Stargazer Page 11

I wouldn’t have been thinking about how good one of those birds’ blood would taste, either.

The vampire in me was closer to the surface. And being with Lucas always brought the vampire—the predator, the hungry one—to life in me more powerfully than before. Maybe I wasn’t the only one taking a risk with this meeting tonight.

I’ll take care of Lucas. I would never hurt him.

(If I bite him again and drink deeply enough, he becomes a vampire, and then the two of us could be together forever.)

I shook my head, refusing to get ahead of myself. Instead, I kept going until I reached the road. Then it was just a short stroll to the lone intersection in the area, a four-way stop. I took my place on the road that led to nearby Riverton and waited.

Five cars and a motorcycle came by; those were useless to me. From my hiding place in the nearby bushes, I sighed in frustration.

But lucky number seven was the one I’d been waiting for all this time: the laundry service that came to Evernight once a week for the school linens. As always, the driver had his music playing full blast. He would just have left the school, which meant he was headed back—and the sign on the side of the truck confirmed my recollection that the laundry service was based in Amherst.

The truck stopped at the sign. I ran to the back of the truck, which, luckily, was unlocked. As the metal clicked, I flinched, but fortunately the loud music in the cab must have covered it. Quickly I hopped inside among the bundles of laundry and pulled the doors shut behind me as the truck took off again.

See? That was simple! I was both so nervous and so elated that I had to fight not to start giggling. Instead, I curled down among the laundry bags, just one more bundle if he happened to glance back here. Everything smelled a little musty, but not unpleasant, and with all the cushioning around me, my ride promised to be pretty comfortable.

It took approximately an hour to drive to Amherst. Around then, I’d start risking a few peeks out of the small window in the back. Once we reached Amherst, I’d take advantage of another stop to get out—again without being seen, I hoped. After that, I could catch a cab or walk or whatever I had to do in order to reach the train station.

By midnight, I would be in Lucas’s arms again.

Chapter Five


The car zipped past me, going way too fast in the Amherst town square. A couple of frat guys were hanging out of the windows and yelling at every girl they saw.

I’d thought that, by this hour, the streets would be pretty much deserted. What I hadn’t considered was that Amherst was a college town, with something like three or four universities crowded up against the city boundaries. The town didn’t slow down at midnight; the kids around me were just getting the party started.

Kids. These people were up to five years older than me. Their faces and bodies were more mature than those of the students at Evernight. It was strange to think that they’d already lived longer than Balthazar ever did. But when I was at Evernight, I could sense the experience, worldliness, and strength of my classmates; their faces were young, but their centuries showed in their eyes. Compared to them, the cigarette-smoking college students jostling one another on the sidewalk around me were only children.

What did that make me?

I couldn’t worry about that for very long. At that moment, I felt too happy to worry about anything—the lies I’d told, the rules I was breaking, or consequences that might follow. All that mattered was that I was about to see Lucas again.

“Excuse me.” A girl wove her way through the crowd toward me. Her fair, curly hair was pulled up into a knot from which a few strands dangled. “Can I walk with you?”

I began to tell her that she had me confused with someone else, but the moment our eyes first met, every word I might’ve said was replaced by only one: vampire.

It wasn’t that she looked so dissimilar from the other people around me, at least not in any obvious way. But to me, she stood out from the crowd as brilliantly as a bonfire. I’d been able to tell vampires from humans on sight all my life. The thing was, even for a vampire, this girl was different. She was the youngest-looking vampire I’d ever seen. Her heart-shaped face still had the roundness of the baby fat I saw in my own mirror, and she had wide-set, soft brown eyes. Her smile was almost shy. A port-wine birthmark mottled her neck near the jugular vein, probably almost exactly where she would have been bitten. I felt immediately protective, like it was my job to look after her—this lost young girl in clothes that didn’t match, a ragged sweater over a skirt with a torn hem.

“Wait.” Her expression was like the ones painted onto porcelain dolls, innocent and mischievous at the same time. “There’s something about you that’s—you’re not quite—oh. You’re a baby. One of our babies, I mean.”

I was impressed that she’d managed to figure that out so swiftly, given that most vampires never met a vampire like me, one born rather than made. “Yeah. I mean, yes, that’s what I am, and, yes, you can walk with me for a bit.”

“Thank you.” She slipped her arm into mine as though we were lifelong pals. Her body trembled, and I wasn’t sure whether it was from fear or cold. “This fellow won’t leave me alone tonight. Perhaps I’ll have better luck if he thinks I’ve run into a friend.”

“I’m actually going to meet somebody.” No sooner had I said the words than her smile wavered, revealing a glimpse of loneliness beneath. I remembered Ranulf and the handful of other lost ones at Evernight Academy, and I took pity on her. “But I can get you out of the town square, at least.”

“Oh, could you? Thank you so much. What a relief. Did I startle you? I didn’t mean to. If I did, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” There was something genuinely childlike about her, so much so that it was surprising to realize she was several inches taller than I was, nearly as tall as Balthazar. “Are you all right? Is there somebody we could call?”

“Fine. I’m fine. I’m alone tonight.”

I looked down at my forearm, where her hand rested. Her threadbare sweater was long enough that the only part of her hands visible beneath the sleeves were her fingers. Her nails were filthy and jagged—almost as though she’d been digging through dirt. All at once, I knew that this girl was the single loneliest person I’d ever met.

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