The counselor, whose name was Deirdre, wrote something in her notebook. She was blond and Moroi-slim, clad in a teal cashmere sweater dress. She actually didn't look much older than me, but certificates on her desk swore she had all sorts of degrees in psychotherapy. Her office was in the administrative building, the same place the headmistress's office was, and where all other sorts of Academy business was conducted. I'd kind of been hoping for a couch to lie on, like therapists always had on TV, but the best I had was a chair. It was a comfy chair, at least. The walls were covered in nature pictures, things like butterflies and daffodils. I guess they were supposed to be soothing.

"Do you want to elaborate on 'so-so'?" Deirdre asked.

"It's an upgrade. A month ago I would have said 'horrible.' What's this have to do with Mason?"

"Do you want to talk about Mason?"

I'd noticed she had a habit of answering my questions with questions.

"I don't know," I admitted. "I guess that's what I'm here for."

"How do you feel about him? About his death?"

"Sad. How else should I feel?"


I thought about the Strigoi, their leering faces and casual attitudes toward killing. "Yeah, a little."


"Sure, of course."

"Why 'of course'?"

"Because it's my fault he was there. I'd upset him...and he had this thing to prove. I told him where the Strigoi were, and I wasn't supposed to. If he hadn't known about them, he wouldn't have done it. He'd still be alive."

"You don't think he was responsible for his own actions? That he was the one who chose to do that?"

"Well... yeah. I guess he did. I didn't make him do it."

"Any other reason you might feel guilty?"

I looked away from her and focused on a picture of a ladybug. "He liked me - like romantically. We kind of dated, but I couldn't get into it. That hurt him."

"Why couldn't you get into it?"

"I don't know," I said. The image of his body, lying on the floor, flashed into my mind and I shoved it away. No way would I cry in front of Deirdre. "That's the thing. I should have. He was nice. He was funny. We got along really well ... but it just didn't feel right. Even kissing or anything like that... I eventually just couldn't do it."

"Do you feel like you have a problem with intimate contact?"

"What do you - ? Oh. No! Of course not."

"Have you ever had sex with anyone?"

"No. Are you saying I should have?"

"Do you think you should have?"

Damn. I'd thought I had her. I'd thought for sure she wouldn't have a question for that one. "Mason wasn't the right person."

"Is there someone else? Someone you think might be the right person?"

I hesitated. I'd lost track of how this related to me seeing ghosts. According to some paperwork I'd signed, everything we said in here was confidential. She couldn't tell anyone unless I was a danger to myself or doing something illegal. I wasn't entirely sure where a relationship with an older man fell there.

"Yeah...but I can't tell you who he is."

"How long have you known him?"

"Almost six months."

"Do you feel close?"

"Yeah, sure. But we're not..." How exactly did one describe this? "We're not actually really involved. He's kind of ... unavailable." She could think what she wanted about that, like that maybe I was interested in a guy with a girlfriend.

"Is he the reason you couldn't get close to Mason?"


"And is he holding you back from dating someone else?"

"Well... he's not like purposely doing anything."

"But as long as you care about him, you're not interested in anyone else?"

"Right. But it doesn't matter. I probably shouldn't even be dating anyone at all."

"Why not?"

"Because there's no time. I'm training to be a guardian. I have to give all my attention to Lissa."

"And you don't think you can do that and be romantically involved with someone?"

I shook my head. "No. I have to be willing to lay down my life for hers. I can't be distracted by someone else. We have this saying with the guardians: 'They come first.' You guys. Moroi."

"And so you figure you'll always have to put Lissa's needs ahead of yours?"

"Of course." I frowned. "What else would I do? I'm going to be her guardian."

"How does that make you feel? Giving up what you want for her?"

"She's my best friend. And she's the last of her family."

"That's not what I asked."

"Yeah, but - " I stopped. "Hey, you didn't ask a question."

"You think I always ask questions?"

"Never mind. Look, I love Lissa. I'm happy to spend my life protecting her. End of story. Besides, are you, a Moroi, going to tell me, a dhampir, that I shouldn't be putting Moroi first? You know how the system works."

"I do," she said. "But I'm not here to analyze it. I'm here to help you get better."

"Seems like you might not be able to do one without the other."

Deirdre's lips quirked into a smile, and then her eyes flicked to the clock. "We're out of time today. We'll have to pick this up next time."

I crossed my arms over my chest. "I thought you'd be giving me some kind of awesome advice or telling me what to do. But you just kept making me talk."

She laughed softly. "Therapy isn't so much about what I think as you do."

"Then why do it at all?"

"Because we don't always know what it is we're thinking or feeling. When you have a guide, it's easier to figure things out. You'll often discover that you already know what to do. I can help you ask questions and go places you might not have on your own."

"Well, you're good at the question part," I noted dryly.

"While I don't have any 'awesome advice,' I do have some things I want you to think about for when we talk again." She glanced down at her notepad and tapped it with her pencil while she thought. "First, I want you to think again about what I asked about Lissa - how you really feel about dedicating your life to her."

"I already told you."

"I know. Just think about it some more. If your answer's the same, that's fine. Then, I want you to consider something else. I want you to think about whether maybe the reason you're attracted to this unavailable guy is because he's unavailable."

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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