I had to be missing something here - unless all of yesterday had been a dream. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to go over and ask somebody what was happening. If I delayed, I'd be late for practice. The curiosity was killing me, though. Had the Strigoi and their humans been found and killed? That would certainly be good news, but something told me that wasn't the case. Pushing open the front doors, I lamented that I'd just have to wait until breakfast to find out.
"Hath-away, don't run-away," a singsong voice called.
I glanced behind me and grinned. Mason Ashford, another novice and a good friend of mine, jogged up and fell in step with me.
"What are you, twelve?" I asked, continuing on toward the gym.
"Nearly," he said. "I missed your smiling face yesterday. Where were you?"
Apparently my presence at the Badica house still wasn't widely known. It wasn't a secret or anything, but I didn't want to discuss any gory details. "Had a training thing with Dimitri."
"God," muttered Mason. "That guy is always working you. Doesn't he realize he's depriving us of your beauty and charm?"
"Smiling face? Beauty and charm? You're laying it on a little thick this morning, aren't you?" I laughed.
"Hey, I'm just telling it like it is. Really, you're lucky to have someone as suave and brilliant as me paying this much attention to you."
I kept grinning. Mason was a huge flirt, and he liked to flirt with me in particular. Part of it was just because I was good at it and liked to flirt back. But I knew his feelings toward me were more than just friendly, and I was still deciding how I felt about that. He and I had the same goofy sense of humor and frequently drew attention to ourselves in class and among friends. He had gorgeous blue eyes and messy red hair that never seemed to lie flat. It was cute.
But dating someone new was going to be kind of difficult when I still kept thinking about the time I was half-naked in bed with Dimitri.
"Suave and brilliant, huh?" I shook my head. "I don't think you pay nearly as much attention to me as you do your ego. Someone needs to knock it down a little."
"Oh yeah?" he asked. "Well, you can try your best on the slopes."
I stopped walking. "The what?"
"The slopes." He tilted his head. "You know, the ski trip."
"What ski trip?" I was apparently missing something serious here.
"Where have you been this morning?" he asked, looking at me like I was a crazy woman.
"In bed! I only got up, like, five minutes ago. Now, start from the beginning and tell me what you're talking about." I shivered from the lack of movement. "And let's keep walking." We did.
"So, you know how everyone's afraid to have their kids come home for Christmas? Well, there's this huge ski lodge in Idaho that's exclusively used by royals and rich Moroi. The people who own it are opening it up for Academy students and their families - and actually any other Moroi who want to go. With everyone in one spot, they're going to have a ton of guardians to protect the place, so it'll be totally safe."
"You can't be serious," I said. We reached the gym and stepped inside out of the cold.
Mason nodded eagerly. "It's true. The place is supposed to be amazing." He gave me the grin that always made me smile in return. "We're going to live like royalty, Rose. At least for a week or so. We take off the day after Christmas."
I stood there, both excited and stunned. I hadn't seen this coming. It really was a brilliant idea, one that let families reunite safely. And what a reunion spot! A royal ski lodge. I'd expected to spend most of my holiday break hanging out here and watching TV with Lissa and Christian. Now I'd be living it up in five-star accommodations. Lobster dinners. Massages. Cute ski instructors ...
Mason's enthusiasm was contagious. I could feel it welling up in me, and then, suddenly, it slammed to a halt.
Studying my face, he saw the change right away. "What's wrong? This is cool."
"It is," I admitted. "And I get why everyone's excited, but the reason we're getting to go to this fancy place is because, well, because people are dead. I mean, doesn't this all seem weird?"
Mason's cheery expression sobered a little. "Yeah, but we're alive, Rose. We can't stop living because other people are dead. And we have to make sure more people don't die. That's why this place is such a great idea. It's safe." His eyes turned stormy. "God, I can't wait until we're out of here in the field. After hearing about what happened, I just want to go tear apart some Strigoi. I wish we could go now, you know? There's no reason. They could use the extra help, and we pretty much know everything we need to."
The fierceness in his voice reminded me of my outburst yesterday, though he wasn't quite as worked up as I'd been. His eagerness to act was impetuous and na?ve, whereas mine had been born out of some weird, dark irrationality I still didn't entirely understand.
When I didn't respond, Mason gave me a puzzled look. "Don't you want to?"
"I don't know, Mase." I stared down at the floor, avoiding his eyes as I studied the toe of my shoe. "I mean, I don't want Strigoi out there, attacking people either. And I want to stop them in theory... but, well, we aren't even close to being ready. I've seen what they can do I don't know. Rushing in isn't the answer." I shook my head and looked back up. Good grief. I sounded so logical and cautious. I sounded like Dimitri. "It's not important since it's not going to happen anyway. I suppose we should just be excited about the trip, huh?"
Mason's moods were quick to change, and he turned easygoing once more. "Yup. And you'd better try to remember how to ski, because I'm calling you out on knocking down my ego out there. Not that it's going to happen."
I smiled again. "Boy, it sure is going to be sad when I make you cry. I kind of feel guilty already."
He opened his mouth, no doubt to deliver some smartass reply, and then caught sight of something - or rather, someone - behind me. I glanced over and saw Dimitri's tall form approaching from the other side of the gym.
Mason swept me a gallant bow. "Your lord and master. Catch you later, Hathaway. Start planning your ski strategies." He opened the door and disappeared into the frigid darkness. I turned around and joined Dimitri.
Like other dhampir novices, I spent half of my school day on one form or another of guardian training, be it actual physical combat or learning about Strigoi and how to defend against them. Novices also sometimes had practices after school. I, however, was in a unique situation.