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Fortunately, she didn’t seem to expect a reply. “We should at some point discuss what you witnessed upstairs.”

“I told Balthazar all about it. If he talked to you, then you know as much as I do.”

“Have you mentioned this matter to your other classmates? Or your parents?”

“No.” That wasn’t the whole truth—I’d sort of mentioned it to Raquel, or tried to, anyway—but given that Raquel had refused to hear me out, I figured I’d kept the secret well enough.

“Good. See that you don’t. I am certain the event was an aberration.

People do behave irrationally when confronted with the supernatural.” For once, I could see Mrs. Bethany’s point. Just one question about a ghost had freaked Raquel out pretty badly. The last thing I needed was for my parents to go into overprotective mode. “Yes, ma’am. I won’t say another word.”

A conspiratorial smile crept across Mrs. Bethany’s face. “In recognition of your discretion, we’ll forgo any punishment for your infringe-ment of school rules by slipping into the gentlemen’s dormitory at night.

Despite your lack of self-control, I find this a heartening development.

At least this time your romantic attentions have fallen upon a more deserving candidate.”

That was a jab at Lucas, but I kept my cool. “Balthazar’s great. In fact, I’m supposed to meet him in a few minutes so we can have dinner with my mom and dad.”

“Don’t let me delay you. And give your parents my regards.” I nodded and hurried down the hall. Even though it was probably my imagination, I could’ve sworn I felt Mrs. Bethany’s eyes on the back of my neck the whole way.

Raquel didn’t say anything when I came into our rooom. She simply rolled over to face the wall and kept reading whatever magazine she’d picked up this time. I didn’t bother trying to start the conversation myself. If she wanted to be a total jerk to me because of one stupid question, fine.

I started going through the sweater drawer of my dresser. Periwinkle cowl neck—no, I wore that with Lucas last year, and wearing it with Balthazar just feels wrong. Green cardigan—too thin, because it gets drafty up there this late in the fall. Black V-neck—totally boring, and I have to at least look like I’m getting dressed up for Balthazar.

“You don’t usually bother changing for dinner with your parents,” Raquel said. I could tell by the echo that she was still facing the wall.

I paused, unsure how to react. This was the first time she’d started a conversation with me since I mentioned ghosts. I was relieved, but annoyed with myself for being relieved, because Raquel was the one who had been behaving badly. Why should I feel like I was the one getting off the hook?

“I’m taking Balthazar with me.” I didn’t glance in her direction as I pulled the dark-purple cashmere sweater from the drawer.

“I saw you guys hanging around together the other day. I wondered if something was up.”

“Something’s up,” I said shortly. When I didn’t volunteer anything else, Raquel apparently went back to her magazine. Quickly I set about getting ready, putting on the sweater, some dangly earrings, and even a little of the nice perfume my parents had given me for my birthday. It smelled like gardenias.

As I slipped the perfume bottle into the back of my dresser drawer, my fingers brushed against the velveteen scarf that held the brooch Lucas had given me. I didn’t think of him buying it for me; instead I remembered the time we had been forced to pawn it, when we had been on the run together, so desperate and totally broke. I’d thought we were in so much trouble, but if I could’ve traded places with myself and traveled back to that moment, where it was just me and Lucas against the world, I would’ve done it. It was like I couldn’t understand why the world didn’t rip in two—just tear apart at the seams—to bring us back together again.

“I’m glad things are going better for you in the romance department.” Raquel turned around at last, and there was even a small, hesitant smile on her face. “Not like it couldn’t go better than last time, huh?”

She’d never liked Lucas, and hearing her put him down the same way Mrs. Bethany had was the last straw. “It’s none of your business,” I snapped. “You don’t get to ignore me for days and then offer opinions about my love life. You only act like my friend when you’re in the mood, and I’m sick of it.”

“Excuse me for living.” Raquel threw her magazine down and stalked out of the room. I couldn’t imagine where she thought she was going in her T-shirt and boxer shorts, and I pretended that I didn’t care.

Besides, I didn’t have time to worry about it. I had to bring my new

“boyfriend” to dinner at my parents’.

“So are you two going to the Autumn Ball again this year?” Mom said as she spooned a hefty dollop of mashed potatoes onto my plate.

Balthazar and I shared glances. We hadn’t even thought of the Autumn Ball yet, but Mom’s question made sense. “Absolutely,” he said quickly. “I hadn’t realized it was coming up so soon.”

“Time sneaks up on you.” Dad shook his head ruefully before drinking blood from his glass. “Seems like the older you get, the faster it goes.”

“Tell me about it,” Balthazar said. Moments like that reminded me that, even though he looked about eighteen or nineteen, he was actually more than three hundred years old, a vampire as experienced and powerful as my parents.

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