"Yeah," I conceded, keeping my eyes carefully on the pathway. "But it takes more than that. And besides, I thought you didn't care what he did."
"I don't," she agreed, not even convincing herself, let alone me. "Not at all."
My attempts to distract her proved pretty useless for the rest of the day. Tasha's words came back to me: Why haven't you fixed this? Because Lissa and Christian were being too damned unreasonable, both caught up in their own pissed-off feelings--which were kind of pissing me off in return. Christian would have been pretty helpful in my illicit escapades, but I had to keep my distance for Lissa's sake.
I finally left her to her bad mood when dinner came around. Compared to her romantic situation, my relationship with a semi-spoiled royal playboy from a disapproving family seemed downright optimistic. What a sad and scary world this was becoming. I assured Lissa I'd head straight back after dinner and that we'd go see Mia together. The mention of Mia didn't make Lissa happy, but the thought of a potential break-in did distract her momentarily from Christian.
The dress I had for dinner was maroon, made of light, gauzy material that was great for summer weather. The neckline was decent, and little cap sleeves gave it a classy edge. With my hair in a low ponytail that did a decent job of hiding the healing tattoo, I almost looked like a respectable girlfriend--which only went to show how deceptive appearances were, seeing as I was part of a crazy scheme to bring my last boyfriend back from the dead.
Adrian surveyed me from head to toe when I arrived at his parents' town house. They kept a permanent residence here at the Court. The small smile on his face told me he liked what he saw.
"You approve?" I asked, spinning around.
He slipped an arm around my waist. "Unfortunately, yes. I was hoping you'd show up in something a lot sluttier. Something that would scandalize my parents."
"Sometimes it's like you don't even care about me as a person," I observed as we walked inside. "It's like you're just using me for shock value."
"It's both, little dhampir. I care about you, and I'm using you for shock value."
I hid a smile as the Ivashkovs' housekeeper led us toward the dining room. The Court actually had restaurants and cafes tucked away within its buildings, but royals like Adrian's parents would consider it classier to have a fancy dinner in their home. Me, I would have preferred being out in public. More escape options.
"You must be Rose."
My assessment of the exits was interrupted when a very tall, very elegant Moroi woman came into the room. She wore a long, dark green satin dress that immediately made me feel out of place and that perfectly matched the color of her--and Adrian's--eyes. Her dark hair was pulled into a bun, and she smiled down at me with genuine warmth as she took my hand.
"I'm Daniella Ivashkov," she said. "It's very nice to meet you at last."
Was it really? My hand automatically shook hers in return. "Nice to meet you too, Lady Ivashkov."
"Call me Daniella, please." She turned to Adrian and tsked as she straightened the collar of his button-up shirt. "Honestly, darling," she said. "Do you even look in a mirror before you walk out the door? Your hair's a mess."
He dodged her as she reached toward his head. "Are you kidding? I spent hours in front of the mirror to make it look this way."
She gave a tormented sigh. "Some days I can't decide if I'm lucky or not to have no other children." Behind her, quiet servants were setting food out on the table. Steam rose up from the platters, and my stomach rumbled. I hoped no one else heard. Daniella glanced off down the hall beyond her. "Nathan, will you hurry up? The food's getting cold."
A few moments later, heavy footsteps sounded on the ornate wood floor, and Nathan Ivashkov swept into the room. Like his wife, he was dressed formally, the blue satin of his tie gleaming next to the starkness of his heavy black suit coat. I was glad they had air-conditioning in here, or he'd have been melting in that heavy fabric. The feature on him that stood out the most was what I remembered from before: a distinctly silver head of hair and mustache. I wondered if Adrian's hair would look like that when he was older. Nah, I'd never find out. Adrian would probably dye his hair at the first sign of gray--or silver.
Adrian's father might be exactly as I remembered, but it was clear he had no clue who I was. In fact, he seemed genuinely startled to see me.
"This is Adrian's, ah, friend, Rose Hathaway," said Daniella gently. "You remember--he said he'd bring her tonight."
"It's nice to meet you, Lord Ivashkov."
Unlike his wife, he didn't offer to put us on a first-name basis, which relieved me a little. The Strigoi who had forcefully turned Dimitri had been named Nathan too, and it wasn't a name I wanted to speak aloud. Adrian's father looked me over, but it wasn't with the appreciation Adrian had shown earlier. It was more like I was an oddity. "Oh. The dhampir girl."
He wasn't rude exactly, just disinterested. I mean, it wasn't like he called me a blood whore or anything. We all sat down to eat, and although Adrian kept his typical devil-may-care smile on his face, I again got the vibe that he really, really wanted a cigarette. Probably hard liquor, too. Being around his parents was not something he enjoyed. When one of the servants poured us all wine, Adrian looked immensely relieved and didn't hold back. I shot him a cautioning look that he ignored.
Nathan managed to rapidly devour his balsamic-glazed pork medallions while still looking elegant and proper. "So," he said, attention focused on Adrian, "now that Vasilisa's graduated, what are you going to do with yourself? You aren't going to keep slumming with high school students, are you? There's no point in you being there anymore."
"I don't know," said Adrian lazily. He shook his head, further tousling his carefully mussed hair. "I kind of like hanging out with them. They think I'm funnier than I really am."
"Unsurprising," his father replied. "You aren't funny at all. It's time you do something productive. If you aren't going to go back to college, you should at least start sitting in on some of the family business meetings. Tatiana spoils you, but you could learn a lot from Rufus."
I knew enough about royal politics to recognize the name. The oldest member of each family was usually its "prince" or "princess" and held a Royal Council position--and was eligible to become king or queen. When Tatiana had taken the crown, Rufus had become prince of the Ivashkov family since he was the next oldest.