The letter was typed, with no signature. For a moment, Lissa couldn't process it as a whole. She was completely consumed by the part about the Dragomir line fading into disgrace. It hit too close to the vision she'd seen in the test.

It was Christian who pulled her back. "Well. It would seem Tatiana had enemies. But I guess that's kind of obvious at this point in the game.'

"Who's this from?' demanded Adrian. His face was dark, furious at this thinly veiled threat to his aunt.

"I don't know,' said Ambrose. "This is exactly the way I found it. Maybe she didn't even know who the sender was.'

Lissa nodded her agreement. "There's certainly an anonymous feel to it ... and yet, at the same time, I feel like it's someone Tatiana must have known well.'

Adrian gave Ambrose a suspicious look. "How do we know you didn't just type this yourself to throw us off?'

"Adrian,' chastised Lissa. She didn't say it but was hoping to urge Adrian to feel out Ambrose's aura for anything she might not be able to detect.

"This is crazy,' said Christian, tapping the piece of paper. "The part about rounding up dhampirs and forcing them to be guardians. What do you think that means--the "actions' that Tatiana knows about?'

I knew because I'd been tipped off about a lot of this earlier. Compulsion, Tatiana's note had said.

"I'm not sure,' said Lissa. She reread the letter to herself. "What about the "experiments' part? Do you think that's the training sessions Grant did with Moroi?'

"That was what I thought,' said Ambrose. "But I'm not sure.'

"Can we see the rest?' asked Adrian, gesturing to the stack of papers. I couldn't tell if his suspicion was legitimate distrust of Ambrose or just the result of how upset his aunt's murder made him.

Ambrose handed over the papers, but after going through the pages, Lissa agreed: there was nothing of use in them. The documents mostly consisted of legalese and personal correspondence. It occurred to Lissa--as it had to me--that Ambrose might not be showing everything he'd found. There was no way to prove that for now. Stifling a yawn, she thanked him and left with the others.

She was hoping for sleep, but her mind couldn't help but analyze the letter's possibilities. If it was legitimate.

"That letter's evidence that someone had a lot more reason to be pissed off at Tatiana than Rose did,' observed Christian as they wound their way back upstairs toward the building's exit. "Aunt Tasha once said that anger based on calculated reason is more dangerous than anger based on blind hate.'

"Your aunt's a regular philosopher,' said Adrian wearily. "But everything we've got is still circumstantial.'

Ambrose had let Lissa keep the letter, and she'd folded it and put it in her jeans pocket. "I'm curious what Tasha will have to say about this. And Abe too.' She sighed. "I wish Grant was still alive. He was a good man--and might have some insight into this.'

They reached a side exit on the main floor, and Eddie pushed the door open for them. Christian glanced over at Lissa as they stepped outside. "How close were Grant and Serena--'

Eddie moved a fraction of a second before Lissa saw the problem, but of course, Eddie would have already been watching for problems. A man--a Moroi, actually--had been waiting among trees in the courtyard that separated Ambrose's building from the neighboring one. It wasn't exactly a secluded spot, but it was far enough off of the main paths that it often stayed deserted.

The man moved forward and looked startled when he saw Eddie racing toward him. I was able to analyze the fight in a way Lissa couldn't. Judging by the man's angle and movement, he'd been heading for Lissa--with a knife in his hand. Lissa froze in fear, an expected reaction for someone not trained to react in this situation. But when Christian jerked her back, she came to life and quickly retreated with him and Adrian.

The attacker and Eddie were deadlocked for a moment, each trying to take the other down. I heard Lissa yell for help, but my attention was all on the fighters. The guy was strong for a Moroi and his maneuvers suggested he'd been trained to fight. I doubted, however, that he'd been trained since elementary school, nor did he have the muscle a dhampir did.

Sure enough, Eddie broke through and forced the guy to the ground. Eddie reached out to pin the man's right hand and get the knife out of the equation. Moroi or not, the man was actually quite skilled with the blade, particularly when I (and probably Eddie too) noticed scarring and what looked like a bent finger on his left hand. The guy had probably gone to great extents to hone his knife-hand's reflexes. Even restrained, he was still able to snake up with the blade, aiming unhesitatingly for Eddie's neck. Eddie was too fast to let that happen and blocked the blow with his arm, which took the blade's cut. Eddie's block gave the Moroi a bit more room to move, and he bucked up, throwing Eddie off. Without missing a beat--really, this guy was impressive--the Moroi swung for Eddie again. There could be no doubt about the man's intentions. He wasn't holding back. He was there to kill. That blade was out for blood. Guardians knew how to subdue and take prisoners, but we'd also been trained that when things were moving too fast, when it was an us-or-them situation--well, we made sure it was them. Eddie was faster than his opponent and was being driven by instincts pounded into us for years: stop what was trying to kill you. Eddie had no gun or knife, not at Court. When the man came at him a second time, knife again pointed straight at Eddie's neck, Eddie used the only weapon left that he could be sure would save his life.

Eddie staked the Moroi.

Dimitri had once jokingly commented that you didn't have to be Strigoi to be hurt by a stake through your heart. And, let's face it, a stake through the heart didn't actually hurt. It killed. Tatiana was proof. The man's knife actually made contact with Eddie's neck-- and then fell before piercing skin. The man's eyes went wide in shock and pain and then saw nothing at all. He was dead. Eddie leaned back on his heels, staring at his victim with the adrenaline-charged battle lust that followed any situation. Shouting suddenly caught his attention, and he leapt to his feet, ready for the next threat.

What he found was a group of guardians, ones who had responded to Lissa's earlier cries for help. They took one look at the scene and immediately acted on and the conclusions their training drove them to. There was a dead Moroi and someone holding a bloody weapon. The guardians went for Eddie, throwing him against the wall and prying his stake away. Lissa shouted to them that they had it all wrong, that Eddie had saved her life and--


Dimitri's frantic voice shocked me back to the Mastrano house. I was sitting on the bed, and he knelt before me, face full of fear as he gripped my shoulders. "Rose, what's wrong? Are you okay?'

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
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