Stargazer Page 9

Unfortunately, that whole night, Raquel only left the room once. Her bathroom trip gave me enough time to gulp down about two swallows of blood, not nearly enough. I became hungrier and hungrier, and finally I insisted that Raquel turn off the lights early.

Once she finally seemed to have fallen asleep, I kicked off the covers and slipped out of bed. Raquel didn’t stir. Carefully I withdrew the thermos of blood from its hiding place. Tiptoeing into the hallway, I glanced around to make sure nobody else was up either. The coast was clear.

I considered my options before I hurried down the hall toward the stairwell. The stone stairs were chilly at night, particularly considering that I was only wearing boxer shorts and a cotton camisole. But the cold was one reason nobody was likely to come that way in the dead of night and find me drinking blood.

Lukewarm, I thought with distaste as I took the first swallow. I’d nuked it earlier that day, but even the thermos couldn’t keep it piping hot forever. Didn’t matter. Every coppery mouthful flowed into me like electric power. Yet it wasn’t quite enough.

I wish the blood were hotter. I wish it were alive.

Last year, Patrice used to sneak out all the time to catch squirrels on the grounds. Could I do that? Just, like, chomp into a squirrel? I’d always thought I couldn’t. Every time I’d pictured it, I’d thought about the fur getting stuck in my teeth. Blech.

When I thought about it now, it felt different. I didn’t think about the fur or the squeak or anything like that. Instead, I thought about that tiny heart beating so very fast, as though I could feel that thrum-thrum-thrum against the tip of my tongue. And it would sound so good when I bit down and all those little bones snapped, like popcorn popping in the microwave—

Did I just think that? That’s disgusting!

That is, I thought it was disgusting—but it didn’t feel disgusting. It still felt like a live squirrel would be just about the most delicious thing on earth, short of human blood.

Closing my eyes, I remembered what it had been like to drink Lucas’s blood while he lay beneath me, clutching me in his arms. Nothing could compare to that.

Something crackled down in the stairwell.

“Who’s there?” I said, startled. My words echoed. More quietly, I repeated, “Who’s there? Anybody?”

Once again, I thought I heard it: a strange crackling sound, like breaking ice. The crackling came closer, as though it were traveling up the stairs. Hurriedly I screwed the lid back on my thermos, so that no human student would see me drinking blood. I ducked into the hallway and tried to figure out what could be causing that sound.

Had a girl sneaked out of the dorms for a snack, just like I had? The sound was a little like the popping noise ice cubes made after they were dropped into water. Then I stifled a giggle when I wondered if it was a guy instead, sneaking up here to visit the girl he liked. Maybe it wasn’t even a person. It could just be an old building reacting to the deepening autumn cold.

The crackling came closer. The air around me instantly went colder, as if I’d just opened a freezer door. My hair stood on end, and goose bumps appeared on my arms. My breath looked foggy, and once again I sensed that somebody was watching me.

Farther down the stairwell, I saw a wavering light. It flickered like a candle, but the light was a brilliant blue green, the color of a swimming pool. Ribbons of illumination rippled across the stones. It looked eerily like Evernight was under water.

By now I was shaking from cold, and I lost my grip on the thermos. The moment it clattered to the floor, the lights vanished. The air around me warmed again instantly.

That was not a reflection, I thought. That was not my imagination.

So what the hell was it?

The door nearest the stairwell swung open. Courtney stood there in a hot-pink nightshirt, her blond hair messy around her face. “What is your damage?”

“Sorry,” I mumbled as I ducked down to grab my thermos. “I had to sneak out to eat. I—I guess I lost my grip.”

Eventually I would have to tell somebody what I’d just seen, but Courtney was the last person I would take into my confidence. Even admitting that I’d done something as simple as dropping a thermos made her roll her eyes.

“God, just catch mice like a normal person, okay?” But instead of slamming her door, she shifted from foot to foot, then said, “I guess that does suck.”

“—dropping my thermos?”

Courtney scowled. “Sneaking out to eat. You drew the short straw when it came to roommates.”

“Raquel is not the short straw!”

“Be that way.” Then she slammed her door.

Wait, did Courtney just try to sympathize with me?

I shook my head. The idea of Courtney trying to be sort of friendly was almost weird enough to make me forget what I’d seen in the stairwell. But not quite.

When I told my parents I would be camping out that Friday night for the meteor shower, they didn’t bother worrying about me out in the woods; the school grounds were extremely safe, at least if you were a vampire. I knew they wouldn’t double-check whether there really was any meteor shower—a good thing, because there wasn’t. But they asked a whole lot of other questions, and in my paranoia, I wondered why.

“It seems like you could get some friends together to go with you,” Mom said as we sat down to Sunday dinner: lasagna for me, big glasses of blood for us all. Billie Holiday sang from the stereo, warning about a lover she had believed in once upon a time. “Maybe Archana. She seems like a nice girl.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.” Archana was an Indian vampire, about six centuries old; I’d met her in history class last year, but we had hardly said ten words to each other. “I don’t know her that well, though. If I were going to ask anybody, I’d ask Raquel, but she couldn’t care less about astronomy.”

“You’re spending a lot of time with Raquel.” Dad took a deep swallow of his glass of blood. “Wouldn’t it be good to have other friends, too?”

“Vampire friends, you mean. You always told me not to be a snob, that we’re more like humans than most vampires claim. What happened to that?”

“I meant every word of it. But that’s not what I’m talking about,” Dad said gently. “The fact remains that you’re going to be a vampire. In a hundred years, Raquel will be dead, and your life will only have just begun. Who’s going to be with you then? We brought you here to make friends you can keep, Bianca.”

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