"Hans!" I called, pushing my way through the crowd. He was on the other side of the room and had just hung up on a cell call. "Hans, I know where they are. Where the Strigoi took Lissa and Christian."
"Hathaway, I don't have time for your--" His scowl faltered. "You have that bond."
I stared in astonishment. I'd been ready for him to dismiss me as a nuisance. I'd been ready for a long fight to convince him. I gave him a hasty nod.
"I saw it. I saw everything that happened." Now I frowned. "How do you know already?"
"Serena," he said grimly.
He shook his head. "No, not yet. Though she certainly sounded like it on the phone. Whatever happened, it took everything she had to make that call. We have Alchemists coming to get her, and... clean up."
I replayed the events, remembering how Serena had been slammed against the asphalt. It had been a hard blow, and when she didn't move, I'd assumed the worst. Yet if she'd survived--and apparently she must have--I could just barely form a mental image of her dragging her cell phone out of her pocket with bloody hands....
Please, please let her be alive, I thought, not sure who I was praying to.
"Come on," said Hans. "We need you. There are teams already forming."
There was another surprise. I hadn't expected him to bring me on so quickly. A new respect for Hans settled over me. He might act like an ass**le, but he was a leader. When he saw an asset, he used it. In one swift motion, he was hurrying out the door, several guardians following him. I struggled to keep up with their longer strides and saw Mikhail coming as well.
"You're doing a rescue," I told Hans. "That's... rare." I hesitated to even speak the words. I certainly didn't want to discourage this. But Moroi rescues weren't normal. When Strigoi took them, they were often regarded as dead. The rescue we'd done after the Academy attack had been an oddity, one that had taken a lot of persuasion.
Hans gave me a wry look. "So is the Dragomir princess."
Lissa was precious to me, worth more than anything else in the world. And for the Moroi, I realized, she was precious too. Most Moroi captured by Strigoi might be regarded as dead, but she wasn't most Moroi. She was the last in her line, the last of one of twelve ancient families. Losing her wouldn't just be a hit to Moroi culture. It would be a sign, an omen that the Strigoi were truly defeating us. For her, the guardians would risk a rescue mission.
In fact, it appeared they would risk a lot of things. As we arrived at the garages where the Court's vehicles were stored, I saw masses of other guardians arriving--along with Moroi. I recognized a few. Tasha Ozera was among them, and like her, the others were fire users. If we'd learned anything, it was how valuable they were in a fight. It appeared the controversy of Moroi going to battle was being ignored right now, and I was amazed at how quickly this group had been summoned. Tasha's eyes met mine, her face grave and drawn. She said nothing to me. She didn't need to.
Hans was barking orders, splitting people into groups and vehicles. With every bit of self-control I could muster, I waited patiently near him. My restless nature made me want to jump in and start demanding to know what I could do. He would get to me, I assured myself. He had a role for me; I just had to wait.
My self-control was also being tested with Lissa. After Dimitri had taken her and Christian away, I'd left her mind. I couldn't go back, not yet. I couldn't stand to see them--to see Dimitri. I knew I'd have to once I began directing the guardians, but for now, I held off. I knew Lissa was alive. That was all that mattered for the time being.
Still, I was so wound up and filled with tension that when someone touched my arm, I nearly turned on them with my stake.
"Adrian..." I breathed. "What are you doing here?"
He stood there looking down at me, and his hand gently brushed my cheek. I had only ever seen such a serious, grim look on his face a couple of times. As usual, I didn't like it. Adrian was one of those people who should always be smiling.
"As soon as I heard the news, I knew where you'd be."
I shook my head. "It happened like... I don't know, ten minutes ago?" Time had blurred for me. "How could everyone know so soon?"
"It was radioed across the Court as soon as they found out. They've got an instant alert system. In fact, the queen's kind of in lockdown."
"What? Why?" Somehow that annoyed me. Tatiana wasn't the one in danger. "Why waste resources on her?" A nearby guardian gave me a critical look over that.
Adrian shrugged. "Strigoi attack relatively close by? They take it as a pretty serious security threat for us."
Relatively was the key word. Lehigh was about an hour and a half from Court. Guardians were always on alert, though with each passing second, I wished they'd move faster and be on alert. If Adrian hadn't shown up, I was pretty sure I would have lost my patience and told Hans to hurry.
"It's Dimitri," I said in a low voice. I hadn't been sure if I should tell anyone else that. "He's the one who took them. He's using them to lure me there."
Adrian's face grew darker. "Rose, you can't..." He trailed off, but I knew his meaning.
"What choice do I have?" I exclaimed. "I have to go. She's my best friend, and I'm the only one who can lead them to her."
"It's a trap."
"I know. And he knows I know."
"What will you do?" Again, I knew exactly what Adrian meant.
I glanced down at the stake I'd unconsciously pulled out earlier. "What I have to. I have to... I have to kill him."
"Good," said Adrian, relief flooding his features. "I'm glad."
For some reason, that irritated me. "God," I snapped. "Are you that eager to get rid of any competition?"
Adrian's face stayed serious. "No. I just know that as long as he's still alive--or, well, kind of alive--then you're in danger. And I can't stand that. I can't stand knowing that your life is in the balance. And it is, Rose. You'll never be safe until he's gone. I want you safe. I need you to be safe. I can't... I can't have anything happen to you."
My flare of anger vanished as quickly as it had come. "Oh, Adrian, I'm sorry...."
I let him draw me into his arms. Resting my head against his chest, I felt his heartbeat and the softness of his shirt, I allowed myself a brief and fleeting moment of comfort. I just wanted to sink into him then and there. I didn't want to be consumed by these feelings of fear: fear for Lissa and fear of Dimitri. I went cold all over as a sudden realization slipped over me. No matter what happened, I would lose one of them tonight. If we rescued Lissa, Dimitri would die. If he survived, she would die. There was no happy ending for this story, nothing that could save my heart from being crushed into pieces.