Home > Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(10)

Burning Glass (Burning Glass #1)(10)
Kathryn Purdie

I couldn’t say what urged me to show this stranger I was more than the pitiful girl staring back at him, looking no better than the charred bones of the convent. I was. At least as far as he should believe. I pulled my spine erect, elongated my neck, and met his stare with every ember of fire burning within me.

Dare to think of me what you will, I hoped the look I gave him said. I am Sonya Petrova. And I am not broken.

He didn’t blink from our connection. Not even with the wind in his eyes. As the horses guided the sleigh into the stables, and right before he passed out of sight, I felt a spark of admiration, though his stern face hadn’t cracked. It made me stand even taller.

When the stables swallowed him from view, I caught my reflection in a pane of broken glass, flames still smoldering behind me. That admiration, which must have been nothing more than my own foolish pride, vanished like a puff of ashes. My eyes were bloodshot from tears, and the many I had shed today left paths down the sooty planes of my cheeks.

I was broken. Through and through.

I padded on numb toes across the stone floor leading to the infirmary. I hoped to visit Yuliya undetected before I endured the wrath of Sestra Mirna.

Candlelight shone from the library, the predominant room on the ground floor that had survived the fire. Voices came from within. Sestra Mirna’s and a young man’s, surely the stranger from the troika.

“Poisoned?” she said when I was just shy of the library’s open entrance. My interest was piqued, and I pressed myself to the corridor wall to keep listening.

“Four days ago,” the man replied in the rich timbre and style that spoke to an aristocratic upbringing. “She drank from a cup intended for the emperor.”

“And Izolda did not sense the danger?”

The name of the emperor’s Auraseer made my chest constrict. Something must have happened to her. Had she been poisoned? I’d never met the woman, but she had served the crown for fifteen years. Half of the girls at the convent wished to take her place; the other half lived in fear of it.

The weight of their deaths pressed down upon my shoulders. I would never live without that guilt.

“She did not,” the man said.

“I see.”

I did, as well. After all her service to the emperor, Izolda had fallen to the fate of every sovereign Auraseer before her: execution for failing in her duty.

But if Izolda had not been poisoned, who had?

“Then you can be here for only one reason.” Sestra Mirna’s voice was clipped. If her emotions were anything like mine, bitter anger had taken root. What kind of life was granted any Auraseer of Riaznin if it meant an end like Izolda’s after pursuing the only occupation allotted to her? Even in the convent, Auraseers were threatened with death. The law mandated we face the noose if we ever refused to serve to the emperor. The sestras shared decades-old stories of the women who had hung from the convent bell tower for rejecting their duty. “But I’m afraid I cannot comply in light of our tragedy.”

“These past few days have borne tragedies for us all. It does not change the law.”

“I have lost over twenty girls!”

A boom sounded within the library, like the man slammed his hand against a table. I flinched as the anger stewing inside me tripled with his emotion. “And I’ve lost my mother!”

An amazed gasp tumbled out of me. He must mean the dowager empress. She was the one who had been poisoned—poisoned when she drank from Emperor Valko’s cup. Izolda would only be sentenced to death for failing to protect someone in the royal family. The man in the library must be the emperor’s younger brother, Anton Ozerov. But why had the prince come on a servant’s errand?

“So I must ask you, unfortunate though the situation may be.” Prince Anton’s tone was measured as he fought to collect himself. “Who is the eldest at this convent?”

My lips parted as the full implication of the prince’s visit—of the fire I had caused—dawned on me with stark and terribly clarity. I burst into the room, my heart hammering so hard I could scarcely breathe.

“You cannot take Yuliya!” I said without preamble of a curtsy or any ridiculous nicety afforded to a man of his rank. He was one thing only, a viper sent to take away my friend.

Anton whirled to meet my icy gaze. His eyes sparked with recognition from the moment we’d shared outside. He still wore his cloak, flecked with snow. The fact he hadn’t removed it meant his visit was intended to be as brief as possible. He planned to take an Auraseer tonight.

“Yuliya, is it?” His brows lifted, and I cursed myself for giving him his answer.

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