The thermometer broke.

In one smooth motion, I reached past him, grabbed Camille, and swung her up against the wall. I hadn't thrown her hard enough to hurt her, but she was clearly startled. Her eyes widened in shock, and I used my forearm to pin her, pressing it against her throat.

"What are you doing?" exclaimed Ryan, peering back and forth between our faces. I shifted my stance slightly, still keeping the pressure on Camille.

"Furthering your education," I said pleasantly. "Sometimes places aren't as easy to secure as you think."

"You're crazy! You can't hurt a Moroi. If the guardians find out - "

"I'm not," I argued. I glanced toward her. "Am I hurting you? Are you in extreme pain?"

There was a hesitation; then she gave as much of a shake of her head as she could manage.

"Are you uncomfortable?"

A small nod.

"See?" I told Ryan. "Discomfort isn't the same thing as pain."

"You're insane. Let her go."

"I'm not done, Ry. Pay attention because here's the point: Danger can come from anywhere. Not just Strigoi - or guardians dressed up like Strigoi. Keep acting like an arrogant ass**le who thinks he knows everything" - I pressed my arm in a little harder, still not enough to affect her breathing or cause real pain - "and you miss things. And those things can kill your Moroi."

"Okay, okay. Whatever. Please, stop it," he said. His voice wavered. There was no more attitude. "You're scaring her."

"I'd be scared too, if my life was in your hands."

The scent of cloves alerted me to Adrian's presence. I also knew that Shane and a few others had come to watch. The other novices looked uncertain, like they wanted to pry me off but were afraid of getting Camille hurt. I knew I should let her go, but Ryan had just made me so angry. I needed to prove a point to him. I needed to get him back. And really, I didn't even feel sorry for Camille either since I was sure she'd done her fair share of gossiping about me too.

"This is fascinating," said Adrian, his voice as lazy as usual. "But I think you've made your point."

"I don't know," I said. The tone of my voice managed to be both sweet and menacing at the same time. "I still don't think Ryan gets it."

"For God's sake, Rose! I get it," cried Ryan. "Just let her go."

Adrian moved around me, going over to stand beside Camille. She and I were pressed close together, but he managed to squeeze in so that his face was in my line of sight, almost beside hers. He wore that goofy smirk he normally had, but there was something serious in his dark green eyes.

"Yes, little dhampir. Let her go. You're done here."

I wanted to tell Adrian to get away from me, that I would be the one to say when this was finished. Somehow, I couldn't get the words out. A part of me was enraged at his interference. The other part of me thought he sounded...reasonable.

"Let her go," he repeated.

My eyes were all over Adrian now, not Camille. Suddenly, all of me decided he sounded reasonable. Completely reasonable. I needed to let her go. I moved my arm and stepped away. With a gulp, Camille darted behind Ryan, using him like a shield. I saw now that she was on the verge of tears. Ryan simply looked stunned.

Adrian straightened up and made a dismissive gesture toward Ryan. "I'd get out of here - before you really annoy Rose."

Ryan, Camille, and the others slowly backed off from us. Adrian put his arm around me and hurried me away toward the library. I felt weird, kind of like I was waking up, but then, with each step, things grew clearer and clearer. I pushed his arm off me and jerked away.

"You just used compulsion on me!" I exclaimed. "You made me let her go."

"Someone needed to. You looked like you were seconds away from strangling her."

"I wasn't. And I wouldn't have." I pushed open the library door. "You had no right to do that to me. No right at all." Compulsion - making people do what you wanted - was a skill all vampires had to a very small degree. Using it was considered immoral, and most couldn't control it well enough to do any real damage. Spirit strengthened the ability, however, making both Adrian and Lissa very dangerous.

"And you had no right to tackle some poor girl in the hall just to soothe your own hurt pride."

"Ryan had no right to say those things."

"I don't even know what 'those things' are, but unless I've misjudged your age, you're too old to be throwing a tantrum over idle gossip."

"Throwing a - "

My words fell short as we reached Lissa working at a table. Her face and feelings told me trouble was coming. Eddie stood a couple feet away from her, leaning against a wall and watching the room. His eyes widened when he saw me, but he didn't say anything at my approach.

I slid into the chair opposite Lissa.


She looked up and sighed, then returned her attention to the textbook open in front of her. "I wondered when you'd turn up," she said. "Did you get suspended?"

Her words were calm and polite, but I could read her underlying feelings. Annoyed. Even a little angry.

"Not this time," I said. "Just got stuck with community service."

She said nothing, but the irate mood I sensed through the bond remained unchanged.

Now I sighed. "Okay, talk to me, Liss. I know you're mad."

Adrian looked at me, then her, and then me again. "I feel like I'm missing something here."

"Oh, great," I said. "You went and busted up my fight and didn't even know what it was about."

"Fight?" asked Lissa, confusion joining her anger.

"What happened?" repeated Adrian.

I nodded to Lissa. "Go ahead, tell him."

"Rose got tested earlier and refused to protect Christian." She shook her head, exasperated, and fixed me with an accusatory glare. "I can't believe you're seriously still mad enough to do something like that to him. It's childish."

Lissa had jumped to the same conclusions as the guardians. I sighed. "I didn't do it on purpose! I just sat through a whole hearing on this crap and told them the same thing."

"Then what happened?" she demanded. "Why did you do it?"

I hesitated, unsure what to say. My reluctance to talk didn't even have anything to do with Adrian and Eddie overhearing - though I certainly didn't want them to. The problem was more complex.

Dimitri had been right - there were people I could trust, and two of them I trusted unconditionally: him and Lissa. I'd already held back from telling him the truth. Would I - could I - do the same with her? Although she was mad, I knew without a doubt that Lissa would always support me and be there for me. But just like with Dimitri, I balked at the idea of telling my ghost story. Also just like with Dimitri, it left me in the same bind: crazy or incompetent?

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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