Home > Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(4)

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(4)
Author: Richelle Mead

Yet, no matter how often I told myself that, I couldn't fall back asleep. I lay in my bed, covers pulled to my chin as I tried to banish that haunting image from my mind. I couldn't. All I could see were those sad, sad eyes, those eyes that seemed to say, Rose, why did you let this happen to me?

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to think about him. Since Mason's funeral, I'd been working so hard to go on and act like I was strong. But the truth was, I was nowhere near being over his death. I tortured myself day after day with what if? questions. What if I'd been faster and stronger during the Strigoi fight? What if I hadn't told him where the Strigoi were in the first place? And what if I'd simply been able to return his love? Any of those could have kept him alive, but none of them had happened. And it was all my fault.

"I imagined it," I whispered out loud into the darkness of my room. I had to have imagined it. Mason already haunted my dreams. I didn't need to see him when I was awake too. "It wasn't him."

It couldn't have been him, because the only way it could have been was...Well, that was something I didn't want to think about. Because while I believed in vampires and magic and psychic powers, I most certainly did not believe in ghosts.

I apparently didn't believe in sleep, either, because I didn't get much of it that night. I tossed and turned, unable to quiet my racing mind. I eventually did drift off, but it seemed like my alarm went off so soon after that I could have hardly slept for more than a few minutes.

Among humans, the light of day tends to chase off nightmares and fear. I had no such daylight; I awoke to increasing darkness. But just being out with real and living people had nearly the same effect, and as I went to breakfast and my morning practice, I found that what I'd seen last night - or what I thought I'd seen last night - was growing fainter and fainter in my memory.

The weirdness of that encounter was also being replaced by something else: excitement. This was it. The big day. The start of our field experience.

For the next six weeks, I wouldn't have any classes. I'd get to spend my days hanging out with Lissa, and the most I'd have to do was write a daily field report that was only about a half-page long. Easy. And, yeah, of course I'd be on guard duty, but I wasn't concerned. That was second nature to me. She and I had lived among humans for two years, and I'd protected her the whole time. Before that, when I'd been a freshman, I'd seen the kinds of tests the adult guardians planned for novices during this phase. The ordeals were tricky, absolutely. A novice had to be on watch and not slack - and be ready to defend and attack if necessary. None of that worried me, though. Lissa and I had been away from the school our sophomore and junior years, and I'd fallen behind then. Thanks to my extra practices with Dimitri, I'd quickly caught up and was now one of the best in my class.

"Hey, Rose."

Eddie Castile caught up to me as I walked into the gym where our field experience orientation would kick off. For a brief moment, looking at Eddie, my heart sank. Suddenly, it was like I was out in the quad again with Mason, staring at his sorrowful face.

Eddie - along with Lissa's boyfriend, Christian, and a Moroi named Mia - had been with our group when we'd been captured by Strigoi. Eddie hadn't died, obviously, but he'd come very close to it. The Strigoi who'd held us had used him as food, feeding from him throughout our capture in an effort to tease the Moroi and scare the dhampirs. It had worked; I'd been terrified. Poor Eddie had been unconscious for most of the ordeal, thanks to blood loss and the endorphins that came from a vampire's bite. He'd been Mason's best friend and nearly as funny and lighthearted.

But since we'd escaped, Eddie had changed, just like I had. He was still quick to smile and laugh, but there was a grimness to him now, a dark and serious look in his eyes that was always on guard for the worst to happen. That was understandable, of course. He pretty much had seen the worst happen. Just like with Mason's death, I held myself responsible for this transformation in Eddie and for what he'd suffered at the hands of the Strigoi. That may not have been fair to me, but I couldn't help it. I felt like I owed him now, like I needed to protect him or make things up to him somehow.

And that was kind of funny, because I think Eddie was trying to protect me. He wasn't stalking me or anything, but I'd noticed him keeping an eye on me. I think after what had happened, he felt he owed it to Mason to watch over his girlfriend. I never bothered to tell Eddie that I hadn't been Mason's girlfriend, not in the real sense of the word, just as I never rebuked Eddie for his big brother behavior. I could certainly take care of myself. But whenever I heard him warning other guys away from me, pointing out that I wasn't ready to date anyone yet, I saw no point in interfering. It was all true. I wasn't ready to date.

Eddie gave me a lopsided smile that added a little boy type of cuteness to his long face. "Are you excited?"

"Hell, yeah," I said. Our classmates were filling in bleachers on one side of the gym, and we found a clear spot near the middle. "It's going to be like a vacation. Me and Lissa, together for six weeks." As frustrating as our bond was sometimes, it nonetheless made me her ideal guardian. I always knew where she was and what was happening to her. Once we graduated and were out in the world, I'd be assigned to her officially.

He turned thoughtful. "Yeah, I guess you don't have to worry as much. You know your assignment when you graduate. The rest of us aren't so lucky."

"You got your sights set on someone royal?" I teased.

"Well, it doesn't matter. Most guardians are assigned to royals lately anyway."

That was true. Dhampirs - half-vampires like me - were in short supply, and royals usually got first pick of guardians. There was a time in the past when more Moroi, royal and non-royal alike, would have gotten guardians, and novices like us would have competed fiercely to get assigned to someone important. Now it was almost a given that every guardian would work for a royal family. There weren't enough of us to go around, and less influential families were on their own.

"Still," I said, "I guess it's a question of which royal you get, right? I mean, some are total snobs, but lots of them are cool. Get someone really rich and powerful, and you could be living at the Royal Court or traveling to exotic places." That last part appealed to me a lot, and I often had fantasies of Lissa and me traveling the world.

"Yup," agreed Eddie. He nodded toward a few guys in the front row. "You wouldn't believe the way those three have been sucking up to some of the Ivashkovs and Szelskys. It won't affect their assignments here, of course, but you can tell they're already trying to set things up after graduation."

"Well, the field experience can affect that. How we're rated on this will go into our records."

Eddie nodded again and started to say something when a loud, clear feminine voice cut through the murmur of our conversation. We both looked up. While we'd been talking, our instructors had gathered in front of the bleachers and now stood facing us in an impressive line. Dimitri was among them, dark and imposing and irresistible. Alberta was trying to call us to attention. The crowd fell silent.

"All right," she began. Alberta was in her fifties, wiry and tough. Seeing her reminded me of the conversation she and Dimitri had had last night, but I filed that away for later. Victor Dashkov was not going to ruin this moment. "You all know why you're here." We'd become so quiet, so tense and excited, that her voice now rang through the gym. "This is the most important day of your education before you take your final trials. Today you will find out which Moroi you've been placed with. Last week, you were given a booklet with the full details of how the next six weeks will play out. I trust you've all read it by now." I had, actually. I'd probably never read anything so thoroughly in my life. "Just to recap, Guardian Alto will highlight the main rules of this exercise."

She handed a clipboard to Guardian Stan Alto. He was one of my least favorite instructors, but after Mason's death, some of the tension between us had lightened. We understood each other better now.

"Here we go," said Stan gruffly. "You'll be on duty six days a week. This is actually a treat for you guys. In the real world, you're usually working every day. You will accompany your Moroi everywhere - to class, to their dorms, to their feedings. Everything. It's up to you to figure out how you fit into their lives. Some Moroi interact with their guardians just like friends; some Moroi prefer you to be more of an invisible ghost who doesn't talk to them." Did he have to use the word ghost? "Every situation is different, and you two will have to find a way to work it out to best ensure their safety.

     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)