lucas, so close I could smell the scent of his skin.

“I understand that. So please try to understand this. It’s the only way we could think of.”

He took a ragged breath. “I don’t mean to overreact. I swear. I’m sorry, Bianca. It’s just—I miss you so bad, and we never get any other chance to talk about all this stuff, and the last thing I expected to hear tonight was that some other guy gets to spend lots of time with you when I don’t.”

“You’re the one that matters. The only one.” I took his face in my hands and kissed him softly. “Okay?”

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