"Do what? I stopped asking you for crossword help, didn't I?"

I took a deep breath, bracing myself. I'd known this moment was coming, no matter how much I wanted to put it off. I just hadn't expected it to come while on a plane ride.

"Adrian, we have to talk about what happened. Between you and me," I declared.

He took a moment to consider my words. "Well . . . last I knew, nothing was happening between you and me."

I dared a look at him. "Exactly. I'm sorry for what happened . . . what I said, but it was all true. We have to move past this and go on with our lives in a normal way. It's for the good of our group in Palm Springs."

"Funny, I have moved past it," he said. "You're the one bringing it up."

I blushed again. "But it's because of you! You've spent the last few weeks all moody and sulking, hardly ever talking to me. And when you do, there's usually some nasty barb in it." While recently having dinner at Clarence Donahue's, I'd seen one of the most terrifying spiders ever come crawling into the living room. Mustering all my courage, I'd caught the creepy little beast and set him free. Adrian's comment on my brave act had been, "Wow, I didn't know you actually faced down things that scared you. I thought your normal response was to run kicking and screaming from them and pretend they don't exist."

"You're right about the attitude," he said now, nodding along with my words. Once again, he looked remarkably serious. "And I'm sorry."

"You . . . are?" I could only stare. "So . . . you're done with all of that . . . stuff? Done with, uh, feeling that way?" I couldn't bring myself to elaborate. Done with being in love with me.

"Oh, no," he said cheerfully. "Not at all."

"But you just said - "

"I'm done with the pouting," he said. "Done with being moody - well, I mean, I'm always a little moody. That's what Adrian Ivashkov's all about. But I'm done with the excessive stuff. That didn't get me anywhere with Rose. It won't get me anywhere with you."

"Nothing will get you anywhere with me," I exclaimed.

"I don't know about that." He put on an introspective look that was both unexpected and intriguing. "You're not as much of a lost cause as she was. I mean, with her, I had to overcome her deep, epic love with a Russian warlord. You and I just have to overcome hundreds of years' worth of deeply ingrained prejudice and taboo between our two races. Easy."

"Adrian!" I felt my temper beginning to flare. "This isn't a joke."

"I know. It's certainly not to me. And that's why I'm not going to give you a hard time." He paused dramatically. "I'll just love you whether you want me to or not."

The attendant came by with hot towels, putting our conversation on hold and allowing his slightly disturbing words to hang in the air between us. I was dumbfounded and couldn't muster a response until after she came back to collect the cloths.

"Whether I want you to or not? What on earth does that mean?"

Adrian grimaced. "Sorry. That came off creepier than I intended. I just mean, I don't care if you say we can't be together. I don't care if you think I'm the most evil, unnatural creature walking the earth."

For the briefest of moments, his choice of words threw me back in time, to when he'd told me I was the most beautiful creature walking the earth. Those words haunted me now, just as they had then. We'd been sitting in a dark, candlelit room, and he'd looked at me in a way that no one ever had -

Stop it, Sydney. Focus.

"You can think whatever you want, do whatever you want," Adrian continued, unaware of my traitorous thoughts. There was a remarkable calm about him. "I'm going to just go on loving you, even if it's hopeless."

I don't know why that shocked me as much as it did. I glanced around to make sure no one was listening. "I . . . what? No. You can't!"

He tilted his head to the side as he regarded me carefully. "Why? It doesn't hurt you or anything. I told you I won't bother you if you don't want me to. And if you do, well, I'm all about that. So what's it matter if I just love you from afar?"

I didn't entirely know. "Because . . . because you can't!"

"Why not?"

"You . . . you need to move on," I managed. Yes, that was a sound reason. "You need to find someone else. You know I don't - that I can't. Well, you know. You're wasting your time with me."

He remained firm. "It's my time to waste."

"But it's crazy! Why would you do that?"

"Because I can't help doing it," he said with a shrug. "And hey, if I keep loving you, maybe you'll eventually crack and love me too. Hell, I'm pretty sure you're already half in love with me."

"I am not! And everything you just said is ridiculous. That's terrible logic."

Adrian returned to his crossword puzzle. "Well, you can think what you want, so long as you remember - no matter how ordinary things seem between us - I'm still here, still in love with you, and care about you more than any other guy, evil or otherwise, ever will."

"I don't think you're evil."

"See? Things are already looking promising." He tapped the magazine with his pen again. "'Romantic Victorian poetess.' Eight letters."

I didn't answer. I had been rendered speechless. Adrian never mentioned that dangerous topic again for the rest of the flight. Most of the time, he kept to himself, and when he did speak, it was about perfectly safe topics, like our dinner and the upcoming wedding. Anyone sitting with us would never have known there was anything weird between us.

But I knew.

That knowledge ate me up. It was all-consuming. And as the flight progressed, and eventually landed, I could no longer look at Adrian the same way. Each time we made eye contact, I just kept thinking of his words: I'm still here, still in love with you, and care about you more than any other guy ever will. Part of me felt offended. How dare he? How dare he love me whether I wanted him to or not? I had told him not to! He had no right to.

And the rest of me? The rest of me was scared.

If I keep loving you, maybe you'll eventually crack and love me too.

It was ludicrous. You couldn't make someone love you just by loving them. It didn't matter how charming he was, how good looking, or how funny. An Alchemist and a Moroi could never be together. It was impossible.

I'm pretty sure you're already half in love with me.

Very impossible.

Chapter Three

TRUE TO HIS WORD, Adrian made no other mention of the relationship - or lack thereof - between us. Every once in a while, though, I could swear I saw something in his eyes, something that brought back an echo of his proclamation about continuing to love me. Or maybe it was just his typical impertinence.

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