The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)(3)

by Richelle Mead

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “When we do find her, I need my magic. There’s no telling what I’ll need to do.”

“Like fix her acne?” asked Sydney.

I flinched. “I told you, it was nothing! Let me worry about me and how much spirit I can use. It’s not your job.”

She turned incredulous. “Of course it is! I’m your wife, Adrian. If I’m not going to worry about you, who will? You need to keep spirit in check.”

“I can handle it,” I said through gritted teeth.

“Is your aunt still talking to you?” she demanded.

I looked away, refusing to meet her eye. In my head, Aunt Tatiana sighed. You never should have told her about me.

At my silence, Sydney said, “She is, isn’t she? Adrian, that’s not healthy! You have to know that!”

I spun around in anger. “I can handle it. Okay? I can handle it, and I can handle her!” I shouted. “So stop telling me what to do! You don’t know everything—no matter how much you want everyone to think you do!”

Stricken, Sydney took a step back. The pain in her eyes hurt me a lot more than her earlier words had. I felt terrible. How had this day gone so wrong? It was supposed to have been perfect. Suddenly, I needed to get out. I couldn’t stand these four walls anymore. I couldn’t stand my mother’s control. I couldn’t stand feeling like I was always disappointing Sydney—and Jill. Sydney and I had come to Court to seek protection from our enemies, hiding here so we could be together. Lately, it seemed like this arrangement was in danger of tearing us apart.

“I have to get out,” I said.

Sydney’s eyes widened. “To where?”

I raked a hand through my hair. “Anywhere. Anywhere to get some air. Anywhere but here.”

I turned before she could say anything and stormed out through the living room, past where my mom was drinking from the feeder. She gave me a quizzical look, but I ignored it and kept on going until I was out our door and through the lobby of the guest-housing building. It wasn’t until I emerged outside, until the balmy summer air hit my skin, that I paused to evaluate my actions—and pop a piece of gum, which was my current way to avoid smoking when stressed. I stared back up at the building, feeling guilty and cowardly for running out on our fight.

Don’t feel bad, Aunt Tatiana said. Marriage is hard. That’s why I never did it.

It is hard, I agreed. But that’s not an excuse to run away. I need to go back. I need to apologize. I need to work things out.

You’re never going to work things out as long as you’re locked up here and Jill’s still missing, warned Aunt Tatiana.

Two guardians walked past me just then, and I caught a piece of their conversation, mentioning extra patrols for the council meeting going on. I remembered my mom’s earlier comment about that meeting, and inspiration suddenly hit. Turning away from the building, I began hurrying toward what served as the royal palace here at Court, hoping I could get to the meeting in time.

I know what to do, I told Aunt Tatiana. I know how to get us out of here and fix things with Sydney and me. We need a purpose, a goal. And I’m going to get us one. I need to talk to Lissa. If I can make her understand, I can fix everything.

That phantom made no response as I walked. Around me, midnight had clothed the world in darkness—bedtime for humans, prime time for those of us on a vampiric schedule. The Moroi Court was set up like a university: forty or so venerable brick buildings arranged around beautifully landscaped quads and courtyards. It was high summer, warm and humid, and there were a fair number of people out and about. Most were too consumed with their own affairs to notice me or realize who I was. Those who did shot me those same curious looks.

They’re just jealous, Aunt Tatiana declared.

I don’t think that’s what it is, I told her. Even knowing she was a delusion, it was hard not to respond sometimes.

Of course it is. The Ivashkov name has always inspired awe and envy. They’re all underlings, and they know it. In my day, this never would’ve been tolerated. It’s that child queen of yours letting things run amok.

Even with the intrusive looks, I found I enjoyed my walk. It really wasn’t healthy being shut indoors so much—something I never thought I’d admit. Despite the thickness of the humid air, it felt light and refreshing to me, and I found myself wishing Sydney could be out here too. A moment later, I decided that wasn’t right. She needed to be outside later, when the sun was up. That was the time for humans. Being on our schedule was probably just as hard on her as the isolation. I made a mental note to suggest a walk with her later on. Sun didn’t kill us like it did Strigoi—evil, undead vampires—but it wasn’t always comfortable for Moroi either. Most slept or stayed in during the day, and Sydney would be less likely to run into anyone if we timed our outing correctly.

The thought cheered me as I popped in another piece of gum and reached the royal palace. Outside, it looked like all the other buildings, but inside, it was decorated with all the grandeur and opulence you’d expect from the royalty of an ancient civilization. The Moroi elected their monarchs from among twelve royal families, and massive portraits of those illustrious figures lined the corridors, illuminated by the light of glittering chandeliers. Crowds of people walked the halls, and when I reached the council’s chamber, I saw that I’d arrived at the end of the meeting. People were leaving as I entered, and many of them, too, stopped to stare at me. I heard whispers of “abomination” and “human wife.”

I ignored them and kept my focus on my real goal, up near the front of the room. There, near the council’s platform, stood Vasilisa Dragomir—the “child queen” Aunt Tatiana had referred to. Lissa, as I called her, stood ringed by dark-suited dhampir guardians: half-human, half-Moroi warriors whose race had originated from a time long ago, when Moroi and humans had intermarried without scandal. Dhampirs couldn’t have children with each other, but through a genetic quirk, their race continued by reproducing with Moroi.

Standing just beyond Lissa’s bodyguards, Moroi press shouted questions at her that she answered in that same calm way of hers. I summoned a bit of spirit magic in order to view her aura, and she lit up in my vision. She shone with gold, indicating she was a spirit user like me, but her other colors had dimmed, and there was a tremulous quality to it all, showing she was uneasy. I released the magic as I hurried up to the crowd and waved my hand in her direction, shouting to be heard among the noise. “Your majesty! Your majesty!”