My mother glares at me as soon as I step out of my car. The fact that Jen and Lance are right behind me doesn’t faze her at all. Her slim hips twitch back and forth angrily, and she stamps over to me. She is the model of upper-echelon sophistication in her two piece silk suit and gauzy white blouse peeking out from under the neckline of her jacket. Her eyes flick over my own clothing, a pair of dark denim skinny jeans and a turquoise t-shirt I hand painted in my clothing design class last week. I thought the sparkly silver paint I used looked great in its swirling, abstract pattern.
“That was the best you could come up with, Libby?” my mom sneers. “You would think you lived downtown instead of in a gated community by the way you’re dressed. If your father were here…”
“He’s not,” I snap.
“This is supposed to be an important occasion. Your place in this society, the rest of your life, is about to be determined! You could have at least attempted to treat it with some respect. You wouldn’t have dressed like an urchin if your father were the one doing your Inquest the way it should have been.” She never talks about my dad except to throw his death in my face. She has never made a secret about who she blames for his not being here anymore. Her fingers snatch up a strand of my dark hair. “Would it have killed you to do something with your hair besides let it hang like limp spaghetti?”
I yank my hair out of her grip, and say, “Who knows? Maybe it would. You could always hope, right?”
Furious, she turns her back on me—big surprise—and marches up the staircase to the front door of Inquisitor Moore’s expansive mansion. She swings the door open and marches inside. Lance thinks he’s helping when he reaches up and touches my shoulder softly. His kiss on my head follows, sweet and wonderful, but I want to shake him off. He’s trying to calm me down, but I don’t need calm. Anger is the only thing keeping the terror at bay for the moment.
When I don’t respond to him, Lance sighs and pulls me toward the doors of Inquisitor Moore’s home. “Just forget her,” Lance says. He pauses before opening the door and kisses my forehead gently. He pulls me up the staircase to follow after my mom. I can’t help but drag against him. He feels it and looks back at me with an encouraging smile. “I think you look great, by the way.”
“Thanks,” I mutter as he pulls the door open and pushes me inside.
Standing in the foyer of the Inquisitor’s office is too much for me. Self-control leaves me as soon as I step into the richly appointed house. The centuries-old tapestry hanging on the wall, antique chaise, and solid gold candelabra should be welcoming. Instead, the layers of texture and finery only press in on me. I feel claustrophobic right away. I know my nails are digging into Jen’s hand, but I can’t force myself to ease my grip on her. Not even to elbow the “I knew you were scared” look off her face. In all reality, she looks scared, too. Nowhere near as terrified as I feel, but definitely worried. Lance standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders can’t calm me down either. He shifts and the edge of his Guardian blade brushes across my shoulder. Hot, frightened tears spring to my eyes, but I summon up enough control to keep them from falling.
Please don’t let it be his blade that ends my life, I beg.
“It will just be a few more minutes, Mrs. Sparks,” the Inquisitor’s page says to my mother. “Inquisitor Moore and the resident Guardian are just confirming all the paperwork for your guests. They shouldn’t be much longer.”
My mother nods the barest acknowledgement and goes back to ignoring everyone in the room. Jen squirms at the mention of guests. I want to reassure her again, but I can’t.
YOU ARE READING
For Libby Sparks, turning sixteen means only one thing…death. Guardian rule demands she attend the ritualistic Inquest that will unveil her talents and secure her place in society. But that isn’t all that will be revealed in Libby’s case. The more t...