Home > Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)(10)

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)(10)
Author: Richelle Mead

"It's okay." she said, after a moment. She sighed and touched my arm. "Fine. We'll stay and we'll keep out of all that stuff. We'll 'coast through the middle' like you want. Hang out with Natalie, I guess."

To be perfectly honest, I didn't want any of that. I wanted to go to all the royal parties and wild drunken festivities like we'd done before. We'd kept out of that life for years until Lissa's parents and brother died. Andre should have been the one to inherit her family's title, and he'd certainly acted like it. Handsome and outgoing, he'd charmed everyone he knew and had been a leader in all the royal cliques and clubs that existed on campus. After his death, Lissa had felt it was her family duty to take his place.

I'd gotten to join that world with her. It was easy for me, because I didn't really have to deal with the politics of it. I was a pretty dhampir, one who didn't mind getting into trouble and pulling crazy stunts. I became a novelty; they liked having me around for the fun of it.

Lissa had to deal with other matters. The Dragomirs were one of the twelve ruling families. She'd have a very powerful place in Moroi society, and the other young royals wanted to get in good with her. Fake friends tried to schmooze her and get her to team up against other people. The royals could bribe and backstab in the same breath - and that was just with each other. To dhampirs and non-royals, they were completely unpredictable.

That cruel culture had eventually taken its toll on Lissa. She had an open, kind nature, one that I loved, and I hated to see her upset and stressed by royal games. She'd grown fragile since the accident, and all the parties in the world weren't worth seeing her hurt.

"All right then," I said finally. "We'll see how this goes. If anything goes wrong - anything at all - we leave. No arguments."

She nodded.

"Rose?"

We both looked up at Dimitri's looming form. I hoped he hadn't heard the part about us leaving.

"You're late for practice," he said evenly. Seeing Lissa, he gave a polite nod. "Princess."

As he and I walked away, I worried about Lissa and wondered if staying here was the right thing to do. I felt nothing alarming through the bond, but her emotions spiked all over the place. Confusion. Nostalgia. Fear. Anticipation. Strong and powerful, they flooded into me.

I felt the pull just before it happened. It was exactly like what had happened on the plane: her emotions grew so strong that they "sucked" me into her head before I could stop them. I could now see and feel what she did.

She walked slowly around the commons, toward the small Russian Orthodox chapel that served most of the school's religious needs. Lissa had always attended mass regularly. Not me.

I had a standing arrangement with God: I'd agree to believe in him - barely - so long as he let me sleep in on Sundays.

But as she went inside, I could feel that she wasn't there to pray. She had another purpose, one I didn't know about. Glancing around, she verified that neither the priest nor any worshippers were close by. The place was empty.

Slipping through a doorway in the back of the chapel, she climbed a narrow set of creaky stairs up into the attic. Here it was dark and dusty. The only light came through a large stained-glass window that fractured the faint glow of sunrise into tiny, multicolored gems across the floor.

I hadn't known until that moment that this room was a regular retreat for Lissa. But now I could feel it, feel her memories of how she used to escape here to be alone and to think. The anxiety in her ebbed away ever so slightly as she took in the familiar surroundings. She climbed up into the window seat and leaned her head back against its side, momentarily entranced by the silence and the light.

Moroi could stand some sunlight, unlike the Strigoi, but they had to limit their exposure. Sitting here, she could almost pretend she was in the sun, protected by the glass's dilution of the rays.

Breathe, just breathe, she told herself. It'll be okay. Rose will take care of everything.

She believed that passionately, like always, and relaxed further.

Then a low voice spoke from the darkness.

"You can have the Academy but not the window seat."

She sprang up, heart pounding. I shared her anxiety, and my own pulse quickened. "Who's there?"

A moment later, a shape rose from behind a stack of crates, just outside her field of vision. The figure stepped forward, and in the poor lighting, familiar features materialized. Messy black hair. Pale blue eyes. A perpetually sardonic smirk.

Christian Ozera.

"Don't worry," he said. "I won't bite. Well, at least not in the way you're afraid of." He chuckled at his own joke.

She didn't find it funny. She had completely forgotten about Christian. So had I.

No matter what happened in our world, a few basic truths about vampires remained the same. Moroi were alive; Strigoi were undead. Moroi were mortal; Strigoi were immortal. Moroi were born; Strigoi were made.

And there were two ways to make a Strigoi. Strigoi could forcibly turn humans, dhampirs, or Moroi with a single bite. Moroi tempted by the promise of immortality could become Strigoi by choice if they purposely killed another person while feeding. Doing that was considered dark and twisted, the greatest of all sins, both against the Moroi way of life and nature itself. Moroi who chose this dark path lost their ability to connect with elemental magic and other powers of the world. That was why they could no longer go into the sun.

This is what had happened to Christian's parents. They were Strigoi.

FIVE

OR RATHER, THEY HAD BEEN Strigoi. A regiment of guardians had hunted them down and killed them. If rumors were true, Christian had witnessed it all when he was very young. And although he wasn't Strigoi himself, some people thought he wasn't far off, with the way he always wore black and kept to himself.

Strigoi or not, I didn't trust him. He was a jerk, and I silently screamed at Lissa to get out of there - not that my screaming did much good. Stupid one-way bond.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Taking in the sights, of course. That chair with the tarp on it is particularly lovely this time of year. Over there, we have an old box full of the writings of the blessed and crazy St. Vladimir. And let's not forget that beautiful table with no legs in the corner."

"Whatever." She rolled her eyes and moved toward the door, wanting to leave, but he blocked her way.

"Well, what about you?" he taunted. "Why are you up here? Don't you have parties to go to or lives to destroy?"

Some of Lissa's old spark returned. "Wow, that's hilarious. Am I like a rite of passage now? Go and see if you can piss off Lissa to prove how cool you are? Some girl I don't even know yelled at me today, and now I've got to deal with you? What does it take to be left alone?"

"Oh. So that's why you're up here. For a pity party."

"This isn't a joke. I'm serious." I could tell Lissa was getting angry. It was trumping her earlier distress.

He shrugged and leaned casually against the sloping wall. "So am I. I love pity parties. I wish I'd brought the hats. What do you want to mope about first? How it's going to take you a whole day to be popular and loved again? How you'll have to wait a couple weeks before Hollister can ship out some new clothes? If you spring for rush shipping, it might not be so long."

"Let me leave," she said angrily, this time pushing him aside.

"Wait," he said, as she reached the door. The sarcasm disappeared from his voice. "What...um, what was it like?"

"What was what like?" she snapped.

"Being out there. Away from the Academy."

She hesitated for a moment before answering, caught off guard by what seemed like a genuine attempt at conversation. "It was great. No one knew who I was. I was just another face. Not Moroi. Not royal. Not anything." She looked down at the floor. "Everyone here thinks they know who I am."

"Yeah. It's kind of hard to outlive your past," he said bitterly.

It occurred to Lissa at that moment - and me to by default - just how hard it might be to be Christian. Most of the time, people treated him like he didn't exist. Like he was a ghost. They didn't talk to or about him. They just didn't notice him. The stigma of his parents' crime was too strong, casting its shadow onto the entire Ozera family.

Books
     Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)
     Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)
     Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)
     Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)
     Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)
     Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)
     The Meeting (Vampire Academy 0.9)      Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5)