Sydney regarded me suspiciously.

"It's the truth!"

"Like I said before," she told me, "I won't turn you in. Seriously. I just want to know so that I can get people to stop wasting time on certain leads." Her smugness sobered. "And, well, if you did do it... I need to keep the attention off you. I promised Abe."

"Whatever it takes for you to believe me, I didn't do it! But now I want to know who did. What did they steal? Everything on him?"

She bit her lip. Owing Abe a favor might mean she'd go behind her own people's backs, but she apparently had limits on how much she'd betray.

"Come on! If you've got digital backup, you have to know what was taken. This is Lissa we're talking about." An idea came to me. "Could you send me copies?"

"No," she said swiftly. "Absolutely not."

"Then please... just a hint of what they were about! Lissa's my best friend. I can't let anything happen to her."

I fully braced myself for rejection. Sydney didn't seem very personable. Did she have friends? Could she understand what I felt?

"Mostly bio stuff," she said at last. "Some of his history and observations we'd made."

"Observ--" I let it go, deciding I really didn't want to know more than I had to about Alchemists spying on us. "Anything else?"

"Financial records." She frowned. "Particularly about some large deposits he made to a bank account in Las Vegas. Deposits he went out of his way to cover up."

"Las Vegas? I was just there...." Not that it was relevant.

"I know," she said. "I saw some Witching Hour security tapes of your adventure. The fact that you'd run off like that is part of why I suspected you. It seemed in character." She hesitated. "The guy with you... the tall Moroi with dark hair... is that your boyfriend?"

"Er, yeah."

It took a long time and great effort for her to concede the next statement. "He's cute."

"For an evil creature of the night?"

"Of course." She hesitated again. "Is it true you guys went there to elope?"

"What? No! These stories get to you guys too?" I shook my head, almost laughing at how ridiculous this all was, but knowing I needed to get back to the facts. "So, Eric had an account in Vegas he was moving money into?"

"It wasn't his. It was some woman's."

"What woman?"

"No one--well, no one we can track. She was just down as 'Jane Doe.'"

"Original," I muttered. "Why would he be doing that?"

"That we don't know. Or really care about. We just want to know who broke in and stole our stuff."

"The only thing I know about that is that it wasn't me." Seeing her scrutinizing look, I threw up my hands. "Come on! If I wanted to know about him, I'd just ask Lissa. Or steal our own records."

Several moments of silence passed.

"Okay. I believe you," she said.


"Do you want me to not believe you?"

"No, it was just easier than I thought convincing you."

She sighed.

"I want to know more about these records," I said fiercely. "I want to know who Jane Doe is. If you could get me other files--"

Sydney shook her head. "Nope. This is where I cut you off. You know too much already. Abe wanted me to keep you out of trouble, and I've done that. I've done my part."

"I don't think Abe's going to let you go so easily. Not if you made an open-ended deal."

She didn't acknowledge that, but the look in her brown eyes made me think she agreed. "Good night, Rose. Morning. Whatever."

"Wait, I--"

The screen went black.

"Damn," I growled, shutting the laptop more forcefully than I should have.

Every part of that conversation had been a shock, starting with Sydney and ending with someone stealing Alchemist records about Lissa's father. Why would anyone care about a dead man? And why steal the records at all? To learn something? Or to try to hide information? If that last one was true, then Sydney was right that it had been a failed effort.

I replayed it all in my head as I got ready for bed, staring at my reflection while brushing my teeth. Why, why, why? Why do it? And who? I needed no more intrigue in my life, but anything involving Lissa had to be treated seriously. Unfortunately, it soon became clear I wouldn't figure out anything tonight, and I fell asleep with all those questions spinning around in my head.

I woke up the next morning feeling a little less overwhelmed--but still short on answers. I debated whether or not to tell Lissa about what I'd learned and finally decided I should. If someone was gathering information on her father, she had a right to know, and besides, this was hardly the same as rumors about his--

A thought startled me in the middle of scrubbing shampoo into my hair. I'd been too tired and surprised to string together the pieces last night. That guy at the Witching Hour had said Lissa's dad was there a lot. Now Sydney's records reported that he'd made large deposits into an account in Las Vegas. Coincidence? Maybe. But as time went on, I was starting not to believe in coincidences anymore.

Once presentable, I set out toward Lissa's side of Court--but didn't get very far. Adrian was waiting for me down in my building's foyer, slumped back into an armchair.

"It's early for you, isn't it?" I teased, coming to a stop in front of him.

I expected a smile in return, but Adrian didn't look particularly cheerful this morning. In fact, he appeared kind of bedraggled. His hair lacked its usual styling care, and his clothing--unusually dressy for this time of day--was wrinkled. The scent of clove cigarettes hung around him.

"Easy to be early when you don't get much sleep," he responded. "I was up a lot of the night waiting for someone."

"Waiting for--oh. God." The party. I'd totally forgotten the party his mother had invited me to. Abe and Sydney had distracted me. "Adrian, I'm so sorry."

He shrugged and didn't touch me when I sat down on the arm of his chair. "Whatever. I probably shouldn't be surprised anymore. I'm starting to realize I've been deluding myself."

"No, no. I was going to go, but then you won't believe what--"

"Save it. Please." His voice was weary, his eyes bloodshot. "It's not necessary. My mom told me she saw you over at Dimitri's questioning."

I frowned. "But that's not why I missed the party. There was this guy--"

"That's not the point, Rose. The point is that you managed to make time for that--and a visit to his cell, if what I heard is true. Yet, you couldn't bother showing up at something you said you'd do with me--or even send a message. That was all you had to do: say you couldn't go. I waited over an hour for you at my parents' house before giving up."

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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