Stargazer Page 73

“Wait, wait, wait. That can’t be right. Bianca, your parents are teachers.”

In my weariness, I think I would have blurted out the truth if Lucas hadn’t put a warning hand over mine. Revealing that I was part vampire in the middle of a group of Black Cross hunters could have been the last thing I ever did.

Eduardo answered the question for me. “We believe Bianca was kid-napped as an infant. Probably her real parents were murdered, so two vampires could play house.”

Raquel covered her mouth with her hands. “When did you find this out? Oh, Bianca, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Lucas cut in so I wouldn’t have to reveal how long I’d known. “I came to Evernight last year to investigate why they were letting humans in as students.”

“That’s why you got into all those fights!” Raquel said. “God, I always thought you were this total hothead creep.”

“Wow,” Lucas said. “I’m touched.” I could hear the smile in his voice.

“I’m honestly sorry I thought that about you. Obviously I’m not such a great judge of people.” Raquel sat down on a nearby crate, shaking her head in bewilderment. Then her expression shifted from confusion to awareness, and she met my eyes with new comprehension. “The vampire thing explains Erich, doesn’t it?”


She slumped over. “I knew that school wasn’t right.”

“I doubt they’ll have any more human students for a good long while,” Kate said. “Or any students, given the damage we did. Which means we can cross Evernight Academy off our list of concerns.” Maybe they could. I couldn’t. I knew I had to get back there, to find out who had lived and who had died, how my parents were—so many things. But how could I go back, now that Mrs. Bethany knew I’d been seeing Lucas all year? For all I knew, she might blame me for the part I’d played in attracting Charity’s attention and bringing all this to pass. I knew better than ever how lethal Mrs. Bethany could be. No, I’d have to wait.

“Mrs. Bethany made it.” Kate winced as Eduardo smoothed the last bandage over the cut on her leg. “That means she’s going to want revenge. And that means we’ve all got to get on the move. This cell is in lockdown, effective immediately. We’ll have to be underground a long while, after this one. Raquel, if you want to go home, we can give you some money to get you started. After that, it’s up to you.”

“Go home?” Raquel was on her feet again immediately. “Are you crazy?”

“Raquel?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

“All this evil in the world—the ghosts and the vampires, all this crap that’s been ruining our lives forever—there’s a way to fight it! These people fight!” She gestured toward the room, the blanket over her shoulders flowing behind her like a superhero’s cape. “Am I supposed to go back to Boston and sleep on my sister’s couch and ignore what’s in my own home? Ignore the evil out there? No way. I want to be a part of this.”

Eduardo shook his head. “We don’t take amateurs.”

“Everyone’s an amateur before they start,” Kate pointed out. “You said yourself we needed fresh blood.”

My stomach rumbled. When would I ever be able to drink blood again?

Raquel looked from person to person, hope in her face. “I didn’t want to go home this summer anyway. It’s not like you’re breaking up some big happy family—trust me. I need somewhere else to go. And the things you’re up against—I’ve been waiting my whole life for this battle. Just give me a chance. I’ll prove myself to you.” Dana grinned. “I believe Black Cross just got itself another fighter.”

Most people looked satisfied, but Eduardo’s face remained stern.

“You’ll have to train hard. It’s difficult, and it’s dangerous. Most people in Black Cross don’t live as long as Hideo Watanabe; most of them don’t even make it as long as I have. You’ll be giving up everything.

Nothing less than total commitment is acceptable.” Raquel said, “I’m in. Absolutely. From this second on.” Then she turned to me. “Bianca?”

Me? Join Black Cross? I couldn’t be a vampire hunter; I was a vampire. Kind of a vampire, at least—enough for virtually everybody in this room to turn on me instantaneously if they knew the truth.

I glanced over at Lucas, thinking surely he would know a way out of this. Instead I saw only his dismay. Obviously he realized the problem, but just as obviously, Black Cross was about to go into lockdown—

foiling whatever plans he might have had to run away with me. We were trapped.

“I know it’s tough for you, Bianca,” Kate said. “You really thought they were your parents for a long time, and I can imagine what kind of lies they must have told you about Black Cross. But you see the truth now. You’ve showed courage. And frankly, I’m tired of Lucas running off all the time. We need him to stay put.” She tried to smile. “That means we need you.”

“Come on, Bianca!” Raquel could hardly contain her excitement. To her this was a great adventure, a way out of all her problems. “Are you with us?”

I had nowhere else to go. But at least I would be with Lucas—and while we were together, there was always hope.

“Yeah.” I looked at Lucas as I took his hand in mine. “I’m with you.”