Evernight Page 17

“You might be right,” I said. “I’ll check it out of the library. And—thanks. For the recommendation.” And, I thought, for thinking of me that way.

“You’re welcome.” Balthazar grinned, showing off the dimple in his chin again, but then we both heard Courtney’s laugh, not far away. He gave me a mock-scared look that made me laugh. “Gotta run.”

“Hurry!” I whispered as he dodged down the nearest hallway. Although Balthazar’s encouragement had helped, I still felt wrung out after Mrs. Bethany’s interrogation. I decided to take a quick walk on the grounds for some fresh air and quiet before I ate. Maybe I could have a few precious minutes alone.

Unfortunately, I was far from the only one with the same idea. Several students were milling around outside, playing music and talking. I noticed a group of girls sitting in the shade, none of them apparently headed back to their rooms for lunch. Probably they were dieting for the Autumn Ball, I decided as I watched them whispering together in the shadows cast by one of the old elm trees.

There was only one person on the grounds I wanted to see. I recognized him from the first day, and Lucas’s description. “Vic?” I called.

Vic grinned at me. “Yo!”

You’d have thought we were old friends, instead of speaking for the first time. His floppy, sandy-brown hair stuck out from the sides of the Phillies cap he wore, and he carried an iPod emblazoned with a skin swirled with orange and green. As he loped to my side and tugged out his earbuds, I said, “Hey. Have you seen Lucas?”

“That guy, he’s crazy.” In Vic’s world, crazy seemed to be a compliment. “He cut out of study hall, and I was, like, what are you doing? And he was all, just cover for me, right? So I did, until now, but you’re not gonna narc on him. You’re cool.”

Since Vic and I had never even spoken before, how could he know I was cool? Then I wondered if Lucas told him, and that made me smile. “Do you know where he is?”

“If a teacher asks me, I don’t know anything. Since it’s you, I think it might have to do with the carriage house.”

The carriage house to the north, near the lake, had been where they’d kept the horses and buggies back in the old days. Now it had been remade into Evernight Academy’s administrative offices and Mrs. Bethany’s residence. What would Lucas be doing there?

“I think I’ll take a stroll over that way,” I suggested. “Just going for a walk. Not doing anything in particular.”

“Ohhhh, riiiiiiiight,” Vic said, nodding his head, like I’d actually said something really sly. “You got it.”

He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, I decided as I casually wandered in the general direction of the carriage house. Despite that, Vic seemed like a nice guy. Not the Evernight type at all, thank God. Nobody noticed me as I slipped farther away from the rest of the students. I guessed that was the one good thing about being beneath attention: You could get away with a lot more.

There was no forest here to shelter me, just softly rolling grounds, thick with clover, and a few trees at regular intervals, probably planted long ago to provide shade. In the underbrush I saw a small dead squirrel, a shriveled scrap of its former self. The wind ruffled its tail forlornly. I wrinkled my nose and tried to ignore it, concentrating instead on my search. I walked slower and more quietly, hoping to hear Lucas.

The carriage house was long and white, only one story high. No point in having a second floor if you’re building for horses, I guess. More tall trees surrounded it, shadowing everything so deeply that it was almost dark, and only a few wavering ribbons of sunlight touched the ground. Tiptoeing toward the back, I leaned around the corner and saw Lucas dropping out of Mrs. Bethany’s window. He landed easily and carefully shut the window behind him.

Then he turned and saw me. For a long second, we simply stared at each other. It felt like he was the one who had caught me doing something wrong, rather than the other way around.

“Hey,” I blurted out.

Instead of offering an excuse for his behavior, Lucas smiled. “Hey. Why aren’t you at lunch?”

As he strolled to my side, I realized that he was going to pretend nothing was wrong, that I hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. Or was I the one who had done that by saying hello instead of asking him what he’d been up to? “I guess I’m not that hungry.”

“Not like you to avoid the subject.”

“The subject of lunch?”

“I was thinking more how you’re not asking me why I broke into Mrs. Bethany’s office.”

I breathed out a sigh of relief, and we both started to laugh. “Okay, if you’re willing to tell me, it must not be anything too bad.”

“My mom keeps saying that she’ll only sign the consent form for me to go into Riverton on our free Saturdays if I have straight A’s at midterm. But I had a hunch she’d already signed it, and I don’t feel so good about chemistry, so I decided to check. See if the consent form was in my file. Like I told you before, I’m not good at playing by the rules.”

“Of course.” Even if it was wrong of him to do it, it wasn’t too wrong, was it? Trusting Lucas came easily to me. “So, did you find it?”

“Yep.” Lucas’s self-satisfaction was obviously overdone to make me smile, which it did. “Even if I get a B, I’m in the clear.”

“What’s so important about the free weekends? I spent some time in town over the summer, before you guys got here. Trust me, there’s not a lot to see.”

We walked in the shade, carefully weaving our way closer to Evernight, making our way around the side so that we could merge into the other students without being observed. Both of us were pretty good at being sneaky. “Just thought that might be a good place for us to spend some time together. Away from Evernight. What do you think?”

Given our conversation at the gazebo, I shouldn’t have felt so surprised or bowled over. But I did, and it was simultaneously scary and kind of wonderful. “Yeah. I mean, I’d like that.”

“Me, too.”

After that, neither of us spoke for a little while. I wished that he would take my hand, but I wasn’t quite brave enough to take his yet. Feverishly, I tried to think of something entertaining in Riverton, a town that was larger than Arrowwood and yet even more boring. There was a movie theater, at least, one that showed classic films before the regular late shows, sometimes. “Do you like old movies?” I ventured.

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