"Ah, Rose. You're such an innocent."
We finally reached a door at the end of the hall. We stepped inside and found a small room that only held a desk. A closed door sat beyond it. A Moroi at the desk looked up, obviously recognizing Ambrose. He walked over to her, and the two got into a quiet argument as he tried to get her to let us in.
Lissa turned to me, keeping her voice soft. "What do you think?"
My eyes were on Ambrose. "That all that muscle's going to waste."
"Forget the blood whore thing already. I mean about this psychic. Do you think we've found another spirit user?" she asked eagerly.
"If a party boy like Adrian can be a spirit user, then a woman who tells the future probably can be too."
Ambrose returned to us, grinning. "Suzanne was happy to fit you into the schedule before your flight. It'll be just a minute while Rhonda finishes up with her current client."
Suzanne didn't look very happy about fitting us in, but I didn't have time to ponder that because the inner door opened and an older Moroi man walked out, entranced. He gave Suzanne some cash, nodded at the rest of us, and left. Ambrose stood and made a wide sweeping motion toward the door.
Lissa and I walked inside the other room. Ambrose followed and closed the door behind us. It was like walking into someone's heart. Everything was red. Plush red carpet, a red velvet couch, velvet brocade wallpaper, and red satin cushions on the floor. Sitting on the cushions was a Moroi in her forties, with curly black hair and equally dark eyes. There was a very faint olive cast to her skin, but her overall look was pale, like all Moroi. Her black clothing stood out in stark contrast to the red room, and jewelry the color of my nails gleamed on her neck and hands. I expected her to speak in a spooky, mysterious voice - one with an exotic accent - but her words sounded blandly American.
"Please, sit down." She pointed to some cushions across from her. Ambrose sat on the couch. "Who've you brought?" she asked him as Lissa and I settled down.
"Princess Vasilisa Dragomir, and her guardian-to-be, Rose. They need a fast fortune."
"Why do you always want to rush these things?" Rhonda asked.
"Hey, it's not me. They have a plane to catch."
"It'd be the same if you didn't. You're always in a rush."
I shook off my awe of the room enough to pay attention to their easy banter and similar hair. "Are you guys related?"
"This is my aunt," said Ambrose fondly. "She adores me." Rhonda rolled her eyes.
That was a surprise. Dhampirs rarely had contact with their extended Moroi family, but then, Ambrose was hardly normal. Lissa was intrigued by all of this too, but her interest was different from mine. She was studying Rhonda intently, trying to find any indication that the woman might be a spirit user.
"Are you a gypsy?" I asked.
Rhonda made a face and began shuffling some cards. "I'm Roma," she said. "A lot of people call us gypsies, though the term isn't exactly accurate. And really, I'm Moroi first." She gave the cards a few more shuffles, then handed them to Lissa. "Cut, please."
Lissa was still staring, half-hoping she might see an aura. Adrian could sense other spirit users, but she didn't have that skill yet. She cut the cards and handed them back. Rhonda put the deck back together and dealt out three cards to Lissa.
I leaned forward. "Cool." They were tarot cards. I didn't know much about them, only that they supposedly had mystical powers and could tell the future. I didn't believe in that stuff much more than I'd ever believed in religion, but then, until recently, I'd never really believed in ghosts, either.
The three cards were the Moon, the Empress, and the Ace of Cups. Ambrose leaned over my shoulder to peer at the cards. "Ooh," he said. "Very interesting."
Rhonda glanced up at him. "Hush. You don't know what you're talking about." She turned back to the cards and tapped the Ace of Cups. "You're on the verge of a new beginning, a rebirth of great power and emotion. Your life will change, but it will be a change that takes you in a direction that, while difficult, will ultimately illuminate the world."
"Whoa," I said.
Rhonda then pointed to the Empress. "Power and leadership lie ahead of you, which you will handle with grace and intelligence. The seeds are already in place, though there's an edge of uncertainty - an enigmatic set of influences that hang around you like mist." Her attention was on the Moon as she said those words. "But my overall impression is that those unknown factors won't deter you from your destiny."
Lissa's eyes were wide. "You can tell that just from the cards?"
Rhonda shrugged. "It's in the cards, yes, but I also have a gift that lets me see forces beyond what ordinary people can perceive."
She shuffled the cards again and then handed them to me to cut. I did, and she flipped three more over. The Nine of Swords, the Sun, and the Ace of Swords. The Sun card was upside down.
Now, I knew nothing about this stuff, but I immediately got the feeling I was about to get a raw deal compared to Lissa. The Empress card had shown a woman in a long dress, with stars on her head. The Moon had shown a full moon with two dogs below it, and the Ace of Cups had shown a bejeweled chalice filled with flowers.
Meanwhile, my Nine of Swords showed a woman sobbing in front of a wall of swords, and the Ace of Swords was a boring hand holding a plain iron sword. The Sun at least looked cheerful. It had what looked like an angel riding a white horse, with a brilliant sun shining above.
"Shouldn't that be flipped right-side up?" I asked.
"No," she said, eyes on the cards. After several moments of heavy silence, she said, "You will destroy that which is undead."
I waited about thirty seconds for her to continue, but she didn't. "Wait, that's it?"
She nodded. "That's what the cards say to me."
I pointed at them. "Seems like they've got a little bit more to say than that. You gave Lissa a whole encyclopedia worth of information! And I already know I'm going to kill the undead. That's my job." Bad enough I'd gotten a minuscule fortune. It was also totally unoriginal.
Rhonda shrugged, as though that were some sort of explanation.
I started to say that she'd better not even think about charging me for that crap reading when there was a soft knock at the door. It opened, and to my surprise, Dimitri stuck his head inside. His eyes fell on Lissa and me. "Ah, they said you were in here." He walked in and noticed Rhonda. To my further surprise, he gave her a low nod of respect and said very politely, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need to bring these two to their flight."