Dimitri pulled up from the kiss, and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind before he could do anything else. "What's it like?"

"What's what like?"


He frowned. Score one for me. I'd momentarily baffled an undead creature of the night. Sydney would be proud.

"What do you mean?"

"You said being awakened enhances all the senses. Is kissing different then?"

"Ah." Understanding flashed over his features. "It is, kind of. My sense of smell is stronger than it used to be, so your scent comes through much more intensely... your sweat, the shampoo in your hair... it's beyond what you can imagine. Intoxicating. And of course, sharper taste and touch make this better." He leaned down and kissed me again, and something about his description made my insides queasy-in a good way. That wasn't supposed to happen. My hope was to distract him-not myself.

"When we were outside the other night, the flowers were really strong. If they're strong to me, are they overwhelming to you? I mean, do the scents get to be too much?"

And so it began. I bombarded him with as many questions as I could, asking him about all aspects of Strigoi life. I wanted to know what it was like, how he felt... I asked everything with curiosity and enthusiasm, biting my lip and turning thoughtful at all the right places. I could see his interest grow as I spoke, though his attitude was brisk and efficient-in no way resembling our earlier affectionate conversation. He was hoping that I was finally on the verge of agreeing to turn.

As the questioning continued, so also did my outward signs of fatigue. I yawned a lot, lost my train of thought a lot. Finally, I rubbed my eyes with my hands and yawned again. "There's so much I didn't know... still don't know..."

"I told you it was amazing."

Honestly, some of it was. Most of it was creepy as hell, but if you got over the whole undead and evil thing, there were definitely some perks to being Strigoi.

"I have more questions," I murmured. I closed my eyes and sighed, then opened them as though forcing myself to stay awake. "But... I'm so tired... I still don't feel good. You don't think I have a concussion, do I?"

"No. And once you're awakened, it won't matter anyway."

"But not until you answer the rest of my questions." The words were muffled in a yawn, but he understood. It took him a while to respond.

"Okay. Not until then. But time is running out. I told you that before."

I let my lids drift closed then. "But it's not the second day yet..."

"No," he said quietly. "Not yet."

I lay there, steadying my breathing as much as I could. Would my act work? It was highly possible he would still drink from me even if he thought I was asleep. I was taking a gamble here. One bite, and all my work to fight the withdrawal would be wasted. I'd reset to how I'd been. As it was, I had no clue how I was going to dodge a bite next time... but then, I didn't think there'd be a next time. I'd be a Strigoi by then.

Dimitri lay beside me for a few more minutes, and then I felt him move. Inside, I braced myself. Damn. Here it came. The bite. I'd been certain that our kissing was part of the allure of him drinking from me and that if I just fell asleep, the allure would be gone. Apparently not. All my pretending was for nothing. It was all over.

But it wasn't.

He got up and left.

When I heard the door close, I almost thought it was a scam. I thought for sure he was trying to fake me out and still actually stood in the room.

Yet when I felt the Strigoi nausea fade, I realized the truth. He really had left me, thinking I needed to sleep. My act had been convincing.

I immediately sat up, turning a few different things over in my mind. In that last bit of his visit, he'd seemed... well, he'd reminded me more than ever of the old Dimitri. Sure, he'd still been Strigoi through and through, but there'd been something else. A bit of warmth to his laugh. Sincere interest and affection upon hearing about his family. Had that been it? Had hearing news of his family triggered some piece of his soul buried within the monster? I confess, I felt a little jealous at the thought that they might have wrought the change in him that I couldn't. But he'd still had that same warmth in talking about us, just a little...

No, no. I had to stop this. There was no change. No reversal of his state. It was wishful thinking, and the more I regained my old self, the more I realized the truth of the situation.

Dimitri's actions had made me recall something. I'd completely forgotten about Oksana's ring. I picked it up from the table and slipped it on my finger. I felt no noticeable change, but if the healing magic was still in it, it might help me. It could expedite my body and mind healing from the withdrawal. If any of Lissa's darkness was bleeding into me, the ring could help dampen that, too.

I sighed. No matter how often I told myself I was free of her, I never would be. She was my best friend. We were connected in a way that few could understand. The denial I'd been living under lifted. I regretted my actions with Adrian now. He'd come to me for help, and I'd thrown his kindness back in his face. Now I was bereft of communication with the outside world.

And thinking of Lissa reminded me again of what had happened earlier when I'd been in her mind. What had pushed me out? I hesitated, pondering my course of action. Lissa was far away and possibly in trouble. Dimitri and the other Strigoi were here. But... I couldn't walk away quite yet. I had to take one more look at her, just a quick one...

I found her in an unexpected place. She was with Deirdre, a counselor on campus. Lissa had been seeing a counselor ever since spirit had begun manifesting, but it had been someone else. Expanding my senses to Lissa's thoughts, I read the story: Her counselor had left shortly after the school's attack. Lissa had been reassigned to Deirdre-who had once counseled me when everyone thought I was going crazy over Mason's death.

Deirdre was a very polished-looking Moroi, always meticulously dressed with her blond hair styled to perfection. She didn't look much older than us, and with me, her counseling method had resembled a police interrogation. With Lissa, she was more gentle. It figured.

"Lissa, we're a little worried about you. Normally, you would have been suspended. I actually stopped that from happening. I keep feeling like there's something going on that you aren't telling me. Some other issue."

Lissa suspended? I again reached in to read the situation and found it. Last night, Lissa and others had been busted for breaking into the library of all places and having an impromptu party complete with alcohol and destruction to some of the property. Good God. My best friend needed to join AA.

Lissa's arms were crossed, her demeanor almost combative. "There's no issue. We were just trying to have fun. I'm sorry for the damage. If you want to suspend me, go ahead."

Deirdre shook her head. "That's not my decision. My concern is the why here. I know you used to suffer from depression and other problems because of your, ah, magic. But this feels more like some kind of rebellion."

Rebellion? Oh, it was more than that. Since their fight, Lissa had been unable to find Christian, and it was killing her. She couldn't handle downtime now. All she thought about was him-or me. Partying and risk taking were the only things that could distract her from us.

"Students do this stuff all the time," argued Lissa. "Why is it a big deal for me?"

"Well, because you put yourself in danger. After the library, you were on the verge of breaking into the pool. Swimming while intoxicated is definite cause for alarm."

"Nobody drowned. Even if someone had started to, I'm sure that between all of us, we could have pulled them out."

"It's just alarming, considering some of the self-destructive behaviors you once exhibited, like the cutting..."

So it went for the next hour, and Lissa did as good a job as I used to in dodging Deirdre's questions. When the session ended, Deirdre said she wasn't going to recommend disciplinary action. She wanted Lissa back for more counseling. Lissa would have actually preferred detention or cleaning boards.

As she stalked furiously across campus, she spotted Christian going in the opposite direction. Hope lit the blackness of her mind like sunshine.

"Christian!" she yelled, running up to him.

He stopped, giving her a wary look. "What do you want?"

"What do you mean what do I want?" She wanted to throw herself in his arms and have him tell her everything would be okay. She was upset and overwhelmed and filled with darkness... but there was a piece of vulnerability there that desperately needed him. "I haven't been able to find you."

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