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Authors: Richelle Mead

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I brightened. I couldn’t explain it, but somehow, that made me feel immensely better.
“There are a lot of spells for that, right?” I’d seen a number of them in my studies.
Even if I had to use magic, it was better to at least look different.

“Yes. . . .” She drummed her fingers against the table. “But the amulet might not
be able to hide you wearing an ‘active’ spell, which would then defeat the whole purpose.
What I was actually hoping was that your ‘brother’ Adrian might be able to help.”

My legs felt weak, and I sat back down. “Why on earth should Adrian be involved in
this?”

“Well, he seems like he’d do anything for you.” I eyed her, wondering if there was
a double meaning in that. Her gaze was far away, her thoughts turned inward. She’d
meant her words honestly. “Veronica wouldn’t be able to detect vampire magic. His
power . . . that spirit element he was telling me about . . . it can confuse the mind,
right? Affect what others can see?”

“Yes. . . .”

She focused on me again, nodding in satisfaction. “If he could accompany you, help
muddle whoever meets you . . . well, that would offer an extra level of protection.”

I still didn’t know what all I’d be doing to hunt Ms. Terwilliger’s sister, but it
sounded like, at the very least, there’d be a drive to Los Angeles in my future. Me,
trapped in another small space with Adrian while he continued with that infuriating
“loving from afar.” I was so caught up in the emotional turmoil that idea caused that
it took me a moment to realize the larger issue I was letting myself get sucked into.

“Do you realize what you’re asking?” I said quietly. I touched the garnet again. “To
be a part of this, you’re asking me to expose myself to both human magic
and
vampire magic. Everything I try to avoid.”

Ms. Terwilliger snorted, and for the first time tonight, I saw a return of her usual
amused attitude. “Unless I’m mistaken, you’ve been exposing yourself to both kinds
of magic for some time now. So, it can’t go against your beliefs that much.” She paused
meaningfully. “If anything, it seems like it goes against the Alchemists’ beliefs.”

“The Alchemists’ beliefs are my beliefs,” I said quickly.

She arched an eyebrow. “Are they? I would hope your beliefs would be
your
beliefs.”

I’d never thought about it that way before, but I suddenly hoped desperately that
her words were true.

CHAPTER 6

I FOLLOWED MS. TERWILLIGER��S
instructions diligently. I never took the garnet off, not even when I slept or showered.
When school started the next morning, I wore it under my shirt to avoid any questions.
It didn’t exactly scream “magical amulet,” but it was certainly conspicuous. To my
surprise, Ms. Terwilliger wasn’t in her first-period history class, making me wonder
if she was doing some investigating of her own.

“Ms. T on some secret mission?”

I flinched and realized I’d been lost in my own thoughts. I turned and found Trey
Juarez kneeling by my desk. Class hadn’t started yet, and a confused-looking substitute
teacher was trying to make sense of the chaos of Ms. Terwilliger’s desk. Trey grinned
at my surprise.

“Wh-what?” I asked. Had he somehow found out about Veronica? I tried to keep cool.
“What makes you say that?”

“I was just joking,” he said. “This is the second year I’ve had her, and she’s never
missed a day.” He gave me a puzzled look. “Unless you really do know something I don’t?”

“No,” I said quickly. “I’m just as surprised as you are.”

Trey scrutinized me a few moments. We were good friends here at Amberwood, with only
one teeny-tiny problem hanging between us.

His family was tied to the Warriors of Light.

Last month, the Warriors had tried to kill Sonya in a barbaric execution ritual. Trey
had been one of the contenders for the “honor” of killing her, though he’d thrown
the match at the last minute. I’d tried to appeal to the Warriors to release Sonya,
but they hadn’t listened. She and I were both saved when a raiding party of dhampirs
showed up and defeated the Warriors. Stanton had helped orchestrate that raid—but
hadn’t bothered to fill me in that I was being used as a distraction. It was part
of what had fueled my distrust of her and the Alchemists.

Trey had been blamed for getting me involved with the ritual, and the Warriors had
ostracized his father and him. Just as I had been pressured by the Alchemists, Trey
had had Warrior doctrine drilled into him his whole life. His father was so ashamed
of the fallout that he would barely speak to Trey now. I knew how much Trey wanted
his father’s approval, so this silence was more painful to him than the Warriors’
treatment.

Our allegiances made things difficult. When I’d once tentatively hinted to Trey that
we still had unresolved issues between us, he’d responded with a bitter laugh. “You
have nothing to worry about anymore,” he’d told me. “I’m not hiding any secret plans
from you—because I don’t know any. They won’t tell us anything. I’m not one of them,
as far as they’re concerned. I’ve been cut off forever, and it’d take a miracle for
them to ever take us back.” There’d been something in his dark eyes that told me if
he ever could find that miracle, he’d jump on it. I’d tried asking about that, but
he wouldn’t discuss it any further. “I want to be your friend, Melbourne,” he had
said. “I like you. We’re never going to resolve our differences. Might as well ignore
them since we have to be together every day.”

Amazingly, our friendship had managed to survive all that drama. The tension was always
there, lurking between us, but we tried to ignore it. Although he knew about my involvement
in the vampiric world, he had no idea I was taking behind-the-scenes magic lessons
with our history teacher, of course.

If he thought I was lying about Ms. Terwilliger’s absence today, he didn’t push the
matter. He nodded toward the sub. “This is going to be a blow-off day.”

I dragged my mind away from magical intrigue. After being homeschooled for most of
my life, some parts of the “normal” school world were a mystery. “What’s that mean,
exactly?”

“Usually teachers leave subs a lesson plan, telling them what to do. I saw the one
Ms. Terwilliger left. It said, ‘Distract them.’” Trey shook his head in mock sympathy.
“I hope you can handle the wasted academic time. I mean, she’ll probably say something
like, ‘Work on homework.’ But no one will.”

He was right. I wasn’t sure if I could handle this. “Why wouldn’t they?”

This seemed to amuse him immensely. “Melbourne, sometimes you’re the only reason I
come to class. I saw her sub plan for your independent study, by the way. It said
you didn’t even have to stick around. You’re free to run wild.”

Eddie, sitting nearby, overheard and scoffed. “To the library?”

This made both of them laugh, but my mind was already spinning with possibilities.
If I really didn’t have to stay for my last class, I’d be free to leave campus early.
I could go into Los Angeles to look for Veronica and—no. Adrian wasn’t back. For a
moment, I toyed with the idea of investigation without his spirit magic, but Ms. Terwilliger’s
warnings echoed through my mind. The hunt would have to wait.

But I could still look for Marcus Finch.

Santa Barbara was two hours away. That meant I had enough time to drive up there,
do some investigating of Marcus, and still comfortably make it back by the school’s
curfew. I hadn’t intended to go look for him until this weekend but realized now that
I shouldn’t waste this opportunity. Ms. Terwilliger’s task weighed heavily on me as
well, but I couldn’t do anything about it until Adrian returned tonight.

Marcus Finch had been a mystery to me since the moment I’d discovered he was an ex-Alchemist.
Realizing that I might actually get some answers
today
made my heart pound in overtime. It was one thing to suspect the Alchemists had been
holding out on me. It was an entirely different matter to accept that I might be on
the verge of having those suspicions confirmed. It was actually kind of terrifying.

As the day progressed, I became more and more resolved to make the drive. I had to
face this sooner or later, and I might as well get it over with. For all I knew, Marcus
had simply been sightseeing in Santa Barbara and could be gone already. I didn’t want
to repeat the scrying spell if I could help it.

Sure enough, when I showed up for what would normally be my independent study at the
end of the day, the sub (looking extremely worn out after a day of following in Ms.
Terwilliger’s footsteps) told me I was free to go. I thanked her and hurried off to
my dorm room, conscious of the clock that was now ticking. I didn’t know exactly what
I’d be facing in Santa Barbara, but I planned to be prepared for anything.

I changed out of my Amberwood uniform, opting for jeans and a plain black blouse.
Kneeling by my bed, I pulled out a large metal box from underneath it. At first glance,
the box looked like a makeup kit. However, it had an intricate lock that required
both a key and combination. Inside was my Alchemist chemistry set, a collection of
chemicals that would probably get me kicked out of school if found since it looked
like it was capable of manufacturing illegal drugs. And really, some of the compounds
probably were pretty questionable.

I selected some basics. One was a formula that was usually used to dissolve Strigoi
bodies. I didn’t expect to encounter any Strigoi in Santa Barbara, but the compound
could also be used to disintegrate metal pretty handily. I chose a couple other mixtures—like
one that could create a spy-worthy smoke screen—and carefully wrapped them all up
before slipping them into my messenger bag. Then I locked the box again and slid it
back under the bed.

After a little consideration, I took a deep breath and produced another hidden box.
This was a new one in my collection. It contained various charms and potions I’d made
under Ms. Terwilliger’s instruction. Staring at its contents, I felt my stomach twist.
Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I’d have such a kit. When we’d first met,
I’d only created charms under duress. Now I had several that I’d willingly made, and
if what she’d said about her sister was true, I’d need to start making more. With
great reluctance, I picked a variety of these as well and packed them up with the
Alchemist chemicals. After a moment’s consideration, I put a couple in my pocket for
quick access.

The drive to Santa Barbara was easy this time of day. December had cooled off some
of southern California’s weather, but the sun was still out, making it seem warmer
than it really was. And, as I drove up the coast, the desert gave way to more temperate
conditions. Rain increased in the middle and northern parts of the state this time
of year, making the landscape lush and green. I really did love Palm Springs and Amberwood,
but there were times I wouldn’t have minded if Jill’s assignment had taken us up here.

Finding the Old Mission Santa Barbara wasn’t difficult. It was a well-known tourist
attraction and pretty easy to spot once you were nearby. The sprawling church looked
exactly as it had in my vision save that it was lit by mid-afternoon sunshine rather
than twilight. I pulled off to the side of the road in a residential neighborhood
and gazed up at the beautiful stucco and terra-cotta masterpiece. I wished I had the
time to go on a tour, but, as they so often did, my personal desires had to take a
backseat to a larger goal.

Now came the more difficult part—having to figure out where the studio I’d seen might
be. The neighborhood I parked in provided a view that was similar to the one I’d observed
in the spell. The angles weren’t exact, however, and this street only contained houses.
I was almost certain the studio I’d seen had been in an apartment building. Keeping
the mission in view, I drove a few more streets over and found what I’d hoped for:
several blocks containing apartment complexes.

One looked too nice to have what I’d seen. The studio had seemed pretty bare bones
and run down. The other two buildings on the street looked like more likely candidates.
I drove to each one and walked around their grounds, trying to imagine what the angle
might be when viewed from a higher window. I wished I’d had a chance to actually look
down to the parking lot in the vision. It would have given me a better idea of the
floor. After much thought, I finally deduced the studio had been on the third or fourth
floor. Since one of the buildings only had two floors, that gave me a pretty positive
hit on the correct place.

Stepping inside the building made me glad I’d packed hand sanitizer in my bag. The
halls looked like they hadn’t been swept in over a year. The walls were dirty, their
paint chipped. Bits of trash sat on the floor. Cobwebs hung in some of the corners,
and I prayed spiders were the only creepy-crawly inhabitants. If I saw a roach, I
was probably going to bolt. The building had no front desk I could make inquiries
at, so I flagged down a middle-aged woman as she was leaving. She paused, regarding
me warily.

“Hi,” I said, hoping I looked non-threatening. “I’m trying to find a friend of mine,
but I don’t know which apartment he lives in. Maybe you know him? His name is Marcus.
He has a blue tattoo on his face.” Seeing her blank look, I repeated the question
in Spanish. Comprehension showed in her expression, but once she’d heard my entire
question, her only response was a brief headshake. I didn’t even have time to show
her Marcus’s picture.

I spent the next half hour doing the same thing whenever I saw residents going in
or out. I stayed outside this time, preferring a brightly lit public area to the dingy
interior. Some of the people I talked to were a little sketchy, and a couple of guys
looked me over in a way I definitely didn’t like. I was about to give up when a younger
boy approached me. He appeared to be about ten and had been playing in the parking
lot.

“I know the guy you’re looking for,” he told me in English. “But his name’s not Marcus.
It’s Dave.”

Considering how difficult Marcus had been to find, I wasn’t entirely surprised he’d
been using another name. “You’re sure?” I asked the boy. I showed him the picture.
“This is the guy?”

He nodded eagerly. “That’s the one. He’s real quiet. My mom says he’s probably doing
bad things.”

Great. Just what I needed. “Do you know where he lives?”

The boy pointed upward. “At the top. 407.”

I thanked him and went back inside, heading up to the fourth floor on stairs that
creaked the entire way. The apartment was near the end of the hall, next to one that
was blasting obnoxious music. I knocked on 407 and didn’t get a response. Not sure
if the occupant had heard me, I knocked more loudly and received the same result.

I eyed the doorknob, considering melting it with my Alchemist chemicals. Immediately,
I dismissed the thought. Even in a disreputable building like this, a neighbor might
be concerned to see me breaking into an apartment. I didn’t want to attract any attention.
This situation was getting increasingly frustrating, and I couldn’t spend all day
here.

I ran through my choices. Everyone said I was so smart. Surely there was some solution
here that would work? Waiting around in the hall wasn’t an option. There was no telling
how long it could take for Marcus or “Dave” to show up. And honestly, the less time
spent in the dirty hall, the better. If only there was some way to get inside that
didn’t involve actually destroying—

That’s when the solution came to me. I groaned. It wasn’t one I liked, but it would
get the job done.

I went back outside and waved hello to the boy as he practiced jumping off the steps.
“Was Dave home?” he asked.

“No.”

The boy nodded. “He usually isn’t.”

That, at least, would be helpful for this next crazy plan. I left the boy and walked
around the side of the building, which was mercifully deserted. There, clinging to
the outer wall, was the most rickety fire escape I’d ever seen. Considering how rigid
California safety standards were, I was astonished that this hadn’t been reported.
Of course, if it had, it didn’t seem likely this building’s owner would’ve been quick
to act, judging from the rest of the conditions I’d seen.

Double checking that no one was around, I stood in the fire escape’s shadow, hoping
it more or less concealed me. From the messenger bag, I produced one of my charms:
a necklace made of agate and crow feathers. I slipped it over my head and recited
a Greek incantation. I felt the warmth of magic run through me but saw no ostensible
changes. Theoretically, I should be invisible for those who didn’t know to look for
me. Whether that had actually happened, I couldn’t say. I supposed I’d find out if
someone came by and demanded to know why I was climbing into an apartment via the
fire escape.

BOOK: The Indigo Spell
6.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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