And that's when I lost it. Like I said, he was always better at keeping control. Me? Not so much.

I threw myself against the bars, so rapidly that even Mikhail flinched. "But I love you!" I hissed. "And I know you love me too. Do you really think you can spend the rest of your life ignoring that when you're around me?"

The troubling part was that for a very long time at the Academy, Dimitri had been convinced he could do exactly that. And he had been prepared to spend his life not acting on his feelings for me.

"You love me," I repeated. "I know you do." I stretched my arm through the bars. It was a long way from touching him, but my fingers reached out desperately, as though they might suddenly grow and be able to make contact. That was all I needed. One touch from him to know he still cared, one touch to feel the warmth of his skin and--

"Isn't it true," said Dimitri quietly, "that you're involved with Adrian Ivashkov?"

My arm dropped.

"Wh--where did you hear that?"

"Things get around," he said, echoing Mikhail.

"They certainly do," I muttered.

"So are you?" he asked more adamantly.

I hesitated before answering. If I told him the truth, he'd have more ground to make his point about us keeping apart. It was impossible for me to lie to him, though.

"Yes, but--"

"Good." I'm not sure how I expected him to react. Jealousy? Shock? Instead, as he leaned back against the wall, he looked... relieved. "Adrian's a better person than he gets credit for. He'll be good to you."


"That's where your future is, Rose." A bit of that hopeless, world-weary attitude was returning. "You don't understand what it's like coming through what I did--coming back from being a Strigoi. It's changed everything. It's not just that what I did to you is unforgiveable. All my feelings... my emotions for you... they changed. I don't feel the way I used to. I might be a dhampir again, but after what I went through... well, it's scarred me. It altered my soul. I can't love anyone now. I can't--I don't--love you. There's nothing more between you and me."

My blood turned cold. I refused to believe his words, not after the way he'd looked at me earlier. "No! That's not true! I love you and you--"

"Guards!" Dimitri shouted, his voice so loud that it was a wonder the whole building didn't shake. "Get her out of here. Get her out of here!"

With amazing guardian reflexes, the guards were down at the cell in a flash. As a prisoner, Dimitri wasn't in a position to make requests, but the authorities here certainly weren't going to encourage a situation that would create a commotion. They began herding Mikhail and me out, but I resisted.

"No, wait--"

"Don't fight it," murmured Mikhail in my ear. "Our time's running out, and you couldn't have accomplished anything else today anyway."

I wanted to protest, but the words stuck on my lips. I let the guardians direct me out, but not before I gave Dimitri one last, lingering look. He had a perfect, guardian-blank look on his face, but the piercing way he stared at me made me certain there was a lot going on within him.

Mikhail's friend was still on duty upstairs, which let us slip out without getting in--much--more trouble. As soon as we were outdoors, I came to a halt and kicked one of the steps angrily.

"Damn it!" I yelled. A couple of Moroi across the courtyard--probably coming home from some late party--gave me startled looks.

"Calm down," said Mikhail. "This was the first time you've seen him since the change. There are only so many miracles you can expect right away. He'll come around."

"I'm not so sure," I grumbled. Sighing, I looked up at the sky. Little wispy clouds moved lazily about, but I barely saw them. "You don't know him like I do."

Because while part of me thought that a lot of what Dimitri had said was indeed a reaction to the shock of returning to himself, there was another part of me that wondered. I knew Dimitri. I knew his sense of honor, his adamant beliefs about what was right and wrong. He stood by those beliefs. He lived his life by them. If he truly, truly believed that the right thing to do was to avoid me and let any relationship between us fade, well... there was a good chance he might very well act on that idea, no matter the love between us. As I'd recalled earlier, he'd certainly shown a lot of resistance back at St. Vladimir's.

As for the rest... the part about him no longer loving me or being able to love anyone... well, that would be a different problem all together if it were true. Both Christian and Adrian had worried there would be some piece of Strigoi left in him, but their fears had been about violence and bloodshed. No one would have guessed this: that living as a Strigoi had hardened his heart, killing any chance of him loving anyone.

Killing any chance of him loving me.

And I was pretty sure that if that was the case, then part of me would die too.

Chapter Twenty-one

THERE WAS LITTLE MORE MIKHAIL and I could say to each other after that. I didn't want him to get in trouble for what he'd done, and I let him lead us out of the guardians' building in silence. As we emerged outside, I could see the sky purpling in the east. The sun was nearly up, signaling the middle of our night. Briefly flipping into Lissa's mind, I read that the Death Watch had finally ended, and she was on her way back to her room--worried about me and still annoyed that Christian had shown up with Mia.

I followed Lissa's example, wondering if sleep might ease the agony that Dimitri had left in my heart. Probably not. Still, I thanked Mikhail for his help and the risk he'd taken. He merely nodded, like there was nothing to thank him for. It was exactly what he would have wanted me to do for him if our roles had been reversed and Ms. Karp had been the one behind bars.

I feel into a heavy sleep back in my bed, but my dreams were troubled. Over and over, I kept hearing Dimitri tell me he couldn't love me anymore. It beat into me over and over, smashing my heart into little pieces. At one point, it became more than a dreamlike beating. I heard real beating. Someone was pounding on my door, and slowly, I dragged myself out of my awful dreams.

Bleary-eyed, I went to the door and found Adrian. The scene was almost a mirror of last night when he'd come to invite me to the Death Watch. Only this time, his face was much grimmer. For a second, I thought he'd heard about my visit to Dimitri. Or that maybe he'd gotten in a lot more trouble than we'd realized for sneaking half of his friends into a secret funeral.

"Adrian... this is early for you...." I glanced over at a clock, discovering that I'd actually slept in pretty late.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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