"He's Moroi," said Lee pragmatically. "Maybe it's just something only he could understand - something you and Eddie couldn't. No offense."
"None taken," I said. It was only natural that Jill and I would have distinct differences - I was a human, and she was a vampire, after all. We couldn't be more different if we tried, and in fact, I kind of preferred it that way. "You go to college... in Los Angeles? A human school?" It wasn't that weird a behavior for Moroi. Sometimes they stuck together in their own communities; sometimes they tried to blend into large human cities.
Lee nodded. "Yup. And it was hard for me at first too. I mean, even without others obviously knowing you're a vampire... well, there's just a sense of otherness you're always aware of. I eventually adjusted... but I know what she's going through."
"Poor Jill," I said, suddenly realizing I'd come at this situation all wrong. Most of my energy had been fixed on the school believing Jill's illness was a hangover. I should've focused on why she was sick in the first place. Anxiety over this new life change had to be taking its toll. I'd battled my own uneasiness, trying to figure out friendships and social cues - but at least I was still dealing with my own race. "I didn't really think about what she's going through."
"Do you want me to talk to her?" asked Lee. He set the apple core aside. "Not that I'm sure I have that much wisdom to share."
"Anything might help," I said honestly.
A silence fell between us, and I began to feel uneasy. Lee seemed very friendly, but my old fears were too ingrained. Part of me felt like he didn't so much want to get to know me as study me. Alchemists were clearly a novelty to him. "Do you mind me asking... the tattoo. It gives you special powers, right?"
It was nearly a repeat of the conversation at school, except Lee actually knew the truth behind it. I absentmindedly touched my cheek. "Not powers, exactly. There's compulsion in it to keep us from talking about what we do. And I get a good immune system out of it. But the rest? I'm nothing special."
"Fascinating," he murmured. I looked away uneasily and tried to casually brush my hair back into my face.
Adrian stuck his head in just then. All his earlier humor was gone. "Ah, there you are. Can I talk to you in private for a sec?"
The question was directed to me, and Lee jumped off the counter. "I'll take the cue. Is Jill still in the den?" Adrian nodded, and Lee glanced at me questioningly. "Do you want me to... ?"
I nodded. "That'd be great. Thank you."
Lee left, and Adrian glanced back at me curiously. "What was that about?"
"Oh, we thought Lee might be able to help Jill with her problems," I explained. "Since he can relate."
"Yeah, you know. Adjusting to living with humans."
"Oh," said Adrian. He produced a pack of cigarettes and, to my complete astonishment, lit up right in front of me. "That. Yeah, I guess that's good. But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. I need you to get me out of this place."
I was startled. This wasn't about Jill?
"Out of Palm Springs?" I asked.
"No! Out of this place." He gestured around him. "It's like living in a retirement home! Clarence is taking a nap right now, and he eats at five. It's so boring."
"You've only been here for two days."
"And that's more than enough. The only thing keeping me alive is that he keeps a hefty supply of liquor on hand. But at the rate I'm going, that'll be gone by the weekend. Jesus Christ, I'm climbing the walls." His eyes fell on the cross at my neck. "Oh. Sorry. No offense to Jesus."
I was still too baffled by the unexpected topic to feel much offense. "What about Lee? He's here, right?"
"Yes," agreed Adrian. "Sometimes. But he's busy with... hell, I don't know. School stuff. He's going back to Los Angeles tomorrow, and that'll be another boring night for me. Besides..." He looked around conspiratorially. "Lee's nice enough, but he's not... well, he's not really into having fun. Not the way I am."
"That might be a good thing," I pointed out.
"No morality lectures, Sage. And hey, like I said, I like him okay, but he's not here enough. When he is, he keeps to himself. He's always checking himself out in the mirror, even more than I do. I heard him worrying about gray hair the other day."
I didn't care about Lee's eccentricities. "Where would you even want to go? You don't want..." A very unpleasant thought came to me. "You don't want to enroll at Amberwood, do you?"
"What, and play 21 Jump Street with the rest of you? No, thank you."
"Never mind. Look." He put out the cigarette - on the counter - which I thought was kind of ridiculous since he'd hardly smoked any of it. Why bother with such a filthy habit if you weren't going to use it all? "I need my own place, okay? You guys make things happen. Can't you get me some swank bachelor's pad like Keith has downtown so I can party with all the rich vacationers? Drinking alone is sad and pathetic. I need people. Even human people."
"No," I said. "I'm not authorized to do that. You aren't... well, you aren't really my responsibility. We're just taking care of Jill - and Eddie, since he's her bodyguard."
Adrian scowled. "What about a car? Can you do that?"
I shook my head.
"What about your car? What if I drop you guys back off at the school and then borrow it for a while?"
"No," I said swiftly. That was probably the craziest suggestion he could've made. Latte was my baby. I certainly wasn't about to lend it out to a heavy drinker - especially to one who also happened to be a vampire. If there was ever a vampire who seemed particularly irresponsible, it was Adrian Ivashkov.
"You're killing me here, Sage!"
"I'm not doing anything."
"Exactly my point."
"Look," I said, growing irritated. "I told you. You're not my responsibility. Talk to Abe if you want things changed. Isn't he the reason you're here?" Adrian's annoyance and self-pity shifted to wariness. "What do you know about that?"
Right. He didn't know I'd overheard their conversation.
"I mean, he's the one who brought you guys here and made the arrangements with Clarence, right?" I hoped that would be convincing enough - and maybe yield me a little information on what Abe's master plan was.
"Yes," Adrian said, after several seconds of intense scrutiny. "But Abe wants me to stay in this tomb. If I got my own place, we'd have to keep it secret from him."