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

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

A glare from a nearby classmate shut us up, and I hid my frown. Maybe I wasn't the only one who'd gone through the trial in a daze. Meredith had her facts screwed up.

When my name was called, I heard a few gasps as Alberta read my scores. I had the highest in the class by far. I was kind of glad she didn't read my academic grades. They would have totally taken away some of the glory of the rest of my performance. I'd always done well in my combat classes, but math and history... well, those were a bit lacking, particularly since I always seemed to be dropping in and out of school.

My hair was pulled tightly into a bun, with every stray wisp held with hairpins so that the artist would have nothing to interfere with his work. I leaned forward to give him a good view and heard him grunt in surprise. With the back of my neck covered in marks, he'd have to be tricky. Usually a new guardian provided a blank canvas. This guy was good, though, and managed to delicately place the promise mark in the center of the nape of my neck after all. The promise mark looked like a long, stretched-out S, with curly ends. He fit it in between the molnija marks, letting it wrap around them like an embrace. The process hurt, but I kept my face blank, refusing to flinch. I was shown the final results in a mirror before he covered it up with a bandage so it would heal cleanly.

After that, I rejoined my classmates and watched as the rest of them received their tattoos. It meant standing for another two hours, but I didn't mind. My brain was still reeling with everything that had happened today. I was a guardian. A real, honest-to-goodness guardian. And with that thought came questions. What would happen now? Would my scores be good enough to erase my record of bad behavior? Would I be Lissa's guardian? And what about Victor? What about Dimitri?

I shifted uneasily as the full impact of the guardian ceremony hit me. This wasn't just about Dimitri and Victor. This was about me--about the rest of my life. School was over. I would no longer have teachers tracking my every move or correcting me when I made mistakes. All decisions would be on me when I was out protecting someone. Moroi and younger dhampirs would look to me as the authority. And I would no longer have the luxury of practicing combat one minute and lounging in my room the next. There were no clear-cut classes anymore. I would be on duty all the time. The thought was daunting, the pressure almost too great. I'd always equated graduation with freedom. Now I wasn't so sure. What new shape was my life going to take? Who would decide? And how could I reach Victor if I was assigned to guard anyone besides Lissa?

Across the room, I met Lissa's eyes among the audience. They burned with a pride that matched my mother's, and she grinned when our gazes met.

Get that look off your face, she chastised through the bond. You shouldn't look that anxious, not today. You need to celebrate.

I knew she was right. I could handle what was to come. My worries, which were many, could wait one more day--particularly since the exuberant mood of my friends and family ensured that I would celebrate. Abe, with that influence he always seemed to wield, had secured a small banquet room and thrown a party for me that seemed more suited to a royal debutante, not some lowly, reckless dhampir.

Before the event, I changed yet again. Prettier party clothes now seemed more appropriate than the formal molnija ceremony outfit. I put on a short-sleeved, emerald green wrap dress and hung my nazar around my neck, even though it didn't match. The nazar was a small pendant that looked like an eye, with different shades of blue circling it. In Turkey, where Abe came from, it was believed to offer protection. He'd given it to my mother years ago, and she'd in turn given it to me.

By the time I'd put on makeup and brushed out my tangled hair into long, dark waves (because my tattoo bandages didn't go with the dress at all), I hardly looked like someone capable of fighting monsters or even throwing a punch. No--that wasn't quite true, I realized a moment later. Staring into the mirror, I was surprised to see a haunted look in my brown eyes. There was pain there, pain and loss that even the nicest dress and makeup couldn't hide.

I ignored it and set off for the party, promptly running into Adrian as soon as I stepped outside my dorm. Without a word, he swept me into his arms and smothered me with a kiss. I was totally caught off guard. It figured. Undead creatures didn't surprise me, but one flippant royal Moroi could.

And it was quite the kiss, one that I almost felt guilty about sinking into. I'd had concerns when first dating Adrian, but many of them had disappeared over time. After watching him flirt shamelessly and take nothing seriously for so long, I'd never expected to see such devotion from him in our relationship. I also hadn't expected to find my feelings for him growing--which seemed so contradictory considering I still loved Dimitri and was concocting impossible ways to save him.

I laughed when Adrian set me down. Nearby, a few younger Moroi had stopped to watch us. Moroi dating dhampirs wasn't super uncommon at our age, but a notorious dhampir dating the Moroi queen's great-nephew? That was kind of out there--especially since it was widely known how much Queen Tatiana hated me. There had been few witnesses to my last meeting with her, when she'd screamed at me to stay away from Adrian, but word of that kind of thing always gets around.

"Like the show?" I asked our voyeurs. Realizing they'd been busted, the Moroi kids hastily continued on their way. I turned back to Adrian and smiled. "What was that? It was kind of a big kiss to throw on me in public."

"That," he said grandly, "was your reward for kicking so much ass in those trials." He paused. "It was also because you look totally hot in that dress."

I gave him a wry look. "Reward, huh? Meredith's boyfriend got her diamond earrings."

He caught hold of my hand and gave an unconcerned shrug as we began to walk to the party. "You want diamonds? I'll give you diamonds. I'll shower you in them. Hell, I'll get you a gown made out of them. But it's going to be skimpy."

"I think I'll settle for the kiss after all," I said, imagining Adrian dressing me like a swimsuit model. Or a pole dancer. The jewelry reference also suddenly brought on an unwanted memory. When Dimitri had held me captive in Siberia, lulling me into blissful complacency with his bites, he'd showered me with jewelry too.

"I knew you were a badass," continued Adrian. A warm summer breeze ruffled the brown hair he so painstakingly styled each day, and with his free hand, he absentmindedly tried to arrange it back into place. "But I didn't realize just how much until I saw you dropping guardians out there."

"Does that mean you're going to be nicer to me?" I teased.

"I'm already nice to you," he said loftily. "Do you know how badly I want a cigarette right now? But no. I manfully suffer through nicotine withdrawal--all for you. But I think seeing you out there will make me a little more careful around you. That crazy dad of yours is kind of gonna make me cautious too."

I groaned, recalling how Adrian and Abe had been sitting together. "God. Did you really have to hang out with him?"

"Hey, he's awesome. A little unstable, but awesome. We got along great." Adrian opened the door to the building we were seeking. "And he's a badass in his way too. I mean, any other guy who wore scarves like that? He'd be laughed out of this school. Not Abe. He'd beat someone almost as badly as you would. In fact..." Adrian's voice turned nervous. I gave him a surprised look.

"In fact what?"

"Well... Abe said he liked me. But he also made it clear what he'd do to me if I ever hurt you or did anything bad." Adrian grimaced. "In fact, he described what he'd do in very graphic detail. Then, just like that, he switched to some random, happy topic. I like the guy, but he's scary."

"He's out of line!" I came to a halt outside the party's room. Through the door, I heard the buzz of conversation. We were apparently among the last to arrive. I guessed that meant I'd be making a grand entrance fitting for the guest of honor. "He has no right to threaten my boyfriends. I'm eighteen. An adult. I don't need his help. I can threaten my boyfriends myself."

My indignation amused Adrian, and he gave me a lazy smile. "I agree with you. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to take his 'advice' seriously. My face is too pretty to risk."

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)