"There's another spirit user here,' she said, voice frantic. "I can feel it. I remember him.' She looked between Dimitri and me. "It's not safe. We're not safe. You shouldn't have us around.'

"Everything's fine,' said Dimitri, voice so, so gentle. That tone was rare for him, but I'd heard it before. He'd used it on me in some of my most desperate moments. "Don't worry.'

Sonya shook her head. "No. You don't understand. We ... we're capable of terrible things. To ourselves, to others. It's why I changed, to stop the madness. And it did, except ... it was worse. In its way. The things I did ...'

There it was, the same remorse Dimitri had felt. Half-afraid he'd start telling her there was no redemption for her either, I said, "It wasn't you. You were controlled by something else.'

She buried her face in her hands. "But I chose it. Me. I made it happen.'

"That was spirit,' I said. "It's hard to fight. Like you said, it can make you do terrible things. You weren't thinking clearly. Lissa battles with the same thing all the time.'

"Vasilisa?' Sonya lifted her eyes and stared off into space. I think she was digging through memories. In fact, despite her ramblings now, I didn't believe she was quite as unstable as she'd been just before becoming Strigoi. We'd heard healings could lessen spirit's madness, and I think Robert's transformation had lightened some of the darkness within her for now. "Yes, of course. Vasilisa has it too.' She turned to me in a panic. "Did you help her? Did you get her out of there?'

"I did,' I said, trying to emulate Dimitri's gentleness. Lissa and I fled St. Vladimir's for a while, partly because of warnings from Sonya. "We left and then came back and, uh, were able to stop what was hunting her.' I didn't think it was a good idea for Sonya to know that the thing--or rather, person--hunting Lissa was now sitting out in the living room. I took a step forward. "And you can help Lissa too. We need to know if--'

"No,' said Dimitri. No gentleness now in the warning look he gave me. "Not yet.'


"Not yet.'

I shot him a glare in return but said no more. I was all for giving Sonya her recuperation time, but we didn't have forever. The clock was ticking, and we had to find out what Sonya knew. I felt like Dimitri would have been able to give us this information immediately after he'd been changed back. Of course, he hadn't been unstable beforehand, so he'd kind of had an edge. Still. We couldn't play house in Kentucky forever.

"Can I see my flowers?' asked Sonya. "Can I go outside and see my flowers?'

Dimitri and I exchanged glances. "Of course,' he said.

We all moved toward the door, and that's when I had to ask. "Why did you grow flowers when you were ... like you were?'

She paused. "I've always grown flowers.'

"I know. I remember. They were gorgeous. The ones here are gorgeous too. Is that why ... I mean, did you just want a pretty garden, even as a Strigoi?'

The question was unexpected and seemed to throw her off. I was about to give up on an answer when she finally said, "No. I never thought about pretty. They were ... I don't know. Something to do. I'd always grown flowers. I had to see if I still could. It was like ... a test of my skills, I guess.'

I met Dimitri's eyes again. So. Beauty hadn't been part of her world. It was just like I'd told him. Strigoi were notoriously arrogant, and it seemed the flowers had simply been a show of prowess. Growing them had also been a familiar habit for her, and I recalled how Dimitri had read Western novels while Strigoi. Being Strigoi might cost someone their sense of goodness and morality, but old behaviors and hobbies remained.

We took her out to the living room, interrupting a conversation between Victor and Robert. Sonya and Robert both froze, sizing each other up. Victor gave us one of his knowing smiles.

"Up and around. Have we found out what we need yet?'

Dimitri shot him a look similar to what I'd received when asking about interrogation. "Not yet.'

Sonya dragged her gaze from Robert and moved quickly toward the patio door, pausing when she saw our shoddy patch job. "You broke my door,' she said.

"Collateral damage,' I said. In my periphery, I think Dimitri rolled his eyes.

Needing no guidance from us, Sonya opened the door and stepped outside. With a gasp, she came to a halt and stared upward. The sky was a perfect, cloudless blue, and the sun had crossed the horizon now, illuminating everything in gold. I went outside too, feeling the warmth of that light on my skin. Some of the night's coldness lingered, but we were in store for a hot day.

Everyone else came out too, but Sonya was oblivious. She lifted her hands upward, as though maybe she could grab hold of the sun and wrap it in her arms. "It's so beautiful.' She finally looked away and met my eyes. "Isn't it? Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?'

"Beautiful,' I reiterated. For some reason, I felt both happy and sad.

She walked around her yard, examining every plant and flower. She touched the petals and inhaled their fragrance. "So different ...' she kept saying to herself. "So different in the sun ...' Several especially caught her attention. "These don't open at night! Do you see it? Do you see the colors? Can you smell that?'

The questions didn't seem to be for anyone in particular. We watched, all of us kind of hypnotized. At last, she settled into the patio chair, happily gazing around, lost in sensory overload--in that beauty that had been denied to her as a Strigoi. When it became obvious she wasn't leaving for a while, I turned to Dimitri and repeated Sydney's advice about him taking a turn at sleeping while we waited for Sonya to recover. To my surprise, he actually agreed.

"That's smart. Once Sonya's able to talk, we'll need to move.' He smiled. "Sydney's turning into a battle mastermind.'

"Hey, she's not in charge here,' I teased. "She's just a soldier.'

"Right.' He lightly brushed his fingers against my cheek. "Sorry, Captain.'

"General,' I corrected, catching my breath at that brief touch.

He gave Sonya a kind goodbye before disappearing into the house. She nodded, but I don't know if she really heard. Victor and Robert brought out two wooden kitchen chairs and set them in the shade. I chose a spot on the ground. Nobody spoke. It wasn't the weirdest thing I'd ever experienced, but it was certainly strange.

Sydney returned later with the groceries, and I briefly abandoned the group to check in with her. Victor's keys were lying back on the counter, which I took as a good sign. Sydney unloaded an assortment of food and handed me a box of a dozen donuts.

"Hope that's enough for you,' she remarked.

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