Home > The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(13)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(13)
Author: Richelle Mead

I couldn’t stop spirit from ravaging Adrian, and I couldn’t condemn him for that gut instinct to help others. It made my heart ache, thinking of that burning kindness within him that so few ever saw. The only thing I could do was be there for him and encourage him to draw upon the strength I knew he possessed. Maybe he couldn’t defeat spirit permanently, but I knew he could put up better resistance against falling back on his old habits to cope. There had to be healthier ways to survive, and I believed without a doubt that he had the self-control and willpower to enact them. I just wished he believed that as well.

I parked in Amberwood’s garage after diligently seeking a spot between two other properly parked cars. Honestly, how hard was it for people to park between the lines? My Mazda was still shiny and new, and I feared dents and dings. My last car, a brown Subaru named Latte, had been spectacularly blown up by foam, courtesy of an evil witch who’d been after Ms. Terwilliger. After Neil and Zoe had increased our numbers, the Alchemists had ordered that Latte’s replacement be a seven seater. This CX-9, dubbed Quicksilver for its paint, was the sexiest SUV crossover I could find. Adrian told me I was one step away from being a suburban mom in a minivan.

I’d calmed down by the time I reached my dorm room but couldn’t help a few sniffles in my pillow. Zoe, who I’d thought was asleep, spoke through the darkness.

“Are you upset about Mom and Dad?”

“Yeah,” I lied.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “They won’t take me away from him.”

I pretended to fall asleep.

I felt back in control when I woke the next morning, particularly because I had a task at hand. Ms. Terwilliger, good to her word as usual, had made midday arrangements for me to visit Inez, the witch that the other Stelle had regarded with a mix of both amusement and nervousness. As far as Zoe was concerned, I was going off on a research trip to a university library in San Diego.

“Why are you always off doing stuff with her?” Zoe asked. She stood in front of our mirror, brushing her long brown hair into a ponytail.

“She’s my teacher, and it’s part of my independent study with her.” I was sifting through my drawers for something to wear, and my hand lingered on a purple T-shirt that had a silvery Celtic-style heart with flames trailing from it. Adrian had made it for me, sort of as a joke, but it had become one of my most prized possessions. “Besides, I’ve pretty much already taken every other subject with Dad. This is my only interesting class.”

“I suppose.” She sounded unconvinced and then abruptly brightened. “You’ll tell them that, right? In court? About how thorough Dad’s education was? That’ll go a long way.”

“I’m sure it will.” I smiled stiffly as I shut the T-shirt drawer and moved to my closet for something more formal. I didn’t know much about Inez, but if she was some venerable elder, maybe I should show extra respect. I opted for a black pencil skirt and long-sleeved white shirt covered in black dots. A small wooden cross with morning glories painted on it, courtesy of Adrian, was my only accessory.

Zoe frowned. “You’re wearing that to a library?”

“It’s a prestigious one,” I said evasively. “I should be back in time to go with you guys to Clarence’s, but if not, Eddie will take you. Ms. Terwilliger’s driving me, so you can have Quicksilver.”

“Thank God,” she said with a shudder. “You can’t imagine what it was like in Adrian’s car. I had to sit right next to Jill.”

After rooming with Zoe for a month, I’d grown surprisingly immune to her commentary and found it was easier on everyone if I just didn’t react, even when her comments were extreme by Alchemist standards. “And don’t forget to stop and pick up dinner this time.”

“It’s not our job to remind them,” she protested.

“Our job is to make sure Jill gets to Clarence’s and that life runs smoothly for everyone. Those ‘family dinners’ are a nice way for everyone to destress and get along. It’s not a big deal to grab something to go. You should do Chinese,” I added decisively. “They haven’t had it in a while.” Also, Adrian had mentioned a craving for kung pao chicken the other day.

“Do you ever wish we had a cooler car?” Zoe asked unexpectedly.

I started laughing. “Yes, but the mission trumps our car choices right now. I didn’t know you thought about that kind of stuff.”

She sat down on her bed, and a mischievous smile played at her lips. “Hey, I grew up in the same place as you. Do you remember when Mom worked on that Jaguar at our house? That was a cool car.”

“Of course I do.” A surge of affection welled up in me as I regarded her. “But you were . . . what? Eight? Nine?”

“Old enough to wish I could drive it. I used to sneak into the garage at night and sit in it. I thought I was being stealthy, but I think Mom knew the whole time.” That fledgling smile bloomed on her face, and I caught my breath. My dad didn’t have complete control over her. Was there a chance she hadn’t tossed our mom aside? Was there a chance the custody hearing might work out amicably?

And was there a chance that Zoe might ever come around to thinking of Moroi and dhampirs as real people? Until this moment, seeing these glimmers of the sister I remembered and loved, it had never occurred to me that it might be possible to sway her thinking—on a lot of issues. Since her arrival, I’d been tiptoeing around her, nodding and reciting party lines. Was there a way that I might actually be able to influence her? It was more than I dared hope, and I knew better than to tip my hand too soon, lest it ruin this unguarded moment. I simply filed it away for later and put on my poker face.

Ms. Terwilliger picked me up in her red Volkswagen Beetle soon thereafter, wearing sunglasses with leopard-print frames. After five minutes on the road, she pulled off at a coffee shop. “Are you still doing your ridiculous abstaining?” she asked.

“Yes, but I haven’t had my cup today.” I’d held off for this very reason, knowing she’d make a stop. Holding out this long was making my hands twitch.

She shifted the car into park and nodded toward the shop’s door. “Good thing.”

I follow her gaze and gaped as Adrian straightened up from where he was leaning against the outside of the building, a cup in each hand. He grinned at us and sauntered toward the car. “That’s Adrian,” I said stupidly.

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