Home > Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(2)

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(2)
Author: Richelle Mead

"Ideally, they'd like to do it after a new king or queen is crowned. You know, part of the post-coronation festivities.'

His tone was flippant, but as I held his dark gaze, I caught the full meaning. Numbers rattled in my head. "The funeral's this week, and the elections are right after ... You're saying I could go to trial and be convicted in, what, practically two weeks?'

Abe nodded.

I flew toward the bars again, my heart pounding in my chest. "Two weeks? Are you serious?'

When he'd said the trial had been moved up, I'd figured maybe it was a month away. Enough time to find new evidence. How would I have pulled that off? Unclear. Now, time was rushing away from me. Two weeks wasn't enough, especially with so much activity at Court. Moments ago, I'd resented the long stretch of time I might face. Now, I had too little of it, and the answer to my next question could make things worse.

"How long?' I asked, trying to control the trembling in my voice. "How long after the verdict until they ... carry out the sentence?'

I still didn't entirely know what all I'd inherited from Abe, but we seemed to clearly share one trait: an unflinching ability to deliver bad news.

"Probably immediately.'

"Immediately.' I backed up, nearly sat on the bed, and then felt a new surge of adrenaline. "Immediately? So. Two weeks. In two weeks, I could be ... dead.'

Because that was the thing--the thing that had been hanging over my head the moment it became clear someone had planted enough evidence to frame me. People who killed queens didn't get sent to prison. They were executed. Few crimes among Moroi and dhampirs got that kind of punishment. We tried to be civilized in our justice, showing we were better than the bloodthirsty Strigoi. But certain crimes, in the eyes of the law, deserved death. Certain people deserved it, too--say, like, treasonous murderers. As the full impact of the future fell upon me, I felt myself shake and tears come dangerously close to spilling out of my eyes.

"That's not right!' I told Abe. "That's not right, and you know it!'

"Doesn't matter what I think,' he said calmly. "I'm simply delivering the facts.'

"Two weeks,' I repeated. "What can we do in two weeks? I mean ... you've got some lead, right? Or ... or ... you can find something by then? That's your specialty.' I was rambling and knew I sounded hysterical and desperate. Of course, that was because I felt hysterical and desperate.

"It's going to be difficult to accomplish much,' he explained. "The Court's preoccupied with the funeral and elections. Things are disorderly--which is both good and bad.'

I knew about all the preparations from watching Lissa. I'd seen the chaos already brewing. Finding any sort of evidence in this mess wouldn't just be difficult. It could very well be impossible.

Two weeks. Two weeks, and I could be dead.

"I can't,' I told Abe, my voice breaking. "I'm not ... meant to die that way.'

"Oh?' He arched an eyebrow. "You know how you're supposed to die?'

"In battle.' One tear managed to escape, and I hastily wiped it away. I'd always lived my life with a tough image. I didn't want that shattering, not now when it mattered most of all. "In fighting. Defending those I love. Not ... not through some planned execution.'

"This is a fight of sorts,' he mused. "Just not a physical one. Two weeks is still two weeks. Is it bad? Yes. But it's better than one week. And nothing's impossible. Maybe new evidence will turn up. You simply have to wait and see.'

"I hate waiting. This room ... it's so small. I can't breathe. It'll kill me before any executioner does.'

"I highly doubt it.' Abe's expression was still cool, with no sign of sympathy. Tough love. "You've fearlessly fought groups of Strigoi, yet you can't handle a small room?'

"It's more than that! Now I have to wait each day in this hole, knowing there's a clock ticking down to my death and almost no way to stop it.'

"Sometimes the greatest tests of our strength are situations that don't seem so obviously dangerous. Sometimes surviving is the hardest thing of all.' "Oh. No. No.' I stalked away, pacing in small circles. "Do not start with all that noble crap. You sound like Dimitri when he used to give me his deep life lessons.'

"He survived this very situation. He's surviving other things too.'

Dimitri.

I took a deep breath, calming myself before I answered. Until this murder mess, Dimitri had been the biggest complication in my life. A year ago--though it seemed like eternity--he'd been my instructor in high school, training me to be one of the dhampir guardians who protect Moroi. He'd accomplished that--and a lot more. We'd fallen in love, something that wasn't allowed. We'd managed it as best we could, even finally coming up with a way for us to be together. That hope had disappeared when he'd been bitten and turned Strigoi. It had been a living nightmare for me. Then, through a miracle no one had believed possible, Lissa had used spirit to transform him back to a dhampir. But things unfortunately hadn't quite returned to how they'd been before the Strigoi attack.

I glared at Abe. "Dimitri survived this, but he was horribly depressed about it! He still is. About everything.'

The full weight of the atrocities he'd committed as a Strigoi haunted Dimitri. He couldn't forgive himself and swore he could never love anyone now. The fact that I had begun dating Adrian didn't help matters. After a number of futile efforts, I'd accepted that Dimitri and I were through. I'd moved on, hoping I could have something real with Adrian now.

"Right,' Abe said dryly. "He's depressed, but you're the picture of happiness and joy.'

I sighed. "Sometimes talking to you is like talking to myself: pretty damned annoying. Is there any other reason you're here? Other than to deliver the terrible news? I would have been happier living in ignorance.'

I'm not supposed to die this way. I'm not supposed to see it coming. My death is not some appointment penciled in on a calendar.

He shrugged. "I just wanted to see you. And your arrangements.'

Yes, he had indeed, I realized. Abe's eyes had always come back to me as we spoke; there'd been no question I held his attention. There was nothing in our banter to concern my guards. But every so often, I'd see Abe's gaze flick around, taking in the hall, my cell, and whatever other details he found interesting. Abe had not earned his reputation as zmey--the serpent--for nothing. He was always calculating, always looking for an advantage. It seemed my tendency toward crazy plots ran in the family.

"I also wanted to help you pass the time.' He smiled and from under his arm, he handed me a couple of magazines and a book through the bars. "Maybe this will improve things.'

I doubted any entertainment was going to make my two-week death countdown more manageable. The magazines were fashion and hair oriented. The book was The Count of Monte Cristo. I held it up, needing to make a joke, needing to do anything to make this less real.

"I saw the movie. Your subtle symbolism isn't really all that subtle. Unless you've hidden a file inside it.'

"The book's always better than the movie.' He started to turn away. "Maybe we'll have a literary discussion next time.' "Wait.' I tossed the reading material onto the bed. "Before you go ... in this whole mess, no one's ever brought up who actually did kill her.' When Abe didn't answer right away, I gave him a sharp look. "You do believe I didn't do it, right?' For all I knew, he did think I was guilty and was just trying to help anyway. It wouldn't have been out of character.

"I believe my sweet daughter is capable of murder,' he said at last. "But not this one.'

"Then who did it?'

"That,' he said before walking away, "is something I'm working on.'

"But you just said we're running out of time! Abe!' I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want to be alone with my fear. "There's no way to fix this!'

"Just remember what I said in the courtroom,' he called back.

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)