Home > Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)(9)

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)(9)
Author: Richelle Mead

Natalie accepted this and than launched into some other topic. Lissa shot me a grateful look.

Ignoring the conversation again, I took in the old faces, trying to figure out who was hanging out with whom and how power had shifted within the school. Mason, sitting with a group of novices, caught my eye, and I smiled. Near him, a group of Moroi royals sat, laughing over something. Aaron and the blond girl sat there too.

"Hey, Natalie," I said, turning around and cutting her off. She didn't seem to notice or mind. "Who's Aaron's new girlfriend?"

"Huh? Oh. Mia Rinaldi." Seeing my blank look, she asked, "Don't you remember her?"

"Should I? Was she here when we left?"

"She's always been here," said Natalie. "She's only a year younger than us."

I shot a questioning look at Lissa, who only shrugged.

"Why is she so pissed off at us?" I asked. "Neither of us know her."

"I don't know," answered Natalie. "Maybe she's jealous about Aaron. She wasn't much of anybody when you guys left. She got really popular really fast. She isn't royal or anything, but once she started dating Aaron, she - "

"Okay, thanks," I interrupted. "It doesn't really - "

My eyes lifted up from Natalie's face to Jesse Zeklos's, just as he passed by our table. Ah, Jesse. I'd forgotten about him. I liked flirting with Mason and some of the other novices, but Jesse was in an entirely different category. You flirted with the other guys simply for the sake of flirting. You flirted with Jesse in the hopes of getting semi-naked with him. He was a royal Moroi, and he was so hot, he should have worn a warning: flammable sign. He met my eyes and grinned.

"Hey Rose, welcome back. You still breaking hearts?"

"Are you volunteering?"

His grin widened. "Let's hang out sometime and find out. If you ever get parole."

He kept walking, and I watched him admiringly. Natalie and her friends stared at me in awe. I might not be a god in the Dimitri sense, but with this group, Lissa and I were gods - or at least former gods - of another nature.

"Oh my gawd," exclaimed one girl. I didn't remember her name. "That was Jesse."

"Yes," I said, smiling. "It certainly was."

"I wish I looked like you," she added with a sigh.

Their eyes fell on me. Technically, I was half-Moroi, but my looks were human. I'd blended in well with humans during our time away, so much so that I'd barely thought about my appearance at all. Here, among the slim and small-chested Moroi girls, certain features - meaning my larger br**sts and more defined h*ps - stood out. I knew I was pretty, but to Moroi boys, my body was more than just pretty: it was sexy in a risqué way. Dhampirs were an exotic conquest, a novelty all Moroi guys wanted to "try."

It was ironic that dhampirs had such an allure here, because slender Moroi girls looked very much like the super-skinny runway models so popular in the human world. Most humans could never reach that "ideal" skinniness, just as Moroi girls could never look like me. Everyone wanted what she couldn't have.

Lissa and I got to sit together in our shared afternoon classes but didn't do much talking. The stares she'd mentioned certainly did follow us, but I found that the more I talked to people, the more they warmed up. Slowly, gradually, they seemed to remember who we were, and the novelty - though not the intrigue - of our crazy stunt wore off.

Or maybe I should say, they remembered who I was. Because I was the only one talking. Lissa stared straight ahead, listening but neither acknowledging nor participating in my attempts at conversation. I could feel anxiety and sadness pouring out of her.

"All right," I told her when classes finally ended. We stood outside the school, and I was fully aware that in doing so, I was already breaking the terms of my agreement with Kirova. "We're not staying here," I told her, looking around the campus uneasily. "I'm going to find a way to get us out."

"You think we could really do it a second time?" Lissa asked quietly.

"Absolutely." I spoke with certainty, again relieved she couldn't read my feelings. Escaping the first time had been tricky enough. Doing it again would be a real bitch, not that I couldn't still find a way.

"You really would, wouldn't you?" She smiled, more to herself than to me, like she'd thought of something funny. "Of course you would. It's just, well..." She sighed. "I don't know if we should go. Maybe - maybe we should stay."

I blinked in astonishment. "What?" Not one of my more eloquent answers, but the best I could manage. I'd never expected this from her.

"I saw you, Rose. I saw you talking to the other novices during class, talking about practice. You miss that."

"It's not worth it," I argued. "Not if...not if you..." I couldn't finish, but she was right. She'd read me. I had missed the other novices. Even some of the Moroi. But there was more to it than just that. The weight of my inexperience, how much I'd fallen behind, had been growing all day.

"It might be better," she countered. "I haven't had as many...you know, things happening in a while. I haven't felt like anyone was following or watching us."

I didn't say anything to that. Before we'd left the Academy, she'd always felt like someone was following her, like she was being hunted. I'd never seen evidence to support that, but I had once heard one of our teachers go on and on about the same sort of thing. Ms. Karp. She'd been a pretty Moroi, with deep auburn air and high cheekbones. And I was pretty sure she'd been crazy.

"You never know who's watching," she used to say, walking briskly around the classroom as she shut all the blinds. "Or who's following you. Best to be safe. Best to always be safe." We'd snickered amongst ourselves because that's what students do around eccentric and paranoid teachers. The thought of Lissa acting like her bothered me.

"What's wrong?" Lissa asked, noticing that I was lost in thought.

"Huh? Nothing. Just thinking." I sighed, trying to balance my own wants with what was best for her. "Liss, we can stay, I guess...but there are a few conditions."

This made her laugh. "A Rose ultimatum, huh?"

"I'm serious." Words I didn't say very much. "I want you to stay away from the royals. Not like Natalie or anything but you know, the others. The power players. Camille. Carly. That group."

Her amusement turned to astonishment. "Are you serious?"

"Sure. You never liked them anyway."

"You did."

"No. Not really. I liked what they could offer. All the parties and stuff."

"And you can go without that now?" She looked skeptical.

"Sure. We did in Portland."

"Yeah, but that was different." Her eyes stared off, not really focused on any one thing. "Here...here I've got to be a part of that. I can't avoid it."

"The hell you do. Natalie stays out of that stuff."

"Natalie isn't going to inherit her family's title," she retorted. "I've already got it. I've got to be involved, start making connections. Andre - "

"Liss," I groaned. "You aren't Andre." I couldn't believe she was still comparing herself to her brother.

"He was always involved in all that stuff."

"Yeah, well," I snapped back, "he's dead now."

Her face hardened. "You know, sometimes you aren't very nice."

"You don't keep me around to be nice. You want nice, there are a dozen sheep in there who would rip each other's throats to get in good with the Dragomir princess. You keep me around to tell you the truth, and here it is: Andre's dead. You're the heir now, and you're going to deal with it however you can. But for now, that means staying away from the other royals. We'll just lie low. Coast through the middle. Get involved in that stuff again, Liss, and you'll drive yourself..."

"Crazy?" she supplied when I didn't finish.

Now I looked away. "I didn't mean..."

     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)