Stargazer Page 52

That was as close as my father had come to mentioning Lucas in months. I felt my cheeks flush red.

“I’m not naive. I realize you and Balthazar must have drunk each other’s blood by now.” He said it sort of quickly; maybe he was as embarrassed as I was. “You have to be close to being ready to drink and kill for real. I know you’re getting hungrier just from your appetite on Sundays. If you’re anxious about it, I don’t blame you. Just don’t let your anxiety drive you to this kind of crazy talk. Have I made myself clear?” I couldn’t speak, so I just nodded.

Not long afterward, I turned out my lights and tried to talk myself in-to going to bed. But not only was I confused by my conversation with my father, I was also starving.

The power of suggestion at work, I thought. Dad had mentioned my appetite, and now I was hungrier than I’d been in a very long time—this, despite the fact that I’d drunk a full pint at dinner.

Well, at least I didn’t have to sneak a thermos from under the bed.

My parents’ refrigerator held all the blood I needed.

I tiptoed down the hallway, past my sleeping parents, into the kitchen. My bare feet padded softly against the tile floor. Instead of turning on the lamp, I relied on my night vision and the sliver of illumination that widened as I opened the fridge door. Although some real food for me was on the lowest shelf, mostly the fridge was laden with bottles and jugs and bags of blood. Carefully I took one of the bags in my hand; I usually didn’t drink these, because they were hard to get—treats that my parents needed more than I did. They contained human blood.

Maybe my father was right. Maybe my craving for blood had become so acute because I hadn’t had any human blood for so long. Maybe that was what I needed now. If Dad tried to yell at me for taking his stash, I’d point out that he’d kind of suggested it.

I squeezed a bag into a large mug, then nuked that in the microwave.

Though the timer chimed loudly enough to make me flinch, my parents didn’t awaken, and I hurried back into my room.

The heated mug made my fingers sting, but the rich, meaty scent of the blood overwhelmed my discomfort, my worries, and pretty much everything else. Quickly I lifted the mug to my lips and drank.

Yes. That was it—what I’d needed, bone deep. The heat swirled down into the center of me, warming me from within. Human blood did something to me animal blood never did—it made me feel exhilarated, connected, and strong. I clutched the mug with both hands, gulping the blood down so quickly I could hardly breathe. I felt as though I were swimming in the warmth of it. The rest of the world was cold by comparison—


I lowered the mug and licked my lips clean as I took stock. The air in my room had suddenly become much chillier. Had one of the windows blown open? No, they were all still shut, and covered with frost. But had they been covered with frost a few minutes ago? Just before I’d gotten up for the blood, I’d looked at the outline of the gargoyle outside the window, but now he was invisible behind a curtain of filmy white.

When I exhaled, my breath made a puff in the air. I began to shake.

A bluish glow flickered behind the window, and then I heard a tapping on the glass. Like fingernails. Fear gripped me, but I couldn’t turn away.

I went to the window and started rubbing my bare hand across the frost. The cold made my skin sting, but the frost melted into cloudy swirls, through which I could see. A girl stared back at me, about my age, with short, pale dark hair and hollow eyes. She looked completely normal—except for the part where she was almost transparent. And floating outside my tower window.

The wraith had returned.

Chapter Sixteen

THE GHOST SWAM IN SHADES OF WATERY BLUE-GREEN, her hair and skin the palest aqua. Though I could see through her, she was as real as anyone I had ever met. Her eyes bored into mine, not with anger or hatred but with some emotion I couldn’t comprehend.

Her lips moved, and I saw small glitters of light upon her lips and cheeks—fragments of ice, I realized. But still there was no sound.

Trembling, I moved closer to the glass. Despite my fear, I wanted to finally understand what was going on. The ghost twitched, and I breathed out sharply. My warm breath made a foggy circle on the glass.

In that circle appeared thin, shaky letters: We want what’s fair.

“Fair?” That didn’t make sense to me, but what about this did? At least I might finally have a chance to find out what they’d been trying to say. I realized that I wasn’t afraid—well, at least, not as much afraid as curious. “What do you mean?”

She didn’t answer. Her dark eyes were almost mocking now. The foggy spot slowly vanished, taking her words away.

After a long moment, during which it felt like my heart would pound through my chest, I realized what she was waiting for. Shakily I leaned toward the glass again and breathed out once more.

In the foggy spot appeared the words: You don’t belong to them.

“What?” I had no idea what that could mean. Mostly I wanted to turn and run for my parents. Instead, I exhaled against the glass so the wraith could speak.

You’re not like them.

“No, I’m not.” It was the only thing I truly knew about myself, the only thing I’d ever known. The wraith was the first one who had ever admitted that truth. “Who am I like?”

Another breath. This time the wraith smiled, and it wasn’t reassuring.

You’re like me.

Then I heard a terrible gasp behind me and turned to see Mom in my doorway. Her face was whiter than the frost. “Bianca! Come here! Get away from that thing!”

“I—” The word choked off; my throat was too dry for speech. I swallowed hard. “I think it’s okay.”

“Adrian!” Mom was calling for Dad, running away. Her footsteps echoed down the hall.

The wraith shrank back. “Wait—don’t leave!” I pressed my hands to the glass even as it frosted over, erasing the final words she’d written.

Quickly I rubbed it to try to clear my view, so I could see if she was still out there. But all the warmth had been leached from my hands, so the ice didn’t melt as quickly. By the time I could see again, the wraith was gone.

Mom and Dad came pounding into the room, their night-clothes disheveled and eyes wide. My father growled, “Where is it?”

“It left. I think it’s okay.”

Mom looked at me like I had gone insane. “Okay? Okay? That thing came here to hurt you, Bianca.” Her eyes were wild. “You didn’t even know the wraiths were more than children’s stories a few months ago.

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