He gave me a level look. "What happens between her and me is none of your business," he replied crisply.
The words between her and me stung. It sounded like he and Tasha were a done deal. And, as often happened when I was hurt, my temper and attitude took over.
"Well, I'm sure you guys'll be happy together. She's just your type, too- I know how much you like women who aren't your own age. I mean, she's what, six years older than you? Seven? And I'm seven years younger than you."
"Yes," he said after several moments of silence. "You are. And every second this conversation goes on, you only prove how young you really are."
Whoa. My jaw almost hit the floor. Not even my mother punching me had hurt as badly as that. For a heartbeat, I thought I saw regret in his eyes, like he too realized just how harsh his words had been. But the moment passed, and his expression was hard once more.
"Little dhampir," a voice suddenly said nearby.
Slowly, still stunned, I turned toward Adrian Ivashkov. He grinned at me and gave a brief nod of acknowledgment to Dimitri. I suspected my face was bright red. How much had Adrian heard?
He held up his hands in a casual gesture. "I don't want to interrupt or anything. Just wanted to talk to you when you have time."
I wanted to tell Adrian I didn't have time to play whatever game he was into now, but Dimitri's words still smarted. He was looking at Adrian now in a very disapproving way. I suspected he, like everyone else, had heard about Adrian's bad reputation. Good, I thought. I suddenly wanted him to be jealous. I wanted to hurt him as much as he'd hurt me lately.
Swallowing my pain, I unearthed my man-eating smile, one I hadn't used to full effect in sometime. I walked over to Adrian and put a hand on his arm.
"I've got time now." I gave a nod of my own to Dimitri and steered Adrian away, walking close to him. "See you later, Guardian Belikov."
Dimitri's dark eyes followed us stonily. Then I turned away and didn't look back.
"Not into older guys, huh?" asked Adrian once we were alone.
"You're imagining things," I said. "Clearly, my stunning beauty has clouded your mind."
He laughed that nice laugh of his. "That's entirely possible."
I started to step back, but he tossed an arm around me. "No, no, you wanted to play chummy with me- now you've got to see it through."
I rolled my eyes at him and let the arm stay. I could smell alcohol on him as well as the perpetual smell of cloves. I wondered if he was drunk now. I had the feeling that there was probably little difference between his attitudes drunk or sober.
"What do you want?" I asked.
He studied me for a moment. "I want you to grab Vasilisa and come with me. We're going to have some fun. You'll probably want a swimsuit too." He seemed disappointed by the admission of this. "Unless you want to go naked."
"What? A bunch of Moroi and dhampirs just got slaughtered, and you want to go swimming and 'have fun'?"
"It's not just swimming," he said patiently. "Besides, that slaughter is exactly why you should go do this."
Before I could argue that, I saw my friends round the corner: Lissa, Mason, and Christian. Eddie Castile was with the group, which shouldn't have surprised me, but Mia was as well- which certainly did surprise me. They were deep in conversation, though they all stopped talking when they saw me.
"There you are," said Lissa, a puzzled look on her face.
I remembered Adrian's arm was still around me. I stepped out of it. "Hey, guys," I said. A moment of awkwardness hung around us, and I was pretty sure I heard a low chuckle from Adrian. I beamed at him and then my friends. "Adrian invited us to go swimming."
They stared at me in surprise, and I could almost see the wheels of speculation turning in their heads. Mason's face darkened a little, but like the others, he said nothing. I stifled a groan.
Adrian took me inviting the others to his secret interlude pretty well. With his easygoing attitude, I hadn't really expected anything else. Once we had swimsuits, we followed his directions to a doorway in one of the far wings of the lodge. It held a staircase that led down- and down and down. I nearly got dizzy as we wound around and around. Electric lights hung in the walls, but as we went farther, the painted walls changed to carved stone.
When we reached our destination, we discovered Adrian had been right- it wasn't just swimming. We were in a special spa area of the resort, one used only for the most elite Moroi. In this case, it was reserved for a bunch of royals I assumed were Adrian's friends. There were about thirty others, all his age or older, who bore the marks of wealth and elitism.
The spa consisted of a series of hot mineral pools. Maybe once they'd been in a cave or something, but the lodge builders had long since gotten rid of any sort of rustic surroundings. The black stone walls and ceiling were as polished and beautiful as anything else in the resort. It was like being in a cave- a really nice, designer cave. Racks of towels lined the walls, as did tables full of exotic food. The baths matched the rest of the room's hewn-out décor: stone-lined pools containing hot water that was heated from some underground source. Steam filled the room, and a faint, metallic smell hung in the air. Sounds of partygoers laughing and splashing echoed around us.
"Why is Mia with you?" I asked Lissa softly. We were winding our way through the room, looking for a pool that wasn't occupied.
"She was talking to Mason when we were getting ready to leave," she returned. She kept her voice just as quiet. "It seemed mean to just... I don't know ... leave her ..."
Even I agreed with that. Obvious signs of grief were written all over her face, but Mia seemed at least momentarily distracted by whatever Mason was telling her.
"I thought you didn't know Adrian," Lissa added. Disapproval hung in her voice and in the bond. We finally found a large pool, a little out of the way. A guy and a girl were on the opposite side, all over each other, but there was plenty of room for the rest of us. They were easy to ignore.
I put a foot into the water and pulled it back immediately.
"I don't," I told her. Cautiously, I inched the foot back in, slowly followed by the rest of my body. When I got to my stomach, I grimaced. I had on a maroon bikini, and the scalding water caught my stomach by surprise.
"You must know him a little. He invited you to a party."
"Yeah, but do you see him with us now?"
She followed my gaze. Adrian stood on the far side of the room with a group of girls in bikinis much smaller than mine. One was a Betsey Johnson suit I'd seen in a magazine and coveted. I sighed and looked away.