Unlikely, seeing as most of these girls didn't require much urging.

Abe gave me that annoying knowing smile of his. "I see your friend is off to an interesting night. I had no idea Viktoria had such lovely legs. Now everyone knows, thanks to that dress."

I clenched my fists and leaned toward him. "Don't you dare talk about her like that, old man."

"I'm not saying anything that isn't obvious to everybody else. It'll certainly be obvious to young Rolan soon."

"You don't know anything about them!" Yet I didn't believe my own words, not after seeing them walk off together. Abe, I could tell, knew what I was thinking.

"These girls all say it won't happen to them. But it always does. It's what'll happen to you if you stay."

"Oh, here we are," I said mockingly. "I knew a threat had to be coming. The part where you order me again to leave the country or else bad, bad things will happen."

He gestured toward the door, where more Moroi and dhampirs were going. "I don't even need to make anything bad happen. You'll do it on your own by staying here. You'll waste your life away, running errands for Olena Belikova. Potlucks will become the most exciting thing in your world."

"They're good people," I growled. "Don't mock them."

"Oh, I'm not denying that." He straightened his silk scarf. "They are good people. But they aren't your people. This is a fantasy. You're deluding yourself." He was all sternness now. "Your grief has sent you here. Your man was ripped away from you, and you've ripped yourself away from your old friends. You're trying to make up for it by convincing yourself that this is your family, that this is your home. They're not. This isn't."

"I could make this my home." I still wasn't sure of that, but my stubborn nature made me want to contradict him.

"You aren't meant for Baia," he said, dark eyes blazing. "You're meant for better things. You need to go back home, back to your school and the Dragomir princess."

"How the hell do you know about her? Who are you? When are you going to tell me who you work for? What do you want with me?" I had a feeling I was on the verge of hysterics. Hearing him refer to Lissa snapped something inside of me.

"I'm merely an observer who can tell you're wasting your time here. This is no life for you, Rose. Your life is back in the States. They say you were on track to be a great guardian. Do you know what an honor it is to be assigned to the last Dragomir? You could spend your life in elite, powerful circles. The reputation you've already gained will raise you in status and regard. You have a stunning career ahead of you, and it's not too late to go back to it. Not yet."

"Who are you to talk about how I should live my life? I've heard that your hands are bloody-Zmey. You're not exactly a good role model. What is it you're involved in, anyway?"

"My own affairs. And it's exactly because of the life I lead that you should listen to me when I say abandon this path and go back home."

His words were urgent and authoritative, and I couldn't believe he had the audacity to talk to me like that. "That's not my life anymore," I said icily.

He gave a harsh laugh and gestured around us once more. "What, and this is? You want to go off and be a blood whore like your friend in there?"

"Don't call her that!" I shouted. "I don't care if you've got bodyguards or not. I will hurt you, old man, if you say anything else about Viktoria."

He didn't flinch at my explosion. "That was harsh, I admit. She's not a blood whore. Not yet. But she's one step away from it. As I said, it always happens in the end. Even if you aren't used by someone like Rolan Kislyak-and believe me, he will use her, just like he did her sister-you'll still end up alone with a baby you're way too young for."

"Her... wait." I froze. "Are you saying he's the guy who got Sonya pregnant? Why would Viktoria be involved with him after he did that and left her sister?"

"Because she doesn't know. Sonya doesn't talk about it, and Mr. Kislyak thinks it's a game, getting two sisters into bed. Too bad for him that Karolina's smarter than the others or he could have had them all. Who knows?" He gave me a sardonic smile. "Maybe he'll consider you part of the family enough to go after you next."

"Like hell. I'd never get involved with anyone like that. I'm never going to be involved with anyone again. Not after Dimitri."

Abe's sternness gave way to momentary amusement. "Oh, Rose. You are young. You've barely lived. Everyone thinks their first love is the only one they'll ever have."

This guy was really pissing me off, but I gained enough control to decide I wasn't going to punch him. At least, I didn't think so. I backed up a little, toward the building. "I'm not going to play your game here. And you can tell whoever you're working for that I'm not playing theirs either and that I'm not going back." One way or another, whether it was to hunt Dimitri or live with his family, I was staying in Russia. "You're going to have to box me up and ship me there."

Not that I wanted to give Abe any ideas. I suspected he could do it if he wanted. Damn it. Who was behind this? Who would want to find me badly enough to send this guy after me? Weirder still, whoever it was was someone who cared enough about me to attempt reason. If Abe had actually wanted to abduct me, he already would have. He could have done it the night he brought me to Baia. All he would have had to do was keep driving to the nearest airport. I eventually needed to figure this out, but first I needed to get away from Abe.

I backed up further. "I'm leaving, and you can't stop me. And don't spy on me anymore. This ends now."

Abe studied me for several seconds, his dark eyes narrowed thoughtfully. I could practically see the wheels of plots and world domination spinning in his head. At last he said, so quietly I could hardly hear him, "It won't end with them, though."


He pointed at the door. "Viktoria and Rolan."

"What are you getting at?"

"You know what I'm getting at. She thinks she's in love with him. He knows she'll be back in school tomorrow. Tonight's his last chance with her, and he won't waste it. There are lots of bedrooms in there. They're probably in one right now."

I tried to control my breathing. "Then I'll go tell her mother."

"It'll be too late. She'd never find them in time, and tomorrow, Viktoria will be on her way to school-and he'll have no interest anymore. What can her mother do after the fact? Ground her?"

I was getting angry, largely because I had a feeling he was right. "Fine. Then I'll drag her off myself."

"That'll never happen. She wants to do this. She won't leave with you. Even if she did, she'd just find him again."

I eyed him. "Enough. You're obviously hinting at something, so just get on with it."

He smiled, apparently pleased at my astuteness-or maybe my bluntness. "If you want to save her, you've got to go through him. Through Rolan."

I scoffed. "Not likely. The only way he'd leave her alone is if I offered to take her place." And hey, friendship only went so far.

"Not if I talk to him."

"What are you going to do, give him a talk on morality and sway him with reason?"

"Oh, I'll sway him, all right. But believe me, I won't do it with reason-well, at least not the kind you're thinking of. If I tell him to leave her alone, he'll leave her alone. For good."

I stepped backward without realizing it and hit the wall. Abe looked scary as hell. Zmey. I didn't doubt his words at all. He could get Rolan to leave Viktoria alone. In fact, he probably wouldn't even use his dhampirs. Abe could deliver enough terror-and probably a good punch-to make it happen.

"Why would you do that for me?" I asked.

"As a sign of good faith. Promise to leave Baia, and I'll deal with him." His eyes gleamed. Both of us could feel the net closing around me.

"That's your tactic now? You're offering me a trade? My leaving isn't really worth you scaring some Moroi ass**le."

The net grew tighter. "Isn't it, Rose?"

Frantically, I thought about what to do. Some part of me thought Viktoria was free to make her own choices, to love whom she wanted... but I knew for a fact that Rolan didn't love her. She was a conquest for him, as shown by his willingness to go after me-and Sonya, apparently. What would happen to Viktoria? Would she become like the rest of the women here? Would she be the next Belikov to have a baby? Even if she had no intentions of becoming a guardian, this wasn't the right path for her. Karolina had declined to join the guardians and now lived a respectable life with her kids and a job that-if not exciting-was steady and allowed her to keep her dignity. I couldn't let Viktoria turn down a road that could ruin the rest of her life. I couldn't let that happen to Dimitri's sister.

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