She slowly shook her head, still looking nervous--but also sympathetic. "That guardian was right," she said. "Dimitri hasn't been asking for you. Only me."

All my eagerness, all that fire, froze up. I was dumbstruck, confused more than anything. "Well..." I recalled how he'd clung to her last night, that desperate look on his face. I hated to admit it, but it kind of made sense why he would have asked for her first. "Of course he'd want to see you. Everything's so new and strange, and you're the one who saved him. Once he comes around more, he'll want to see me too."

"Rose, you can't go." This time the sadness in Lissa's voice was mirrored through the bond, flooding into me. "It's not just that Dimitri didn't ask to see you. He asked specifically not to see you."

Chapter Eighteen

THE THING THAT REALLY SUCKS about being psychically linked to someone is that you have a pretty good idea when they're lying--or, in this case, not lying. Still, my response was immediate and instinctive.

"That's not true."

"Isn't it?" She gave me a pointed look. She too knew that I could feel the truth in her words.

"But that... it can't... " I wasn't at a loss for words very often--and certainly not with Lissa. So frequently in our relationship, I'd been the one being assertive and explaining to her why things had to be the way they were. Somewhere along the way, with me not realizing it, Lissa had lost that fragility.

"I'm sorry," she said, voice still kind but also firm. The bond betrayed how much she hated telling me unpleasant things. "He asked me... told me specifically not to let you come. That he doesn't want to see you."

I stared at her pleadingly, my voice almost childlike. "But why? Why would he say that? Of course he wants to see me. He must be confused...."

"I don't know, Rose. All I know is what he told me. I'm so sorry." She reached for me like she might hug me, but I stepped away. My head was still reeling.

"I'll go with you anyway. I'll wait upstairs with the other guardians. Then, when you tell Dimitri I'm there, he'll change his mind."

"I don't think you should," she said. "He seemed really serious about you not coming--almost frantic. I think knowing you're there would upset him."

"Upset him? Upset him? Liss, it's me! He loves me. He needs me."

She winced, and I realized I'd been shouting at her. "I'm just going on what he said. It's all so confusing... please. Don't put me in this position. Just... wait and see what happens. And if you want to know what's going on, you can always..."

Lissa didn't finish, but I knew what she was suggesting. She was offering to let me see her meeting with Dimitri through the bond. It was a big gesture on her part--not that she could have stopped me if I wanted to do it. Still, she didn't usually like the idea of being "spied" on. This was the best thing she could think of to make me feel better.

Not that it really did. All of this was still crazy. Me being denied access to Dimitri. Dimitri allegedly not wanting to see me! What the hell? My gut reaction was to ignore everything she'd just said and go along with her, demanding access when she arrived. The feelings in the bond were begging me not to, though. She didn't want to create trouble. She might not understand Dimitri's wishes either, but she felt they should be honored until the situation could be better assessed.

"Please," she said. The plaintive word finally cracked me.

"Okay." It killed me to say it. It was like admitting defeat. Think of it as a tactical retreat.

"Thank you." This time she did hug me. "I swear I'll get more information and figure out what's going on, okay?"

I nodded, still dejected, and we walked out of the building together. With grim reluctance, I parted with her when the time came, letting her go off to the guardians' building while I headed toward my room. As soon as she was out of my sight, I immediately slipped into her head, watching through her eyes as she walked through the perfectly manicured grass. The bond was still a little hazy but growing clearer by the minute.

Her feelings were a jumble. She felt bad for me, guilty that she'd had to refuse me. At the same time, she was anxious to visit Dimitri. She needed to see him too--but not in the same way I did. She still had that feeling of responsibility for him, that burning urge to protect him.

When she arrived at the building's main office, the guardian who'd stopped me gave her a nod of greeting and then made a quick phone call. A few moments later, three guardians entered and gestured for Lissa to follow them into the depths of the building. They all looked unusually grim, even for guardians.

"You don't have to do this," one of them told her. "Just because he keeps asking..."

"It's fine," she said with the cool, dignified air of any royal. "I don't mind."

"There'll be plenty of guards around just like last time. You don't need to worry about your safety."

She gave all of them a sharp look. "I was never worried about it to begin with."

Their descent into the building's lower levels brought back painful memories of when Dimitri and I had visited Victor. That had been the Dimitri I'd had a perfect union with, the Dimitri who understood me entirely. And after the visit, he'd been enraged at Victor's threats against me. Dimitri had loved me so much that he'd been willing to do anything to protect me.

A key card-protected door finally allowed access to the holding level, which consisted mostly of a long hallway lined with cells. It didn't have the depressing feel that Tarasov had had, but this place's stark and steel-lined industrial air didn't exactly inspire warm and fuzzy feelings.

Lissa could hardly walk down the hall because it was so crowded with guardians. All that security for one person. It wasn't impossible for a Strigoi to break through a cell's steel bars, but Dimitri was no Strigoi. Why couldn't they see that? Were they blind?

Lissa and her escort made their way through the crowd and came to a stop in front of his cell. It was as cold looking as everything else in this prison area, with no more furnishings than were absolutely required. Dimitri sat on the narrow bed, his legs drawn up to him as he leaned into a corner of the wall and kept his back to the cell's entrance. It wasn't what I had expected. Why wasn't he beating at the bars? Why wasn't he demanding to be released and telling them he wasn't a Strigoi? Why was he taking this so quietly?


Lissa's voice was soft and gentle, filled with a warmth that stood out against the harshness of the cell. It was the voice of an angel.

And as Dimitri slowly turned around, it was obvious he thought so too. His expression transformed before our eyes, going from bleakness to wonder.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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