Home > The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(10)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(10)
Author: Richelle Mead

“Up late partying?” she asked me now.

I took a long drink of the coffee, feeling only slightly guilty that Sydney would be salivating if she could see me. “Just up late.” I yawned. “Where are we at?”

She pulled out our sketch, which was on a bar napkin and read, Insert sketch here.

“Hmm,” I said. “Promising start.”

After an hour of hashing out ideas, we decided to do a model of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey and then cover it with advertising slogans and internet lingo. I’d actually gotten bored during that movie, but Rowena was going off about how it was a symbol of advanced evolution and how our designs would be an ironic statement of where our society had ended up. Mostly I was on board because I thought it wouldn’t involve too much effort. I was serious about my painting, but this was just a general required class.

A good chunk of our day was spent just getting the supplies. Rowena had borrowed a friend’s pickup truck, and we went to a building-supply store in hopes of finding a large concrete rectangle for our monolith. We lucked out and even found some smaller blocks to put at the base of it.

“We can make a ring,” Rowena explained. She’d recently dyed her hair lavender and absentmindedly tucked wayward locks behind her ears as she spoke. “And then paint the various stages of evolution. Monkey, caveman, all the way up to some hipster texting on his cell phone.”

“We didn’t evolve from monkeys,” I told her as we wrestled the rectangle onto a pallet. “The earliest human ancestor is called Australopithecus.” I wasn’t entirely sure where vampire evolution fit in, but I certainly wasn’t bringing that up.

Rowena released the block and stared in amazement. “How the hell do you know that?”

“Because I mentioned the monkey thing the other day, and my girlfriend had a, uh, few things to say about that.” A “few” things had actually turned into a one-hour lesson on anthropology.

Rowena laughed and lifted one of the smaller blocks. They were still pretty heavy but didn’t require both of us. “I’d really like to meet this mythical girlfriend of yours, if only to see who in the world could put up with you. I could get Cassie, and we could all go out for a drink together.”

“She doesn’t drink,” I said quickly. “And she’s eighteen anyway. Well, almost nineteen.” With a start, I realized Sydney’s birthday was fast approaching at the beginning of next month, February, and I didn’t have anything for her. In fact, after my investment in vinyl, I didn’t have much money at all until my dad’s next deposit came in mid-month.

Rowena smirked. “Younger woman, huh?”

“Hey, it’s legal.”

“I don’t want to know about your sordid sex life.” She hoisted another block. “We’ll go to Denny’s or something. If you don’t bring her around soon, I’ll think you made her up.”

“I couldn’t make her up if I tried,” I declared grandly. But inside, I couldn’t help but feel a little wistful. I would’ve loved to go out on a double date with Rowena and her girlfriend. I was pretty sure Sydney would hit it off with her, if only to gang up and tease me mercilessly. But public appearances weren’t an option, not unless we went for a night on the town with the Keepers.

We took our concrete haul back to Carlton College’s campus and began the arduous task of transporting the blocks to a large quadrangle that our class had gotten permission to use. A few of our classmates were working as well, and they helped us carry the centerpiece, which made things a lot easier. Even if it wasn’t up to scale with the movie’s monolith, it was still a bitch to lift. That left us to bring in the small blocks, and our conversation quieted as we worked. We were both tired and glad to be nearly done for the afternoon. The actual painting would happen tomorrow. It was Rowena’s specialty too, and we wanted to be ready and fresh to make the most of our strengths in this project. It was cool out, but the sky was clear, leaving nothing between the sun and me. That was why I’d consented to the early time, sparing me from the worst of the light. I’d be able to rescue Hopper from that witch soon and then go home in the hopes that Sydney could get away.

Once all the blocks were on the quad, Rowena grew obsessed with arranging them perfectly. I didn’t care at this point and busied myself texting a message to Sydney on the Love Phone, letting her know that my art was a paltry thing compared to the brilliance of her beauty. She texted back: This is me rolling my eyes. To which I replied: I love you too.

“We could do this,” said Rowena, setting three of the smaller blocks on top of one another. “Mini-monoliths.”

“Whatever you want.”

She decided against it and started to lift the top one. I’m not entirely sure what happened after that. I think it was just a subtle shift in her hand gone wrong. Whatever it was, the block slipped from her grasp and fell hard—slamming her hand between it and the brick-covered ground below.

Her scream rang through the diag, and I moved with a speed that would’ve impressed Eddie. I grabbed the block and lifted it, but as I did, I knew it was a little too late. A few tendrils of spirit told me she’d broken some bones in her hand. And in those split seconds of chaos, I acted. It was her right hand, and breaking it was going to put her out of commission with painting for the rest of the semester. She could do intricate, delicate things with watercolors that I could only dream of. No way could I endanger that. I sent a burst of spirit into her hand, drawing from my own life energy to mend the bones. Healing usually felt like a tingle to the recipient, and I could tell from the shock on her face that she had noticed.

“What did you do?” she gasped.

I fixed my eyes and sent out a burst of compulsion. “Nothing,” I said. “Except move the block. This is a pretty traumatic and confusing experience for you.”

Her eyes glazed over for a brief moment, and then she nodded. I let go of the magic, the sudden emptiness within me the only indication of just how much I’d pulled out for the healing and compulsion. With the tingling gone from her mind, Rowena cradled the afflicted hand as our classmates came running over.

“Holy shit,” said one of them. “Are you okay?”

Rowena winced. “I don’t know. It doesn’t feel . . . I mean, it aches . . . but nothing like when it first hit.”

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