Great, I thought as my heart sank. Could this night be any more of a disaster?
I texted back: I'm busy.
His response: I'll be fast. I'm close by.
A feeling of dread crept over me: How close?
The response was about as bad as I could expect: The parking lot.
"OH, LORD," I SAID.
"What's wrong?" asked Brayden. "Is everything okay?"
"Hard to say." I put the phone back in my purse. "I hate to do this, but I have to go take care of something outside. I'll be back as quickly as I can."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
I hesitated. "No, it's okay." I had no idea what to expect out there. It was best if Brayden wasn't subjected to it. "I'll hurry."
"Sydney, wait." Brayden caught hold of my arm. "This... this is the song you requested, isn't it?" The one we'd been dancing to had just ended, and a new one was on - or, well, an old one. It was about thirty years old.
I sighed. "Yes. It is. I'll be fast, I promise."
The temperature outside was pleasant, warm but not oppressively so. We were allegedly due for a rare bit of rain. As I walked toward the parking lot, some of Wolfe's lessons came back to me. Check your surroundings. Watch for people lurking near cars. Stay in the light.
Make sure to -
All reasonable thoughts vanished from my head. Adrian was lying on my car.
I ran over to Latte as fast as the dress would allow me. "What are you doing?" I demanded.
"Get off of there!" I automatically checked for dents and scratches.
Adding insult to injury, Adrian was actually smoking as he lay on the hood and stared up at the sky. Clouds were moving in, but a half-moon could occasionally be seen. "Relax, Sage.
I won't leave a scratch. Really, this is surprisingly comfortable for a family car. I would've expected - " He turned his head toward me and froze. I had never seen him so still - or so quiet. His shock was so thorough and intense that he actually dropped his cigarette.
"Ahh," I cried, springing forward, lest the burning cigarette damage the car. It landed harmlessly on the asphalt, and I quickly stamped it out. "For the last time, will you get off of there?" Adrian slowly sat up, eyes wide. He slid off the hood and didn't seem to leave any marks.
Obviously, I'd have to check it later. "Sage," he said. "What are you wearing?" I sighed and stared down at the dress. "I know. It's red. Don't start. I'm tired of hearing about it."
"Funny," he said. "I don't think I could ever get tired of looking at it." Those words drew me up short, and a rush of heat went through me. What did he mean?
Was I so outlandish-looking that he couldn't stop staring at the crazy spectacle? Surely...
surely he wasn't implying that I was pretty...
I promptly got back on track, reminding myself that I needed to think about the guy inside, not out here. "Adrian, I'm on a date. Why are you here? On my car?"
"Sorry to interrupt, Sage. I wouldn't have been on your car if they'd let me into the dance," he said. A little of his earlier awe had faded, and he relaxed into a more typical Adrian pose, leaning back against Latte. At least he was standing and less likely to do damage.
"Yeah. They generally frown on letting twenty-something guys into high school events.
What did you want?"
"To talk to you."
I waited for him to elaborate, but the only response I received was a brief flash of lightning above. It was Saturday, and I'd been around campus all day, during which he could've easily called. He'd known the dance was tonight. Then, inhaling the smell of alcohol that hung in the air around him, I knew nothing he did should really surprise me tonight.
"Why couldn't it have been tomorrow?" I asked. "Did you really have to come here tonight and - " I frowned and looked around. "How did you even get here?"
"I took the bus," he said, almost proudly. "A lot easier getting here than to Carlton." Carlton College was where he took art classes, and without his own transportation, he'd come to rely heavily on mass transit - something he'd never done before in his life.
I'd been hoping Sonya or Dimitri had dropped him off - meaning they'd pick him up again.
But of course that wouldn't happen. Neither one of them would have brought a drunken Adrian here. "So I guess I have to take you home then," I said.
"Hey, I got myself here. I'll get myself home." He started to take out a cigarette, and I gave him a stern headshake.
"Don't," I said sharply. With a shrug, he put the pack away. "And I have to take you home.
It's going to storm soon. I'm not going to make you walk in the rain." Another flash of lightning emphasized my words, and a faint breeze stirred the fabric of my dress.
"Hey," he said, "I don't want to be an incon - "
"Sydney?" Brayden came striding across the parking lot. "Everything okay?" No, not really. "I'm going to have to leave for a little bit," I said. "I have to give my brother a ride home. Will you be okay waiting? It shouldn't be that long." I felt bad even suggesting it.
Brayden didn't really know anyone at my school. "Maybe you could find Trey?"
"Sure," said Brayden uncertainly. "Or I can come with you."
"No," I said quickly, not wanting him and drunken Adrian in the car. "Just go back and have fun."
"Nice toga," Adrian told Brayden.
"It's a chiton," said Brayden. "It's Greek."
"Right. I forgot that was tonight's theme." Adrian gave Brayden an appraising look, glanced over at me, and then turned back to Brayden. "So. What do you think of our girl's ensemble tonight? Pretty amazing, huh? Like Cinderella. Or maybe a Greek Cinderella."
"There's really not much about it that's truly Greek," said Brayden. I winced. I knew he didn't mean to be insensitive, but his words stung a little. "The dress is historically inaccurate.
I mean it's a very nice dress, but the jewelry's anachronistic, and the fabric's nothing that ancient Greek women would have had. Certainly not that color either."
"What about those other Greek women?" asked Adrian. "The flashy smart ones." His forehead wrinkled, as though it were taking every ounce of his brain to come up with the word he wanted. And, to my astonishment, he did. "The hetaerae." I honestly hadn't believed he'd retained anything from our conversation in San Diego. I tried not to smile.