Home > Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)(3)

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)(3)
Author: Richelle Mead

"What?"

I hurried toward the doorway and peered out onto the fields. My view of the stands wasn't fantastic, thanks to all the obstacles on the field, but it was good enough. There he was: Abe Mazur. He was easy to spot, with his black beard and mustache, as well as the emerald green scarf knotted over his dress shirt. I could even barely make out the glint of his gold earring. He had to be melting in this heat, but I figured it would take more than a little sweat for him to tame down his flashy fashion sense.

If my relationship with my mother was sketchy, my relationship with my father was practically nonexistent. I'd met him back in May, and even then, it wasn't until after I'd gotten back that I found out I was his daughter. All dhampirs had one Moroi parent, and he was mine. I still wasn't sure how I felt about him. Most of his background remained a mystery, but there were plenty of rumors that he was involved with illegal business. People also acted like he was the kneecap-breaking type, and though I'd seen little evidence of this, I didn't find it surprising. In Russia, they called him Zmey: the serpent.

While I stared at him in astonishment, my mom strolled over to my side. "He'll be happy you made it in time," she said. "He's running some big wager on whether you'd show. He put his money on you, if that makes you feel any better."

I groaned. "Of course. Of course he'd be the bookie behind the pool. I should have known as soon as--" My jaw dropped. "Is he talking to Adrian?"

Yup. Sitting beside Abe was Adrian Ivashkov--my more-or-less boyfriend. Adrian was a royal Moroi--and another spirit user like Lissa. He'd been crazy about me (and often just crazy) ever since we first met, but I'd had eyes only for Dimitri. After the failure in Russia, I'd returned and promised to give Adrian a shot. To my surprise, things had been... good between us. Great, even. He'd written me up a proposal of why dating him was a sound decision. It had included things like "I'll give up cigarettes unless I really, really need one" and "I'll unleash romantic surprises every week, such as: an impromptu picnic, roses, or a trip to Paris--but not actually any of those things because now they're not surprises."

Being with him wasn't like it had been with Dimitri, but then, I supposed, no two relationships could ever be exactly alike. They were different men, after all. I still woke up all the time, aching over the loss of Dimitri and our love. I tormented myself over my failure to kill him in Siberia and free him from his undead state. Still, that despair didn't mean my romantic life was over--something it had taken me a while to accept. Moving on was hard, but Adrian did make me happy. And for now, that was enough.

But that didn't necessarily mean I wanted him cozying up to my pirate mobster father either.

"He's a bad influence!" I protested.

My mother snorted. "I doubt Adrian will influence Abe that much."

"Not Adrian! Abe. Adrian's trying to be on good behavior. Abe will mess everything up." Along with smoking, Adrian had sworn he'd quit drinking and other vices in his dating proposal. I squinted at him and Abe across the crowded stands, trying to figure out what topic could be so interesting. "What are they talking about?"

"I think that's the least of your problems right now." Janine Hathaway was nothing if not practical. "Worry less about them and more about that field."

"Do you think they're talking about me?"

"Rose!" My mother gave me a light punch on the arm, and I dragged my eyes back to her. "You have to take this seriously. Keep calm, and don't get distracted."

Her words were so like what I'd imagined Dimitri saying that a small smile crept onto my face. I wasn't alone out here after all.

"What's so funny?" she asked warily.

"Nothing," I said, giving her a hug. She was stiff at first and then relaxed, actually hugging me back briefly before stepping away. "I'm glad you're here."

My mother wasn't the overly affectionate type, and I'd caught her off guard. "Well," she said, obviously flustered, "I told you I wouldn't miss this."

I glanced back at the stands. "Abe, on the other hand, I'm not so sure of."

Or... wait. An odd idea came to me. No, not so odd, actually. Shady or not, Abe had connections--ones extensive enough to slip a message to Victor Dashkov in prison. Abe had been the one to ask for info about Robert Doru, Victor's spirit-wielding brother, as a favor to me. When Victor had sent back the message saying he had no reason to help Abe with what he needed, I'd promptly written off my father's assistance and jumped to my prison-break idea. But now--

"Rosemarie Hathaway!"

It was Alberta who called me, her voice ringing loud and clear. It was like a trumpet, a call to battle. All thoughts of Abe and Adrian--and yes, even Dimitri--vanished from my mind. I think my mother wished me good luck, but the exact wording was lost on me as I strode toward Alberta and the field. Adrenaline surged through me. All my attention was now on what lay ahead: the test that would finally make me a guardian.

Chapter Two

MY TRIALS WERE A BLUR.

You'd think, seeing as they were the most important part of my education at St. Vladimir's, that I'd remember everything in perfect, crystalline detail. Yet my earlier thoughts were kind of realized. How could these measure up to what I'd already faced? How could these mock fights compare to a mob of Strigoi descending on our school? I'd had to stand against overwhelming odds, not knowing if those I loved were alive or dead. And how could I fear a so-called battle with one of the school's instructors after having fought Dimitri? He'd been lethal as a dhampir and worse as a Strigoi.

Not that I meant to make light of the trials. They were serious. Novices failed them all the time, and I refused to be one of them. I was attacked on all sides, by guardians who'd been fighting and defending Moroi since before I was born. The arena wasn't flat, which complicated everything. They'd filled it with contraptions and obstacles, beams and steps that tested my balance--including a bridge that painfully reminded me of that last night I'd seen Dimitri. I'd pushed him after plunging a silver stake into his heart--a stake that had fallen out during his plummet to the river below.

The arena's bridge was a bit different from the solid wooden one upon which Dimitri and I had fought in Siberia. This one was rickety, a badly constructed path of wooden planks with only rope rails for support. Every step made the entire bridge swing and shake, and holes in the boards showed me where former classmates had (unfortunately for them) discovered weak spots. The test they assigned me on the bridge was probably the worst of all. My goal was to get a "Moroi" away from a group of "Strigoi" that were in pursuit. My Moroi was being played by Daniel, a new guardian who had come with others to the school to replace those killed in the attack. I didn't know him very well, but for this exercise, he was playing completely docile and helpless--even a little afraid, just as any Moroi I was guarding might have been.

He gave me a little resistance about stepping onto the bridge, and I used my calmest, most coaxing voice to finally get him to walk out ahead of me. Apparently they were testing people skills as well as combat skills. Not far behind us on the course, I knew the guardians acting as Strigoi were approaching.

Daniel stepped out, and I shadowed him, still giving him reassurances while all my senses stayed on alert. The bridge swung wildly, telling me with a jolt that our pursuers had joined us. I glanced back and saw three "Strigoi" coming after us. The guardians playing them were doing a remarkable job--moving with as much dexterity and speed as true Strigoi would. They were going to overtake us if we didn't get a move on.

"You're doing great," I told Daniel. It was hard to keep the right tone in my voice. Screaming at Moroi might put them into shock. Too much gentleness would make them think it wasn't serious. "And I know you can move faster. We need to keep ahead of them--they're getting closer. I know you can do this. Come on."

I must have passed that persuasive part of the test because he did indeed pick up his speed--not quite enough to match that of our pursuers, but it was a start. The bridge shifted crazily again. Daniel yelped convincingly and froze, gripping the rope sides tightly. Ahead of him, I saw another guardian-as-Strigoi waiting on the opposite side of the bridge. I believed his name was Randall, another new instructor. I was sandwiched between him and the group at my back. But Randall stayed still, waiting on the first plank of the bridge so that he could shake it and make it harder for us.

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)