Home > The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(8)

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)(8)
Author: Richelle Mead

“No,” I said swiftly. “I think . . . I think it’s a great idea.” If it’s not too late.

I could hear her choke up a little and wondered if she was fighting tears. “We’ll have to go to court. No one’s going to bring up the Alchemists, not even me, but there’s going to be a lot of discussion of suitability and character analysis. Zoe will testify . . . and so will you and Carly.”

And that’s when I knew why she said this would be so difficult. “You guys will want us to choose one of you.”

“I’ll want you to tell the truth,” she had said firmly. “I don’t know what your father will want.”

I did. He would want me to slander my mom, to say she was unfit, just some homemaker who fixed cars on the side and couldn’t possibly compare with a serious academic like him, who provided Zoe with all sorts of education and cultural experiences. He’d want me to do it for the good of the Alchemists. He’d want me to do it because he always got his way.

“I love and support whatever you feel is right.” The bravery in my mom’s voice broke my heart. She was going to have more than family complications to deal with. Alchemist connections extended far and wide. Into the legal system? Very possibly. “I just wanted you to be prepared. I’m sure your father will want to speak to you too.”

“Yes,” I said grimly. “I’m sure he will. But what about right now? Are you okay?” Stepping away from Zoe, I had to acknowledge how life-altering this was for my mom. Maybe their marriage had become painful, but they’d been together for almost twenty-five years. Leaving something like that was a big adjustment, no matter the circumstances.

I could sense her smiling. “I’m fine. I’m staying with a friend of mine. And I took Cicero with me.”

Thinking of her spiriting our cat away made me laugh, in spite of the solemnity of the conversation. “At least you have company.”

She laughed as well, but there was a fragile quality to it. “And my friend needs some work done on her car, so we’re all happy.”

“Well, I’m glad, but if there’s anything you need, anything at all, money or—”

“Don’t worry about me. Just take care of yourself—and Zoe. That’s the most important thing right now.” She hesitated. “I haven’t spoken to her lately . . . is she okay?”

Was she? I supposed it depended on how you defined “okay.” Zoe was thrilled that she was out learning the Alchemist trade at so young an age but arrogant and cold toward my friends—just like anyone else in our organization. That, and she was a constant, looming shadow over my love life.

“She’s great,” I assured my mom.

“Good,” she said, her relief nearly palpable. “I’m glad you’re with her. I don’t know how she’ll take this.”

“I’m sure she’ll understand where you’re coming from.”

It was a lie, of course, but there was no way I could tell my mom the truth: Zoe was going to fight her, kicking and screaming, every step of the way.

Chapter 3


WHETHER SHE GOT A PARENTAL PHONE CALL of her own or simply had to deal with Zoe’s shock, I knew Sydney would’ve found out about the divorce by the time I visited her in her sleep.

The few spirit users I knew could all heal pretty well, but none of them could walk dreams as adeptly as I could. It was nice to know I excelled at something, and surprisingly it involved a pretty low level of spirit—just a steady hum, rather than the burst that healing required. The downside was that unlike the person I visited, I wasn’t actually asleep—more in a meditative state—so I could end up pretty exhausted if the dream took a while. Seeing as I wasn’t that great a sleeper to begin with, I supposed it didn’t make much difference.

I pulled Sydney into a dream around midnight, making the two of us materialize in one of her favorite places: the courtyard of the Getty Villa, a museum of ancient history out in Malibu. Immediately, she ran up to me, a frantic look in her eyes.


“I know,” I said, catching hold of her hands. “I was there when Zoe got the call.”

“Did she tell you the ugly details?”

I raised an eyebrow. “There’s something uglier than a divorce?”

Sydney then proceeded to tell me about the bloodbath of a custody battle to come. While I could appreciate their mom wanting Zoe to have a semi-normal life, I had to admit to myself that my reasons for hoping their mom would win were pretty selfish. Zoe disappearing from Palm Springs would make things a hell of a lot easier for Sydney and me. But I knew Sydney’s immediate concern was her family being torn apart, and my immediate concern was her happiness. One part of her story in particular caught my attention.

“You really think your dad might be able to work some Alchemist coercion with a judge?” I asked. I’d never thought of that, but it wasn’t that far-fetched. The Alchemists could create new identities, get a group of dhampirs and Moroi into a private school on no notice, and cover up dead Strigoi in the press.

She shook her head and sat down on the fountain’s edge. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s not needed if Zoe’s adamant about wanting to be with Dad. I don’t really know how these kinds of hearings work.”

“And what are you going to do?” I asked. “What will you say?”

She met my gaze levelly. “I’m not going to slander either of them, that’s for sure. But as for what I’ll advocate? It’s hard to say. I’ll have to think about it. I get my mom’s view, and I even believe in it. But if I lean that way, Zoe’ll hate me forever—not to mention the fallout with my dad and the Alchemists.” A small, bitter smile crossed her lips. “When I got back to our room tonight, Zoe didn’t even ask me about my thoughts. She just assumed it was a done deal—that I’d take Dad’s side.”

“When will it all go down?”

“Not right away. They haven’t set a date yet.”

She fell silent, and I picked up on the vibe that maybe it was time to switch topics. “How’d the initiation go? Was there any na**d dancing or animal sacrifice?”

Her smile warmed up. “Tea and hugs.”

She gave me a brief recap, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of Jackie loading up on wine. Sydney wouldn’t tell me her secret name, though, no matter how much I tried to wheedle it out of her.

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