Home > Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(4)

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(4)
Author: Richelle Mead

"Velvet,' the shopkeeper told Lissa with certainty. The wizened Moroi woman held up a voluminous, long-sleeved gown. "Velvet is traditional in the royal escort.'

Along with the rest of the fanfare, Tatiana's funeral would have a ceremonial escort walking alongside the coffin, with a representative from each family there. Apparently, no one minded that Lissa fill that role for her family. But voting? That was another matter.

Lissa eyed the dress. It looked more like a Halloween costume than a funeral gown. "It's ninety degrees out,' said Lissa. "And humid.'

"Tradition demands sacrifice,' the woman said melodramatically. "As does tragedy.'

Adrian opened his mouth, undoubtedly ready with some inappropriate and mocking comment. Lissa gave him a sharp headshake that kept him quiet. "Aren't there any, I don't know, sleeveless options?'

The saleswoman's eyes widened. "No one has ever worn straps to a royal funeral. It wouldn't be right.'

"What about shorts?' asked Adrian. "Are they okay if they're with a tie? Because that's what I was gonna go with.'

The woman looked horrified. Lissa shot Adrian a look of disdain, not so much because of the remark--which she found mildly amusing--but because she too was disgusted by his constant state of intoxication.

"Well, no one treats me like a full-fledged royal,' said Lissa, turning back to the dresses. "No reason to act like one now. Show me your straps and short-sleeves.'

The saleswoman grimaced but complied. She had no problem advising royals on fashion but wouldn't dare order them to do or wear anything. It was part of the class stratification of our world. The woman walked across the store to find the requested dresses, just as Lissa's boyfriend and his aunt entered the shop.

Christian Ozera, I thought, was who Adrian should have been acting like. The fact that I could even think like that was startling. Times had certainly changed from when I held Christian up as a role model. But it was true. I'd watched him with Lissa this last week, and Christian had been determined and steadfast, doing whatever he could to help her in the wake of Tatiana's death and my arrest. From the look on his face now, it was obvious he had something important to relay.

His outspoken aunt, Tasha Ozera, was another study in strength and grace under pressure. She'd raised him after his parents had turned Strigoi--and had attacked her, leaving Tasha with scarring on one side of her face. Moroi had always relied on guardians for defense, but after that attack, Tasha had decided to take matters into her own hands. She'd learned to fight, training with all sorts of hand-to-hand methods and weapons. She was really quite a badass and constantly pushed for other Moroi to learn combat too.

Lissa let go of a dress she'd been examining and turned to Christian eagerly. After me, there was no one else she trusted more in the world. He'd been her rock throughout all of this. He looked around the store, not appearing overly thrilled to be surrounded by dresses. "You guys are shopping?' he asked, glancing from Lissa to Adrian. "Getting in a little girl time?'

"Hey, you'd benefit from a wardrobe change,' said Adrian. "Besides, I bet you'd look great in a halter top.'

Lissa ignored the guys' banter and focused on the Ozeras. "What did you find out?'

"They've decided not to take action,' said Christian. His lips curled in disdain. "Well, not any punishment kind of action.'

Tasha nodded. "We're trying to push the idea that he just thought Rose was in danger and jumped in before he realized what was actually happening.'

My heart stopped. Dimitri. They were talking about Dimitri.

For a moment, I was no longer with Lissa. I was no longer in my cell. Instead, I was back to the day of my arrest. I'd been arguing with Dimitri in a cafe, scolding him for his continued refusal to talk to me, let alone continue our former relationship. I'd decided then that I was done with him, that things were truly over and that I wouldn't let him keep tearing my heart apart. That was when the guardians had come for me, and no matter what Dimitri claimed about his Strigoi-time making him unable to love, he had reacted with lightning speed in my defense. We'd been hopelessly outnumbered, but he hadn't cared. The look on his face--and my own uncanny understanding of him--had told me all I needed to know. I was facing a threat. He had to defend me.

And defend me he had. He'd fought like the god he'd been back at St. Vladimir's Academy, when he'd taught me how to battle Strigoi. He incapacitated more guardians in that cafe than one man should have been able to. The only thing that had ended it-- and I truly believe he would have fought until his last breath--had been my intervention. I hadn't known at the time what was going on or why a legion of guardians would want to arrest me. But I had realized that Dimitri was in serious danger of harming his already fragile status around Court. A Strigoi being restored was unheard of, and many still didn't trust him. I'd begged Dimitri to stop, more afraid of what would happen to him than me. Little had I known what was in store for me.

He'd come to my hearing--under guard--but neither Lissa nor I had seen him since. Lissa had been working hard to clear him of any wrongdoing, fearing they'd lock him up again. And me? I'd been trying to tell myself not to over-think what he had done. My arrest and potential execution took precedence. Yet ... I still wondered. Why had he done it? Why had he risked his life for mine? Was it an instinctive reaction to a threat? Had he done it as a favor to Lissa, whom he'd sworn to help in return for freeing him? Or had he truly done it because he still had feelings for me?

I still didn't know the answer, but seeing him like that, like the fierce Dimitri from my past, had stirred up the feelings I was so desperately trying to get over. I kept trying to assure myself that recovering from a relationship took time. Lingering feelings were natural. Unfortunately, it took longer to get over a guy when he threw himself into danger for you.

Regardless, Christian and Tasha's words gave me hope about Dimitri's fate. After all, I wasn't the only one walking a tenuous line between life and death. Those convinced Dimitri was still Strigoi wanted to see a stake through his heart. "They're keeping him confined again,' said Christian. "But not in a cell. Just in his room, with a couple of guards. They don't want him out around Court until things settle down.'

"That's better than jail,' admitted Lissa.

"It's still absurd,' snapped Tasha, more to herself than the others. She and Dimitri had been close over the years, and she'd once wanted to take that relationship to another level. She'd settled for friendship, and her outrage over the injustice done to him was as strong as ours. "They should have let him go as soon as he became a dhampir again. Once the elections are settled, I'm going to make sure he's free.'

"And that's what's weird ...' Christian's pale blue eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "We heard that Tatiana had told others before she--before she--' Christian hesitated and glanced uneasily at Adrian. The pause was uncharacteristic for Christian, who usually spoke his mind abruptly.

"Before she was murdered,' said Adrian flatly, not looking at any of them. "Go on.'

Christian swallowed. "Um, yeah. I guess--not in public--she'd announced that she believed Dimitri really was a dhampir again. Her plan was to help him get more acceptance once the other stuff settled down.' The "other stuff' was the age law mentioned in Tatiana's note, the one saying dhampirs turning sixteen would be forced to graduate and start defending Moroi. It had infuriated me, but like so many other things now ... well, it was kind of on hold.

Adrian made a strange sound, like he was clearing his throat. "She did not.'

Christian shrugged. "Lots of her advisors said she did. That's the rumor.'

"I have a hard time believing it too,' Tasha told Adrian. She'd never approved of Tatiana's policies and had vehemently spoken out against them on more than one occasion. Adrian's disbelief wasn't political, though. His was simply coming from ideas he'd always had about his aunt. She'd never given any indication that she wanted to help Dimitri regain his old status.

Adrian made no further comment, but I knew this topic was kindling sparks of jealousy within him. I'd told him Dimitri was in the past and that I was ready to move on, but Adrian--like me--must have undoubtedly wondered about the motivations behind Dimitri's gallant defense.

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)