“Takes a lot of tries before you hit perfection." He paused to reconsider that. "Well, except for my parents. They got it on the first try." (Adrian)”
“My God, Sage. Your eyes. How have I never noticed them?"
That uncomfortable feeling was spreading over me again. "What about them?"
"The color," he breathed. "When you stand in the light. They're amazing... like molten gold. I could paint those..." He reached toward me but then pulled back. "They're beautiful. You're beautiful.”
“Yeah? Can you draw a skeleton riding a motorcycle with flames coming out of it? And I want a pirate hat on the skeleton. And a parrot on his shoulder. A skeleton parrot. Or maybe a ninja skeleton parrot? No, that would be overkill. But it'd be cool if the biker skeleton could be shooting some ninja throwing stars. That are on fire.”
“They’re waiting for you. Go on in.” Adrian leaned close to Keith’s ear and spoke in an ominous voice. “If.You.Dare.” He poked Keith’s shoulder and gave a "Muhahaha” kind of monster laugh.”
“You look confused," said Adrian.
I shook my head and sighed. "I think I'm just overthinking things."
He nodded solemnly. "That's why I try to never do it.”
“I decided the Alchemists needed an entire department devoted to handling Adrian Ivashkov.”
“Thanks for looking out for her, Sage. You're okay. For a human."
I almost laughed. "Thanks."
"You can say it too, you know."
I walked over to Latte and paused. "Say what?"
"That I'm okay...for a vampire," he explained.
I shook my head, still smiling. "You'll have a hard time getting any Alchemist to admit that. But I can say you're okay for an irreverent party boy with occasional moments of brilliance."
"Brilliant? You think I'm brilliant?" He threw his hands skyward. "You hear that, world? Sage says I'm brilliant.”
“The greatest changes in history have come when people were able to shake off what others told them to do.”
“You should've just gotten a kids' meal.' Adrian told me, pointing to my half-eaten burger and fries. 'You could've saved me a lot of money. And gotten a toy.”
“Mmm. O positive, my favorite.”
“Is it? I thought it was a cabernet sauvignon.”
“So it is,” said Adrian, straight-faced. “My mistake.”
“I don't suppose that she gave you the job based on looks alone?"
Adrian had been staring off but now flashed me a big smile. "Why, Sage, you sweet talker."
"That's not what I meant! What happened?"
He shrugged. "I told the truth."
"I'm serious. She asked me what my greatest strength was. I said getting along with people."
"That's not bad." I admitted.
"Then she asked what my greatest weakness was. And I said, 'Where should I start?'"
"Stop saying my name like that. I told her the truth. By the time I was on the fourth one, she told me I could go.”
“You’re killing me here, Sage!”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“Exactly my point.”
“You look too pretty to be useful."
"Truer words were never spoken.”
“Adrian gave me a look that said I was wasting his time. "Because Jet sounds badass.”
“But I can say you’re okay for an irreverent party boy with occasional moments of brilliance.”
“Brilliant? You think I’m brilliant?” He threw his hands skyward. “You hear that, world? Sage says I’m brilliant.”
“That’s not what I said!”
“Come on, Sage. You understand how my mind works. You said I was brilliant, remember?”
Eddie glanced at me in surprise. “You did?”
“No! I never said that.” Adrian’s smile was infuriating. “Stop telling people that.”
“Can't you . . . I don't know. Find a hobby or something?"
"Being charming is my hobby," said Adrian obstinately. "I'm the life of the party— even without drinking. I wasn't meant to be alone.”
“No, thank you," said Adrian. "These hands don't sully themselves with fighting.”
“You are an exceptional, talented, and brilliant young woman. Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you’re less. Do not ever let anyone make you feel invisible. Do not let anyone—not even a teacher who constantly sends you for coffee—push you around.”
“Is Adrian here?”
“Adrian. Tall. Brown hair. Green eyes.”
She frowned. “Do you mean Jet?”
“I … I’m not sure. Does he smoke like a chimney?”
The girl nodded sagely. “Yup. You must mean Jet.”
“Everything's about my personal entertainment. The world is my stage. Keep it up- you're becoming a star performer in the show.”
“How?" I demanded. "How could you have screwed this one up?"
"When I got in, they said the manager was on the phone and would be a few minutes. So, I sat down and ordered a drink."
This time, I did lean my forehead against the steering wheel. "What did you order?"
"A martini." I lifted my head. "You ordered a martini before a job interview."
"It's a bar, Sage. I figured they'd be cool with it.”
“I can pick a lock. How do you think I got into my parents' liquor cabinet in middle school?”
“I was no better at reading people than I had been ten seconds ago, but in that moment, I suddenly gained a flash of understanding into the mystery that was Adrian Ivashkov. People didn't believe in him very often. They had low expectations of him, so he did as well. Even Eddie had sort of written him off: 'He's Adrian'. As though there was nothing to be done for it.
I also suddenly realized that, as unlikely as it seemed, Adrian and I had a lot in common. Both of us were constantly boxed in by others' expectations. It didn't matter that people expected everything of me and nothing of him. We were still the same, both of us constantly trying to break out of the lines that others had defined for us and be our own person. Adrian Ivashkov — flippant, vampire party boy — was more like me than anyone else knew.”
“Now I see some family resemblance. I was starting to wonder if Jill was adopted, but you two kind of look like each other."
"So does our mailman back in North Dakota," said Adrian.”
“I just rely on natural talent," said Adrian, strolling up to the start of the Dragon's Lair. "When you have such a wealth of it to draw from, the danger comes from having too much.”
“I have to get back there." I said to Adrian. "Into that door."
He arched an eyebrow. "What, like sneaking in? How very black ops of you. And oh, you know— dangerous and foolish."
"I know." I said, surprised at how calm I sounded as I admitted that. "But I have to know something, and this may be my only chance."
"Then I'll go with you in case that guy comes back," he said with a sigh. "Never let it be said Adrian Ivashkov doesn't help damsels in distress.”
“Oh," he said, knocking a red ball into a hole. "It's you."
"You were expecting someone else?" I asked. "Am I interrupting your social calender?" I made a big show of glancing around the empty room. "I don't want to keep you from the mob of fans beating down your door."
"Hey, a guy can hope. I mean, it's not impossible that a car full of scantily clad sorority girls might break down outside and need my help.”
“How many more burdens do you think you can bear alone? How many more years can I go on alone, without you? Our days are filled from dawn to dusk, honey, but our lives are empty.”
“All our final decisions are made in a state of mind that is not going to last.”
“Letitia! What a name. Halfway between a salad and a sneeze.”
“There's no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.”
“Tibby's wish would be to hold on to the idea of love even in the face of darkest doubt. Because that was the way in which she failed. Not once, but again and again.”
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