Stargazer Page 71

I ran. Somebody had to stop this, but I couldn’t; I didn’t know how.

If I could only find Lucas, surely he could do it. Surely he could call off Black Cross. But where was he?

“Everybody outside!” That was Balthazar. I turned around to see him hustling students down the stairwell, and I caught a glimpse of Vic in boxers and an undershirt, staring at the mayhem in dismay, but running as fast as he could. Even though he never seemed to turn toward me, Balthazar must have sensed that I was there, because he yelled, “Get to the girls’ dorms!”

“I can’t! There’s fighting in the main building—we’re cut off!”

“We’ll figure something out!”

Then a voice down the hall, audible even over the screams and the wail of the fire alarm, said, “Don’t listen to him, Bianca. You need to leave this school immediately.”

I turned to see Eduardo, weapons strapped to bandoliers across his chest and a smear of blood on his scarred cheek. Why did it have to be him? Quickly I held up my hands. “You don’t have to go after Balthazar.

He’s safe, I promise.”

“You don’t know how to tell a vampire from a human yet,” Eduardo said. His smile twisted the scars on his cheeks. “Let me let you in on a secret. Only vampires would remain in this building to defend it now.

Which means we can finish the job.”

“Please, you’ve been lied to. Charity—the vampire you caught, the one who told you something terrible was happening here—she wasn’t telling the truth!”

“You’re not the best at knowing when you’ve been lied to, Bianca. I suggest you trust me. Get downstairs. If you don’t, it’s on your head.” Then he held up the walkie-talkie that dangled from his belt and said,

“Torch it.”

Fire. One of the only ways to truly kill a vampire. The Black Cross hunters were burning Evernight.

Balthazar grabbed me and towed me into the stairwell, but when he tried to pull me downstairs after him, I tugged myself free. “Bianca, we have to go!” he shouted.

“I have to get to the girls’ dorms!”

“You said you couldn’t make it! Bianca!”

I ignored him and ran up the stairs, two flights, until I ran into the guys’ dorms—the level that looked out over the roof of the main building. Already firelight was flickering down a couple of the hallways, but I didn’t look too closely. I just jumped out onto the roof.

A few other people had had the same idea—I could see students running over the many angles and gables of the enormous roof of the main building. Some were vampires, others human; Eduardo had given the order much too soon. All the people I saw were probably only trying to save themselves, and I couldn’t blame them. But I was the one who understood what was going on, and that meant it was my responsibility to reach the girls’ dorm and make sure everybody got out. I ran over the roof, up and down, slipping on the shingles but somehow remaining upright. My robe had come untied and rippled behind me; the heat of the nearby fire seemed to sear through the T-shirt and pajama bottoms I wore. A loud crackling behind me made me look back; part of the roof glowed orange with flame, then gave way with a crash of timber and soot. Sparks shot up in the air, and I started to cough, but I kept running. Faster, you’ve got to go faster!—No!

I lost my balance and fell, rolling over and over toward the edge of the building. Though I scrambled to grab hold of something, there was nothing to grab, until the roof suddenly wasn’t beneath me any longer and I was falling—

Something made of stone smashed against my back, and I blindly clutched for it. My grip held. I dangled off the side of the building for a moment while I tried to keep from passing out from pain and shock. As soon as my vision cleared, I could see what had broken my fall: one of the gargoyles, identical to the one I’d always hated outside my window.

My hands were locked around his neck.

“Thank you,” I whispered as I hooked one of my feet against his claws and pushed myself back up again. When I resumed running, I could feel how badly my body ached, but smoke was now thick in the air, and there was no time to hesitate.

Finally I got to the south tower and clambered inside, only to realize the blaze was much worse here. My big rescue effort didn’t seem that important, either—so far as I could tell, everyone was gone. Then I saw a figure moving through the smoke. “Hello?” I called.

“Bianca!” It was Lucas. He ran to me and hugged me; my aching back protested, but I didn’t care. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere—carriage house, here—”

“You have to call them off, Lucas. You have to tell them Charity lied!”

“Wait—the vampire Eduardo got that info from was Charity?” Lucas swore. “I knew some student massacre didn’t sound like Mrs. Bethany’s game, and I told them so, but Eduardo wouldn’t listen. The bastard never listens.”

“Mom—Dana—everybody—they’re in danger, and we have to end this!”

“We can’t.” Lucas held my face in his hands. His features were hazy through the thickening veil of smoke. “We can’t end this. We can only get you out of here.”

I hated it, but I knew he was right.

Together we ran into the stairwell, shouting for anyone else who might somehow have failed to flee, then hurried back down toward the ground floor. By now the smell of ash was thick in the air, and I had to tug the collar of my robe over my mouth to keep from choking. I imagined the print of Klimt’s Kiss in my bedroom above us slowly curling up and blackening, fire consuming the lovers forever. Lucas held his forearm across his face. “We’re almost there,” he yelled. “Come on!” As we ran out onto the grounds, we ran almost instantly into a fight—one of the Black Cross hunters, a woman I didn’t know, was circling Mrs. Bethany. By now Mrs. Bethany’s bun had shaken completely loose; her dark hair tumbled down her back, and her haughty face was smudged and dirty. Firelight outlined her high cheekbones, and despite the destruction all around us, she was smiling. For the first time, I saw her fangs.

Lucas pulled me away from the fight, but we both kept looking back at them, transfixed. Somebody nearby called my name, but I couldn’t recognize the voice or turn away.

Mrs. Bethany shifted to one side, then the other, then sprang forward.

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