The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)(9)

by Richelle Mead

No one had an answer for that right away until Ms. Terwilliger said pragmatically, “We can always get you back in the same way we’re getting you out.”

I grimaced and glanced down at the cup in my hands, wondering how I’d feel about that later. In the living room, Ms. Terwilliger had helpfully propped up a full-length mirror from Daniella’s bedroom. She now hauled the pet carrier over to it and opened the door. A white cat with tabby patches—Mr. Bojangles—came out and calmly sat in front of the mirror. If I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve said he was admiring himself.

“You know the words?” asked Ms. Terwilliger.

I nodded and knelt down by the cat. I’d memorized the spell throughout our work time today. “Anything I should know before this happens?”

“Just remember to look at the cat once the spell is cast,” Ms. Terwilliger said.

I glanced at the others one last time. “See you soon, I guess.”

“Good luck,” said Neil.

Adrian met my eyes for a long moment, saying nothing aloud yet somehow conveying a million messages. I felt a lump form in my throat as that earlier sentiment returned. We’d fought so hard to get here, and here I was, walking away. Not walking away, I told myself. Going to save Jill. What Adrian and I had talked about earlier was true. We loved each other but weren’t so selfish about our love that we could simply turn our backs on someone we cared about.

I gave him a small smile and then drank the potion. It had a faintly peppery taste, not entirely unpleasant but also not something I’d really drink for fun. When the cup was empty, I set it aside and then focused on the mirror—particularly the cat’s reflection beside mine. Mr. Bojangles was still sitting contentedly, and I assumed Ms. Terwilliger had picked this particular cat for his good nature. I called upon the magic within me, tuning out the rest of the world and focusing only on the spell at hand. I spoke the Latin words, still gazing at the cat. Aside from the physical labor involved, the spell required a fair amount of personal strength, and when I finished speaking, I felt exhausted as the magic surged through me and went to work.

My eyes were on the cat, but slowly, my vision of him changed. In fact, my eyesight changed completely. The cat’s orange color muted to gray in my vision while the pattern on his coat suddenly sharpened. I noticed more nuance and detail in the tabby pattern than I had before. Meanwhile, everything looked incredibly bright, as though the lights had been turned up. I blinked a few times to try to clear up that sensation and noticed I was getting closer and closer to the ground. Something fell over my face, obscuring my sight, and I wiggled out from under it. It was my shirt. Looking back at the mirror, I found myself regarding the reflections of two cats.

One of them was me.

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

I didn’t recognize the voice as Adrian’s right away. I was still human enough to understand language, but my new ears processed sounds in an entirely different way. In particular, I heard more of them, and ordinary noises from before seemed louder. I had little time to ponder this as two hands suddenly scooped me up and pushed me into the cat carrier. The door shut.

“We don’t want to get them mixed up,” Ms. Terwilliger said.

“Where are you going to put the other one?” asked Daniella.

“Wherever you like,” said Ms. Terwilliger. “I can’t take him with me. The guards saw me come in with one cat. They’ll see me leave with one.”

“What?” My mother-in-law’s voice came out extra shrill to my ears. “That creature’s staying?” It figured. Her daughter-in-law transforming into an animal? No problem. Having to take care of a cat? Crisis.

“I’ll pick you guys up a litter box and some cat food,” said Neil helpfully.

Through the metal grating on my carrier door, Adrian’s face suddenly appeared, peering in at me. “What’s new, pussycat? You okay in there?”

Out of habit, I tried to answer, but all that came out was a half meow.

The world suddenly whirled around me as the carrier lifted in the air, forcing me to scramble to keep my balance with both feet and senses that were foreign. “No time for chitchat,” said Ms. Terwilliger. “We need to move.”

Adrian must have followed her because his face appeared again through the door. “Be careful, Sage. I love you.”

Ms. Terwilliger and Eddie made their farewells and headed out the door. We walked through the building and then outside. I knew from an earlier clock that it was still nighttime, but the world I was able to see through the gaps in the carrier looked wholly different from what I was used to. The scattered lampposts more than lit up the darkness to my enhanced vision, and even if I didn’t see a full range of colors, I could see much farther than my human eyes ever could have. We had at least an hour on the spell’s longevity, but my companions kept up a good pace, walking briskly through the Court’s grounds to visitor parking.

There, Ms. Terwilliger reclaimed the rental car she’d driven in and set my carrier in the backseat. It gave me a poor view of our surroundings but still allowed me to hear everything. At the main gate, guardians interrogated Ms. Terwilliger about her visit, wanting to know why Eddie was with her.

“I’m currently on leave,” he responded in a way that was brisk but not defensive. “I’ve got personal matters to take care of, and she offered me a ride.”

“I know the roads outside your Court aren’t always friendly in the dark,” Ms. Terwilliger added. “So I don’t mind the company.”

“Wait, and the sun’ll be up in less than an hour,” said the guardian.

“No time,” she replied. “I have a flight to catch.”

As Adrian had predicted, the guardians searched the car thoroughly, and I heard one of them whisper to the other, “Make sure there are no stowaways.”

My anxiety rose, and I found myself experiencing the strange sensation of whipping my tail back and forth.

A dhampir face appeared before me, and he made some clicking sounds. “Hey, kitty, kitty.”

I made no response, afraid it might come out as a hiss.

The guardians finally cleared us, and like that, we were on the road, free of the place that had been both a sanctuary and prison for the last month. Ms. Terwilliger drove us another half hour to put distance between us and Court, and then pulled the car off on the shoulder of a rural highway. Once parked, she opened up the carrier so that I could come out onto the backseat, and she set a pile of clothes beside me. Beyond her, I could barely discern the sky lightening.