The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)(5)


by Richelle Mead

Their numbers were nothing compared to one Eddie, and they knew it. I couldn’t see them all run off, but I imagined it, and it was glorious. Silence fell, and a moment later, someone else was helping me stand. I glanced back and saw another familiar face, Neil Raymond, slipping his arm through mine.

“Can you walk?” asked Neil, his voice lightly touched by a British accent.

I winced as I put weight on my foot but nodded. “Yeah. Let’s just get home now and see if anything’s broken later. Thanks, by the way,” I added, as Eddie supported my other side and we began to walk. “Nice to know this Moroi-in-distress can count on such gallant knights to follow me around.”

Eddie shook his head. “Total coincidence, actually. We just happened to be on our way to your place with some news.”

A chill ran through me, and I stopped my halting steps. “What news?” I demanded.

A smile crossed Eddie’s features. “Relax—it’s good news. I think. Just unexpected. You and Sydney have a visitor at the front gate. A human visitor.”

If I hadn’t been in so much pain, my jaw would’ve dropped. That was unexpected news. In marrying me and seeking sanctuary among the Moroi, Sydney had cut herself off from most of her human contacts. One of them showing up here was weird, and it couldn’t be an Alchemist. An Alchemist would’ve been turned away.

“Who is it?” I asked.

Eddie’s smile turned into an outright grin. “Jackie Terwilliger.”

Chapter 2

“OH, ADRIAN.”

There was nothing more I could say as I helped wipe blood and dirt from Adrian’s face with a damp cloth, brushing aside wayward pieces of chestnut hair. He gave me his devil-may-care smile and still managed to look dashing, despite his bedraggled state.

“Hey, don’t sound so down, Sage. It wasn’t that hopeless of a fight.” He glanced over at Neil and said in a stage whisper, “Right? Tell her it wasn’t that hopeless of a fight. Tell her I really held my own.”

Neil managed a wan smile, but Adrian’s mother spoke before he could. “Adrian, dear, this is no time for jokes.”

My vampire mother-in-law and I didn’t agree on many things, but this was a topic we were in perfect harmony about. The pall from our earlier fight still hung over us, and I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that I hadn’t worked harder to get him to stay. At the very least, I should’ve told him to bring a guardian, since this wasn’t his first encounter with troublemakers. Usually, guardians only accompanied Moroi out in the world, where Strigoi were a real danger. But here, with the rest of Adrian’s people thinking we were freaks of nature for getting married, antagonism hit a little closer to home. We’d faced plenty of threats and slander, though never outright violence before. It was a stroke of good—albeit weird—luck that Eddie and Neil had found him.

Eddie was gone, having hurried off to the front gates to escort Ms. Terwilliger to us. It was a sign of my distress over Adrian’s condition that I’d barely spared a moment to ponder what in the world could’ve brought my former history teacher and magical mentor to the royal stronghold of a secretive race of vampires. Even though some troubled part of me worried her visit couldn’t be for any good reason, I still couldn’t help but be excited at the prospect of seeing her. It had been months since we’d been together in person. I loved Adrian and didn’t mind Daniella—but was dying for some other sort of interaction.

“Nothing’s broken,” Adrian insisted. “I probably won’t even have a scar from any of this. Too bad. I think a well-placed scar right about here”—he touched the side of his face—“could really accentuate my already-perfect cheekbones while adding a rugged touch of manliness to my features. Not that I need any more manliness—”

“Adrian, enough,” I said wearily. “I’m just glad you’re okay. That could’ve been a lot worse. And you should still see a doctor after this, just to be safe.”

He looked as though he had another snarky comment ready and then, wisely, said, “Yes, dear.”

He attempted an angelic expression that only strengthened my suspicion that he had no intention of actually following through. I shook my head, smiling in spite of myself, and then gave him a kiss on the cheek. Adrian. My husband. If anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be married, I would’ve said they were joking. If they’d told me I’d be married to a vampire, I would’ve said they were delusional. Looking at Adrian now, I felt a surge of love well up within me, despite our earlier tension. I could no longer imagine a life without him in it. It was impossible. Could I imagine a life with him that didn’t involve us being trapped in a suite of rooms with his mother while both our peoples reviled us and made plans against us? Definitely. There were any number of futures I’d love to have for us, but this was our current path until something spectacular happened. Outside the Court’s gates, my people wanted to imprison me. Inside them, his people wanted to assault him. At least in this suite, we were safe. Most importantly, we were together.

A knock at the door saved Adrian from any more chastisement. Daniella opened it, and Eddie appeared in the doorway. Seeing him almost always brought a smile to my face. In Palm Springs, we’d passed ourselves off as twins, sharing similar dark blond hair and brown eyes. But over time, he’d truly come to feel like a brother to me. I knew few others with such courage and loyalty. I was proud to call him my friend, and as such, it hurt me to see all the pain he felt over Jill’s disappearance. There was always a haunted look about him now, and sometimes I worried whether he was really taking care of himself. He hardly ever shaved anymore, and I had a feeling the only reason he bothered eating was so that he could keep training and stay in shape for when he located Jill’s abductors.

But my concerns for Eddie were put on hold when I saw the next person entering our suite. I sprinted across the room and wrapped her in a big embrace that caught her by surprise. Ms. Terwilliger—I could never bring myself to call her Jackie, even if I wasn’t her student anymore—had changed my life in so many ways. She’d taken on the role my father used to have: teaching me secrets of an ancient art. Unlike him, though, she never made me feel bad about myself. She’d encouraged me and supported me, making me feel worthwhile and capable, even if I wasn’t always perfect. She and I had communicated by phone since I’d come to Court, but it wasn’t until now that I realized how much I’d missed her.