However, many dhampir mothers chose not to become guardians in order to raise their children. These women sometimes worked "regular" jobs with Moroi or humans; some of them lived together in communities. These communities had a bad reputation. I don't know how much of it was true, but rumors said Moroi men visited all the time for sex, and that some dhampir women let them drink blood while doing it. Blood whores.

Regardless, almost all guardians were men, which meant there were a lot more Moroi than guardians. Most dhampir guys accepted that they wouldn't have kids. They knew it was their job to protect Moroi while their sisters and cousins had babies.

Some dhampir women, like my mother, still felt it was their duty to become guardians - even if it meant not raising their own kids. After I'd been born, she'd handed me over to be raised by Moroi. Moroi and dhampirs start school pretty young, and the Academy had essentially taken over as my parent by the time I was four.

Between her example and my life at the Academy, I believed wholeheartedly that it was a dhampir's job to protect Moroi. It was part of our heritage, and it was the only way we'd keep going. It was that simple.

And that was what made what the Badicas' guardian had done so shocking. He'd abandoned his Moroi and run off with another guardian, which meant she'd abandoned her Moroi. They couldn't even have children together, and now two families were unprotected. What was the point? No one cared if teenage dhampirs dated or if adult dhampirs had flings. But a long-term relationship? Particularly one that involved them running away? A complete waste. And a disgrace.

After a little more speculation on the Badicas, Lissa and I left Aaron. As we stepped outside, I heard a funny shifting sound and then something sliding. Too late, I realized what was happening, just as a pile of slush slid off the chapel's roof and onto us. It was early October, and we'd had early snow last night that had started melting almost immediately. As a result, the stuff that fell on us was very wet and very cold.

Lissa took the brunt of it, but I still yelped as icy water landed on my hair and neck. A few others squealed nearby too, having caught the edge of the mini-avalanche.

"You okay?" I asked her. Her coat was drenched, and her platinum hair clung to the sides of her face.

"Y-yeah," she said through chattering teeth.

I pulled off my coat and handed it to her. It had a slick surface and had repelled most of the water. "Take yours off."

"But you'll be - "

"Take this."

She did, and as she slipped on my coat, I finally tuned into the laughter that always follows these situations. I avoided the eyes, instead focusing on holding Lissa's wet jacket while she changed.

"Wish you hadn't been wearing a coat, Rose," said Ralf Sarcozy an unusually bulky and plump Moroi. I hated him. "That shirt would have looked good wet."

"That shirt's so ugly it should be burned. Did you get that from a homeless person?"

I glanced up as Mia walked over and looped her arm through Aaron's. Her blond curls were arranged perfectly, and she had on an awesome pair of black heels that would have looked much better on me. At least they made her look taller, I'd give her that. Aaron had been a few steps behind us but had miraculously avoided being nailed by the slush. Seeing how smug she looked, I decided there'd been no miracles involved.

"I suppose you want to offer to burn it, huh?" I asked, refusing to let her know how much that insult bugged me. I knew perfectly well my fashion sense had slipped over the last two years. "Oh, wait - fire isn't your element, is it? You work with water. What a coincidence that a bunch just fell on us."

Mia looked as if she'd been insulted, but the gleam in her eyes showed that she was enjoying this way too much to be an innocent bystander. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing to me. But Ms. Kirova will probably have something to say when she finds out you used magic against another student."

"That wasn't an attack," she scoffed. "And it wasn't me. It was an act of God."

A few others laughed, much to her delight. In my imagination, I responded with, So is this, and then slammed her into the side of the church. In real life, Lissa simply nudged me and said, "Let's go."

She and I walked off toward our respective dorms, leaving behind laughter and jokes about our wet states and how Lissa wouldn't know anything about specialization. Inside, I seethed. I had to do something about Mia, I realized. In addition to the general irritation of Mia's bitchiness, I didn't want Lissa to have to deal with any more stress than she had to. We'd been okay this first week, and I wanted to keep it that way.

"You know," I said, "I'm thinking more and more that you stealing Aaron back is a good thing. It'll teach Bitch Doll a lesson. I bet it'd be easy, too. He's still crazy about you."

"I don't want to teach anyone a lesson," said Lissa. "And I'm not crazy about him."

"Come on, she picks fights and talks about us behind our backs. She accused me of getting jeans from the Salvation Army yesterday."

"Your jeans are from the Salvation Army."

"Well, yeah," I snorted, "but she has no right making fun of them when she's wearing stuff from Target."

"Hey, there's nothing wrong with Target. I like Target."

"So do I. That's not the point. She's trying to pass her stuff off like it's freaking Stella McCartney."

"And that's a crime?"

I affected a solemn face. "Absolutely. You've gotta take revenge."

"I told you, I'm not interested in revenge." Lissa cut me a sidelong look. "And you shouldn't be either."

I smiled as innocently as I could, and when we parted ways, I felt relieved again that she couldn't read my thoughts.

"So when's the big catfight going to happen?"

Mason was waiting for me outside our dorm after I'd parted ways with Lissa. He looked lazy and cute, leaning against the wall with crossed arms as he watched me.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

He unfolded himself and walked with me into the building, handing me his coat, since I'd let Lissa go off with my dry one. "I saw you guys sparring outside the chapel. Have you no respect for the house of God?"

I snorted. "You've got about as much respect for it as I do, you heathen. You didn't even go. Besides, as you said, we were outside."

"And you still didn't answer the question."

I just grinned and slipped on his coat.

We stood in the common area of our dorm, a well-supervised lounge and study area where male and female students could mingle, along with Moroi guests. Being Sunday, it was pretty crowded with those cramming for last-minute assignments due tomorrow. Spying a small, empty table, I grabbed Mason's arm and pulled him toward it.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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