Evernight Page 38

I pressed my lips against his neck, right on the scars, the way my mother used to kiss a bruise or scrape to make it better. His pulse was strong. Lucas tensed, and I thought maybe I’d gone too far.

It can’t be easy for him either, I told myself. Sometimes I think I’m going to go crazy if I don’t touch him, so how much worse must it be for Lucas? Especially since he can’t know the reasons why.

The jingling of bells jolted us out of our trance. We both peeked around the corner to see who had come in. “Vic!” Lucas shook his head. “I should’ve known you’d show up here.”

Vic sauntered toward us, thumbs beneath the lapels of the striped blazer he wore beneath his winter coat. “This style doesn’t put itself together, you know. It takes effort to look this good.” He then groaned as he looked longingly at Lucas’s tweed overcoat. “You tall guys get all the best stuff, man.”

“I’m not buying this.” Lucas shrugged it off, ready to leave. Probably he wanted to give us a few more moments of privacy; it was almost time to return to the bus. I knew how he felt. As much as I liked Vic, I didn’t really want him tagging around.

“You’re crazy, Lucas. Something like that fit me? I’d snap it up.” Vic sighed. He looked dangerously close to accompanying us out to the bus.

I thought fast. “You know, in the back of the store, I think I saw some ties painted with hula girls.”

“Seriously?” Just like that, Vic was gone, pushing his way through the clothes display in search of hula ties.

“Good work.” Lucas pulled the hat from my head, then took my hand. “Let’s go.”

We were almost to the door when we walked past the jewelry rack, and a dark, glittering object caught my eye. A brooch, carved of something that was as black as the night sky but shone brilliantly: I realized that it was a pair of flowers, exotic and sharp petaled, just like the one in my dream. The brooch was small enough to fit in my palm and intricately carved, but what amazed me the most was how much it looked like a flower that I had started to think only existed in my imagination. I had stopped in my tracks to stare at it. “Look, Lucas. It’s so beautiful.”

“That’s genuine Whitby jet. Victorian-era mourning jewelry.” The saleslady peered at us over the lenses of her blue-rimmed reading glasses, trying to evaluate whether we were potential customers or kids who needed to be scared off. Probably she decided on the latter, because she added, “Very expensive.”

Lucas didn’t like being challenged. “How expensive?” he said coolly, like his last name was Rockefeller instead of Ross.

“Two hundred dollars.”

My eyes probably bugged out. When your parents are schoolteachers, you don’t get the biggest allowance in the world. The only thing I’d ever bought that cost more than two hundred dollars was my telescope, and my parents had chipped in for that. I laughed a little, trying to disguise my embarrassment and the sadness I felt at having to leave the brooch behind. Each black petal was more beautiful than the last.

Lucas simply pulled out his wallet and offered the clerk a credit card. “We’ll take it.”

She raised an eyebrow but took the card and started ringing up the purchase. “Lucas!” I grabbed his arm and tried to speak under my breath. “You can’t.”

“Can, too.”

“But it’s two hundred dollars!”

“You love it,” he said quietly. “I can tell by the look in your eyes. If you love it, you should have it.”

The brooch still sat in the display case. I stared down at it, trying to imagine anything so beautiful belonging to me. “I do—love it, I mean, but—Lucas, I don’t want you in debt because of me.”

“Since when do poor people attend Evernight?”

Okay, he had a point there. For some reason, I’d never really thought about the fact that Lucas must be wealthy. Vic, too, probably. Raquel was a scholarship kid, but there were only a handful of those. Most of the human students were actually paying through the nose for the chance to be surrounded by vampires—though, of course, they didn’t realize that last part. They didn’t come across like snobs, probably because they didn’t have a chance. The ones who really acted like entitled rich kids were the ones who’d been saving money for centuries or who bought IBM stock back when the typewriter was a newfangled invention. The hierarchy at Evernight was so strict—vampires on top, humans hardly worthy of notice—that I hadn’t realized that most of the human kids came from money, too.

Then I remembered that Lucas had tried to tell me once about his mother and how controlling she could be. They’d traveled all around, even lived in Europe, and he’d said that his grandfather or great-grandfather or somebody had attended Evernight as well, at least until he got expelled for dueling. I should’ve realized he wasn’t poor.

Not that this was a bad surprise. In my opinion, all boyfriends should turn out to be secretly wealthy. But it reminded me that, as much as I adored Lucas, we were still only beginning to learn about each other.

And that made me remember the secrets I kept.

The saleslady offered to wrap up the brooch, but Lucas took it and pinned it on my winter coat. I kept tracing the sharp-carved petals with one finger as we walked out into the town square, hand in hand. “Thank you. This is the best gift anyone’s ever bought for me.”

“Then it’s the best money I ever spent.”

I ducked my head, bashful and happy. We would’ve gone on being mushy for a while if we hadn’t walked into the town square and found the students milling around the bus, talking animatedly with each other with absolutely no teachers around. “Why is everybody standing around like that? How come they aren’t boarding the bus yet?”

Lucas blinked, obviously thrown off by the sudden change in subject. “Uh, I don’t know.” Then, more focused, he continued, “You’re right. They should’ve started calling us by now.”

We walked down into the crowd of students. “What’s going on?” I asked Rodney, a guy I knew from chemistry.

“It’s Raquel. She’s taken off.”

That couldn’t be right. I insisted, “She wouldn’t leave by herself. She gets scared easily.”

“Really? She always seemed kinda standoffish to me.” Vic joined us in the crowd, holding a clear plastic bag stuffed with garish ties. Then Rodney paused, like he realized it might not be good manners to speak badly about the missing person. “I saw her earlier at the diner. Some townie kid was trying to talk to her and striking out. I didn’t run into her after that.”

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