Home > The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(14)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(14)
Author: Richelle Mead

“Yes, I’m aware,” Ms. Terwilliger said. “He called this morning and asked if he could join us. Inez is no stranger to Moroi, so I didn’t see it being a problem. In fact, it might throw her off a little, which would be to our advantage. Thank you, dear.” That was to Adrian, as she accepted her coffee through the driver’s side window.

He slid into the backseat and handed me my cup. A flutter of emotions stirred inside my chest. Last night’s encounter had left me unsettled, but seeing him now in the light of day, clear-eyed with that devil-may-care smile, I dared to hope that he really would make good on all that he’d said. How could he not? He radiated confidence, full of the charm and good looks that had drawn me in before I’d even known it was happening. There was no drunkenness or despair. He looked like he could do anything, and just then, I needed to believe he could. There were so many things weighing me down, so many things—including our future together—that seemed impossible. Having this invincible Adrian by my side filled me with a joy I rarely allowed myself. Our fingertips brushed as I took the cup, sending a jolt of electricity through me. I held his gaze for several long moments, and as his cocky smile softened into something more serious, I knew he could hear all the things I couldn’t give voice to.

“Weren’t you supposed to be painting your monolith?” I asked once we were back on the road.

“Rowena rescheduled. It gave me time to go get you a present,” he told me.

“I know. I’m drinking it right—ah!”

A glittering, scaly form scurried up my leg and curled into a ball on my lap. Carefully holding the coffee in one hand, I used the other to give Hopper a pat on the head as I ran a few mental calculations.

“You must have been up at the crack of dawn to get him and be back,” I said. “How much sleep did you get?” My shiny vision of Adrian began to falter a little. Lack of sleep was his enemy.

“More than enough for this escapade. Isn’t there a giant Muffler Man statue in Escondido? Do we have time for a photo op?”

“We’ve barely got enough time for this,” I said, thinking back on Zoe’s disappointment. But Adrian’s chatter and enthusiasm cast a cheer on the drive, and I could tell that even Ms. Terwilliger liked having him along, though worry lines appeared on her face the closer we got to our destination.

“Like I said before, I don’t know how helpful Inez will be,” she explained. “She’s very eccentric and controlled by her whims. If she likes you, she might tell you something. If she doesn’t, well . . .” Ms. Terwilliger shrugged. “Then maybe we’ll have time for photo ops.”

“Score,” said Adrian. When I shot him a look, he added quickly, “But of course she’ll like you.”

When we reached the outskirts of the city, Ms. Terwilliger made a stop not for coffee, but for a bouquet of burgundy roses that she thrust into my lap when she returned to the car, much to Hopper’s dismay. “Hang on to these,” she told me. I did without question and used the opportunity to transform Hopper back into his statue form. He’d had more than enough out time these past few days.

A recluse witch made me think of Clarence, so I was surprised when we pulled up at a very modern Spanish-style house that was pretty much the opposite of an old Gothic manor. It was made weirder still by an El Camino with a flat tire sitting out on the driveway. I’d expected something outlandish and eccentric from what the other witches had said, so this nod to normality was almost a disappointment.

Then we stepped inside the door.

It was like being in a shrine . . . to roses and doilies. Every surface in the place was covered. In that way it wasn’t unlike Ms. Terwilliger’s house; despite having her former home and possessions recently destroyed, she had somehow managed to fill up a new house with junk in less than a month. But whereas her items were tossed haphazardly around because she didn’t feel like putting them away, all the clutter here seemed to be by design. There were vases of silk roses carefully centered on crocheted doilies, figurines of puppies carrying roses in their mouths on lace doilies, and delicate rose-covered tea sets placed on paper doilies. And that was just the start of it. It all had a really old feel to it as well, like I’d been transported back to the 1890s.

Adrian stood behind us, just outside the door, and I was pretty sure I heard him mutter, “Needs more rabbits.”

“Well, hello, Inez,” Ms. Terwilliger said to our hostess. With a start, I realized I couldn’t ever recall my teacher acting so nervous around anyone. “You look as lovely as ever.”

Inez Garcia was a tiny waif of a woman, like some fairy from the hollow hills. Her white hair was pulled into a long braid down her back, and she wore her glasses around her neck on a long blue-beaded chain. Her jeans had an impossibly high waist and were paired with, unsurprisingly, a rose-printed shirt. The lines of her ninety years showed on her face, but there was a sharpness in her dark eyes that explained Ms. Terwilliger’s unease.

“Don’t you start up with me, Jaclyn Terwilliger! I know why you’re here. You want something. It’s the only reason anyone comes by these days. There’s no pleasantries, no tea. Just want, want, want.”

Ms. Terwilliger gulped and pushed me forward. “Inez, this is Sydney Melrose. Look what she’s brought for you.”

It took me a moment to remember the roses, and I held them out with a forced smile. Inez took them warily and sniffed each of them before giving a small grunt of approval. “Come in.” We entered further into the foyer, and that’s when she noticed Adrian. “Well, well, look what you dragged up. You could’ve saved yourself the money on the flowers and just brought me him. Been a while since I entertained a handsome young Moroi.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve met a woman who appreciates roses as much as I do,” said Adrian, ever quick on his feet. “Not that my experience has always been great with them. I’ve got to say, though, I’ve never seen such excellent decorating taste. You go for pink too, huh? I told them that when they got the flowers, but would they listen to me? No. They insisted on burgundy.”

Inez narrowed her eyes as she gave Ms. Terwilliger a once-over. “What are you playing at, bringing one of them here? Their kind almost never come to us for help.”

“This isn’t about him,” explained Ms. Terwilliger. “It’s Sydney. My apprentice.”

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