He shook his head, and I noticed his hand start to move toward his pocket before hesitating and pulling back. He might have been making progress in quitting smoking, but I was pretty sure the subconscious urge to automatically reach for a pack when outdoors was hard to get rid of so quickly.

"I mean for tonight. For dinner."

I glanced questioningly at Lissa. Her schedule at Court always had assorted functions thrown into it that "average people" didn't attend. With my new and uncertain status, I wasn't sure if I'd be going with her. I sensed her puzzlement through the bond and could tell that she didn't have a clue about any special dinner plans.

"What dinner?" I asked.

"The one I set up with my family."

"The one you--" I came to an abrupt halt and stared wide-eyed, not liking the smirk on his face one bit. "Adrian!" A few of the new grads gave me curious looks and continued walking around us.

"Come on, we've been going out a couple months. Meeting parents is part of the dating ritual. I've met your mom. I even met your scary-ass dad. Now it's your turn. I guarantee none of my family's gonna make the kind of suggestions your dad did."

I'd actually kind of met Adrian's dad before. Or, well, I'd seen him at a party. I doubted he had any idea who I was--my crazy reputation aside. I knew almost nothing about Adrian's mother. He actually spoke very little about his family members--well, most of them.

"Just your parents?" I asked warily. "Any other family I should know about?"

"Well..." Adrian's hand twitched again. I think this time he wanted a cigarette as some sort of protection from the warning note in my voice. Lissa, I observed, seemed highly amused by all of this. "My favorite great-aunt might stop by."

"Tatiana?" I exclaimed. For the hundredth time, I wondered how I had lucked out with a guy related to the leader of the entire Moroi world. "She hates me! You know what happened the last time we talked." Her Royal Majesty had laid into me, yelling about how I was too trashy to hook up with her nephew and how she had great "plans" for him and Lissa.

"I think she's come around."

"Oh, come on."

"No, really." He almost looked like he was telling the truth. "I talked to my mom the other day, and... I don't know. Aunt Tatiana doesn't seem to hate you as much."

I frowned, and the three of us began to walk again. "Maybe she admires your recent vigilante work," mused Lissa.

"Maybe," I said. But I didn't really believe it. If anything, me going rogue should have made me more despicable in the queen's eyes.

I felt kind of betrayed that Adrian had sprung this dinner on me, but there was nothing to be done about it now. The only bright side was that I had the impression he was teasing me about his aunt stopping by. I told him I'd go, and my decision put him in a good enough mood that he didn't ask too many questions when Lissa and I said we were going to do "our own thing" that afternoon. My classmates were all getting a tour of the Court and its grounds as part of their indoctrination, but I'd seen it all before and was able to wiggle out of it. Lissa and I dropped our belongings off in our rooms and then set out to the far side of the Court, where the not-so-royal people lived.

"Are you going to tell me yet what this other part of your plan is?" asked Lissa.

Ever since Abe had explained about Victor's prison, I'd been making another mental list of the problems we'd have breaking into it. Mainly, there were two, which was one less than I'd initially had since talking to Abe. Not that things were really much easier. First, we had no clue where in Alaska this place was. Second, we didn't know what the prison's defenses and layout were like. We had no idea what we had to bust through.

Yet, something told me all of these answers could be found in one source, which meant I really only had one immediate problem: how to reach that source. Fortunately, I knew someone who might be able to help get us there.

"We're going to see Mia," I told her.

Mia Rinaldi was a former Moroi classmate of ours--a former enemy, actually. She was also the poster child for total personality makeovers. She'd gone from a scheming bitch who was willing to crush--and sleep with--anyone in her quest for popularity to a down-to-earth, confident girl eager to learn to defend herself and others from Strigoi. She lived here at Court with her father.

"You think Mia knows how to break into a prison?"

"Mia's good, but I don't think she's that good. She can probably help us get intel, though."

Lissa groaned. "I can't believe you just used the word intel. This really is turning into a spy movie." She spoke flippantly, but I could feel the worry within her. The light tone was masking her fear, the unease she still felt about freeing Victor, despite her promise to me.

Those non-royals who worked and did ordinary things at Court lived in apartments far from the queen's quarters and receiving hall. I'd gotten Mia's address in advance, and we set out across the perfectly manicured grounds, grumbling to each other along the way about the hot day. We found her at home, casually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt with a Popsicle in her hand. Her eyes widened when she saw us outside her door.

"Well, I'll be damned," she said.

I laughed. It was the kind of response I'd give. "Nice to see you too. Can we come in?"

"Of course." She stepped aside. "You want a Popsicle?"

Did I ever. I took a grape one and sat with her and Lissa in the small living room. The place was a far cry from the opulence of royal guest housing, but it was cozy and clean and undoubtedly well loved by Mia and her father.

"I knew the grads were coming," Mia said, brushing blond curls out of her face. "But I wasn't sure if you were with them or not. Did you even graduate?"

"I did," I said. "Got the promise mark and everything." I lifted my hair so she could see the bandage.

"I'm surprised they let you back in after you took off on your killing spree. Or did you get extra credit for that?"

Apparently, Mia had heard the same tall tale about my adventures that everyone else had. That was fine with me. I didn't want to talk about the truth. I didn't want to talk about Dimitri.

"Do you think anyone could stop Rose from doing what she wants?" asked Lissa with a smile. She was trying to keep us from getting into too much detail about my past whereabouts, for which I was grateful.

Mia laughed and crunched on a big chunk of lime ice. It was a wonder she didn't get brain freeze. "True." Her smile faded as she swallowed the bite. Her blue eyes, always shrewd, studied me in silence for a few moments. "And Rose wants something now."

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