"No," he agreed. "But it'll be worth it. We can do so much more..."

He left the "so much more" to my imagination, and a pleasant shiver ran through me. The kissing and blood taking were intoxicating, but there were some days that I did want, well... more. The memories of the one time we'd made love haunted me when we were this close together, and I often longed to do it again. For whatever reason, he never pushed for sex, no matter how passionate things became. I wasn't sure if he was using that as a lure for me to turn or if there was some incompatibility between a Strigoi and a dhampir. Could the living and the dead do that?

Once, I would have found the thought of sex with one of them absolutely repulsive. Now... I just didn't think about the complications so much.

But although he didn't attempt sex, he would often taunt me with his caresses, touching my thighs and sternum and other dangerous places. Plus, he would remind me of what it had been like that one time, how amazing it had been, how our bodies had felt... His talk of such things was more taunting than affectionate, though.

In my semi-clear moments, I honestly thought it was strange that I hadn't yet consented to becoming Strigoi. The endorphin fog made me agree to almost everything else he wanted. I'd fallen comfortably into dressing up for him, staying in my gilded prison, and accepting that he took a victim every couple days. Yet even in my most incoherent moments, even when I wanted him so badly, I couldn't agree to turning. There was some intrinsic part of me that refused to budge. Most of the time, he would shrug off my refusal, like it was a joke. But every once in a while when I declined, I'd see a spark of anger in his eyes. Those moments scared me.

"Here it comes," I teased. "The sales pitch. Eternal life. Invincible. Nothing to stand in our way."

"It's not a joke," he said. Oops. My flippancy had brought that hardness back to him. The desire and fondness that I'd just seen now fractured into a million pieces and blew away. The hands that had just stroked me suddenly grabbed my wrists and held me in place as he leaned down. "We can't stay like this forever. You can't stay here forever."

Whoa, that voice said. Be careful. That doesn't sound good. His grip hurt, and I often wondered if that was his intent or if he just couldn't help his violence.

When he finally released me, I wrapped my arm around his neck and tried to kiss him. "Can't we talk about that later?" Our lips met, fire blossoming between us and urgency coursing through my body. I could tell he had a matching desire, but a few seconds later, he broke away. The cold annoyance was still on his face.

"Come on," he said, pulling away from me. "Let's go."

He stood up, and I stared stupidly. "Where are we going?"


I sat up on the bed, dumbfounded. "Out... outside? But... that's not allowed. We can't."

"We can do anything I want," he snapped.

He extended his hand and helped me up. I followed him to the door. He was as skilled as Inna at blocking me from the keypad, not that it mattered now. There was no way I could ever remember that long of a sequence anymore.

The door clicked open, and he led me out. I stared in wonder, my dazed brain still trying to process this freedom. As I'd noticed that one day, the door led to a short corridor blocked by another door. It too was heavy and bore a keypad lock. Dimitri opened it, and I was willing to bet the two doors had different codes.

Taking my arm, he guided me through that door and into another hallway. Despite his firm hold, I couldn't help but come to a standstill. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised at the opulence I suddenly faced. After all, I was living in this place's penthouse suite. But the corridor leading out of my room had been stark and industrial-looking, and somehow I'd imagined the rest of the house to be equally institutional or prisonlike.

It wasn't. Instead, I felt like I was in some old movie, the kind where people took tea in the parlor. The plush carpet was covered by a gold patterned runner that stretched off in both directions of the hall. Antique-looking paintings dotted the walls, showing people from ages ago in elaborate clothing that made my dresses look cheap and ordinary. The whole place was illuminated by tiny chandeliers that were spaced along the ceiling every six feet or so. The teardrop-shaped crystals caught the light with their facets, scattering small flecks of rainbows on the walls. I stared, enchanted by the glitter and the color, which is probably why I failed to notice one other fixture in the hall.

"What are you doing?"

The harsh sound of Nathan's voice jerked me from my crystal gazing. He'd been leaning against the wall opposite my door and straightened immediately upon seeing us. He had that same cruel expression on his face that was so characteristic of Strigoi, the one I occasionally saw on Dimitri, no matter how charming and kind he seemed sometimes.

Dimitri's posture turned rigid and defensive. "I'm taking her for a walk." He kind of sounded like he was talking about a dog, but my fear of Nathan trumped any offense I might take.

"That's against the rules," said Nathan. "Bad enough you've still got her here. Galina gave orders for you to keep her confined. We don't need some rogue dhampir running around."

Dimitri nodded toward me. "Does she look like she's a threat?"

Nathan's eyes flicked over at me. I wasn't entirely sure what he saw. I didn't think I looked that different, but a small smirk crossed his lips that promptly disappeared when he turned back to Dimitri. "No, but I was ordered to babysit this door, and I'm not going to get in trouble for you taking a field trip."

"I'll deal with Galina. I'll tell her I overpowered you." Dimitri gave a fang-filled grin. "It shouldn't be that hard for her to believe."

The look Nathan gave Dimitri made me unconsciously step back until I hit the wall. "You're so full of yourself. I didn't awaken you so that you could act like you're in charge around here. I did it so that we could use your strength and inside knowledge. You should be answering to me."

Dimitri shrugged. Taking my hand, he started to turn away. "Not my fault if you're not strong enough to make me do it."

That was when Nathan lunged at Dimitri. Dimitri responded so quickly to the attack that I think he knew it would happen. He instantly released my hand, turned to catch hold of Nathan, and tossed the other Strigoi against the wall. Nathan immediately got up-it took more than that kind of hit to faze someone like him-but Dimitri was ready. He punched Nathan in the nose-once, twice, and then a third time, all in rapid succession.

Nathan fell down, blood covering his face. Dimitri kicked him hard in the stomach and loomed over him.

"Don't try it," said Dimitri. "You'll lose." He wiped Nathan's blood off of his hand and then laced his fingers through mine again. "I told you, I'll deal with Galina. But thanks for your concern."

Dimitri turned away again, apparently feeling there'd be no more attacks. There weren't. But as I started to follow him, I cast a quick glance over my shoulder to where Nathan sat on the floor. His eyes shot daggers at Dimitri, and I was pretty sure I'd never seen a look of such pure hatred-at least until he turned his gaze on me. I felt cold all over and stumbled to keep up with Dimitri.

Nathan's voice rang out behind us. "You're not safe! Neither of you is. She's lunch, Belikov. Lunch."

Dimitri's hand tightened on mine, and he picked up the pace. I could feel the fury radiating off of him and suddenly wasn't sure whom I should be more afraid of: Nathan or Dimitri. Dimitri was a badass, alive or undead. In the past, I'd seen him attack foes without fear or hesitation. He'd always been magnificent, behaving just as bravely as I'd told his family. But in all those times, he'd always had a legitimate reason for fighting usually self defense. His confrontation with Nathan just then had been about more, though. It had been an assertion of dominance and a chance to draw blood. Dimitri had seemed to enjoy it. What if he decided to turn on me like that? What if my constant refusal pushed him into torture, and he hurt me until I finally agreed? "Nathan scares me," I said, not wanting Dimitri to know that I feared him too. I felt weak and utterly defenseless, something that didn't happen to me very often. Usually, I was ready to take on any challenge, no matter how desperate.

"He won't touch you," Dimitri said harshly. "You have nothing to worry about."

We reached a set of stairs. After a few steps, it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to handle four flights. Aside from the drugged stupor his bites kept me in, the frequent blood loss was weakening me and taking its toll. Without saying a word, Dimitri swept me up in his arms and carried me downstairs effortlessly, gently setting me down when we reached the staircase's bottom.

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