Chapter Eight

It was the night before I met up with Sydney to go to San Diego, and I'm choosing something to wear from my outfit. Since I'll be asking for some money it would be best to not look so clear-cut. Nevertheless, everything in my entire closet reflected rich party boy. Nothing looked like something a poor college student would wear. Finally deciding on a button up shirt and jeans I wrinkled it up into a ball and tied it tightly with a piece of string, and finally tossing it into the washer, and then the dryer.

Letting the dryer run I went to sleep mentally exhausted. The meeting hasn't happened yet and I am already tired.

I woke up the next day hearing Sonya say that she is going out on an errand. I asked her to drop me off in front of Sydney's dorm. Sonya frowned at that saying something about it being scandalous, but I pointed out that I'm her brother. She rolled her eyes, but agreed anyways.

When I reached the dorm, I found out through the dorm mother that Sydney was out, and that if I wanted to see her I would have to wait. I don't like waiting; nevertheless, I guess I was at fault for not allowing her to come pick me up. It took another ten or so minutes before a car pulled up. I saw a guy who was probably Brayden sit. I can't believe I suddenly remembered his name. This guy pissed me off and I haven't even met him, but I have to admit this is part of the reason why I wanted to go early. I wanted to meet the guy that made Sydney Sage squeal in excitement. Well she never squealed, but still.

I jumped up from where I was sitting when I saw her walk out of the car with that guy. "Wasn't I supposed to pick you up?" she asked me somewhat irritated.

"Sonya had some errands to run and offered to drop me her while she was out," I explained. I think that it's a moot point to tell her that I had to ask Sonya to take me here because she thought it was scandalous. "Figured we'd save you some trouble," I added in the end. She rolled her eyes obviously understanding that my motives weren't so pure.

Looking over to that guy, she introduced, "This is Brayden. Brayden, Adrian." He held out his hands.

Taking it I smirked. "I've heard so much about you," I told him.

He frowned. "I've actually never heard of you. I didn't even know Sydney had another brother," he answered.

I glared over at Sydney hiding the fact that I'm kind of sad she never even bothered mentioning me. But of course, why should she?

"It never came up," she said.

Looking back at Brayden I asked, "You're still in high school, right?" He arched an eyebrow not understanding what I'm trying to say. I nodded toward the car, "You must have a side job to make those car payments, though. Unless you're one of those slackers who just tries to get money off their parents." I silently laughed at the irony behind that statement. Here I am, somewhat accusing a high school student of being a lazy bum when reality the real person is lazy is standing directly in front of him.

Looking indignant and proud he answered, "Of course not. I work almost every day at a coffee shop."

"A coffee shop, I see," I repeated. "I suppose it could be worse." Actually to be fair I think this guy is pretty talented. He is juggling apparently full time, or so he claims, and still manages to become a genius. I guess I see what Sydney sees in him. However, I don't tell him I'm impressed because sometimes my sarcasm just gets the better of me.

"Adrian—" Sydney began. I can tell from the tone of her voice, she doesn't find me as amusing as I find myself.

"Well, it's not like I'm going to work there forever, I've already been accepted to USC, Stanford, and Dartmouth," he argued. I nodded my head. Part of me is very impressed, and the other part of me feels like he is bragging and can see right through my façade. I'm in essence everything he isn't. I have no job, and no money. I wasn't accepted into some prestige college, and even if I were to be accepted it would be through a back door connection.

Finally I said, "I guess that's respectable. Although, I've always thought Darmouth as the kind of school people go to when they can't get into Yale or Harv—"

"We really need to go," Sydney said interrupting my speech. She grabbed hold onto my arm and pulled me towards the parking lot. "We don't want to get caught in traffic," she explained to Brayden who glanced at his cell phone.

"Traffic patterns should be relatively light going west this time of the day, but being weekend, you never know how tourists might alter things, especially with the various attractions in San Diego. If you look at the traffic models applying the Chaos Theory—" I began and I was five seconds, literally, from telling him to shut up because no one cares about the Chaos Theory, or even know what the heck that is. Instead I don't because Sydney exclaimed, "Exactly. Better safe than sorry. I'll text you when I get back, okay? We'll figure out the rest of this week."

I rolled my eyes as she dragged me away. Once we were in the car Sydney glared at me. "Really? You couldn't have just said 'nice to meet you,' and let it go?"

"Just looking out for you sis. Don't want you ending up with some deadbeat," I started after pushing back the seat and lounging onto the passenger seat. "Believe me, I'm an expert on that kind of thing," I said with smirk. But secretly I'm scowling. I only know because I'm one of them.

"Well, I appreciate your insider knowledge, but I'll manage this on my own, thanks just the same."

"Come on, a barista? Why not some business intern?" I asked her.

"I like that he's a barista. He always smells like coffee," she points out and I rolled my eyes towards the window I was slowly opening.

"I'm surprised you let him drive you around, especially considering the way you freak out if anyone touches the controls in your car," I told her.

"Like the window? When the air conditioning's on?" she asked me. I rolled my eyes, but smirked because this is the reaction that I wanted from her. I can't help it sometimes I just want to rile her up. I know she has more attitude than she's letting on. "He wants to drive. So I let him. Besides, I like that car."

"That is a nice car," I admitted. "Though I never took you for the type to go for status symbols," I teased her. Though I don't think she got the memo.

"I don't. I like it because it's an interesting car with a long history."

"Translation: status symbol."

Keeping her eyes on the road she sighed, "Adrian. This is going to be a long ride."

Despite the discussion on Brayden during the beginning of our trip we spent most of it talking about random topics. I tried to maintain my carefree attitude throughout the whole thing talking about my art classes, and how much I enjoyed them. Obviously I didn't tell her how I might have used a bit of compulsion on the teacher, but that is besides the point.

Midway during our trip we stopped by a coffee shop, and Sydney bought me a cup of coffee. I really hated having other people spend money on me, especially Sydney because it makes me feel useless. It's times like this that I want to strangle Rose and force her to return the money I gave her, but I don't because it's dirty money, and I would rather live in the streets with no food, water, or clothes then take back the money I gave her.

During the last stretch of our journey I sat in absolute silence dreading the conversation with my dad. For one I don't know which part of my speech I'm going to begin with, and secondly I Sydney's yellow aura is distracting me. I know that I should be used to it by now, but I'm not. Her aura is so yellow it's amazing. It's like watching the sun. But of course I have to resist the urge to stare at her because she'll probably think I want to drink her blood.

For all I know she's probably scared out of her guts right now so when she opened her mouth I never imagined her asking me the question that she did. "Have you guys learned anything from Eddie and Dimitri's blood?"

I glanced at her surprised, "Didn't expect you to bring that up."

"Hey, I'm curious about the science of it. I just didn't want to participate."

Of course she was interested in the science, it makes me wonder if I'm part her science experiment would she touch me. Obviously she wouldn't, she'll have other people touch me and she'll get the results later. Finally I answered, "Not much to tell so soon. They sent the samples off to a lab—one of your labs, I think—to see if there's anything physically different between the two. Sonya and I did pick up a…oh, I don't know how to describe it. Like, a 'hum' of spirit in Belikov's blood. Not that him having magic blood should surprise anyone. Most people seem to think everything he does is magic."

Sydney looked over at me for a second before a returning her gaze on the road, "Oh, come on. That's unfair."

"Is it? You've seen the way Castile worships him. He wants to be just like Belikov when he grows up. And even though Sonya's usually the spokesperson for our research, she won't breathe without checking with him beforehand. 'What do you think, Dimitri?' 'Is this a good idea, Dimitri?'" I was about done, then I added the last part just for laugh, "'Please give us your blessing so that we can fall down and worship you, Dimitri."

Besides me Sydney shook her head, "Again—unfair. They're research partners. Of course she's going to consult him."

"She consults him more than me," I pointed out, but from the look on her face she seemed skeptical. I can tell, she thinks I'm being unfair, but that's not it. It's not only because I don't want to join them, but it's because I feel that even if I do they won't appreciate my input. They'll shrug it off as an, 'It's Adrian,' thing and ignore me. People do that a lot.

"They've both been Strigoi. They've kind of got a unique insight to this," she retorts.

For several moments I sat and stared out the window. "Okay. I'll give you points for that. But you can't argue that there was any competition between me and him when it came to Rose. You saw them together. I never had a chance. I can't compare." Shit. I didn't want to talk about this. I was going to bury this forever, and here I told Jill that I'm slowly getting healed. Well whatever progress I had was definitely ruined.

"Well why do you have to?" she asked me.

Sighing I stared at her side profile and decided that I might as well get this over with. Hell knows that I've been wanting to talk to someone about my feelings, but had no one to talk to it about. "Because I wanted her," I answered Sydney simply. Because I freaken loved her and she ripped my heart out and cheated with Belikov. How could she do that to me without thinking about my feelings.

Oh wait. I do know how. She thinks that because I'm Adrian Ivashkov I'll be fine about everything, and that I'll just drink and smoke through depression.

"Do you still want her?" Sydney finally asks me. I didn't answer her because I don't know. Part of me still wants her, but the other part doesn't because I hate her for using me. "Look, you and Dimitri are two different people. You shouldn't compare yourself to him. You shouldn't try to be like him. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and rip him apart or anything. I like Dimitri. He's smart and dedicated, insanely brave and ferocious. Good in a fight. And he's just a nice guy."

I scoffed, "You left out dreamy and ruggedly handsome."

"Hey, you're pretty easy on the eyes too. And don't underestimate yourself. You're smart too, and you can talk yourself out of—and into—anything. You don't even need magical charisma," I think she forgot the part where I have compulsion, so it's impossible for me to be stuck at whatever position.

"So far I'm not seeing a lot of difference between me and a carnival con-man."

She laughed, and I think that we finally got out of the danger zone. "Oh stop. You know what I mean. And you're also one of the most fiercely loyal people I know—and caring, no matter how much you pretend otherwise. I see the way you look after Jill. Not many people would've traveled across the country to help her. And almost no one would have done what you did to save her life."

I guess we weren't out of the danger zone yet, "But what are loyal and caring really worth?" I asked her. I didn't explain the fact that although I was definitely loyal and caring to Rose she didn't care.

"To me? Everything." She answered immediately and I turned to stare at her.

For the remainder of the ride I would look at her when she's not paying attention to me. Sydney just said something very important to me. No one ever said that my trust and loyalty meant everything to them. They usually scoffed at me for having those traits. My old man definitely thought those traits brought in shame for the family, and I did too, but Sydney, Sydney Sage full time alchemist, and part time my sister just said she appreciated me.

For some reason it made me feel happy, so happy and contented that I just sat there staring at her aura burning bright as the sunlight.

When we finally reached the hotel where my dad was staying I went with Sydney up a few levels up. "Take a closer look white I call the old man," I told her. She nodded her head. When I returned I stood right besides Sydney watching her fascination. She looked so young like that this. Her serenity ended when a mother called out to her daughter who was also named Sydney. Turning to face the women she met my eyes, and stepped back a little.

"How about some warning next time?"

"I didn't want to interrupt. You looked happy for a change," I explained.

"For a change? I'm happy lots of times."

"Does that guy—that Brendan guy—"

"Brayden," she corrected. I rolled my eyes because I obviously knew.

"Does that Brayden guy make you happy?" I asked her and she looked up to me surprised. I gave a blank neutral look.

"I guess. Yeah. I mean, he doesn't make me unhappy," I wanted to laugh. That doesn't mean you're happy, but I don't tell her. Instead I asked her, "Red-hot answer if ever there was one. What do you like about him? Aside from the car? And that he smells like coffee?"

"I like that he's smart, I like that I don't have to dumb myself down around him."

I frowned and stared at her, "You do that a lot for people?"

She gave a bitter laugh. "A lot? Try all the time. Probably the most important thing I've learned at Amberwood is that people don't like to know how much you know. With Brayden, there's no censoring for either of us. I mean just look at this morning. One minute we were talking Halloween costumes, the next we were discussing the ancient Athenian origins of democracy."

I arched an eyebrow. "I'm not going to claim to be a genius, but how the hell did you make that leap?"

"Oh, our Halloween costumes. We're dressing Greek. From the Athenian era."

"Of course," I began and smirked, "no sexy cat costumes for you. Only the most dignified, feminist attire will do." I don't tell her that obviously I won't mind seeing her dressed in a sexy cat costume.

"Feminist? Oh, no. Not Athenian women. They're about as far from feminist as you can—well, forget it. It's not really important," she said while shrugging her shoulders. I did a double take and eyed her weirdly.

"That's it, isn't it?" I asked leaning towards her (god the urge to stroke her face was so strong! And her eyes, they are amazing…).

"What?" she asked clearly flustered.

"You stopped yourself just now. You just dumped it down for me."

"Yeah, I kind of did." She admitted.

"Why?"

"Because you really don't want to hear about ancient Athens, any more than you wanted to hear Brayden talk about Chaos Theory," she said pointedly. I didn't point out to her that Brayden could be talking about the greatest bottle of alcohol in the world and I still wouldn't pay attention to him.

"That's different. He's boring. You make learning fun. Like a children's book or after school special. Tell me about your…um, Athenian women." I said to her.

I can tell that she resisted the urge to not smile. "Most Athenian women weren't educated. They mostly stayed inside and were just expected to have kids and take care of the house. The most progressive women were the hetaerae. They were like entertainers and high-class prostitutes. They were educated and a little flashier. Powerful men kept their wives at home to raise children and then hung out with hetaerae for fun," she paused and stared at my face, "Like I said, it's not really important."

I laughed at her uncertainty. She probably didn't realize that I did indeed listen to every single word she said. "I don't know, I find prostitutes vastly important."

"Well. How refreshing to see that things haven't changed," said a new voice, one I knew belonged to my old man. I flinched.

As promised two chapters. Sorry for the later update then usual, I was working and didn't have time to write. Anyways I hope you enjoy the two chapters I posted, and please review. If there are any errors please tell me, I finished this at 3AM.