I gave a reluctant nod and returned to my desk, figuring I'd try to read until class started. I didn't expect to have much success. "Miss Melbourne?" she called. I glanced back and saw that her sad expression had lightened up a little. She almost looked amused, which seemed weird, given the situation.
"You might want to do something about your neck."
I was totally lost. "My neck?"
She reached into her purse and handed me a compact mirror. I opened it and surveyed my neck, still trying to figure out what she could be talking about. Then I saw it. A small, brownish purple bruise on the side of my neck.
"What on earth is that?" I exclaimed.
Ms. Terwilliger snorted. "Although it's been a while for me, I believe the technical term is a hickey" She paused and arched an eyebrow. "You do know what that is, don't you?"
"Of course I know!" I lowered the mirror. "But there's no way - I mean, we barely - that is - "
She held up a hand to silence me. "You don't have to justify your private life to me. But you might want to consider how you can actually keep it private in the next fifteen minutes."
I was practically out of my seat before she finished speaking. When I emerged from the building, I had the amazing fortune to find the campus shuttle just pulling up. I hurried onto it, and although the ride to my dorm only took a few minutes, it felt like forever. All the while, my mind reeled with what had happened.
I have a hickey. I let Adrian Ivashkov give me a hickey.
How in the world had that happened? The devastating news about Lynne had allowed me to ignore the full impact of my indiscretion, but there was no avoiding that now. Against every principle I possessed, I'd allowed myself to get drawn into kissing Adrian. And not just kissing. Thinking about the way our bodies had been pressed together made me feel as flushed as I had last night.
No, no, no! I couldn't think about that. I had to forget it had happened. I needed to make sure it didn't happen again. What had come over me? I didn't feel the way he felt about me. He was Moroi. And even if he hadn't been, he was undoubtedly the most unsuitable guy for me in the world. I needed someone serious, someone with the potential to get a job that had medical benefits. Someone like Brayden.
Yeah, how'd that work out for you, Sydney?
What happened with Adrian had been wrong. It had obviously been some twisted act of lust, probably brought on because he was so forbidden. That was it. Women fell for that kind of thing. When I'd researched relationship books, I'd seen one called Bad Boys and the Women Who Love Them. I'd ignored it because Brayden was pretty much the opposite of a bad boy. Maybe it would be worth getting that book now.
A flame in the dark. I needed to forget that Adrian had ever called me that. I had to.
We had another minute before we would reach my dorm, so I sent a quick text to Adrian: I have a hickey! You can't ever kiss me again. I honestly hadn't expected him to be awake this early so I was surprised to get a response: Okay. I won't kiss you on your neck again.
So typical of him. No! You can't ever kiss me ANYWHERE. You said you were going to keep your distance.
I'm trying, he wrote back. But you won't keep your distance from me.
I didn't dignify that with a response.
When we reached my dorm, I asked the driver how long she'd wait before returning to main campus. "I'm leaving right now," she said.
"Please," I begged. "Wait sixty seconds. I'll pay you."
She looked offended. "I don't take bribes."
But when I sprinted back out of the dorm - in a scarf - she was still there. I made it back to Ms. Terwilliger's class just as the bell rang. She flashed me a knowing look but said nothing about my wardrobe change.
While I was in class, I received a text from Marcus. Can you meet today? San Bernardino, 4 p.m.
Well, he'd warned me about short notice. San Bernardino was an hour away. I'd given Eddie a heads-up about the meeting happening this week, and he'd agreed to go. I just hoped he didn't have anything planned this afternoon. I texted back that we'd be there, and Marcus sent me an address.
When class ended, a girl from my English class caught my attention and asked if she could borrow some notes since she'd been out sick yesterday. Eddie was gone by the time I finished with her, so I didn't get a chance to ask him about San Bernardino until lunch.
"Sure," he said, snapping into that fierce guardian mode.
Jill already knew about our errand because I'd told Adrian about it. I felt a little bad about taking Eddie from Jill. Okay, really bad. Removing Eddie was a serious risk, though I reminded myself that he wasn't always with her every single second. Sometimes it was impossible, which was why we'd acquired Angeline. Still, if anyone in the Alchemists found out I was using her main bodyguard for personal errands, I'd be in big trouble. Well, actually, I'd probably be in big trouble regardless, seeing as I was meeting with a group of rebels. I turned to Angeline, who was trying to decipher some notes about the quadratic equation.
"Angeline, you need to stay with Jill until we're back," I said. "And you should both actually just stay in your dorm, to be extra safe. Don't wander campus."
Jill accepted this, but Angeline looked up in dismay. "I'm supposed to meet Trey for math. How do you expect me to pass?"
I was helpless against an academic argument. "Study in the dorm lobby. That should be safe enough. Jill can just do homework with you."
Angeline didn't seem entirely pleased about that alternative, but she didn't protest it. She started to return to her notes and then did a double take. "Why are you wearing that scarf?" she asked. "It's so hot today." It was true. The unseasonable temperatures had returned.
Eddie, to my surprise, said, "I wondered the same thing."
"Oh, um . . . " Please don't blush, please don't blush, I ordered myself. "I've just been cold today."
"That's weird," said Jill, perfectly deadpan. "For someone who always seems to be so cold, you sure can warm up pretty fast."
It was straight out of Adrian's playbook. Jill knew perfectly well why I had on the scarf, and I gave her a warning look. Eddie and Angeline appeared completely mystified. I stood up, even though I'd barely touched my food. Probably none of them would find that weird.
"Well, I've got to go. I'll find you later, Eddie." I hurried off before any of them could question me further.
I'd been a little hesitant to let Eddie in on Marcus. Eddie certainly wasn't going to turn Marcus or me in to the Alchemists for sideline plotting. That being said, I also didn't want Eddie to think the Alchemists were involved in nefarious schemes against the Moroi. That might very well be something Eddie would relay back to his own people, which could in turn cause all sorts of diplomatic problems. Even this hint of the Alchemists potentially being in contact with the Warriors was dangerous. I decided that having Eddie as protection was worth the risk of him hearing something he shouldn't. He was my friend, and I trusted him. Still, I had to give him a little background information as we made the drive to San Bernardino.