Home > The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(15)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(15)
Author: Richelle Mead

Inez pondered this as she put the roses in a vase (which had roses painted on it) and allowed us to sit in her mauve parlor. The scent of roses was cloying, and I counted at least three plug-in air fresheners responsible for the oppressive atmosphere. Inez settled back into a velvet padded armchair that I almost thought was rose-free until I saw more of them carved into the wood.

“So.” Inez scrutinized me as I gingerly sat down beside Ms. Terwilliger on the sofa. Adrian made himself comfortable on a thronelike chair. “An apprentice, huh? And here I thought you just spent your free time advocating chia seeds in natural-foods forums.” The old woman’s eyes suddenly widened, and I realized she’d caught sight of my left cheek. She chuckled softly to herself. “This gets stranger by the minute. You’re braver than I thought, taking on one of them.”

“She’s very strong,” said Ms. Terwilliger almost defensively.

Inez tsked and picked up a teacup. It smelled like Earl Grey, and I hoped she’d offer us some. “Do you think I don’t know that? I could tell as soon as I opened the door. How’d you manage that? Aren’t you worried about consorting with the devil, girl? Or whatever it is you Alchemists believe?” She glanced over at Adrian. “But then, you must’ve overcome a few of your hang-ups about the supernatural if you rode in the same car as Jaclyn’s pool boy.”

I’d known Inez was familiar with the vampiric world. It was why we were here, after all, to learn about her history of fighting Strigoi. I also knew from being with the coven that vampires were just business as usual to some witches. Nonetheless, it was a completely new and baffling experience to be with an outsider who was so at ease with Moroi.

“These hands don’t do manual labor,” Adrian told her.

“Be quiet, boy,” she snapped. “Before you become less endearing.”

I cleared my throat. “I don’t do any consorting with the devil, ma’am.” Just an insolent yet irritatingly attractive vampire. “Mostly I’ve been translating spells and learning to defend myself.”

“Her training has made her an excellent scholar,” insisted Ms. Terwilliger.

“Scholar, pah.” Inez made a dismissive wave of her hand. “Just looks like some flighty teenage girl to me, one who probably thinks she’s being a rebel by tinkering with magic. Doesn’t matter how strong she is if she can’t focus and get serious about the craft. Do you have a boyfriend, girl? Yes, of course you do. That just makes things worse. There’s no getting through to them when all they’ve got is the backseat of a car on their mind. We didn’t have those problems in my day. They’d send us off to our mentors and lock us away. No boys. No temptation. Lose your virginity, girl, and you lose half your magic. Something you might have thought about, Jaclyn.” She finally paused to catch her breath and drink more tea. I made a point of studying her teacup because I knew if I looked at Adrian, I was going to start laughing. “No, there’s no use bothering with kids these days, not with all their texting and reality TV and power drinks. She’s a snappy dresser, I’ll give you that, but that’s not enough to get me to waste my time with some young girl.”

“You don’t even know what I want,” I blurted out. “And I’m not that young. I’ll be nineteen in about two weeks.”

Inez rolled her eyes. “Aquarius? Worse and worse.”

Ms. Terwilliger had regained some of her confidence and met Inez’s shrewd gaze with a level look. “She’s extremely disciplined and extremely advanced. She takes this very seriously and has already joined the Stelle.”

That, at least, came as a surprise, and Inez glanced at me with new consideration—though still not approval. “I suppose that’s something.”

“It’s just the warm-up,” said Adrian.

I gave him a warning look, not wanting him to “help” my case. “Please, ma’am. I need your guidance. I heard you’ve had lots of encounters with Strigoi. That you’ve fought some. I want to know more about it.”

She didn’t look impressed in the least. “Hmphf. That’s all? I figured someone like you would know more than me.”

“Not the magical side,” I said. “How did you fight them?”

“The same way anyone does. Stakes, fire, or decapitation. Not that the Moroi give us many stakes. But I’ve lit up a few Strigoi in my day. Just takes a good fireball spell.”

That wasn’t a huge revelation. “Yeah . . . I know a lot about that spell.”

Inez gave Ms. Terwilliger a quizzical look. “Didn’t your house burn down recently? Good grief, you guys weren’t experimenting with fireballs indoors, were you?”

My teacher shifted uncomfortably. “No. You’ll have to get that story from Alicia DeGraw.” There was a slight catch in her voice. “Veronica’s apprentice.”

“The one who went rogue,” said Inez.

“Yes. Sydney defeated her and saved my life.”

Inez studied me in a way that said I might not be a complete waste of time, and I took advantage of it. “Please, ma’am. Please help me. You seem like someone who really appreciates knowledge and learning, and I’d be so grateful if you’d share just a little of your wisdom.”

“Why should I help?” she asked. I could tell she was intrigued, though. Flattery really could get you places. “You don’t have any superior knowledge to offer me.”

“Because I’m superior in other things. Help me, and I’ll . . . I’ll fix your car out front. I’ll change the tire.”

That threw her off. “You’re in a skirt.”

“I’m offering you what I can. Manual labor in exchange for wisdom.”

“I don’t believe you can do it,” she said after several long moments.

I crossed my arms. “It’s an eyesore.”

“You have fifteen minutes,” she snapped.

“I only need ten.”

Naturally, Adrian felt the need to “supervise” my work. “Are you going to get mad if I tell you how hot this is?” he asked, kneeling near me, though careful not to get his own clothes dirty.

I had no time for such niceties as I sized up the spare tire, which seemed to be in only slightly better shape than the flat. “I assume you mean the temperature.” I was starting to sweat, which wasn’t helping matters.

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