Stargazer Page 22

“You don’t have to.” Balthazar’s eyes darted down to the carved black brooch still pinned to my sweater. I knew he understood it had been a gift from Lucas; I’d worn it nonstop last year. “Has this been going on the whole time?”

“It’s none of your business!” Breathing in deeply, I tried to stay calm. “I promise, I haven’t told Lucas anything about us he didn’t already know. He’s not spying for Black Cross anymore.”

“Like he did last year?”

That struck uncomfortably close to the truth. “You don’t understand. Lucas didn’t want to lie to me. They sent him here on a mission—”

“On a mission that he completed, and he didn’t care if he had to use you to do it.” Balthazar breathed out sharply, as though he were in physical pain. “I’m not angry at you, Bianca. You’re—you’re in love for the first time, and you can’t see straight.”

“Balthazar. Please listen.”

He straightened, and his gaze turned inward and became intent. “I’ll take care of this. We all will.”

My blood turned cold. “What do you mean, we?”

“The people who really love you.”

He turned toward the school, but I grabbed his arm to hold him back. “You can’t tell my parents. You can’t tell anyone.”

Balthazar put his hands on my shoulders as if he were comforting me instead of destroying me. “Someday you’ll understand that this is for your own good.”

For my own good. Anytime anyone had ever used those words to me, they hadn’t had the slightest clue what “my own good” truly was. I pushed Balthazar so roughly that he stumbled a couple of steps back. “You’re jealous. You’re just jealous. That’s why you’re doing this.”

Even as I said it, I knew it was a lie. Balthazar’s only reply was to start walking toward Evernight.

I ran beside him, my breath catching in my throat. Twigs and branches snapped all around us. Overhead I could hear birds flying away, startled, the flapping of wings heavy and close. “It’s not what you think. Lucas loves me. He wants to be with me, and we don’t care that we’re—that we’re different from each other. That doesn’t have to matter, not if we love each other enough.”

“That’s the first stupid thing I ever heard you say. I hope it’s the last.” Balthazar pushed a low-hanging pine branch out of my way, clearing my path even though he refused to look directly at me. “If he were just any other human, just some kid here at Evernight, do you think I’d care?”

“Yes.” Balthazar might not be doing this because he was jealous, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t jealous.

He paused. The fog silhouetted his profile. “Okay. I’d care no matter who you were with. But I wouldn’t get in your way, and neither would anyone else. Lucas is not just another kid. He’s a Black Cross hunter, which means he’s out to destroy us. He can’t be trusted.”

“You don’t know him!” I shouted the words. I almost didn’t care if anyone heard me anymore, not with Balthazar about to give everything away. I wanted to punch him in the face. I wanted to cry until he would comfort me. I wished we were back in fencing class so I’d have a sword in my hand. Everything was about to be ruined, ruined forever, and I was so angry and afraid I couldn’t think straight. “You don’t know what he did last night!”

Balthazar’s eyes raked over me, and I became incredibly conscious of my rumpled shirt and hair, still mussed from making out with Lucas. “I can imagine.”

“He helped me save a vampire! Save her, Balthazar. The others in Black Cross, they would’ve hurt her, but Lucas didn’t. He listened to me. She was the youngest vampire I’ve ever seen—hardly more than a kid, pale and shabby—you couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, and Lucas did feel sorry for her, I know he did!”

Balthazar stopped in his tracks. He turned toward me slowly, and his face was so changed that at first I could hardly recognize him. “The youngest you’ve ever seen?”

Why was that the part of all this that surprised him? “Yeah.”

“What did she look like?”

“Uh—light hair, kind of curly—but the point is that Lucas helped her get away from Black Cross. He understands now, don’t you see?”

“Tell me exactly what she looked like.”

“I just did!”

“Bianca.” His voice broke. “Please.”

I couldn’t ignore his desperation. Slowly I closed my eyes and tried to remember exactly what it had been like as I walked arm in arm with the vampire through the city square. I described her youthful heart-shaped face, her dark eyes, and the wheat color of her hair. Balthazar’s face didn’t change until I mentioned the port-wine mark on her throat. At that moment, his jaw dropped slightly, and he whispered, “She’s back.”

“Wait—you know her?”

He nodded, but slowly, and he could no longer meet my eyes. Balthazar looked so dazed and so miserable that my anger at him vanished instantly.

“Balthazar, who was that?”


The name instantly conjured up the memory: last Christmas, Balthazar and I walking through the snow past holly bushes as he told me about the life he’d lost long ago. He had mentioned then the person that he missed the most.

“Charity. You mean—your sister?” I’d thought he was telling me his deepest secrets on that snowy walk, but he had been holding something back. He hadn’t hinted that his beloved sister had been turned into a vampire with him. “That was her?”

Balthazar didn’t answer me. I thought perhaps he couldn’t. As he started to walk away from me, with slow, stumbling steps, he roughly said, “Don’t tell anyone.”

“Okay. I promise.” Belatedly, I remembered that I had a secret, too. “You won’t tell either, will you?”

He didn’t say yes or no, but I knew he wouldn’t talk to anybody about what either of us had learned tonight. For a long time I watched him go, too numbed with astonishment and the sudden ebbing of fear to do anything else. Then I took a deep breath and ran back to school, trying to think of ways to describe to Raquel a meteor shower I hadn’t actually seen.

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