Stargazer Page 62

They were going to kill me in order to save me? Had the ghosts gone crazy? Was that how they thought all the time? I couldn’t bargain with them, couldn’t make them see sense. I was trapped here, with her in my mind.

Snow swirled around us, forming blue-green hands that touched my cheeks. Her entire body coalesced and became tangible—her fingernail scraped lightly against my skin. I couldn’t flinch. Her thoughts stabbed into my mind again: This is what was promised.

Promise? What promise?

Instantly the room changed, screeching with the sound of shearing ice, as terrible as metal being torn in two. The girl screamed, a high, silvery sound that seemed to pierce the air. Colors shifted, aquamarine suddenly deepening to indigo, as the girl clawed at her belly—from which an iron spike protruded. It had been thrown into her like a hunting knife. In an instant, the girl dissolved into sleet and vanished. The spike clattered to the floor.

“Bianca!” Balthazar towed me back through the door as ice cracked beneath my feet. Sound and sensation returned, and I realized that the hallway was now filled with people, including students, teachers, and my horrified parents. Mrs. Bethany stood next to me, her hand still cocked from where she had thrown the spike, and watched in grim satisfaction as everything icy inside the room began to melt.

Mom hurried to me and embraced me tightly. Only after I felt how warm she was did I realize how cold I’d become, and I started to shake.

“You knew—it was iron—iron kills them, b-because iron is in blood—”

“I see you’ve learned more about the topic than you’d previously suggested. Hopefully, tonight, you’ve also learned better than to trust the wraiths,” Mrs. Bethany said, straightening the starched lace cuffs of her blouse. She turned her sharp gaze onto my father. “Adrian, enough pre-tense. The girl cannot stay here much longer.”

“What’s going on?” called a voice from the hallway. I saw Raquel peering through the crowd, obviously panicked. She had to see that I was half frozen and that bloodstains mottled my throat and arm. I wanted to shout something reassuring to her, even if it was a lie, but my teeth were chattering too hard for me to speak.

Mrs. Bethany clapped her hands together. “That is quite enough.

Everyone to your rooms.” The students obeyed, though I heard murmur-ings and whispers about the ghost and again.

“You’re okay?” Balthazar asked.

“She’s fine,” Dad said, his words clipped. For the first time, I realized that Balthazar and I were still half undressed. Even though my parents had been incredibly permissive with the two of us—and had no doubt assumed we’d gone farther than this long ago—my father clearly didn’t like having the evidence right in his face. “Balthazar, thanks for your help, but you can go.”

“You’ll all need to leave,” Mrs. Bethany said, casting an appraising eye at the Modern Technology lab, which was now soaked with melting ice. “Celia, Adrian, we’ll discuss this tomorrow.” She then stalked away without another word.

“Sweetheart, are you sure you’re all right?” Dad said.

“I’m fine,” I mumbled. “I just want to go to my room. Okay?” Balthazar gave me a crooked smile. The skin of his chest was red and chapped from the cold, and I realized it had hurt him to keep hanging onto me. “You can get out of class tomorrow, I bet. A wraith attack ought to be good for that much.”

“I want to go to class. I’ll be fine. I just want to sleep.”

Finally they believed me and let me leave.

When I opened the door of my dorm room, Raquel was pacing the floor. She opened her mouth to start asking me questions, but apparently one look at my face was enough to silence her. Instead of speaking, she went to my dresser, pulled out my sweats, and tossed them onto the bed.

My sweatshirt and judo pants were cozy, but I still felt chilled to the bone. Raquel crawled into my bed with me and hugged me from behind.

“Sleep,” she said. “Just sleep.”

But Raquel was the one who fell asleep first. I lay awake late into the night, thinking over everything that had happened—not just this evening, not even just this year, but in some ways my whole life. And I saw it all differently than before. For the first time, I thought I saw the awful truth.

In classes the next day, everyone kept casting glances at me and whispering, but nobody dared ask outright what was going on. I ignored the attention. The petty grievances of Evernight Academy had never bothered me less. In driver’s ed, Mr. Yee hesitated before allowing me my turn, but he did allow it; for the first time, I parallel parked without any trouble.

“Nice job,” Balthazar said, as we strolled away after class. Those were the first words either of us had spoken to each other since the night before.

“Thanks.” Even a second’s silence between us lengthened and became tense. The awkwardness would only get worse if we didn’t deal. “I think we have to talk.”

“Yeah, we do.”

Students had crowded onto virtually every inch of the grounds to enjoy the spring weather. Even the vampires who shied away from sunlight stretched out in the shade beneath trees with new, pale-green leaves. To get some privacy, Balthazar and I had to retreat to the library. It was all but deserted. We walked to the far corner and sat together on the broad wooden sill of one of the stained-glass windows.

Balthazar said, “You’re going to tell me that last night shouldn’t have happened.”

“No. I’m glad it happened. For too long, I’ve been telling myself that I could spend all this time with you and flirt with you and not have it mean anything. It does mean something. You mean something to me.

But I’m not in love with you.”

I’d expected those words to hurt him. Instead, he smiled ruefully.

“I’ve been trying to make this something it’s not. To make you someone you’re not.”

I remembered the image I had glimpsed of a dark-haired girl from centuries ago, laughing in the autumn woods and gazing at Balthazar with depthless adoration. “Charity mentioned somebody named Jane, and I thought I saw—”

“Leave it in the past. That’s all it is any longer. The past.”

“If we—last night, if we had—I don’t think I’d be sorry.” The thrill of being so close to him was still too fresh in my mind to deny. “It can’t happen again, though.”

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