"We did the fighting, not you,' Dimitri said. "We were afraid if you knew, you might give away that something was up.'

"I would have never told!'

"Not intentionally, no. But if you were tense or anxious ... well, your guards can pick up on those kinds of things.'

"Well, now that we're out, can you tell me where we're going? Was I right? Is it some crazy, remote place?'

No answer.

I narrowed my eyes at him. "I hate not being in the loop.'

That tiny smile on his lips grew a little bigger. "Well, I have my own personal theory that the more you don't know, the more your curiosity is likely to make sure you stick around with me.'

"That's ridiculous,' I replied, though really, it wasn't all that unreasonable of a theory. I sighed. "When the hell did things get so out of control? When did you guys start being the masterminds? I'm the one who comes up with the wacky, impossible plans. I'm supposed to be the general here. Now I'm barely a lieutenant.'

He started to say something else but then froze for a few seconds, his face instantly taking on that wary, lethal guardian look. He swore in Russian.

"What's wrong?' I asked. His attitude was contagious, and I immediately forgot all thoughts of crazy plans.

In the erratic flash of headlights from oncoming traffic, I could see his eyes dart up to the rearview mirror. "We have a tail. I didn't think it would happen this soon.'

"Are you sure?' It had grown dark, and the number of cars on the highway had increased. I didn't know how anyone could spot one suspicious car among that many, but well ... he was Dimitri. He swore again and suddenly, in a maneuver that made me grab the dashboard, he cut sharply across two lanes, barely missing a minivan that expressed its annoyance with a lot of honking. There was an exit right there, and he just barely made it without clipping the exit ramp's rail. I heard more honking, and when I looked back, I saw the headlights of a car that had made just as crazy a move to follow us onto the exit.

"The Court must have gotten the word out pretty fast,' he said. "They had someone watching the interstates.'

"Maybe we should have taken back roads.'

He shook his head. "Too slow. None of it would have been an issue once we switched cars, but they found us too soon. We'll have to get a new one here. This is the biggest city we'll hit before the Maryland border.'

A sign said we were in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and as Dimitri skillfully drove us down a busy, commerce-filled road, I could see the tail mirroring everything we did. "What exactly is your plan to get a new car?' I asked warily.

"Listen carefully,' he said, ignoring my question. "It is very, very important that you do exactly as I say. No improvising. No arguing. There are guardians in that car, and by now, they've alerted every other guardian around here--possibly even the human police.'

"Wouldn't the police catching us create a few problems?'

"The Alchemists would sort it out and make sure we ended up back with the Moroi.'

The Alchemists. I should have known they'd get involved. They were a secret society of humans who helped protect Moroi and dhampir interests, keeping us out of the mainstream human public. Of course, the Alchemists didn't do it out of kindness. They thought we were evil and unnatural and mostly wanted to make sure we stayed on the fringes of their society. An escaped "criminal' like me would certainly be a problem they would want to help the Moroi with.

Dimitri's voice was hard and commanding when he spoke again, though his eyes weren't on me. They were busy scanning the sides of the road. "No matter what you think of the choices everyone's been making for you, no matter how unhappy you are with this situation, you know--I know you do--that I've never failed you when our lives were at stake. You trusted me in the past. Trust me now.'

I wanted to tell him that what he said wasn't entirely true. He had failed me. When he'd been taken down by Strigoi, when he'd shown that he wasn't perfect, he had failed me by shattering the impossible, godly image I had of him. But my life? No, he had always kept mine safe. Even as a Strigoi, I'd never entirely been convinced he could kill me. The night the Academy had been attacked, when he'd been turned, he'd told me to obey him without question too. It had meant leaving him to fight Strigoi, but I'd done it.

"Okay,' I said quietly. "I'll do whatever you say. Just remember not to talk down to me. I'm not your student anymore. I'm your equal now.'

He glanced away from the side of the road just long enough to give me a surprised look. "You've always been my equal, Roza.'

The use of the affectionate Russian nickname made me too stupid to respond, but it didn't matter. Moments later, he was all business again. "There. Do you see that movie theater sign?' I gazed down the road. There were so many restaurants and stores that their signs made a glittering haze in the night. At last, I saw what he meant. WESTLAND CINEMA.


"That's where we're going to meet.'

We were splitting up? I'd wanted to part ways but not like this. In the face of danger, separating suddenly seemed like an awful idea. I'd promised not to argue, though, and kept listening.

"If I'm not there in a half hour, you call this number and go without me.' Dimitri handed me a small piece of paper from his duster pocket. It had a phone number scrawled on it, not one I recognized.

If I'm not there in a half hour. The words were so shocking that I couldn't help my protest this time. "What do you mean if you're not--ah!'

Dimitri made another abrupt turn, one that caused him to run a red light and only narrowly miss a number of cars. More honking ensued, but the move had been too sudden for our tail to keep up. I saw our pursuers whiz past on the main road, brake lights flashing as they searched for a place to turn around.

Dimitri had taken us into a mall parking lot. It was packed with cars, and I glanced at the clock to get a grasp for human time. Almost eight o'clock at night. Early in the Moroi day, prime entertainment time for humans. He drove past a few entrances to the mall and finally selected one, pulling into a handicap spot. He was out of the car in one fluid motion, with me following just as quickly.

"Here's where we split up,' he said jogging toward a set of doors. "Move fast, but don't run when we're inside. Don't attract attention. Blend in. Wind through it for a little bit; then get out through any exit but this one. Walk out near a group of humans and then head for the theater.' We stepped into the mall. "Go!'

As though afraid I might not move, he gave me a small push toward an escalator while he took off on the main floor. There was a part of me that wanted to just freeze and stand there, that felt dumbfounded by the sudden onslaught of people, light, and activity. I soon pushed that startled part aside and began heading up the escalator. Fast reflexes and instinctual reactions were part of my training. I'd honed them in school, in my travels, and with him.

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