“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.”
“Adrian's face was the picture of perfect politeness and restraint, meaning something disastrous was about to happen.”
“Do you want me to call you Celery Stick instead of Cupcake or Honey-Pie? It just doesn’t inspire the same warm and fuzzy feelings.”
“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 on earth. You can think whatever you want, go whatever you want. I'm going to just go on loving you, even if it's hopeless.”
“Under normal circumstances, you inviting me to the bedroom would be the highlight of my day.”
“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.”
“We need to get inside. I think my hair gel’s frozen.”
“But each time you use spirit, you're more likely to go crazy.”
“Already crazy about you, Sage.”
“But when I touch you, your aura … it smolders. The colors deepen, it burns more intensely, the purple increases. Why? Why, Sydney?” He used that hand to pull me closer. “Why do you react that way if I don’t mean anything to you?” There was a desperation in his voice, and it was legitimate.”
“Whatever happened to the dragon?"
I mustered my primmest tone. "He has a name, you know."
Adrian pulled back and gave me a curious look. "I didn't know, actually. What'd you decide on?"
"Hopper." When Adrian laughed, I added, "Best rabbit ever. He'd be proud to know his name is being passed on."
"Yes, I'm sure he would. Did you name the Mustang too?"
"I think you mean the Ivashkinator."
He stared at me in wonder. "I told you I loved you, right?
"Yes," I assured him. "Many times.”
“Piece of Heaven?"
"No, that other place I'm going to go to for thinking what I'm thinking.”
“I'll just love you whether you want me to or not.”
“All the while, my mind reeled with what had happened.
I have a hickey. I let Adrian Ivashkov give me a hickey.”
“You're my flame in the dark. We chase away the shadows around each other.”
“I’m not dangerous,” I breathed.
He brought his face toward mine. “You are to me.”
And somehow, against all reason, we were kissing.”
“Because I’ve got a lot more terms of endearment to use. Honey pie. Sugarplum. Bread pudding."
“Why are they all high-calorie foods?”
“He was too perfect, despite being one of the most imperfect people I knew.”
“I realized I’m in love. It's always been right in front of me.”
“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’m not a warrior or a goddess,” I said at last.
Adrian leaned closer. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re both.”
“What am I supposed to do with a wool coat? Especially here in Palm Springs?”
“Sleep with it,” he suggested. “Think of me.”
“I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I love you.”
“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.”
“Who knows more about male weakness: you or me? Use my knowledge, Sage.”
“Everything about her has to do with me.”
“Adrian Ivashkov wasn’t easy to surprise, but I surprised him then when I brought his mouth toward mine. I kissed him, and for a moment, he was too stunned to respond. That lasted for, oh, about a second. Then the intensity I’d come to know so well in him returned. He pushed me backward, lifting me so that I sat at the table. The tablecloth bunched up, knocking over some of the glasses. I heard what sounded like a china plate crash against the floor.
Whatever logic and reason I normally possessed had melted away. There was nothing but flesh and fire left, and I wasn’t going to lie to myself—at least not tonight.”
“Adrian looked over at me again. “Who knows more about male weakness: you or me?”
“Go on.” I refused to directly answer the question.
“Get a new dress. One that shows a lot of skin. Short. Strapless. Maybe a push-up bra too.” He actually had the audacity to do a quick assessment of my chest. “Eh, maybe not. But definitely some high heels.”
“Adrian,” I exclaimed. “You’ve seen how Alchemists dress. Do you think I can really wear something like that?”
He was unconcerned. “You’ll make it work. You’ll change clothes or something. But I’m telling you, if you want to get a guy to do something that might be difficult, then the best way is to distract him so that he can’t devote his full brainpower to the consequences.”
“You don’t have a lot of faith in your own gender.”
“Hey, I’m telling you the truth. I’ve been distracted by sexy dresses a lot.”
I didn’t really know if that was a valid argument, seeing as Adrian was distracted by a lot of things. Fondue. T-shirts. Kittens. “And so, what then? I show some skin, and the world is mine?”
“That’ll help.” Amazingly, I could tell he was dead serious. “And you’ve gotta act confident the whole time, like it’s already a done deal. Then make sure when you’re actually asking for what you want that you tell him you’d be ‘so, so grateful.’ But don’t elaborate. His imagination will do half the work for you. ”
I shook my head, glad we’d almost reached our destination. I didn’t know how much more I could listen to. “This is the most ridiculous advice I’ve ever heard. It’s also kind of sexist too, but I can’t decide who it offends more, men or women.”
“Look, Sage. I don’t know much about chemistry or computer hacking or photosynthery, but this is something I’ve got a lot of experience with.” I think he meant photosynthesis, but I didn’t correct him. “Use my knowledge. Don’t let it go to waste.”
“Adrian shook his head, still smiling. "I've said over and over, I'd do anything for you. I just keep hoping it'll be something like, 'Adrian, let's go hot tubbing' or 'Adrian, take me out for fondue.'"
"Well, sometimes we have to--did you say fondue?" Sometimes it was impossible to follow Adrian's train of thought. "Why in the world would I ever say that?"
He shrugged. "I like fondue.”
“Adrian tipped my face up toward his and kissed me. Like always, the world around me stopped moving. No, the world became Adrian, only Adrian. Kissing him was as mind-blowing as ever, full of that same passion and need I had never believed I’d feel. But today, there was even more to it. I no longer had any doubt about whether this was wrong or right. It was a culmination of a long journey . . . or maybe the beginning of one.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer. I didn’t care that we were out in public. I didn’t care that he was Moroi. All that mattered was that he was Adrian, my Adrian. My match. My partner in crime, in the long battle I’d just signed on for to right the wrongs in the Alchemist and Moroi worlds. Maybe Marcus was right that I’d also signed myself up for disaster, but I didn’t care. In that moment, it seemed that as long as Adrian and I were together, there was no challenge too great for us.
I don’t know how long we stood there kissing. Like I said, the world around me was gone. Time had stopped. I was awash in the feel of Adrian’s body against mine, in his scent, and in the taste of his lips. That was all that mattered right now.”
“And besides . . . I don’t want to leave you. Er, you guys.”
He smiled, and it lit up his whole face. “Well, ‘we’ are certainly happy to hear that. Oh, and I’m also happy to watch our darling little love child dragon while you’re in St. Louis.”
I grinned back.”
“Because even the one you hate leaves an absence when they go.”
“Daughter of my heart,' was the message Brimstone sent just for Karou. She wanted to cry again right here in the court, thinking of it. 'Twice-daughter, my joy. Your dream is my dream, and your name is true. You are all of our hope.”
“I was treading the thin line of his patience while falling off the thin line of my sanity”
“In this whole screwed-up town, you're the only thing that's always been right to me," he whispered. "I love you, Claire." She saw something that might have been just a flash of panic go across his expression, but then he steadied again. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I do. I love you.”
“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”
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