Home > The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(2)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(2)
Author: Richelle Mead

Sydney held one up and studied it with an expert eye. She grinned. “You’ve got a fortune here. This is platinum. Sell these and you’d have allowance for life. And all the records you want.”

“I’d sleep in a cardboard box before I sold those.”

She noticed the change in me and turned around, her expression filled with concern. “Hey, I was just joking.” Her hand gently touched my face. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay. The world was suddenly a cruel, hopeless place, empty with the loss of my aunt, queen of the Moroi and the only relative who hadn’t judged me. I felt a lump in my throat, and the walls seemed to close in on me as I remembered the way she’d been stabbed to death and how they’d paraded those bloody pictures around when trying to find her killer. It didn’t matter that the killer was locked away and slated for execution. It wouldn’t bring Aunt Tatiana back. She was gone, off to places I couldn’t follow—at least not yet—and I was here, alone and insignificant and floundering. . . .

“Adrian.”

Sydney’s voice was calm but firm, and slowly, I dredged myself out of the despair that could come on so quickly and heavily, a darkness that had increased over the years the more I used spirit. It was the price for that kind of power, and these sudden shifts had become more and more frequent recently. I focused on her eyes, and the light returned to the world. I still ached for my aunt, but Sydney was here, my hope and my anchor. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t misunderstood. Swallowing, I nodded and gave her a weak smile as spirit’s dark hand released its hold on me. For now.

“I’m okay.” Seeing the doubt in her face, I pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Really. You need to go, Sage. You’ll make Zoe wonder, and you’ll be late for your witch meeting.”

She stared at me with concern a few moments longer and then relaxed a little. “Okay. But if you need anything—”

“I know, I know. Call on the Love Phone.”

That brought her smile back. We’d recently acquired secret prepaid cell phones that the Alchemists, the organization she worked for, wouldn’t be able to track. Not that they regularly tracked her main phone—but they certainly could if they thought something suspicious was happening, and we didn’t want a trail of texts and calls.

“And I’ll come by tonight,” I added.

At that, her features hardened again. “Adrian, no. It’s too risky.”

Another of spirit’s benefits was the ability to visit people in their dreams. It was a handy way to talk since we didn’t have a lot of time together in the waking world—and because we didn’t spend much time talking in the waking world these days—but like any use of spirit, it was a continual risk to my sanity. It worried her a lot, but I considered it a small thing in order to be with her.

“No arguments,” I warned. “I want to know how things go. And I know you’ll want to know how things go for me.”

“Adrian—”

“I’ll keep it short,” I promised.

She reluctantly agreed—not looking happy at all—and I walked her out to the door. As we cut through the living room, she paused at a small terrarium sitting near the window. Smiling, she knelt down and tapped the glass. Inside was a dragon.

No, really. Technically, it was called a callistana, but we rarely used that term. We usually called him Hopper. Sydney had summoned him from some demonic realm as a sort of helper. Mostly he seemed to want to help us out by eating all the junk food in my apartment. She and I were tied to him, and to maintain his health, we had to take turns hanging out with him. Since Zoe had moved in, however, my place had become his primary residence. Sydney lifted the lid of the tank and let the small golden-scaled creature scurry into her hand. He gazed up at her adoringly, and I couldn’t blame him for that.

“He’s been out for a while,” she said. “You ready to take a break?” Hopper could exist in this living form or be transformed into a small statue, which helped avoid uncomfortable questions when people came by. Only she could transform him, though.

“Yeah. He keeps trying to eat my paints. And I don’t want him to watch me kiss you goodbye.”

She gave him a light tickle on the chin and spoke the words that turned him into a statue. Life was certainly easier that way, but again, his health required he come out now and then. That, and the little guy had grown on me.

“I’ll take him for a while,” she said, slipping him into her purse. Even if he was inert, he still benefited from being near her.

Free of his beady little gaze, I gave her a long kiss goodbye, one I was reluctant to let end. I cupped her face in my hands.

“Escape plan number seventeen,” I told her. “Run away and open a juice stand in Fresno.”

“Why Fresno?”

“Sounds like the kind of place people drink a lot of juice.”

She grinned and kissed me again. The “escape plans” were a running joke with us, always far-fetched and numbered in no particular order. I usually made them up on the spot. What was sad, though, was that they were actually more thought out than any real plans we had. Both of us were painfully aware that we were very much living in the now, with a future that was anything but clear.

Breaking that second kiss was difficult too, but she finally managed it, and I watched her walk away. My apartment seemed dimmer in her absence.

I brought in the rest of the boxes from my car and sifted through the treasures within. Most of the albums were from the sixties and seventies, with a little eighties here and there. They weren’t organized, but I didn’t make any attempts at that. Once Sydney got over her stance that they were a wasteful splurge, she wouldn’t be able to help herself and would end up sorting them all by artist or genre or color. For now, I set up the record player in my living room and pulled out an album at random: Machine Head by Deep Purple.

I had a few more hours until dinner, so I crouched down in front of an easel, staring up at the blank canvas as I tried to decide how to deal with my current assignment in advanced oil painting: a self-portrait. It didn’t have to be an exact likeness. It could be abstract. It could be anything, so long as it was representative of me. And I was stumped. I could’ve painted anyone else I knew. Maybe I couldn’t capture that exact look of rapture Sydney had in my arms, but I could paint her aura or the color of her eyes. I could have painted the wistful, fragile face of my friend Jill Mastrano Dragomir, a young princess of the Moroi. I could have painted flaming roses in tribute to my ex-girlfriend, who’d torn my heart apart yet still managed to make me admire her.

   
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