Read The Rose Society Online

Authors: Marie Lu

Tags: #Fantasy, #Young Adult

The Rose Society (40 page)

Our promise.

She is crying in earnest now. Her tears form a puddle of blood on the floor. “I can’t let you keep doing this,” she says. “You have killed so many, Adelina, and it is destroying you. I cannot watch you deteriorate.”

You see?
the whispers say. The creatures crawling on the floor finally reach me, and before I can shove them off, they lunge up at me and enter my mind. Their thoughts replace my own. I shudder.

Yes, of course.

Now I know why she did it. She wants my place.
She
wants the throne, she must have wanted it all along—with her power, she can control any Elite she wants, make them
do anything at her beck and call. I always knew she would turn on me like this, and now that I have done all the work for her, dirtied my hands with blood and grief, she is going to take her turn. Most of all,
she broke our promise.
We are never, ever to use our powers against each other.

How could you?
How could you?

I can no longer think. Fury fills every crevice of my mind. Even without my power, I can feel the force of the whispers, calling me on. I pull out the dagger at my belt and lunge at Violetta.

She manages to grab my wrist, but my impact throws her off her feet, and she lands with a thud. All the air rushes out of her lungs. Her eyes widen, and she flounders for a moment like a fish out of water, gulping for air. I raise my dagger over my head, even as a part of me screams for me to stop, and I bring it down.

She dodges to one side. Somehow, my fragile sister manages to throw me off her, but I just scramble to my feet and lunge for her again. I grab a fistful of her hair. She cries out as I yank her back toward me. Already, the absence of my power is making me panic. I can barely see straight. The world crushes in around us. I pull her to me and press the dagger to her throat.

“Your promises mean
nothing
—you—I trusted you! You were the
only
one!” I shout. “Give it
back! It is mine!

Violetta sobs desperately. “Adelina,
please
!” If I could sense her emotions right now, I know I would feel a tide of terror unlike anything I’ve ever felt from her. But in this moment,
she is not my sister. She is only another enemy.
A traitor,
the whispers remind me. And I listen.

“Give back my power,” I say in her ear. My dagger presses hard enough to cut her skin. “Or I swear on all the gods that I will slit your throat right here.”


Then take it,
” Violetta suddenly hisses. “And let it take
you
.” And just like that, I feel my power rush back over me in a flood of darkness, filling the empty crevices of my heart and mind with its familiar, poisonous comfort. I drop the dagger and let go of Violetta. I fall backward to the ground, close my eye, and curl into a ball, clutching the threads close to me. I’m breathing hard. The world spins. My anger churns in me, pulsing, fading.

It takes me a moment to realize that Violetta has already struggled to her feet and is running for the door. Even now, she seems so far away.

“Where are you going?” I snap at her, but she has just thrown the door wide open. She doesn’t look back at me.

“Violetta!” I call out from where I still crouch on the floor. “Wait!”

What happened? What did I do to her? I shake my head, squinting my eye shut. The whispers in my head swirl, fading. The chamber seems to fall back into silence. When I open my eye again, the world is no longer spinning. There is no puddle of bloody tears on the floor. There are no fanged creatures swarming the ground. My sister is not here, pulling away my powers.

Gradually, the haze over me clears. I crouch there as bits
of what had just happened come back to me. The dagger. Her hair. Her throat. Her trembling, weeping body.

My stomach clenches.

“Violetta!” I call again. “Violetta, wait. Come back!”

No answer. I’m alone in the chamber.

I try again, turning more frantic. “Violetta!” I repeat. How could my illusions get away from me again like that? “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean—I wouldn’t have hurt you! Come back!”

But she’s already gone.

I press my hands against the marble floor and lower my head. I’d yanked her hair with the same viciousness that my father did on the night he died. My dagger had flashed down—I’d aimed for her, aimed to hurt, to
kill
. My vision had been so blurred and tinted with scarlet. How did I not stop myself?

“Violetta, Violetta,” I cry, my voice hoarse, too quiet for her to hear. “Come back. I’m sorry. It was a mistake. Don’t leave me here.”

Silence.

You’re all I have. Please don’t leave me here.

I call and call, until Inquisitors come in to check on me. I realize that I’m crying. Through my blur of tears, I see Magiano’s concerned face, Sergio’s surprised one. He looks at me with a wariness I remember all too well. It was the way Gemma last looked at me, before she died. The way the Daggers looked at me before they cast me out.

“Get out!” I shout when they close in around me. They stop, and then their shadows step back. They turn their backs and leave me alone in the room. I sob. My broken finger claws and claws against the marble floor. My dagger lies where I threw it, a tiny dot of my sister’s blood on its blade. This blood is no illusion; it is real.

Please don’t leave me, don’t leave me, I’ve changed my mind, take this power away, the whispers won’t stop.

The sunlight through the windows shifts. I stay on the ground.

I have no idea how much time passes. Or how long I cry. I don’t know where Violetta might have gone. I don’t know where Magiano went, or what he might be thinking. After some time, I finally cry everything out of my chest, and there are no more tears left in me. I stay on the ground. I watch the lattice of shadows from the windows move slowly along the floor. The light changes, turns golden. The shadows and highlights stretch until they reach me, bathing me in light. Even the warmth of the sun cannot make the darkness in my stomach go away.

Gradually, my thoughts start to turn. And slowly, slowly … the whispers start to come back. They caress my mind.

No, Adelina, this is better.

You don’t need to care about her leaving. Haven’t you already learned that love and acceptance are less important than the power of fear? The control over those you know?

I nod, letting the thought strengthen me. I don’t need to lean against my sister in order to stand up. I can do it on my own. Without anyone.

I slowly push myself onto my feet, wipe my face with my sleeve, and run trembling fingers along the monstrous, eyeless side of my face. My expression settles into something numb and hard. I turn to face the throne at the top of the steps. My illusions start to spark again, and darkness blurs into the corners of my vision, leaving the throne as the only thing I can see.

I walk up the steps toward it. Around me, ghosts of those I have once known fade in and out, those I have left behind. Who left me. I make my way up each step. The whispers in my mind roar, filling every crevice, shoving out the light and letting the darkness flood in.

This is good, Adelina. This is the best way.

I have earned my revenge on everyone who hurt me. My father, who tortured me every day—I crushed his chest and his heart. Teren, sick and twisted and mad—I took away his beloved just as he took away mine. Raffaele, who betrayed and manipulated me—I seized control of the prince he loves, and I made sure he watched his prince destroy in my name.

And Violetta, darling,
dearest
sister who turned her back when I needed her the most. I cast her out. I finally said everything to her that I wanted to say.

I have hurt back.

You’ve won, Adelina,
the whispers say.

I reach the throne. It’s beautiful, an ornate structure of
gold and silver and stone. Lying in the center of its cushion is Giulietta’s former crown, heavy with gems. I reach down and pick it up, admiring the jewels as they wink in the light, running my fingers along their hard surfaces. I walk once around the throne, gripping the crown.
This is mine.
I lift the crown to my head, then put it on. It is heavy. Finally, I sit in the chair, then lean back and rest my arms on its sides.

How long ago it was, when I used to crouch along the stair railings in my old home and fantasize about this, of wearing such a crown and looking down from my own throne. I lift my head high and stare out at the chamber. It is empty.

This is what I have fought so hard for, what I sacrificed and bled so much for. This is everything I ever wanted—revenge against my enemies for what they’ve done to me. And I’ve achieved it. My revenge is complete.

I force a smile onto my face. In the silence, I sit alone on my throne and wait eagerly for all the satisfaction and triumph to hit me. I wait, and wait, and wait.

But it doesn’t come.

Acknowledgments

The Rose Society
is the darkest book I’ve ever written. Taking Adelina down to a place where she not only lets her pain consume herself but consume others was a necessary task—but it was also an emotionally difficult one. Being in the headspace of a villain-in-training for months at a time meant seeking out the best hearts I know in order to balance out all that negativity. So:

Thank you to my editor Jen Besser, who
gets
Adelina’s story down to the core, who always knows exactly what to say, and who believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. I don’t know what I’d do without your friendship and advice.

Thank you to my agent, friend, and champion Kristin Nelson—you are somehow both extremely badass and incredibly kind. No matter what, you always sail us in the right direction.

Team Putnam and the Penguins: that sounds sort of like the coolest indie band ever. You guys rock the house every time! Thank you for having my back, for believing in these books, and for being downright awesome people.

Thank you to my wonderful film agent Kassie Evashevski, for taking
The Young Elites
under your wing and finding it a great home. You are amazing, in every sense of the word.

I am so grateful that
The Young Elites
is with none other than you guys, Isaac and Wyck. Your thoughts, encouragement, and friendship mean the world to me.

Amie, seriously, what would I do without our Fat Emails and your incredible, smart self? You helped pull me through this book, even if you had to half drag me part of the way. JJ, thank you for always being there to lend an ear and talk about anything. Leigh, you have the wits of a thousand wits. Thank you for calming me down, building me up, and always making sure there is cake involved. Jess, Andrea, and Beth, I can’t wait until the next time we are all reunited, because it will be so epic. Jess and Morgan, afternoon tea forever!!! Tahereh and Ransom, you guys are totally maxed out on the Best People Meter. Margie, Kami, Mel, and Veronica, the world needs so many more of you. Thank you for being an inspiration.

Thank you to my family and closest friends, for long conversations day or night, for endless fun, and for your love and joy. Most of all, thank you to Primo, my best friend and my rock. I am thankful every day for you.

THE BEGINNING

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