The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)(10)

by Richelle Mead

“There you go,” she said, moving back to the front seat. “I should probably have told you before . . . it’s a lot easier going into this spell than it is coming out of it.”

Chapter 3

MINUTES FELT LIKE HOURS AFTER SYDNEY’S DEPARTURE. I paced the length of our small suite, a knot in my chest, as I braced myself for the worst. Any second now, I feared, I would get word that the plan had gone awry and guardians had intercepted Sydney trying to escape Court.

“Darling, must you do that?” my mother asked at last. “You’re agitating the animals.”

I paused and glanced down to where Mr. Bojangles was keeping a wary eye on Hopper—the small, enchanted dragon that Sydney had summoned earlier this year. Hopper had become a pet of sorts and was regarding the cat with an excitement that clearly wasn’t reciprocated.

“I don’t think it’s me, Mom. They’re just—”

A chime from my phone interrupted me, and I dove for it, startling both cat and dragon. On my phone’s display, a text message from Eddie was clear and succinct: Made it out of Court. All is well.

I texted back: Am I still married to a cat?

Yes, came the response, followed a moment later by: But Ms. T swears it’s temporary.

Some of my anxiety lessened, but not all. I wrote: Let me know when she’s back.

Twenty minutes later, a new message came in, this one from Sydney herself: Back in human form. Everything seems to be normal.

Everything? I questioned.

Well, aside from a weird urge to chase laser pointers, she responded.

If that’s the worst effect, I’ll take it. Keep me posted. I love you.

I meow you too, she wrote back. It was promptly corrected with: I mean, I love you.

I smiled as I put the phone away but found I was still a long way from feeling as though all was right in the world. I couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t entirely settled between Sydney and me, and that wasn’t even taking into consideration the physical threats she now faced. She’d made it outside of Court . . . but was now potentially facing all the same dangers that had driven us to seek sanctuary here.

Only if they know she’s out, Aunt Tatiana’s voice reminded me, in a rare moment of legitimate helpfulness. As long as no one’s looking for her—and she doesn’t get discovered—she’ll be safe. So don’t blow it.

Right, I agreed. And no one will have any reason to think she’s not here. She never leaves our suite, and we don’t really have that many visitors.

Later that day, of course, we had a visitor.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a regiment of guardians demanding to know Sydney’s whereabouts. Instead, I found Sonya Karp Tanner standing outside our door, smiling when she saw me. Whatever relief I found at seeing her was quashed by an anxious Aunt Tatiana.

Don’t let your guard down at any cost! she hissed.

Sonya’s our friend, I silently replied.

Aunt Tatiana disagreed. It doesn’t matter. No one can know Sydney’s gone, no matter how friendly you think they are. All it takes is one little slip, no matter how good the intention. The fewer the people who know a secret, the better.

With a pang, I realized she was right. Meanwhile, Sonya’s congenial expression had turned puzzled as I conducted my mental conversation with a phantom.

“Are you okay, Adrian?” asked Sonya.

“Fine, fine,” I said, beckoning her in. “Just tired. I had kind of a rough morning.” I gestured vaguely at my face, which still bore the signs of scuffling with Wesley and his crew.

As I’d hoped, Sonya was effectively deflected. Concern lit her features. “What happened?”

“Oh, the usual. Just some idiots jealous of me being married to the hottest human around.”

“Where is she?” asked Sonya, glancing around the empty suite. “And your mother?”

“Mom went to bed,” I replied. “And Sydney . . . she’s out for a walk.”

Sonya’s sharp eyes focused back on me. “She’s out after you were attacked this morning?”

“Well, it’s daylight out, so there’s less of a threat. And . . . Neil’s with her.” I nearly said Eddie but wasn’t sure if Sonya might have heard about him leaving Court. Knowing my luck now, Neil would stop by unannounced and ruin the story. “She needed some air,” I added, seeing Sonya’s skeptical look. “Staying cooped up inside is really getting to her.” That, at least, wasn’t a lie.

Sonya held my gaze a few more moments before finally deciding to let the topic go. She could probably tell from my aura and body language that I wasn’t being entirely honest, but it was unlikely she could guess the truth—that Sydney had transformed into a cat and been smuggled out of Court in a far-fetched attempt to find Jill.

“Well, it’s you I came to see,” Sonya said at last. “I need to discuss something with you. Or rather—someone.”

I sat down at our kitchen table and nodded for her to do the same. Discuss someone? I could do that, as long as it wasn’t Sydney. “Who do you have in mind?” I asked.

Sonya laced her fingers together and took a deep breath. “Nina Sinclair.”

I winced. Perhaps not as problematic as Sydney right now, but Nina was by no means a welcome topic. She was a spirit user, like me, one I’d been pretty good friends with while Sydney had been in captivity. Unfortunately, Nina had wanted to be much better friends and had been reading more into our relationship than there was. She’d taken my rejection badly—and had responded even worse when she found out I’d married a human. On the rare times I’d passed her since returning to Court, I was constantly reminded of the old “if looks could kill” adage.

“What about Nina?” I asked carefully. “Is she still working for you?”

Sonya was the leader on a project attempting to use spirit to prevent people from turning Strigoi. Nina had inadvertently helped with this initially when she’d restored her sister, Olive, from being a Strigoi. With several of us working together, we’d managed to transfer that spirit magic to Neil’s blood, effectively creating a vaccine that protected Neil from ever being forcibly turned. Sonya’s victory had been short-lived, however, as she was unable to replicate that effect in anyone else. But she was still tirelessly working toward that goal.

“Technically, yes, but it’s been a while since she truly offered anything of value.” Sonya’s expression darkened. “Nina’s been a little . . . off lately.”