Stargazer Page 66

Even though I had realized that for myself, it stung to hear him say it.

“You said once you loved me no matter what I was.”

“I do,” Lucas said, taking a ragged breath. “But when I said that—it was as if, what I felt for you, it was in spite of you being a vampire. Inside, it was like—like I was forgiving you just for being what you are.

That’s probably the crappiest thing I ever did to anybody, not figuring out what a jackass I was being. If I’d figured it out faster, I could’ve been to you—what I should’ve been to you. What I wanted to be.”


“Let me finish, all right? You know I suck at the emotional stuff. So I just—” His foot scuffed the gazebo floor. “Whatever it is that makes you the person you are—that’s what I love. All of it. Including you being a vampire. You shouldn’t ever have had to defend that; I should’ve accepted it a long time ago. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t have lost you.

That’s on me, and I know it.”

He was staring down at his boots. I thought if he’d been looking at my face in that instant, Lucas could never have fooled himself that he’d lost me.

More quietly, he continued, “I saw the thing with Balthazar coming.

It made me pretty crazy. But—you know, for a—for anybody, he’s a decent guy, and I guess he never asked you to pretend you weren’t the person you really are. So maybe you made the right call. I just wanted to say—Bianca, if you’re happy, I’m glad. You ought to be happy. You deserve that.”

“I’m not with Balthazar.”

Lucas lifted his head, his expression disbelieving. “You aren’t?”

“No. We were never together, not really.”

“Oh. Okay.” Lucas shifted from foot to foot, obviously torn between hope and uncertainty. “Listen, I—I know I screwed up, but if I could—” I jumped from my seat and flung my arms around him. Lucas hugged me tightly as I buried my face in the curve of his neck. At first neither of us said anything; I don’t think we could speak. It felt so incredibly good to hold him again, to feel him next to me, when I thought I’d lost him forever. Hadn’t I told him to believe that we’d always find each other again? I should have listened to my own advice.

“I love you so much,” I finally whispered.

“I love you, too. I swear to God, I’ll never screw up like this again.”

“But you were right about everything.”

Lucas’s hands combed through my hair. “Hardly.”

“Lucas, I mean it. You knew my parents were lying. You knew what vampires really were. If I’d only listened to you, none of this would have happened.”

“Whoa.” Lucas took my hands and pulled me down onto the gazebo bench. The blue moon shone down on us through the ivy leaves. “What are you talking about?”

I spilled out the whole story—the truth about how I was born, about how the wraiths were coming after me, about how I was apparently a pawn in a battle between wraiths and vampires in which both sides were evil. I didn’t even skip over what nearly happened with Balthazar and me, because I was sick of secrets. That part made Lucas press his lips together into a thin line, but he listened without a word.

When I was finished, my head leaning against his broad shoulder and his arms around me, he said only, “We have to get you out of here.”

“Are you asking me to run away with you again?”

“Yeah. This time forever.”

“The wraiths will still be coming after me.”

“There are people in Black Cross who know more about wraiths. We should be able to get you help, even if you don’t come with me—but I wish you would.”

“I’ll come with you.” I knew I could do it. There was no future for me anywhere in the vampire world. “I just wish I knew what I’ll become.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not going to become a full vampire. Not ever.” I turned my face up to his. “But if I’m not going to be a vampire, what becomes of someone like me?”

Lucas gave me an uneven smile. “I don’t know. But I’m guessing it’s whatever you want to be.”

We kissed each other tenderly, then simply gazed at each other for a few moments. There were times during the past year when we’d hardly been able to keep our hands off each other, but this night was different, quieter. I think we both knew how important this moment would be.

Finally I said, “The last Friday in May.”

“Is that the last day of exams?”

“Yeah. That means it’s also the day tons of cars will be pulling up to take students back home. I can slip away easily in the crowd. My parents—they’ll assume I went home with Raquel or somebody. That will buy us a few days while they call around looking for me.” Despite everything, I didn’t doubt they’d search. “I could leave tonight—I wish I could—but they’d know right away something was wrong. If we wait for the last Friday in May, it’s our best chance to get a head start.”

“Only one more month, then.”

“Until we’re together all the time.”

“I meant, one more month for me to figure out what we’re going to do afterward,” Lucas said. “But I’ll figure it out. I promise, Bianca, I’ll take care of you.”

I pushed his scruffy hair back from his face. “I’ll take care of you, too.”

Far away, something snapped with a sharp pop. Lucas and I both jerked upright, but to my relief, it turned out to be nothing—a tree branch, probably. Still, the moment had reminded us both how dangerous it was for Lucas to be here.

“You have to go,” I said. “Right away.”

“I’m going. Love you.” Lucas kissed me roughly, bruising my mouth. His hands gripped my hips, and I wished I could keep him close.

But when he pulled away, I let him leave. He ran into the underbrush without looking back. I knew why he had the strength to do that. It was easier to say good-bye when it wasn’t for long.

May was just about the best month of my life, at least at first.

Every single day was just a box on the calendar that I could put a red X through; each one brought me closer to Lucas and to liberty. I day-dreamed through classes and was spoken to sharply—not just by Mrs.

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