Home > Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)(2)

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)(2)
Author: Richelle Mead

I had to guess my follower was a dhampir like me, probably one from the club. Admittedly, this person was moving a little less stealthily than I would have expected of a dhampir. Footsteps were clearly audible against the pavement of the dark side streets I was traveling on, and once, I'd caught a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure. Still, considering my rash actions tonight, a dhampir was the most likely culprit.

It had all started earlier at the Nightingale. That wasn't the club's true name, only a translation. Its real name was something Russian that was beyond my ability to pronounce. Back in the U.S., the Nightingale was well known among rich Moroi who traveled abroad, and now I could understand why. No matter what time of the day it was, people at the Nightingale dressed like they were at an imperial ball. And, well, the whole place actually kind of looked like something from the old, royal days of Russia, with ivory walls covered in gold scroll-work and molding. It reminded me a lot of the WinterPalace, a royal residence left over from when Russia had still been ruled by czars. I'd toured it upon first arriving in Saint Petersburg.

At the Nightingale, elaborate chandeliers filled with real candles glittered in the air, lighting up the gold decor so that even in dim lighting, the whole establishment sparkled. There was a large dining room filled with velvet-draped tables and booths, as well as a lounge and bar area where people could mingle. Late in the evening, a band would set up in there, and couples would hit the dance floor.

I hadn't bothered with the Nightingale when I arrived in the city a couple weeks ago. I'd been arrogant enough to think I could find Moroi right away who could direct me to Dimitri's hometown in Siberia. With no other clues about where Dimitri had gone in Siberia, heading to the town he'd grown up in had been my best chance of getting closer to him. Only, I didn't know where it was, which was why I was trying to find Moroi to help me. There were a number of dhampir towns and communes in Russia but hardly any in Siberia, which made me believe most local Moroi would be familiar with his birthplace. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Moroi who lived in human cities were very good at keeping themselves hidden. I checked what I thought were likely Moroi hangouts, only to come up empty. And without those Moroi, I had no answers.

So, I'd begun staking out the Nightingale, which wasn't easy. It was hard for an eighteen-year-old girl to blend into one of the city's most elite clubs. I'd soon found that expensive clothes and large enough tips went a long way toward helping me get by. The waitstaff had come to know me, and if they thought my presence was strange, they didn't say so and were happy to give me the corner table I always asked for. I think they thought I was the daughter of some tycoon or politician. Whatever my background, I had the money to be there, which was all they cared about.

Even so, my first few nights there had been discouraging. The Nightingale might have been an elite hangout for Moroi, but it was also frequented by humans. And at first, it had seemed those were the club's only patrons. Crowds grew larger as the night progressed, and in peering through the packed tables and people lingering at the bar, I'd seen no Moroi. The most notable thing I'd seen was a woman with long, platinum-blond hair walking into the lounge with a group of friends. For a moment, my heart had stopped. The woman had her back to me, but she had looked so much like Lissa that I'd felt certain I'd been tracked down. The weird thing was, I didn't know whether to feel excited or horrified. I missed Lissa so, so much-yet at the same time, I didn't want her involved in this dangerous trip of mine. Then the woman had turned around. It wasn't Lissa. She wasn't even a Moroi, just a human. Slowly, my breathing returned to normal.

Finally, a week or so ago, I'd had my first sighting. A group of Moroi women had come in for a late lunch, accompanied by two guardians, one male and one female, who sat dutifully and quietly at the table as their charges gossiped and laughed over afternoon champagne. Dodging those guardians had been the trickiest part. For those who knew what to look for, Moroi were easy to spot: taller than most humans, pale, and uber-slim.

They also had a certain funny way of smiling and holding their lips in order to hide their fangs. Dhampirs, with our human blood, appeared... well, human.

That was certainly how I looked to the untrained human eye. I was about five foot seven, and whereas Moroi tended to have unreal, runway-model bodies, mine was athletically built and curvy in the chest. Genetics from my unknown Turkish father and too much time in the sun had given me a light tan that paired well with long, nearly black hair and equally dark eyes. But those who had been raised in the Moroi world could spot me as a dhampir through close examination. I'm not sure what it was-maybe some instinct that drew us to our own kind and recognized the mix of Moroi blood.

Regardless, it was imperative that I appear human to those guardians, so I didn't raise their alarms. I sat across the room in my corner, picking over caviar and pretending to read my book. For the record, I thought caviar was disgusting, but it seemed to be everywhere in Russia, particularly in the nice places. That and borscht-a kind of beet soup. I almost never finished my food at the Nightingale and would ravenously hit McDonald's afterward, even though the Russian McDonald's restaurants were a bit different from what I'd grown up with in the U.S. Still, a girl had to eat.

So it became a test of my skill, studying the Moroi when their guardians weren't watching. Admittedly, the guardians had little to fear during the day, since there would be no Strigoi out in the sun. But it was in guardian nature to watch everything, and their eyes continually swept the room.

I'd had the same training and knew their tricks, so I managed to spy without detection.

The women came back a lot, usually late in the afternoon. St. Vladimir's ran on a nocturnal schedule, but Moroi and dhampirs living out among humans either ran on a daylight schedule or something in between. For a while, I'd considered approaching them-or even their guardians.

Something held me back. If anyone would know where a town of dhampirs lived, it would be male Moroi. Many of them visited dhampir towns in hopes of scoring easy dhampir girls. So I promised myself I'd wait another week to see if any guys came by. If not, I would see what kind of information the women could give me.

At last, a couple days ago, two Moroi guys had started showing up. They tended to come later in the evening, when the real partiers arrived. The men were about ten years older than me and strikingly handsome, wearing designer suits and silk ties. They carried themselves like powerful, important people, and I would have bet good money that they were royal-particularly since each one came with a guardian. The guardians were always the same, young men who wore suits to blend in but still carefully watched the room with that clever guardian nature.

And there were women-always women. The two Moroi were terrible flirts, continually scoping out and hitting on every woman in sight-even humans. But they never went home with any humans. That was a taboo still firmly ingrained in our world. Moroi had kept themselves separate from humans for centuries, fearing detection from a race that had grown so plentiful and powerful.

Still, that didn't mean the men went home alone. At some point in the evening, dhampir women usually showed up-different ones every night.

They'd come in wearing low-cut dresses and lots of makeup, drinking heavily and laughing at everything the guys said-which probably wasn't even that funny. The women always wore their hair down, but every once in a while, they'd shift their heads in a way that showed their necks, which were heavily bruised. They were blood whores, dhampirs who let Moroi drink blood during sex. That was also a taboo-though it still happened in secret.

I kept wanting to get one of the Moroi men alone, away from the watchful eyes of his guardians so that I could question him. But it was impossible.

The guardians never left their Moroi unattended. I even attempted to follow them, but each time the group left the club, they'd almost immediately hop into a limousine-making it impossible for me to track them on foot. It was frustrating.

I finally decided tonight that I'd have to approach the whole group and risk detection by the dhampirs. I didn't know if anyone from back home was actually looking for me, or if the group would even care who I was. Maybe I just had too high an opinion of myself. It was definitely possible that no one was actually concerned about a runaway dropout. But if anyone was looking for me, my description had undoubtedly been circulated amongst guardians worldwide. Even though I was now eighteen, I wouldn't have put it past some of the people I knew to haul me back to the U.S., and there was no way I could return until I'd found Dimitri.

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)