I can't imagine how Adrian's put up with that his whole life. And would you believe that what worried Adrian the most was that I would think less of him?"
"Actually," said Sonya softly, "I can very much believe that." The costume store was still open, thanks to extended Halloween hours, but only for ten more minutes. Sonya wandered around the aisles with no real goal, but I headed immediately for the historical section. They had exactly one Greek-style dress left, a plain white gown with a gold plastic belt. I knelt down to take a better look. Opening the package, I felt the fabric. It was cheap, probably flammable. The dress was also an XL, and I wondered if Jill had learned enough in sewing club to take it in for me. With less than a week until the dance, my options were limited.
"Really?" a voice beside me said. "Haven't you insulted me enough without resorting to this trash?"
Standing above me was Lia DiStefano. Her curly hair was bound up with a bright red scarf, and a voluminous peasant blouse made her petite body look like it had wings. She peered down at me disapprovingly with kohl-lined eyes.
"Are you following me?" I asked, getting to my feet. "Every time I'm downtown, here you are."
"If I were following you, I never would have let you set foot in here in the first place." She pointed at the costume. "What is that?"
"My outfit for Halloween," I said. "I'm going Greek."
"It's not even the right size."
"I'll get it taken in."
She tsked. "I'm so appalled, I don't even know where to start. You want a Greek dress? I'll make you one. A good one. Not this monstrosity. My God. People know you know me. If you were seen in that, it'd ruin my career."
"Yeah, because what I wear to a high school dance will really make or break you."
"When's your dance?" she asked.
"Easy," she declared. She gave me a once-over and nodded in satisfaction. "Easy measurements too. Is your sister dressing just as badly?"
"Not sure," I admitted. "She talked about making a fairy dress in sewing club. A blue one, I think."
Lia blanched. "Even worse. I'll make her a dress too. I've already got her measurements." I sighed. "Lia, I know what you're trying to do, and it won't work. Jill absolutely cannot model for you again. It doesn't matter how much bribery you try." Lia attempted an innocent look that was in no way convincing. "Who said anything about bribery? I'm doing this out of charity. It'd be a disgrace to let you two go out in anything less than the best."
"Lia - "
"Do not buy that," she warned, pointing at the costume. "It's a waste. You might as well set your money on fire - although, it probably wouldn't light as fast as that dress. I'll let you know when your costumes are ready." With that, she turned on her high wooden heels and walked away, leaving me staring.
"Did you get a costume?" Sonya asked me later, once the closing store forced us to leave.
"Weirdly, yes," I said. "But not from there."
Dimitri apparently wasn't done with his call, since he hadn't joined us yet. We strolled leisurely back toward the restaurant, wanting to give him more time with Rose. Other stores were closing, and the tourists were beginning to thin out. I explained the meeting with Lia. Sonya found it more amusing than I did.
"Well, don't knock it," she said. "If a designer wants to make you something, you're not obligated to give her anything else. Maybe she could help me out with bridesmaid dresses." We crossed a less busy street and cut through a narrow alley with a brick building on one side and a tree-filled church lawn on the other. I'd admired the church on our way over, but now, in only a short time, evening had filled it with shadows and given it a foreboding look and feel. I was glad I wasn't walking through here alone. It felt strange to be reassured by a vampire's presence.
"Lia does make amazing things," I admitted. "But I don't know if we should encourage her."
"Fair enough," said Sonya. "Maybe one of these days, you'll help me look for dresses.
You've got a really good sense of - "
She suddenly spun around toward the darkened churchyard. There was a look of fear on her face, but I saw nothing alarming - at first. Seconds later, four figures in black jumped out from behind the trees. One of them threw me against the brick wall while the other three pinned Sonya to the ground. I pushed back against my captor, but a muscled arm held me tightly. In the faint light, I saw a glimmer of something I never expected to see on the streets of Palm Springs: a sword.
The dark figure poised it over Sonya's neck. "Time to go back to Hell," he said.
I'M NOT A PHYSICAL PERSON. I'm decent in volleyball, and Eddie once taught me to throw a punch. But I make no claims to having the kind of training that guardians get. I certainly don't have their reflexes. So, in this situation, unable to break free of restraint, I pretty much did the only thing I could.
"Help! Somebody help!"
My hope was that it would delay Sonya's captors from decapitating her or whatever it was they planned to do. I also hoped it would, well, bring help. We'd departed from the main downtown roads but were still close enough that someone should hear me - especially since there had still been a decent number of people out earlier.
One of the attackers holding Sonya flinched, so I supposed I was partially successful. My own captor clamped a hand over my mouth and pushed me harder against the brick wall.
Then, a strange thing happened. He - because he had the right build to be male, even though I couldn't make out his face - froze. He was still holding me, but his body had gone rigid. It was almost like he was shocked or surprised. I wasn't sure why. Surely someone screaming for help when assaulted wasn't that weird. I didn't think I could overpower him but still hoped I might take advantage of his stunned state. I pushed forward again, trying to get out of his grip. I only managed to move a few inches before he locked me back into place.
"We need to go!" exclaimed one of Sonya's captors. Another guy. From what I could tell, they all were. "Someone will come."
"This'll only take a second," growled the one holding the sword. "We need to rid the world of this evil."
I watched in terror, my heart seizing in my chest. I was afraid for myself, but I was especially afraid for Sonya. I'd never seen a decapitation. I didn't want to start now.
Half a second later, I found myself suddenly free. Someone new had joined our fray, someone who ripped my captor away and tossed him easily to the pavement. It looked painful, and the guy landed with a grunt. Even in this poor lighting, the height and coat gave my savior away. It was Dimitri.