Chapter Nine

AS JILL HAD SAID, Adrian was more than happy to begin our hunt that afternoon. In fact, when I finally got ahold of him, he offered to pick me up when classes ended, in order to maximize our time. I didn't mind this since it meant I'd get to ride in the Mustang. Admittedly, I would've preferred to drive it myself, but I'd take what I could get.

"When are you going to name the car?" I asked him once we were on the road to Los Angeles.

"It's an inanimate object," he said. "Names are for people and pets."

I patted the Mustang's dashboard. "Don't listen to him." To Adrian, I said, "They name boats all the time."

"I don't really understand that either, but maybe I would if my old man ever fronted me the money for a private yacht." He shot me a quick, amused look before returning his attention to the road. "How can someone as cold and logical as you be so obsessed with something as frivolous as this?"

I wasn't sure which part bothered me the most - being called cold or obsessed. "I'm just giving the proper respect to a beautiful machine."

"You named your car after coffee. That's a sign of respect?"

"The highest1respect," I said.

He made a noise that sounded like a cross between a scoff and a laugh. "Okay, then. You name it. Whatever you want, I'll go along with."

"Really?" I asked, a bit startled. True, I'd been badgering him about naming the car, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be the one to wield that sort of power. "It's a big decision."

"Life or death," he said, deadpan. "Better choose carefully."

"Yeah, but you're the so-called creative one!"

"Then this'll be good practice for you."

I fell silent for a good part of the drive, struck by the gravity of the dilemma that lay before me. What should the name reflect? The car's sunny yellow color? Sleek lines? Powerful engine? The task was overwhelming.

Adrian pulled me out of my thoughts when we began nearing the outer Los Angeles suburbs. "We're not actually going into the city, are we?"

"Huh?" I'd been waging a mental debate between Summer Wind and Gold Dust. "Oh, no. We're heading north. Take the next exit."

Mrs. Santos had provided me with two neighborhoods known for their Victorian-style houses. I'd researched them extensively online, even going so far as to look at satellite pictures. I'd finally chosen one that most resembled my vision and crossed my fingers I'd have the same luck as I'd had in finding Marcus's apartment. Surely the universe owed me a few favors.

Unfortunately, things didn't look too promising when we finally reached the street I'd been given. It was a peaceful residential area, filled with those same distinctive houses, but nothing that quite matched the one I'd seen in my vision. We drove up and down the street as I scanned each side, hoping maybe I'd missed something.

"Ugh," I said, slouching back into my seat. No luck. The universe had apparently cut me off. "We'll have to check the other location, but seriously, it didn't look like a match."

"Well, it can't hurt to - " Adrian suddenly made an abrupt turn onto a side street we'd nearly driven past. I jerked upright as he clipped the curb.

"What are you doing? Think about your tires!"

"Look." He made another turn, putting us on a parallel street. Most of it was contemporary California housing . . . but one block had more Victorian houses. I gasped.

"There it is!"

Adrian came to a stop on the side of the street opposite from the house of my vision. Everything was there, from the wrapping porch to the hydrangea bush. And now, in the full light of day, I could make out the sign in the front yard: OLD WORLD BED-AND-BREAKFAST. Smaller print identified it as a historic site.

"Well, there we go." Adrian was clearly very pleased with his find, despite the risk to the car's tires. "Maybe Jackie's sister is staying here."

"Odd choice to run nefarious magical activities out of," I remarked.

"I don't know. Seeing as there aren't any ancient castles in the neighborhood, then why not a bed-and-breakfast?"

I took a deep breath. "Okay, then. Let's go make some inquiries. You sure you can muddle the minds of those who see me?"

"Easy," he said. "Easier still if you were wearing your wig."

"Oh, shoot. I forgot." I ducked down and retrieved a shoulder-length brown wig that Ms. Terwilliger had supplied me with. Even with Adrian's magic, we wanted to take extra precautions. While it would be good if people were visited by an unmemorable blonde, it'd be better still if they were visited by an unmemorable brunette. I tugged the wig on, hoping no one had seen my transformation. I lifted my head. "Does it look okay?"

Adrian's face showed approval. "It's cute. You look even brainier, which I didn't think was possible."

We left the car, and I wondered if I wanted to look brainier. A lot of people already thought I was boring. Blond hair might be the only exciting thing I had going for me. Then I thought for a minute about my recent experience scaling a fire escape, breaking and entering, and getting into a fistfight with a fugitive. Not to mention that I was now hunting a powerful evil witch alongside a vampire who could control people's minds.

Okay, maybe I wasn't so boring after all.

We stepped inside to find a cute little lobby with an ornate desk and a sitting area with wicker furniture. Stuffed rabbits dressed in ball gowns adorned the shelves, and the walls actually had oil paintings of Queen Victoria. The owners apparently took their theme very literally, though I wasn't sure how the rabbits fit in.

A girl my age sat at the desk and glanced up in surprise from a magazine. She had short platinum hair and hipster glasses. Tons of necklaces hung around her neck in a gaudy display that went against my minimalist sensibilities. Hot pink plastic beads, a sparkly green star, a gold and diamond locket, a dog tag . . . it was mind-boggling. Even worse, she was chewing gum loudly.

"Hi," she said. "Can I help you?"

We'd had a whole routine planned, but Adrian immediately went off script. He slung his arm around me. "Yeah, we're looking for a weekend getaway, and a friend of ours swears this is top-of-the-line romance." He pulled me closer. "Our anniversary's coming up. We've been dating for one year, but man, it hardly seems like it."

"That's for sure," I said, trying to keep my jaw from dropping. I forced what I hoped was a happy smile.

The girl glanced back and forth between us, her expression softening. "That's so sweet. Congratulations."

Tags: Richelle Mead Bloodlines Fantasy
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