Richelle Mead owns the VA and Bloodlines series.

The next day started off with a bang. Or, more precisely, a very heated argument between Eddie and Jill. I couldn't say I didn't see his point, but I also saw hers.

"I'm going, Eddie," she said in the voice of a princess. She'd been a princess for so short a time, I wondered where she'd learned that voice or when she'd had time to perfect it. "And that's final."

"That's not final, that's ridiculous," he hissed back. His cheeks were red with frustration. "We're here because we're supposed to be protecting you! Not letting you run off to get killed by some rogue witches!"

"Shhh," I quieted them. We were in the middle of West Cafeteria eating breakfast, surrounded by plenty of humans who had no idea that vampires and witches and secret groups pledged to protect them even existed. They didn't need to find out just because Eddie and Jill were being stubborn.

They lowered their voices, but the hissed argument kept up until Angeline dropped her half eaten breakfast sandwich onto her plate with a sigh. "Eddie, if she wants to go, let her go," she said, sounding more than a little annoyed. "Jill can help, not to mention if she doesn't go than one of us has to stay behind with her, which means two less people in the fight."

Eddie looked back and forth between the three of us for a few moments, looking like he was trying really hard to come up with a reasonable argument. When it was obvious he had nothing he exhaled and shook his head. I felt a little bad for him, he'd been bested at logic by Angeline. I sent her a grateful smile, silently thanking her for putting an end to the fight.

Eddie turned to Jill and whispered, "I have no idea what to expect tonight. I just don't want you to get hurt. I don't know what I'd do if you got hurt again."

Angeline and I sent each other wide-eyed "this is it, this is it" looks as we watched Jill and Eddie fade into their own world. She stared up at him with a small, understanding smile and, for a moment, I was reminded of Adrian. The way he always understood my worries and fears and tried to help me through them. I hoped that Jill and Eddie could be that person for each other.

Jill put a hand on top of Eddie's for a few seconds and said, "I get it. I really do, but I need to help you guys. Like you said, we have no idea what to expect. If anything happened to any of you and I wasn't there..." She shook her head and then looked back at him seriously before patting his hand once. "You trained me," she said matter-of-factly. "You know my abilities. If you don't think I can handle this than I'll stay here."

Eddie, instead of looking happy to have gotten his way, looked even more frustrated, if possible. He stared into her jade green eyes for a long time before chewing his lip and saying, "You can handle it." Jill looked overjoyed, but Eddie continued speaking in a stern voice. "You stay by me and do whatever I tell you. So if I tell you to run, you run. You hear me?"

Jill tucked her glee away and nodded solemnly. "Whatever you say. I promise."

Once Eddie'd given in, Jill was ecstatic as we went up to our rooms to prepare for our mission tonight. I wasn't sure if it was because she could go, or because she and Eddie had most definitely just shared a moment.

Around lunch Eddie, Angeline, Jill and I all piled in Latte and headed over to Ms. Terwilliger's to go over our strategy one last time. Eddie and Marcus argued over a few last minute changes in plan, but nothing huge. It was mostly about who of the six of them that would be staying outside would go where and do what.

"I'm going with Sydney," Adrian said over the two as they argued over the plan.

Marcus and Eddie looked up at him like he'd just uttered the craziest sentence they'd ever heard. They both started to open their mouths in protest, but Adrian cut them off.

"I'm useless out there with you guys," he said rationally. "My only strength is compulsion and there's no way I'll get close enough to anyone to use that outside in open combat. If I'm inside with Sydney I might be able to do some good."

Honestly, I kind of wanted him inside with me. Not only would I be able to keep an eye on him, but I also just felt stronger when he was around. And not because Ms. Terwilliger had taught me how to tap into his magic, either. He just made me feel like I was powerful, made me feel more confident in myself. And right now I could use a confidence boost. I was feeling pretty nervous about all of this, but mostly about seeing Carly. I kept thinking back to the way she'd looked at me the last time I'd seen her. I didn't know if I was ready for her to look at me like that again.

After some consideration Marcus and Eddie realized that Adrian was right. He wouldn't be able to help outside so they reassigned him to the search and rescue mission with me and Ms. Terwilliger.

After going over everything a few more times and double checking all of the supplies we were bring with us, we piled into the cars and set out for L.A. Adrian offered to ride with Ms. Terwilliger and Marcus, letting my mom ride in Latte with me, but Mom had refused. She claimed she wanted to get to know my teacher a little better. I was afraid of just what that meant for me, but I was grateful that Adrian was able to ride with me. I held his hand tightly for most of the drive.


Genevieve's compound looked an awful lot like an abandoned office building in the daylight. There wasn't anything intimidating about, but I still got the chills just thinking about what was to come. It was that nervous anticipation that had me doubting the plan.

"What if we do all of this, what if we stop Genevieve, and Carly still wants nothing to do with me?" I whispered quietly to Adrian as we stood on the roof of a motel a few blocks away, watching the compound through a pair of binoculars. It was visible, but as long as we didn't draw attention to ourselves no one on the ground would notice us.

"She's your sister," he said. "She loves you, even if she's upset or confused right now."

Marcus, who was the one actually manning the binoculars, thankfully pretended not to hear our hushed conversation. He readjusted the focus and leaned forward a little.

"Yeah, but..." I whispered back at Adrian.

"No buts, Sage. This will work. And once Carly knows what Genevieve's really up to I doubt she'll still want to be her protege. I know that I don't know her the way that you do, but I saw her aura. She's a good person. Auras don't lie." He smirked. "I mean, just look at yours. It told me you loved me long before you actually said it."

I rolled my eyes and started respond, but Marcus cut me off.

"Don't mean to interrupt your little moment," he said sarcastically, "but there's a patrol. They do a casual sweep of the compound every twenty minutes, like clockwork. Two guys, same guys every time, walking the fence."

Adrian nodded, but then scrunched his face. "And that means what for us?"

Marcus sighed. "Were you listening to the plan at all? It means that we have to time our intrusion. You three are going in first so you'll already be inside when we blow off the fireworks."

The fireworks had been Marcus's plan, but everyone liked it. Especially Adrian, but not because it was a great distraction. He liked the plan because he wanted to play with the explosives. Luckily he wasn't going to get the chance to blow his hand off because he was coming with me.

"I got their timing. They don't seem to pay much attention to the fence that backs up to the alley. I'm pretty sure you'll be able to slip in through the gate there," Marcus said. "We'll just have to keep watch and make sure they don't change patrolmen in the next two hours."

Good thing for us, they didn't change the guards. When Adrian, Ms. Terwilliger and I hopped the chain link fence and cautiously made our way towards the compound door, we did so without being noticed by any guards. Although, I was worried for a few seconds as Ms. Terwilliger hauled herself up the chain link. But she was surprisingly spry for someone her age and got over it without much hassle.

Adrian led the way toward the building, using his enhanced Moroi hearing and night vision to guide us safely through the piled up boxes and crates that lined the chain link fence. None of the boxes were labeled, but I had a feeling that this was Genevieve's attempt at building an arsenal. A witch arsenal. I could only imagine the different dried herbs or charms that filled the palettes of crates and what this coven planned to do with them.

The first door we came to was locked, but a little Alchemist Quicksilver to burn through the handle and we were in. Both Adrian and Ms. Terwilliger looked impressed when the chemical reaction burned a hole right through the knob.

We went inside and found the first storage closet we could find to hide in. Not even ten seconds after we closed the door behind us we heard the unmistakable boom of fireworks from outside. Then came the confused mutters and the shuffling of feet, before the shuffles became all out stomping as what sounded like a heard of witches ran through the halls towards the sound of fireworks being set off outside their compound.

We made our way through the halls quickly after everyone had passed, following Adrian. I'd managed to find a blueprint of the building online and figured where the most likely places Genevieve would be. It wasn't until we'd come to a large room that had been marked as a cafeteria on the blueprint that we ran into trouble.

A man was just exiting the cafeteria doors looking like he had a purpose when he spotted us turning the corner right in front of him. The man's eyes went wide when he saw us and I saw him preparing to shout something, whether it was a warning to the others or some sort of incantation, I wasn't sure. He didn't get the chance though because Adrian rushed forward moving faster than a human ever could and gripped the man's forearm.

As Adrian stared the man's dark eyes went wide and unfocused. "You didn't see us," Adrian commanded in an even voice. "You didn't see anyone. Go outside and tell everyone Genevieve told you all to stay out there. The danger's outside, not in here."

He let the man go, but then grabbed him back as something else occurred to him. "And no one is to hurt the attackers. Genevieve wants them all alive."

The man made a nodding motion with his head and then turned and left, looking like Genevieve really had just instructed him to do the things Adrian said.

When Adrian turned back around Ms. Terwilliger was smiling at him. "Oh, you're good," she said, sounding amused and proud, which caused Adrian to beam at her.

"I know," he said arrogantly, before a serious expression took over once again and he grabbed my arm and hauled me down to the door the man had come from.

"There are people in there," he whispered as we prepared to barge in. Ms. Terwilliger and I nodded. Adrian silently counted to three before pushing the door open.

The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the room beside Adrian was the tall, black haired woman standing in the middle of what had obviously been a cafeteria. The circular dining tables I pictured once littering the area were nowhere to be seen, but more pallets full of crates were pushed against the walls. Ms. Terwilliger stepped in front of me, positioning herself between me and the woman who I realized must be Genevieve. It was then that I noticed that the dark haired woman wasn't alone. Standing a little behind her was my sister, looking shocked to see me.

"Oh, you must be Sydney Sage," Genevieve said slowly, giving me and appraising look. If she was surprised to see us, she didn't show it. "I can see the family resemblance. Carly and I were just planning a trip out to Palm Springs to visit you, weren't we, Carly?" She flicked red fingernails in Carly's direction, but my sister didn't respond. Instead she just crossed her arms over her chest and sneered in my direction.

I felt my heart break at the look. It was exactly the look I'd feared she'd give me. Carly's hatred of me seemed to amuse Genevieve though, because with a smile she turned back to me took in my reaction. I straightened my shoulders and looked to Carly.

"Can we talk?" I asked calmly. "I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes in private."

"No," Genevieve said immediately, but her voice still held that phony friendliness.

"Gene, give it up," Ms. Terwilliger said. Even though she was standing in front of me and I couldn't see her face, I could tell from her tone that she was rolling her eyes.

"Jaclyn, you've never had any imagination, have you?" Genevieve spit, clearly done with the friendly act. "No drive. You're perfectly content to be some drab high school teacher for the rest if your life." She took a step forward, but Ms. Terwilliger didn't back up. "Well, I'm not! Why should I be content to live a normal life when I was born to achieve so much more?"

Adrian shifted closer to me as Genevieve moved closer Ms. Terwilliger, but other than that we both just stared as the two sisters argued.

"Do you understand?" Genevieve was going on. "Do you have any idea what kind of power I can achieve? Look at me!" She gestured to her face and body. "I've stopped my aging all together. I've gotten in with all the right people. I can do this Jackie! I can overthrow their stupid crown and take it all for us!"

She waved her blood red nails toward Adrian when she spoke about "their stupid crown" so I assumed she was speaking of the Moroi Queen. Adrian looked more serious than I'd ever seen him, probably because the Queen was a close friend of his, but he didn't say anything. Just listened intently.

"And then what?" Ms. Terwilliger asked calmly. "You'll make yourself immortal?"

Genevieve rolled her eyes. "If all I wanted was immortality I'd have figured out a way to bargain with a Strigoi a long time ago," she said and I felt sick. Sick that anyone could think destroying your soul was a viable option.

"How can you talk like that?" I asked. I didn't mean to, but I blurted it out before I could stop myself. "How could you ever want to be Strigoi?" I asked Genevieve with a meaningful glance at my sister. She caught my eye for a second before looking toward her mentor.

"I don't want to be Strigoi, little girl!" Genevieve said, sounding insulted. "I want to own them. They are mindless, foul creatures, but they are strong in numbers. Unstoppable. They will help me gain my power."

"And what's to stop them from ripping your throat out instead?" asked Adrian. He stood tall next to me, his arms crossed across his chest.

Genevieve smiled at him. "They wouldn't want to eat me, darling. Trust me, they couldn't stomach the taste of me. And I make sure every one I deal with knows it." Then she set her gaze on me and gestured back to Adrian. "The vampire boyfriend. So cute. I might even let you keep him when this is all over. If you promise to share," she added with a wink.

"When this is all over you'll be flat on your back, sister," Ms. Terwilliger said, sounding like she'd finally had enough.

Genevieve shook her head but didn't bother with a retort. She just shot an arm out and threw a wall of power out towards me and Adrian, knocking us over.

We struggled to stand as Ms. Terwilliger countered with one of the more intricate defense spells she'd demonstrated for me. She'd never actually shown me how to do it. I wasn't strong enough yet. Seeing them throw attacks back and forth at each other I realized I had no leg to stand on in this fight.

Adrian pulled me back as a particularly nasty spell sent a bolt of electricity zinging toward me. I looked up to see Genevieve maneuvering in a circle around Ms. Terwilliger, trying to gain ground and trip her up. I prayed my history teacher was good enough to keep her defenses up.

Watching for a few more moments I quickly decided that even my most brutal attack wouldn't do much to this woman. It would be like a bee sting to her. I let myself reach out and feel for her power and was amazed by what I felt. Genevieve was powerful. Extremely powerful. The most powerful magic I'd ever felt was Adrian's spirit darkness, but even that didn't compare to what she had stored up around her.

Another bolt of electricity shot through the room and I heard Carly yelp as she jumped back just in time. The bolt buzzed in front of her face, illuminating her terrified expression.

The only thing I could focus on was my sister. She looked scared to death and, whether she hated me or not, she needed me right now. I took off towards the other side of the room where she was slowly backing into a corner away from all the fighting. I barely got three feet before I heard the worst sound I'd ever heard in my life.

A pained cry shot through the room. There was a thud and the silence. No more yelling, chanted incantations or crackling electricity. The room went dead silent and I stopped moving to look over to where the sisters had been having their showdown.

I stared at the crumpled body on the ground in horror before looking up at the smug face of my history teacher's sister. "Did you kill her?" I asked softly. My voice wasn't calm, by any means, but it was steady and that was all I cared about.

Adrian rushed over toward Ms. Terwilliger without hesitation. And, for once, I was grateful for his ability to heal. His magic didn't scare me at all anymore. How could I have ever thought something as incredible as healing could be evil?

No, true evil was the woman walking toward me. The woman who shrugged at my question about her sister, as if her life meant nothing to her. I squared my shoulders and stood tall to face her.

"Sydney, I will give you one last chance," she said, the fake friendliness trying to seep back into her voice but failing. "Join me and I'll let you live. I'll let your boyfriend live. And all of the little friends you've got outside distracting my coven. Refuse to join me and I will kill all of you. And your sister." She gave me smug smirk, but I just glared back at her. "You know, there are ways for me to drain your power after you're dead. I don't need to keep you alive to take what I'm after, but I'm willing to. I want you on my team, join me."

I looked over toward Adrian who was healing Ms. Terwilliger. Or looked like he was trying to. He was focused on what he was doing and didn't look over at me, but I didn't need him to in order to know what he'd say to this psychopath.

"No," I said coldly looking back at Genevieve. There was no doubt in my voice. There was nothing for her to bargain with and she knew it. I gathered all the power I could to me, waiting for her to attack me. She would try to kill me now, and she might succeed, but I wasn't giving in. I wouldn't give in to anyone ever again. Not the Alchemists, not my father, and certainly not some crazy power hungry freak who was threatening everyone I loved.

Genevieve scowled but then shrugged. "So be it," she said and then muttered an incantation I couldn't make out. I threw out a pulse of power at the exact moment she hurled one of those horrible electric bolts at me and thankfully it deflected it.

"Sydney!" Adrian screamed, horrified as he watched the electric currents zap and smash into the barrier I'd sent out. I looked over at him and suddenly knew that, even though I wasn't strong enough to beat Genevieve on my own, I might stand a chance with his help.

As Genevieve rolled her eyes and berated my weak attempt at blocking her spell I, once again, pulled all of the power I could to me. Only this time I reached out farther. I had only ever siphoned Adrian's magic from close range, but I prayed it would still work even though he was a good thirty feet away at the moment.

"Sydney! Watch out!" he yelled again and then I saw his eyes go wide as he realized what I was doing. It was working and we could both feel it.

Just as Genevieve threw another bolt at me I dove to the ground the way I'd seen Eddie instruct Jill and Angeline to do multiple times. It was just as difficult as it looked, but I dodged her spell and got back on my feet quickly. Without pause I recited one of the more difficult attack spells Ms. Terwilliger had taught me. I felt the air charge around me before it rushed toward Genevieve in a flurry of positive and negative particles. I couldn't see it, but I definitely knew when it met its target. The net of electricity wrapped around Genevieve, causing her to twitch liked she'd just been electrocuted.

I was feeling proud of myself until she stopped twitching suddenly and her lips pulled back from her lips like a wolf. It tried to pull more of Adrian's magic to me, but it was no use. She flicked a wrist in Adrian's direction and he cried out as an invisible force rammed into him so hard he flew back a few feet from where he'd been standing.

"You little bitch!" Genevieve growled at me. "You think you can hurt me? You'll need a lot more than your vampire's power to hurt me."

She pulled her hand back and made a small gesture with her fingers while quietly repeating a phrase in Latin to herself. "Mori ferreo canis exprimamus mori."

I felt the air shift around me, felt the power brewing with her words. I was feeling weak and dizzy from the last spell, but I still managed to stay upright and pull some power to me. I was beyond reaching for Adrian's spirit at this point. I already knew my own power wouldn't stand against whatever spell she was about to unleash on me, but I had to try.

"Sage!" he shouted, getting to his feet and trying to get to me.

"Adrian, go!" I shouted, but I didn't take my eyes off of Genevieve. I was too busy bracing myself for all kinds of misery.

"Mori ferreo canis..." she shouted and I watched in slow motion as she started to lift her arm in my direction. "...exprimamus—"

I flinched back as a loud crack filled the room, but nothing happened. No death, no misery, no pain. Not to me, at least. I watched with wide eyes as Genevieve stopped chanting mid-rant and fell face first onto the concrete floor. Carly, her brown eyes narrowed at the woman on the floor, just stop there. A sturdy looking two by four that she must have broken off a palette clutched in her hands and raised above her head. She glared down at the woman she'd just knocked unconscious and said, "No one calls my sister a bitch."

She glanced up at me, at my shocked expression and open mouth, and dropped the wooden board. "Sydney!" she cried and ran over to me. "Are you alright?"

I reached for her, pulling her into a crushing hug. "I'm fine. Are you okay?" I asked, stroking her hair.

"I'm good," she said. "But we've got to get out if here before she comes to."

"No. This ends here." I glanced over to Adrian who nodded at me and went back to healing Ms. Terwilliger. It only took a few moments before she was opening her eyes.

"What happened?" she asked Adrian as he helped her sit up. Whatever her injuries had been, she looked good as new now.

"Carly knocked Genevieve unconscious," I told her, pointing to her sister's body face down on the floor.

Ms. Terwilliger looked surprised, but stood up and ordered us to find some rope. "We'll tie her up and take her with us."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Adrian asked. "Won't she just break free when she wakes up? She's pretty strong from the looks of things," he said, gesturing around at the wreckage from the fight.

"I'll charm her. She'll stay unconscious for awhile," Ms. Terwilliger assured us. "Her coven will most likely dissipate once they realize she's gone. Call your friends and let them know we're on our way out."

Adrian texted Eddie as Carly and I helped Ms. Terwilliger tie up her sister. It took a lot of effort, but we finally managed to get Genevieve's unconscious body outside and through the fence—with the help of some of the alchemist chemicals I had on me. We got her to the meeting spot and into Ms. Terwilliger's car without a problem.

"So, nice swing," Adrian said, leaning back against Latte next to me and Carly.

She smiled a little. "Thanks. Turns out I really suck at all that witch stuff so I figured a swift blow to the head would probably be more effective."

I looked at her from the corner of my eye. "Thank you. For stopping her. I know you're mad at me because I didn't tell you the truth, but—"

Carly shook her head and stopped me. "I'm not made at you, Sydney. I was never mad at you. None of this is your fault."

"But then, why'd you get so angry when we were at that warehouse...?" I asked, utterly confused.

"That crazy bitch kidnapped me on my way home," Carly said. "She told me I was a witch and that my whole family was lying to me and that I had this... birth right that everyone was denying me. I thought she was just crazy until she showed me a few spells. But then she started talking about you and how we needed you for the cause." She rolled her eyes at me. "She sent me to the warehouse to get you and bring you back for her. Did you really think I was going to drag you into that?" she asked.

"So..." I asked, willing my brain to connect all of the pieces. "You were just pretending to be brainwashed by her? To... what? Protect me?"

Carly nodded. "She believed my act even more when I came back and Boris and the idiot told her how me and you had gotten into it at the warehouse."

"Boris and the idiot," Adrian snickered under his breath.

"But why didn't you just come with us then?" I asked. "We could've gotten you away from them then."

She shook her head. "I had only gotten a few details at that point. When I went back and told her how you didn't understand what we were fighting for and blah, blah, blah, she let me in on more of her plan." Carly turned her whole body to face me and Adrian. "Do you know she made a deal with a large group of Strigoi? She was going to attack the Moroi Court. They just finished planning it all out last week. It's lucky you came tonight," she said. "If you'd come last week their would've been about forty more witches and six Strigoi to get through."

Ms. Terwilliger finally walked over to us. "She had more witches than I thought. I doubt any of them will go through with the plan now that Gene's out of the picture, but you might want to alert your Court to be on the lookout," she said to Adrian.

He nodded and said he'd get in touch with the queen herself. Then he turned back to Carly. "Well, your act was pretty believable. You should be a spy. Or an actress."

Carly laughed, but it sounded a little nervous. "Yeah. I've actually been thinking about that."

"Being a spy?" I laughed.

"No. Acting," Carly said. "I changed my major from Literature to Drama two semesters ago."

I shook my head. "But you didn't say..."

"How could I?" she said. "Dad would kill me if he ever found out!"

"Well, I say stick with it," Adrian said with a smile. "I think you've found your calling."

A short time later Eddie and the others showed up. Eddie and Marcus were covered in dirt and what looked like ash, but they were otherwise unharmed.

"Mom!" Carly cried out in shock and launched herself at our mother as she, Angeline and Jill made their way to the cars. I felt a little bad about forgetting to tell her Mom was here.

My mom and Angeline looked fine, except for one nice bruise on Angeline's jaw. Jill, however, had a huge bloody cut down her forearm.

"Jailbait, what the hell happened?" Adrian asked in concern, rushing to her aid. He helped her into the backseat of Latte and set about healing her.

"It's no big deal," she insisted. She almost sounded embarrassed as she went on. "Really. It's nothing. I just... I fell is all. I'm fine."

"You fell?" Adrian asked, pulling back once her arm was healed.

She sighed. "Yes. I fell, okay? I tripped ducking away from one of those bastard's flaming bomb thingies they were throwing. I tripped over one of the pallets that were everywhere and fell into a wooden crate. It splintered and cut me. Can we move on now?"

Adrian nodded, and left her alone in the car. She wasn't alone for long though. As Adrian approached me, I saw Eddie slide into the backseat next to her and take her hand. He examined her healed arm, but didn't let to of her hand once he was done.

"Sydney?" Mom asked, walking up to me.

"I'm fine," I said before she could ask, but she didn't say a word. She just pulled me into a hug, a hug that became a group hug when Carly joined it. Adrian stood next to us, smiling while he watched us have our little Sage family reunion, before I reached back and pulled him in too.

"Come here, you're part of this too!" I told him as he wrapped an arm around my shoulders and placed his other hand on my mom's back. I could practically feel his smile as my mom and sister welcomed him into the circle.

"So, you two are dating?" Carly asked me as we finally pulled back.

I looked up at Adrian and then back to her. "Yeah. We're dating. Although," I said narrowing my eyes at Adrian. "We've only been on one real date. Unless we count this bizarre evening as a date."

Adrian smirked. "This is most definitely not a date, Sage. Honestly, the first date wasn't even me at the top of my game. Just wait until I start wooing you," he said with a wink.

My mom and sister smiled at him, but I laughed. "You weren't already wooing me?" I asked.

Adrian scoffed. "Of course not," he said. "I was letting you come to me. When I woo you, Sage, you'll know it."

I couldn't help the grin that broke out on my face then. And it remained there until we finally got in the cars and headed back to Palm Springs.


Ms. Terwilliger and Marcus took the unconscious Genevieve off to some place in New Mexico where they said they'd "take care of her". I wasn't sure what that meant, and I really didn't want to know. Ms. Terwilliger promised she wouldn't be back to hurt anyone I cared about and that was good enough for me.

My mom and Carly stayed in town for a few days before finally heading back to Utah. While they were here we hung out a little. Adrian even joined us a couple of times. And, true to his word, he did start trying to woo me, although it seemed like he was trying harder to woo Mom and Carly.

He swore that he was just trying to make a good impression and that the real wooing would start when he took me out on a real date this weekend, but in the meantime he wanted to take me for a ride in his Mustang. Of course, it didn't take much to convince me to accept the offer.

He drove and we talked as he took us out to a secluded spot in the desert. I bit my lip as I thought of how alone we were out here. Of all the things we could do.

My phone buzzed, cutting off that train of thought. I sighed and looked down to see Zoe's name flash across the caller ID. I answered it immediately.

"Hey, Sydney," my sister said shyly. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," I said quickly. "How are you? Are you alright? I heard you were training a lot with Dad and the Alchemists."

"Yeah," she said slowly, sounding unsure. "I have been, but I was talking to Mom and Carly earlier and they... They said some things."

Turned out Mom had finally had enough of the Alchemists. She told Dad that Zoe would never be an Alchemist and that was that. Apparently Zoe hadn't really wanted to quit at first, but once Mom showed her about magic, she didn't protest too much. We talked for awhile and she told me how magic scared her and I told her it scared me too at first, until I realized it was a part of me and nothing to be afraid of.

By the time we hung up Adrian had pulled the Mustang over and was watching me with a small smile.

"What?" I asked, stuffing my phone back into my pocket.

"Nothing," he said. "You're a really good sister. You're a really good everything. I love you."

I grinned at him. "Yeah? Prove it."

"Gladly," he said accepting my challenge. He leaned forward and kissed me once before climbing over the console and into the backseat. He patted the leather next to him. "It's more comfortable back here," he said in a singsongy voice.

I rolled my eyes but followed his lead and climbed, very carefully, into the backseat where Adrian immediately pulled me onto his lap so I was straddling him.

We didn't talk again for awhile after that. When we finally did pull away for breath we were both wearing less clothing than we had been initially.

"We should stop," Adrian sighed against my shoulder as he played with my bra strap. "Or at least go back to my apartment where it's more comfortable."

"I don't know about that," I whispered into his ear in what I hoped was a seductive voice. "I'm pretty comfortable right here."

He moaned into the crook of my neck, letting me know I'd gotten my seduction voice right. "If we keep going you know what'll happen," he warned. "You really want to do that in the back of a car? I mean, if you do than I'm all for that but I just want to make sure that you're sure—"

"Adrian," I said, putting a finger to his lips to stop him. "Thank you for your concern, but I'm going to tell you right now, there isn't much I wouldn't do with you in the back of this car."

He watched me for a few seconds and I could've sworn that his cheeks flushed a little at my admission, but it was getting darker outside and I couldn't be sure. Then, suddenly, my back was on the leather and he was hovering above me.

"You're just after me for my car," he teased. His teeth playfully grazed my chin and neck as he kissed and nipped his way down to my chest. Then his head popped up. "Hey, you never named the car," he accused. "Last time we were out here you said you'd think of a name for it."

I had said that, but I hadn't actually thought of anything I liked. He didn't seem concerned though. He didn't even wait for my answer before he unclasped my bra and began kissing me again. As I squirmed around between him and the soft leather seat I realized this combination of him and the car were bound to get me in trouble sooner or later. It was impossible to say no to him, not that I wanted to.

"I thought of a name," I gasped out between kisses. "For the car."

Adrian pulled back just a little, but his hands never stopped in their slow path down my body.

"Troublemaker," I said, biting back a laugh as his fingers grazed my hip. The sensation tickled, and the last thing I needed was for Adrian to figure out I was ticklish there.

Adrian paused his ministrations to consider the name. Finally he nodded. "I like it. Troublemaker. It sounds like you," he said.

"It sounds like you," I argued.

"Oh yeah," Adrian said, his green eyes shining happily even in the dim light. "Who's the one who just seduced who in the back of a car?"

"That's not—" I started to say but then burst out laughing when Adrian tickled my hip again. I squirmed underneath him, gasping for breath between laughs, until finally he kissed me until neither of us was laughing anymore.

There were so many reasons why Adrian and I shouldn't have worked together. Him being Moroi, me being human. The Alchemists. Our personalities, on the outside at least. But deep down, in my heart, none of that made any difference. And even though I still wasn't sure if there was a such thing as soulmates, that was the best word I had to describe what Adrian meant to me. And I spent the rest of the night showing him, even though I got a lecture from Mrs. Weathers the next morning.

So there it is. The End! Hope you enjoyed it. I debated having it end this way off leaving a cliffhanger, but figured it was better to give it a HEA and just start fresh after TIS. Speaking of which, it's out places now! I'll be downloading my copy later tonight! So excited! Thanks to everyone who read and supported this story. You guys are the best. And thanks to guest reviewer Random for naming Adrian's Mustang! Love it!