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Authors: Richelle Mead

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And yet . . . what could I do? I was sworn and sealed to the Alchemists. Whether I
liked what they’d done to me or not, there was no way out, no way to question them. . . .

At least, I’d thought that until I learned about Marcus Finch.

I’d only found about him recently, after discovering he’d once crossed the Warriors
of Light by helping a Moroi named Clarence. Although the Warriors usually only went
after Strigoi, a rebel group had once decided to target Clarence. Marcus had stepped
up and defended Clarence against the Warriors, convincing them to leave him alone.
I’d almost believed Clarence was making up the story until I saw a picture of Marcus.

And that was where things got
really
weird. Marcus seemed to have also crossed the Alchemists. In fact, Clarence and one
of the Warriors had hinted that Marcus had at one time been an Alchemist—but was no
longer. I hadn’t believed it until I saw his picture. He didn’t have a golden lily—but
a large tribal-looking tattoo done in blue ink that was large enough to cover the
golden one, if you were trying to hide it.

Seeing that was life changing. I’d had no idea it was possible to tattoo over something
so powerful. I certainly hadn’t thought anyone could leave the Alchemists or that
anyone would even want to, not with the way our purpose was drilled into us practically
from birth. How could someone consider abandoning our missions? How could someone
go rogue and just walk away from the Alchemists? What had happened that would make
him want to do that? Had he had experiences similar to mine?

And would they let him go?

When I’d asked about him, Stanton claimed the Alchemists had no knowledge of Marcus,
but I knew that was a lie. She didn’t know I had his picture. His blue tattoo was
big enough to cover a lily, and I’d seen metallic hints of one underneath, proving
he had indeed once been one of us. And if he’d had the Alchemist mark, then they most
certainly knew about him. They were covering him up, and that just intrigued me further.
In fact, I was a little obsessed with him. Some instinct told me he was the key to
my problems, that he could help me uncover the secrets and lies the Alchemists were
telling me. Unfortunately, I had no clue how to find him.

“It’s important no one here knows what you’re doing, so remember to be discreet,”
Stanton added, like I needed to be reminded. A small crease appeared between her eyebrows.
“I was particularly worried about that Ivashkov boy coming to this wedding. We can’t
let anyone know you two have more than a passing acquaintance. Little things like
that could compromise our mission.”

“Oh, no,” I said quickly. “You don’t need to worry about Adrian. He understands how
important our work is. He’d never do anything to compromise it.”

Ian returned, and our discussion ended there. Dinner soon gave way to dancing. With
the atmosphere more relaxed, a number of Moroi came over to introduce themselves to
us. I felt nearly as popular as the bride and groom. Ian shook so many hands that
he eventually became immune to it. And as uncomfortable as it was for my companions,
I could tell this event was actually accomplishing its goal of smoothing relations
between Alchemists and Moroi. Stanton and Ian were by no means ready to be best friends
with any of them, but it was clear they were pleasantly surprised at how friendly
and benign most of the guests seemed.

“I’m glad we got this chance to be together,” Ian told me during a lull in our public
relations. “It’s so hard with our jobs, you know? I’m in St. Louis now, in the facility
archives. Where do they have you?”

Secrecy was key in Jill’s protection. “I’m in the field, but I can’t say where. You
know how it is.”

“Right, right. But you know, if you ever wanted to visit . . . I’d show you around.”

His desperation was almost cute. “Like for a vacation?”

“Well, yeah. Er, no.” He knew as well as I did that Alchemists didn’t get vacations
easily. “But, I mean, they’re doing all the holiday services, you know. If you decide
to come to one, well, let me know.”

Alchemist priests always conducted special services around Christmas in our main facilities.
Some Alchemist families made a point of going to them every year. I hadn’t been to
any in a while, not with the way my missions kept jumping around.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

There was a long pause, and his next words came haltingly. “I’d ask you to dance,
you know. Except it wouldn’t be right in this kind of unholy setting.”

I gave him a stiff smile. “Of course. That, and we’re here on business. We’ve got
to focus on building good relationships with them.”

Ian had started to respond when a familiar voice interrupted us. “Miss Sage?”

We looked up and found Adrian standing above us, dashing in his shades of blue. His
face was the picture of perfect politeness and restraint, meaning something disastrous
was probably about to happen.

“It’s so nice to see you again,” he said. He spoke as though it had been a while,
and I nodded in agreement. As I’d assured Stanton, Adrian knew too much familiarity
between us might create a trail back to Jill. “Did I just hear you two talking about
building good relationships?”

I was tongue-tied, so Ian answered. “That’s right. We’re here to make things friendlier
between our people.” His voice, however, was most decidedly unfriendly.

Adrian nodded with all seriousness, like he hadn’t noticed Ian’s hostility. “I think
it’s a great idea. And I thought of something that would be an excellent gesture of
our future together.” Adrian’s expression was innocent, but there was a mischievous
sparkle in his eye that I knew all too well. He held out his hand to me. “Would you
like to dance?”

CHAPTER 4

I FROZE.
I didn��t trust myself to respond.

What was Adrian thinking? Putting aside all the drama between us, it was absolutely
unforgivable to ask this here, in front of other Moroi and Alchemists. Maybe in Palm
Springs, where things were a little more casual with my friends, it might not be that
crazy a request. But here? He risked exposing that we knew each other, which in turn
risked Jill. Almost as bad, it could be a tip-off of his feelings for me. Even if
I insisted that I had no matching feelings, the fact that things had progressed this
far could get me in serious trouble with the Alchemists.

As all these thoughts raced through my mind, a more concerning one suddenly popped
up. A good Alchemist shouldn’t be worried about any of those things. A good Alchemist
would have simply been horrified at the immediate problem: dancing with a Moroi.
Touching
a vampire. Realizing this, I quickly mustered an outraged expression, hoping I looked
convincing.

Fortunately, everyone else was too shocked to pay much attention to me. Good relations
only went so far. Stanton and Ian wore legitimate looks of disgust. The Moroi nearby,
while not appalled, were astonished at the breach of etiquette. And yet . . . I also
saw a couple exchange looks that said they weren’t entirely surprised Adrian Ivashkov
would suggest something so outrageous. This was an attitude I’d seen a lot with him.
People often shrugged off his behavior with, “Well, that’s Adrian.”

Ian found his voice first. “She . . . no! She absolutely can’t!”

“Why not?” Adrian glanced between all our faces, his expression still sunny and unassuming.
“We
are
all friends, right?”

Abe, who was rarely shocked by anything, managed to shake off some of his surprise.
“I’m sure it’s not that big a deal.” His tone was uncertain. He knew that Adrian wasn’t
a total stranger to me but undoubtedly assumed I had the usual Alchemist hang-ups.
As tonight had demonstrated, most Alchemists still struggled with handshakes.

Stanton seemed to be waging a mental war. I knew she thought it was an outlandish
request . . . yet she was still conscious of the need to keep things pleasant. She
swallowed. “Perhaps . . . perhaps it would be a nice gesture.” She shot me a sympathetic
look that seemed to say,
Sometimes you have to take one for the team.

Ian jerked his head toward her. “Are you crazy?”

“Mr. Jansen,” she snapped, conveying a stern warning in just his name.

All eyes turned toward me as everyone realized that ultimately, it was my decision.
At this point, I didn’t know if I should be shocked or scared—and the thought of dancing
with Adrian made me feel both. I met Stanton’s eyes again and slowly gave a nod. “Sure.
Okay. Good relations, right?”

Ian’s face turned bright red, but another sharp look from Stanton kept him silent.
As Adrian led me to the dance floor, I heard a few whispered comments from curious
Moroi mentioning “that poor Alchemist girl” and “there’s no predicting what he does
sometimes.”

Adrian put his arm around my waist, perfectly proper and distant. I tried not to think
about the last time I’d been in his arms. Even with appropriate spacing between us,
our hands were still clasped, our stances still intimate. I was hyperaware of every
single place his fingers rested on my body. His touch was light and delicate but seemed
to carry an extraordinary heat and intensity.

“What were you thinking?” I demanded once we were moving to the music. I was trying
to ignore his hands. “Do you know how much trouble you may have gotten me in?”

Adrian grinned. “Nah. They all feel bad for you. You’ll achieve martyrdom after dancing
with a mean, wicked vampire. Job security with the Alchemists.”

“I thought you weren’t going to pressure me about . . . you know . . . that stuff. . . .”

The look of innocence returned. “Have I said a word about that? I just asked you to
dance as a political gesture, that’s all.” He paused for impact. “Seems like
you’re
the one who can’t get ‘that stuff’ off your mind.”

“Stop turning my words against me! That’s not—no—that’s not right at all.”

“You should see that Stanton woman watching us,” he remarked with amusement, glancing
behind me.

“Everyone’s watching us,” I grumbled. It wasn’t like the entire room had come to a
standstill, but there were certainly a number of curious onlookers, gawking at the
unlikely sight of a Moroi and a human—an Alchemist, at that—dancing.

He nodded and swept me into a turn. He was a good dancer, which wasn’t entirely a
surprise. Adrian might be brash and impertinent, but he knew how to move. Maybe dance
lessons had been part of growing up in an elite tier of Moroi society. Or maybe he
was just naturally skilled at using his body. That kiss had certainly show a fair
amount of talent. . . .

Ugh. Adrian was right. I
was
the one who couldn’t get over “that stuff.”

Unaware of my thoughts, he glanced over at Stanton again. “She’s got the look of a
general who just sent her army on a suicide mission.”

“Nice to know she cares,” I said. For a moment, I forgot my dance floor woes as I
thought angrily back to Stanton’s “need to know” attitude.

“I can pull you closer, if you want,” he said. “Just to see how much she cares. I’m
always willing to help like that, you know.”

“You’re a real team player,” I said. “If putting me in danger is for the greater good,
then Stanton probably wouldn’t do anything about you moving in on me.”

Adrian’s self-satisfied smirk faded. “Did she ever come clean about that guy you were
trying to find? Martin?”

“Marcus,” I corrected. I frowned. Her denial still bothered me. “She keeps claiming
she doesn’t know him, and I can’t push too hard if I don’t want her to get suspicious.”

“I thought of a way you might find him,” said Adrian. I would’ve thought he was joking
if his face wasn’t so serious.


You
did?” I asked. The Alchemists had vast information at our disposal, with hands in
all sorts of agencies and organizations. I’d been scouring them these last few weeks
and found it unlikely that Adrian would have access to something I didn’t.

“Yup. You’ve got his picture, right? Couldn’t you just do the same spell you did the
other night? Locate him that way?”

I was so surprised, I nearly tripped. Adrian tightened his grip to keep me from falling.
I shivered as that small gesture brought us closer. The tension between us kicked
up a notch, and I realized that along with our bodies being nearer, so were our lips.

I had a little difficulty speaking, both because of how it felt to be so close to
him and because I was still stunned by what he’d said. “That’s . . . wow . . . that’s
not a bad idea. . . .”

“I know,” he said. “I’m kind of amazed myself.”

Really, the circumstances were no different from finding Ms. Terwilliger’s sister.
I needed to locate someone I’d never met. I had a picture, which was what the spell
required. What was different was that I’d be initiating the spell myself. It was a
difficult piece of magic, and I knew Ms. Terwilliger’s coaching had helped me. There
was also the moral dilemma of working that type of spell on my own. My conscience
had an easier time handling magic when I felt coerced.

“I couldn’t try until next month,” I said, thinking back to the spell book. “I mean,
I have the picture with me, but the spell’s got to be done during a full moon. This
is the last night for the current one, and I’d never be able to get the components
in time.”

“What do you need?”

I told him, and he nodded along, promising he could get them.

I scoffed. “Where are you going to get anise and hyssop at this time of night? In
this town?”

“This town’s full of quirky boutique shops. There’s some herbal place that sells soaps
and perfume made of anything you can imagine. I guarantee they’ve got what you need.”

“And I guarantee they’re closed.” He swept me into another flourish-filled spin, and
I kept up with him perfectly.

The song was wrapping up. The time had flown by faster than I’d thought. I’d forgotten
about the onlookers. I’d even forgotten I was with a vampire. I was simply dancing
with Adrian, which felt easy and natural, so long as I didn’t think about our audience.

His roguish look returned. “Don’t worry about that. I can find the owner and talk
her into making an exception.”

I groaned. “No. Not compulsion.” Compulsion was an ability vampires had to force their
wills on others. All vampires had it to a small extent, and spirit users had it in
excess. Most Moroi considered it immoral. Alchemists considered it a sin.

The song ended, but Adrian didn’t release me right away. He leaned a little closer.
“Do you want to wait another month to find Marcus?”

“No,” I admitted.

Adrian’s lips were a breath away. “Then we’ll meet in two hours by the hotel’s service
door.” I gave a weak nod, and he stepped back, releasing my hands. “Here’s one last
sign of good relations.” With a bow that could’ve come straight out of a Jane Austen
novel, he gestured to the bar and spoke loudly. “Thank you for the dance. May I escort
you to get a drink?”

I followed without a word, my head spinning with what I’d need to do in two hours.
At the bar, Adrian astonished me by ordering ginger ale. “Nice restraint,” I said,
realizing he’d need to stay sober to work spirit. I hoped he hadn’t indulged too much
already. For him, the only thing better than an open bar would be a case of cigarettes
showing up at his door.

“I’m a master of self-control,” he declared.

I wasn’t so sure of that but didn’t contradict him. I sipped my Diet Coke, and we
stood there in comfortable silence. Two Moroi men sidled up the bar near us, talking
with the volume and exuberance of those who hadn’t held back on sampling free liquor.

“Well, no matter how liberal that girl is, she’s certainly easy on the eyes,” one
guy said. “I could look at her all day, especially in that dress.”

His friend nodded. “Definitely an improvement over Tatiana. Too bad about what happened
to her, but maybe a change of scenery was for the best. Did that woman ever smile?”
They both laughed at the joke.

Beside me, Adrian’s own smile vanished, and he went perfectly still. Tatiana, the
former Moroi queen, had been Christian’s great-aunt. She’d been viciously murdered
this summer, and though Adrian rarely spoke about her, I’d heard from a number of
people that they’d been close. Adrian’s lips twisted into a snarl, and he started
to turn around. Without hesitation, I reached out and grabbed his free hand, holding
it tightly.

“Adrian, don’t,” I said softly.

“Sydney, they can’t say that.” There was a dangerous look in his eyes, one I’d never
seen.

I squeezed his hand harder. “They’re drunk, and they’re stupid. They’re not worth
your time. Please don’t start a scene here—for Sonya’s sake.” I hesitated. “And for
me.”

His face was still filled with rage, and for a moment, I thought he would ignore me
and throw a glass at one of those guys. Or worse. I’d seen angry spirit users, and
they were terrifying. At last, that fury faded, and I felt his hand relax in mine.
He closed his eyes briefly, and when he opened them again, they were dazed and unfocused.

“No one really knew her, Sydney.” The sorrow in his voice broke my heart. “They all
thought she was some draconian bitch. They never knew how funny she was, how sweet
she could be. You can’t . . . you can’t imagine how much I miss her. She didn’t deserve
to die like that. She was the only one who understood me—even more than my own parents.
She accepted me. She saw the good in my soul. She was the only one who believed in
me.”

He was standing in front of me, but he wasn’t with me. I recognized the rambling,
consuming nature of spirit. It messed with its users’ minds. Sometimes it made them
scattered and distant, like he was now. Sometimes it challenged people’s grip on reality.
And sometimes, it could create a despair with devastating consequences.

“She wasn’t the only one,” I told him. “I believe in you. She’s at peace, and nothing
they say can change who she was. Please come back to me.”

He still stared off into someplace I couldn’t follow. After a few frightening moments,
he blinked and focused on me. His expression was still sad, but at least he was in
control again. “I’m here, Sage.” He removed his hand and glanced around to make sure
no one had seen me holding it. Thankfully, the bride and groom had taken to the dance
floor, and everyone was too mesmerized watching them. “Two hours.”

He knocked back the rest of his drink and walked away. I watched him until he disappeared
into the crowd, and then I returned to my own table, glancing at the clock along the
way. Two hours.

Ian jumped out of his seat at my approach. “Are you okay?”

No Moroi well-wishers were around, so only Stanton was nearby to hear him. She seemed
to share his concern. “I’m sorry you had to endure that, Miss Sage. As always, your
dedication to our work is admirable.”

“I do what I can to help, ma’am,” I said. I was still worried about Adrian and hoped
he wouldn’t slip back into spirit’s grip again.

“Did he hurt you?” asked Ian, pointing. “Your hands?”

I looked down and realized I’d been rubbing my hands together. They were warm from
where Adrian had touched me. “Huh? Oh, no. Just, um, trying to rub the taint off.
In fact . . . I should probably go wash up. Be right back.”

They seemed to find this a perfectly reasonable idea and didn’t stop me as I hurried
to the restroom. Free of their concern, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d dodged two
bullets here, by not letting the Alchemists know that I was friendly with a vampire
and also that I was plotting magic with him.

“Sydney?”

I was so distracted when walking out of the restroom that I hadn’t noticed Rose standing
nearby with Dimitri Belikov. They stood arm in arm, smiling at my surprise. I hadn’t
seen Dimitri tonight, and his black and white guardian attire told me why. He was
on duty here and had undoubtedly been one of the shadows darting among the trees of
the greenhouse, keeping a watch on everyone. He must be on a break now because there
was no way he’d be standing so casually here, even with Rose, otherwise. And really,
“casual” for Dimitri meant he could still leap into battle at any moment.

BOOK: The Indigo Spell
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