Up All Night
Water splashed up onto her face, cool and refreshing. Two hours of ballet was harder than it appeared, and it gave her tan cheeks a pleasant flush that made her look a little more…human. Unlike most dhampirs, her looks set her apart from the students here at Amberwood Prep. Maybe it was the strange feline beauty of her features – the way her eyes curved up her face ever so slightly, almond shape tapering into a point, her delicate nose, or those teeth that were strangely sharp. She had the looks of Moroi; except there was something else there, something they didn't have that she did, and she tried not to think why she had it. But it was always lingering in the back of her mind, firing nightmare after nightmare at her, taunting her to try an escape it.
That was why she was here, she reminded herself – someone had to pay, and she knew exactly who.
Jillian Mastrano Dragomir was such a sweet and innocent person that it was impossible not to fool her. It was her friends that were much more of a worry; the Alchemist, the two dhampirs, and that spirit user, the Ivashkov.
"What's that on your neck?" she sounded genuinely concerned.
The other girl let out a sharp gasp and pushed her sleek, dark hair over her shoulder to hide the scars on her neck. There were two of them – two tiny little puncture marks that only someone with the eyesight of a Moroi would have been able to see. And what was more of a problem was the fact that Jill recognised what it was; the marks that came from being bitten over and over again.
"Nothing," she grabbed her blue ballet tote and made a run for the door, trying to get out of here before Jill could question her further.
The door slammed shut with a loud bang, leaving Jill standing there, wide-eyed with worry. As far as she was concerned, Abigail was just a pretty girl in her ballet class that had no connection whatsoever to the vampire world – and then she had been standing in front of the mirror, the scars on her neck painfully obvious. Was there another vampire at Amberwood?
She took the shuttle bus back to her dorm room, receiving a long, hard, judging stare from the Alchemist as they passed each other in the corridor. So Sydney Sage knew. It wouldn't be long before the whole of their close-knit 'family' knew about the marks on her neck – that meant she had to step up her schedule. Tonight was as good as any other night.
She had her own room, only two doors down from the dorm shared by the redneck dhampir and the Dragomir Princess. It was the perfect spot, and it also allowed her the freedom of tonight being her night. If she'd been too far away, the plan would have gone sideways, as would her hope of ever achieving it. No, this was fine. Everything would go to plan.
She changed clothes into something that the Alchemist wouldn't be caught dead in, a loose singlet and a pair of ripped denim shorts that had gotten more than enough wear out of them already. They'd been reputable enough when she'd bought them, but now they were practically ragged shreds of fabric. It wasn't her fault that she had no money and no time to go shopping, unlike most of the girls here at Amberwood Prep, armed with daddy's money and a knack for never completing their homework. Unlike them, she had to keep up the appearance of a 'scholarship student'.
Tying her hair back made her mind slip into its usual dark place as her fingers slid over the smooth white scar tissue on her neck. They were the fault of someone she hated more than anything in this world – and tonight, that person would move closer and closer towards justice. Think of that, she told herself. After tonight, you can begin to move forward, to do whatever the hell you plan to do with yourself after this is all over.
Homework was unnecessary tonight – she wasn't planning on coming back her anytime soon – but it was something she did then to occupy herself until the time came. It also helped keep the nerves away, struggling away through complex maths problems that she didn't understand anything about.
It also brought one a.m. much sooner than she thought it would come. Slowly, she raised herself from her chair and changed into something more practical; a pair of skinny jeans, a warm jacket (because in the desert, the nights were freezing), and some mid-calf combat boots, in which she placed a knife in the pocket formed between the fabric and the leather. She packed all the essentials into the bag she'd had at ballet earlier, and then pushed into under her bed so that it was hidden by the overhang of the sheets. The last thing she did before she closed the door was measure out a clear liquid into a small syringe.
She walked down the corridor, savouring the moment. This was what revenge – at least, the beginning of revenge – felt like. Satisfaction.
It was a surprise of see Jill answering the door instead of the dhampir. The girl's green eyes went wide and she glanced back at a sleeping Angeline, and then gently closed the door behind her as she was beckoned out into the doorway.
"Abigail?" she whispered incredulously. "What are you doing here?"
Abigail looked around, feigning suspicion.
"Not here," she murmured back. "My room – it's safe there – they're not listening."
Jill did exactly what she was supposed to – she followed Abigail into her dormitory.
"Who are they?" she said, her voice still soft.
Come on, just a little closer...all Jill had to do was lean in. And that's what she did; she took one step closer to Abigail to look at the scars, and then in an expertly executed move, the Moroi had an arm around her head and there was needle in her throat. Piece by piece, everything was falling into place.
It was in the morning when Sydney Sage finally switched on her phone to receive a text that froze her very being. A text that came from Jill's number, except it sounded nothing like the person in question.
Today, Jillian Mastrano Dragomir disappeared from her dorm room at one thirty a.m. and was never seen on the premises of Amberwood Prep again. You are going to do exactly as I say and no-one get hurts.
Firstly, you are going to read every word in this message very carefully. You must not tell anyone at the school that she is missing; they have no record that a Jillian Melrose ever attended this school, and none of the attending staff will remember. What you will do, though, is visit the apartment of Adrian Ivashkov with Jillian's two devoted dhampirs. You will then proceed to alert the royal court of the young Dragomir Princess's disappearance. Once they arrive, give them this message:
"You do not know me, and I hope that we never cross paths. After this, I will disappear forever and never come back. I do not wish for you to try and find me when this is all over.
My demands are simple. All I ever wanted is the same thing that your laws are supposed to bring about – justice. Except, your legal system has no justice and the worst criminals of our world are left in a jail cell to reflect on the sufferings they have caused. They may not have hope, but they have something that has been taken away by them; life. I believe in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Thus, a life for a life.
The only thing I want in return for the Dragomir Princess is the execution of one of the worst criminals of our lifetime. I will give you back the Princess when I have proof of their death.
And you will give me what I want, because I have the one thing that could create the downfall of law and order in the Moroi community. One dead for the survival and continuation of Moroi. That is a price that you can afford to pay, and it is a sacrifice that you will make."
The Alchemist barely remembered the hours that ensued. Eddie drove her and Angeline to Adrian's, she knew that much. She also knew that when she got to that apartment, the time they spent waiting for the guardians and the Moroi to arrive was time in which she avoided all eye contact with Adrian. When they did arrive, the weight of what had just happened came crashing down on her.
"Sydney, what the hell happened?" Rose Hathaway managed to make that sound a hell of a lot more sympathetic than it would usually come across.
"I-I don't know."
Sydney wasn't calm and in control anymore, and although she was still dressed for a business meeting her hair had been tied up in a messy bun and her makeup was non-existent. Her nerves were everywhere. She was jumping at the smallest shadow. Her stomach was turning somersaults whenever she thought about Adrian. She wasn't the stellar Alchemist that everyone thought she was, she wasn't the Alchemist that separated her feelings from her job. Then, she remembered what the email had said. Once they arrive, give them this message. So she did.
She disentangled herself from the centre of the group and pushed her way into the bathroom. It was a miracle that the party of hundreds of Moroi and dhampirs weren't spilling over the edge into here, but it was a lucky thing for her – it was the only place in the whole apartment where she could actually hear herself think. There was a steady drip-drip from something somewhere in this bathroom and it was actually kind of calming; because it was the same, and it was constant, and it was familiar.
Oh, God. Anyone but him – anyone but Adrian Ivashkov, and she would have been fine. Going as far as saying she would have preferred a Strigoi to walk into this room rather than him might have been an exaggeration, but there was a roomful of guardians outside…
"Leave me alone, Adrian."
"I've never seen you cry before," he murmured.
The fact that she had a tissue clutched in her hand, her eyes were red her face was blotchy really contradicted her next words, but she went for it anyway.
"I'm not crying," she insisted, her voice full of tears.
She turned around to push past him, but all of a sudden he was there, right in front of her. All she'd have to do to touch his chest is reach up, he was so close, and she could feel his breath, see the muscles underneath his white shirt – he was too close, though, uncomfortably close. Those eyes of his were looking straight down at her and piercing into her soul, filled with forbidden emotions that rooted her to the floor.
"Even you know that that was the worst lie you've ever told," she wished he'd stop speaking like she was made of glass, like she was going to shatter at any moment.
She opened her mouth to reply, but his hand drifted and made her breath hitch into her throat, savouring the moment until –
Someone was calling from down the hall and Sydney took the opportunity to jump away from him and ignore the chills that were still running through her shaking body. Rose stuck her head through the crack that had appeared when she'd opened the door.
"We need you to try and reach Jill," she explained. "Some of the guardians are trying to track down where that email originated from, but they're probably long gone by now."
Sydney didn't know how blind someone had to be not to see that Adrian's whole demeanour had suddenly changed when she'd walked into the room. His fist was white, clenched so hard against the frame of the window and his jaw was square and tight.
"If they're able to get Jailbait out of Amberwood Prep without anyone noticing, do you think they're going to be stupid enough to let Jill sleep?" he snapped back. "She's either drugged or she's being kept awake deliberately. Spirit's no secret anymore, not to the Strigoi, not to anyone."
Rose opened the door a little wider so that she could slip into the room, and she stood there with her arms crossed, her face narrowed in thought. She nodded once, as if she agreed with what he said.
"You think the Strigoi took Jill?" to her, it looked like a real possibility.
Everything seemed so cut and dry to her – good and evil was a clear line, as obvious as black and white. If anything bad ever happened, the Strigoi would be behind it because, well, in her experience, they were always behind those awful Sydney's world, it was a different story; she had grown up with the black and white, as sure as Rose had. In these past few months at Amberwood Prep, she'd begun to learn that there wasn't just a simple divisor between that kind of thing.
Her father had taught her to believe, like any good Alchemist should, that dhampirs, Moroi and Strigoi were evil, and it was their job as Alchemist to clean up the messes they made. Because, although they were evil creatures of the night, it was better that only Alchemists knew about them. Think of what would happen if humans were offered the chance of immortality, of an eternity on Earth with no foreseeable ending. So many people would sell their souls to the devil – literally – and then our race would be overtaken by the selfish want of forever that us humans possess, her father had told her. It is our job to make sure that that never, ever happens. We keep order in a world that is so delicate; the slightest thing would tip the scale. It wasn't a line; it had never been a line. Moroi and dhampirs weren't evil, and they did not threaten the existence of humans. They lived and they breathed and they had feelings and emotions like everyone else, like Alchemists, and yet her people had decided to class them as bad, as beings that had no good in their heart.
Pure evil only came in the form of Strigoi. They were Moroi taken to the extreme, and they were unnatural creatures. Life revolved around the idea of light, and their world was so dark that they could not possibly be alive – Strigoi were the undead.
But evil was in the hearts of everyone, kindled or otherwise, and it was waiting for an opportunity to rear its ugly head. There was much more wrong with this world than simply Strigoi, and there was much more evil in the world than them too.
"The message said the teachers wouldn't remember anything about Jailbait? Compulsion – I bet you, if we walked over there and asked them right now, they would have that glazed over look on their faces and hazy memory that you get when you've been compelled. The use of "S" for Strigoi, and the fact that she was taken in the night; they can't stand the daylight," Adrian shrugged. "Sounds like Strigoi to me."
"What about the note, and the lack of violence?" Rose countered.
"And what about," Sydney butted into the conversation, and they looked at her in surprise, as if they'd forgotten she was there.
"What about the continuous use of 'I' in the note? What about the fact that they managed to sneak into Jill's room without alerting Angeline? What about the fact that they want you to execute a guilty person? Don't they usually want that kind of person to cross over to the dark side? Huh? This is a person who wants vengeance not violence, a person who wants justice not the collapse of the Moroi government."
No-one had ever heard Sydney Sage speak like that to anyone before; she was the type of person that could simply never say no and never be rude. She was proud to say that it kept them suitably grounded for oh, maybe, three seconds? But for once, it felt good to speak out.
Both Adrian and Rose chased after her, Rose reaching her first with superior muscularity and years of training. There was a new level of respect when the dhampir looked at her – or maybe she was imagining it – but all the same, she received a nod of approval.
"Here's your phone," Rose didn't say anything else.
Sydney wasn't sure if there was a hidden compliment behind her words, but she didn't have time to think it over because Adrian appeared right in front of her as Rose walked off to join Dimitri and a few other guardians (inclusive of her mother) to discuss the pressing issue at hand.
"About before –"
The look on her face cut him off before her words did.
"Nothing happened, Adrian; I hope you understand that," she was back to how she always was, responsible, put together. "Nothing ever can happen because it's wrong. Humans and Moroi do not mix."
Some part of her wanted to protest against those harsh words; and most importantly, all of her wanted nothing more than for Rose to never have barged her way into the bathroom like that. It just made the Alchemist in her feel better, to have defended her morals and her beliefs, when everything else about her told him that it was all a lie.
If she stayed near him like this any longer, she was going to break – so she walked away, finding comfort in the fact that she was surrounded by people who didn't make her feel like Adrian did.
When Jill came round, the world was fuzzy and not quite in focus, and there was a strange roaring her ears. Like the ocean…except, not quite.
A few more blinks confirmed that it was an engine, not the ocean. The engine belonged to a silver sedan that was so sleek and fresh that Sydney would have been jealous; it even had that lingering scent of new car in the air, one that was unbearable for her Moroi sense of smell. The seats were leather and it was hard against her skin, and her seatbelt was a choking restraint, pressing her back against her seat. Finally, she managed to push her stiff, sore, aching body into something that resembled a sitting position, all the while asking herself why it hurt so much to do so – and then remembering what happened.
Abigail was driving. She had her foot pressed hard down on the gas pedal and was zooming along the freeway, pushing the speed limit so far it was a surprise she hadn't been pulled over by the cops yet. Jill cursed herself for not having seen it sooner; the fact that Abigail was a dhampir. The girl had gotten a lot from the looks department in relation to her Moroi parent – light, golden-brown hair that glowed if it caught the sun at the right angle, and frosty ice blue eyes that were so iridescent they looked like dragonfly's wings. She had a curved jawline and a heart shaped face framed by her hair that had today been pulled back in an ever practical ponytail. And there, on her neck, were the two small puncture marks that reminded Jill of a vampire bite. In fact, it probably was a vampire bite, considering Abigail was a dhampir.
"Where are we going, Abigail?"
"Oh," Abigail laughed, looking over at Jill with a smile. "It's Summer."
The Moroi frowned and glanced out the window, taking in the clouded grey sky and the clear lack of sun that usually hovered perpetually over Palm Springs. She doubted they were actually anywhere near Amberwood Prep anymore, though.
"No it's not," she replied, confused.
The other girl grinned, taking her eyes off the road again.
"My name," she said. "My name is Summer. Not Abigail."
Cue several minutes of very uncomfortable silence, in which Jill fiddled with the radio station and ended up turning it off again when there was nothing good on. This, she decided, was the least violent and serious kidnapping ever – there were no handcuffs, no duct tape, hell, she could just take off her seatbelt and drop right out of the car if she wanted to. Not that that would be a good idea; Summer was driving so fast that hitting the tarmac alone would take off several layers of skin.
"So where are we going?" Jill finally asked.
"Well, I was tossing up between Nevada and Arizona," Summer spoke in a conversational tone, as if they were friends, not as if she'd just abducted Jill. "But Arizona's closer and I was tired so it looks like we're going there. I've always wanted to go to Phoenix."
"It's still an interstate drive," the Moroi pointed out.
Summer smiled and shrugged, and continued to apply heavy pressure on the accelerator, swerving to avoid a car that was chugging along at about a quarter of a speed that she was. She ducked in and out of lanes, driving in such a way that she would have been a perfect Hollywood stunt artist, if she'd ever considered the job. It was inevitable, then, when a police car finally came speeding after them, sirens blaring and its tires screeching to keep up with them. Sighing, as if it were more of an annoyance than anything, she pulled the car to a sharp stop on the side of the road, and Jill started to formulate a plan.
"Can I see your license, ma'am?" the police officer asked, leaning in the window.
"You have to help me!" Jill shrieked. "She's abducted me! She took me away from my school, Amberwood Prep, and she drugged me and now I don't know where I am!"
It only took a minute, but his gun was drawn and he was yelling instructions at Summer to step out of the car, slowly, and place any weapons that she had on the ground. His face turned a shade of vibrant magenta – it looked like the most exciting thing that had happened to him in a while.
"Sir, look at me," she said calmly – he did. "There is no way she's been abducted, officer. If she had been, she'd be in handcuffs and I wouldn't have pulled over for you; and she wouldn't be riding shotgun where everyone can see her."
He nodded vaguely, putting his gun back into his holster, and sent a smile Summer's way.
"I'm so sorry, ma'am. Now what about that license of yours?" he raised one eyebrow at her.
Jill thought that she smirked, although it was hard to tell because of the way Summer had angled her face, straight towards the policeman.
"Don't be ridiculous," she scoffed. "You don't need a license. It's a freeway."
He nodded again, a frown passing over his features, and he reached in and patted her on the hand.
"No," he mumbled. "No, I suppose you don't."
And then they were off once more, the tyres still screaming in protest as they raced across the road, dodging in and out of traffic. Jill stared at her incredulously, green eyes wide.
"You need your license everywhere," she gasped. "It's the law. I know that, and I'm not a police officer."
Everything else about Summer's smile was genuine, except the frozen look in those icy blue eyes – a warning. She might as well have said, don't mess with me, bitch. I can do so much worse to you.
"I guess I was just lucky," she simpered.
That drive stretched on and on, Jill sending furtive glances to the driver every now and again, wondering how she'd talked herself out of needing a license. Some things it was possible to do that with – like parking tickets – but some laws were laws. They were rock solid and unchangeable. Police officers didn't let things like that go; especially the ones that spent their days cruising up and down a freeway, hoping that this would be the day they'd find something exciting.
Author's Note: Hey.
So this is my take on what happens after "The Golden Lily". I'm definitely going to be continuing the Sydney/Adrian plotline, if you're wondering. Anyway, not much else to say...tell me what you like and you don't like in a review, please! Thanks c: