The feeder girl cowered in a corner, terrified. Lissa stood with arms crossed, her face angry and terrible. She was staring at Wade intently, and he stared back, enchanted. He also held a baseball bat, and it looked like he'd used it already, because the room was trashed: bookshelves, the stereo, the mirror...
"Break the window too," Lissa told him smoothly. "Come on. It doesn't matter."
Hypnotized, he walked over to the large, tinted window. I stared, my mouth nearly hitting the floor, as he pulled back and slammed the bat into the glass. It shattered, sending shards everywhere and letting in the early morning light it normally kept blocked out. He winced as it shone in his eyes, but he didn't move away.
"Lissa," I exclaimed. "Stop it. Make him stop."
"He should have stopped earlier."
I barely recognized the look on her face. I'd never seen her so upset, and I'd certainly never seen her do anything like this. I knew what it was, of course. I knew right away. Compulsion. For all I knew, she was seconds away from having him turn the bat on himself.
"Please, Lissa. Don't do it anymore. Please."
Through the fuzzy, alcoholic buzz, I felt a trickle of her emotions. They were strong enough to practically knock me over. Black. Angry. Merciless. Startling feelings to be coming from sweet and steady Lissa. I'd known her since kindergarten, but in that moment, I barely knew her.
And I was afraid.
"Please, Lissa," I repeated. "He's not worth it. Let him go."
She didn't look at me. Her stormy eyes were focused entirely on Wade. Slowly carefully, he lifted up the bat, tilting it so that it lined up with his own skull.
"Liss," I begged. Oh God. I was going to have to tackle her or something to make her stop. "Don't do it."
"He should have stopped," Lissa said evenly. The bat quit moving. It was now at exactly the right distance to gain momentum and strike. "He shouldn't have done that to her. People can't treat other people like that - even feeders."
"But you're scaring her," I said softly. "Look at her."
Nothing happened at first, then Lissa let her gaze flick toward the feeder. The human girl still sat huddled in a corner, arms wrapped around herself protectively. Her blue eyes were enormous, and light reflected off her wet, tear-streaked face. She gave a choked, terrified sob.
Lissa's face stayed impassive. Inside her, I could feel the battle she was waging for control. Some part of her didn't want to hurt Wade, despite the blinding anger that otherwise filled her. Her face crumpled, and she squeezed her eyes shut. Her right hand reached out to her left wrist and clenched it, nails digging deep into the flesh. She flinched at the pain, but through the bond, I felt the shock of the pain distract her from Wade.
She let go of the compulsion, and he dropped the bat, suddenly looking confused. I let go of the breath I'd been holding. In the hallway, footsteps sounded. I'd left the door open, and the crash had attracted attention. A couple of dorm staff members burst into the room, freezing when they saw the destruction in front of them.
The rest of us looked at each other. Wade looked completely lost. He stared at the room, at the bat, and then at Lissa and me. "I don't know...I can't..." He turned his full attention to me and suddenly grew angry. "What the - it was you! You wouldn't let the feeder thing go."
The dorm workers looked at me questioningly, and in a few seconds, I made up my mind.
You have to protect her. 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.
I could see Ms. Karp's face in my mind, pleading frantically. I gave Wade a haughty look, knowing full well no one would question a confession I made or even suspect Lissa.
"Yeah, well, if you'd let her go," I told him, "I wouldn't have had to do this."
Save her. Save her from herself.
After that night, I never drank again. I refused to let my guard down around Lissa. And two days later, while I was supposed to be suspended for "destruction of property," I took Lissa and broke out of the Academy.
Back in Lissa's room, with Xander's arm around me and her angry and upset eyes on us, I didn't know if she'd do anything drastic again. But the situation reminded me too much of that one from two years ago, and I knew I had to defuse it.
"Just a little blood," Xander was saying. "I won't take much. I just want to see what dhampir tastes like. Nobody here cares."
"Xander," growled Lissa, "leave her alone."
I slipped out from under his arm and smiled, looking for a funny retort rather than one that might start a fight. "Come on," I teased. "I had to hit the last guy who asked me that, and you're a hell of a lot prettier than Jesse. It'd be a waste."
"Pretty?" he asked. "I'm stunningly sexy but not pretty."
Carly laughed. "No, you're pretty. Todd told me you buy some kind of French hair gel."
Xander, distracted as so many drunk people easily are, turned around to defend his honor, forgetting me. The tension disappeared, and he took the teasing about his hair with a good attitude.
Across the room, Lissa met my eyes with relief. She smiled and gave me a small nod of thanks before she returned her attention to Aaron.
THE NEXT DAY, IT FULLY hit me how much things had changed since the Jesse-and-Ralf rumors first started. For some people, I remained a nonstop source of whispers and laughter. From Lissa's converts, I received friendliness and occasional defense. Overall, I realized, our classmates actually gave me very little of their attention anymore. This became especially true when something new distracted everyone.
Lissa and Aaron.
Apparently, Mia had found about the party and had blown up when she learned that Aaron had been there without her. She'd bitched at him and told him that if he wanted to be with her, he couldn't run around and hang out with Lissa. So Aaron had decided he didn't want to be with her. He'd broken up with her that morning...and moved on.
Now he and Lissa were all over each other. They stood around in the hall and at lunch, arms wrapped around one another, laughing and talking. Lissa's bond feelings showed only mild interest, despite her gazing at him as though he was the most fascinating thing on the planet. Most of this was for show, unbeknownst to him. He looked as though he could have built a shrine at her feet at any moment.
And me? I felt ill.
My feelings were nothing, however, compared to Mia's. At lunch, she sat on the far side of the room from us, eyes fixed pointedly ahead, ignoring the consolations of the friends near her. She had blotchy pink patches on her pale, round cheeks, and her eyes were red-rimmed. She said nothing mean when I walked past. No smug jokes. No mocking glares. Lissa had destroyed her, just as Mia had vowed to do us.