"No pressure,' I muttered.

She looked like she was about to end the dream but then stopped and gave me a piercing look. "One thing to be careful of, Rose. Your auras match, but they aren't identical. Dimitri's is spiked with bits of darkness, leftover from his trauma. That darkness fades a little each day. You carry darkness too--but it's not fading.'

I shivered. "Lissa. It's the darkness I'm taking from her, isn't it?'

"Yes. I don't know much about bonds, but what you're doing--even if it's helping her--is very dangerous. Spirit tears us apart, no question, but in some ways ... I think we spirit users are built for it a little better. Not that it's always obvious,' she added wryly. "But you? No. And if you take too much, I don't know what'll happen. I'm afraid of it building and building. I'm afraid it's just going to take one spark--one catalyst--to make it explode inside you.'

"What happens then?' I whispered.

She shook her head slowly. "I don't know.'

With that, the dream faded.

I fell back into dreamless sleep, though my body--as if knowing it was time to take my shift--woke on its own a few hours later. Night's blackness surrounded me once more, and nearby, I could hear Dimitri's even, steady breathing and sense his warmth. Everything I'd just discussed with Sonya came pouring back to me. Too much, too much. I didn't know where to begin processing it. And no, I didn't know if I could believe it, not with what I'd seen in real life. Behaviors and feelings rarely line up. With a deep breath, I forced myself to be a guardian, not an emotionally distraught girl.

"Your time for sleep, comrade.'

His voice came to me like light in the darkness, soft and low. "You can get more rest if you need it.'

"No, I'm fine,' I told him. "And remember, you're not--'

"I know, I know,' he chuckled. "I'm not the general.' Oh lord. We finished each other's jokes. I do believe in souls that are in sync. Sternly reminding myself that Sonya's visit hadn't actually been about my love life, I recounted the rest of the dream to Dimitri, describing John's betrayal and Jill's abduction. "Did I ... did I do the right thing telling Sonya where we are?'

Several moments passed before he replied. "Yes. You're right that we need her help--and she can find Jill. The problem is, Victor and Robert have to know that too.' He sighed. "And you're right that I'd better rest up for what's to come.'

So, in that efficient way of his, he said no more. Soon, his breathing shifted as he fell back into sleep. It was amazing how he could do that with so little effort. Of course, that was something we'd been taught as guardians: sleep when you can because you don't know when you'll be able to again. It was a trick I'd never picked up. Staring into the darkness, I kept my senses sharp, listening for any sounds that might indicate danger.

I might not have a talent for falling asleep instantly, but I could keep my waking body alert while still checking in with Lissa. Jill and our escape had occupied me today, but events at Court still weighed heavily on me. Someone had tried to kill Lissa, and a group of guardians had just dragged off Eddie.

When I looked through her eyes, it was no surprise that I found most of my friends together. They were in a stark, intimidating room similar to the one she'd been questioned in about my escape--except it was larger. And with good reason. It was packed with all sorts of people. Adrian and Christian stood by Lissa, and I needed no aura reading to know the two guys were as uneasy as she was. Hans stood behind a table, hands pressed on it as he leaned forward and glared at everyone. Opposite Lissa, against the far wall, Eddie sat stone-faced in a chair with a guardian on either side of him. Both of his guards were tense, braced to leap into action. They thought Eddie was a threat, I realized, which was ridiculous. Yet, Hans seemed to share their opinion.

He jabbed his finger at a photograph lying on the table. Taking a step forward, Lissa saw that the picture was of the guy who'd attacked her--a picture taken after his death. His eyes were closed, his skin gone pale--but it provided a detailed look at his facial features, bland as they were.

"You killed a Moroi!' exclaimed Hans. I'd apparently tuned in to the middle of the conversation. "How is that not a problem? You're trained to protect them!'

"I did,' said Eddie. He was so calm, so serious that the part of me that could still muster a sense of humor thought he was like Dimitri Junior. "I protected her. What difference does it make if the threat's Moroi or Strigoi?'

"We have no proof of any of the details of this attack,' growled Hans.

"You have three witnesses!' snapped Christian. "Are you saying our reports are worthless?'

"I'm saying you're his friends, which makes your reports questionable. I would have liked to have had a guardian around to verify this.'

Now Lissa's temper flared. "You did! Eddie was there.'

"And there was no way you could have protected her without killing him?' asked Hans.

Eddie didn't answer, and I knew he was seriously considering the question, wondering if he might truly have made a mistake. At last, he shook his head. "If I hadn't killed him, he would have killed me.' Hans sighed, his eyes weary. It was easy for me to be angry at him right now, and I had to remind myself he was just doing his job. He held up the picture. "And none of you--none of you--have ever seen this man?'

Lissa studied the face once more, repressing a shiver. No, she hadn't recognized him during the attack and didn't recognize him now. There was really nothing remarkable about him--no notable feature you could point out. Our other friends shook their heads, but Lissa felt herself frowning.

"Yes?' asked Hans, immediately jumping on that subtle shift.

"I don't know him ...' she said slowly. The conversation with Joe the janitor popped into her mind.

"What'd the guy look like?' she'd asked Joe.

"Plain. Ordinary. Except the hand.'

Lissa stared at the picture a moment longer, which just barely showed a scarred hand with a couple of bent fingers. I had also noticed it in the fight. She lifted her eyes to Hans. "I don't know him,' she repeated. "But I think I know someone who does. There's a janitor ... well, a former janitor. The one who testified about Rose. I think he's seen this guy before. They have an interesting business relationship. Mikhail was going to make sure he didn't leave Court.'

Adrian did not look happy at all about having Joe brought up, seeing as it implicated his mother for bribery. "They'll have a hard time making him talk.'

Hans narrowed his eyes. "Oh, if he knows something, we'll make him talk.' He gave a sharp nod toward the door, and one of the guardians by Eddie moved toward it. "Find this guy. And send in our "guests.'' The guardian nodded and left the room.

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