Then a Strigoi would usually cut himself and bring that blood to your lips. Somehow, I imagined I'd pass out before I was even half-drained.

Together forever.

The world blurred a little. I don't know if it was because of my head trauma or the terror coursing through my body. I had envisioned a hundred scenarios when I set out after Dimitri. Becoming a Strigoi hadn't been one of them. Death-his or mine-had been the only thought consuming me, which had been stupid on my part.

My sluggish thoughts were interrupted when the door suddenly opened. Dimitri turned, shoving me away hard so that he stood protectively in front of me. Two people entered, shutting the door before I could even consider running for it. One of the newcomers was a Strigoi, a guy. The other was a human woman carrying a tray, her head bowed down.

I recognized the Strigoi immediately. It was hard not to; his face haunted my dreams. Blond hair, about the length of Dimitri's, hung over the side of a face that looked like he'd been in his early twenties when he turned. He had apparently seen Lissa and me when we were younger, but I had only seen him twice before. Once had been when I fought him on the Academy's grounds. The other time was when I'd encountered him in the cave that other Strigoi were using as a hangout.

He was the one who had bitten and turned Dimitri.

The guy barely spared me a glance and instead turned the full force of his anger on Dimitri. "What the hell is going on?" I had no trouble understanding him. He was American. "You're keeping some pet up here?"

"It's none of your concern, Nathan." Dimitri's voice was ice. Earlier, I'd thought he conveyed no emotion in his words. Now I realized it was just more difficult to detect. There was a clear challenge in his voice now, a warning for this other guy to back off. "Galina gave me permission."

Nathan's eyes drifted from Dimitri to me. His anger turned to shock. "Her?"

Dimitri shifted slightly, putting himself directly in front of me now. Some rebellious part wanted to snap that I didn't need a Strigoi's protection, except... well, I kind of did.

"She was at the school in Montana... We fought..." His lips curled back, showing his fangs. "I would have tasted her blood if that fire-using Moroi brat hadn't been around."

"This doesn't have anything to do with you," replied Dimitri.

Nathan's red eyes were wide and eager. "Are you kidding? She can lead us to the Dragomir girl! If we finish that line off, our names will be legendary. How long are you going to keep her?"

"Get out," growled Dimitri. "That's not a request."

Nathan pointed at me. "She's valuable. If you're going to keep her around as some blood whore plaything, at least share. Then, we'll get the information and finish her."

Dimitri took a step forward. "Get out of here. If you lay a hand on her, I will destroy you. I will rip your head off with my bare hands and watch it burn in the sun."

Nathan's fury grew. "Galina won't allow you to play house with this girl. Even you don't have that much favor."

"Don't make me tell you to leave again. I'm not in a patient mood today."

Nathan said nothing, and the two Strigoi stood there in a staring match. I knew Strigoi strength and power were partially related to age. Nathan had obviously been turned first. I didn't know by how much, but watching them, I got the feeling that Dimitri might be stronger or that it was at least a very, very even match. I could have sworn I saw a glimpse of fear in Nathan's red eyes, but he turned away before I could get a good look.

"This isn't over," he snapped, moving toward the door. "I'm talking to Galina."

He left, and for a moment, nobody moved or spoke. Then Dimitri looked at the human woman and said something in Russian. She'd been standing there, frozen.

Leaning over, she carefully placed her tray on the coffee table by the couch. She lifted a silver lid up, revealing a plate of pepperoni pizza loaded with cheese. Under any other circumstances, someone bringing me pizza in a Strigoi home would have been ludicrous and funny. Now, in the wake of Dimitri's threat to turn me Strigoi and Nathan's desire to use me to get to Lissa, nothing was funny. Even Rose Hathaway had limits when it came to making jokes. Next to the pizza was a huge brownie, thick with frosting. Food I loved, as Dimitri well knew.

"Lunch," he said. "Not poisoned."

Everything on the tray looked amazing, but I shook my head. "I'm not going to eat."

He arched an eyebrow. "Do you want something else?"

"I don't want anything else because I'm not going to eat anything at all. If you aren't going to kill me, then I'll do it myself." It was occurring to me that the suite's lack of weapons was probably for my own protection as much as theirs.

"By starving to death?" There was dark amusement in his eyes. "I'll awaken you long before then."

"Why aren't you just doing it now?"

"Because I'd rather wait for you to be willing." Man, he really did sound like Abe, except that breaking one's kneecaps seemed kind of soft-core in comparison.

"You're going to be waiting a long time," I said.

Dimitri laughed out loud then. His laughter had been rare as a dhampir, and hearing it had always thrilled me. Now it no longer had that rich warmth that had wrapped all around me. It was cold and menacing. "We'll see."

And before I could form a reply, he moved in front of me again. His hand snaked behind my neck, shoving me against him, and he tilted my face up, pressing his lips against mine. They were as cold as the rest of his skin... and yet there was something warm in there, too. Some voice in me screamed that this was sick and horrible... but at the same time, I lost track of the world around me as we kissed and could almost pretend we were back together in the cabin.

He pulled away as quickly as he'd moved in, leaving me gasping and wide-eyed. Casually, like nothing had happened, he gestured to the woman.

"This is Inna." She looked up at the sound of her name, and I saw she was no older than me. "She works for Galina too and will check in on you. If you need anything, let her know. She doesn't speak much English, but she'll figure it out." He said something else to her, and she meekly followed him to the door.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I have things to do. Besides, you need time to think."

"There's nothing to think about." I forced as much defiance into my words as I could.

It must not have sounded very fierce, though, because all my speech earned me was one mocking smile before he left with Inna, leaving me alone in my luxurious prison.

Chapter Nineteen

For someone who had preached to Denis about impulse control, I wasn't setting a very good example. Once left alone in the suite, I continued trying everything possible to get out-emphasis on the "try" part.

Nathan had acted like keeping a prisoner was a rare thing, but from what I could tell, this place had been built to hold people in. The door and window remained impassible, no matter how hard I beat at them or threw objects against them. I didn't bother with the chair this time and instead used one of the living room's end tables, hoping it would carry some extra heft. It didn't. When that didn't work, I actually tried entering random codes into the door's keypad. Also useless.

Finally, exhausted, I collapsed onto the leather sofa and tried to assess my options. The process didn't take very long. I was trapped in a house full of Strigoi. Okay, I didn't know that for sure, but I knew there were at least three here, which was far too many for me. Dimitri had referred to this place as an "estate," which I didn't find comforting. Estates were big. The fact that I appeared to be on the fourth floor was proof of that. A big place meant that there could be lots of room for lots of vampires.

The one comfort I had was that Strigoi didn't cooperate very well. Finding large groups of them working together was rare. I'd observed it a couple of times-the attack on the Academy being one such occasion. They'd come then because the school's wards had dropped, and that had been a big enough incentive for the Strigoi to unite. Even when they did try to work together, the unions were usually short-lived. The friction I'd observed between Dimitri and Nathan was proof of that.


I closed my eyes. Dimitri was the reason I was here. I'd come to free him from this state of living death and had promptly failed, just as he'd said.

Now, it appeared I might be on the verge of joining him. Yeah, good job, Rose. I shivered, trying to imagine myself as one of them. Red rings around my pupils. Tanned skin gone pale. I couldn't picture it, and I supposed I'd never have to actually see myself if it happened. Strigoi cast no reflections. It would make doing my hair a real pain in the ass.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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