I wasn't interested in that. Watching him, I saw that he kept favoring his uninjured wrist. I couldn't believe I'd caused damage like that and felt a little guilty, despite everything that had happened. "You should get that taken care of," I said. Sabrina nodded in agreement.
He sighed. "I can't. At least, not through conventional means. The Alchemists have eyes everywhere."
"I, uh, might be able to help you get it healed through unconventional means," I said.
"You know some off-the-grid doctor?" asked Sabrina hopefully.
"No. But I know a Moroi spirit user."
Marcus froze, and I kind of liked that I'd thrown him off guard. "Seriously? We've heard of them but never met one. That woman they had - Sonya? She was one, right? She was gone before we could find out more."
Talking about Adrian made me nervous, but Sabrina probably already knew he existed if they'd been watching me. "Yeah, she was one, and there's another in Palm Springs. I could take you to him and let him heal you."
Excitement lit Marcus's features. Sabrina looked at him in horror. "You can't just go off with her." Was that concern or jealousy in her voice?
"Why not?" he asked. "She's taking a leap of faith with us. We can't do any less. Besides, I'm dying to meet a spirit user. The safe house isn't that far from Palm Springs. You make sure everything's in order and then come pick me up later."
Sabrina didn't like that, not at all. Maybe I didn't understand the dynamics of their group yet, but it was obvious she regarded him as a leader and was insanely protective. In fact, I suspected her feelings for him were more than professional. They went back and forth on whether he'd be safe or not, and I listened without a word. All the while, I wondered if I'd be safe heading off with some unknown guy. Clarence trusted him, I reminded myself. And he's pretty paranoid. Besides, with Marcus's wrist out of commission, I could probably take him.
He finally convinced Sabrina to let him go but not before she snarled, "If anything happens to him, I'm coming after you." Apparently her hard-core character in the arena hadn't been entirely faked.
We parted ways from her, and before long, Marcus and I were on the road to Palm Springs. I tried to get more information out of him, but he wouldn't bite. Instead, he kept complimenting me and saying things that were only one step away from pickup lines. Judging from the way he'd bantered with Sabrina too, I didn't think there was anything particularly special about me. I thought he was just used to women fawning all over him. He was cute, I'd give him that, but it took a lot more than that to win me over.
It was sunset when we pulled up to Adrian's apartment, and I belatedly wondered if I should've given him some advance warning. Too late now.
We walked up to the door, and I knocked three times. "It's open," a voice called from within. I stepped inside, and Marcus followed.
Adrian was working on an abstract painting of what looked like a crystalline building from some fantasy world. "Unexpected treat," he said. His eyes fell on Marcus and widened. "I'll be damned. You found him."
"Thanks to you," I said.
Adrian glanced over at me. A smile started to form - and then instantly dried up. "What happened to your face?"
"Oh." I lightly touched the swollen spot. It still smarted but wasn't as painful as it had been earlier. I spoke my next words without thinking. "Marcus hit me."
I'd never seen Adrian move so fast. Marcus had no chance to react, probably because he was exhausted from our earlier encounter. Adrian shoved Marcus up against a wall and - to my complete and utter astonishment - punched Marcus. Adrian had once joked that he never dirtied his hands, so this was something I never could have prepared myself for. In fact, if Adrian was going to attack someone, I would've expected something magical and spirit-driven. Yet . . . as I watched him, I could see that anything as thoughtful as magic was far from Adrian's mind. He had kicked into primal mode. See a threat. Go after it. It was yet another surprising - yet fascinating - side of the enigma that was Adrian Ivashkov.
Marcus quickly got his bearings and responded in kind. He pushed Adrian back, wincing a little. Even with his injury he was still strong. "What the hell? Who are you?"
"The guy that's going to kick your ass for hurting her," said Adrian.
He tried another punch, but Marcus dodged and managed to land a hit that knocked Adrian back into one of his easels. When Marcus swung again, Adrian eluded him with a maneuver that was straight out of Wolfe's class. I would've applauded him if I wasn't so appalled by the situation. I knew some girls thought it was sexy to have men fight over them. Not me.
"You guys, stop!" I cried.
"No one's going to throw you around and get away with it," said Adrian.
"What happened with us has nothing to do with you," retorted Marcus.
"Everything about her has to do with me."
The two circled around each other, waiting for the other to pounce. "Adrian," I exclaimed. "It was an accident."
"Doesn't look like an accident," he replied, never taking his eyes off Marcus.
"You should listen to her," growled Marcus. The easygoing guy I'd met earlier was gone, but I guess being attacked would do that to you. "It might save you from getting your pretty face wrecked. How much styling did you have to do to get your hair like that?"
"At least I brush my hair," said Adrian.
Marcus lunged forward - but not directly at Adrian. He grabbed a painting off an easel and used it as a weapon. Adrian again managed a dodge, but the painting didn't fare so well. The canvas tore, and Marcus tossed it aside, ready for the next advance.
Adrian spared the canvas a brief glance. "Now you've really pissed me off."
"Enough!" Something told me they weren't going to listen to reason. This required direct intervention. I stalked across the room and pushed myself between them.
"Sydney, get out of the way," ordered Adrian.
"Yeah," agreed Marcus. "For once he's got something worthwhile to say."
"No!" I held out my hands to separate them. "Both of you back off - now!" My voice rang through the apartment, and I refused to budge. "Back. Off," I repeated.
"Sydney. . . ." Adrian's voice was a little more uncertain than when he'd told me to get out of the way.
I looked back and forth between them, giving each guy a healthy glare. "Adrian, it really was an accident. Marcus, this is the guy who's going to help you, so show some respect."