It seemed to take all of them a moment to follow what Blake was alluding to. Adrian caught on first. "What did you just say?'

"Oh.' Blake looked legitimately surprised, but it was hard to say if it was an act. "I thought you knew. Your mom and Ambrose ... well, who could blame her? With your dad? Though just between you and me, I think she could have done better.' Blake's tone implied exactly whom he thought Daniella could have done better with.

In Lissa's vision, Adrian's aura flared red. "You son of a bitch!' Adrian was not the fighting type, but there was a first time for everything--and Blake had just crossed a serious line. "My mom was not cheating on my dad. And even if she was ... she sure as hell wouldn't have to pay for it.'

Blake didn't seem fazed, but maybe things would have been different if Adrian actually had hit him. Lissa rested her hand on Adrian's arm and squeezed it gently. "Easy,' she murmured. I felt the smallest tingle of calming compulsion move from her into him. Adrian recognized it immediately and pulled his arm back, giving her a look that said he didn't appreciate her "help.'

"I thought you didn't like your dad,' said Blake, utterly clueless that his news might be upsetting. "And besides, don't get all pissy at me. I wasn't sleeping with her. I'm just telling you what I heard. Like I said, if you want to start accusing random people, go after someone like Ambrose.'

Lissa jumped in to keep Adrian from saying anything. "How many women? Do you know who else he was involved with?'

"Three others.' Blake ticked off names on his hand. "Marta Drozdov and Mirabel Conta. Wait. That's two. I was thinking with Daniella; that's three. But then, that's four with the queen. Yeah, four.'

Lissa didn't concern herself with Blake's faulty math skills, though it did support Adrian's previous "idiot' claims. Marta Drozdov was a semi-notorious royal who had taken to traveling the world in her old age. By Lissa's estimation, Marta was hardly in the U.S. most of the year, let alone Court. She didn't seem invested enough to murder Tatiana. As for Mirabel Conta ... she was notorious in a different way. She was known for sleeping with half the guys at Court, married or otherwise. Lissa didn't know her well, but Mirabel had never seemed overly interested in any one guy.

"Sleeping with other women wouldn't really give him a motive for killing the queen,' pointed out Lissa.

"No,' agreed Blake. "Like I said, it's obvious that Hathaway girl did it.' He paused. "Damned shame too. She's pretty hot. God, that body. Anyway, if Ambrose had killed her, he'd have done it because he was jealous of me, because Tatiana liked me better. Not because of all those other women he was doing.'

"Why wouldn't Ambrose just kill you?' asked Christian. "Makes more sense.'

Blake didn't have a chance to respond because Adrian was still back on the earlier topic, his eyes flashing with anger. "My mother wasn't sleeping with anybody. She doesn't even sleep with my father.' Blake continued in his oblivious way. "Hey, I saw them. They were all over each other. Did I mention how hot your--'

"Stop it,' warned Lissa. "It's not helping.'

Adrian clenched his glass. "None of this is helping!' Clearly, things weren't going the way he'd hoped when he'd first summoned Lissa and Christian from her room. "And I'm not going to sit and listen to this bullshit.' Adrian downed the drink and shot up from his chair, turning abruptly for the exit. He tossed some cash on the bar before walking out the door.

"Poor guy,' said Blake. He was back to his calm, arrogant self. "He's been through a lot between his aunt, mom, and murdering girlfriend. That's why really, at the end of the day, you just can't trust women.' He winked at Lissa. "Present company excluded, of course.'

Lissa felt as disgusted as Adrian, and a quick glance at Christian's stormy face showed he felt the same. It was time to go before someone really did punch Blake. "Well, it's been great talking to you, but we need to go.'

Blake gave her puppy-dog eyes. "But you just got here! I was hoping we could get to know each other.' It went without saying what he meant by that. "Oh. And Kreskin too.'

Christian didn't even bother with a correction this time. He simply took hold of Lissa's hand. "We have to go.'

"Yeah,' agreed Lissa.

Blake shrugged and waved for another drink. "Well, any time you want to really experience the world, come find me.'

Christian and Lissa headed for the door, with Christian muttering, "I really hope that last part was meant for you, not me.'

"That's no world I want to experience,' said Lissa with a grimace. They stepped outside, and she glanced around, in case Adrian had lingered. Nope. He was gone, and she didn't blame him. "I can see now why Ambrose and Adrian don't like him. He's such a ...'

"Asshole?' supplied Christian. They turned toward her building.

"I suppose so.'

"Enough to commit murder?'

"Honestly? No.' Lissa sighed. "I kind of agree with Ambrose ... I don't think Blake's smart enough for murder. Or that the motive's really there. I can't tell if people are lying or not from their auras, but his didn't reveal anything overly dishonest. You joked, but if anyone was going to commit a jealous murder, why wouldn't the guys want to kill each other? A lot easier.'

"They did both have easy access to Tatiana,' Christian reminded her.

"I know. But if there is love and sex involved here ... it seems like it'd be someone jealous of the queen. A woman.'

A long, meaningful pause hung between them, neither of them wanting to say what they were both likely thinking. Finally, Christian broke the silence.

"Say, like, Daniella Ivashkov?'

Lissa shook her head. "I can't believe that. She doesn't seem like the type.'

"Murderers never seem like the type. That's why they get away with it.'

"Have you been studying up on your criminology or something? " "No.' They reached her building's front door, and he opened it for Lissa. "Just laying out some facts. We know Adrian's mom never liked Tatiana for personality reasons. Now we find out that they were sharing the same guy.'

"She has an alibi,' said Lissa stonily.

"Everyone has an alibi,' he reminded her. "And as we've learned, those can be paid for. In fact, Daniella's already paid for one.'

"I still can't believe it. Not without more proof. Ambrose swore this was more political than personal.'

"Ambrose isn't off the list either.'

They came to Lissa's room. "This is harder than I thought it would be.' They went inside, and Christian wrapped his arms around her.

"I know. But we'll do it together. We'll figure it out. But ... we might want to keep some of this to ourselves. Maybe I'm overreacting here, but I think it'd be best if we don't ever, ever tell Adrian his mom has an excellent motive for having killed his aunt.'

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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