THE HIGH HEELS WERE STARTING to hurt me, so I took them off when I went back inside, walking barefoot through the lodge. I hadn't been to Mason's room, but I remembered him mentioning the number once and found it without difficulty.

Shane, Mason's roommate, opened the door a few moments after I knocked. "Hey, Rose."

He stepped aside for me, and I walked in, peering around. Some infomercial was playing on the TV- one downside of a nocturnal life was a shortage of good programming- and empty soda cans covered nearly every flat surface. There was no sign of Mason anywhere.

"Where is he?" I asked.

Shane stifled a yawn. "I thought he was with you."

"I haven't seen him all day."

He yawned again, then frowned in thought. "He was throwing some stuff in a bag earlier. I figured you guys were running off for some crazy romantic getaway. Picnic or something. Hey, nice dress."

"Thanks," I murmured, feeling a frown of my own coming on.

Packing a bag? That didn't make any sense. There was nowhere to go. There was no way to go, either. This resort was as tightly guarded as the Academy. Lissa and I had only managed to break out of that place with compulsion, and it had still been a pain in the ass. Yet, why on earth would Mason pack a bag if he wasn't leaving?

I asked Shane a few more questions and decided to follow up on the possibility, crazy as it seemed. I found the guardian in charge of security and scheduling. He gave me the names of those guardians who'd been on duty around the resort's borders when Mason had last been seen. Most of the names I knew, and most were off duty now, making them easy to find.

Unfortunately, the first couple hadn't seen Mason around today. When they asked why I wanted to know, I gave vague answers and hurried off. The third person on my list was a guy named Alan, a guardian who usually worked the Academy's lower campus. He was just coming in after skiing, taking his equipment off near the door. Recognizing me, he smiled as I approached.

"Sure, I saw him," he said, bending down to his boots.

Relief flooded over me. Until then, I hadn't realized how worried I'd been.

"Do you know where he is?"

"Nope. Let him and Eddie Castile...and, what's her name, the Rinaldi girl, out through the north gate and didn't see them after that."

I stared. Alan continued unhooking his skis as though we were discussing slope conditions.

"You let Mason and Eddie ... and Mia out?"


"Um ... why?"

He finished and looked back up at me, a kind of happy and bemused look on his face. "Because they asked me."

An icy feeling started creeping through me. I found out which guardian had watched the north gate with Alan and immediately sought him out. That guardian gave me the same response. He'd let Mason, Eddie, and Mia out, no questions asked. And, like Alan, he didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with that. He appeared almost dazed. It was a look I'd seen before ... a look that came over people when Lissa used compulsion.

In particular, I'd seen it happen when Lissa didn't want people to remember something very well. She could bury the memory in them, either erasing it all together or planting it for later. She was so good at compulsion, though, that she could just make people forget completely. For them to still have some memories meant someone who wasn't as good at compulsion had worked on them.

Someone, say, like Mia.

I wasn't the fainting type, but for just a moment, I felt like I could keel over. The world spun, and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. When I could see again, my surroundings stayed stable. Okay. No problem. I would reason this out.

Mason, Eddie, and Mia had left the resort earlier today. Not only that, they had done it by using compulsion- which was utterly forbidden. They hadn't told anyone. They'd left through the north gate. I'd seen a map of the resort. The north gate guarded a driveway that connected to the only semi-major road in the area, a small highway that led to a little town about twelve miles away. The town Mason had mentioned that had buses.

To Spokane.

Spokane- where this traveling pack of Strigoi and their humans might be living.

Spokane- where Mason could fulfill all his crazy dreams of slaying Strigoi.

Spokane- which he only knew about because of me.

"No, no, no," I murmured to myself, almost running toward my room.

There, I stripped off the dress and changed into heavy winter clothes: boots, jeans, and a sweater. Grabbing my coat and gloves, I hurried back toward the door and then paused. I was acting without thinking. What was I actually going to do? I needed to tell someone, obviously...but that would get the trio in a lot of trouble. It would also tip Dimitri off that I'd gone and gossiped about the Spokane Strigoi information he'd told me in confidence as a sign of respecting my maturity.

I studied the time. It would take a while for anyone around the resort to know we were missing. If I could actually get out of the resort.

A few minutes later, I found myself knocking on Christian's door. He answered, looking sleepy and cynical as usual.

"If you've come to apologize for her," he told me loftily, "you can just go ahead and- "

"Oh, shut up," I snapped. "This isn't about you."

Hastily, I relayed the details of what was going on. Even Christian didn't have a witty response for that one.

"So...Mason, Eddie, and Mia went to Spokane to hunt Strigoi?"


"Holy shit. Why didn't you go with them? Seems like something you'd do."

I resisted the urge to smack him. "Because I'm not insane! But I'm going to go get them before they do something even stupider."

That was when Christian caught on. "And what do you need from me?"

"I need to get off the resort's property. They got Mia to use compulsion on the guards. I need you to do the same thing. I know you've practiced it."

"I have," he agreed. "But...well..." For the first time ever, he looked embarrassed. "I'm not very good at it. And doing it on dhampirs is nearly impossible. Liss is a hundred times better than me. Or probably any Moroi."

"I know. But I don't want her to get in trouble."

He snorted. "But you don't mind if I do?"

I shrugged. "Not really."

"You're a piece of work, you know that?"

"Yeah. I do, actually."

So, five minutes later, he and I found ourselves trekking out to the north gate. The sun was coming up, so most everyone was inside. This was a good thing, and I hoped it'd make our escape that much easier.

Stupid, stupid, I kept thinking. This was going to blow up in our faces. Why had Mason done this? I knew he'd had this whole crazy vigilante attitude...and he'd certainly seemed upset that the guardians hadn't done anything about the recent attack. But still. Was he really that unhinged? He had to know how dangerous this was. Was it possible...was it possible I'd upset him so much with the making-out disaster that he'd gone off the deep end? Enough to go do this and get Mia and Eddie to join him? Not that those two would be hard to convince. Eddie would follow Mason anywhere, and Mia was almost as gung ho as Mason to kill every Strigoi in the world.

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