Lissa could only give him a small nod as answer before one of the guardians in charge said she had to leave. Dimitri was still on his knees as they escorted her out, staring after her with an expression that said she was the closest to any hope he had left in this world.

My heart twisted with both sorrow and jealousy--and a bit of anger too. I was the one he should have looked at that way. How dare he? How dare he act like Lissa was the greatest thing in the world? She'd done a lot to save him, true, but I was the one who'd traveled around the globe for him. I was the one who had continually risked my life for him. Most importantly, I was the one who loved him. How could he turn his back on that?

Both Lissa and I were confused and upset as she left the building. Both of us were distraught over Dimitri's state. Despite how angry I was over his refusal to see me, I still felt horrible at seeing him so low. It killed me. He'd never acted that way before. After the Academy's attack, he had certainly been sad and had grieved over that loss. This was a different kind of despair. It was a deep sense of depression and guilt that he didn't feel he could escape from. Both Lissa and I were shocked by that. Dimitri had always been a man of action, someone ready to get up after a tragedy and fight the next battle.

But this? This was unlike anything we'd ever seen in him, and Lissa and I had wildly varying ideas on how to solve it. Her gentler, sympathetic approach was to keep talking to him while also calmly persuading Court officials that Dimitri was no longer a threat. My solution to this problem was to go to Dimitri, no matter what he claimed he wanted. I'd busted in and out of a prison. Getting into a jail cell should be cake. I was still certain that once he saw me, he'd have a change of heart about all this redemption stuff. How could he truly think I wouldn't forgive him? I loved him. I understood. And as far as convincing officials that he wasn't dangerous... well, my method there was a little fuzzy still, but I had a feeling it would involve a lot of yelling and beating on doors.

Lissa knew perfectly well that I had observed her encounter with Dimitri, so she didn't feel obligated to come see me, not when she knew they could still use her over at the medical center. She'd heard Adrian had nearly collapsed with all the magic he'd wielded to help others. It seemed so uncharacteristic of him, so unselfish... he'd done amazing deeds, at great cost to himself.


There was a problem. I hadn't had a chance to see him since getting back after the warehouse fight. And aside from hearing about him healing others, I really hadn't thought about him at all. I'd said that if Dimitri really could be saved, it didn't mean the end of Adrian and me. Yet, Dimitri had barely been back twenty-four hours, and here I was, already obsessing ov--


Despite the fact that I'd pulled back to my own mind, part of me was still absentmindedly following along with Lissa. Christian was standing outside the medical center, leaning against its wall. From his posture, it appeared as though he'd been there for a while waiting for something--or rather, someone.

She came to a halt, and inexplicably, all thoughts of Dimitri vanished from her mind. Oh, come on. I wanted those two to patch things up, but we had no time for this. Dimitri's fate was a lot more important than bantering with Christian.

Christian didn't look like he was in a snarky mood, though. His expression was curious and concerned as he regarded her. "How are you feeling?" he asked. They hadn't talked to each other since the ride back, and she'd been largely incoherent during a lot of it.

"Fine." She touched her face absentmindedly. "Adrian healed me."

"I guess he is good for something." Okay, maybe Christian was feeling a little snarky today. But only a little.

"Adrian's good for lots of things," she said, though she couldn't help a small smile. "He ran himself into the ground here all night."

"What about you? I know how you are. As soon as you were up and around, you were probably right there beside him."

She shook her head. "No. After he healed me, I went to see Dimitri."

All mirth disappeared from Christian's face. "You've talked to him?"

"Twice now. But yeah. I have."


"And what?"

"What's he like?"

"He's like Dimitri." She suddenly frowned, reconsidering her words. "Well... not quite like Dimitri."

"What, does he still have some Strigoi in him?" Christian straightened up, blue eyes flashing. "If he's still dangerous, you have no business going near--"

"No!" she exclaimed. "He's not dangerous. And..." She took a few steps forward, returning his glare. "Even if he was, you have no business telling me what I can or can't do!"

Christian sighed dramatically. "And here I thought Rose was the only one who threw herself into stupid situations, regardless of whether they might kill her."

Lissa's anger flared up rapidly, likely because of all the spirit she'd been using. "Hey, you didn't have any issues helping me stake Dimitri! You trained me for it."

"That was different. We were in a bad situation already, and if things went wrong... well, I could have incinerated him." Christian regarded her from head to toe, and there was something in his gaze... something that seemed like more than just objective assessment. "But I didn't have to. You were amazing. You made the hit. I didn't know if you could, but you did... and the fire... You didn't flinch at all, but it must have been awful...."

There was a catch in his voice as he spoke, like he was only now truly assessing the consequences of what might have happened to Lissa. His concern and admiration made her flush, and she tilted her head--an old trick--so that the pieces of hair that had escaped from her ponytail would fall forward and hide her face. There was no need for it. Christian was now staring pointedly at the ground.

"I had to do it," she said at last. "I had to see if it was possible."

He looked up. "And it was... right? There really isn't any trace of Strigoi?"

"None. I'm positive. But no one believes it."

"Can you blame them? I mean, I helped out with it and I wanted it to be true... but I'm not sure I ever really, truly thought someone could come back from that." He glanced away again, his gaze resting on a lilac bush. Lissa could smell its scent, but the distant and troubled look on his face told her that his thoughts weren't on nature. Neither were they on Dimitri, I realized. He was thinking about his parents. What if there'd been spirit users around when the Ozeras had turned Strigoi? What if there had been a way to save them?

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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