Stargazer Page 47

The image of Lucas’s lonely Christmas morning made me feel hollow inside.

Until our unhappy disagreement at the observatory, I hadn’t realized how much I was counting on someday changing the fact that Lucas and I were in different worlds. He needed to be free from Black Cross someday, somehow. I’d hoped he would join me as a vampire—a possibility he had just rejected forever.

If that wasn’t in our future, how could Lucas ever be free? And how could we ever be together?

Chapter Fifteen

I FELT RELIEVED WHEN CLASSES STARTED AGAIN. I’d settled into a melancholy mood that only became worse with time and silence to brood. At least when the hallways filled with students and assignments began piling up, I had enough to do. I could stop thinking about my problems for a while.

Apparently most of the Evernight students had spent a great deal of time thinking about their problems, specifically the problem of attending a haunted school. Several of the vampire students hadn’t returned; those who had muttered darkly about posting sentries in the halls and sleeping only in shifts while a roommate remained awake. I even heard someone speculating about what it would take to perform an exorcism. Yeah, I thought, I’m sure a priest with his crucifix and Bible would be really welcome here.

Human students remained relatively calm about the prospect of a ghost. Even Raquel could deal. “It’s not the same ghost,” she reasoned as she unpacked her trunk, which was mostly crammed with foodstuffs—canned soup, boxes of crackers, and jars of peanut butter. “If it were going to—well, if I were in trouble, I’d know by now. I’d rather deal with this thing than whatever is in my parents’ house.”

“How do you stand it, living there?”

“This Christmas, I spent the break with my older sister and her husband. Their place is fine. My parents think I’m acting out, but they also think Frida is a ‘good influence.’”

I thought about all the stuff my parents would let me do as long as I was with Balthazar. “Hanging around with a good influence helps you get away with murder, doesn’t it?”

We cracked up laughing and then split a candy bar.

Soon it became clear that at least one vampire had spent her holiday vacation worrying about something besides the wraiths—and that I now had a brand-new problem.

“I’ve made it almost thirty years without having to change a flat tire,” Courtney huffed as she pumped the car jack. “If you’re young, hot, and blond, trust me, you can work around it. There’s always some stupid guy happy to help out. Of course, I can see that you might need to know how to do it yourself.”

“Will you just hand me the lug wrench already? We’re not going to get finished any faster if you keep complaining.”

“Snappish.” Courtney’s full lips curved upward into a sneaky sort of smile. “What’s the matter, Bianca? Are you, oh, I don’t know—having some relationship trouble?”

“Things between me and Balthazar are as good as they’ve always been.” Technically that was true. As I knelt on the cold pavement, my wool gloves getting stained with grease, I tried to pay attention to the task at hand.

“I think you think you’re telling me the truth,” Courtney said. “I think you don’t even know where Balthazar’s going without you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Maybe possibly right around New Year’s Eve, I happened to see Balthazar in Amherst. Without you.”

“What were you doing in Amherst?”

“I happen to be familiar with the town, okay? I go there sometimes.

So does Balthazar, but apparently to see someone besides his girlfriend.

I’d be suspicious if I were you.”

He would have been there looking in vain for Charity. My face fell, and Courtney smirked. She couldn’t have guessed why I was actually upset, but it didn’t matter. Now that she had identified a weakness, she was sure to exploit it. Quickly, I said, “Balthazar goes all kinds of places. It doesn’t mean anything to me. We’re not attached at the hip.”

“Too bad. Getting attached at the hips is sort of the point.” Courtney winked as she thrust the lug wrench toward me. I snatched it and hoped she’d be satisfied with teasing me about the supposed infidelity of my supposed boyfriend. Balthazar and I both needed our masquerade, and we couldn’t afford anyone watching us too closely.

I made up my mind that this trip would be different for me and Lucas, but I hadn’t realized how different it would be.

“I don’t know where exactly we’ll meet up with him,” I said as Balthazar steered the driver’s ed sedan past a small white sign advertising the township of Albion. “He said we’d know it when we saw it, whatever that means.”

“Don’t worry. Lucas is right. Trust me, there aren’t many places he could go.”

Soon I realized what he meant. Albion was even tinier than the small town I’d grown up in: only a handful of streets clustered together, marked with a single stoplight in the center. The houses looked old, and except for a grocery, a gas station, and the post office, there didn’t seem to be anything like a store around. “Pretty slow, huh?”

“It was nicer a hundred fifty years ago, when we stayed here.” We meant Balthazar and Charity. I watched his face carefully, but he betrayed no emotion.

Balthazar parked the car on a street close to Albion’s one stoplight. A fine snow had fallen earlier that day, and our boots crunched as we walked toward the town center. Hungrily I searched in the darkness for some glimpse of Lucas. I badly needed to see him again, to hold him close, and talk for a long time so that we could reconnect. The intimacy between us suffered while we were apart, and that was what I wanted to rebuild.

Just as we stepped to the corner, I heard, “There you are.” I turned around, beaming. “Lucas?”

Lucas jogged toward us, in a heavy parka and knitted hat that made him almost unrecognizable. He opened his arms for me, and I ran right into them. His nose was cold against my cheek. “Hey, angel,” he murmured.

“You always see me first. You sneak up behind me every time.”

“And you love it.”

“Mmm-hmm, I do.” I kissed him on the cheek, then on the mouth.

“But someday I’m going to surprise you.”

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