"But the immortal soul - "

"What do I care about that?" he demanded. "Why bother living some miserable regimented life in this world, in the hopes that maybe our souls go on in some heavenly realm, when I can take control now - ensure that I live forever in this world, with all of its pleasures, staying strong and young forever? That's real. That's something I can put my faith in."

"It's wrong," I said. "It's not worth it."

"You wouldn't say that if you'd experienced what I have. If you'd been Strigoi, you never would've wanted to lose that either."

"How did you lose it?" asked Adrian. "What spirit user saved you?"

Lee snorted. "You mean robbed me. I don't know. It all happened so fast. But as soon as I find him I'll - ahh!"

A yearbook is not the greatest of weapons, particularly one the size of Amberwood's, but in a pinch - and with surprise - it'll do.

I'd noted earlier that I wasn't going to be able to undo the knots in the tie anytime soon. That was true. It had taken me this whole time, but I'd done it. For whatever reason, knot-making was a useful skill in the Alchemist curriculum, one I'd practiced growing up with my father. As soon as I was free of Adrian's tie, I reached for the first thing I could: Kelly's junior yearbook. I sprang up and slammed it into Lee's head. He cringed back at the impact, dropping the knife as he did, and I used the opportunity to sprint across the living room and grab Adrian's arm. He needed no help from me and was already trying to get to his feet.

We didn't get far before Lee was right back on us. The knife had slid somewhere unseen, and he simply relied on his own strength. He caught hold of me and ripped me from Adrian, one hand on my wounded arm and one in my hair, causing me to stumble. Adrian came after us, doing his best to hit Lee, even with bound hands. We weren't the most efficient fighting force, but if we could just momentarily delay Lee, there was a chance we might make it out of here.

Lee was distracted by both of us, trying to fight and fend us off at the same time. Unbidden, Eddie's lesson came back to me, about how a well-placed punch could cause serious damage to someone stronger than you. Sizing up the situation in seconds, I decided I had an opening. I closed my hand the way Eddie had taught me in that quick lesson, positioning my body in a way that would direct the weight in an efficient way. I swung.


I yelled in pain as my fist made contact. If this was the "safe" way to punch, I couldn't imagine how much a sloppy one hurt. Fortunately, it seemed to cause just as much - if not more - pain to Lee. He fell backward, hitting the comfy chair in a way that made him lose his balance and collapse to the ground. I was stunned at what I had done, but Adrian was still in motion. He nudged me to the door, taking advantage of Lee's temporary disorientation.

"Come on, Sage. This is it."

We hurried to the door, ready to make our escape while Lee shouted profanities at us. I reached for the knob, but the door opened before I could touch it.

And two Strigoi entered the room.

Chapter Twenty-Five

I HAD MOCKED KEITH when we first came to Palm Springs, teasing him for freezing up around Moroi. But as I stood there now, face-to-face with the stuff of nightmares, I knew exactly how he felt. I had no right to judge anyone for losing all rational thought when confronted with their greatest fears. That being said, if Keith was here, I think he would've understood why Moroi weren't as big a deal to me anymore. Because when compared to Strigoi?

Well, suddenly the little differences between humans and Moroi became negligible. Only one difference mattered, the difference between the living and the dead. It was the line that divided us, the line that Adrian and I firmly stood together on one side of - facing those who stood on the other.

I had seen Strigoi before. Back then, I hadn't been immediately threatened by them. Plus, I'd had Rose and Dimitri on hand, ready to protect me. Now? There was no one here to save us. Just ourselves.

There were only two of them, but it might as well have been two hundred. Strigoi operated at such a different level than the rest of us that it didn't take very many of them to tip the odds. They were both women, and they looked as though they'd been in their twenties when they became Strigoi. How long ago that was, I couldn't guess. Lee had zealously gone on and on about how being Strigoi meant you were "forever young." Yet in looking at these two monsters, I didn't really think of them that way. Sure, they had the superficial appearance of youth, but it was marred with evil and decay. Their skin might be wrinkle free, but it was a sickly white, far whiter than any Moroi. The red-ringed eyes that leered out at us didn't sparkle with life and energy, but rather an unholy sort of reanimation. These people weren't right. They weren't natural.

"Charming," said one, her blond hair in a pixie cut. Her facial structure made me think she'd been a dhampir or human before being turned. She was eyeing us the same way I'd often seen my family's cat watch birds. "And exactly as described."

"They're soooo pretty," crooned the other, a lascivious smile on her face. Her height said she had once been Moroi. "I don't know which one I want first."

The blonde gave a warning look. "We'll share."

"Like last time," agreed the other, tossing a mane of curly black hair over one shoulder.

"No," said the first. "Last time you made both kills. That wasn't sharing."

"But I let you feed from both afterward."

Before she could counter back, Lee suddenly recovered himself and staggered forward to the blond Strigoi. "Wait, wait. Dawn. You promised me. You promised you'd awaken me first before you do anything."

The two Strigoi turned their attention to Lee. I was still frozen, still unable to move or really react while being so close to these creatures of hell. But somehow, through the thick and overwhelming terror surrounding me, I still managed to feel small and unexpected pity for Lee. There was a little hate there too, of course, considering the situation. But mostly I felt terribly sorry for someone who truly believed his life was meaningless unless he sacrificed his soul for hollow immortality. Not only that, I felt sorry for him for actually thinking he could trust these creatures to give him what he wanted. Because as I studied them, it was perfectly clear to me that they were deciding whether or not to make this a three-course meal. Lee, I suspected, was the only one who didn't realize this.

"Please," he said. "You promised. Save me. Restore me to how I was."

I also couldn't help but notice the small red patch on his face where I'd hit him. I allowed myself to feel a bit of pride over that but wasn't cocky enough to think I possessed any noteworthy fighting skills to battle my way out of this situation. The Strigoi were too close, and our exits were too few.

Tags: Richelle Mead Bloodlines Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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