Stargazer Page 63

“No.” Balthazar sighed. “You never settle for less than what you really want, Bianca. You’ll never be with anybody you don’t truly love.” I wished I could love him. Everything in my whole life would be easier if I did. He’d protect me and shelter me forever.

But I was beginning to realize that being sheltered came at a price.

When I changed out of my school uniform that evening, I put on my oldest jeans and a favorite T-shirt. They were so familiar that they were like a part of me—like armor, in a way I couldn’t define. Then I went upstairs to face my parents and have a conversation I should’ve had a long time ago.

My mother opened the door with a smile. “There you are. We were hoping you’d come by tonight—weren’t we, Adrian?” As I walked inside, she murmured, “Your father is in an odd mood, and maybe you and I should have a private talk about Balthazar later. Okay?” Ignoring this, I walked to the center of our living room and demanded, “Why are the wraiths after me?”

Mom and Dad stared. Nobody said anything for a few long seconds.

Then Mom began, “Honey, they could just be—This school is probably a target—”

“The school isn’t a target. I am. I’m the only one who’s seen the wraiths every time they’ve appeared, and I’m the one they came after.

Each appearance came immediately after I drank blood. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

“You drink blood all the time,” Dad said, trying too hard to sound reasonable. “You’ve drunk blood since the day you were born.”

“Things are different now. Every single one of those times was different, because I was hungrier, or the blood came from a living creature, or—” Well, I wasn’t going to get into why it was different with Balthazar. “I’m becoming more of a vampire. And the wraith said I was in danger.”

“What?” That genuinely confused Mom, I could tell, but that just went to show how much of this she really did understand but wouldn’t say. “The wraiths are the ones trying to hurt you!”

“I think she meant that I was getting closer to becoming a vampire.

To the wraiths—I think—I think being a vampire is even worse than being dead.” I folded my arms. “Then she said that I couldn’t break the promise. That whatever the wraiths were doing was what had been promised. What promise is she talking about?”

My parents both went completely still. They glanced at each other, guilty and almost horror-struck, and I felt a queasy kind of dread. Even though I knew I absolutely had to hear this answer, I wanted to run away. The truth, I sensed, was going to hurt.

“You’ve always known,” I said. “Haven’t you? That the wraiths were coming after me. But you never told me why.”

Dad said, “We knew. And no, we didn’t tell you.” It was as if something snapped in two deep inside me. My parents—

the people I’d loved the most in the world, the ones I’d always told all my secrets to, the ones I’d wanted to hide with far away from the rest of the world. They had lied, and I couldn’t imagine why. It couldn’t possibly matter why.

“Honey—” Mom took a couple of steps forward, then stopped when she got a good look at my face. “We didn’t want to scare you.”

“Tell me why.” My voice shook. “Tell me right now.” She wrung her hands. “You know we thought that we could never have you.”

“Please, not the ‘miracle baby’ speech again!”

“We thought we could never have you,” Dad repeated. “Vampires can’t have children.”

In my frustration, I could have thrown something at him. “Except two or three times in a whole century—I know, I get it, okay?” Mom’s face was grave. “Vampires can never have children on their own, Bianca. We don’t have life to give. Only—half life. The life of the body.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Something horrible occurred to me, and I thought I might throw up. “Am I not really yours?”

Dad shook his head. “Honey, you’re ours. You’re absolutely ours.

But to have you, we needed help.”

My first, confused thought was about fertility clinics. I didn’t think they took vampire patients. But then I realized the last words my mother had spoken: half life. The life of the body. Mrs. Bethany had talked about this before, when she initially spoke to me about the wraiths. The vampires represented the body. The wraiths represented the spirit.

Slowly, I said, “You struck a bargain with the wraiths. They—they made it possible for you to give birth to me.” They actually looked relieved that I’d said it, though relief was about a thousand light-years away from what I was feeling. Mom said, “We found them. We asked for their help. We didn’t know what they’d ask—

most vampires don’t know about this, and we’d only heard whispers, rumors—”

Dad cut in. “The spirits…took possession of us, I guess. Only for an instant.”

I grimaced. “While you were—”

“No, honey, no!” Mom crisscrossed her hands in front of her like she was trying to erase those words from existence. “It wasn’t like that! I don’t know what they did, but sure enough, within a few months you were on the way. We went back to thank them.” She repeated bitterly,

“Thank them.”

“And they said that you belonged to them.” Dad’s expression was grim. “They said when you came of age, we had to let you become a wraith instead of a vampire. Now they’re trying to kill you—to murder you, because murder creates wraiths. They’re trying to steal you, Bianca.

But you don’t have to be afraid. We won’t let them.” My whole life, I had felt so special—so loved—because my parents had told me I was their miracle baby. I had always felt safe with them.

But I wasn’t a miracle. I was the result of a dirty, ugly bargain that both sides had betrayed. And the parents I had always trusted with all of myself had been lying to me since the day I was born.

“I’m going,” I said. My voice sounded strange. I pulled the pendant they’d given me from my neck and threw it to the floor.

Dad said, “Bianca, you need to stay and work this out.”

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