Evernight Page 54

“Excuse us for not knowing exactly how to handle this! There’s only a handful of vampire babies born a century. It’s not like we had anybody to turn to for advice, you know.” Mom looked mad enough to pull her hair out. “But, yeah, Bianca, at this point, I agree with you. Clearly, somewhere, we screwed up. If we hadn’t, you’d be behaving sensibly now instead of carrying on like this!”

From his place on my parents’ couch, where he had been forcefully told to remain, Lucas attempted to defend me. “This is mostly my fault—”

“You keep quiet.” Dad’s glare could have melted metal. “I intend to have a long talk with you later.”

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, Mom said, “We’ll have to tell Mrs. Bethany.”

“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Lucas’s eyes opened wide. “Mom, no!”

“Your mother is right.” Dad stalked toward the doorway. “You’ve told a human the secret of Evernight. We have to explain that to Mrs. Bethany, which you should have realized from the start.”

As the door slammed shut behind him, Mom added, more quietly, “Our secrets protect us, Bianca. Someday you’ll understand that.”

It felt like I would never understand any of this. I sank down beside Lucas on the sofa, so that at least we’d be together when the boom fell. All three of us sat in sullen silence for several minutes, until footsteps began to echo on the stone staircase outside. The sound made me shiver. Mrs. Bethany was near.

She swept in as if she owned the place and the rest of us were merely intruders. My father, behind her, might as well have been her shadow. Lavender fragrance followed her, changing the space subtly from ours to hers. Her dark eyes focused instantly on Lucas, who faced her steadily but said nothing.

“So much for your promised self-control, Miss Olivier.” Her long skirts brushed along the floor as she stepped closer. Tonight she wore a silver bar pin at the collar of her blouse, so bright that the light glinted off it. Her long fingernails were painted the darkest imaginable purple, but it didn’t hide the deep grooves in each nail. “I suspected it would come to this sooner or later. Sooner it is.”

“This isn’t Bianca’s fault,” Lucas said. “It’s mine.”

“How very gallant of you, Mr. Ross. But I think it’s rather obvious who was the active party here.” She tugged his collar open, a weirdly intimate gesture from a teacher toward a student. Lucas tensed, and I thought that if she actually put her hand on his neck, he might snap. His temper had frayed from less. Instead, she merely glanced at the pink scars left after two weeks. “You’ve been bitten twice by a vampire. Do you know what that means?”

“How could he?” I asked. “He didn’t even know vampires were real until a couple of months ago.”

Mrs. Bethany sighed. “Remind me to go over the concept of the ‘rhetorical question’ in class. As I was saying, Mr. Ross, you are now marked as one of our own.”

“Marked,” Lucas repeated. “You mean, as Bianca’s?”

“The change is subtle at first.” She paced slowly around Lucas, studying him from head to toe. “I sense it now, but only because you called my attention to it. As time goes on, however, the change will become more pronounced. The other vampires around you will notice. Eventually they will be unable to ignore it. You have surrendered to a vampire, and more than once. That has brought you to the very brink of being changed into one of us.”

Lucas interjected, “Does that mean I have to become a vampire no matter what?” I fidgeted, unable to wholly conceal my hope. My mother shot me a look that made me go still.

Mrs. Bethany shook her head. “Not necessarily. You might yet live a long life and die of other causes, if that’s the sort of thing you consider cause for celebration. However, soon you’ll find yourself more and more drawn to Miss Olivier, whose lack of discipline has already been made very clear.” Dad took a step forward, like he was going to defend me, but Mom put one hand on his shoulder to keep him back. “Other vampires will find you equally appealing, although the taboo against hunting another vampire’s chosen prey should protect you—for a time. Eventually, Mr. Ross, you’ll find the prospect entices you as much as it does her. You will desire it more powerfully than you can possibly guess. It is a craving no pure human can ever understand. When that time comes, you will probably choose to join us.”

If Lucas was going to lose it, I thought this would be the moment. But he remained calm. “Does that mean I’m sort of…in between? Like Bianca?”

“Not exactly like her, but close enough.” Mrs. Bethany’s prim mouth relaxed slightly, and I realized that she was almost smiling. “You are a quick study, Mr. Ross.”

“I’d like to know more,” he said, seizing upon her approval. “I want to understand these…senses. Abilities. Powers.”

“And limitations, too. Those take root in humans more slowly than our powers, but they will arrive. You cannot afford to forget that.” Mrs. Bethany considered it for a few more seconds, then nodded. “This was not what I intended when I opened the school to human students, but I ought to have anticipated it. I’ll send over some papers that might help you. Old letters, studies, things like that regarding those who have been in your situation and who have chosen to follow our path. Just remember this, Mr. Ross: Our secret is now your secret. The more you learn, the more you belong to us. You can no longer betray the truth about Evernight without also betraying yourself. I will be watching you very closely from now on.”

“I believe you. I’m not going to say a word about vampires to anybody.” He gave me a sidelong glance. “Well, at least not to anybody who doesn’t already know.”

I squeezed his hand, happy and relieved. It didn’t matter what my parents said to us now or how long I was going to be grounded. All that mattered was that the truth was out at last, and Lucas would be okay. And he might—just maybe—be mine forever.

Not until much later that night did I realize that Mrs. Bethany had never told Lucas what would happen if he didn’t choose to become a vampire. She didn’t offer it as an option. I wondered if that was because it was impossible for him to choose anything else—or because he wouldn’t be allowed to choose.

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