Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5) by Richelle Mead

CHAPTER 1

SYDNEY

I WOKE TO DARKNESS.

This was nothing new, as I’d been waking to darkness for the last . . . well, I didn’t know how many days. It could’ve been weeks or even months. I’d lost track of time in this small, cold cell, with only a rough stone floor for a bed. My captors kept me awake or asleep, at their discretion, with the help of some drug that made it impossible to count the days. For a while, I’d been certain they were slipping it to me in my food or water, so I’d gone on a hunger strike. The only thing that had accomplished was a forced feeding—something I never, ever wanted to experience again—and no escape from the drug. I’d finally realized they were piping it in through the ventilation system, and unlike with food, I couldn’t go on an air strike.

For a while, I’d had the fanciful idea that I’d track time with my menstrual cycle, the way that women in primitive societies synced themselves up to the moon. My captors, proponents of cleanliness and efficiency, had even provided feminine hygiene products for when the time came. That plan failed as well, though. Being abruptly cut off from birth control pills at the time of my capture reset all my hormones and spun my body into irregular cycles that made it impossible to measure anything, especially when combined with my wacky sleep schedule. The only thing I could be certain of was that I wasn’t pregnant, which was a huge relief. If I’d had Adrian’s child to worry about, the Alchemists would’ve had unlimited power over me. But it was just me in this body, and I could take whatever they threw at me. Hunger, cold. It didn’t matter. I refused to let them break me.

“Have you thought about your sins, Sydney?”

The metallic, female voice reverberated around the small cell, seeming to come from every direction at once. I pulled myself up into a sitting position, tugging my rough shift down over my knees. It was more out of habit than anything else. The sleeveless garment was so paper thin that it offered no warmth whatsoever. The only thing it provided was a psychological sense of modesty. They’d given it to me partway through my captivity, claiming it was a token of goodwill. In reality, I think the Alchemists just couldn’t handle keeping me there naked, especially when they saw it wasn’t getting to me the way they’d hoped.

“I slept,” I said, stifling a yawn. “No time to think.” The drug in the air seemed to keep me perpetually sleepy, but they were also sending in some stimulant that made sure I stayed awake when they wanted, no matter how exhausted I might be. The result was that I never felt fully rested—as was their intent. Psychological warfare worked best when the mind was weary.

“Did you dream?” the voice asked. “Did you dream of redemption? Did you dream of what it might be like to see the light again?”

“You know I didn’t.” I was being uncharacteristically talkative today. They asked me these questions all the time, and sometimes I just stayed silent. “But if you want to stop feeding me that sedative for a while, maybe I’ll get some real sleep and have some dreams that we can chat about.”

More importantly, getting real sleep that was free of these drugs meant that Adrian would be able to locate me in my dreams and help me find a way out of this hellhole.

Adrian.

His name alone had gotten me through many long, dark hours. Thoughts of him, of our past and of our future, were what had helped me survive my present. I often lost myself in daydreams, thinking back to the handful of months we’d had together. Had it really been so short? Nothing else in my nineteen years seemed as vivid or meaningful as the time I’d spent with him. My days were consumed with thoughts of him. I would replay each precious memory, the joyous and the heartbreaking, and when I’d exhausted them, I’d fantasize about the future. I’d live out all the possible scenarios we’d imagined for ourselves, all our silly “escape plans.”

Adrian.

He was the reason I was able to survive in this prison.

And he was also the reason I was here in the first place.

“You don’t need your subconscious to tell you what your conscious already knows,” the voice told me. “You are tainted and impure. Your soul is shrouded in darkness, and you have sinned against your own kind.”

I sighed at this old rhetoric and shifted, trying to make myself more comfortable, though it was a losing battle. My muscles had been in a perpetual state of stiffness for ages now. There was no comfort to be found in these conditions.

“It must make you sad,” the voice continued, “to know that you’ve broken your father’s heart.”

That was a new approach, one that caught me off guard enough that I spoke without thinking: “My father doesn’t have a heart.”

“He does, Sydney. He does.” Unless I was mistaken, the voice sounded a bit pleased at having drawn me out. “He greatly regrets the fall you’ve taken. Especially when you showed such promise to us and our fight against evil.”

I scooted over so that I could lean against the rough-cut wall. “Well, he’s got another daughter who’s much more promising now, so I’m sure he’ll get over it.”

“You broke her heart too. Both of them are more grieved than you could ever know. Wouldn’t it be nice to reconcile with them?”

“Are you offering me that chance?” I asked cautiously.

“We’ve been offering you that chance from the beginning, Sydney. Just say the words, and we will gladly begin your path to redemption.”