Stargazer Page 61

“The longer we wait, the more nervous I get.”

“Shh.” Balthazar kissed my forehead, then nuzzled his way down to the curve of my neck. The first brush of his mouth against my skin made me tense up all over. He stroked my arm and stayed there. I realized he was waiting for me to relax and get used to him being so close.

I’d never be used to this. The ceiling overhead seemed lower, like everything was closing in all around me. I knew that this wouldn’t turn me into a vampire—only drinking a human’s blood until the human died could do that—but all the same I knew I was crossing a line.

I forced my muscles to relax. Balthazar breathed in sharply and bit down.

Oh, oh, it hurts, it hurts! I gripped his shoulders, preparing to push him off me—but then it didn’t hurt as much, and I felt this deep, deep pull. It was the tide of my blood flowing into him. Though my body didn’t move, it felt as though I was rocking back and forth, back and forth, soothed and dizzy and eager for more.

The world seemed to fall away beneath me. It was like fainting, but wonderful instead of scary. Balthazar’s body next to mine was all I could hang onto, the only thing I knew.

His tongue lapped against my neck, the suction tickling me—until he drew back. “Drink,” Balthazar whispered. “Bianca, drink from me.” I clutched him closer, buried my face against his shoulder, and felt the familiar ache in my jaw from my fangs. He smelled good, and his skin was smooth, and in one split second, I went from not knowing if I could bite him to knowing that I had to. My teeth sank into him.

The blood rushed into my mouth, burning hot, and instantly I was flooded with everything Balthazar felt, everything he saw. He tasted like longing, like loneliness, and the depthless need for comfort. Everything within me that understood loneliness bent toward him, shaping us together. The images that flickered in my mind were of me—no, not me, but someone so like me that even I could be confused—she had dark hair, and a long, full-skirted dress, and she ran through the autumn woods laughing, spinning in the falling leaves.

He loved her and wanted me to be her. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be anyone but myself.

And I tasted his desire—raw, hard physical need. Within my mind flashed veiled images and sensations, the knowledge of sex that he possessed and I lacked, or had lacked until now. My body responded to it, and then I felt him bite down harder onto my neck as he sensed my arousal in return. That made me want him more, and made him want me more, the feeling doubling in on itself over and over until I couldn’t bear it one second longer—

Balthazar pulled away from my neck, far enough that it broke my bite, too. Then he kissed me, not once but half a dozen times, each kiss frantic and sweet with blood. I kissed him back, gulping in breaths every time our lips parted.

“Bianca, say yes,” he gasped between kisses. “Say yes, please, say yes.”

I wanted to say yes. I was going to.

But as I looked up at him, I breathed out shakily—and realized I could see my breath. The chill in the air hit us both at the same time, and Balthazar’s eyes widened as he realized what I realized.

Frost began to streak across the windows and ceiling, and the blue-green glow flooded the room so brightly that I could hardly see. All I could hear was the cracking of ice. But none of that compared to what I felt.

It hates me, Raquel had said. It hates me. It wants to hurt me. I hadn’t understood what she meant until this moment.

The wraith was angry, and it had come for me.

Chapter Nineteen


Balthazar towed me away from the sofa, his hand clamped around my forearm. I stumbled after him but looked back at the startling transformation. Already the room was solid white with frost and ice and colder than anything I’d ever felt before, even at the Autumn Ball. We were sliding on ice, every step unsure, and Balthazar slammed hard against one wall, smearing it with blood from my bite. He winced, but we had to keep going—every second, this became stranger. More dangerous.

We reached the door, and Balthazar tried to pull it open, but it wouldn’t budge. The lock was frozen shut. He tugged at it hard, swore, then slammed against the door with his shoulder. The wood cracked deeply, and together we were able to kick it until it broke. Splinters jammed into my legs and hands as we tore the door apart, but even as we worked, the room was growing even colder. Crystals of ice were forming in the air around us, making it so thick it was hard to breathe.

And still I felt it—that deep, implacable anger, swirling around us and as real as the chill.

Balthazar finally destroyed the door by bursting through. Flakes of ice had formed on his bare chest. “Get Mrs. Bethany!” he yelled down the hallway as he reached back to pull me out after him. “Somebody help!”

I got halfway through the door—and froze.

Literally, I mean. My foot was frozen to the floor, I tried to tug it loose, but even as I did, the ice thickened, covering my shoe. I leaned down, trying to pull free, but suddenly it was harder to move at all.

“Somebody help!” Balthazar yelled. He was pulling on my free arm so hard my shoulder hurt, but I didn’t budge. I didn’t even rock backward when he tugged. I was completely still—completely trapped. Inside I felt as though I were screaming, but I couldn’t have made a sound.

Within the Modern Technology room, gravity didn’t quite seem to apply anymore. My hair floated around me, as if underwater, and all the books and desks inside were drifting slightly, caught in unseen currents.

Everything was the same brilliant shade of aquamarine. I recognized that it was cold, but I had become as cold as the room, so it didn’t sting any longer. Balthazar’s shouts seemed to be coming from a great distance away.

The glittery snowflakes that filled the room coalesced and took form.

To my shock, I recognized the face of the girl who’d appeared in my bedroom. Instead of being a flesh-and-blood person, she was only an image made of snow.

You have to stay. It was my own voice, inside my own mind, saying words that weren’t mine. This had to be what going insane felt like, but I knew I wasn’t talking to myself—it was her, the wraith, somehow speaking through me. You’re in danger.

From you! I could still think my own thoughts, at least. Let me go!

Her unearthly aquamarine eyes widened. You’ll freeze to death soon.

It’s the only way to save you.

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