Stargazer Page 72

The hunter tried to dodge her, but she was too slow. I could do nothing as Mrs. Bethany twisted the hunter’s body around and then sank her fangs into the woman’s neck.

The scream behind me was one of pure horror. I turned to see Raquel, in a tank top and underwear, shrieking as she watched Mrs. Bethany drink the hunter’s blood. There was no mistaking what was happening, especially if you understood that the supernatural actually existed, as Raquel did. Now she knew that vampires were real.

“Oh, my God, oh, my God!” she yelled. “Bianca, did you—Mrs. Bethany—she—” Then Raquel stopped short. “Lucas?” Lucas said, “Run now, explain later.”

We all ran. I cast one more look behind me as we headed toward the forest. Most of Evernight still stood, seemingly as impregnable as ever, but the south tower and the roof both blazed orange. Gargoyles were silhouetted against the flame. It seemed like the end of the world. Then I heard the sirens.

“What’s that?” Raquel cried, still panicked.

I realized the answer almost instantly. “Fire engines! The fire alarm Mrs. Bethany pulled—they’re coming!”

“We can’t have the authorities find us here,” Lucas insisted. “There’s a transport close by. Let’s move.” We did what he said, going as fast as we could into the forest—but as we ducked into the trees, I saw a sha-dowy figure ahead, and I gasped out loud as we all skidded to a halt.

Charity blocked our way.

“Leaving so soon?” She cocked her head. If her fall from the north tower had injured her, she gave no sign. “You hate Evernight nearly as much as I do, Bianca. I thought you’d like my surprise.”

“People could be killed,” I said. “Balthazar might not have made it out.”

“You doubt my brother.” Her eyes were dark. “I believe in him. He’s too strong for any Black Cross scum.”

“I believed in you,” I said. “I won’t make that mistake again.” Raquel said, “Uh, guys? Who is this kid? Is she Balthazar’s sister or something?”

Charity glared at Raquel, then smiled. “You brought me a snack.”

“Like hell.” Lucas swung a fist at Charity’s face, which she dodged easily—but she hadn’t counted on his vampirelike speed. Almost faster than I could see, Lucas spun around, grabbing one of Charity’s arms and twisting it behind her back.

“Stupid boy,” she hissed, trying to get out of his grip. Strong as she was, I knew she could do it in a second. Raquel tried to rush forward, but I prevented her.

“I’ve cut you slack for Bianca’s sake,” Lucas said. He and Charity were struggling in the underbrush; he was managing to hold her arm back, but only barely. “No more. We’re through.” With that he pushed her forward, full strength, into a tree. Charity smashed into it face-first. At first I expected her to scream in outrage, but instead she slumped into unconsciousness. Lucas was still holding her against the tree—and, I realized, against the broken-off branch that jutted from the trunk and had acted as a stake.

“You killed her!” Raquel gasped.

“Can’t do that for real.” Lucas looked chagrined. “She stole my knife.”

“Just let her fall,” I said. “I know that’s going to, well, ‘unstake’ her, but it’ll take a few minutes before she can pursue us. In that time, we can reach the transport, right?”

Lucas didn’t like the plan, but he knew it was our only choice. He took off running, and as Raquel and I followed, I saw Charity slump to the forest floor.

The “transport” turned out to be the van I’d seen before. When we jumped inside, a few people were already waiting—Kate, who was in the driver’s seat, and Dana, who had a black eye and a cut lip. The sight of her made me queasy inside; Mom would have been the person who did this to Dana, but if they were fighting and Dana was still here…“What happened?” I whispered. “What happened to the vampire you were fighting?”

“Lady jumped out a window.” Dana’s words were thick because of her swollen lip. “You ask me, that’s cheating.” Mom had made it. I slumped against Lucas in relief. Vic and Balthazar were probably safe as well. But what about my father? Or the teachers I knew or Ranulf or so many people—the humans, too, because fire didn’t discriminate when it killed.

Lucas put his arm around me as he asked, “Where’s Mr. Watanabe?”

“They got him,” Dana said.

A terrible silence fell in the van. Raquel was looking from Dana to Lucas to me, clearly incredibly confused, but she must have understood this wasn’t the moment for questions. Lucas put his forehead on my shoulder, and I held him tightly.

Enjoy each other, Mr. Watanabe had said. He’d had a sweet smile. I wondered if he was with Noriko now, if there was anything after death for humans that didn’t involve being a vampire or a wraith. I’d never asked myself that before.

Kate started the van. As we pulled away, I watched the fire-haloed silhouette of Evernight Academy shrink in the rearview mirror until it disappeared entirely.

The rendezvous point turned out to be a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, one half filled with enormous crates. I had no idea what was inside them, and I thought Black Cross didn’t either. It was just a place the hunters could use to regroup.

Dana held an ice pack to her face, and Eduardo was at work bandag-ing a cut on Kate’s shin. As they cleaned and repaired their weapons, most of the hunters remained silent, either from grief or exhaustion. But I could tell that they all thought they’d done what they had to do. I wanted to tell them they were wrong—that they’d been lied to—but I knew they wouldn’t listen.

Lucas and I sat on one of the crates, leaning our backs against each other. Raquel stood next to us, wrapped in a blanket one of the hunters had given her. Slowly she repeated, “The whole school was full of vampires. The entire time.”

“Basically,” I said. “There were human students, too—you weren’t the only one. Vic, for instance.”

“And Ranulf,” she said. I shook my head, and Raquel gaped at me.

“Ranulf? But—was Balthazar—was he a vampire, too?” I nodded. Lucas said, “And all the teachers. Used to be nothing but vampires until a couple of years ago.”

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