Home > Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)(3)

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)(3)
Author: Richelle Mead

Then, just as I was considering my move on the group of Moroi, one of the dhampir women left the table to walk up to the bar. The guardians watched her, of course, but seemed confident about her safety and were more fixated on the Moroi. All this time, I'd been thinking Moroi men would be the best way to go to get information about a village of dhampirs and blood whores-but what better way to locate this place than by asking an actual blood whore?

I strolled casually from my table and approached the bar, like I too was going to get a drink. I stood by as the woman waited for the bartender and studied her in my periphery. She was blond and wore a long dress covered in silver sequins. I couldn't decide if it made my black satin sheath dress appear tasteful or boring. All of her movements-even the way she stood-were graceful, like a dancer's. The bartender was helping others, and I knew it was now or never. I leaned toward her.

"Do you speak English?"

She jumped in surprise and looked over at me. She was older than I'd expected, her age cleverly concealed by makeup. Her blue eyes assessed me quickly, recognizing me as a dhampir. "Yes," she said warily. Even the one word carried a thick accent.

"I'm looking for a town... a town where lots of dhampirs live, out in Siberia. Do you know what I'm talking about? I need to find it."

Again she studied me, and I couldn't read her expression. She might as well have been a guardian for all that her face revealed. Maybe she'd trained at one time in her life.

"Don't," she said bluntly. "Let it go." She turned away, her gaze back on the bartender as he made someone a blue cocktail adorned with cherries.

I touched her arm. "I have to find it. There's a man..." I choked on the word. So much for my cool interrogation. Just thinking about Dimitri made my heart stick in my throat. How could I even explain it to this woman? That I was following a long-shot clue, seeking out the man I loved most in the world-a man who had been turned into a Strigoi and who I now needed to kill? Even now, I could perfectly picture the warmth of his brown eyes and the way his hands used to touch me. How could I do what I had crossed an ocean to do?

Focus, Rose. Focus.

The dhampir woman looked back at me. "He's not worth it," she said, mistaking my meaning. No doubt she thought I was a lovesick girl, chasing some boyfriend-which, I supposed, I kind of was. "You're too young... it's not too late for you to avoid all that." Her face might have been impassive, but there was sadness in her voice. "Go do something else with your life. Stay away from that place."

"You know where it is!" I exclaimed, too worked up to explain that I wasn't going there to be a blood whore. "Please-you have to tell me. I have to get there!"

"Is there a problem?"

Both she and I turned and looked into the fierce face of one of the guardians. Damn. The dhampir woman might not be their top priority, but they would have noticed someone harassing her. The guardian was only a little older than me, and I gave him a sweet smile. I might not be spilling out of my dress like this other woman, but I knew my short skirt did great things for my legs. Surely even a guardian wasn't immune to that? Well, apparently he was. His hard expression showed that my charms weren't working. Still, I figured I might as well try my luck with him on getting intel.

"I'm trying to find a town in Siberia, a town where dhampirs live. Do you know it?"

He didn't blink. "No."

Wonderful. Both were playing difficult. "Yeah, well, maybe your boss does?" I asked demurely, hoping I sounded like an aspiring blood whore. If the dhampirs wouldn't talk, maybe one of the Moroi would. "Maybe he wants some company and would talk to me."

"He already has company," the guardian replied evenly. "He doesn't need any more."

I kept the smile on. "Are you sure?" I purred. "Maybe we should ask him."

"No," replied the guardian. In that one word, I heard the challenge and the command. Back off. He wouldn't hesitate to take on anyone he thought was a threat to his master-even a lowly dhampir girl. I considered pushing my case further but quickly decided to follow the warning and indeed back off.

I gave an unconcerned shrug. "His loss."

And with no other words, I walked casually back to my table, like the rejection was no big deal. All the while I held my breath, half-expecting the guardian to drag me out of the club by my hair. It didn't happen. Yet as I gathered my coat and set some cash on the table, I saw him watching me, eyes wary and calculating.

I left the Nightingale with that same nonchalant air, heading out toward the busy street. It was a Saturday night, and there were lots of other clubs and restaurants nearby. Partygoers filled the streets, some dressed as richly as the Nightingale's patrons; others were my age and dressed in casual wear. Lines spilled out of the clubs, dance music loud and heavy with bass. Glass-fronted restaurants showed elegant diners and richly set tables.

As I walked through the crowds, surrounded by Russian conversation, I resisted the urge to look behind me. I didn't want to raise any further suspicion if that dhampir was watching.

Yet when I turned down a quiet street that was a shortcut back to my hotel, I could hear the soft sounds of footsteps. I apparently had raised enough alarm that the guardian had decided to follow me. Well, there was no way I was going to let him get the drop on me. I might have been smaller than him-and wearing a dress and heels-but I had fought plenty of men, including Strigoi. I could handle this guy, especially if I used the element of surprise. After walking this neighborhood for so long, I knew it and its twists and turns well. I picked up my pace and darted around a few corners, one of which led me into a dark, deserted alley. Scary, yeah, but it made for a good ambush spot when I ducked into a doorway. I quietly stepped out of my high-heeled shoes. They were black with pretty leather straps but not ideal in a fight, unless I planned on gouging someone in the eye with a heel. Actually, not a bad idea. But I wasn't quite that desperate. Without them, the pavement was cold beneath my bare feet since it had rained earlier in the day.

I didn't have to wait long. A few moments later, I heard the footsteps and saw my pursuer's long shadow appear on the ground, cast in the flickering light of a street lamp on the adjacent road. My stalker came to a stop, no doubt searching for me. Really, I thought, this guy was careless.

No guardian in pursuit would have been so obvious. He should have moved with more stealth and not revealed himself so easily. Maybe the guardian training here in Russia wasn't as good as what I'd grown up with. No, that couldn't be true. Not with the way Dimitri had dispatched his enemies. They'd called him a god at the Academy.

My pursuer took a few more steps, and that's when I made my move. I leapt out, fists ready. "Okay," I exclaimed. "I only wanted to ask a few questions, so just back off or else-"

I froze. The guardian from the club wasn't standing there.

A human was.

A girl, no older than me. She was about my height, with cropped dark blond hair and a navy blue trench coat that looked expensive. Underneath it, I could see nice dress pants and leather boots that looked as pricey as the coat. More startling still was that I recognized her. I'd seen her twice at the Nightingale, talking to the Moroi men. I'd assumed she was just another of the women they liked to flirt with and had promptly dismissed her.

After all, what use was a human to me?

Her face was partly covered in shadow, but even in poor lighting, I could make out her annoyed expression. That wasn't quite what I'd expected.

"It's you, isn't it?" she asked. Cue more shock. Her English was as American as my own. "You're the one who's been leaving the string of Strigoi bodies around the city. I saw you back in the club tonight and knew it had to be you."

"I..." No other words formed on my lips. I had no idea how to respond. A human talking casually about Strigoi? It was unheard of. This was almost more astonishing than actually running into a Strigoi out here. I'd never experienced anything like this in my life. She didn't seem to care about my stupefied state.

"Look, you can't just do that, okay? Do you know what a pain in the ass it is for me to deal with? This internship is bad enough without you making a mess of it. The police found the body you left in the park, you know. You cannot even imagine how many strings I had to pull to cover that up."

     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)