If you're Strigoi, " the boy interrupted loudly, "then why don't you have horns? My friend Jeffrey said Strigoi have horns." Dimitri's eyes fell not on the boy but on me for a moment. Again, that spark of knowing shot between us. Then, face smooth and serious, Dimitri turned to the boy and answered, "Strigoi don't have horns. And even if they did, it wouldn't matter because I'm not a Strigoi.
If you're Strigoi," the boy interrupted loudly, "then why don't you have horns? My friend Jeffrey said Strigoi have horns." Dimitri's eyes fell not on the boy but on me for a moment. Again, that spark of knowing shot between us. Then, face smooth and serious, Dimitri turned to the boy and answered, "Strigoi don't have horns. And even if they did, it wouldn't matter because I'm not a Strigoi.
When we were almost to the other campus, I felt the weird nausea hit me. I called a warning to Christian, just as a Strigoi grabbed him. But Christian was fast. Flames wreathed the Strigoi's head. He screamed and released Christian, trying frantically to put the flames out. The Strigoi never saw me coming with the stake. The whole thing took under a minute. Christian and I exchanged looks. Yeah. We were badasses.
Both Christian and Adrian had worried there would be some piece of Strigoi left in him, but their fears had been about violence and bloodshed. No one would have guessed this: that living as a Strigoi had hardened his heart, killing any chance of him loving anyone. Killing any chance of him loving me. And I was pretty sure that if that was the case, then part of me would die too.
Then the best thing I can do is-" He froze. The brown eyes that had been narrowed with aggravation suddenly went wide with... what? Amazement? Awe? Or perhaps that stunned feeling I kept having when I saw him? Because suddenly, I was pretty sure he was experiencing the same thing I had earlier. He'd seen me plenty of times in Siberia. He'd seen me just the other night at the warehouse. But now... now he was truly viewing me with his own eyes. Now that he was no longer Strigoi, his whole world was different. His outlook and feelings were different. Even his soul was different. It was like one of those moments when people talked about their lives flashing before their eyes. Because as we stared at one another, every part of our relationship replayed in my mind's eye. I remembered how strong and invincible he'd been when we first met, when he'd come to bring Lissa and me back to the folds of Moroi society. I remembered the gentleness of his touch when he's bandaged my bloodies and bettered hands. I remembered him carrying me in his arms after Victor's daughter Natalie had attacked me. Most of all, I remembered the night we'd been together in the cabin, just before the Strigoi had taken him. A year. We'd known each other only a year but we'd lived a lifetime in it. And he was realizing that too, I knew as he studied me. His gaze was all-powerful, taking in every single one of my features and filing them away. Dimly, I tried to recall what I looked like today. I still wore the dress from the secret meeting and knew it looked good on me. My eyes were probably bloodshot from crying earlier, and I'd only had time for a quick brushing of my hair before heading off with Adrian. Somehow, I doubted any of it mattered. The way Dimitri was looking at me... it confirmed everything I'd suspected. The feelings he'd had for me before he'd been turned-the feelings that had become twisted while a Strigoi-were all still there. They had to be. Maybe Lissa was his savior. Maybe the rest of the Court thought she was a goddess. I knew, right then, that no matter how bedraggled I looked or how blank he tried to keep his face, I was a goddess to him.
Our gazes locked, so much passing between us. In those moments, I wasn't in a tent with him, on the run from those who regarded us as villains. There was no murderer to catch, no Strigoi trauma to overcome. There was just him and me and the feelings that had burned between us for so long.
You'll be eighteen soon, but even so... " He sighed. "When this comes out, a lot of people aren't going to be happy." "Yeah, well, they can deal." Rumors and gossip I could handle. "I also have a feeling your mother's going to have a very ugly conversation with me." "You're about to face down Strigoi, and my mother's the one you're scared of?
Okay, God, I thought. Get me out of this and I'll stop my half-assed church-going ways. You got me past a pack of Strigoi tonight. I mean, trapping that one between the doors really shouldn't have worked, so clearly you're on board. Let me get out of here, and I'll...I don't know. Donate Adrian's money to the poor. Get baptized. Join a convent. Well, no. Not that last one.
Okay, God, I thought. Get me out of this and I'll stop my half-assed church-going ways. You got me past a pack of Strigoi tonight. I mean, trapping that one between the doors really shouldn't have worked, so clearly you're on board. Let me get out of here, and I'll... I don't know. Donate Adrian's money to the poor. Get baptized. Join a convent. Well, no. Not that last one.
Don't be too hasty," she warned. "Conserve your strength. If you're too eager to fight the undead, you may find yourselves joining them. Then you'd never see us again, and we'd be very sad." "Yes," said Christian. "I'd cry into my pillow every night." I resisted the urge to kick him. "Well, I couldn't visit if I was Strigoi, yeah, but hopefully I'd just die a normal death. Then I could come see you as a ghost.
She has very strong ideas about family - ideas that probably sound kind of sexist to you. She believes all dhampirs should train and put in time as guardians, but that the women should eventually return home to raise their children together. But not the men? No, he said wryly. She thinks men still need to stay out there and kill Strigoi.
Lure him out. Send in a 'customer' with a message from me needing to meet him. I'm not the kind of person he can ignore-well, that he used to not-never mind. Once he's out, we can get him to a place we choose." I nodded. "I can do that." "No, " said Dimitri. "You can't." "Why not?" I asked, wondering if he thought it was too dangerous for me. "Because they'll know you're a dhampir the instant they see you. They'll probably smell it first. No Strigoi would have a dhampir working for him-only humans." There was an uncomfortable silence in the car. "No!" said Sydney. "I am not doing that!
Mark glanced at his watch and sighed. "Look, I have to go, but I'm serious, Rose. Stay here. Stay out of trouble. Fight Strigoi if they come to you, but don't go seeking them blindly. And definitely leave the ghosts alone. " It was a lot of advice to get in a grocery store, a lot of advice I wasn't sure I could follow.
I've been wanting to do that for a very long time, " I growled Victor smiled through the pain and the blood. "Of course you have. I used to think Belikov was the savage one, but it's really you, isn't it? You're the animal with no control, no higher reasoning except to fight and kill." I clenched his shirt and leaned him over him. "Me? I'm not the one who tortured Lissa for my own benefit. I'm not the one who turned my daughter Strigoi. And I'm sure as hell not the one who used compulsion to kidnap a fifteen-year-old girl!
Dimitri: "I also have a feeling your mother's going to have one ugly conversation with me." Rose: "You're about to go face down Strigoi, and my mother's the one you're scared of?" Dimitri: "She's a force to be reckoned with. Where do you think you got it from?" Rose: "It's a wonder you bother with me then." Dimitri: "You're worth it, believe me.
You're burned into my mind forever. There is nothing, nothing in this world that will ever change that." And it was memories like that that made it so hard to comprehend this quest to kill him, even if he was a Strigoi. Yet...at the same time I had to destroy him. I needed to remember him as the man who'd loved me and held me in bed. I needed to remember that that man would not want to stay a monster.
Christian's family lived under the shadow cast by his parents. They had purposely become Striogi, trading thier magic and mortality to become immortal and subsist on killing others. His parents were dead now, but that didn't stop people from not trusting him. They seemed to think he'd go Strigoi at any moment and take everyone else with him. His abrasiveness and dark sence of humor didn't really help things, either.
His fingertip gently wiped away a tear that had escaped down my cheek. "That's part of it, " he said. "But also... well, you and I will both be Lissa's guardians someday. I need to protect her at all cost. If a pack of Strigoi come, I need to throw my body between them and her." "I know that. Of course that's what you have to do." The black sparkles were dancing in front of my eyes again. I was fading out. "No. If I let myself love you, I won't throw myself in front of her. I'll throw myself in front of you.
I felt the fangs against my neck and knew I was going to die. It was horrible. I wanted to live so, so badly... but this was how it would end. With my last moments, I started to yell at Christian to run, but then the Strigoi above my suddenly lit up like a torch. He jerked back, and I rolled out from underneath him. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I turned to Christian, who was crouched on the ground. "Wow, " I said, helping him up. Obviously, he was the one who had saved me. "No shit, " he said. "Didn't know I had that much power.
Dimitri is dead, " she said. It was a statement, not a question, but she was looking to me for confirmation. I wondered if I'd given away something, some hint that there was still more to the story. Or maybe she just needed the certainty of those words. And for a moment, I considered telling them that Dimitri was dead. It was what the Academy would tell them, what the guardians would tell them. It would be easier on them... but somehow, I couldn't stand to lie to them-even if it was a comforting lie. Dimitri would have wanted the whole truth, and his family would too. "No, " I said, and for a heartbeat, hope sprang up in everyone's faces-at least until I spoke again. "Dimitri's a Strigoi.
Your hair," repeated Dimitri. His eyes were wide, almost awestruck. "Your hair is beautiful." I didn't think so, not in its current state. of course, considering we were in a dark alley filled with bodies, the choices were kind of limited. "You see? You're not one of them. Strigoi don't see beauty. Only death. You found something beautiful. One thing that's beautiful." Hesitantly, nervously, he ran his fingers along the strands I'd touched earlier. "But is it enough?" "It is for now." I pressed a kiss to his forehead and helped him stand. "It is for now.
But the humans weren't what made my steps falter as I walked through grass that had turned bright green with summer's touch. It was Dimitri. Always Dimitri. Dimitri, the man I loved. Dimitri, the Strigoi I wanted to save. Dimitri, the monster I'd most likely have to kill. The love we'd shared always burned within me, no matter how often I told myself to move on, no matter how much the world did think I'd move on. He was always with me, always on my mind, always making me question myself.
I remembered those frantic seconds when I'd thought all I loved and knew, all that was Sydney Sage, would be lost from this world. My battered friends and I had just had a brush with death, dancing with this evil. We'd destroyed it, but it was terrifying how touch and go it all had been. At any moment, the Strigoi could have gained the advantage and killed one or all of us. Life and death were inextricably bound together, and we wavered between them. But we'd triumphed over death tonight. We were alive, and the world was beautiful. Life was beautiful, and I refused to waste mine.
Are you super strong? Can you be hurt?" "Of course I can, " replied Dimitri. "I'm strong, but all sorts of things can still hurt me." And then being Rose Hathaway, I said something I really shouldn't have to the boy. "You should go punch him and find out." Jonathan's mother screamed again, but he was a fast little bastard, eluding her grasp. He ran up to Dimitri before anyone could stop him-well, I could have-and pounded his tiny fist against Dimitri's knee. Then, which the same reflexes that allowed him to dodge enemy attacks, Dimitri immediately feinted falling backward, as though Jonathan had knocked him over. Clutching his knee, Dimitri groaned as though he were in terrible pain. Several people laughed, and by then, one of the other guardians had caught hold of Jonathan and returned him to his near-hysterical mother. As he was being dragged away, Jonathan glanced over his shoulder at Dimitri. "He doesn't seem very strong to me. I don't think he's a Strigoi.
My dearest Rose, One of the few downsides to being awakened is that we no longer require sleep; therefore we also no longer dream. It's a shame, because if I could dream, I know I'd dream about you. I'd dream about the way you smell and how your dark hair feels like silk between my fingers. I'd dream about the smoothness of your skin and the fierceness of your lips when we kiss. Without dreams, I have to be content with my own imagination - which is almost as good. I can picture all of those things perfectly, as well as how it'll be when I take your life from this world. It's something I regret having to do, but you've made my choice inevitable. Your refusal to join me in eternal life and love leaves no other course of action, and I can't allow someone as dangerous as you to live. Besides, even if I forced your awakening, you now have so many enemies among the Strigoi that one of them would kill you. If you must die, it'll be by my hand. No one else's. Nonetheless, I wish you well today as you take your trails - not that you need any luck. If they actually making you take them, it's a waste of everyone's time. You're the best in that group, and by this evening you'll wear your promise mark. Of course, that means you'll be all that much more of a challenge when we meet again - which I'll definitely enjoy. And we will be meeting again. With graduation, you'll be turned out of the Academy, and once you're outside the wards, I'll find you. There is no place in this world you can hide from me. I'm watching. Love, Dimitri
I sprang toward him with the stake, hoping to catch him by surprise. But Dimitri was hard to catch by surprise. And he was fast. Oh, so fast. It was like he knew what I was going to do before I did it. He halted my attack with a glancing blow to the side of my head. I knew it would hurt later, but my adrenaline was running too strong for me to pay attention to it now. Distantly, I realized some other people had come to watch us. Dimitri and I were celebrities in different ways around here, and our mentoring relationship added to the drama. This was prime-time entertainment. My eyes were only on Dimitri, though. As we tested each other, attacking and blocking, I tried to remember everything he'd taught me. I also tried to remember everything I knew about him. I'd practiced with him for months. I knew him, knew his moves, just as he knew mine. I could anticipate him the same way. Once I started using that knowledge, the fight grew tricky. We were too well matched, both of us too fast. My heart thumped in my chest, and sweat coated my skin. Then Dimitri finally got through. He moved in for an attack, coming at me with the full force of his body. I blocked the worst of it, but he was so strong that I was the one who stumbled from the impact. He didn't waste the opportunity and dragged me to the ground, trying to pin me. Being trapped like that by a Strigoi would likely result in the neck being bitten or broken. I couldn't let that happen. So, although he held most of me to the ground, I managed to shove my elbow up and nail him in the face. He flinched and that was all I needed. I rolled him over and held him down. He fought to push me off, and I pushed right back while also trying to maneuver my stake. He was so strong, though. I was certain I wouldn't be able to hold him. Then, just as I thought I'd lose my hold, I got a good grip on the stake. And like that, the stake came down over his heart. It was done. Behind me, people were clapping but all I noticed was Dimitri. Our gazes were locked. I was still straddling him, my hands pressed against his chest. Both of us were sweaty and breathing heavily. His eyes looked at me with pride-and hell of a lot more. He was so close and my body yearned for him, again thinking he was a piece of me I needed in order to be complete. The air between us seemed warm and heady, and I would have given anything in that moment to lie down with him and have his arms wrap around me. His expression showed that he was thinking the same thing. The fight was finished, but remnants of the adrenaline and animal intensity remained.