She was with Adrian, and the two were practicing spirit again. After some initial bumps in the road, Adrian was proving a quick study at healing.

That had been the first of Lissa's powers to manifest, and it always irked her that he made more progress on what she had to teach him than vice versa.

"I'm running out of things for you to heal," she said, setting some tiny potted plants onto a table. "Unless we start cutting off limbs or something."

Adrian smiled. "I used to tease Rose about that, how I was going to impress her by healing amputees or something equally absurd."

"Oh, and I'm sure she had a smartass response for you each time."

"Yes, yes, she did." His face was fond as he recalled the memory. There was a part of me that was always insanely curious to hear them talk about me... yet at the same time, I always felt bad at the grief my name seemed to invoke.

Lissa groaned and stretched out on the carpeted floor. They were in a dorm lounge, and curfew was swiftly approaching. "I want to talk to her, Adrian."

"You can't," he said. There was an unusual seriousness in his voice. "I know she still checks in on you-that's the closest you'll get to talking to her.

And honestly? That's not so bad. You can tell her exactly how you feel."

"Yeah, but I want to hear her talk back like you do in your dreams."

This made him smile again. "She does plenty of talking back, believe me."

Lissa sat up straight. "Do it now."

"Do what now?"

"Go visit her dreams. You always try to explain it to me, but I've never actually seen it. Let me watch."

He stared, at a loss for words. "That's kind of voyeuristic."

"Adrian! I want to learn this, and we've tried everything else. I can feel the magic around you sometimes. Just do it, okay?"

He started to protest again but then bit off his comment after studying her face for a moment. Her words had been sharp and demanding-very uncharacteristic for her. "Okay. I'll try."

The whole idea of Adrian trying to get into my head while I was watching him through Lissa's head was surreal, to say the least. I didn't quite know what to expect from him. I'd always wondered if he had to be asleep or at least have his eyes closed. Apparently not. He instead stared off at nothing, his eyes going vacant as his mind left the world around him. Through Lissa's eyes, I could see some of the magic radiating off him and his aura, and she tried to analyze each strand. Then, without warning, all the magic faded. He blinked and shook his head.

"Sorry. I can't do it."

"Why not?"

"Probably because she's awake. Did you learn anything by watching?"

"A little. Probably would've been more useful if you'd actually made the connection." Again, Lissa had that petulant tone.

"She could be anywhere in the world, you know, on any schedule." His words were smothered by a yawn. "Maybe we can try at different times of the day. I've been getting her... actually, close to this time. Or sometimes I catch her really early in the day."

"She could be close by then," said Lissa.

"Or on a human daylight schedule in some other part of the world."

Her enthusiasm dropped. "Right. That too."

"How come you guys never look like you're working?"

Christian strolled into the room, looking amused at Lissa sitting on the floor and Adrian sprawling on the couch. Standing behind Christian was someone I hadn't thought I'd see anytime soon. Adrian, who could detect women a mile away, also immediately noticed the newcomer.

"Where'd you get the jailbait?" he asked.

Christian shot Adrian a warning look. "This is Jill." Jill Mastrano allowed herself to be nudged forward, her light green eyes impossibly wide as she looked around. "Jill, this is Lissa and Adrian."

Jill was one of the last people I'd expected to see here. I'd met her a little over a month ago. She was in ninth grade, which meant she'd be here on the upper campus in the fall. She had the same super-slim build that most Moroi had, but it was paired with height that was impressive even by vampiric standards. It made her look rail-thin. Her hair fell in light brown curls to the middle of her back and would be beautiful-when she learned how to style it properly. For now, it was kind of messy, and her overall impression-while cute-was kind of awkward.

"H-hi," she said, looking from face to face. As far as she was concerned, these were Moroi gold star celebrities. She'd nearly passed out when she first met me and Dimitri, thanks to our reputations. From her expression, she was in a similar state now.

"Jill wants to learn how to use her power for good instead of evil," said Christian with an exaggerated wink. That was his coy way of saying Jill wanted to learn how to fight with her magic. She'd expressed the interest to me, and I'd told her to find Christian. I was glad she'd had the courage to take me up on my advice. Christian was a campus celebrity too, albeit an infamous one.

"Another recruit?" asked Lissa, shaking her head. "Think you'll keep this one around?"

Jill gave Christian a startled look. "What's that mean?"

"After the attack, lots of people said they wanted to learn to fight with magic," Christian explained. "So they found me, and we worked together... once or twice. Then everyone faded away once it got hard, and they realized they had to keep practicing."

"It doesn't help that you're a mean teacher," pointed out Lissa.

"And so now you've got to recruit among children," said Adrian solemnly.

"Hey," said Jill indignantly. "I'm fourteen." Immediately, she flushed at having spoken so boldly to him. He found it amusing, as he did so many other things.

"My mistake," he said. "What's your element?"


"Fire and water, huh?" Adrian reached into his pocket and pulled out a one-hundred-dollar bill. He snapped it out straight. "Sweetheart, I'll make you a deal. If you can make a bucket of water appear and dump over Christian's head, I'll give you this."

"I'll add in ten," laughed Lissa.

Jill looked stunned, but I suspected it was because Adrian had called her "sweetheart." I took Adrian for granted so often that it was easy to forget he really was a hot guy. Christian pushed Jill toward the door.

"Ignore them. They're just jealous because spirit users can't go charging into battle like we can." He knelt down to Lissa's height on the floor and gave her a quick kiss. "We were practicing in the lounge upstairs, but I've got to walk her back now. I'll see you tomorrow."

"You don't have to," said Jill. "I can get back there fine. I don't want to be any trouble."

Adrian stood up. "You aren't. If anyone's going to step up and be the knight in shining armor here, it might as well be me. I'll take you back and leave the lovebirds to their lovebirding." He gave Jill a grand bow. "Shall we?"

"Adrian-" said Lissa, a sharp note in her voice.

"Oh, come on," he said, rolling his eyes. "I've got to head back anyway-you guys are of no use once curfew comes. And honestly, give me some credit here. Even I have boundaries."

He gave Lissa a meaningful look, one that told her she was an idiot for thinking he was going to hit on Jill. Lissa held his gaze for a few moments and realized he was right. Adrian was a scoundrel at times and had never made his interest in me a secret, but walking Jill home wasn't part of some grand seduction. He really was just being nice.

"All right," said Lissa. "I'll see you later. Nice meeting you, Jill."

"You too," said Jill. She dared a smile at Christian. "Thanks again."

"You better show up for our next practice," he warned.

Adrian and Jill started to step out the door, just as Avery stepped through it.

"Hey, Adrian." Avery gave Jill a once-over. "Who's your jailbait?"

"Will you guys stop calling me that?" exclaimed Jill.

Adrian pointed at Avery chastisingly. "Hush. I'll deal with you later, Lazar."

"I certainly hope so," she said in a singsong voice. "I'll leave the door unlocked."

Jill and Adrian left, and Avery sat down next to Lissa. She seemed animated enough to be drunk, but Lissa smelled no liquor on her. Lissa was rapidly learning that some part of Avery was always just vivacious and carefree, regardless of intoxication.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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