I laughed. "That's my job. I'm going to be your guardian."

"I know, but I meant like this. You shouldn't suffer because of me. You shouldn't always have to look after me. And yet you always do. You got me out of here. You took care of everything when we were on our own. Even since coming back...you've always been the one who does all the work. Every time I break down - like last night - you're always there. Me, I'm weak. I'm not like you."

I shook my head. "That doesn't matter. It's what I do. I don't mind."

"Yeah, but look what happened. I'm the one she really has a grudge against - even though I still don't know why. Whatever. It's going to stop. I'm going to protect you from now on."

There was a determination in her expression, a wonderful confidence radiating off of her that reminded me of the Lissa I'd known before the accident. At the same time, I could feel something else in her - something darker, a sense of deeply buried anger. I'd seen this side of her before too, and I didn't like it. I didn't want her tapping into it. I just wanted her to be safe.

"Lissa, you can't protect me."

"I can," she said fiercely. "There's one thing Mia wants more than to destroy you and me. She wants to be accepted. She wants to hang out with the royals and feel like she's one of them. I can take that away from her." She smiled. "I can turn them against her."


"By telling them." Her eyes flashed.

My mind was moving too slowly tonight. It took me a while to catch on. "Liss - no. You can't use compulsion. Not around here."

"I might as well get some use out of these stupid powers."

The more she uses it, the worse it'll get. Stop her, Rose. Stop her before they notice, before they notice and take her away too. Get her out of here.

"Liss, if you get caught - "

Dimitri stuck his head out. "You've got to get back inside, Rose, before someone finds you."

I shot a panicked look at Lissa, but she was already retreating. "I'll take care of everything this time, Rose. Everything."


THE AFTERMATH OF JESSE AND Ralf's lies was about as horrible as I'd expected. The only way I survived was by putting blinders on, by ignoring everyone and everything. It kept me sane - barely - but I hated it. I felt like crying all the time. I lost my appetite and didn't sleep well.

Yet, no matter how bad it got for me, I didn't worry about myself as much as I did Lissa. She stood by her promise to change things. It was slow at first, but gradually, I would see a royal or two come up to her at lunch or in class and say hello. She'd turn on a brilliant smile, laughing and talking to them like they were all best friends.

At first, I didn't understand how she was pulling it off. She'd told me she would use compulsion to win the other royals over and turn them against Mia. But I didn't see it happening. It was possible, of course, that she was winning people over without compulsion. After all, she was funny, smart, and nice. Anyone would like her. Something told me she wasn't winning friends the old-fashioned way, and I finally figured it out.

She was using compulsion when I wasn't around. I only saw her for a small part of the day, and since she knew I didn't approve, she only worked her power when I was away.

After a few days of this secret compulsion, I knew what I needed to do: I had to get back in her head again. By choice. I'd done it before; I could do it again.

At least, that's what I told myself, sitting and spacing out in Stan's class one day. But it wasn't as easy as I'd thought it would be, partly because I felt too keyed up to relax and open myself to her thoughts. I also had trouble because I picked a time when she felt relatively calm. She came through the "loudest" when her emotions were running strong.

Still, I tried to do what I'd done before, back when I'd spied on her and Christian. The meditation thing. Slow breathing. Eyes closed. Mental focus like that still wasn't easy for me, but at long last I managed the transition, slipping into her head and experiencing the world as hers. She stood in her American lit class, during project-work time, but, like most of the students, she wasn't working. She and Camille Conta leaned against a wall on the far side of the room, talking in hushed voices.

"It's gross," said Camille firmly, a frown crossing her pretty face. She had on a blue skirt made of velvet-like fabric, short enough to show off her long legs and possibly raise eyes about the dress code. "If you guys were doing it, I'm not surprised she got addicted and did it with Jesse."

"She didn't do it with Jesse," insisted Lissa. "And it's not like we had sex. We just didn't have any feeders, that's all." Lissa focused her full attention on Camille and smiled. "It's no big deal. Everyone's overreacting."

Camille looked like she seriously doubted this, and then, the more she stared at Lissa, the more unfocused her eyes became. A blank look fell over her.

"Right?" asked Lissa, voice like silk. "It's not a big deal."

The frown returned. Camille tried to shake the compulsion. That fact that it'd even gotten this far was incredible. As Christian had observed, using it on Moroi was unheard of.

Camille, although strong-willed, lost the battle. "Yeah," she said slowly. "It's really not that big a deal."

"And Jesse's lying."

She nodded. "Definitely lying."

A mental strain burned inside of Lissa as she held onto the compulsion. It took a lot of effort, and she wasn't finished.

"What are you guys doing tonight?"

"Carly and I are going to study for Mattheson's test in her room."

"Invite me."

Camille thought about it. "Hey, you want to study with us?"

"Sure," said Lissa, smiling at her. Camille smiled back.

Lissa dropped the compulsion, and a wave of dizziness swept over her. She felt weak. Camille glanced around, momentarily surprised, then shook off the weirdness. "See you after dinner then."

"See you," murmured Lissa, watching her walk away. When Camille was gone, Lissa reached up to tie her hair up in a ponytail. Her fingers couldn't quite get all the hair through, and suddenly, another pair of hands caught hold and helped her. She spun around and found herself staring into Christian's ice-blue eyes. She jerked away from him.

"Don't do that!" she exclaimed, shivering at the realization that it had been his fingers touching her.

He gave her his lazy, slightly twisted smile and brushed a few pieces of unruly black hair out of his face. "Are you asking me or ordering me?"

"Shut up." She glanced around, both to avoid his eyes and make sure no one saw them together.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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