The Indigo Spell

Page 11

And there, I spotted my first friendly face, aside from Adrian. Rose Hathaway. It was no surprise she'd be a bridesmaid, seeing as she'd been responsible for the happy couple getting together. She'd inherited her father's dark hair and eyes and was the only dhampir among the bridesmaids. I didn't need to see the surprised looks of some of the guests to know that was pretty unorthodox. If Rose noticed or cared, she didn't show it. She walked proudly on, head held high and face glowing with happiness. With that humanlike dhampir appearance, she was shorter than her Moroi companions and had a more athletic build than the slender, small-chested Moroi.

Rose had what was a very normal, very healthy body among humans. Yet when I compared myself to Moroi, I felt enormous. I knew it was ridiculous - especially since I wore a smaller size than Rose - but it was a hard feeling to shake. Adrian had recently had an unwelcome intervention with me, going so far as to claim I was on the verge of an eating disorder. I'd been outraged and told him to mind his own business . . . but ever since then, I'd taken a hard look at my behaviors. I now tried to eat more and had gained exactly one pound, something that had felt torturous and wrong until my friend Trey had recently commented that I was "looking pretty good these days." It had reinforced the idea that a few more pounds wouldn't kill me and might actually be good for me. Not that I'd admit any of that to Adrian.

We all stood when Sonya entered. She was glorious in ivory silk, with tiny white roses adorning her fiery hair. The queen had been magnificent, but there was a glow about Sonya that dwarfed even Lissa's beauty. Maybe it was just something inherent to brides. There was an air of love around Sonya that made her shine. I was surprised to feel a pang in my chest.

Ian was probably disappointed when no bloodletting followed, but the ceremony was sweet and filled with emotion. I couldn't believe how stone-faced my Alchemist companions looked - I was on the verge of tears as the couple recited their vows. Even if Sonya and Mikhail hadn't been through hell to be together, this was the kind of ceremony that couldn't help but pull at the heartstrings. As I listened to them swear they'd love each other forever, I found my gaze drifting to Adrian. He didn't see me looking at him, but I could tell the ceremony was having the same effect on him. He was enraptured.

It was a rare and sweet look for him, reminding me of the tortured artist that lived beneath the sarcasm. I liked that about Adrian - not the tortured part, but the way he could feel so deeply and then transform those emotions into art. I had feelings, just like anyone else, but that ability to express them into something creative was an area I would never, ever have expertise in. It wasn't in my nature. I sometimes gave him a hard time about his art, especially his more abstract pieces. Secretly, I regarded his skills with awe and loved the many facets of his personality.

Meanwhile, I had to fight to keep my face blank, to look as though I was a normal Alchemist with no concern for unholy vampire events. Neither of my companions questioned me, so apparently I pulled it off. Maybe I had a future in poker.

Sonya and Mikhail kissed, and the crowd erupted into cheers. They only got louder when he brazenly kissed her a second time - and then a third. The next stage of the festivities, the reception, was being held in the hotel where Adrian and most of the other Moroi were staying. Sonya and Mikhail left first, followed by the queen and other high-ranking royals. Stanton, Ian, and I waited patiently for our row to be dismissed so that we could line up for the limos that were ferrying guests the half mile to the hotel. It normally wouldn't have been that bad of a walk, even in heels, if not for the freezing temperature.

Our turn came, and the three of us got into the back of a limo. "Now we just have to get through the reception," said Ian as the driver shut our door. "At least we've got our own car."

Suddenly, the door opened, and Abe slid in beside me. "Room for one more?" He beamed at Stanton and me. "So nice to see you lovely ladies again. And you must be Ian. A pleasure." Abe extended his hand. At first, it looked as though Ian wouldn't shake it, but a sharp look from Stanton dictated otherwise. Afterward, Ian kept looking at his hand as though he expected it to start smoking.

The drive only took about five minutes, but I could tell from the other Alchemists' faces that it felt like five hours for them.

"I think it's wonderful that you three were invited," said Abe, perfectly at ease. "Considering how much we work together, we should have more of these pleasant interactions, don't you think? Perhaps you'll invite us to one of your weddings someday." He winked at me. "I'm sure you have young men lining up for you."

Even Stanton couldn't keep a straight face. The look of horror in her expression said there were few things more profane than a vampire coming to a human wedding. She looked visibly relieved when we reached the hotel, but we weren't free of Abe yet. Some thoughtful person - probably Colleen - had put us at his table, probably thinking it would be nice to be seated with a Moroi we knew. Abe seemed to take great delight in the awkwardness his presence provided, but I had to admit, it was kind of refreshing to have someone who openly acknowledged the strained relations between us rather than pretending everything was okay.

"There's no blood in that," Abe told us when dinner was served. The three of us were hesitating over cutting into our chicken marsala, even me. "The only blood is in the drinks, and you have to actually ask for those at the bar. No one's going to sneak you something, and the feeders are being kept in another room."

Ian and Stanton still looked unconvinced. I decided I would be the brave one and began eating without any more hesitation. Maybe vampires were unnatural creatures, but they certainly had excellent taste in caterers. A moment later, the other Alchemists joined me, and even they had to admit the food was pretty good.

When the plates were cleared, Ian bravely left for the bathroom, giving Stanton a brief opportunity to lean toward me for a hushed status report. "Everything was okay when you left?" Strained relationship or not, our mission to keep the Moroi stable hadn't changed.

"Fine," I said. "It's all quiet back there. No sign of trouble." She didn't need to know about my own interpersonal drama. Keeping my tone casual, I asked, "Any news about the Warriors? Or Marcus Finch?"

Stanton shook her head. "None. But I'll certainly let you know if we uncover anything."

I answered with a polite smile, seriously doubting her words. I hadn't always liked my Alchemist missions, but I'd spent most of my life following orders without question because I believed my superiors knew what was best and were acting for the greater good. Recent events now made me wonder about that. In thwarting some crazed vampire hunters who called themselves the Warriors of Light, Stanton had withheld information from me, citing that we were on a need-to-know basis. She had brushed it off, praising me for being a good Alchemist who understood such policy, but the incident had made me seethe with anger. I didn't want to be anyone's pawn. I could accept that fighting for a greater cause meant tough decisions, but I refused to be used or endangered because of "important" lies. I'd given my life over to the Alchemists, always believing what they did and told me was right. I'd thought I was important, that they would always look out for me. Now I didn't know.

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