Stargazer Page 70

“I was out of my head with hunger. They’d tortured us for days—

You were there, you know, don’t you know?”

“You didn’t have to do what they wanted. You didn’t have to kill me.”

My entire body turned to ice. Balthazar was the one who had turned Charity into a vampire? It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t. Yet—

“Punish me later,” Balthazar said. Shadows lined his face and obscured his eyes. “Tell me about Black Cross.”

“I hate this place. You know I’ve always hated it, and I hate her,” Charity said, glaring at Mrs. Bethany, who looked on the verge of attacking any one of us, if not all. “I hate the way she pretends to be the supreme authority on what it means to be a vampire, when she ignores what it means. She doesn’t kill humans. She doesn’t understand that it’s what we do.”

Balthazar shook his head. “Don’t say that.”

Charity never stopped staring malevolently at Mrs. Bethany. “She’d undo us all, if she could. She pretends to protect vampires, but she’ll be the end of our kind if she gets her way.”

“You wretched girl.” Mrs. Bethany was now so furious at Charity that she’d forgotten all about Balthazar and me. I wondered if I could run for the door, whether anybody would notice. “You never could learn.”

“I’ve learned more than you think.” Charity glanced at the delicate wristwatch she wore. “Midnight.”

“Black Cross,” Balthazar repeated. “What did you mean about using Black Cross?”

“They always leave Evernight alone, because they think all the vampires here behave so well,” Charity said. She was right; Lucas had told me so. “But lately they’ve begun to doubt that. You see, in the past two weeks, they’ve found so many bodies in the nearby woods that they’re sure something terrible has been happening. Something they have to stop.”

Downstairs, I heard something—shouting, perhaps.

Charity’s face shifted into a broad smile of pure delight. I’d never seen her totally happy before. “The hour has come.” Balthazar said, “Charity, you’d better say it.” Somebody else was shouting in the stairwell—closer now, louder—

and then another person screamed. All of us turned toward the doorway in horror.

“I had to get myself cornered to do it,” Charity said. “I could’ve been killed. But finally I made that scarred man believe me.” Eduardo. Lucas’s stepfather. The most hard-core member of Black Cross that there was. “What did you make him believe?” I said.

Charity triumphantly lifted her head. “That Evernight’s vampires would massacre the human students tonight. So Black Cross has come to massacre you instead.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

MRS. BETHANY FLUNG OPEN THE DOOR. THE screams instantly doubled in volume, and every hair on my arms stood on end.

“Balthazar, come with me.” Charity held out her hand. “We can leave this place. You can stop pretending to be something you aren’t.

We can be together if you’ll only stop pretending.”

“Go.” He turned from her. “I have to do what I can here.” Charity stood there a few moments longer, hand open wide, and for a moment she was the one desperate for her brother’s return; he was now the one who didn’t need her. “You’re on the wrong side!” she cried. Balthazar still refused to budge; Charity shuddered, and I thought maybe she was crying. She staggered toward the window, pulled it open, and whispered, “I really thought you’d come.”

Balthazar ran into the hallway, ignoring her. Charity threw herself from the window, which made me gasp—until I realized I was being stupid. Charity was the safest of any of us. We were many stories up, but a long fall couldn’t hurt an immortal.

“How do we get everyone out of here?” I said.

“Even we have to fulfill state regulations.” Mrs. Bethany hurried down the hallway to pull something so routine I’d never thought about it before: an ordinary fire alarm. Instantly a siren began to shriek, deafe-ningly loud as it echoed off the stones. I grimaced and covered my ears.

“Get to the girls’ dorms!” Balthazar shouted to me over the din. He was at the end of the hallway, almost out of sight. “I’m going to help the guys!”

For her part, Mrs. Bethany was already running down the stairwell.

Even though she was unarmed, I didn’t want to be the first Black Cross hunter she encountered.

But what if that hunter was Lucas?

I ran behind Mrs. Bethany, but I couldn’t make it downstairs as fast as she could. The uneven stones made me stumble, and I had the shakes. Everyone’s in danger. Everyone. Lucas. Balthazar. Mom. Dad.

Raquel. Ranulf. Dana. Vic. What I felt went beyond fear. It was a blank, wrenching need to survive and to save—fight and flight—but who was I supposed to fight?

Someone screamed, and then there was a wet crunch and thud. I ran downstairs and saw the crumpled form of a man on the floor, a stake still gripped in one of his hands. Blood spattered the wall behind him, and Mrs. Bethany stood there, admiring her handiwork—but only for an instant. Then she ran toward the din.

I thought I recognized the man from the Black Cross cell in Amherst, but I couldn’t tell. Blood covered his face. The shouting all around me was only getting louder, and I could hear more and more footsteps on the stairwell as students started to flee. I ran after Mrs. Bethany—

—and into the battle.

The main corridor of classrooms was packed with Black Cross hunters—I recognized little Mr. Watanabe, a crossbow steady in his hands, and Kate, who was fighting hand to hand with Professor Iwerebon down the hall. Next to me, Mrs. Bethany deftly dodged an arrow, swung around, and slammed her fist into a hunter’s throat. As he stumbled back and gagged, she got his neck in a headlock, then twisted it sharply. I heard a terrible crack just before he slumped to the floor. Instantly Mrs.

Bethany whirled toward the next Black Cross hunter, kicking his knees out from under him as she grabbed his crossbow. When he fell, she shot him with his own weapon. Two deaths in ten seconds—and she was still going, still fighting, while I could only stare in horror.

“Bianca!” That was Dana, farther down the hall. “Get the hell out of here!”

“Go!” That was my mother squaring off against Dana. “Honey, go!” She and Dana looked at each other in a second of confused recognition, but then Mom leaped at Dana and took her down to the floor.

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