The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)(11)


by Richelle Mead

I couldn’t help a small laugh at that. “We’re spirit users. We’re all a little off.”

Sonya didn’t return my smile. “Not like this. If you could see her . . . well, you’d understand. I sent her home yesterday because she wasn’t making any sense. She also looked as though she hadn’t slept in weeks. The only spirit user I’ve seen in such bad shape was . . . well, the time I interviewed Avery Lazar.”

That drew me up short. Avery, another spirit user, was currently in the mental facility of a Moroi prison. “Avery used ridiculous amounts of spirit,” I reminded her. “I mean, ridiculous. And on a regular basis.” Bringing back Jill had taken its toll on me, temporarily draining me of spirit, but it had been a one-time thing. Avery had attempted a number of high-power feats, over and over, landing her in her current state when her mind finally couldn’t take any more. “Nina would have to be doing some pretty serious magic to end up like that.”

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of,” said Sonya grimly.

I gasped, thinking of Avery. “That she’s trying to acquire shadow-kissed bondmates?”

“No, not that . . . but something that takes almost as much power and is being done on a regular basis. Whenever I try to get an answer out of her, she evades me or just starts babbling nonsense.” Sonya sighed. “I’m worried about her, Adrian. She needs help, but she won’t talk to me.”

As the pointed silence grew, I suddenly caught on to what Sonya was getting at. “What? You think she’ll talk to me?”

Sonya shrugged. “I don’t know who else to ask.”

“Well, not me!” I exclaimed. “She was furious when I turned her down. If she’s got something going on and needs help, I’m not the one she’s going to turn to. You need to ask someone else.”

“There is no one else! Her sister’s still missing. And did you know Nina quit her office job? Or . . . actually, I think she was fired, but it’s hard to get a straight answer out of her. As far as I know, you and I are the only ones around who care about what she’s doing to herself—and we need to step up and help her.”

“She won’t talk to me,” I reiterated.

Sonya raked a hand through her dark red hair. “You might be surprised. Even though things . . . fell out . . . between you, she clearly still felt as though there was some connection. Please, Adrian. Please just try. If she sends you away, fine. So be it. I won’t ask you again.”

I started to say no once more, but a closer look at Sonya stopped me. She truly was agitated by this. It was in her voice and eyes . . . even in the colors of her aura. I knew Sonya wasn’t the type to overreact. I also knew she wouldn’t ask this of me if she wasn’t truly concerned, especially since she was the one who’d advised me to stay away from Nina to protect her feelings.

I glanced at the time. It was growing late by our standards. Most Moroi would be going to bed. “Okay if I wait to see her until tomorrow?”

Sonya considered and then gave a small nod. “I’m sure that’ll be fine. Of course, I’m also sure she probably won’t be asleep anytime soon. But it may be best if you wait for Sydney to get back before leaving, so that Neil can accompany you.”

For a moment, I nearly said that Eddie was with Sydney, not Neil, and then I remembered the cover story. I’d have to get in touch with Neil to make sure he backed up what I said. If I wasn’t careful, things could get very complicated very quickly. It was what I hated most about lying: It rarely stayed simple.

“Sounds good,” I said, standing as Sonya did. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“Thank you. I know this isn’t—” She bit her words off as Mr. Bojangles came tearing through the room, with Hopper in hot pursuit. Sonya turned to me, startled. “When did you get a cat?”

“Uh, today, actually. Jackie Terwilliger—Sydney’s old teacher?—left it when she visited.”

That was obviously news to Sonya. “She was here? At Court? How long did she stay?”

“Not long,” I said, immediately wishing I hadn’t mentioned it at all. “Just checking up on Sydney.”

“That’s a lot of effort just to check up on someone. A phone call would’ve been simpler.”

I hoped I looked guileless. “Yeah, but then she wouldn’t have been able to give us the cat. Belated wedding gift.”

“Adrian,” said Sonya, using the voice she must have used to chastise countless students when she was a high school biology teacher, “what aren’t you telling me?”

“Nothing, nothing,” I said, steering her to the door. “Relax, we’re all fine. The only thing you need to worry about is how fast Nina’s going to send me packing.”

“Adrian—”

“Everything’s fine,” I said cheerily. I opened the door for her. “Thanks for stopping by. Say hi to Mikhail for me.”

It was clear from her expression that I’d completely failed in convincing her of my innocence, but at least she looked like she wasn’t going to compel me to tell her what was really going on—for now. We made our farewells, and I breathed a sigh of relief when she was gone, hoping no one else would come by and force me to fumble for another excuse about why Sydney wasn’t around.

I went to bed soon thereafter and was awakened midday by a new text message from Sydney. She reported that she, Eddie, and Jackie had made it to Pittsburgh but wouldn’t be truly investigating the museum until nightfall. She assured me everything was fine, and I assured her of the same, deciding it was probably best if she didn’t know I’d agreed to go talk to a potentially crazy girl who was either in love with me or despised everything about me. Sydney had enough to worry about.

When the Moroi Court began waking up later in the day, I managed to get Neil to come back and walk me over to Nina’s. It was early enough that not too many people were out, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. Neil, driven by duty, was happy to help me regardless, but I knew he had an ulterior interest in going with me to see Nina. Months ago, he and her sister, Olive, had had the beginnings of a romance blossoming. None of us were entirely sure how far it had gone, but things had ended abruptly when Olive had taken off with little contact with Nina and none with Neil. I doubted Nina had any new details on her sister’s whereabouts, but Neil was probably hoping for some scrap of info.