Hi! So this is my first time posting something Sydrian other than a drabble fic and it's from a prompt I was given by my friend Tara, so I take no credit for the idea. The ending has purposely been left open for you to decide what happens next. Enjoy!

Once upon a time, kissing Adrian Ivashkov had been the most irresponsible I had ever done.

I pulled the car door shut behind me and looked over at the boy in question. He wasn't looking at me, but was busy putting his foot down on the gas. The Mustang screeched as the tires flew across the asphalt, and Adrian shifted through the gears, putting his foot down. We flew down the long drive and my eyes widened as I saw the large gates approaching.

"Adrian -"

He didn't reply and he didn't slow down. In the backseat, Eddie sat silently. I gripped the seat, my chipped fingernails digging into the soft material, and wondered how we were going to get out. The guards – I hadn't even known there were guards out here – were approaching us, hands on guns. My eyes widened as the gates suddenly began opening and the guards were turned at the sound. Adrian didn't stop, and we barely made it through them without scratching the car against the metal of the half opened gates before we were away. The car stopped suddenly and the back door flew open.

"Dimitri?" I breathed. I felt my head swim as he climbed in the back, next to Eddie. I suddenly realised I was surrounded by three guys and even after everything I'd been through, felt self conscious in my torn clothes. I tried to arrange them around myself to cover more of my body and save some of my dignity. Eddie passed his jacket to me as Adrian put his foot down again and we were off. He was still silent, his jaw clenched and his eyes burning. The muscles in his forearms were raised as he gripped the steering wheel tight. Another time and place I would have worried about the car, but now, I was too exhausted.

"Dimitri dealt with the guard at the tower," Eddie said before I could ask. I didn't press for details. I could imagine what that meant.

"Who's looking after Jill?" I managed to ask, my voice shaking. Dimitri looked concerned as Eddie answered.

"Rose and Angeline. Rose wanted to come but -"

"Lissa is with them," Adrian said. He sounded a little calmer now we were further away. I looked over at him but he kept his eyes on the road.

"The Queen knows about this?" I squeaked, resting back against the seat and pulling Eddie's jacket around me tighter. My head was spinning.

"Do you have a concussion?" Dimitri asked carefully, his sharp eyes watching me closely.

"She didn't hit her head when we were there," Adrian told him, "but maybe before... those bastards must have -" he cut off and the car sped up a little more.

"I'm okay," I told them, but my answer was punctuated with a yawn. "I'm just exhausted. Where are we going?"

"It's not safe to go back to the Court or Palm Springs," Dimitri said, "so we're going to safe house far from here."

"In this car?"

"It is a little conspicuous," Dimitri agreed. "We'll stop at a hotel tonight and get a new one."

By 'get' I knew he meant steal, and I felt a little remorse fight its way through the sluggishness. I caught Adrian's eye as he looked over at me. His jaw unclenched and he smiled at me, warming me and pushing the darkness away a little. I wasn't expecting a witty quip and I didn't get one.

"The car isn't important, Sage."

"I know," I sighed. "But still. I love this car."

He reached out and took my hand and squeezed. "You're more important than a car."

I nodded, conscious of the silent dhampirs in the backseat. Adrian gave my hand another squeeze and went back to driving. I tried to get as comfortable as possible and closed my eyes, drifting into an uneasy sleep.

The walls were closing in on me.

Another scream clawed through my throat and I closed my eyes tightly, feeling the light pierce through them. My body heaved with sobs and, from my position hunched over on the floor, my stomach heaved again. My hair hung limply around my face and I begged them to stop.


They ignored me. I heard movement and opened my eyes a fraction. Another silhouette moved towards me and I cringed back. They grabbed a handful of my hair and pulled my head back, eliciting from me a scream I was barely able to cover by biting my lip. I couldn't open my eyes because from this angle, the light was too bright. They shook my head a little and I heard them make a disgusted noise.

"Is this really worth it? For a vampire?" I could hear the sneer in the man's voice and my heart sunk like an anchor at sea.

"You wouldn't care, even if I said no," I wanted to spit at him but couldn't. My throat was aching from the screaming I'd been doing for the past two days. I pulled away from him and my hair slipped through his fingers. I bowed my head, turning away. "Nothing I ever did was good enough for you, Sir."

My father didn't spare me an answer. He grabbed me by the arms and pulled me to my feet. My body felt so weak, even after only two days. Today had been no different from the past two, but I didn't know how much longer I could keep this up. I'd had no defence training other than Wolfe's instructions, and that had hardly prepared me for this.

"Run," my father said suddenly. I stumbled forward, knowing that if I didn't, they would find another way to wear my body down. They believed, I'd discovered, that to destroy the mind you had to start with the body, the vessel, the thing that gave you freedom to make your own choices. Alchemists weren't allowed to have freedom or make their own decisions, so they had to take me apart and rebuild me.

I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other in order to keep moving around the room. The light had been dimmed slightly, to allow me to see better. They were trying to cleanse me, like a kind of exorcism. Tears welled in my eyes now I had a little distance from the watching Alchemists. What kind of father did I have? A normal one would do anything possible to get their daughter out of place like this. Mine was probably the one who sent out the warrant for my capture.

I gasped as my foot slipped and I fell, landing hard on knees and collapsing right there.

The car had stopped and Adrian was leaning over me, undoing my seatbelt. He slipped Eddie's jacket around my shoulders and I heard the doors slamming around me as the back of the car emptied.

"Adrian?" I asked, my voice feeling a little stronger after some sleep. He pulled back slightly to look at me and his hand came up and cupped the side of my face.

"Jesus, Sage," he said, his eyes wet and so, so honest. "You scared the shit outta me."

He helped me climb out and I leant on him for support as I took in the scene. It looked like we were in the suburbs of a city, the car parked right out front a dingy looking hotel. Eddie was climbing into the driver's seat.

"Castile'll get rid of the car," Adrian said, arm tight around my waist as we made our way to the door. "I'm sorry it's not anywhere nice, but Belikov says we need to be somewhere busy that won't ask questions. Where better than a shady $20 a night hotel?"

I laughed a little, appreciating his attempt at keeping my spirits up. We made it to the door and found Dimitri inside.

"Two will be fine," I heard his quiet voice saying. "Thank you."

I looked back outside. It was a dark winters evening and I shivered, only able to see my reflection in the glass doors of the hotel. I looked like hell. I was bruised and struggling to stand, my clothes were torn and my hair was like a nest. In the reflection I could see Adrian beside me, looking down at me with that protective look I'd seen from him before, when Sonya had pushed me for my blood. It was amplified though, and if it hadn't have directed at me, I would have been afraid of him.

Eddie pushed the door open, breaking the reflection. He offered me a kind smile and joined us at the desk.

"One floor up," Dimitri said. We headed to the elevator and piled in. Adrian kept his arm around me as I rested against the wall with a sigh.

"Why are you all here?" I asked quietly, and three pairs of shocked eyes looked over at me.

"What do you mean?" Adrian looked confused.

"Why did you get me out of there? I'm an Alchemist. I'm taught to hate you. You don't owe me anything."

Eddie snorted. "No offence, Sydney, but you are the most un-Alchemist like Alchemist I've met."

"But they're my people; they dealt with me the way they deal with Alchemists, not vampires. You didn't have to do anything -"

"Yes, we did," Adrian said firmly, his eyes flashing.

Dimitri shook his head. "We owe you a lot, Sydney. You've done so much for Jill and Rose, and every one of us since we met you. You've never treated us like the other Alchemists do."

"That's what got me into this mess in the first place," I sighed. "If I'd been a good Alchemist I would have treated you guys that way. I would have kept my distance."

The door opened and we piled out. Our rooms were next to each other, which Dimitri said was good for protective purposes. I didn't care, really. I just wanted to lie down. I bit my lip and glanced at Adrian, who was looking towards the door as we hobbled along. There was something else I wanted to do, too.

"I don't think we're in too much danger of being attacked by the Alchemists, but we should still be careful." Dimitri said, looking at me. "They're not really fighters, are they?"

I shook my head. "They do have vampires working for them, though, I'm sure of it."


"I don't know."

Dimitri exchanged a look with Eddie. "We were going to take a watch each anyway."

Eddie nodded.

"Get some sleep," he told Dimtri, "I'll take the first one."

Dimitri agreed and looked towards me and Adrian. "Which room -"

"We'll take this one," Adrian said, motioning to the one we were already in front of. My stomach somersaulted at the idea of sharing at room with Adrian for the night – honestly, I'd been wondering what was going to happen with sharing rooms – but Dimitri simply handed Adrian the key, Eddie stepped in front of the door, and we went inside.

There were two single beds, a small table against the wall in between them, an old TV mounted on the wall and a little ensuite was nestled in the corner. Adrian sat me down on the bed furthest from the window and closed the curtains.

"I'm going to have a shower," I told him as I pulled off Eddie's jacket and stood back up slowly.

"Do – uh -" he ran a hand through his hair gingerly. "Do you want me to help?"

I flushed and shook my head. I knew he didn't mean it in any other way than to be chivalrous, but after we'd kissed, we'd never really talked about our feelings and I didn't want to put either of us in an uncomfortable position.

"I'll be okay," I told him, "I'll be quick."

He nodded and watched me until I was safely in the bathroom and then switched on the TV. I closed the door and saw that there were complimentary towels – probably trying to make up for the rest of the hotel, I thought – and switched on the water, slowly removing my tattered clothes.

My hands were shaking as I climbed under the water, and the shaking soon took over my entire body. Now, alone, I had time to think about everything that had happened over the past 72 hours. I covered my mouth with my hand as the tears began to roll down my cheeks. My own father had been in that room. Even Keith's father had tried to get him out of the Re-education centre. Mine had been the one trying to Re-educate me. I had never been good enough for him when I'd been an exemplary Alchemist, which is exactly what I had been before I'd met Rose and, subsequently, Adrian. I'd held myself away from so many people for so long to try and impress him and when I'd finally found someone I couldn't give up, he'd come down even harder than before.

Wary of Adrian's sensitive hearing, I tried to muffle my sobs with my hand.

The door closed behind Stanton as she sat down across the table from me. She thought I was here on business I mused as I wrapped my hands tighter around the cup of coffee I'd been given. It felt like a little security blanket.

"What can I help you with, Miss Sage?"

I swallowed. "Ma'am." We were in a coffee shop just outside Palm Springs – I'd forgone Spencer's to avoid seeing anyone I knew – and Stanton had been in the area for business anyway. I bit my lip anxiously and decided to press on with what I'd come here to discuss. Every time I blinked, every time I closed my eyes and laid down to sleep, a pair of emerald green eyes were staring back at me. I couldn't do it any longer. I felt like I was losing my mind.

"I can't do this job anymore."

Stanton looked surprised. "Is there a problem in Palm Springs? Miss Sage, you should have said something."

I shook my head. "No, Ma'am, I mean -" I fiddled anxiously with the cup and searched for courage, and as I looked up a little girl walked past with a red slushie. Immediately he was there, in my mind again, and it made me feel stronger. For better or for worse, if I did this, at least I was trying.

"No problems in Palm Springs, Ma'am. The problem is in Virginia."

Her brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

I took a deep breath and plunged in. "I won't be working for the Alchemists again."


If I'd thought Stanton had looked surprised before, it was nothing compared to this. She leant back, reeling, her eyes wide. She was usually so composed that if the subject hadn't been so serious, I probably would have laughed.

"Do you have any idea what you're saying, Miss Sage?" she quickly controlled her emotions again and almost I snorted. That was exactly what I didn't want to be like.

"I know exactly what it is I'm saying, Ma'am," I said calmly. "My time with you is finished."

"That's not an option," she said, and for the first time I saw something dangerous in Stanton's eyes, but I ignored it and didn't break our eye contact.

"I'm leaving," I told her plainly. "You can't make me stay."

"You've gotten too close to those vampires, haven't you?" she shook her head, disgust lining her features. "I was so convinced you of all people would never -"

I stood up. "Consider this my two weeks' notice."

I slipped out of the booth, coffee shaking in my hands and headed straight for Latte. I hadn't bothered mentioning the magic I'd been experimenting with because I'd decided that one day I might need it to protect myself from the Alchemists, so I was keeping that card close to my chest.

Stanton didn't follow me. I got into the car with one destination on my mind, and I was halfway to Adrian's when I saw them following me. My breath caught in my throat; I knew where I'd be going if they caught up. I quickly changed routes, heading away from his house and towards the freeway. I pushed Latte harder than I ever had before, but it wasn't enough. There were too many of them. They pulled me over a mile from the freeway and dragged me from the car. Stanton had her backup with her, something I should have considered, but it was too late.

They had me.

They'd knocked me out. When I woke up in the Re-Education centre, I was in a small room, completely surrounded by glass. They could see me, but I couldn't see them. Sometimes I'd hear voices on the other side, so I knew they were there.

They'd changed me into the clothes all their prisoners wore. Then they'd dragged me out for questioning and demanded to know which "thing" I'd grown attached to. I'd given nothing away, but they'd decided for themselves that it was Adrian.

Then the experiments had started.

The man in charge of the proceedings was called Robert, and he had told me, as I'd been forced to find my way through what seemed like a huge mousetrap, about the Alchemist's theory on wearing down the body to retake control. He'd seemed pleased with himself. I'd thought I'd never be able to hate anyone as much as I'd hated him, until I heard my father in that room with me.

I dried off, leaning on the wall to support myself, and slipped my underwear back on, but didn't know what to do about the rest of my clothes. The shirt was in tatters and the trousers had a huge tear in the left leg. My helplessness nearly reduced me to tears again, but I wrapped the towel around me and cracked open the door a little.


He was lying back on the bed, looking distracted as the TV played in front of him. He looked up with a smile. "Feel better?"

I nodded. "Um... I have a problem."

"What's up?" he sat up and flicked the TV off with the remote.

"My clothes are completely ruined," I told him, feeling my face heat up with embarrassment.

His mouth formed an oval shape and he stood up and headed over to the door. "Wait here a second."

He disappeared and a moment later had returned with a large shirt in his hands.

"I had a spare t shirt in my car," he said. "Remembering clothes was kind of the last thing on my mind." He ran a hand through his hair, which didn't look like the usually perfectly arranged style he went for: it looked as if he hadn't touched it in days.

"It's fine," I said, "anything will be better than this towel."

Adrian looked like he wanted to say something snarky but didn't, choosing instead to simply raise a suggestive eyebrow. He handed me the shirt and I closed the bathroom door and dropped the towel on the floor, pulling the shirt over my head. It was a thin jumper, really, and very comfortable. It hit halfway down my thighs and I had to push the sleeves up to be able to use my hands. My hair was still wet and I doubted there was hairdryer I could use, but there was nothing that could be done about it. I left the tattered clothes on the floor and went back into the room, feeling self conscious. I could smell food and looked over at Adrian, who was holding me a cup of coffee. His eyes ran down my body slowly, and I felt butterflies in my stomach.

"Thought you could do with coffee," he said. "When was the last time you ate?"

"It's been a while," I told him, sitting on the bed and pulling the jumper further down my legs as I sipped the coffee. It was like magic; I felt a little life creeping back into me and accepted the sandwich I was handed, realising it was more important to get my strength up than it was to worry about how many calories were the bread and the mayonnaise. Lots, I imagined. I needed them.

We sat in silence for a while before Adrian asked.

"Why did they take you, Sage?"

I felt nervous about telling him. "I told them I didn't want to be an Alchemist anymore."

It clearly wasn't what he was expecting. His eyebrows flew up and he seemed lost for words.

"They didn't take it well," I said with a shrug.

"You're telling me," he said, and I looked up at him. His eyes were so sincere I had to look away. "I was so scared, Sydney. I didn't know what they were doing to you in there. I was so afraid they'd hurt you. Or – make you forget about me."

My eyes softened. I wasn't quite brave enough to look at him, so I looked at my hands wrapped around the coffee as I told him the truth.

"I left because of you."

From the corner of my eye I saw his head shoot up.

"I mean not just because of you. There are other reasons. I still believe protecting humans from evil vampires but the Alchemists go about it all wrong – vampires aren't all evil. You, and Jill and Eddie; you've never, ever done anything cruel to me. There's so much more to a person, no matter who they are, than whatever label they wear and – I wish I had decided that sooner." I sighed. "With the Alchemists I always felt so alone, but with you guys – well I really did feel like I had a family." A tear escaped my eye and I brushed it away quickly, still not looking at him. "My father – he was one of the Alchemists Re-Educating me. My mother is powerless in all this, but I know she hates it. My older sister has gone through hell because of what my family does and my younger sister is about to become miniature version of me. And I've always felt so alone, but not with you." I finally looked up at him, and this time I couldn't stop a fresh flood of tears. "Not with you, Adrian. Suddenly someone sought me out to talk, to make me laugh, to challenge me, and I missed you so much when you were gone."

He moved next to me, took the coffee from my hand and placed it on the table, before pulling me into his chest. "I didn't go anywhere, Sage," he murmured. "I was just waiting for you to let me in."

"I couldn't," I gasped. "I was afraid of what they'd do to me. Of what it meant if everything they said was wrong. But I've seen what they can do and I know now that everything is wrong and I'm going to have to deal with it."

"I'll be here," he told me firmly. I settled in more comfortably, snuggling against him, and he curled his arm around me, tugging me closer.

"Your father did that to you?" he asked, after my I had finished sniffling. I nodded against his chest and his arms tightened around me. "He's a bastard. Sorry, Sage, but hell... I thought my father was an ass."

My fingers curled in his shirt as the pain radiated through me again. I could only manage a whisper. "He's always been tough on me, but there was always a part of me that hoped he loved me more than he wanted me to the perfect Alchemist."

"You were the perfect Alchemist, Sage," Adrian assured me. "Don't I know it."

His words made my heart clench. I still hadn't told him what I needed to, but I needed more time. I needed to heal a little more first. Being with him was helping.

"What time is it?"

"Midnight, I think."

I sat up. "I'm sorry. Did you want to go shower?"

"Trying to get me out of my clothes are you, Sage?" he asked with a suggestive eyebrow. I laughed and swatted him away, laying back and curling up on the bed. He watched me for a moment before turning to the bathroom.

"Okay, I'll go shower." He yanked his shirt over his head, giving me full view of his muscled back, and disappeared into the bathroom. I bit my lip, knowing he was trying to provoke a reaction from me so I simply closed my eyes and drifted.


I awoke with a start. Adrian was wearing his clothes again but his hair was damp and mussed as if he'd dried it with the towel. He looked guilty for waking me up.

"Sorry," he said, "just wanted to check you were okay." He walked over to the door and locked it, switching the light off as he went. I heard him pause at the end of my bed and, heart beating fast, I peered through the darkness. He was bent down, gathering something from the floor.

"What are you doing?" I asked him. He straightened up.

"You dropped this."

He walked round and held his hand out. It was my necklace; after everything that happened, I hadn't realised that the Alchemists hadn't taken it from me, let alone that it had made it all this way. I reached out and he curled his hand around mine. I looked down – I still didn't feel completely comfortable being touched by someone this way, even Adrian. It wasn't because he was a vampire: that had stopped bothering me a long time ago. With only Brayden for comparison, I wasn't used to the heat that spread through me every time we touched. He laughed and dropped my hand, turning back to his bed.


He stopped and looked back at me.

"Would you – could you stay?" I asked him, eyes still on the floor. "I could use some help keeping away the nightmares."

He was back instantly, quickly lying down beside me. I pulled the covers over us and tentatively rested my head on his chest. He wrapped his arms around my waist and I quickly fell asleep. His lips pressed gently against my hair were the last thing I felt before the darkness closed in.

There was a scuffling at the door and suddenly it opened. My eyes tried to adjust to the light, but they weren't quick enough to discover who it was picking me up from the floor and throwing my arm around their neck. I was so weak after barely eating and all the excursion on my body that my attempts to struggle away from them were worse than pathetic, but then a voice spoke and I caught my breath.

"It's me."

I relaxed, so glad to see him that I almost collapsed on him. He brushed my hair back behind my ears and I opened my eyes wider, desperate to take in his face. He looked livid but relived as well, and I wailed, throwing my arms around his neck and my head in the crook of his neck. He mumbled words I barely heard and stroked my back soothingly.

If they had cameras in here, which they probably did, this was all the evidence they'd ever need.

Another voice rang across the room and suddenly Adrian was pulling me up and almost dragging me across the room. We made it through the door into the dimly lit corridor and I saw Eddie a few feet away, waiting for us. I had never been as glad to see a guardian as I was in that moment.

"Shit, Sydney," he said when he saw me, his features lined with worry. I offered him a weak smile and we hurried out into another corridor. I quickly became in the labyrinth of corridors, my mind sluggish. We were forced to duck into an empty room as a team of Alchemists with clipboards passed.

"It's like a lab down here," Eddie observed, watching through a crack in the door.

"That's exactly what it is."

When he judged it was safe, we moved again.

We didn't speak again, nor did we meet anyone else on our way, which was a relief. We made it to a pair of fire doors and Eddie looked back at me, still clinging onto Adrian.

"I know you're hurt, but we need to move as quickly as possible. I'm pretty sure these doors will trigger an alarm."

I nodded and pulled myself up a little straight.

"The car is just outside," Adrian told me. Eddie pushed open the doors and sure enough, an alarm pierced the silence. I hobbled as fast as possible towards the car, Eddie surveying the area as we moved across open ground. A man in a white lab coat appeared at the door behind us and Eddie quickly dispatched him. I saw the Mustang parked close to the shadow of the building, probably in an attempt to hide it from anyone looking out the window. Adrian dug his hand in his pocket and as we reached the car quickly unlocked it, helping me in. As soon as I was sitting he darted around the car and Eddie climbed in the back.

Early morning light crept around the heavy curtains. In waking, I found that I felt better after a sleep in a comfortable bed and the hot shower I'd had before falling asleep. I rolled over, moving closer to the warm body beside me. My brow furrowed before I remembered I'd ask Adrian to sleep next to me last night. My heart sped up as I registered that my bare legs were tangled with his jeaned ones and his hand was resting against my bare hip where the shirt had ridden up during sleep. He must have been stirring too, because his head moved closer, his nose running along my cheek and I heard him sigh in contentment. I felt like I was going to burst with everything I was feeling; everything melted away except him and his body against mine. I couldn't stop a smile from creeping over my face; I was no longer an Alchemist. I didn't have to want this to stop.

"Good morning," he mumbled into my shoulder.

"Morning," I said quietly, testing the silence. There was a tangible difference in air, I thought, waking up next to someone rather than waking up alone. He lifted his head and looked up at me; we'd moved some time during the night so that I was closer to the headboard than he was. He smiled and it was blinding.

"I don't think I've ever had such a good night's sleep, Sage. We need to sleep next to each other more often."

"I'd like that."

"You would?" his reply was tentative. He didn't want to scare me and watch me run again, I realised.

"Adrian," I took a deep breath. "I wasn't lying when I told you part of the reason I left was the Alchemists was because of you. I – I'm so sorry I ran from you that day in your apartment. I was so scared. But I'm not anymore." I reached out and slipped my fingers through his hair, watching his face carefully. He looked a little shocked, but the shock quickly seemed to be turning into awe, especially at my next words. "It was the thought of you that gave me the strength to be brave. You made me strong."

His hand found the one I was running through his hair and brought it to his lips, kissing my palm. A tingling started in my toes and travelled the length of my body as he lifted himself onto his side and looked down at me.

"I made you strong?"

"Yes," I said breathlessly, unable to tear my eyes from his.

"And do you take back what you said?"

"What I said?" I asked, distracted by the way he was shifting his body over mine, so his arms supported his weight.

"About not choosing me," he bent and pressed his lips against my neck and I gasped. I could smell him everywhere and the feel of his body against mine was indescribable. He moved up my neck a little and waited for me to answer.

"I take it back," I told him, curling my fingers in his shirt, my eyes falling shut. "I know what it's like to be with someone who only makes you feel normal, and I know what it's like to be with you. I never feel as alive as I do with you, Adrian. I don't think anyone else will ever make me feel like that -"

His lips found mine, silencing me. My hands fell away from his chest and wrapped around his neck, one hand grabbing a handful of his hair and tugging him closer to me. Just like the first time, there was the feeling of instinct taking over. His arms were under me, lifting me from the mattress and into him, our bodies touching every place they possibly could. His tongue ran along my bottom lip. Our tongues met and I gasped against his mouth, which only seemed to encourage him. A hand trailed down my side to my thigh and under my knee, pulling up my leg.

I pulled away, panting, and he pressed his forehead against mine.

"Sorry." He didn't sound it at all.

He pulled away and lay back next to me on the bed.

I ran my tongue over my lips, the taste of him lingering. Then something occurred to me.

"How did you know where I was?"

He began running his fingers through my hair, which was very distracting.

"We got a call and were told you'd been reassigned. I knew that you'd never just up and leave Jill, and once I'd convinced Eddie to come with me – which didn't take long – we got the others on board quickly. I sweet talked Lissa into speaking directly to the Alchemists and I don't know what said to them, but when she was done, she said you were definitely in that place. We came as quickly as we could."

I was shocked. I couldn't believe all those vampires had done something so dangerous for me. Even the Queen had gotten involved. They had enough of their own problems without worrying about a rogue Alchemist, even one they'd been working with.

"Thank you," I told him earnestly.

He leant back over and kissed me again. It was insane how different I felt while kissing Adrian compared to how I'd felt kissing Brayden. I couldn't understand what it was; on paper, Brayden and I sounded like the ideal couple. We were both book smart, interested in facts and used to control. Adrian, on the other hand, was a lesson in vices. He ran on impulse and passion. You'd think he'd be my worst nightmare. I supposed there was no explaining some things. We just fit.

He seemed to agree. He rolled on top of me again and grabbed my hands and pinned them above my head so I couldn't move. His lips trailed down my neck and up to where just beneath my ear. He bit down gently on the sensitive skin and my body jumped at the contact. He laughed and kissed me again. The only thing that stopped us was a knock at the door.

Adrian drew away from me, his eyes burning. He pressed one last, chaste kiss to my lips and left me in bed, my chest heaving, as he went to the door and stuck his head out. I heard Dimitri ask if he was okay, but his answer was lost on me as I tried to calm myself down. I pressed the back of my hand to my cheek and felt how warm my skin was. How did he create such a reaction in me?

He closed the door and I climbed out of bed, pulling the jumper back down. He smiled, looking very pleased with himself. I rolled my eyes and made my way past him to the bathroom, grabbed the ripped trousers and slipped them back on, along with my shoes. They would have to do until we found somewhere I could get some new clothes.

"Do you have to put your clothes back on, Sage? I was enjoying seeing you without them."

Adrian was leaning against the wall as I left the bathroom, having thrown open the curtains and readied himself for leave. I brushed past him, ignoring his comment, and his hand reached out and snagged me towards him. He kissed me again, so thoroughly I leaned towards him as he pulled away, wanting to feel his lips against mine again. He laughed and slipped his fingers through mine, pulling me towards the door.

"Come on, we've got to go. Got your necklace?"


We met Dimitri and Eddie outside and I watched as they noticed how our hands were entwined. Eddie looked a little shocked, but Dimitri only offered me a knowing smile. We checked out and Dimitri said there was a restaurant around the corner we could grab coffee from. He asked us to order food and disappeared, I assumed to steal another car. We grabbed some food to go and after I had swallowed a few mouthfuls of coffee, felt much more alert; more than I had in days.

Dimitri met us at the end of the road and we hopped in the car. It was a 2007 Ford Mondeo, which wasn't a bad choice of getaway car. I was sat in the back next to Adrian and he kept our hands together. He noticed me checking out the car and shot me an indulgent smile.

Hours later, we arrived at the safe house. As soon as we'd parked, the door opened and a collection of people split out; Jill threw her arms around me, talking a mile a minute. Rose and Vasilisa were there, as was Angeline and a boy I recognized as Vasilisa's boyfriend, Christian Ozera. I still couldn't wrap my head around all these people wanting to help me.

"Is this really the time or place?" Adrian asked, looking amused. Jill detached herself from me and hugged Adrian. "Hello, Jailbait."

Rose was talking with Dimitri, but she smiled and waved me over.

"So," she said. "Sydney Sage, causing trouble. I always knew you had it in you."

I smiled. "It's all that time I spent with you."

Rose laughed. "Maybe. I didn't warn you about Adrian's charm, did I?"

I flushed.

"There are some things unexplainable in this world, Rose," Adrian said as he joined us, slipping his arms around my waist from behind. He pressed a kiss against my cheek. "And she's handled it just fine, actually."

"I'm glad to hear it," Vasilisa stepped forward. "Sydney. Nice to finally meet you."

I shook her hand. She was very beautiful, and tall and slim like all the Moroi. She had something in her hand and she passed it to me with an unreadable look on her face.

"Someone came directly to me and asked to speak to you," she said. Perplexed, I opened the note and looked down at the foreign number. I looked up at Adrian, who shook his head: he had no better idea than I did.

Lissa shrugged. "He said his name was Marcus Finch."

My eyes widened. "Ah."

"Do you know him?"

"No," I said thoughtfully, looking down at the number again, "but I think I'm about to."

Once upon a time, kissing Adrian Ivashkov had been the most irresponsible thing I'd ever done. Now, with a fellow ex-Alchemists phone number in my hand, I was pretty sure the Sydney Sage that had first kissed Adrian would hardly recognize the girl curling her fingers around the paper, standing in the arms of a vampire.