"I'm leaving the Academy," I said finally.

"Also unexpected. You're only a few months out from graduation."

I met his eyes. "It doesn't matter. I have things to do now."

"I never figured you'd be one of the dropout guardians. You going to join the blood whores?"

"No," I said. "Of course not."

"Don't act so offended. That's not an unreasonable assumption. If you're not going to be a guardian, what else are you going to do?"

"I told you. I have things I have to take care of."

He arched an eyebrow. "Things that are going to get you into trouble?"

I shrugged. He laughed.

"Stupid question, huh? Everything you do gets you in trouble." He propped his elbow up on the couch's arm and rested his chin in his hand. "Why'd you come to me for money?"

"Because you have it."

This also made him laugh. "And why do you think I'll give it to you?"

I didn't say anything. I just looked at him, forcing as much womanly charm as I could into my expression. His smile went away, and his green eyes narrowed in frustration. He jerked his gaze away.

"Damn it, Rose. Don't do that. Not now. You're playing on how I feel about you. That's not fair." He gulped more vodka.

He was right. I'd come to him because I thought I could use his crush to get what I wanted. It was low, but I had no choice. Getting up, I moved over and sat beside him. I held his hand.

"Please, Adrian," I said. "Please help me. You're the only one I can go to."

"That's not fair," he repeated, slurring his words a little. "You're using those come-hither eyes on me, but it's not me you want. It's never been me. It's always been Belikov, and God only knows what you'll do now that he's gone."

He was right about that too. "Will you help me?" I asked, still playing up the charisma. "You're the only one I could talk to ... the only one who really understands me...."

"Are you coming back?" he countered.


Tipping his head back, he exhaled a heavy breath. His hair, which I'd always thought looked stylishly messy, simply looked messy today. "Maybe it's for the best if you leave. Maybe you'll get over him faster if you go away for a while. Wouldn't hurt to be away from Lissa's aura either. It might slow yours from darkening - stop this rage you always seem to be in. You need to be happier. And stop seeing ghosts."

My seduction faltered for a moment. "Lissa isn't why I'm seeing ghosts. Well, she is, but not in the way you think. I see the ghosts because I'm shadow-kissed. I'm tied to the world of the dead, and the more I kill, the stronger that connection becomes. It's why I see the dead and why I feel weird when Strigoi are near. I can sense them now. They're tied to that world too."

He frowned. "You're saying the auras mean nothing? That you aren't taking away the effects of spirit?"

"No. That's happening too. That's why this has all been so confusing. I thought there was just one thing going on, but there've been two. I see the ghosts because of being shadow-kissed. I'm getting... upset and angry... bad, even... because I'm taking away Lissa's dark side. That's why my aura's darkening, why I'm getting so enraged lately. Right now, it just sort of plays out as a really bad temper...." I frowned, thinking of the night Dimitri had stopped me from going after Jesse. "But I don't know what it'll turn into next."

Adrian sighed. "Why is everything so complicated with you?"

"Will you help me? Please, Adrian?" I ran my fingers along his hand. "Please help me."

Low, low. This was so low of me, but it didn't matter. Only Dimitri did.

Finally, Adrian looked back at me. For the first time ever, he looked vulnerable. "When you come back, will you give me a fair shot?"

I hid my surprise. "What do you mean?"

"It's like I said. You've never wanted me, never even considered me. The flowers, the flirting ... it rolled right off you. You were so gone for him, and nobody noticed. If you go do your thing, will you take me seriously? Will you give me a chance when you return?"

I stared. I definitely hadn't expected this. My initial instinct was to say no, that I could never love anybody again, that my heart had been shattered along with that piece of my soul that Dimitri held. But Adrian was looking at me so earnestly, and there was none of his joking nature. He meant what he said, and I realized all the affection for me he'd always teased about hadn't been a joke either. Lissa had been right about his feelings.

"Will you?" he repeated.

God only knows what you'll do now that he's gone.

"Of course." Not an honest answer, but a necessary one.

Adrian looked away and drank more vodka. There wasn't much left. "When are you leaving?"


Setting the bottle down, he stood up and walked off into the bedroom. He returned with a large stack of cash. I wondered if he kept it under his bed or something. He handed it to me wordlessly and then picked up the phone and made some calls. The sun was up, and the human world, which handled most Moroi money, was also up and awake.

I tried to watch TV while he talked, but I couldn't concentrate. I kept wanting to scratch the back of my neck. Because there was no way of knowing exactly how many Strigoi I and the others had killed, we'd all been given a different kind of tattoo instead of the usual set of molnija marks. I'd forgotten its name, but this tattoo looked like a little star. It meant that the bearer had been in a battle and killed many Strigoi.

When he finally finished his calls, Adrian handed me a piece of paper. It had the name and address of a bank in Missoula.

"Go there," he said. "I'm guessing you have to go to Missoula first anyway if you're actually going on to anywhere civilized. There's an account set up for you with ... a lot of money in it. Talk to them, and they'll finish the paperwork with you."

I stood up and stuffed the bills in my jacket. "Thank you," I said.

Without hesitating, I reached out and hugged him. The scent of vodka was overpowering, but I felt I owed him. I was taking advantage of his feelings for me in order to further my own devices. He put his arms around me and held me for several seconds before letting go. I brushed my lips against his cheek as we broke apart, and I thought he might stop breathing.

"I won't forget this," I murmured in his ear.

"I don't suppose you'll tell me where you're going?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I'm sorry."

"Just keep your promise and come back."

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