"I know he is."

"And if he gets loose, he'll just start in on his crazy plans again."

"It's really unlikely he will get loose, you know. Most of those rumors about the queen letting him off are just that -  rumors. You of all people should know not to believe everything you hear."

I stared stonily ahead, refusing to acknowledge his point. "You should still let us go. Or" - I took a deep breath - "you should at least let Lissa go."

It was harder for me to say those words than it should have been, but it was something I'd been thinking about. I didn't think I was a glory seeker like Stan had said, but there was a part of me that always wanted to be the one in the middle of a fight. I wanted to rush forward, doing what was right and helping others. Likewise, I wanted to be there at Victor's trial. I wanted to look him in the eye and make sure he was punished.

But as time went on, it seemed less likely that that would happen. They really weren't going to let us go. Maybe, though, maybe they'd let one of us go, and if it should be anyone, it should be Lissa. She'd been the target of Victor's plan, and though her going alone stirred up that nervous idea about how maybe she didn't need me to guard her, I'd still rather take the chance and see him put away.

Dimitri, understanding my need to rush in and take action, seemed surprised by my unusual behavior. "You're right -  she should be there, but again, it's nothing I can do anything about. You keep thinking I can control this, but I can't."

"But did you do everything you could?" I thought back to Adrian's words in the dream, about how Dimitri could have done more. "You have a lot of influence. There must be something. Anything."

"Not as much influence as you think. I've got a high position here at the Academy, but in the rest of the guardian world, I'm still pretty young. And yes, I did actually speak up for you."

"Maybe you should have spoken up louder."

I could sense him shutting down. He'd discuss most things reasonably but wouldn't encourage me when I was just being a bitch. So, I tried to be more reasonable.

"Victor knows about us," I said. "He could say something."

"Victor has bigger things to worry about with this trial than us."

"Yeah, but you know him. He doesn't exactly act like a normal person would. If he feels like he's lost all hope of getting off, he might decide to bust us just for the sake of revenge."

I'd never been able to confess my relationship with Dimitri to Lissa, yet our worst enemy knew about it. It was weirder even than Adrian knowing. Victor had figured it out by watching us and gathering data. I guess when you're a scheming villain, you get good at that stuff. He'd never made the knowledge public, though. Instead, he'd used it against us with the lust charm he'd made from earth magic. A charm like that wouldn't work if there wasn't already attraction in place. The charm just cranked things up. Dimitri and I had been all over each other and had been only a heartbeat away from having sex. It had been a pretty smart way for Victor to distract us without using violence. If anyone had tried to attack us, we could have put up a good fight. But turn us loose on each other? We had trouble fighting that.

Dimitri was silent for several moments. I knew he knew I had a point. "Then we'll have to deal with that as best we can," he said at last. "But if Victor's going to tell, he's going to do it whether or not you testify."

I refused to say anything else until we got to the church. When we did, Father Andrew told us that after going over some more things, he'd decided he really only needed one more box brought over to Ms. Davis.

"I'll do it," I told Dimitri crisply, once the priest was out of earshot. "You don't have to come."

"Rose, please don't make a big deal about this."

"It is a big deal!" I hissed. "And you don't seem to get it."

"I do get it. Do you really think I want to see Victor loose? Do you think I want us all at risk again?" It was the first time in a long time I'd seen his control on the verge of snapping. "But I told you, I've done all I can do. I'm not like you - I can't keep making a scene when things don't go my way."

"I do not."

"You're doing it right now."

He was right. Some part of me knew I'd crossed a line ... but just like with everything else recently, I couldn't stop talking.

"Why did you even help me today?" I demanded. "Why are you here?"

"Is that so strange?" he asked. He almost looked hurt.

"Yes. I mean, are you are you trying to spy on me? Figure out why I messed up? Make sure I don't get into any trouble?"

He studied me, brushing hair out of his eyes. "Why does there have to be some ulterior motive?"

I wanted to blurt out a hundred different things. Like, if there wasn't a motive, then that meant he just wanted to spend time with me. And that made no sense, because we both knew we were only supposed to have a teacher-student relationship. He of all people should know that. He was the one who'd told me.

"Because everyone has motives."

"Yes. But not always the motives you think." He pushed open the door. "I'll see you later."

I watched him go, my feelings a tangle of confusion and anger. If the situation hadn't been so strange, I would have almost said it was like we'd just gone on a date.

Ten

THE NEXT DAY, MY guardian duties with Christian resumed. Once again, I found my own life put on hold for someone else's.

"How was your penance?" he asked as we walked across campus from his dorm.

I stifled a yawn. I hadn't been able to sleep well last night, both because of my feelings for Dimitri and because of what Father Andrew had told me. Nonetheless, I kept a sharp eye out. This was the location where Stan had attacked us twice before, and besides, the guardians were sick and twisted enough to come after me on a day when I was so exhausted.

"It was okay. The priest let us go early."

"Us?"

"Dimitri came and helped me. I think he felt bad about me being stuck with that work."

"Either that or he has nothing else to do now that he's not doing your extra sessions."

"Maybe, but I doubt it. All in all, I guess it wasn't that bad a day." Unless you considered learning about spiteful ghosts bad.

"I had a great day," said Christian, the smallest amount of smugness in his voice.

I repressed the urge to roll my eyes. "Yeah, I know."

He and Lissa had taken advantage of their guardianless day to take advantage of each other. I supposed I should be glad they'd held off until Eddie and I weren't around, but in a lot of ways, it didn't matter. True, when I was awake, I could block out all of the details, but I still knew what was going on. A bit of the jealousy and anger I'd felt from the last time they'd been together returned. It was the same problem all over again: Lissa doing all the things I couldn't do.


Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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