Home > Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(3)

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(3)
Author: Richelle Mead

"Dashkov?" I exclaimed, trying to keep my voice low so Alberta wouldn't hear. "As in Victor Dashkov?"

He didn't bother denying it. "Yes. Victor Dashkov."

"And you guys were talking about...Do you mean..." I was so startled, so dumbstruck, that I could barely get my thoughts together. This was unbelievable. "I thought he was locked up! Are you saying he hasn't been on trial yet?"

Yes. This was definitely unbelievable. Victor Dashkov. The guy who'd stalked Lissa and tortured her mind and body in order to control her powers. Every Moroi could use magic in one of the four elements: earth, air, water, or fire. Lissa, however, worked an almost unheard of fifth element called spirit. She could heal anything - including the dead. It was the reason I was now psychically linked to her - "shadow-kissed," some called it. She'd brought me back from the car accident that had killed her parents and brother, binding us together in a way that allowed me to feel her thoughts and experiences.

Victor had learned long before any of us that she could heal, and he'd wanted to lock her away and use her as his own personal Fountain of Youth. He also hadn't hesitated to kill anyone who got in his way - or, in the case of Dimitri and me, use more creative ways to stop his opponents. I'd made a lot of enemies in seventeen years, but I was pretty sure there was no one I hated as much as Victor Dashkov - at least among the living.

Dimitri had a look on his face I knew well. It was the one he got when he thought I might punch someone. "He's been locked up - but no, no trial yet. Legal proceedings sometimes take a long time."

"But there's going to be a trial now? And you're going?" I spoke through clenched teeth, trying to be calm. I suspected I still had the I'm going to punch someone look on my face.

"Next week. They need me and some of the other guardians to testify about what happened to you and Lissa that night." His expression changed at the mention of what had occurred four months ago, and again, I recognized the look. It was the fierce, protective one he got when those he cared about were in danger.

"Call me crazy for asking this, but, um, are Lissa and I going with you?" I had already guessed the answer, and I didn't like it.

"No."

"No?"

"No."

I put my hands on my hips. "Look, doesn't it seem reasonable that if you're going to talk about what happened to us, then you should have us there?"

Dimitri, fully in strict-instructor mode now, shook his head. "The queen and some of the other guardians thought it'd be best if you didn't go. There's enough evidence between the rest of us, and besides, criminal or not, he is - or was - one of the most powerful royals in the world. Those who know about this trial want to keep it quiet."

"So, what, you thought if you brought us, we'd tell everyone?" I exclaimed. "Come on, comrade. You really think we'd do that? The only thing we want is to see Victor locked up. Forever. Maybe longer. And if there's a chance he might walk free, you have to let us go."

After Victor had been caught, he'd been taken to prison, and I'd thought that was where the story had ended. I'd figured they'd locked him up to rot. It had never occurred to me - though it should have - that he'd need a trial first. At the time, his crimes had seemed so obvious. But, although the Moroi government was secret and separate from the human one, it operated in a lot of the same ways. Due process and all that.

"It's not my decision to make," Dimitri said.

"But you have influence. You could speak up for us, especially if..." Some of my anger dimmed just a little, replaced by a sudden and startling fear. I almost couldn't say the next words. "Especially if there really is a chance he might get off. Is there? Is there really a chance the queen could let him go?"

"I don't know. There's no telling what she or some of the other high-up royals will do sometimes." He suddenly looked tired. He reached into his pocket and tossed over a set of keys. "Look, I know you're upset, but we can't talk about it now. I have to go meet Alberta, and you need to get inside. The square key will let you in the far side door. You know the one."

I did. "Yeah. Thanks."

I was sulking and hated to be that way - especially since he was saving me from getting in trouble - but I couldn't help it. Victor Dashkov was a criminal - a villain, even. He was power-hungry and greedy and didn't care who he stepped on to get his way. If he were loose again...well, there was no telling what might happen to Lissa or any other Moroi. It enraged me to think that I could do something to help put him away but that no one would let me do it.

I'd taken a few steps forward when Dimitri called out from behind me. "Rose?" I glanced back. "I'm sorry," he said. He paused, and his expression of regret turned wary. "And you'd better bring the keys back tomorrow."

I turned away and kept going. It was probably unfair, but some childish part of me believed Dimitri could do anything. If he'd really wanted to get Lissa and me to the trial, I was certain he could have.

When I was almost to the side door, I caught movement in my peripheral vision. My mood plummeted. Great. Dimitri had given me keys to sneak back in, and now someone else had busted me. That was typical of my luck. Half-expecting a teacher to demand to know what I was doing, I turned and prepared an excuse.

But it wasn't a teacher.

"No," I said softly. This had to be a trick. "No."

For half an instant, I wondered if I'd ever really woken up. Maybe I was actually still in bed, asleep and dreaming.

Because surely, surely that was the only explanation for what I was now seeing in front of me on the Academy's lawn, lurking in the shadow of an ancient, gnarled oak.

It was Mason.

TWO

Or, well, it looked like mason.

He - or it or whatever - was hard to see. I had to keep squinting and blinking to get him in focus. His form was insubstantial - almost translucent - and kept fading in and out of my field of vision.

But yes, from what I could see, he definitely looked like Mason. His features were washed out, making his fair skin look whiter than I recalled. His reddish hair now appeared as a faint, watery orange. I could barely even see his freckles. He was wearing exactly what I'd last seen him in: jeans and a yellow fleece jacket. The edge of a green sweater peeped out from underneath the coat's hem. Those colors, too, were all softened. He looked like a photograph that someone had left out in the sun, causing it to fade. A very, very faint glow seemed to outline his features.

The part that struck me the most - aside from the fact that he was supposed to be dead - was the look on his face. It was sad - so, so sad. Looking into his eyes, I felt my heart break. All the memories of what had taken place just a few weeks ago came rushing back to me. I saw it all again: his body falling, the cruel look on the Strigoi faces.... A lump formed in my throat. I stood there frozen, stunned and unable to move.

He studied me too, his expression never changing. Sad. Grim. Serious. He opened his mouth, like he might speak, and then closed it. Several more heavy moments hung between us, and then he lifted his hand and extended it toward me. Something in that motion snapped me out of my daze. No, this could not be happening. I wasn't seeing this. Mason was dead. I'd seen him die. I'd held his body.

His fingers moved slightly, like he was beckoning, and I panicked. Backing up a few steps, I put distance between us and waited to see what would happen. He didn't follow. He simply stood there, hand still in the air. My heart lurched, and I turned and ran. When I'd almost reached the door, I stopped and glanced back, letting my ragged breathing calm down. The clearing he'd stood in was completely empty.

I made it up to my room and slammed the door behind me, hands shaking. I sank onto my bed and replayed what had just happened.

What the hell? That had not been real. No way. Impossible. Mason was dead, and everyone knows the dead don't come back. Well, yeah, I had come back...but that was a different situation.

Clearly, I'd imagined this. That was it. It had to be. I was overtired and still reeling from Lissa and Christian, not to mention that Victor Dashkov news. Probably the cold had frozen part of my brain too. Yes, the more I thought about it, the more I decided there had to be a hundred explanations for what had just happened.

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)