"Not while I was there," I said. "But hey, maybe something went down after I left." That brought grins to Jill's and Eddie's faces and a hopeful look to Angeline's.

A waitress came by, and I ordered Diet Coke and a salad. Maybe I'd loosened up in my tight calorie counting, but I swore I could still taste the sugar from all the wedding cake I'd eaten after the spell.

Angeline tightened her hold on Eddie's arm and smiled up at him. "If you ever get to see my home, you can fight my brother Josh to show that you're worthy of me."

I had to swallow a laugh. I'd seen the Keepers' community and knew she was absolutely serious. I worked to keep a straight face. "Aren't you breaking a lot of rules by being together without that having happened yet?"

Angeline nodded, looking a little glum. "My mom would be so scandalized if she knew. But I guess this is a unique situation."

Eddie smiled indulgently at her. I think sometimes he thought we were exaggerating about the Keepers. He was going to be in for a shock if he ever did visit them. "Maybe I can fight a bunch of your relatives to make up for it," he said.

"You might have to," she said, not realizing he was joking.

It was hardly romantic banter, but Jill looked decidedly uncomfortable discussing their relationship. She turned to me, very obviously trying not to look at them. "Sydney, what are we going to do about Christmas?"

I shrugged, unsure what she was asking. "The usual, I guess. Give presents. Sing songs. Have Yuletide duels." Angeline lit up at that.

Jill rolled her eyes. "No, I mean, we're going to be on winter break in a few weeks. Is there any way . . . is there any way we can go home?"

There was a plaintive note in her voice, and even Eddie and Angeline broke their mutual admiration to stare at me. I shifted under their scrutiny. Angeline wasn't as concerned about visiting the Keepers, but I knew Eddie and Jill missed their friends and family. I wished I could give them the answer they wanted to hear.

"I'm sorry," I said. "You'll be staying at Clarence's for break. We can't risk . . . well, you know." I didn't need to emphasize the need for Jill's safety. We were all familiar with that refrain. Ian's comment about how fragile the throne was drove home the importance of what we did.

Jill's face fell. Even Eddie looked disappointed. "I figured," she said. "I just hoped . . . that is, I miss my mom so much."

"We can probably get a message to her," I said gently.

I knew that was no substitute for the real thing. I was able to make occasional phone calls to my own mom, and hearing her voice was a million times better than any email could be. I even got to talk to my older sister, Carly sometimes, which always cheered me up since she was so bright and funny. My younger sister, Zoe . . . well, she was a different story. She wouldn't take my calls. She'd nearly been initiated into the Alchemists - to take on this mission, in fact - when I'd stolen it from her. I'd done it to protect her from committing to the Alchemists so young, but she'd seen it as an insult.

Looking at Jill's sad face, I felt my heart clench. She had been through so much. Her new royal status. Targeted by assassins. Fitting in to a human school. Her disastrous and deadly romances. And now enduring Eddie and Angeline. She handled it all with remarkable strength, always resolutely going through with what she had to do even if she didn't want to do it. Lissa was praised for being such an exemplary queen, but there was a regality and strength to Jill as well that many underestimated. Glancing up, I caught a spark in Eddie's eyes as he too seemed to recognize and admire that about her.

After dinner, I took them back to Amberwood and was pleased to see that my car was in perfect shape. I drove a brown Subaru named Latte, and Eddie was the only other person I trusted behind the wheel. I dropped him off at the boys' dorm and then took Angeline and Jill back to ours. As we were walking in the door, I caught sight of Mrs. Santos, a teacher I knew by reputation.

"You guys go ahead," I told Jill and Angeline. "I'll see you tomorrow."

They left, and I walked across the lobby, waiting patiently for Mrs. Santos to finish a discussion with our dorm matron, Mrs. Weathers. When Mrs. Santos started to turn around and leave, I caught her attention.

"Mrs. Santos? I'm Sydney Melrose. I wondered if I could - "

"Oh, yes," she said. "I know who you are, dear. Ms. Terwilliger raves about you all the time at our department meetings." Mrs. Santos was a kindly-looking woman with silver and black hair. Rumor had it she'd be retiring soon.

I flushed a little at the praise. "Thank you, ma'am." She and Ms. Terwilliger were both history teachers, though Mrs. Santos's focus was on American history, not world. "Do you have a minute? I wanted to ask you something."

"Of course."

We stepped off to the side of the lobby, out of the incoming and outgoing dorm traffic. "You know a lot about local history, right? Southern California?"

Mrs. Santos nodded. "I was born and raised here."

"I'm interested in nontraditional architecture in the Los Angeles area," I told her, the lie rolling easily off my lips. I'd thought about this in advance. "That is, non-Southwest styles. Do you know any neighborhoods like that? I'd heard there were some Victorian ones."

She brightened. "Oh, yes. Absolutely. Fascinating subject. Victorian, Cape Cod, Colonial . . . there are all sorts. I don't have all the information on me, but I could email you when I get home tonight. There are several I know off the top of my head, and I know a historian who could help you with others."

"That'd be great, ma'am. Thank you so much."

"Always happy to help a star pupil." She winked as she started to walk away. "Maybe next semester you'll do an independent study with me. Provided you can tear yourself away from Ms. Terwilliger."

"I'll keep it in mind," I said.

As soon as she was gone, I texted Ms. Terwilliger. Mrs. Santos is going to tell me about historical neighborhoods. The response came quickly: Excellent. Come over right now. I scowled as I typed back: I just got here. Haven't even been in my room. To which she replied: Then you can get here that much faster.

Maybe that was true, but I still took the time to put my suitcase back in my room and change out of my travel clothes. Ms. Terwilliger lived pretty close to the school and looked as though she'd been pacing in circles when I arrived at her house.

"Finally," she said.

I glanced at the time. "It's only been fifteen minutes."

She shook her head and again wore the same grim expression she'd had out in the desert. "Even that might be too much. Follow me."

Tags: Richelle Mead Bloodlines Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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