Home > The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)(10)

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)(10)
Julie Kagawa

Lucas blinked at me. Dark and muscular, he had large hands and a curiously babylike face, except for his thick, serious eyebrows. When I first joined the group, Lucas had been intim-idating; a serious, no-nonsense figure even as a twelve-year old. Over the years, the fear had lessened, but the respect had not. When our old leader started demanding a food tax-a portion of everything we scavenged-Lucas had stepped in, beaten him to a pulp and taken over the gang. Since then, no one had challenged him. He was always fair; survival was his priority, regardless of feelings. Like me, he'd watched members of our gang die of starvation, cold, sickness, wounds, or just vanish off the face of the earth. We'd burned more

"friends" than anyone should ever have to. Lucas had to make hard, unpopular decisions sometimes, and I didn't envy him the job, but everything he did was to keep us alive.

Especially now that the group was so small. Fewer people meant fewer mouths to feed, but that also meant fewer bodies to hunt for food and to protect us from rival gangs if they ever got the notion to invade our turf. It was just the four of us-me, Rat, Lucas and Stick, not enough protection if Kyle's gang decided they wanted us gone. And Lucas knew it.

Lately he confused me. We'd always been friends, but this past year his interest in me had changed. Maybe because I was the only girl in the group, maybe something else; I didn't know and I wasn't going to ask. We'd kissed last summer, more out of curiosity on my part, but he had wanted more and I wasn't sure if I was ready. He hadn't pressed the issue when I'd stopped him, saying I needed time to think about it, but now it hung between us, unresolved, like a big f lag. It wasn't that Lucas was ugly or undesirable; I just didn't know if I wanted to get that close to someone. What if he disappeared, like so many of our kind did? It would just hurt that much more.

Lucas was still frozen in the doorway, broad shoulders filling most of the frame. I glanced past him and saw sunlight streaming in the broken windows of the school, casting jagged spots of light over the cement. By the looks of the sky, it was early to midafternoon. Damn. I'd slept far too long.

Where was Stick and why hadn't he woken me?

"Allison." The relief in Lucas's voice was palpable. Stepping forward, he surprised me by pulling me into a tight hug.

I returned it, feeling the hard muscles of his back, his breath against my skin. Closing my eyes, I relaxed into him, just for a moment. It was nice, having someone I could lean on for a change.

We drew back quickly, not wanting the others to see just yet. This was still new for both of us. "Allie," Lucas muttered, sounding embarrassed. "Stick told me you came back. Were you out all night?"

"Yeah." I gave him a crooked smile. "Sounds like things got exciting after I left."

He glared at me. "Rat started telling everyone you'd been Taken. Stick was freaking out. I had to tell both of them to shut up or I'd put a fist in their face." His glare grew sharper, almost desperate. "Where the hell were you all night? The bloodsuckers were all over the streets."

"The ruins."

Lucas's dark eyes bulged. "You went outside the Wall? At night? Are you crazy, girl? You want to get eaten by rabids?"

"Believe me, I didn't mean to get stuck there after sunset." I shivered, remembering what had almost happened in the shed that night. "Besides, rabids or no, I found something that made it all worth it."

"Yeah?" He raised a thick, bristling eyebrow. "This I gotta hear."

"A whole basement of food." I smirked as both of Lucas's eyebrows shot up. "Canned goods, packaged stuff, bottled water, you name it. I'm serious, Luc-wall-to-wall shelves, full of food. And no one's guarding it. We'd be set for months, maybe the whole winter. All we have to do is get out there and grab it before anyone else does." Lucas's eyes gleamed. I could almost see the wheels in his brain turning. The thought of going into the ruins was scary as hell, but the promise of food trumped that easily. "Where is it?" he asked.

"Just past the kill zone. You know the drainage pipe that empties out near the old-" He gave me a confused look, and I shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I can get us there. But we should leave now, while there's daylight."

"Now?"

"You wanna wait to see if there's a lockdown?" He sighed and jerked his head down the hall. I followed him toward the common room. "No, but it'll be risky. Lots of patrols today-pets and guards combing the streets, still looking for something. It'll get worse tonight, though." We entered the common room, where Rat lounged in a moldy chair playing with his knife, his legs dangling over the arm.

"Oh, hey, the lost bitch returns," he drawled. His voice was honking and nasal, as if his nose was still full of blood. "We were sure you'd been Taken, or had your throat torn out in some dark alley. Sure was nice and quiet without you. Except for your wuss boyfriend, bawling in the corner." He sneered at me, mean and challenging. "I had to shove his pasty head into a doorjamb to get him to stop mewling." Lucas pretended to ignore him, though I saw his jaw tighten. We'd kept our...thing...a secret from the others, which meant Lucas couldn't show favoritism by leaping to my defense. Fortunately, I could take care of myself.

I smiled sweetly at Rat. "I'm sure you did. How's that busted nose treating you, by the way?" Rat's sallow cheeks reddened, and he held up his rusty knife. "Why don't you come over here and take a look?" Lucas kicked the back of his chair, making him yelp. "Make yourself useful and get the backpacks from the hall closet," he ordered. "Allie," he continued, as Rat pulled himself to his feet, scowling, "find Stick. If we're going to do this now, we need all the help we can get."

"With what?" Stick asked, coming into the room. Seeing the three of us, his eyes widened, and he edged closer to me.

"Are we going somewhere?"

"Oh, there you are." Rat smiled like a dog baring its fangs.

"Yeah, we were just talking about how we don't have enough food and that the weakest link, the one that doesn't do anything around here, should be fed to the vampires. And hey, it's you. No hard feelings, right?"

"Ignore him," I said, locking eyes with Rat as Stick cringed away. "He's being an ass, as usual."

"Hey." Rat held up his hands. "I'm only being honest. No one else has the guts to say it, so I will."

"Aren't you supposed to be doing something?" Lucas asked in a warning voice, and Rat left the room with a leer, waggling his tongue in my direction. I made a note to break his nose the other way as soon as I got the opportunity.

Stick frowned, looking back and forth at both of us. "What's going on?" he asked warily. "You guys aren't..." He trailed off, looking at me. "You aren't really discussing what Rat said, right? I'm not that pathetic...am I?"

I sighed, ready to brush it off as being stupid, but Lucas spoke up before I got the chance. "Well, now's your chance to prove him wrong," he said. "Allison, in her insane night-time wandering, found something important. We're going to get it."

Stick blinked, glanced nervously at Rat coming into the room again, four dusty, tattered backpacks slung over his shoulders. "Where?"

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