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

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

“You don’t have to go if you’re afraid,” I said. There was probably nothing else I could’ve said that would’ve motivated her more. She was driven to become a super Alchemist, largely to impress the Sage father, who, I’d concluded after many stories, was a major ass**le.

Zoe took a deep breath and steeled herself. Without another word, she climbed in beside Jill and slammed the door, huddling as close to it as possible. “Sydney should’ve left the SUV,” she muttered a little while later.

“Where is Sage, anyway? Er, Sage Senior,” I amended, pulling out of the school’s driveway. “Not that I don’t like chauffeuring you guys around. You should’ve brought me a little black cap, Jailbait.” I nudged Jill, who nudged me back. “You could whip up something like that in your sewing club.”

“She’s off doing some project for Ms. Terwilliger,” said Zoe disapprovingly. “She’s always doing something for her. I don’t get why history research takes up so much time.”

Little did Zoe know that said project involved Sydney being initiated into her teacher’s coven. Human magic was still a strange and mysterious thing to me—and completely anathema to the Alchemists—but Sydney was apparently a natural. No surprise, seeing as she was a natural at everything. She’d overcome her fears of it, just as she had of me, and was now fully immersed in learning the trade from her zany yet loveable mentor, Jackie Terwilliger. To say the Alchemists wouldn’t like that was an understatement. In fact, it was really a toss-up which would piss them off more: learning the arcane arts or making out with a vampire. It would almost be comical, if not for the fact that I worried the hard-core zealots among the Alchemists would do something terrible to Sydney if she was ever caught. It was why Zoe shadowing her had made everything so dangerous lately.

“Because it’s Sydney,” said Eddie from the backseat. In the rearview mirror, I could see an easy smile on his face, though there was a perpetual sharpness in his eyes as he scanned the world for danger. He and Neil had been trained by the guardians, the dhampir organization of badasses that protected the Moroi. “Giving one hundred percent to a task is slacking for her.”

Zoe shook her head, not as amused as the rest of us. “It’s just a stupid class. She only needs to pass.”

No, I thought. She needs to learn. Sydney didn’t just eat up knowledge for the sake of her vocation. She did it because she loved it. And what she would’ve loved more than anything was to lose herself in the academic throes of college, where she could learn anything she wanted. Instead, she’d been born into her family job, jumping when the Alchemists ordered her to new assignments. She’d already graduated from high school but treated this second senior year as seriously as the first, eager to learn whatever she could.

Someday, when this is all over, and Jill is safe, we’ll run away from everything. I didn’t know where, and I didn’t know how, but Sydney would figure out those logistics. She’d escape the Alchemists’ hold and become Dr. Sydney Sage, PhD, while I . . . well, did something.

I felt a small hand on my arm and glanced briefly down to see Jill looking sympathetically up at me, her jade-colored eyes shining. She knew what I was thinking, knew about the fantasies I often spun. I gave her a wan smile back.

We drove across town, then to the outskirts of Palm Springs to the home of Clarence Donahue, the only Moroi foolish enough to live in this desert until my friends and I had shown up last fall. Old Clarence was kind of a crackpot, but he was a nice enough one who’d welcomed a ragtag group of Moroi and dhampirs and allowed us to use his feeder/housekeeper. Moroi don’t have to kill for blood like Strigoi do, but we do need it at least a couple times a week. Fortunately, there are plenty of humans in the world happy to provide it in exchange for a life spent on the endorphin high brought on by a vampire bite.

We found Clarence in the living room, sitting in his massive leather chair and using a magnifying glass to read some ancient book. He looked up at our entrance, startled. “Here on a Thursday! What a nice surprise.”

“It’s Friday, Mr. Donahue,” said Jill gently, leaning down to kiss his cheek.

He regarded her fondly. “Is it? Weren’t you just here yesterday? Well, no matter. Dorothy, I’m sure, will be happy to accommodate you.”

Dorothy, his aging housekeeper, looked very accommodating. She’d hit the jackpot when Jill and I arrived in Palm Springs. Older Moroi don’t drink as much blood as young ones, and while Clarence could still provide an occasional high, frequent visits from Jill and me provided a near-constant one for her.

Jill hurried over to Dorothy. “Can I go now?” The older woman nodded eagerly, and the two of them left the room for more private accommodations. A look of distaste crossed Zoe’s face, though she said nothing. Seeing her expression and the way she sat far away from everyone else was so like Sydney in the old days, I almost smiled.

Angeline was practically bouncing up and down on the couch. “What’s for dinner?” She had an unusual southern accent from growing up in a rural mountain community of Moroi, dhampirs, and humans who were the only ones I knew of that freely lived together and intermarried. Everyone else in their respective races regarded them with a kind of mingled horror and fascination. As appealing as that openness was, living with them had never crossed my mind in my fantasies with Sydney. I hated camping.

No one answered. Angeline looked from face to face. “Well? Why isn’t there food here?” Dhampirs don’t drink blood and can eat the regular kinds of food humans do. Moroi also need that sort of food, though we don’t need it in nearly the same quantities. It takes a lot of energy to keep that active dhampir metabolism fired up.

These regular gatherings had become kind of a family dinner affair, not just for blood but also for regular food. It was a nice way to pretend we led normal lives. “There’s always food,” she pointed out, in case we’d never noticed. “I liked that Indian food we had the other day. That masala or whatever stuff. But I don’t know if we should go there any more until they start calling it Native American food. It’s not very polite.”

“Sydney usually takes care of food,” said Eddie, ignoring Angeline’s familiar and endearing tendency to stray into tangents.

“Not usually,” I corrected. “Always.”

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