At first I thought that was strange, until I raced back out to the main room and looked around. There was absolutely nothing here that could be turned into a weapon. The TV was too big to move or break, short of cracking the screen, which looked like it was made of some high-tech plastic.

There was no glass in any of the tables. The shelves were embedded. The bottles in the refrigerator were all plastic. And the window...

I ran over to it, feeling along its edges. Like the mirror, it was fitted perfectly into the wall. There were no panes. It was one smooth piece.

Squinting again, I finally got a detailed view of my outer surroundings and saw... nothing. The land appeared to be rolling plains, with only a few scattered trees. It reminded me of the wilderness I'd traveled while going to Baia. I was no longer in Novosibirsk, apparently. And peering down, I saw that I was fairly high up. Fourth floor, maybe. Whatever it was, it was too high to jump without breaking a limb. Still, I had to take some sort of action. I couldn't just sit here.

I picked up the desk's chair and slammed it into the window-and achieved little effect on either the chair or the glass. "Jesus Christ," I muttered. I tried three more times and still had no luck. It was like they were both made of steel. Maybe the glass was some kind of bulletproof industrial strength stuff. And the chair... well, hell if I knew. It was all one piece of wood and showed no signs of splintering, even after what I'd just put it through. But since I'd spent my whole life doing things that weren't that reasonable, I kept trying to break the glass.

I was on my fifth try when my stomach warned me of a Strigoi's approach. Spinning around, I kept a hold of the chair and charged the door. It opened, and I slammed into the intruder, with the chair's legs pointing out.

It was Dimitri.

Those same conflicted feelings I'd felt on the street returned to me, love mingled with terror. This time, I pushed through the love, not flinching in my attack. Not that it did much good. Hitting him was like hitting the window. He shoved me back, and I staggered, still holding onto the chair. I kept my balance and charged once more. This time, when we collided, he grabbed a hold of the chair and ripped it from my hands. He then tossed it into the wall, like it weighed nothing.

Without that meager weapon, it was back to relying on my own body's strength. I'd been doing it for the last couple of weeks with our Strigoi questioning; this should have been the same. Of course, I'd had four other people then as backup. And none of those Strigoi had been Dimitri.

Even as a dhampir, he'd been hard to beat. Now he was just as skilled-only faster and stronger. He also knew all my moves, seeing as he'd taught them to me. It was almost impossible to surprise him.

But just like with the window, I couldn't stay inactive. I was trapped in a room-the fact that it was a big, luxurious room didn't matter-with a Strigoi. A Strigoi. That's what I had to keep telling myself. There was a Strigoi in here. Not Dimitri. Everything I'd told Denis and the others applied here. Be smart. Be vigilant. Defend yourself.

"Rose," he said, deflecting one of my kicks effortlessly. "You're wasting time. Stop."

Oh, that voice. Dimitri's voice. The voice I heard when I fell asleep at night, the voice that had once told me he loved me...

No! It's not him. Dimitri is gone. This is a monster.

Desperately, I tried to think of how I could win here. I even thought of the ghosts I'd summoned on the road. Mark had said I could do that in moments of wild emotion and that they'd fight for me. This was as wild as emotion could get, yet I couldn't seem to call them. I honestly had no clue how I'd done it before, and all the wishing in the world couldn't make it happen now. Damn. What good were terrifying powers if I couldn't use them to my advantage?

Instead, I pulled the DVD player off its shelf, cords ripping from the wall. It wasn't much of a weapon, but I was desperate now. I heard a strange, primal battle scream, and some distant part of me realized I was making it. Again, I ran at Dimitri, swinging the DVD player as hard as I could. It probably would have hurt a little-if it had hit him. It didn't. He intercepted it again, taking it from me, and throwing it down. It smashed to pieces on the floor. In the same motion, he grabbed a hold of my arms to stop me from hitting or reaching for something else. His grip was hard, like it could break my bones, but I kept struggling.

He tried reason again. "I'm not going to hurt you. Roza, please stop."

Roza. The old nickname. The name he'd first called me when we'd fallen prey to Victor's lust charm, both of us wrapped na**d in each other's arms ...

This isn't the Dimitri you knew.

My hands were incapacitated, so I struck out with my legs and feet as best I could. It didn't do much. Without full use of the rest of my body for balance, I had no force to throw into my kicks. For his part, he looked more annoyed than truly concerned or angry. With a loud sigh, he grabbed me by the shoulders and flipped me around, pressing me against the wall and immobilizing me with the full force of his body. I struggled a little but was as pinned as the Strigoi had been when the others and I had gone hunting. The universe had a sick sense of humor.

"Stop fighting me." His breath was warm against my neck, his body right up against mine. I knew his mouth was only a couple inches away. "I'm not going to hurt you."

I gave another fruitless shove. My breath was coming in ragged gasps, and my head injury throbbed. "You'll have to understand if I have a hard time believing that."

"If I wanted you dead, you'd be dead. Now, if you're going to keep fighting, I'll have to tie you up. If you stop, I'll let you stay unrestrained."

"Aren't you afraid I'll escape?"

"No." His voice was perfectly calm, and chills ran down my spine. "I am not."

We stood like that for almost a minute, deadlocked. My mind raced. It was true that he probably would have killed me already if that were his intent, yet that gave me no reason to believe I was even remotely safe. Nonetheless, we were at a draw in this fight. Okay, draw wasn't entirely accurate. I was at a draw. He was toying with me. My head was throbbing where his blow had landed, and this pointless fighting would only take a further toll. I had to regain my strength in order to find a way to escape-if I lived that long. I also needed to stop thinking about how close our bodies were. After our months of being so careful not to touch, this much contact was heady.

I relaxed in his hold. "Okay."

He hesitated before letting me go, probably wondering if he could trust me. The whole moment reminded me of when we'd been together in the little cabin on the periphery of the Academy's grounds. I'd been raging and upset, brimming with spirit's darkness. Dimitri had held me down then, too, and talked me out of that horrible state. We had kissed, then his hands had lifted my shirt, and-no, no. Not here. I couldn't think about that here.

Dimitri finally eased up, releasing me from the wall. I turned around, and all my instincts wanted to lash out and attack him again. Sternly, I reminded myself to bide my time so that I could gain more strength and information. Even though he'd let me go, he hadn't moved away. We were only a foot apart. Against my better judgment, I found myself taking him in again, like I had on the street. How could he be the same and yet so different? I tried my best not to focus on the similarities-his hair, the difference in our heights, the shape of his face. Instead, I concentrated on the Strigoi features, the red in his eyes and pallor of his skin.

I was so fixated on my task that it took me a moment to realize he wasn't saying anything either. He was studying me intently, like his eyes could look right through me. I shivered. It almost-almost!-seemed as though I captivated him the same way he captivated me. That was impossible, though. Strigoi didn't possess those kinds of emotions, and besides, the thought of him still having any affection for me was probably just wishful thinking on my part. His face had always been hard to read, and now it was overlaid with a mask of cunning and coldness that made it truly impossible to know what was on his mind.

"Why did you come here?" he asked at last.

"Because you hit me on the head and dragged me here." If I was going to die, I was going to go in true Rose style.

The old Dimitri would have cracked a smile or given an exasperated sigh. This one remained impassive. "That's not what I meant, and you know it.

Why are you here?" His voice was low and dangerous. I'd thought Abe was scary, but there was no competition at all. Even Zmey would have backed off.

"In Siberia? I came to find you."

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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