"I'm looking for a village... a village of dhampirs out in Siberia. I don't know its name." Dimitri had only ever mentioned its name once, and I'd forgotten. "It's kind of near... Om?"
"Omsk," she corrected.
I straightened up. "Do you know it?"
She didn't answer right away, but her eyes betrayed her. "Maybe."
"You do!" I exclaimed. "You have to tell me where it is. I have to get there."
She made a face. "Are you going to be... one of those?"
So Alchemists knew about blood whores. No surprise. If Sydney and her associates knew everything else about the vampire world, they'd know this too.
"No," I said haughtily. "I just have to find someone."
That almost made her smile. Her brown eyes were thoughtful as she munched on another fry. She'd only taken two bites out of her cheeseburger, and it was rapidly growing cold. I kind of wanted to eat it myself on principle.
"I'll be right back," she said abruptly. She stood up and strode across to a quiet corner of the cafe. Producing a cell phone from that magic purse of hers, she turned her back to the room and made a call.
I'd polished off my chicken by then and helped myself to some of her fries since it was looking less and less like she was going to do anything with them. As I ate, I pondered the possibilities before me, wondering if finding Dimitri's town would really be this simple. And once I was there... would it be simple then? Would he be there, living in the shadows and hunting prey? And when faced with him, could I really drive my stake into his heart? That unwanted image came to me again, Dimitri with red eyes and "Rose?"
I blinked. I'd totally spaced out, and Sydney was back. She slid back into her spot across from me. "So, it looks like-" She paused and looked down. "Did you eat some of my fries?"
I had no clue how she knew, seeing as it was such a huge stack. I'd barely made a dent. Figuring me stealing fries would count as further evidence of being an evil creature of the night, I said glibly, "No."
She frowned a moment, considering, and then said, "I do know where this town is. I've been there before."
I straightened up. Holy crap. This was actually going to happen, after all these weeks of searching. Sydney would tell me where this place was, and I could go and try to close this horrible chapter in my life.
"Thank you, thank you so much-"
She held up a hand to silence me, and I noticed then how miserable she looked.
"But I'm not going to tell you where it is."
My mouth gaped. "What?"
"I'm going to take you there myself."
"Wait-what?" I exclaimed.
That wasn't in the plan. That wasn't in the plan at all. I was trying to move through Russia in as incognito a way as possible. Plus, I didn't really relish the thought of having a tagalong-particularly one who appeared to hate me. I didn't know how long it would take to get to Siberia-a couple days, I thought-and I couldn't imagine spending them listening to Sydney talk about what an unnatural, evil being I was.
Swallowing my outrage, I attempted reason. After all, I was asking a favor here. "That's not necessary," I said, forcing a smile. "It's nice of you to offer, but I don't want to inconvenience you."
"Well," she replied dryly, "there's no getting around that. And it's not me being nice. It's not even my choice. It's an order from my superiors."
"It still sounds like a pain in the ass for you. Why don't you just tell me where it is and blow them off?"
"You obviously don't know the people I work for."
"Don't need to. I ignore authority all the time. It's not hard once you get used to it."
"Yeah? How's that working out for you with finding this village?" she asked mockingly. "Look, if you want to get there, this is the only way."
Well-it was the only way I could get there if I used Sydney for information. I could always go back to staking out the Nightingale... but it had taken me this long to get a lead from there. Meanwhile, she was here right in front of me with the information I needed.
"Why?" I asked. "Why do you have to go too?"
"I can't tell you that. Bottom line: They told me to."
Lovely. I eyed her, trying to figure out what was going on here. Why on earth would anyone-let alone humans with their hands in the Moroi world -care where one teenage dhampir went? I didn't think Sydney had any ulterior motives-unless she was a very, very good actress. Yet, clearly the people she answered to had an agenda, and I didn't like playing into anyone's plan. At the same time, I was anxious to get on with this. Each day that passed was another in which I didn't find Dimitri.
"How soon can we leave?" I asked at last. Sydney, I decided, was a paper-pusher. She'd shown no real skill in tracking me earlier. Surely it wouldn't be that hard to ditch her once we were near enough to Dimitri's town.
She looked kind of disappointed at my response, almost as though she'd hoped I would decline and then she'd be off the hook. She didn't want to come with me any more than I wanted her to. Opening her purse, she took out her cell phone again, fiddled with it a couple of minutes, and finally produced some train times. She showed me the schedule for the next day.
"Does that work for you?"
I studied the screen and nodded. "I know where that station is. I can be there."
"Okay." She stood up and tossed some cash on the table. "I'll see you tomorrow." She started to walk away and then glanced back at me. "Oh, and you can have the rest of my fries."
When I first came to Russia, I stayed in youth hostels. I'd certainly had the money to stay elsewhere, but I wanted to remain under the radar.
Besides, luxury hadn't really been the first thing on my mind. When I began going to the Nightingale, however, I found I could hardly return to a boarding house of backpacking students while wearing a designer dress.
So I was now staying at a posh hotel, complete with guys who always held the doors open and a marble-floored lobby. That lobby was so big that I think an entire hostel could have fit in it. Maybe two hostels. My room was large and overdone too, and I was grateful to reach it and change out of the heels and dress. I realized with only a small pang of regret that I'd have to leave the dresses I'd bought in Saint Petersburg behind. I wanted to keep my luggage light while jaunting around the country, and even if my backpack was large, there was only so much I could carry. Oh well. Those dresses would make some cleaning woman's day, no doubt. The only bit of ornamentation I really needed was my nazar, a pendant that looked like a blue eye. It had been a gift from my mother, which had in turn been a gift from my father. I always wore it around my neck.
Our train for Moscow left late in the morning, and we would then catch a cross-country train to Siberia. I wanted to be well rested and ready for it all. Once in my pajamas, I snuggled under the bed's heavy comforter and hoped sleep would come soon. Instead, my mind spun with all the things that had happened recently. The Sydney situation was a bizarre twist but one I could handle. As long as we stuck to public transportation, she could hardly lead me into the clutches of her mysterious superiors. And from what she'd said about our travel time, it would indeed only take a couple of days or so to reach the village. Two days seemed both impossibly long and impossibly short.
It meant I could very well be confronting Dimitri in a few days... and then what? Could I do it? Could I bring myself to kill him? And even if I decided I could, would I actually have the skill to overpower him? The same questions that I'd been asking myself for the last two weeks kept plaguing me over and over. Dimitri had taught me everything I knew, and with enhanced Strigoi reflexes, he would truly be the god I'd always joked he was. Death was a very real possibility for me.
But worrying wasn't helpful right now and, looking over at the clock in the room, I discovered I'd been lying awake for almost an hour. That was no good. I needed to be in peak condition. So I did something I knew I shouldn't do, but which always worked to get my mind off my worries-largely because it involved me being in someone else's mind.
Slipping inside Lissa's head required only a small amount of concentration on my part. I hadn't known if I could do it when we were far apart, but I'd discovered the process was no different than if I were standing right beside her.
It was late morning back in Montana, and Lissa had no classes today since it was Saturday. During my time away, I'd worked very hard to put up mental walls between us, almost completely blocking her and her feelings out. Now, inside her, all the barriers were down, and her emotions hit me like a tidal wave. She was pissed off. Really pissed off.