Home > Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5)(6)

Silver Shadows (Bloodlines #5)(6)
Richelle Mead

Three campus shuttle buses came and went, and Jill wasn’t on any of them. This was our usual day of the week to get together, and I’d made sure to keep up with that, even if I couldn’t keep up with anything else. I took out my phone and texted her: Hey, I’m here. Everything okay?

No answer came, and a prickle of worry started to go through me. After the assassination attempt, Jill had been sent here to hide among humans in Palm Springs because a desert was no place that either our kind or the Strigoi—evil, undead vampires—wanted to be. The Alchemists—a secret society of humans hell-bent on keeping humans and vampires away from each other—had sent Sydney as a liaison to make sure things went smoothly. The Alchemists had wanted to make sure the Moroi didn’t plunge into civil war, and Sydney had done a good job of helping Jill through all sorts of ups and downs. Where Sydney had failed, however, was in getting romantically involved with a vampire. That kind of went against the Alchemists’ operating procedure of humans and vampires keeping apart from each other, and the Alchemists had responded brutally and efficiently.

Even after Sydney had left and her stiff-faced replacement, Maura, had come, things had remained relatively calm for Jill. There’d been no sign of danger from any source, and we even had indications that she could return to mainstream Moroi society once her school year finished next month. This kind of disappearance was out of character, and when I didn’t get a text response from her, I sent one to Eddie Castile.

Whereas Jill and I were Moroi, he was a dhampir—a race born of mixed human and vampire blood. His kind trained to be our defenders, and he was one of the best. Unfortunately, his formidable battle skills hadn’t been enough when Sydney had tricked him into splitting up from her when the Alchemists had come after her. She’d done it to save him, sacrificing herself, and he couldn’t get over that. That humiliation had killed the kindling romance between him and Jill because he no longer felt he was worthy of a Moroi princess. He still dutifully served as her bodyguard, however, and I knew that if anything had happened to her, he’d be the first to know.

But Eddie didn’t answer my text either, and neither did the other two dhampirs serving undercover as her protectors. That was weird, but I tried to reassure myself that radio silence from all of them probably meant they’d gotten distracted together and were fine. Jill would show up soon.

The sun was bothering me again, so I walked around the building and found another bench that was out of the way and shaded by palm trees. I made myself comfortable on it and soon fell asleep, helped by both staying out late at the bar last night and by finishing off my vodka flask. A murmur of voices woke me later, and I saw that the sun had moved considerably in the sky above me. Also above me were Jill and Eddie’s faces, along with our friends Angeline, Trey, and Neil.

“Hey,” I croaked, managing to sit up. “Where were you?”

“Where were you?” Eddie asked pointedly.

Jill’s green eyes softened as she looked at me. “It’s okay. He’s been here the whole time. He forgot. Understandable since . . . well, he’s going through a tough time.”

“Forgot what?” I asked, looking uneasily from face to face.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Jill evasively.

“What did I forget?” I exclaimed.

Angeline Dawes, one of Jill’s dhampir protectors, proved as usual to be the voice of bluntness. “Jill’s end-of-term expo.”

I stared blankly, and then it all came back to me. One of Jill’s extracurricular activities was a fashion design and sewing club. She’d started off modeling, but when that proved too public and dangerous in her position, she’d recently tried her hand at designing behind the scenes—and had found she was pretty good at it. She’d been talking for the last month about a big show and exhibit her club was doing as their end-of-term project, and it had been good to see her so excited about something again. I knew she was hurt over Sydney too, and with my transferred depression and her botched romance with Eddie, she’d lived under a cloud nearly as dark as my own. This show and the chance to display her work had been one bright spot for her—small in the grand scheme of things but monumentally important in the life of a teenage girl who needed some normality.

And I’d blown it off.

Bits of conversation came back to me now, her telling me the day and time, and me promising I’d come and support her. She’d even made a point to remind me the last time I’d seen her this week. I’d noted what she said and then went out to celebrate Tequila Tuesday at a bar near my apartment. Saying her show had slipped my mind was an understatement.

“Crap, I’m sorry, Jailbait. I tried texting. . . .” I lifted up my phone to show them, except it was the vodka flask I picked up instead. I hastily shoved it back in the bag.

“We had to turn our phones off during the show,” explained Neil. He was the third dhampir in the group, a recent addition to Palm Springs. He’d grown on me over time, maybe because he was suffering from his own heartache. He was head over heels for a dhampir girl who’d dropped off the face of the earth, though unlike Sydney, Olive Sinclair’s silence was most likely from personal baggage and not Alchemist abduction.

“Well . . . how it’d go then?” I attempted. “I bet your stuff was awesome, right?”

I felt so incredibly stupid, I could hardly stand it. Maybe I couldn’t fight against what the Alchemists had done to Sydney. Maybe I couldn’t prepare for an exam. But for God’s sake, I should’ve at least been able to make it to one girl’s fashion show! All I had to do was show up, sit there, and applaud. I’d failed at even that, and the weight of it was suddenly crushing. A black haze filled my mind, weighing me down, making me hate everything and everyone—myself most of all. It was no wonder I couldn’t save Sydney. I couldn’t even take care of myself.

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