"I don't know. Play the big brother card. Act protective. Say she's too young."

I expected Eddie to agree, but he once more averted his eyes. "I don't know if we should say anything."

"What? Are you insane? Do you think it's okay to - "

"No, no." He sighed. "I'm not advocating it. But look at it this way. Jill's stuck in a school full of humans. It's not fair that she be banned from hanging out with any guys."

"I think Micah wants to do more than hang out."

"Well, why shouldn't she get to go on a date now and then? Or go to a dance? She should get to do all the normal things a girl her age does. She's already had her life radically changed. We shouldn't make it any harder."

I eyed him in disbelief, trying to figure out why he was so laid back about this. Admittedly, he didn't face the same consequences I did. If my superiors found out I was "encouraging" human and vampire dating, it'd be more evidence against me and my alleged bias. After all, my reputation wasn't yet restored with the Alchemists. Still, I knew Eddie's people didn't like the idea of dating, either. So what was the problem? A strange answer suddenly came to me. "I feel like you just don't want to confront Micah."

Eddie looked right at me. "It's complicated," he said. Something in his face told me I'd hit the mark. "Why don't you talk to Jill? She knows the rules. She'll understand that she can be with him without getting serious."

"I think it's a bad idea," I said, still unable to believe he was taking this stance. "We're creating a gray area here that's eventually going to cause confusion. We should keep it black and white and ban her from dating while she's here."

That wry smile returned. "Everything's black and white with you Alchemists, isn't it? Do you think you can really stop her from doing anything? You should know better. Even your childhood couldn't have been that abnormal."

With that slap in the face, Eddie stalked off, leaving me aghast. What had just happened? How could Eddie - who was so adamant about doing the right thing for Jill - be okay with her casually dating Micah? There was something weird going on here, something connected to Micah, though I couldn't figure out what. Well, I refused to let this matter go. It was too important. I'd talk to Jill and make sure she knew right from wrong. If necessary, I'd also talk to Micah - though I still felt that conversation would be better coming from Eddie.

And, I realized, thinking of how I had to go hunt down a doctor's note, there was one more source I could appeal to, one that had a lot of influence over Jill.Adrian.

Looked like I'd be paying him another visit.

Chapter Nine

CONSIDERING I WAS ONLY SUPPOSED to visit Clarence's twice a week for feedings, I was kind of amazed that I seemed to be here practically every day. Not only that, this was my first time visiting the estate alone. Before, I'd been with Keith or Jill and had a very well-defined goal. Now, I was on my own. I hadn't realized how much that would freak me out until I was approaching the house, which became even more looming and dark than usual.

There's nothing to be afraid of, I told myself. You've been with a vampire and dhampir all week. You should be used to it. Besides, really, the scariest thing about this place was the old house itself. Clarence and Lee weren't all that intimidating, and Adrian... well, Adrian was pretty much the least scary vampire I'd ever met. He was too bratty for me to feel any real fear, and actually... as much as I hated to admit it, I kind of looked forward to seeing him. It made no sense, but something about his infuriating nature made me forget about my other worries. Weirdly, I felt like I could relax around him.

Dorothy escorted me in, and I expected to be taken to the sitting room again. Instead, the housekeeper led me through a few twists and turns of the dark halls, finally landing in a billiards room that looked like it could have been straight out of Clue. More dark wood lined the room, and stained glass windows let in filtered sunlight. Most of the room's illumination came from a hanging light centered over a rich green pool table. Adrian was lining up a shot as I shut the door behind me.

"Oh," he said, knocking a red ball into a hole. "It's you."

"You were expecting someone else?" I asked. "Am I interrupting your social calendar?" I made a big show of glancing around the empty room. "I don't want to keep you from the mob of fans beating down your door."

"Hey, a guy can hope. I mean, it's not impossible that a car full of scantily clad sorority girls might break down outside and need my help."

"That's true," I said. "Maybe I can put a sign out front that says, 'ATTENTION ALL GIRLS: FREE HELP HERE.'"

"'ATTENTION ALL HOT GIRLS,'" he corrected, straightening up.

"Right," I said, trying not to roll my eyes. "That's an important distinction."

He pointed at me with the pool stick. "Speaking of hot, I like that uniform."

This time, I did roll my eyes. After Adrian had teased me last time about my uniform looking like my normal clothes, I'd made sure to change out of it before coming today. Now I wore dark jeans and a black-and-white printed blouse with a ruffled collar. I should have known the outfit change wouldn't save me from his snark.

"Are you the only one here?" I asked, noting his solo game.

"Nah. Clarence is around doing... I don't know. Old man stuff. And I think Lee's fixing that lock before he heads to LA. It's kind of funny. He seems upset that he needs to use tools. He keeps thinking the strength of his own hands should be more than enough."

I couldn't help a smile. "I don't suppose you offered to help?"

"Sage," Adrian declared. "These hands don't do manual labor." He knocked another ball into a hole. "You want to play?"

"What? With you?"

"No, with Clarence." He sighed at my dumbfounded look. "Yes, of course with me."

"No. I need to talk to you about Jill."

He was silent for a few moments and then returned to the game as though nothing had happened. "She wasn't sick today." He said that with certainty, though there was a funny, bitter tone to his words.

"No. Well, not in the same way. She got sick out in the sun during PE. I'm going to see Keith after this to see if we can get a medical excuse." I'd actually tried calling him earlier, with no luck. "But that's not why I'm here. There's a guy who likes Jill - a human guy."

"Have Castile rough him up."

I leaned back against the wall and sighed. "That's the thing. I asked him to. Well, not rough him up, exactly. It's Eddie's roommate. I asked Eddie to tell him to back off and make up some reason for staying away from Jill - like that she's too young." Fearing Adrian would be as lax as Eddie in this, I asked, "You understand why it's important, right? No Moroi and human dating?"

Tags: Richelle Mead Bloodlines Fantasy
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