Stargazer Page 55

“Just long enough to remind Balthazar here what I can do.” Lucas smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

Balthazar didn’t smile at all. “We should split up for this. If Charity sees us together again, I’ll never get another chance to talk to her.”

Lucas would’ve liked to protest, I could tell. Quickly I said, “We’ll split up. Balthazar can head toward the neighborhoods you’ve seen her in, I’ll stick to the square, and you can keep checking the main roads out of town.”

“I’m on my own tonight, huh?” Lucas shrugged. “Sure. Why not?

Sounds like a plan.”

He walked away from us without another word. We hadn’t even touched.

“He’s upset,” Balthazar said quietly. “Maybe you should go after him.”

I wanted to. Something inside me pulled toward Lucas, but I resisted.

“We have a plan. We’ll stick to it. If we don’t find some sign of her tribe in a couple of hours, maybe we can drive to one of the other nearby towns.”

Balthazar turned up the collar of his coat. “Thanks. I appreciate it.” Within a few seconds, he, too, was gone.

That left me alone. I didn’t really expect Charity to seek me out again, not when both her brother and her enemy were available. So while I walked up and down the street, shivering from the cold and casting the occasional wistful glance at a nearby coffeehouse, I had time to evaluate what was going on.

Lucas was angry with me. It couldn’t be about Balthazar—could it?

There wasn’t any reason for him to be jealous. Even as I thought that, I remembered how close together we’d been walking when Lucas called out to us. My cheeks flushed, and I pushed the memory away. No, it couldn’t be that, I decided. Lucas had been even more hot-tempered than usual lately. So who knew why he might decide to get upset? It could be anything. And maybe I was tired of him taking out his moods on me.

Just as I was working myself into a real rage, a flash of gold down the street caught my attention. Long, dark blond hair—something familiar in her walk—


But it wasn’t. It was Courtney.

Courtney was walking along the sidewalk at the far end of the square, headed toward the cozy residential neighborhood I’d seen on my last time here. The clothes she wore seemed very odd, for her: old jeans, a baggy black sweater, and a gray trench coat. I was reminded of the silly way I’d dressed for my own amateurish attempts at burglary just before school started.

Then I realized Courtney was doing the same thing I’d been doing: She was sneaking around. She’d been so catty about Balthazar supposedly straying. Had she followed us here tonight? Did she suspect the truth? We couldn’t afford to get caught, especially not with Lucas so close. If Courtney saw him, it would all be over.

Hurriedly I followed her as she walked out of the square. Courtney never glanced back once, so I didn’t bother trying to hide. Obviously she hadn’t seen me, but could she be following Balthazar? This was the general area he’d gone to search. I kept looking for him as we walked past old wooden houses, each yard filled with the bits and pieces that suggested the lives within—a child’s bicycle tipped on one side, a porch swing, or a white birdbath on a pedestal. Courtney never seemed to pay attention to any of it or even to be looking around for Balthazar or anybody else. Apparently she knew exactly where she was headed.

Her footsteps slowed as she neared a pale-blue house, one with light shining from all the windows. Even half a block away, I could hear music and chatter coming from within, and as I stepped closer, I saw that the house was crowded with people holding plates of food or bottles of beer. A few balloons had floated up to the ceiling.

Courtney crouched in the bushes next to one of the big windows, looking up at the scene within. I couldn’t get close enough to be entirely certain what she was doing, other than watching.

Is she stalking someone? There was a time I would have thought that even somebody as mean-spirited as Courtney would never kill a human being. But now I wasn’t as sure about vampires as I had been. My skin prickled with dread.

I crept closer. Within the house, I heard people begin to sing happy birthday to someone named Nicole. Courtney didn’t make a move; she remained completely still with her upturned face tinted gold in the light from the window. I was only ten feet behind her.

At first I didn’t pay any attention to the small room nearest to me—it had emptied out when people started singing. But then, from inside the house, a familiar smile caught my eye. Courtney’s smile.

I pressed my face to the glass and realized that Courtney’s photo stood among those atop an upright piano. The photograph showed her in a maroon-and-white cheerleader’s uniform, her hair in a curly ponytail on one side of her head, the sort of style and makeup people wore back in the 1980s—back when Courtney was alive.

This is her family. This is her home.

The song ended, and everyone cheered and clapped. I looked back at Courtney, who brought her hands together as if she were clapping, but without making any sound. Her eyes gleamed wetly in the reflected light.

People started moving back into the room next to me, and I ducked down beneath the windowsill. I caught a brief glimpse of a woman who looked to be around forty, with her blond hair in a sensible bob and a friendly smile on her face; it was a shock to realize the woman was es-sentially an older version of Courtney. Her sister, perhaps.


I flinched. Courtney had turned around—to follow the party, probably—and had discovered me.

“What are you doing here? You little sneak!” Courtney’s face was twisted in a furious grimace, despite the fact that her cheeks still shone with tears. “What makes you think you have the right to follow me around?”

“I wasn’t—I didn’t mean to—” But I had been following her, and I had meant to, and there was no way for me to explain why without saying too much. “How did you even get into town? You’re supposed to get Mrs. Bethany’s permission before leaving campus!”

“There’s a laundry truck you can hitch a ride on, which you might’ve noticed if you weren’t so completely stupid.” Grabbing my elbow, Courtney dragged me away from the house. She didn’t want us to be seen, I realized. The people inside only knew that Courtney had died a quarter of a century ago, nothing more. If they saw her, risen from the dead, a vampire—I couldn’t even imagine how they would react. Probably Courtney couldn’t either.

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