"Is it a coincidence that neither of them seems to have specialized?"

I recounted my conversation with Ms. Carmack and explained my theory about specializing in all four elements. I also repeated Ms. Carmack's comment about how that would burn someone out.

Lissa rubbed her eyes when I finished, smudging a little of her makeup. She gave me a weak smile. "I don't know what's crazier: what you're actually telling me or the fact that you actually read something to find all this out."

I grinned, relieved that she'd actually mustered a joke. "Hey, I know how to read too."

"I know you do. I also know it took you a year to read The Da Vinci Code." She laughed.

"That wasn't my fault! And don't try to change the subject."

"I'm not." She smiled, then sighed. "I just don't know what to think about all this."

"There's nothing to think about. Just don't do stuff that'll upset you. Remember coasting through the middle? Go back to that. It's a lot easier on you."

She shook her head. "I can't do that. Not yet."

"Why not? I already told you - " I stopped, wondering why I hadn't caught on before. "It's not just Mia. You're doing all this because you feel like you're supposed to. You're still trying to be Andre."

"My parents would have wanted me to - "

"Your parents would have wanted you to be happy."

"It's not that easy, Rose. I can't ignore these people forever. I'm royal too."

"Most of them suck."

"And a lot of them are going to help rule the Moroi. Andre knew that. He wasn't like the others, but he did what he had to do because he knew how important they were."

I leaned back against the bench. "Well, maybe that's the problem. We're deciding who's 'important' based on family alone, so we end up with these screwed-up people making decisions. That's why Moroi numbers are dropping and bitches like Tatiana are queen. Maybe there needs to be a new royal system."

"Come on, Rose. This is the way it is; that's the way it's been for centuries. We have to live with that." I glared. "Okay, how about this?" she continued. "You're worried about me becoming like them - like Ms. Karp and St. Vladimir - right? Well, she said I shouldn't use the powers, that it would make things get worse if I did. What if I just stop? Compulsion, healing, everything."

I narrowed my eyes. "You could do that?" The convenient compulsion aside, that was what I'd wanted her to do the whole time. Her depression had started at the same time the powers emerged, just after the accident. I had to believe they were connected, particularly in light of the evidence and Ms. Karp's warnings.


Her face was perfectly composed, her expression serious and steady. With her pale hair woven into a neat French braid and a suede blazer over her dress, she looked like she could have taken her family's place on the council right now.

"You'd have to give up everything," I warned. "No healing, no matter how cute and cuddly the animal. And no more compulsion to dazzle the royals."

She nodded seriously. "I can do it. Will that make you feel better?"

"Yeah, but I'd feel even better if you stopped magic and went back to hanging out with Natalie."

"I know, I know. But I can't stop, not now at least."

I couldn't get her to budge on that - yet - but knowing that she would avoid using her powers relieved me.

"All right," I said, picking up my backpack. I was late for practice. Again. "You can keep playing with the brat pack, so long as you keep the 'other stuff' in check." I hesitated. "And you know, you really have made your point with Aaron and Mia. You don't have to keep him around to keep hanging out with the royals."

"Why do I keep getting the feeling you don't like him anymore?"

"I like him okay - which is about as much as you like him. And I don't think you should get hot and sweaty with people you only like 'okay' "

Lissa widened her eyes in pretend astonishment. "Is this Rose Hathaway talking? Have you reformed? Or do you have someone you like 'more than okay'?"

"Hey," I said uncomfortably, "I'm just looking out for you. That, and I never noticed how boring Aaron is before."

She scoffed. "You think everyone's boring."

"Christian isn't."

It slipped out before I could stop it. She quit smiling. "He's a jerk. He just stopped talking to me for no reason one day." She crossed her arms. "And don't you hate him anyway?"

"I can still hate him and think he's interesting."

But I was also starting to think that I might have made a big mistake about Christian. He was creepy and dark and liked to set people on fire, true. On the other hand, he was smart and funny - in a twisted way - and somehow had a calming effect on Lissa.

But I'd messed it all up. I'd let my anger and jealousy get the best of me and ended up separating them. If I'd let him go to her in the garden that night, maybe she wouldn't have gotten upset and cut herself. Maybe they'd be together now, away from all the school politics.

Fate must have been thinking the same thing, because five minutes after I left Lissa, I passed Christian walking across the quad. Our eyes locked for a moment before we passed each other. I nearly kept walking. Nearly. Taking a deep breath, I came to a stop.

"Wait...Christian." I called out to him. Damn, I was so late for training. Dimitri was going to kill me.

Christian spun around to face me, hands stuffed in the pockets of his long black coat, his posture slumped and uncaring.


"Thanks for the books." He didn't say anything. "The ones you gave to Mason."

"Oh, I thought you meant the other books."

Smartass. "Aren't you going to ask what they were for?"

"Your business. Just figured you were bored being suspended."

"I'd have to be pretty bored for that."

He didn't laugh at my joke. "What do you want, Rose? I've got places to be."

I knew he was lying, but my sarcasm no longer seemed as funny as usual. "I want you to, uh, hang out with Lissa again."

"Are you serious?" He studied me closely, suspicion all over him. "After what you said to me?"

"Yeah, well...Didn't Mason tell you?..."

Christian's lips turned up into a sneer. "He told me something."


"And I don't want to hear it from Mason." His sneer cranked up when I glared. "You sent him to apologize for you. Step up and do it yourself."

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