"No," I gasped out. "You don't think..."

A tear leaked out of my mother's eye. I'd never seen anything like that from her. "I don't know what to think, Rose. If he survived, it's possible...it's possible they took him for later."

The thought of Dimitri as a "snack" was too horrible for words - but it wasn't as horrible as the alternative. We both knew it.

"But they wouldn't have taken Molly for later. She'd been dead a while."

My mother nodded. "I'm sorry, Rose. We can't know for sure. It's likely they're both just dead, and the Strigoi dragged their bodies off."

She was lying. It was the first time in my entire life that my mother had ever told me a lie to protect me. She wasn't the comforting kind, wasn't the kind who would make up pretty stories in order to make someone feel better. She always told the harsh truth.

Not this time.

I stopped walking, and the group continued filing past me. Lissa caught up, worried and confused.

"What's happening?" she asked.

I didn't answer. Instead, I turned and ran backwards, back toward the wards. She ran after me, calling my name. No one else noticed us because honestly, who in the world was stupid enough to cross the wards after everything that had happened?

I was, although in daylight, I had nothing to fear. I ran past the place Jesse's group had attacked her, stepping across the invisible lines that marked the boundaries of the Academy's grounds. Lissa hesitated a moment and then joined me. She was breathless from running after me.

"Rose, what are you - "

"Mason!" I cried. "Mason, I need you."

It took him a little while to materialize. This time, he not only seemed ultra-pale, he also appeared to be flickering, like a light about to go out. He stood there, watching me, and although his expression was the same as always, I had the weirdest feeling that he knew what I was going to ask. Lissa, beside me, kept glancing back and forth between me and the spot I was speaking to.

"Mason, is Dimitri dead?"

Mason shook his head.

"Is he alive?"

Mason shook his head.

Neither alive nor dead. The world swam around me, sparkles of color dancing before my eyes. The lack of food had made me dizzy, and I was on the verge of fainting. I had to stay in control here. I had to ask the next question. Out of all the victims...out of all the victims they could have chosen, surely they wouldn't have picked him.

The next words stuck in my throat, and I sank to my knees as I spoke them.

"Is he ... is Dimitri a Strigoi?"

Mason hesitated only a moment, like he was afraid to answer me, and then - he nodded.

My heart shattered. My world shattered.

You will lose what you value most....

It hadn't been me that Rhonda was talking about. It hadn't even been Dimitri's life.

What you value most.

It had been his soul.


NEARLY A WEEK LATER, I showed up at Adrian's door.

We hadn't had classes since the attack, but our normal curfew hours were still in effect, and it was almost bedtime. Adrian's face registered complete and total shock when he saw me. It was the first time I'd ever sought him out, rather than vice versa.

"Little dhampir," he said, stepping aside. "Come in."

I did, and was nearly overwhelmed by the smell of alcohol as I passed him. The Academy's guest housing was nice, but he clearly hadn't done much to keep his suite clean. I had a feeling he'd probably been drinking nonstop since the attack. The TV was on, and a small table by the couch held a half-empty bottle of vodka. I picked it up and read the label. It was in Russian.

"Bad time?" I asked, setting it back down.

"Never a bad time for you," he told me gallantly. His face looked haggard. He was still as good-looking as ever, but there were dark circles under his eyes like he hadn't been sleeping well. He waved me toward an armchair and sat down on the couch. "Haven't seen much of you."

I leaned back. "I haven't wanted to be seen," I admitted.

I'd hardly spoken to anyone since the attack. I'd spent a lot of time by myself or with Lissa. I took comfort from being around her, but we hadn't said much. She understood that I needed to process things and had simply been there for me, not pushing me on things I didn't want to talk about - even though there were a dozen things she wanted to ask.

The Academy's dead had been honored in one group memorial service, although their families had made arrangements for each person's respective funeral. I'd gone to the larger service. The chapel had been packed, with standing room only. Father Andrew had read the names of the dead, listing Dimitri and Molly among them. No one was talking about what had really happened to them. There was too much other grief anyway. We were drowning in it. No one even knew how the Academy would pick up the pieces and start running again.

"You look worse than I do," I told Adrian. "I didn't think that was possible."

He brought the bottle to his lips and took a long drink. "Nah, you always look good. As for me ... well, it's hard to explain. The auras are getting to me. There's so much sorrow around here. You can't even begin to understand. It radiates from everyone on a spiritual level. It's overwhelming. It makes your dark aura downright cheerful."

"Is that why you're drinking?"

"Yup. It's shut my aura-vision right off, thankfully, so I can't give you a report today." He offered me the bottle, and I shook my head. He shrugged and took another drink. "So what can I do for you, Rose? I have a feeling you aren't here to check on me."

He was right, and I only felt a little bad about what I was here for. I'd done a lot of thinking this last week. Processing my grief for Mason had been hard. In fact, I hadn't even really quite resolved it when the ghost business had started. Now I had to mourn all over again. After all, more than Dimitri had been lost. Teachers had died, guardians and Moroi alike. None of my close friends had died, but people I knew from classes had. They'd been students at the Academy as long as I had, and it was weird to think I'd never see them again. That was a lot of loss to deal with, a lot of people to say goodbye to.

But... Dimitri. He was a different case. After all, how did you say goodbye to someone who wasn't exactly gone? That was the problem.

"I need money," I told Adrian, not bothering with pretense.

He arched an eyebrow. "Unexpected. From you, at least. I get that kind of request a lot from others. Pray tell, what would I be funding?"

I glanced away from him, focusing on the television. It was a commercial for some kind of deodorant.

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