Prom Nights from Hell (Chapter Three)

I can see that the terror has disappeared as suddenly as Drake did. But unlike with Drake, there's something in its place: anger. Mary is mad.

"Oh my God, Adam," she says. "Have you lost your mind? Do you have any idea who that guy even is?."

"Yeah," I say. The truth is, Mary's pretty cute when she's mad. I can't believe I never noticed before. Well, I guess I've never seen her get mad. There's not a lot to get all heated up about in Mrs. Gregory's class. "Lila's new man. That guy's such a loser. Did you get a look at his pants?"

Mary just shakes her head.

"What are you doing here?" she asks me in a slightly stunned voice.

"Same thing as you, apparently," I say, eyeing the crossbow. "Only you've got way more firepower. Where'd you get that? Are those even legal in Manhattan?"

"You're one to talk," she says, meaning the Beretta.

I hold up both hands in an I-surrender sort of way. "Hey, it was just ketchup. But that's definitely not a suction cup I see on the end of that thing. You could do some major damage-"

"That's the idea," Mary says.

And there's so much animosity-Mom keeps encouraging Veronica and me to instead use descriptive language to express ourselves-in her voice, that I know. I just know.

Drake's her ex.

I have to admit, I feel sort of weird when I realize this. I mean, I like Mary. You can tell she's pretty smart-she's always done the reading when Mrs. Gregory calls on her-and the truth is, the fact that she hangs around Lila, dim as she is, proves at least she's not a snob, since most of the girls at Saint Eligius won't give Lila the time of day… ever since that cell-phone photo went all around school of exactly what she and Ted were doing in the bathroom at that loft party downtown.

Not that there's anything wrong with what they were doing, if you ask me.

Still. I'm kind of disappointed. I'd have thought a girl like Mary would have better taste than to go out with a guy like Sebastian Drake.

Which I guess goes to prove that what Veronica's always saying about me is right: What I don't know about girls could fill the East River.


I can't believe this. I mean, that I'm standing in the alley next to Swig, talking to Adam Blum, who sits behind me in Mrs. Gregory's fourth-period U.S. History. Not to mention Teddy Hancock, Adam's best friend.

And Lila's ex.

Whom Lila is currently steadfastly ignoring.

I've taken the ash-tipped arrow from the stock and slipped it back into my case. There will be, I know now, no extermination tonight.

Although I suppose I should be grateful that I wasn't the one who got snuffed out. If it hadn't been for Adam… well, I wouldn't be standing here right now, trying to explain to him something that's… well, frankly inexplicable.

"Seriously, Mary." Adam is regarding me with somber brown eyes. Funny that I'd never noticed how good-looking he is before now. Oh, he's no Sebastian Drake. Adam's hair is as dark as mine and his irises are dark as syrup, not blue as the sea.

But he does fairly well for himself with his broad-shouldered swimmer's physique-he's led Saint Eligius Prep to the regional finals in the butterfly two years in a row-and a six-foot frame (so tall that I practically have to crane my neck to see up into his face, my own height being a sadly disappointing-to me, anyway-five feet). He's a more than middling student and popular, too, if you count all the freshman girls who swoon every time he passes them in the hallway (not that he seems to notice).

There's nothing inattentive about the way he's staring at me now, though.

"What's the deal?" he wants to know, one of his thick dark eyebrows lifted with suspicion as he eyes me. "I know why Ted hates Drake. He stole his girl. But what's your beef with him?"

"It's personal," I say to him. God, this is so unprofessional. Mom will kill me when she finds out.

If she ever finds out.

On the other hand… well, Adam probably did just save my life. Even if he doesn't know it. Drake would have eviscerated me-right there in front of everyone-without thinking twice about it.

Unless he decided to play with me first. Which, knowing his father, is exactly what he would have done.

I owe Adam. Big-time.

But I'm not about to let him know it.

"How'd you get in there?" Adam wants to know. "Don't even tell me you made it through the metal detector with that thing."

"Of course I didn't," I say. Seriously, boys are so silly sometimes. "I got in through the skylight."

"On the roof?"

"That is generally where they keep skylights," I point out to him.

"You're so immature," Lila is saying to Ted. Her voice is soft and breathy, even if what she's saying isn't. She can't help it, though. She's just caught in Drake's spell. "What on earth were you hoping to accomplish?"

"You've barely known this guy a day, Lila." Ted's got his hands shoved deep in his pockets. He looks ashamed of himself… but defiant at the same time. "I mean, I could've gotten you into Swig if that's where you'd wanted to go. Why didn't you tell me? You know about my uncle Vinnie."

"It's not about what clubs Sebastian can get me into, Ted," Lila is saying. "It's about… well, just him. He's… perfect."

I have to swallow hard to keep down the vomit that's risen into my throat.

"Nobody's perfect, Li," Ted says, before I have a chance to.

"Sebastian is," Lila enthuses, her dark eyes glittering in the light from the single bulb illuminating the club's emergency side door. "He's so beautiful… and intelligent… and worldly… and gentle-"

That's it. I've heard more than I can take.

"Lila," I snap. "Shut up. Ted's right. You don't even know the guy. Because if you did, you'd never call him gentle."

"But he is," Lila insists, the glitter in her eyes fading to a warm glow. "You don't even know-"

A second later-I'm not even sure how it happened-I have her by the shoulders, and I'm shaking her. She's six inches taller than me and outweighs me by a good forty pounds.

But that doesn't matter. In that moment, all I want to do is knock some intelligence into her.

"He told you, didn't he?" I hear myself yell at her, hoarsely. "He told you what he is. Oh, Lila. You idiot. You stupid, stupid girl."

"Whoa." Adam is trying to pry my hands off Lila's bare shoulders. "Hey, now. Let's all calm down-"

But Lila wrenches herself out of my grasp and whirls on us with a triumphant expression.

"Yes," she cries with that exultant throb in her voice I recognize only too well. "He told me. And he warned me about people like you, Mary. People who don't understand-can't understand-that he comes from a line as ancient and as noble as any king's-"

"Oh my God." I'm itching to slap her. The only reason I don't is because Adam reaches out and grabs me by the arm-almost as if he'd read my mind. "Lila. You knew? And you went out with him anyway?"

"Of course I did," Lila says with a sniff. "Unlike you, Mary, I have an open mind. I'm not prejudiced against his kind, the way you are-"

"His kind? His kind?" If it wasn't for Adam holding me back-and murmuring, Hey, take it easy-I'd have thrown myself at her and attempted to beat some common sense into her vapid blond head. "And did he happen to mention how his kind survives? What they eat-or should I say drink-to live?"

Lila looks contemptuous. "Yes," she says. "He did. And I think you're making way too big a deal out of it. He only drinks blood he buys from a plasma center. He doesn't kill-"

"Oh, Lila!" I can't believe what I'm hearing. Well, I mean, I can, considering that it's Lila. Still, I would have thought that even she wouldn't be naive enough to fall for that one. "That's what they all say. They've been feeding that line to girls for centuries. I don't kill humans. It's total b.s."

"Hold on." Adam's grip on my arm has gotten quite a bit looser. Unfortunately, now that I'm at liberty to do so, I don't feel like smacking Lila anymore. I'm too disgusted. "What's going on here?" Adam wants to know. "Who drinks blood? Are you talking about-Drake?"

"Yes, Drake," I say tersely.

Adam stares down at me in disbelief, while beside him, his friend Ted whistles.

"Man," Ted says. "I knew there was something I didn't like about that guy."

"Stop it!" Lila cries. "All of you! Listen to yourselves! Do you have any idea how bigoted you sound? Yes, Sebastian is a vampire-but that doesn't mean he hasn't got the right to exist!"

"Uh," I say. "Considering that he's a walking abomination to humankind and has been feeding on innocent girls like you for centuries, actually, he doesn't have the right to exist."

"Wait a minute." Adam is still looking incredulous. "A vampire? Come on. That's impossible. There's no such thing as vampires."

"Oh!" Lila whirls toward him and stamps a foot. "You're even worse than they are!"

"Lila," I say, ignoring Adam. "You can't see him again."

"He didn't do anything wrong," Lila. insists. "He hasn't even bitten me-even though I've asked him to. He says it's because he loves me too much."

"Oh my God," I say in disgust. "That's just another line he's feeding you, Lila. Don't you see? They all say that. And he doesn't love you. Or at least, he doesn't love you any more than a tick loves the dog it's feeding off of."

"I love you," Ted says, his voice cracking on the word I. "And you dumped me for a vampire?"