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By : Val Wurth

Vampire Academy Book 1 Dimitri's Perspective Hey this is my first book so please be understanding Disclaimer!! These characters don't belong to me but to the wonderful Richelle Mead and no intended copyright infringement. Let me know what you think and I'll be sure to be working on it! Thanks! -Val

Chapter 1
I woke up from another terrifying number, seeing Zeklos face. I felt so disappointed in myself. All I had ever wanted growing up was to be the best guardian; I prided myself in my work. And now, after taking a simple vacation, he'd been murdered. I knew there was nothing I could have done, everyone takes vacations but I shouldn't have taken it. If I hadn't, maybe he would still be alive and I wouldn't be exiled here at the Academy. I had failed him. I remembered the funeral now, the way his family looked, their sadness; I could have saved him if only things had been different. If only I had been there. I went for a walk, unable to stay in this bed confined any longer, I just felt so tortured, and the sun would give me some fresh air. It was bright outside since the Academy ran on a nocturnal schedule. Usually, the sun chased away all of my nightmares, but this loss was here to stay. I felt so guilty. When I was growing up, all I had ever wanted was to be a great guardian. I was sure that if I trained as hard as I could possibly could I would be able to protect my moroi from any danger. I always had the highest marking in my classes, I worked to be the best at everything, and I'd been gifted with incredible height and strength. But in the end, all that skill and determination was for nothing because I failed, my charge had died. As I walked along the walls of the Academy, I suddenly knocked into Alberta. "Dimitri, what are you doing up this late?" she asked with concern. "Couldn't sleep," I answered her. "Still having trouble with your loss, Dimitri?" She asked, but it was more of a statement. "Somewhat. I just feel like I should have been there, that I let him down. If I wouldn't have been on vacation, he would still be here today." I let out. I was so frustrated for myself and suddenly couldn't contain the words. "Dimitri you have to stop this. You were on vacation because you hadn't taken one in almost two years. And you don't know if it would have changed anything. You need to stop blaming yourself, you did not murder him, strigoi did. And honestly, you really should get some sleep. In a few hours you'll be leaving on that mission," Alberta reminded me.

"Yes, I hope all goes well," I told her. "It will," she assured me, "you are very good you know. Just remember, the Princess has a huge value, she is the last Dragomir so be careful. Rosemary Hathaway, the novice that took her is not a bad fighter nor it she dumb, she would have made a great guardian one day if she wasn't so busy getting in trouble," she said. "I won't," I answered. "Ok. Then go get some sleep," she told me. "Alright," I told her, I knew she was right. I should be worried about getting the Princess back. Who knows what kind of trouble those two have faced out there. When I had heard the story, I couldn't believe it. Security was strong at the academy. It was easier to escape prison than the Academy, and managing to escape and go on without getting caught was completely unheard of, yet this novice who seemed to only be trouble and of no value from what I had been told had managed it. I reached my bedroom and tried to go back to bed. Soon enough, my mind relaxed and I was gone. A few hours later I awoke to get on the plane, we'd been briefed on the plan. A few sources had realized that the two girls were staying on a college campus in a house, and we were to go there and retrieve the two girls. I couldn't help but feel a bit of excitement. All that I had been doing lately was working out and patrolling the academy but really, it had only been giving me time to think about how things could have different had I only been there for my charge. Now at least I could focus all of my energy on something else. I was to lead the group. There were eleven of us guardians and we were well prepared. I thought the group was rather big considering they were only two troublesome teenage girls, but then again when one of those girls was the last of the Dragomirs, it counted. I looked over the portfolio again, trying to memorize every angle. Suddenly a pictured fell out of Rosemary Hathaway, the novice, who had long hair and big almond, shaped deep brown eyes. Her beauty basically radiated off the image. I felt a bit immersed and captivated all of a sudden. "Dimitri," called Alberta. I looked up instantly realizing that I had been busy admiring the Hathaway girl, which was completely out of line. What had I been thinking? "Yes," I answered Alberta. "You ready for this?" she asked. "Of course," I smiled to her, the last think I needed was for her to start worrying about me becoming incompetent. The plane was descending now as we arrived in California. We decided to take three separate cars and leave them parked about a mile away. We would walk the rest of the way

in the shadows, trying to avoid being seen by people. The last thing we needed was attention. It should be a quick grab and go. We pick to go late at night when at least there would be less people around. Unfortunately, they lived very close to a college campus, so people were barely settling. I was in the front lines. I think the air was actually cool, but I was sweating and tense ready for whatever was the come. We walked to the house, each of us sticking to the shadows. We would have to invade the house as quietly as possible and I stood close to the trees so as to not be seen. I stopped, then realizing we had gotten to the house. I saw her then, Rosemary Hathaway, she looked tired and seemed to be having some sort of conversation with the black cat. I stuck to the shadows, trying to assess the situation. There could be other people in the house and we didn't want to hurt innocent bystanders. Then I came to a halt at the closest tree to the house, careful not to move, the other guardians stopped as well, all of us turned into statues. The cat suddenly looked out at the tree, damn, he'd seen me, he tensed up, as expected, animals didn't like dhampirs. Rosemary then eyed the window and approached, looking out into the darkness. I tried not to move, but judging by the way her expression changed I could tell that she saw me. I then disappeared back into the darkness to alert the other. I told them to surround the house, that she had seen me. They told me we should invade now, but I contrasted, she had only seen one man, this way the two girls would run out and there would be no witnesses. We then all encircled the house, assuring that they would be caught regardless of the direction that they ran out. Suddenly, I saw the front door open, I tensed, adrenaline pulsed through my veins they were making a run for it. I hurried along, taking notice of the two girls, the blonde one, the princess had only fear in her eyes, panic really and I could very faintly hear their hushed whispers. On the other hand, Hathaway, the one with the long dark hair held no fear in her eyes any longer instead determination. My impressions at the academy had been that these two girls had left because they didn't want to follow the rules and just have fun. I found that a little hard to believe looking at them. Something, something was there. An unspoken bond and Rosemary seemed so determined to protect the Princess I could hardly believe it was about having fun. I didn't believe someone that determined to protect would not be more interested in being reckless. The two girls struggled, so much fear in their eyes, they had no idea what was to come. I then saw my opportunity. I wouldn't give them any chance to escape and charged forward. I heard one of them ask in a trembled voice, "Do you hear that?" We were almost to them. They tried to run, but they were hardly fast enough. I was sure Rosemary could run faster but I supposed that she chose not to so that she could stick to the princess, dhampirs were much more physically adapt than moroi. I saw what they aimed for then, there was a sole car in that area of the parking lot, a green Honda and Rosemary began to pull out a pair of keys, I picked up the pace and stepped directly in their path there was no way I would allow them to get in that car. Rosemary came to a screeching halt, jerking back the Princess with her; at least her reflexes weren't completely hopeless. I saw recognition in her eyes that told me she had

realized I was the man staring at her from the trees. The others slowed, realizing that we had them; I don't think she had realized that there were almost a dozen of us. If she would have, would it have stopped her from trying to escape? There was no way she could get out of this situation, we had them and they looked resigned, ready to surrender. Rosemary pressed up against Lissa, putting her behind her and looked up at me, nearly growling, she let out, "Don't touch her!" through gritted teeth. I don't think she realized that we didn't mean any harm, I realized how much she cared for the Princess right then, here she was, ready to take on almost a dozen guardians by herself even if it got her killed-just to protect her. I didn't see that a lot, the kind of passion in guarding, the willingness to give up her life immediately. I didn't expect that from her. I held out my hands to her, I didn't want her to get hurt if she didn't have to and I didn't think the other guardians would try avoiding conflict when she seemed so offensive. I hoped that she would realize that my intentions meant no harm and spoke as I stepped forward, "I'm not going to" I saw her attack immediately, and like a cobra I knocked her off and sent her backwards, I didn't mean to hit her so hard and seeing her lose her footing heading towards the floor with her hip, I reached out and caught her arm pulling her towards me. As I did, I caught a glimpse of her neck. She reached up to touch her throat and realized that she still held to dark spots of dark blood on her neck. She had given blood recently. It made sense it was the only way Lissa could have survived. But she must be so weak and drugged up. She looked embarrassed then, clearly aware of the taboo that ensued with permitting someone to drink from you. She pulled her thick long hair down and completely covered her neck. It surprised me too that she must have given blood a very short time before the attack. I knew of the kind of effect it had on a person, the endorphin rush, the light headedness and weakness. I couldn't believe she would try to run in that state or try attacking such a large group so much more advanced than her. She jerked out of my hold and our eyes met. Hers were beautiful and showing defiance, she backed toward Lissa now, bracing herself for another attack. Then Lissa spoke, "Rose, don't." I didn't think Rosemary would change her mind, but then her fierceness faltered, and she calmed down. I could see the tension escaping her as she realized that there was no way to win right now and sensing her resignation, I stepped forward looking at Lissa, trying to look as calm and composed as possible. I swept a bow and introduced myself, "My name is Dimitri Belikov. I've come to take you back to St. Vladimir's Academy Princess."

Chapter 2
We managed to get the two girls to the airport and onto the jet without much difficulty. The academy's private jet was ready for us when we reached it. I looked over to the Princess and Rosemarie and suddenly realized their secretive whispering couldn't be innocent conversation so I told the guardian who escorted Rosemarie, "Don't let them talk to each other. Five minutes together, and they'll come up with an escape plan," there was absolutely no way that I would allow that.

Once the plane took off, however, I relaxed, ever so slightly. The possibility of them getting off this plane was nonexistent. Princess Dragomir sat next to me, holding a water bottle unnecessarily tight and when I took a look at her, her eyes showed nothing but fear. Why was she so afraid of me? Then I realized that she was eyeing the tattooed symbols on the back of my neck my molnija marks-the streaks of jagged lightning crossing in an X symbol. Each one was for a strigoi I killed. It wasn't exactly something I was proud of either, because even though I knew strigoi were completely evil, it was still taking a life. I hadn't completely come to terms with that. I also started to notice the way Rosemarie and her stole glances to each other, it was as if they were almost having a silent conversation, reading each other's thoughts. Where had I heard that from? I pondered and realized that it was from the guardian stories, when a moroi and their guardian would become bonded and the guardian could read the moroi's thoughts. That couldn't be possible though, it hadn't happened in a very long time or else I would have probably heard of it. I looked at Rosemarie then; she seemed, gone, distant, out of it. It was as if she had left her body and suddenly I saw her face become twisted, and she grimaced. It was like she was back once again. What had just happened? Could it be true? Could they really be bonded? Towards the end of the flight, I decided to go sit next to Rosemarie, asking the guardian there to switch seats with me. As soon as I sat down she turned away pointedly, staring at the window absentmindedly. It was a bit juvenile since I was very aware of her arms clenched in tight fists, but I decided to still try to talk to her, there was something I needed to ask. I hadn't completely ruled out the bonded theory. "Were you really going to attack all of us?" I asked finally. She didn't respond though. So I continued, "Doing thatprotecting her like that it was very brave. Stupid, but brave. Why did you even try it?" She then brushed hair out of her face, looked at me straight in the eyes and said, "Because I'm her guardian," and turned back towards the window like it was the most obvious thing in the world. And I suppose it should be, but most novices wouldn't take their jobs so seriously. I remembered that I had always taken my job seriously, even when I was a novice and the other students would insist that I take a break. And their connection, it seemed more than just that. After several moment I realized she didn't really want me to sit next to her and I decided to go back to the front of the jet, after all, hell was about to be paid once she visited Headmistress Kirova, it was no secret that she detested Rosemarie. When we landed after, we drove Rosemarie and Lissa back to the academy. It was around sunset, the beginning of the day for the academy. This academy wasn't as old as the one that I had attended in Europe, but it was built in the same beautiful architecture, it's medievalness reminded me of home in Siberia. As we walked, suddenly I saw Rosemarie break from her guardian and run up to me. "Hey, Comrade," she called. I kept walking and refused to acknowledge her with that sort of comment, I called, "You want to talk now?" as sped up as did she to catch up.

"Are you taking us to Kirova?" she asked vulnerably. "Headmistress Kirova," I corrected her. She then looked at Lissa and again, I saw the silent conversation happening between them. "Headmistress. Whatever. She's still a self-righteous old bit-," but she suddenly stopped talking when she realized we were walking through the commons. It was breakfast time, and all their class was gathered together instantly. Hundreds of eyes set on both Rosemarie and Princess Dragomir all of a sudden. There was so much tension I thought someone would burst. I looked at Rosemarie and noticed her reaction, a lazy grin. Everyone gawked at them, their eyes widening, they were legends here at the academy. Most of the stares were curious, but one of them from a small Moroi girl was not friendly at all. She looked more like she wanted to rip the Princess's eyes out. It looked like they had been popular back here at the academy when they had actually attended. We finally reached Headmistress Kirova's office and most of the other guardians left with the exception of Alberta and me. We stood along the wall and tried to fade out while they talked. The Headmistress looked terribly angry, and just as she was about to open her mouth Prince Victor Dashkov cut her off. "Vasilia" he spoke. Prince Dashkov then rose from the chair he had been seated at with what looked like great effort, since he was very ill and the Princess ran to him, throwing her arms around him for a hug. "Uncle" she whispered, sounding like teardrops would come out at any moment. "You have no idea how glad I am to see you safe Vasilisa," he smiled, " and you too Rose." They talked for few moments and then Vasilisa returned to her chair. The Headmistress lectured the girls, but then the attention shifted to Rosemarie. "You, Miss Hathaway, broke the most sacred promise among out kind: the promise of a guardian to protect a Moroi. It is a great trust. A trust that you violated by selfishly taking the princess away from here. The Strigoi would love to finish of the Dragomirs, you nearly enabled them to do it." "Rose didn't kidnap me," spoke up Lissa, "I wanted to go. Don't blame her." The headmistress continued, "Miss Dragomir, you could have been the one who orchestrated the entire plan for all I know, but it was still her responsibility to make sure you didn't carry it out. If she'd done her duty, she would have notified someone. If she'd done her duty, she would have kept you safe." Rosemarie snapped then, "I did my duty!" she shouted, I flinched and I think Alberta did too. "I did keep her safe! I kept her safe when none of you could do it. I took her away to protect her. I did what I had to. You certainly weren't going to." I wonder what exactly she meant by that.

Kirova stared, "Miss Hathaway, forgive me if I fail to see the logic of how taking her out of heavily guarded, magically secured environment is protecting her. Unless there's something you aren't telling us?" Rosemarie than bit her lip. "I see," she continued, "well then. By my estimation, the only reason you left aside from the novelty of it, no doubt, was to avoid the consequences of that horrible destructive stunt you pulled just before your disappearance." I had read reports about the incident, and it had said that Rose grabbed a baseball bat during one of the parties a student was having without permission and smashed an entire student's room. "No, that's not-" Rose began but Kirova cut her off. "And that only makes my decision that much easier. As a Moroi, the princess must continue here at the Academy for her own safety, but we have no such obligations to you. You will be sent away as soon as possible." "Iwhat?" Rose began, suddenly realizing the severity of the situation, her audacity faltering. Lissa then stood up to defend her, "You can't do that, she's my guardian." "She is no such thing, particularly since she isn't even a guardian at all. She's still a novice." "But my parents" Lissa began. "I know what your parents wanted, God rest their souls, but things have changed. Miss Hathaway is expendable. She doesn't deserve to be a guardian, and she will leave." I didn't really like the way Kirova spoke about us like that. Expendable when guardians were out there risking their lives every day and dedicating everything to them. And I didn't think it was right for her to throw Rosemarie out like that. It'd be a waste of talent. She could see that, right? "Where are you going to send me? To my mom in Nepal? Did she even know I was gone? Or maybe you'll send me off to my father? Or maybe you're going to try and send me off to be a blood whore. Try that, and we'll be gone by the end of the day." "Miss Hathaway," she hissed, "you are out of line." I knew where this was going. I had to admit, this girl had guts, especially to stick it to Kirova and try to protect Lissa against all odds last night. Sending her off, I thought again, would never work out, with the way they acted, especially if they really are bonded. I hadn't realized I spoke aloud until it was too late, "they have a bond." Kirova eyed me, and I knew I would have to explain. I looked at Rosemarie this time, "Rose knows what Vasilisa is feeling. Don't you?"

"No" Kirova began, not wanting to believe it, "that's impossible. That hasn't happened in centuries." "It's obvious, I suspected it as soon as I started watching them. Neither Lissa nor Rose responded, and when I looked at Rose again, she averted her eyes. Victor then chimed in "that is a gift, a rare and wonderful thing." I added, "the best guardians always had that bond, in the stories." Kirova began again, outrage painted in every word, "Stories that are centuries old, surely you aren't suggesting we let her stay at the Academy after everything she's done?" I admitted, "She might be wild and disrespectful, but she has potential" she reminded me so much of me when I was younger. "Wild and disrespectful," Rose began, "Who the hell are you anyway? Outsourced help?" I couldn't believe she'd say that. After all, here I was advocating for her. She was so juvenile, she didn't even understand when to pick her battles. Kirova quickly informed her, "Guardian Belikov is the princess's guardian now," said Kirova. "Her sanctioned guardian." I didn't think Rose would like that one too much. "You got cheap foreign labor to protect Lissa?" Ouch, like she was even American. Nearly all moroi and dhampir roots are Eastern European. Kirova then threw her hands up in exasperation, "You see? Completely undisciplined! All the psychic bonds and very raw potential in the world can't make up for that. A guardian without discipline is worse than no guardian." "So teach her discipline," I insisted determined not to lose this battle, "Classes just started. Put her back in and get her training again. "Impossible," argued Kirova, "She'll still be hopelessly behind her peers. "No I won't," Rose tried to assert. "Then give her extra training sessions." I insisted. I didn't want to see her talent wasted. We already had such a shortage of guardians, especially female guardians as it is. "Who's going to put in the extra time? You?" Kirova demanded. That caught me off guard. "Well that's not what I" "Yes. That's what I thought," Kirova said with satisfaction. I frowned and looked as Rose and Lisa, their eyes pleading to me.

"Yes," I finally said, deciding, it wasn't like I had much to do anyway, "I can mentor Rose. I'll give her extra sessions along with her normal ones." "And then what? She goes unpunished?" asked Kirova. "Find some other way to punish her. Guardian numbers have gone down too much to risk losing another. A girl, in particular. Victor suddenly supported my argument, "I'm inclined to agree with Guardian Belikov. Sending Rose away would be a shame. A waste of talent." "Please Ms. Kirova, let Rose stay," Lissa pleaded. "If Miss Hathaway stays, here's how it will be. Your continued enrollment at St. Vladimir's is strictly probationary. Step out of line once, and you're gone. You will attend all classes and required trainings for novices your age. You will also train with Guardian Belikov in every spare moment you have before and after classes. Other than that, you are banned from all social activities, except meals, and will stay in your dorm. Fail to comply with any of this, and you will be sent away." Rose bickered, "Banned from all social activities? Are you trying to keep us apart? Afraid we'll run away again? "I'm taking precautions. As I'm sure you recall, you were never properly punished for destroying school property. You have a lot to make up for. You are being offered a very generous deal. I suggest you do not let your attitude endanger it." Then Rose looked at me. She was about to say something to screw herself over but I looked deeply into her eyes and she stopped herself from going on any further realizing her predicament. "Fine, I accept." Rose finally said with resignation. This definitely changed things.

Chapter 3
After the meeting Rosemarie and Princess Vasilisa were sent directly to their counselors to get schedules and then to whatever class they were assigned for the period no break time for them on the other hand, I'd finally get a break from these two before committing myself to something else. All in all, I didn't think mentoring Rose would be so bad; she had been disrespectful, but she was so intent on protecting Vasilisa that I felt assured she would commit to the trainings. As for me, it wasn't like I had some big social life that these trainings would interfere with and honestly, less downtime would let me repress some of my thoughts about Lord Zeklos. I still felt terribly guilty, we had both gone to the Academy in Siberia, grown up together and had been close friends. He had actually requested me when we graduated, thinking that I could be able to protect him but instead I failed him.

After the schedules Alberta and I escorted Rosemarie to the guardians' gym, none of us speaking. The other novices were in the middle of gym setting up when we entered, and just like before, all eyes were glued to Rosemarie. Truthfully, I was sure most boys' eyes were glued to her regularly. She had a very womanly body, curvy, thin and with a much larger than average upper chest, especially in a school full of Moroi girls who were usually extremely thin. Her face was exotic tan, beautiful big brown eyes and long thick black hair. She looked more like some alluring desert princess than a student in high school. I noticed Rosemarie then, she seemed to be gathering her courage as she looked around, probably searching for someone she was well acquainted with before her "vacation". "Hey Mason, wipe the drool off your face. If you're going to think about me naked, do it on your own time," Rose called out to the crowd eyeing her. Mason was a red haired boy with freckles all over his face and becoming one of the best novices. Did she have to put herself out there like that? He snapped out of his haze then and answered her with a lopsided smile, "This is my time, Hathaway. I'm leading today's session." "Oh yeah," she continued, "Huh, well I guess this is a good time to think about me naked, then." Something strange happened when she said that I noticed their interaction and realized that it bothered me. After deciding to be her mentor I guess I started to feel a bit protective over her. Besides, she didn't need these sorts of futile distractions. She had a lot of catching up to you. "It's always a good time to think about you naked," replied Eddie Castile, another good novice who didn't seem so great anymore to me. The comment seemed to hit a nerve. Rosemarie was very beautiful, and it was understandable with the fact that she is a teenager that she is going to flirt, but I didn't really like the way the boys looked at her like she was a piece of meat. It bothered more than it should have, and I really wanted her to respect herself. I cursed out loud in Russian then and walked off, shaking my head at her. She looked at me for a moment and shrugged, deciding not to let it get to her and then joined her class. I went off to the back of the gym where I could easily watch them, although they couldn't see me. I also was curious to where she stood at this point with regards to her body. Had she trained while she was away? If she hadn't, practice would be hell. I watched as the class engulfed her, hearing people question her as to the reason for leaving and catching up she never did tell them. Finally, Guardian Steven came over and scowled at Mason for neglecting his duties. Still with a sloppy smile, eyes basically attached to Rosemarie, he barked out orders to everyone explaining the exercises. He then proceeded to grab Rosemarie by the arm, telling her, "Come on, Hathaway. You can be my partner. Let's see what you've been doing all this time." After that, I watched at Rosemarie was beat on, time after time. She was really out of shape. I felt a small pleasure in having Mason do the beating, maybe now she wouldn't be so interested in flirting with boys and actually take her responsibilities more seriously. The way she trained now would

affect how she would handle Strigoi in the future, and more importantly whether she would protect her Moroi or get both of them killed. After practice was over, he asked, "No practicing, huh?" "Ow," she groaned. There was his answer. He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her up, holding her hand a little longer than I deemed necessary. "I hate you," she told him, rubbing her thigh where she had taken a bad hit. "You'd hate me more if I held back," he retorted. "Yeah, that's true," she answered as they put their equipment back. "You actually did okay," he told her, clearly trying to make her feel better. She really hadn't though she'd be killed in an instant if it had been Strigoi. "What? I had my ass handed to me," she answered. "Well, of course you did. It's been two years. But hey, you're still walking. That's something," he told her. "Did I mention I hate you?" she asked jokingly. He flashed her another smile and then it faded, telling her the harsh truth, "Don't take this the wrong wayI mean, you really are a scrapper, but there' no way you'll be able to take your trials in the spring." They hadn't seen me standing in the corner, not realizing I could hear them. "They're making me take extra practice sessions. I'll be ready," she assured him. "Extra sessions with who?" he asked. "That tall guy. Dimitri," she responded. I had the pleasure of seeing his expression abruptly change; he stopped walking altogether and stared at her for a few seconds, "You're putting in extra time with Belikov?" "Yeah, so what?" she asked casually. "So the man is a god." A god? Really. I didn't know I had that big of a reputation among novices. "Exaggerate much?" she questioned, not buying it.

"No, I'm serious. I mean, he's all quiet and antisocial usually, but when he fightswow. If you think you're hurting now, you're going to be dead when he's done with you," he told her. Rose didn't seem too pleased with this comment and they left class. I left too, deciding to go to Guardian Stan Alto's class, I knew it would be her next class and I was curious about her. On the way Alberta came to talk to me. "Hey Dimitri, I didn't get a chance to tell you before, but I'm pretty impressed with you for standing up for Princess Vasilisa and Ms. Hathaway." "Oh that," I said, nonchalantly, "It was nothing." "Yeah, that's what you say now, wait until you have to deal with her," she retorted, her voice teasing. "Is she really that bad?" I asked. "Honestly, no. She just seems to always find herself in these horrible situations. The girl has potential though. And if anyone can hone those skills, it's you." "Thanks," I told her. "Where you headed?" she asked. "Guardian Alto's class, I wanted to observe Rosemarie," I replied. "Guardian Alto," she said, "that should be interesting. Those two have never been able to see eye to eye. And with the way Stan is, I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to humiliate her." "Great, then she should be in an excellent mood when I get her," I said. She laughed, "Don't worry; she won't bite that hard." She became serious then, "I think this will actually help you too. It'll keep you busy." I knew what she meant about that, you'll spend less time tormenting yourself over Lord Zeklos. "Yeah, I know. I'll see you later Alberta," I said as I walked out to Stan's class. I stood at the back of the class as everyone took their seats. Again, all the pairs of eyes jumped and stared at Rosemarie. Stan's eyes, however, did not look as friendly or curious. "What's this?" he began, "No one told me we had a guest speaker here today. Rose Hathaway. What a privilege! How very generous of you to take time out of your busy schedule and share your knowledge with us," he added, bitterly sarcastically Rosemarie's face grew angry and her cheeks began to look a flaming red. "Well come on, come on." He gestured to her to stand up, "Don't sit there! Come up to the front so you can help me lecture the class."

Rose seemed to want to disappear into her seat, "You don't really mean" But he cut her off with a taunting smile, "I mean exactly what I say, Hathaway. Go to the front of the class," meaning he wasn't taking no for answer. I felt bad at this point. Even though she had taken Vasilisa away from the Academy and safety, I knew there had to be some logical explanation, something she wasn't telling us because while Rosemarie was no angel, she would do anything to protect Vasilisa. Besides, his taunting of her seemed immature, like he was just taking her weak moment to use to his advantage. Rosemarie managed to go to the front of the class, attempting a bold look as she tossed her hair over her shoulder. A few of the other students gave her sympathetic looks. As she scanned the room, her eyes halted when they landed on mine. She saw me lingering in the back of the room. I put on a stone face not wanting her to see my feelings. "So, Hathaway," said Stan, "Enlighten us about your protective techniques." Rosemarie answered, voice cracking a little, "my techniques?" "Of course," replied Stan with a smirk, "Because presumable you must have had some sort of plan the rest of us couldn't understand when you took and underage Moroi royal out of the Academy and exposed her to constant Strigoi threats." I felt de ja vu over Kirova's lecture this morning. "We never ran into Strigoi," Rosemarie answered, basically inviting Stan to humiliate her. "Obviously, I already figured that out, seeing as how you're still alive," he replied dryly. Rosemarie looked defeated, realizing his words and probably pondering today's beating from Mason. If she couldn't take out a novice, there was no way in hell she had a chance with Strigoi. Stan started pacing as he spoke, "So what'd you do? How'd you make sure she stayed safe? Did you avoid going out at night?" "Sometimes," Rose answered. Bad choice of words, I thought. "Sometimes," Stan mimicked, trying to make it sound like a ridiculously stupid answer. "Well then," he continued, "I suppose you slept during the day and stayed on guard at night." "Erno," Rose admitted. "No?" asked Stan, "But that's one of the first things mentioned in the chapter on solo guarding. Oh wait, you wouldn't know because you weren't here."

Next time Rosemarie opened her mouth I could hear her voice cracking a lot, his words were hurting her as she realized she could have gotten Vasilisa killed, "I watched the area whenever we went out." "Oh? Well that's something. Did you use Carnegie's Quadrant Surveillance Method or the Rotational Survey?" Through her silence I presumed she didn't know what those methods were. "Ah." He continued triumphantly, "I'm guessing you used the Hathaway Glance-AroundWhenever-You-Remember-To Method." "No!" Rose snapped, anger leaking out of her words, "That's not true. I watched her. She's still alive, isn't she?" Stan then proceeded to lean right into Rosemarie's face and say, "Because you got lucky." He was being a jerk about the way he presented this, humiliating her in front of her peers, but I had to admit he was absolutely right. Rosemarie tried to defend herself, "Strigoi aren't lurking around every corner out there. It's not like what we've been taught. It's safer that you guys make it sound." "Safer? Safer? We are at war with the Strigoi!" he yelled now. "One of them could walk right up to you and snap your pretty little neck before you even noticed him and he'd barely break a sweat doing it. You might have more speed and strength than a Moroi or a human, but you are nothing, nothing, compared to a Strigoi. They are deadly, and they are powerful. And do you know what makes them more powerful?" She was on the verge of tears now, searching around the room, again, she met my eyes, and this time, it caused some strange feelings to stir inside of me. Suddenly, I wasn't looking at a student; I was looking at a stunning and enticing angel. She was so, so beautiful. It'd been a very long time since I felt something like that. Her eyes attracted me to an alluring world. Then I realized what I was thinking how out of line it was. What had I been thinking? Her voice brought me back to Earth and I snapped out of my haze, "Moroi blood," she answered. "What was that?" asked Stan. She turned to him and shouted, "Moroi blood! Moroi blood makes them stronger." "Yes. It does. It makes them stronger" He continued, but I tuned him out. For some reason I couldn't comprehend, I felt sorry for Rose, really sorry. I wanted to go wrap my arms around her and comfort her. I wanted to protect her. When he finally finished tormenting her she took her seat and sulked, looking defeated. While I admit Stan had a point in what he said, she had been completely wrong in her choices but I knew there just had to be some other reason for her actions, I just hadn't discovered it yet. Training her wasn't going to be easy, but I definitely wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to prove Stan wrong and show everyone that she wasn't just a defiant teenager. I wanted to teach her to protect herself so that she would never get hurt.

After class let out I stayed, wanting to confront Stan. What he'd said, the way that he had treated her, brought out a dark emotion and I wanted him to know that I was ready to protect to Rose if I needed to. "Guardian Alto," I called. We weren't on first name basis. "Yes? Guardian Belikov," he answered, voice puzzled. "What was all that about?" I snapped. "What was what about?" "The way you spoke to Rosemarie Hathaway," I told him, my tone informing that I found it quite of line. "Oh that. She needed to hear that what she did was wrong," he replied simply. "You humiliated her in front of her whole class, she was on the verge of tears," I responded, growing angry. He seemed taken aback, maybe he hadn't realized that I didn't approve, "Look Belikov, I understand that you've been out there in the world and that you are one of the best guardians, but when it comes to teaching, that's my realm. You can't be soft-hearted with these students when they will eventually have a life in their hands." "I understand that, but if you felt that you needed to talk to Miss Hathaway, why didn't you just wait until after class? Why would you want to hurt her like that it wasn't professional." "Look Belikov," Stan's tone harsh now, "this is my class, and if I want to show an example over some girl who only cares about having fun and does not understand the gravity of the situation that's my business. When you're in my class, you are here to protect the novices, not intervene. And I heard that you are going to be Hathaway's mentor, and if you want to get anywhere with her, I suggest you don't go soft on her. She does not deserve it. Besides, I really don't believe she'll be able to graduate." "She will graduate actually," I retorted, "And she will do it with flying colors because I will teach her. And you're right, this is you're class and I get that but don't think that I will allow my student to be harassed by her teacher. Have some professionalism yes Rosemarie seems like she can be trouble but you're stooping to her level because you are an adult she's still a child." With that, I stocked off. I wasn't ever someone to intervene with someone else's business but I watched the way he tormented Rosemarie. Everyone seemed to think the worst of her but they forgot to acknowledge that she did protect the Princess, and with the way that she cares about her they couldn't have just left so that Rosemarie could avoid trouble. I was sure of that. A few hours later I managed to catch up to Rosemarie. I really was rooting for her she was the underdog, no one believed in her and to me that just made her so vulnerable. I felt some need to protect her that I didn't understand. I suppose that she sort of felt like a troublesome younger sister at least that's the way I should be looking at her.

I fell into step with her as she was walking across the campus to the commons. She spoke first. "I suppose you saw what happened in Stan's class?" she began not beating around the bush. "Yes," I responded. "And you think that was fair?" No, I thought, but Stan was right about one thing going soft on Rosemarie would not help her, "Was he right?" I replied, "Do you think you were fully prepared to protect Vasilisa?" "I kept her alive," she mumbled looking towards the floor. I think after the beating she took today against Mason she realized how powerless she was. "How did you do fighting against your classmates today?" I asked, knowing the answer. She looked hurt and I felt bad again that feeling to protect her came in and I wanted to give her a hug but instead I kept my face a stone revealing nothing of the sort. When she didn't answer, I pointed, "If you can't fight them" But she cut me off, "Yeah, yeah, I know," with an attitude. I felt bad, I think she was starting to lose faith in herself, so I told her, "You're strong and fast by nature. You just need to keep yourself trained. Didn't you play any sports why you were gone?" "Sure," she shrugged, "Now and then." "You didn't join any teams," I asked realizing she really was in bad shape. "Too much work. If I'd wanted to practice that much, I'd have stayed here." Great that would be a fantastic attitude to work with. Maybe I was wrong and she really did not take her job seriously. "You'll never be able to protect the princess if you don't hone your skills. You'll always be lacking." "I'll be able to protect her," she responded, attempting to sound fierce. I saw right through it and I realized she needed some motivation. "You have no guarantees of being assigned to her, you know for your field experience or after you graduate. No one wants to waste the bond but no one's going to give her an inadequate guardian either. If you want to be with her, then you need to work for it. You have your lessons. You have me. Use us or don't. You're an ideal choice to guard Vasilisa when you both graduate if you can prove worthy. I hope you will."

"Lissa, call her Lissa," she corrected. Was that all she heard just now? I was growing a little impatient, what had I just committed myself to? I walked away before saying anything I might regret later. I passed Victor Dashkov on the way; he was heading to talk to Rose.

Chapter 4
I spent the rest of the day stepping into classrooms, blending in and protecting the novices. There were a lot of guardians on campus not nearly as many as there used to bebut enough so that I could ease up just a little. Most of the time I just sort of thought it was tedious to just stand there all the time and watch the students. I overheard the conversations too every now and then; today those conversations seemed to revolve around only one thing: the Princess and Rose's return. There were many rumors as to why they had left from Rose being pregnant and going to get an abortion to that the girls left and went to hang out with Guardian Hathaway, Rose's mother. The mother theory was ridiculous considering who Guardian Hathaway was one of the greatest Guardians who had killed several Strigoi in her lifetime. She would never be irresponsible or reckless she contrasted her daughter Rose like black and white. Eventually, I heard some of the rumors switch to other subjects subjects that were a bit more provoking. One particular conversation jumped out at me, it was between two Moroi, Jesse Zeklos and Ralf. Ralf was a chubby Moroi, an unlikely scenario for his specie. He basically followed Jesse's lead. Jesse, on the other hand, was the typical royal Moroi, completely selfabsorbed, nothing like his cousin Lord Zeklos he pretty much believed he was God's gift to Earth and that he could get anything, or anyone, in this particular case. I was especially sensitive to Moroi men trying to sleep with Dhampir girls; they never really wanted anything serious and felt that they were above them. I grew up in a commune of women and their children in Siberia, my mother decided not to be a Guardian so she could raise me. These communes had a bad reputation for being Blood Whore centers when a dhampir, usually a woman, let a Moroi drink blood from her during sex; it was considered a very skanky and dirty thing to do. Every once in a while I'd hear Moroi boys talk about sleeping with Dhampirs at the school and it reminded me so much of the Moroi men back home that it really through me off. My father had been one of those men. He would drop in every once in a while, expect sex from my mother and not acknowledge his children. Like most Moroi men I met there, they believed they would do whatever the hell they wanted and get away with it. I beat up my father when I was fifteen for this particular belief he dropped in expecting to be able to get whatever he wanted from my mother, she told him to go but he wouldn't listen and began to push her. I then proceeded to beating his ass. Even though I was fifteen, I was extremely tall and muscular and I worked out constantly. I barely broke a sweat. After that, I never saw my father again. Rose sort of reminded me of the person I'd been then at fifteen. I'd learned a lot of selfcontrol since then, but there was a time when I rushed into things as she did. At the same time, I realized she didn't have a family backing her up and supporting her and telling her when she was making an ass out of herself. Without my family I wouldn't be where I am today and Rose Rose doesn't really have anyone. I don't believe she knows her father and while her mother sacrificed her life to protect Moroi which is the honorable thing to do, I don't think it was a good thing for Rose at all.

Now I was hearing Jesse and Ralf's conversation they were just like those Moroi men that thought every Dhampir girl was a whore. Jesse and Ralf discussed the return of Rose to the Academy, why Lissa and Rose had left in the first place and the fact that another Moroi a year younger, Mia, had some friction with Lissa and Rose because Mia was dating Aaron, Lissa's ex-boyfriend. It began with the usual high school juvenile stuff. Eventually though, the conversation took a different road. They began to chat about Rose's body, her larger breasts and more defined hips. Jesse was convinced that he could sleep with her and fulfill his "exotic conquest." Jesse also told Ralf that he had seen Rose and talked to her at lunch and that Rose had "basically melted when they spoke" and that he'd have her in no time. With that, I started to become angry they thought so little of her. Jesse was in over his head if he thought his plan would work. I would keep Rose safe which included keeping her away from any Moroi who wanted to take advantage of her. I also realized there was no way he could ever be alone since Rose was not allowed to do anything social, this reminder calmed me down a little. Rose was too beautiful for her own good. It was silly, really, to get all worked up about something like that. They were only being teenage boys to some extent; Jesse probably didn't really think what he was saying, he was probably just trying to impress Ralf. I tried to make myself believe that at least. Besides, Rose was under lock-down, all she could do was go to class and practice with me. These boys could keep fantasizing all they want but I would make sure Jesse wouldn't so much as touch a hair on her head. Later that evening I had practice with Rose, she hadn't showed up yet so I went to find her she was talking to Lissa when I came up to her. "Rose?" I called. They both looked up then at me, scared that I had overheard whatever they were saying. I hadn't, unfortunately, I was going to have to watch these two like a hawk or at least Rose. "You're late for practice," I said evenly, then nodded towards Lissa, "Princess." Rose then followed me and we walked away. She looked worried and kept looking back I suspected it was about Lissa. The students hadn't made their return to the Academy easier.

Chapter 5
I noticed Rose was suddenly doing that thing again that she did on the plane she was somewhere else and completely out of it. I tried to call her attention. "Rose, Rose?" I was gripping her shoulders now and shaking her. We had stopped walking and I began to get worried. She finally snapped out of it then. "Are you all right?" I asked. "Iyeah. I was I was with Lissa" she said as she put her hand on her forehead that would take some getting used to, "I was in her head." "Herhead?" I asked, a bit puzzled, I didn't really know much about being bonded. "Yeah, it's part of the bond," she answered simply, without details.

"Is she all right?" I asked warily. "Yeah she's" she hesitated before continuing, "coasting through the middle. She's not in danger," she said, with a doubting tone. "Can you keep going?" I asked quite concerned. She looked at me then, really looked that way she had in Stan's class stirring up all these emotions in me I didn't quite understand. Rose really was too beautiful for her own good or maybe my own good. "Yeah. I'm fine," she answered, snapping me back to reality. I had to stop doing that. She then proceeded to go to the gym's dressing room and change to workout clothes. When she came out she actually suggested I let her off this time. I laughed then. "Why is that funny?" she asked not amused. I'd have to be tough with her, "Oh," my smile fading, "You were serious." "Of course I was!" she replied, gaining an attitude, "Look, I've technically been awake for two days. Why do we have to start this training now? Let me go to be. It's just one hour." Now she actually sounded whiny, how was she supposed to ever learn to be a Guardian if she didn't push herself? I crossed my arms and looked at her, all hint of humor gone from my visage, "How do you feel right now? After the training you've done so far?" I asked her. "I hurt like hell," she replied honesty. "You'll feel worse tomorrow," maybe reasoning with her would help, though I doubted it. "So?" she asked, not getting my point. "So, better to jump in now while you still feel not as bad." "What kind of logic is that?" she retorted. I just led her into the weight room, showing her the weights and reps I wanted her to do. While she performed this I sat in a corner and read one of my favorite Western novels. The book was quite beaten down after hundreds of readings. When she finished, I stood beside her and demonstrated her some cool down stretches. "How'd you end up as Lissa's guardian? You weren't here a few years ago. Were you even trained at this school," she asked, I hesitated, not wanting to relay my failure. It wasn't a subject I found easy to converse about. At the same time, I realized she seemed like the persistent type anyway so I decided to answer part of her question. "No. I attended the one in Siberia."

"Whoa." She paused, "That's got to be the only worse place than Montana." That amused me, "After I graduated," I continued, "I was a guardian for a Zeklos lord. He was killed recently," I continued, smile now gone from my face. "They sent me here because they needed extras on campus. When the princess turned up, they assigned me to her, since I'd already be around. Not that it matters until she leaves campus." She pondered what I said for a moment, finally speaking, "Did this lord die on your watch?" This wasn't something I usually felt comfortable talking about, but in the strangest way it was easy with Rose and almostrelieving. Rose may be a lot of things but she definitely takes guarding Lissa seriously. "No. He was with his other guardian. I was away," I told her. We were silent then for a moment, both of us thinking about this. I still felt guilty that he died I'd been on legitimate leave, I hadn't taken a vacation in a long time and had actually denied vacation time Lord Zeklos told me to go though I couldn't help be torment, if I'd been there, he'd probably still be alive today. "Hey," Rose said suddenly, "did you help come up with the plan to get us back? Because it was pretty good. Brute force and all that." That caught me off guard and brought me back, I arched an eyebrow at her curiously, "You're complimenting me on that?" I asked her. I didn't think that she liked me because of that after I forced her to come back to the Academy. "Well, it was a hell of a lot better than the last one they tried." "Last one?" I asked, this was actually the first time that we found the girls. "Yeah. In Chicago. With the pack of psi-hounds." That worried me, "This was the first time we found you. In Portland." She then sat up from her stretches and crossed her legs, "Um, I don't think I imagined psihounds. Who else would have sent them? They only answer to Moroi. Maybe no you told you about it." "Maybe," I responded though I didn't think so because it would have been on the files besides the fact that the Academy wouldn't send psi-hounds, the point was to keep them from danger not bring it to them. After Rose left to her room in the novice building, I went to mine, still a little shaken about the psi-hounds thing. I went to look at the files and it said nothing about psi-hounds or finding them before. I knew the Academy wouldn't do that. That night I lay in bed, recalling the day and for some reason, not being able to get Rose out of my head. She worried me, amused me, angered me, puzzled me and yet I couldn't help but like her. I've always sort of kept to myself. You can't really have many friends when you're a guardian because you will never see them. No distractions that's what's best. I did get lonely from time to time, but that was the price to pay for saving someone's life.

Now, Rose seemed to fill that gap. She had so much potential, if only I could teach her some self-control then we'd be on to something. There was something else about her too though that I couldn't shake off I cared about her. I think it was hard not to, she was beautiful and dedicated. She was an adventure every time. The more I spent time with her, however, the moreI confused myself. I wasn't sure if I was crossing the line between mentor and student. I already considered her my friend but sometimes, she'd look at me and I just felt blown away. She was so beautiful she was sort of driving me crazy. I shouldn't have those feelings for her. She's my student I tried to tell myself. I tormented myself about it for the rest of the night trying to find a way to not think about her in that way. The next day Rose and I had a before school practice. It looked like she was pretty sore but I pushed her on, I knew I couldn't coddle her when her life might depend on her one day.

Chapter 6
It was Sunday and like all other Sundays, I went to Church. I've never really been religious but after killing six Strigoi, church became a habit. There was an Eastern Orthodox Church on campus which most students attended like me. I always sat in the back and I didn't partake in communion. I went to try to find peace. Even though Strigoi were evil creatures of the night who killed innocent lives', to me, it was still taking a life. I had killed and that haunted me sometimes, thinking of their faces. They all had been human, Dhampirs or Moroi at some point. Many of them had been turned by brute force. Today I noticed Rose in church sitting next to Lissa, somehow I didn't think she was religious either as she didn't partake in communion but I guess when you were on full lockdown, church was the only option to see your best friend on Sunday. Today I was especially conflicted, after thinking about Rose all night the way she smelled, those mysterious laughing eyes, her body, her curves Jesus what was I thinking I was in church. I looked over to her not being able to help myself. Her long dark brown thick hair was down that hair, it looked so great, if only I could run my hands through it just one time. Finally, church ended and I left guilty for thinking those sorts of thoughts in the house of God, well more guilty for thinking those thoughts period. When I walked out, the smell of trouble radiated. Apparently, icy water had landed on Rose and Lissa's necks Rose was just then giving Lissa her coat. That sort of thing showed me just how much she really did care it proved to me that she would put in the effort to become a guardian. Then I heard the idiot Moroi Ralf speak, "Wish you hadn't been wearing a coat, Rose. That shirt would have looked good wet." I resisted the urge to slam him into the wall. My fists started to clench. He had absolutely no respect. I don't think Rose was very fond of his comment either by the look on her face. I wanted to walk away, but there were crowds of students filing out. "That shirt's so ugly it should be burned. Did you get that from a homeless person," asked a very pale, skinny and young looking Moroi girl. I felt bad I knew Rose didn't have the

means to buy expensive clothing then again, she could probably wear a rubber suit and look out of this world sexy. "I suppose you want to offer to burn it, huh? Rose retorted, "Oh, wait fire isn't your element is it? You work with water. What a coincidence that a bunch just fell on us." Ahh, I realized, this must be the Mia girl the students talk about who seems to dislike Rose and Lissa. Rose, don't do anything stupid I thought to myself. I think I heard Mia deny her claims but there were a lot of people, and she didn't talk as loud as Rose. "Nothing to me. But Ms. Kirova will probably have something to say when she finds out you used magic against another student." Not if she knew it was against Rose I thought. I finally managed to stalk off. I didn't want to have any part of that. Besides, it sort of made me realize just how big our age difference was; in numbers, I was twenty-four and Rose was seventeen. Seven years wasn't that much in the great realm, but right now, it was life time. She was getting in fights with teenage girls; I was getting in battles with murderous Strigoi. Later I spotted Rose with the Mason kid, all huddled up in a corner table. She was supposed to be in her room. Knowing Rose, I didn't want to be the one getting her in trouble so instead I walked up to the matron and pointed out that Rose was not supposed to be hanging out she was on probation. It was cowardly, I admit, but the last thing I needed was an angry Rose. The matron said she would take care of it and I walked off, suddenly feeling a little guilty. Mason was harmless, mostly, but I didn't want someone else catching them together when Rose was supposed to be in her room. I tried to convince myself that was the only reason but truth be told I hated the way that Mason kid looked at her. I envied him because Rose was something that he could have right now. Something I couldn't have. I could never go and just sit close to her, hold her hand or flirt with her. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I can't believe I was even thinking that. I wondered about it. I finally decided that it wasn't so bad. Nothing was ever going to happen, she was my student and I was her mentor. I simply cared about her and admitted that she was a very beautiful girl. Later I read a letter from my grandmother she's always been a bit crazy and sometimes would try to tell the future. She lives in Siberia with my mother and sisters and I haven't seen them in over four years. It made me realize how homesick I was. The letter said the following: Sometimes you have to stop playing by the rules and do whatever you want. Steal a Roza from the garden. What did that mean? Grandma always found some way to freak me out, especially because Roza was Rose in Russian. And the only rule I wanted to break was with Roza. I spent the rest of the day in my room reading a Western novel the book was my escape. If we all lived in the West, there would be no social constraints. You could do whatever you

want, protect whoever you want edand marry the girl you wanted. And I only wanted one girl.

Chapter 7
The weeks began to pass; I spent most of my free time with Rose, training her, trying to get her to stay out of trouble. I continued to have her stretch and send her to run because in truth, if she ran into Strigoi, that was her only option. Rose continued to haunt my dreams at night, or rather continue to torment me with beautiful bliss I could only see, but never touch or possess. Additionally, my grandmother's words kept coming into my head steal a Roza from the garden. Oh Grandma, that garden is forbidden fruit. Sometimes in the dreams I would just watch her. But lately, they were getting a bit more personal. Suddenly I wasn't just looking, I was touching feeling what I could never have her hair, her eyes, cupping her chin and slowly my hands would mid-ways down her body. Then I'd wake up, sweat all over me I'd usually go for a run after that, unable to trust my dreams. In general, we got along pretty well she wasn't a difficult person to get along with, at least not with me. She was respectful towards me, with the exception of her witty comments making fun of my jacket which she swore was a Western or calling me comrade. Honestly, she was nice to be around, she filled the gap I had always felt and suddenly, I wasn't so lonely anymore. One day, after three weeks of Rose's return to the Academy, she walked in and found me sprawled on a mat listening to music. At first, she seemed excited about the boom box, but I think when she realized I was listening to "When Doves Cry," that excitement dimmed. "Whoa, Dimitri," she said as she tossed her bag on the floor, "I realize this is actually a current hit in Eastern Europe right now, but do you think we could maybe listen to something that was recorded before I was born." I tried to act like that didn't bother me, only letting my eyes react to her comment, "What does it matter to you?" I asked, "I'm the one who's listening to it. You'll be outside running." She made a face as she set her foot up on one of the bars as she stretched her hamstring. All in all, I didn't really mind Rose's running commentary, so long as she didn't slack in training, I didn't really care. "Hey," she asked suddenly, "What's with all the running anyway? I mean, I realize the importance of stamina and all that, but shouldn't I be moving on to something with a little hitting? They're still killing me in group practice." I didn't really appreciate her questioning my methods knowing it would only lead to me telling her a veracity that she wasn't really interested in hearing. "Maybe you should hit harder," I responded dryly, trying to evade this conversation.

"I'm serious," she responded. "Hard to tell the difference I said, setting my book down, "my job is to get you ready to defend the princess and fight dark creatures, right?" "Yup," Rose answered. "So tell me this: suppose you manage to kidnap her again and take her off to the mall. While you're there, a Strigoi comes at you. What will you do?" "Depends on what store we're in," she answered. This wasn't something I wanted to joke around about. I looked at her seriously then. "Fine," she began, "I'll stab him with a silver stake." I sat up now, "Oh?" I raised my eyebrows at her, "Do you have a silver stake? Do you even know how to use one?" I knew she didn't. "Okay. I'll cut his head off." "Ignoring the fact that you don't have a weapon to do that, how will you compensate for the fact that he may be a foot taller than you?" She was annoyed now, "Fine, then I'll set him on fire." "With what?" I asked. "All right, I give up. You've already got the answer. You're just messing with me. I'm at the mall and I see a Strigoi. What do I do?" I looked at her deep in her eyes, "You run." Because I knew that she had no chance against a Strigoi. She looked angry but more so hurt that bothered me a lot. I didn't mean to hurt her feelings; I just wanted to keep her safe. We didn't speak until it was time to run and then I told her that I would run with her, hoping she wouldn't be so angry with me anymore. I hated her being mad at me. She cheered up then, and together, we headed to the track. We began running, I was a lot faster than her, so I slowed down to match her, that way we could stay together and I'd actually get to look at her, I couldn't if she was behind me. She seemed bothered by the fact that she slowed me down because she suddenly picked up her own pace trying to get my approval, I guessed. It was well really cute. After reaching the third to last loop, a couple of novices passed by who were preparing to go to group practice, and then I heard Mason cheer, "Good form Rose."

That wouldn't have bothered me if she hadn't acknowledged them, but when she turned around to smile and wave back, I grew incredibly jealous. "You're slowing down," I told her harshly, she looked surprised at my tone but I was angry, "Is this why your times aren't getting any faster? You're easily distracted?" Her face turned beet red then, portraying her embarrassment. She picked up the pace once more; when we finished, I realized she'd shaved off two minutes off her best time. "Not bad, huh?" she asked, "Looks like I could get as far as the Limited before the Strigoi got me at the mall. Not sure how Lissa would do." I felt bad about what I had said earlier, remembering how I had hurt her so I told her, "If she was with you, she'd be okay." She looked up surprised then, her face lit up with joy and I couldn't help feel amused and elated that I had caused that reaction in her. I knew that it was only because she looked up to me probably because of my reputation here at the Academy and that it wasn't anything like the feelings I was unable to control towards her but it still felt great to be admired by someone so absolutely beautiful. We were looking at each other for a minute, both us not speaking, just enjoying the moment of being close to one another and then something happened. All I saw was Rose suddenly gasp in pain and cradle up I panicked for an instant but just like that she was sprinting down across the track towards the Moroi dorms. She hadn't said a word, but I realized Lissa. It didn't matter that she had just run a mini-marathon, she sprinted, legs now at a much faster pace than before and I just followed after her. It wasn't long before I caught up to her, I kept trying to get her to tell me what was wrong, but she was so determined to reach Lissa she wouldn't answer me. We finally reached the Moroi dorms and Rose immediately demanded to Lissa, "What's wrong? What happened?" Lissa didn't answer at first; she just put her arms around Rose and sobbed into her chest. Rose held her there, comforting her, stroking her hair and told her everything was going to be alright. I hovered over them, adrenaline pulsing through my veins, my body coiling ready to attack. About a half hour later, we managed to get inside Lissa's dorm with three other guardians, Headmistress Kirova and the hall matron so they could see what had happened. Outside in the hallway, immature Moroi girls crowded, trying to see what was going on. There was a reddish orange fox on Lissa's pillow whose throat had been sliced open. Disgust seemed to show on everyone's face including mine "It was still alive when I got back," Lissa whispered to Rose, "Barely. Oh God, it was twitching. It must have suffered so much."

"Did you?" Rose asked her. Did you what? They started to do that silent conversation thing again, only this time, it was getting on my nerves. I didn't like not knowing what was going on. "No. I wanted toI started to" Lissa responded making my curiosity augment. "Then forget about it," Rose told her sharply, "It's stupid. Somebody's stupid joke. They'll clean it up. Probably even give you a new room if you want." There was something going on here. "Rose do you remember that one time." Is this why they had left? Is this what was happening before? "Stop it," Rose answered Lissa, "Forget about it. This isn't the same thing." "What if someone saw? What if someone knows?" Lissa continued. "No. It's not the same. It has nothing to do with that. Do you hear me?" Rose then noticed me starring at her in what had to be a bewildered expression, "It's going to be okay. Everything's going to be okay." "Get this cleaned up. And find out if anyone knows anything," ordered Headmistress Kirova. She then realized Rose was there and ordered me to take her away. Rose begged to stay with Lissa that hurt for one, I hated not giving her what she wanted, but I also cared about Lissa and she was hurting right now and she really needed her best friend there, but I couldn't question the Headmistress's orders. I walked her back to the novices' dorm, trying to find the best approach to find out what Rose and Lissa's hushed whispers had been about. When we were almost there I realized it's now or never so I asked, "You know something. Something about what happened. Is this what you meant when you told Headmistress Kirova that Lissa was in danger?" "I don't know anything. It's just some sick joke." I could read right through her lies especially since she wouldn't look at me in the eyes. I just ignored her and continued. "Do you have any idea who'd do it? Or why?" She pondered this for minute, then finally answered, "No, no clue." I tried to reason with her, "Rose, if you know something, tell me. We're on the same side. We both want to protect her. This is serious." She spun around then, anger written all over her face, "Yeah, it is serious. It's all serious. And you have me doing laps every day when I should be learning to fight and defend her! If you want to help her, then teach me something! Teach me how to fight. I already know how to run away."

I knew that she was angry about the fox and that she was taking it out on me. It still hurt though she didn't understand that we didn't spend enough time together for her to learn how to fight and flight and right now flight was more important it would keep her alive. During her outburst, I kept my expression composed, figuring this wasn't the best time to confront her. When she finished, I beckoned her forward, no longer wishing to be around her, "Come on. You're late for practice." I spent the rest of the day sad that Rose had lashed out on me. I cared so much about her. I enjoyed her company, her wit and humorous remarks, the way her hair hung down her face, the way she smelled and she'd hurt me with her words. It was stupid anyway. For one, any feeling other than the professional one we had together was completely immoral and despicable of me to feel. It'd be me taking advantage of her. Also, she had been really angry about what had happen to Lissa, and I'm sure anyone within a close vicinity of her at that moment would have received the same reaction. It didn't make me feel much better though.

Chapter 8
"Hey Dimitri," called Alberta as she walked towards me. "Yes?" I answered. "I just wanted to talk to you in regards to the incident that happened with Lissa. I don't know why but I got the feeling that they were both hiding something from us." "Yeah, me too," I agreed with her. "Do you have any idea what it is?" she asked. "No," I answered, "But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the reason they left." "You really think so?" asked Alberta. "Absolutely, Rose would never endanger the LissI mean Princess Vasilisa unless she felt it was necessary." "Oh, well then you should really get it out of Rose." "Yes, but that's a lot easier said than done, she's a little hard-headed." "Yeah but she trusts you and she looks up to you. If anyone can get her to talk, it's you," Alberta told me.

I didn't really like the thought of trying to conspire against Rose, using our relationship to my advantage but I hated not knowing what was going on more so I responded, "Yes, I'll try." "Oh and by the way, Rose had a decent day today in group training. I think she's starting to get a lot better. Keep up the good work." With that, Alberta walked away. That made me happy maybe she had taken my jerk comment seriously, hit harder. I had a feeling it had more to do though with being ticked off about the fox incident though. Later that day, I learned of some events, unfortunate events, I should say, regarding Rose, Lissa, Ralf and Christian Ozera, a royal Moroi whose parents had turned Strigoi on purpose. The students were basically buzzing over the situation. Apparently, Christian Ozera had used his element fire against Ralf when he was teasing Lissa and Rose. No one really knew why he of all people would even get involved with something like that. Probably to try to get in good with Rose, I thought, then immediately chastised myself for thinking that. Christian was the nephew of a good friend of mine, Tasha. She and I had dated during high school and I felt bad about saying that over her nephew. Besides, he did it to protect Rose, and I would have loved to see it happen because that Moroi Ralf was a complete idiot. When I was guarding class, I noticed Ralf and Jesse whispering to each other and decided to go try and listen. Sometimes it's better to hear things from the source. Besides, I was sure now their interest in Rose had faded and I couldn't help but feel happy about it. The happiness didn't last very long though. "Ralf, what the hell man, why'd you go say that stuff to Rose?" Jesse asked Ralf. I guess Jesse cared more about his love escapades than his friendship. "Are you serious?" exclaimed Ralf, "You saw what that bitch caused?" "She didn't do anything, Ozera did," answered Jesse, "Besides, you made fun of Lissa about the fox thing, and you know how close they are." "Yeah, but it was a dare, and I wasn't going to back out," replied Ralf, revealing just how pathetic he was. "Well you should've. You might have just ruined things for me and Rose," answered Jesse. "Are you delusional? There's nothing going on between you and Rose and you know it," replied Ralf. And there won't ever be, I thought silently to myself. "Oh really, you doubt me my friend?" asked Jesse confidently. That really irritated me. "Yeah. Rose isn't the same anymore. Her and Lissa aren't into the party scene," replied Ralf. I hadn't known Rose then but I had heard that both girls had a reputation for being party girls. "They may not be into partying, but Rose is definitely into me. If not, then why did she agree to go 'study' later?" asked Jesse, pronouncing study like it was a code word for something else. I had to try very hard to keep myself composed, Jesse and Ralf hadn't seen

me standing there, but I don't think it worked caused suddenly Ralf looked up at me. How was Rose even supposed to meet him when she couldn't leave her room? "Isn't she on lockdown?" asked Ralf, as if reading my last thought. "Yeah, so? It's not like she's ever good," replied Jesse. This was really pissing me off. I understood that I could never have Rose, and if there was a nice, respectable guy that she liked, I supposed I'd try to accept it, but Jesse didn't care about Rose at all, he just wanted her for her body. "You think you guys will actually hook up?" asked Ralf. No, I thought to myself, but I sort of started my thoughts. What if she did? "After tonight, there won't be much Rose and I haven't done," remarked Jesse. I wanted to walk up and fling him across the room. I wanted to go grab Roza and take her away with me keep her for myself. Never have any other man lay eyes on someone so beautiful. Have her be mine forever. There was no way in hell I'd allow some retard Moroi to take advantage of Roza. I guess Ralf must have caught me glaring at them then because he quickly said to Jesse, "Hey Jesse, shh," as he pointed up with his eyes towards me. Jesse turned around but I put on my most absent minded look, like I hadn't overheard anything. Inside, I was fuming. There was absolutely no way Jesse was going to take advantage of Rose.

Chapter 9
I checked the dorms several times, attempting not to look suspicious. I had to purposely avoid the matron. I didn't want to get Rose in any trouble. She actually had spent the entire time after classes locked in her room so far, luckily not permitting Jesse's plan to work. Unfortunately, Jesse was in the novice dorms apparently working on a homework assignment with another novice, Meredith. I couldn't exactly tell him to go. TAs I was waiting to see if any changes occurred, I received a call, Alberta wanted me to come meet her. Great, how was I supposed to keep tabs on Rose? I swore in Russian. I considered telling Alberta what was going on with Rose but it wouldn't really do any good. Rose would get in more trouble and who knows, Headmistress Kirova could even expel her over something as futile as Jesse. I tried to walk as fast as I could, trying to get this over as soon as possible so I could get back to Rose. "Alberta," I called as I met her. "Hey Dimitri. I just wanted to know if you found out what it was that Princess Vasilisa and Miss Hathaway are hiding." "Oh, that," I responded, "No, not yet, I'm working on it though." "Do you have any idea who could have done such a thing?"

"No not really," I answered, a little annoyed she was asking me at this time. Thinking about what Jesse could be doing to Rose was making my heart beat faster, ready to take him on. I think she sensed my tension, judging from her next words. "Are you okay?" she asked, clearly noticing my uneasiness. "Yes," I responded, "I'm fine." I tried to put on a calm facade, but I doubted that she believed it. "Are you sure, you look a little agitated. Does this have anything to do with Rose? Is she being too difficult I could talk to her?" "No, nothing's wrong," I answered quickly, too quickly, realizing she wasn't buying it, I decided my best option then was lying, not something I enjoyed doing, but something I wasn't exactly bad at, "I'm just concerned about Princess Vasilisa." "Oh, yes. We'll get to the bottom of this, don't worry." "Yes, of course," I answered. "Alright then," she continued, "you're free to go." With that, I returned as quickly as I could to the commons. Since I had left, I hadn't been able to keep an eye on Rose and after looking for a little while I decided to go knock on the door, figuring I'd just make up an excuse since I couldn't be sure she was in there. As I did this, I was especially wary so that the matron wouldn't see me. I knocked several times. No answer. My heart sank a little then. After a few moments I turned the knob and walked in. She wasn't in there. Dammit, I cursed silently. I decided to try to look for her. If she was caught, she'd throw away everything she just worked for and would be kicked out of the Academy. I tried to search through the commons, room after room I went. Then I remembered there were a lot of empty rooms on the fourth floor that no one really went to. Rooms Rose would probably be aware of. I tried one of the doors, but no one was in there. I hadn't braced myself for what I saw after I opened the second door. In it, I found Jesse on top of a half-naked Rose. No shirt on. I lost it. Suddenly, I didn't care anymore what I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to act. That bastard had put his hands all over her.

Whatever self control I had faded from me and I think I was going to rip his head off. They sprang apart as they saw me coming, but they weren't fast enough. Within the blink of an eye, I held Jesse up by his shirt, nearly holding him off the ground. I realized the similarities between Lord Zeklos and him then, and I had to discard whatever menacing threat I was just thinking, and go for something more rational, I managed to growl, "What's your name?" "J-Jesse, sir. Jesse Zeklos, sir." "Mr. Zeklos, do you have permission to be in this part of the dorm?" I asked, putting on as fierce a look as I could, I didn't need to try very hard. "No sir," he replied, voice breaking a little. "Do you know the rules about male and female interactions around here?" I asked him bitterly, knowing that he did. "Yes, sir." "Then I suggest you get out of here as fast as you can before I turn you over to someone who will punish you accordingly. If I ever see you like this again," I warned him, pointing towards Rose, who was half-dressed, "I will be the one to punish you. And it will hurt. A lot. Do you understand?" Jesse swallowed hard, his eyes widened and he looked petrified, "Yes, sir!" "Then go," I released him, more for my own good than his I think. I was walking a very fine line with my self-control right now. Jesse ran out as fast as he could. I had so much rage it was almost animalistic. I looked at Rose, disapprovement painted all over myself. Then all of a sudden I noticed her. I mean really noticed her. Her long and thick black hair was down, her tan stomach exposed, as well as her black bra which showed how voluptuous her breasts were and I could see some of her curves. Suddenly, suddenly, all that animalistic passion I'd just felt against Jesse switched into a passion towards Roza. She looked so beautiful. So sexy. She wasn't my student anymore, she was a gorgeous goddess and it was hard to control myself. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, pin her down and show her what a real man is. She seemed to be checking me out too. Then she spoke, looking sort of embarrassed, "You see something you like?" she asked. Immediately, I snapped out of my haze, ashamed at what I had just felt, and angry, very angry, I told her, "Get dressed," coldly.

She immediately put her shirt on she looked scared. "How'd you find me? You following me to make sure I don't run away?" "Be quiet," I snapped. I had no patience for this. I couldn't admit that I sort of had been following her so instead, I lied, "A janitor saw you and reported it. Do you have any idea how stupid this was? " "I know, I know, the whole probation thing right?" she asked. "Not just that. I'm talking about the stupidity of getting in that kind of situation in the first place." "I get in that kind of situation all the time, Comrade. It's not a big deal." That really burned me. I didn't want to think of her getting in that sort of situation with anyone, except for, well me. It also showed me that she had no self-respect. She was so beautiful. She didn't need to get in this situation. Any guy would fall in love with her. "Stop calling me that." I snapped, "You don't even know what you're talking about." Comrade was something you called a person in a communist party with a strongly leftist view. I was not in the mood for her jokes right now. "Sure I do," she responded, "I had to do a report on Russia and the R.S.S.R. last year." "US.S.S.R. and it is a big deal for a Moroi to be with a dhampir girl. They like to brag." Didn't she know what the students said about her? She simply responded, "So?" "So?" was she fucking serious. I think the disgust showed all over my face, "So don't you have any respect? Think about Lissa. You make yourself look cheap. You live up to what a lot of people already think about dhampir girls, and it reflects back on her. And me." "Oh I see. Is that what this is about? Am I hurting your big, bad male pride? Are you afraid I'll ruin your reputation?" "My reputation is already made. Rose, I set my standards and lived up to them long ago. What you do with yours remains to be seen. Now get back to your room if you can manage it without throwing yourself at someone else," I told her harshly. "Is that your subtle way of calling me a slut? She retorted." I responded, "I hear the stories you guys tell. I've heard stories about you." She suddenly looked like she was about to cry, and I immediately felt bad, "Why is it wrong toI don't know, have fun? I'm seventeen, you know. I should be able to enjoy it." "You're seventeen and in less than a year, someone's life and death will be in your hands. If you were a human or Moroi, you could have fun. You could do things other girls could."

"But you're saying I can't?" she asked. I glanced away then, trying to approach this touchy situation as best as I could, "When I was seventeen, I met Ivan Zeklos. We weren't like you and Lissa, but we became friends, and he requested me as his guardian when I graduated. I was the top student in my school I paid attention to everything in my classes, but in the end, it wasn't enough. That's how it is in life. One slip, one distraction, and it's too late. "Jesse's a Zeklos," she finally said. "I know," I responded. "Does it bother you? Does he remind you of Ivan?" Rose asked me. I didn't want to admit that it was the reason I had just held back on Jesse. "It doesn't matter how I feel. It doesn't matter how any of us feel," I responded, realizing that it didn't matter how I felt about Rose. She was my student, and I was her mentor. Moreover though, we couldn't be distracted by a relationship when we were supposed to be protecting the Princess, I realized. "But it does bother you," she continued, "You hurt, every day. Don't you? You miss him?" I was surprised that she had noticed that. I had never really admitted that to anyone, much less her. Looking back again, I became serious, "It doesn't matter how I feel. They come first. Protecting them." "Yeah, they do," Rose admitted. A long silence fell between us Rose might be a lot of things, but she took her responsibility as a guardian seriously. "You told me you want to fight, to really right. Is that still true?" "Yes. Absolutely." "RoseI can teach you, but I have to believe you're dedicated. Really dedicated. I can't have you distracted by things like this," I said, gesturing around the lounge. "Can I trust you?" I asked. "Yes, I promise," she answered. "All right. I'll teach you, but I need you strong. I know you hate the running, but it really is necessary. You have no idea what Strigoi are like. The school tries to prepare you, but until you've seen how strong they are and how fast well, you can't even imagine. So I can't stop the running and conditioning. If you want to learn more about fighting, we need to add more trainings. It'll take up more of your time. You won't have much left for your homework or anything else. You'll be tired. A lot." She thought for a minute, then looked me dead on and said, "It doesn't matter. If you tell me to do it, I'll do it."

I studied her hard, trying to see if I could trust her. I finally gave her a sharp nod and said, "We'll start tomorrow."

Chapter 10
I was excited to be spending more time with Rose even though I knew it was completely wrong. I just figured that even though we couldn't have any sort of relationship, aside from our professional one, and if she'd ever even be interested in me, there wasn't any reason we couldn't spend time together at the Academy. After this everything would change but for now, there wasn't too much harm being done by watching her and teaching her. She really did need learn to fight also. It worried me that she didn't know how to protect herself and it killed me to think of anything ever happening to her. She was so precious and so beautiful I figured the sky should fall down and the Earth should stop rotating if anything ever happened to her. I'd replayed the Jesse scene several times in my head too. It wasn't something easy to ignore. Rose was so perfect, and seeing Jesse with his hands all over her, and her halfdressed, burned me. Rose deserved so much better. Not me, but someone who cared a lot about her. I knew that we could never be together. For one, there was the whole thing about her actually wanting me back. I'd caught her looking at me, but I just figured if anything it was just admiring or maybe a school girls crush, but nothing serious. There was also the age difference and the fact that she was my student. I could get thrown in prison for taking advantage of a minor. Rose was seven years younger than me and even if we waited until she graduated, it would still be frowned upon. Not only because she was so much younger and she had been my student, but relationships between guardians weren't socially accepted. Dhampirs were the offspring of a Moroi and Dhampir or human. Their genetic combination made more Dhampirs; however, Dhampirs and other Dhampirs could not reproduce. Only Moroi could keep the Dhampir race alive, which is why we protected them. We were also a lot stronger and more muscular so we could actually protect them. An adult relationship between two Dhampir guardians would be considered a waste we wouldn't be furthering our kind and as more Strigoi walked the Earth, Moroi numbers were decreasing but Dhampir numbers were really diminishing. Many Strigoi had killed our kind.

The final reason why Rose and I could never be together and perhaps the most important, the one I couldn't deal with was the fact that I was going to be Lissa's guardian and with Rose's bond, I was sure that she would be Lissa's other guardian. If Strigoi ever attacked us and Rose and I had a relationship I'd put myself in front of Rose not Lissa. I would worry about protecting Roza and that wasn't fair to Lissa. She needed two guardians who were focused on her. Rose and I could never be. But for now spending time together was enough for me. Unfortunately, the Jesse incident had spread. I'd heard while I guarded some classes. From what I managed to decipher from the rumors, Rose and Lissa had been passing notes in Mr. Nagy's class and he had caught them, taken the note and read it out loud. Lucky for Jesse, since it hadn't been his doings of spreading the word even though there wasn't much to say, nothing had really happened. He'd touched her, kissed her, felt her but it was nothing, I tried to tell myself. It wasn't like she had slept with him or let him drink blood from her. I chastised myself for even thinking about it. Rose was my student, Rose was my student, I repeated to myself. It wasn't making me feel better.

Chapter 11
Rose and I had our extra practices now which meant she spent two hours before classes with me and two hours after. When she arrived at the gym today, I noticed her looking at me; I wasn't wearing my usual jeans. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that she was checking me out. I positioned myself then so that we stood facing each other on the mat and I crossed my arms. I asked her, "What's the first problem you'll run into when facing a Strigoi?" "They're immortal?" Rose answered. "Think of something more basic," I told her. She considered this for a minute before responding, "They could be bigger than me. And stronger." I nodded and told her, "That makes it difficult but not impossible. You can usually use a person's extra height and weight against them."

I then turned and demonstrated several maneuvers, pointing out where to move and how to strike someone. Rose went through the motions with me, gaining some insight I hoped that would help her understand why she took a regular beating in group practice. She was a quick learner and towards the end of practice I told her, "Go ahead, try to hit me." She didn't need to be told twice because she immediately lunged forward, trying to land a blow. I blocked her immediately and almost effortlessly and she was knocked down on the mat. I saw that it hurt her, but she fought through the pain and jumped right back up again, I supposed trying to catch me off guard. The girl had heart when it came to fighting. She wasn't able to land a blow on me though, I was too fast. After several more attempts of her trying to get a blow in and me blocking her, she finally held her hands out in a truce and asked, "Okay, what am I doing wrong?" "Nothing," I told her honestly. She didn't seem convinced and said, "If I wasn't doing anything wrong; I'd have rendered you unconscious by now." Hardly, I thought. "Unlikely," I told her, "Your moves are all correct, but this is the first time you've really tried. I've done it for years." She shook her head and rolled her eyes, "Whatever you say, Grandpa. Can we try it again?" I wanted to but knew that we were out of time. There would be a banquet later with the queen that Rose was actually allowed to attend. I would have to bring her back to the dorms immediately after though. "We're out of time," I told her, "Don't you want to get ready?" She looked at the clock and then perked up, looking a little giddy and said, "Hell, yeah, I do." I walked off in front of her. I then heard her yell a battle cry and I immediately turned around, she was going for my back, taking her opportunity to surprise me. I spun around too quickly for her, grabbed her like she was nothing because she hardly weighed anything and threw her on the ground, pinning her. She groaned, "I didn't do anything wrong!" That made me laugh; I looked levelly at her beautiful deep brown eyes as I held her wrists and told her, "The battle cry sort of gave you away. Try not to yell next time." "Would it have really made a difference if I'd been quiet?" she asked. I thought and realized, "No. Probably not."

She sighed loudly. This made me want to laugh more sometime she was so cute. I started to notice her then, her hair, her eyes, her smell, her body which was now pressed against me. Her nearness was intoxicating. I was still holding her down, feeling the warmth of her skin where I clutched her wrists. Our faces only inches away so close I could just move a tiny inch and our lips would be kissing Oh how I longed for that kiss. I wondered what it would be like to kiss an angel. My legs and torso we pressed against her and suddenly kissing didn't seem like enough to satisfy me. We stayed like that for a moment. Then the spell was broken. She said very calmly, "So um you got any other moves to show me?" I repressed a smile. I think she was trying to flirt with me, but I leaped off with what had to look like visible effort. I shouldn't have allowed myself to do that. I told her, "Come on. We should go." She scrambled to her feet then and followed me out gym. I refused to look back as I walked. I shouldn't have held her like that it was so intimate. So inappropriate. An hour later I had to go to the reception for the banquet. It was held in the commons. The room had been turned into a gorgeous ball room fit for the Queen. I saw Roza as she entered then. Her sweater was plain but she looked incredibly perfect. It seemed effortless for her and I had to try to avert my eyes. I noticed Roza look around and stop when she found me, I stared straight ahead trying to pretend I hadn't been looking at her. Everyone in the room stood up respectively when the royals came in. Queen Tatiana finally followed, along with her guards who hovered alert and ready. She stopped when she passed Lissa, "Vasilisa Dragomir," she called. I doubted this could be good. I noticed Rose's head shoot up in alarm as she tried to get a better view. "We heard you had returned. We are glad to have the Dragomirs back, even though only one remains. We deeply regret the loss of your parents and your brother; they were among

the finest of Moroi, their deaths a true tragedy. You have an interesting name. Many heroines in Russian fairy tales are named Vasilisa. Vasilisa the Brave, Vasilisa the Beautiful. They are different young women, all having the same name and the same excellent qualities: strength, intelligence, discipline, and virtue. All accomplish great things, triumphing over their adversaries. Likewise, the Dragomir name commands its own respect. Dragomir kings and queens have ruled wisely and justly in our history. They have used their powers for miraculous ends. They have slain Strigoi, fighting right alongside their guardians. They are royal for a reason. She paused for a moment before continuing, "Yes, you are doubly named with power. Your names represent the finest qualities people have to offer and hearken back in time to deeds of greatness and valor. But, as you have demonstrated, names do not make a person. Nor do they have any bearing on how that person will turn out." With that, she continued walking. I could see the mortification on Lissa's face and the rage on Roza's; I prayed that she didn't try anything stupid. After the post-dinner reception, I tried to find Rose and make sure to tell her not to try anything against the Queen; I wouldn't put it past her. She was very protective over Lissa. I noticed then that she wasn't there and that neither was Lissa. I went looking for the two of them knowing they would be together. I saw a crowd of girls gathered around them in the garden and immediately smelled a fight. Rose noticed me as I strode forward, shifting my attention to the girls I asked, "Everything all right?" "Sure thing, Guardian Belikov," Rose answered smiling; the fact that she had called me something respectful told me the opposite. "We were just swapping family stories," Rose continued, "Ever heard of Mia's? It's fascinating." "Come on," the Mia girl said and the little Moroi and her followers left. "I'm supposed to take you back to your dorm," I told Rose dryly. "You weren't about to just start a fight, were you?" "Of course not," Rose answered, her eyes still looking at Mia and her friends as they walked off, "I don't start fights where people can see them." "Rose," groaned Lissa. I agreed, what the hell was I going to do with Rose, I couldn't even leave her alone for one minute. "Let's go," I told her, "Good night, Princess." I turned but Rose didn't move. "You going to be okay, Liss?" she asked. I gave her a minute, waiting for the answer myself. Lissa nodded, "I'm fine." She looked like she was on the verge of tears. "Liss" began Rose.

Lissa gave her a small smile and said, "I told you, I'm fine. You've got to go." Reluctantly, Rose followed me. "We may need to add an extra training on self-control," I finally said. "I have plenty of self-control hey!" Rose called off to Christian Ozera refuting her own claim. "You going to see Lissa?" she demanded. He stuffed his hands in his pocket and answered, "What if I am?" with an attitude. "Rose, this isn't the time," I urged her. She ignored me, "Why don't you just leave her alone? Are you so messed up and desperate for attention that you can't tell when someone doesn't like you? You're some crazy stalker, and she knows it. She's told me all about your weird obsession how you're always hanging out in the attic together, how you set Ralf on fire to impress her. She thinks you're a freak, but she's too nice to say anything." I understood the whole Christian sticking up for Roza and Lissa now. He was actually after Lissa. I also had an idea that Rose was lying to him, I could always tell when she lied. "No," he told her, his face paling, "But you aren't too nice?" "No." Rose responded, "Not when I feel sorry for someone." I doubted that was the reason and didn't really get why Rose was getting all agitated about Christian hanging out with Lissa. His parents had turned Strigoi willingly and that hung over him, he was royal actually but no one spoke to him because of his family. I would think Rose would be more understanding to the poor kid, but I figured she just thought she was protecting Lissa. "Enough," I said finally, steering Rose away. "Thanks for helping then," Christian snapped at her. "No problem," Rose called back over her shoulder. I noticed her glancing back looking satisfied which I figured meant that Christian had decided to stay away. I didn't ask her about it, figuring she would probably just snap at me, now wasn't the time for reasonable conversations.

Chapter 12
I received a call during the middle of the night at least middle of the night for vampires from Rose's matron who said Rose insisted that she speak to me and that it was some sort of emergency. I dressed as fast as I possibly could and ran to her, when I reached her, one look told me everything. "Lissa." I said.

Rose nodded back. Without a word, I turned around and started back down the stairs, conscious that Rose was following me. We walked across the quad in silence towards the Moroi dorms. It was daytime for vampires and sun shone. I missed the sun, Moroi could be out in the sun for short periods of time, but it weakened them. Strigoi couldn't be in the sunlight at all or they would burn. Dhampirs however, didn't have any problem with the sun at all. Our human genes took care of that. When we reached the Moroi dorms Lissa's hall matron gaped at us, but I quickly walked past her, refusing to get deterred. "She in the bathroom," Rose told us. The matron tried to follow Rose inside the bathroom but she stopped her, "She's too upset. Let me talk to her first." I considered this and told the matron, "Yes. Give them a minute." Rose then pushed the door open. I heard a soft sob as she opened the door. After a minute, I knocked, "Rose?" I asked. "Just a sec," she called back. "We're coming in," said the matron. I realized as I came in that Rose had taken off the hooded sweater she had been wearing and Lissa was slipping it on. I took one look at Lissa and instantly raced to her side; there was blood on her face. "It's not mine," Lissa said quickly. "It's it's the rabbits." I assessed her for a minute, just to be sure and then accepted her word. "What rabbit?" I asked. With shaking hands, Lissa pointed to the trash can. "I cleaned it up so Natalie wouldn't see." I walked over to where Lissa had pointed and Rose followed. I noticed Rose pulled herself back immediately, there was blood everywhere and it smelled horrible. I shifted closer to Lissa then, looking at her eye levelly, "Tell me what happened." I handed her some tissues. "I came back about an hour ago. And it was there. Right there in the middle of the floor. Torn apart. It was like it had.exploded. I didn't want Natalie to find it, didn't want to scare herso I cleaned up. Then I just couldn'tI couldn't go back." Lissa began to cry.

"No one should be able to get into those rooms!" exclaimed the matron. "How is this happening?" "Do you know who did it?" I asked as gently as possible, Lissa looked so fragile right now. She reached for her pajama pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. It was soaked in blood. It read, "I know what you are. You won't survive being here. I'll make sure of it. Leave now. It's the only way you might live through this." Who could have sent such a thing? "I'm getting Ellen," the Matron quickly informed, that was Headmistress Kirova's first name. "Tell her we'll be at the clinic," I told her, realizing Lissa needed to rest but I doubted that she felt like going back to her room right now. When she left I told Lissa, "You should lie down." She didn't move but Rose linked arms with her and urged, "Come on, Liss. Let's get you out of here." Slowly, she started walking towards the clinic. The nurse there offered to wake one of the doctors, but I assured her it wasn't necessary, "She just needs to rest." The minute Lissa laid down, however, the Headmistress walked in, immediately going into full on interrogation. Rose thrusted herself in front of the Headmistress and yelled, "Leave her alone! Can't you see she doesn't want to about it? Let her get some sleep first!" "Miss Hathaway, you're out of line as usual. I don't even know what you're doing here," responded Headmistress Kirova. I felt bad that Lissa was getting questioned like that because I could see she was still very upset so I asked the Headmistress if I could speak with her in the hall. Knowing Rose, the tension could escalate very quickly if the two of them were in the same room for too long. "Headmistress, please allow the Princess some rest, she's upset." "Guardian Belikov, we need to get to the bottom of this," she told me coldly. "I know and we will, just wait until tomorrow. I'll personally find out what happened." She hesitated for a moment, but I put on a harsh look. "Fine, but get Rose out of there." "But Vasilisa needs her right now, she's very upset." "Fine," she said stiffly, "But if Rose causes any trouble this is on you."

With that, she walked back into the room and said to Rose, "You may stay with her for a little while. We'll have janitors do further cleaning and investigation in the bathroom and your room, Miss Dragomir, and then discuss the situation in detail in the morning." "Don't wake Natalie," Lissa whispered, "I don't want to scare her. I cleaned everything in the room anyway." The Headmistress looked doubtful but we all retreated, leaving the two girls alone. I knew Rose would be able to comfort her. Back in my room, I was trying to figure out who would do such a thing. I know that Lissa and Rose didn't exactly get along with everyone, but wasn't the traditional thing to just go spread rumors about them, not kill little furry animals. Some puzzle piece was missing and I was pretty sure Rose and Lissa were keeping something from me. The next day there were rumors going around about what had happened in Lissa's room last night but later, I wasn't hearing Lissa's name said so much as Roses'. It was weird like they were all over something new now. Eventually, I heard some girls discussing it. "Oh my god. Did you hear what Rose did?" I heard a Moroi girl say, my head shot up when I heard her name. "No. What did she do now?" asked her friend. "She screwed with Jesse and Ralf." I cursed in Russian silently. I knew her actions with that idiot would have repercussions. Stupid Moroi boys. And Ralf. What the hell was that about? "Oh my god are you serious? Jesse's hot but Ralf eww." "Wait it gets worse." How could it get worse? "What she had sex with the basketball team?" "No worse." What could possibly be worse? Then I thought of it. Oh no. "She let them drink from her while they had sex. She's a freaking blood whore." "No! Are you serious?" This was bad, really, really bad. "Yeah, I heard Rose get in Ralf and Jesse's face in my last class. Rose was all like, what the hell do you think you're doing to Ralf, and he was all like we didn't do anything you didn't want us to do. Start a fight and Kirova will kick you out to live with the other blood whores."

"I don't believe it." "No she did it. She did it with Lissa too while they were away that's how they got blood. She's a freaking addict blood whore. She should just drop out and go live in one of those communes." I repressed the urge to say anything. They're just little girls Dimitri, I told myself. They don't know any better. "So what did Rose do to them for telling?" Uh oh. "Nothing she walked away. So of course she did it." Thank God. Although I wouldn't exactly blame her for hurting them honestly, I wanted to. Fury was building inside of me. "Wow. I would just kill myself if I was her, I mean, I always knew she was a slut but jeeze she hit a new low with this one." "I know." "I don't even know what guys see in her, she's just a blood whore." It was bad really bad. I walked away. But I heard the same similar story everywhere. I knew Rose hadn't done any of those things but that didn't matter. It was obvious that Lissa had drank from her, how else had they gotten blood. I wasn't even surprised about hearing it, it was exactly what I had warned Rose that night when I caught her with Jesse. A Moroi dating a Dhampir was a bad thing they liked to brag and lie. And there was nothing I could do about it. Later that day I saw Rose at practice, she looked like a zombie. She ran into the gym pretty fast, I gave her a puzzled look but decided it was best not to ask questions. I had to go ask Lissa some questions later that day about the rabbit incident. She told me basically the same thing that she had said last night. After I asked her, "Princess." "It's Lissa, Dimitri. You're going to be my guardian so you need to get used to it." "Sorry. Lissa. I noticed Rose was very upset today. I sort of overheard the rumors." "Oh god, they're awful. You know she wouldn't do that right." "Yes, of course I know that." "I can't believe Jesse and Ralf. They're horrible. I wish I could do something to them."

"Yes me too." She looked up surprised. "Wow. I think Rose is growing on you. Authority usually doesn't respond well to her." I laughed, "Yeah well she's not so bad. She'll make a great guardian someday. Anyway, I was going to ask you. I know the shifts change between Matrons in about twenty minutes. I could sneak you over there. Maybe you could console her. It wouldn't be for very long, but I know she's hurting a lot right now and seeing you would cheer her up." "Yeah of course," Lissa responded eagerly. "Alright, let me just check the halls then, and we have to be very careful. If Rose gets caught she'll be in a lot of trouble hell I'll be in a lot of trouble. I'll be right back. When I come get you, I'll take you to this back stair wall, it's closed off to students and you can wait there. " I checked the novice dorms then and waited until the matron left. Quickly, I hurried back to the Moroi dorms. "Lissa, we have to go." "Okay," she answered and followed me. I left her behind the stair wall and went to get Rose. When I reached Rose's door, I knocked. I saw Rose then, she was in her pajamas and l looked at her face. It was very obvious she'd been crying. I looked away immediately, not wanting her to feel uncomfortable. "Are you okay?" I asked. "It doesn't matter if I am, remember?" she said bitterly, looking at me then. My heart broke for her. Blood whore wasn't something you came back from. "Is Lissa okay? This'll be hard on her." I couldn't believe she was actually worried about Lissa. The rumors weren't about her at all and I knew just how bad she was hurting right now. I beckoned her to follow me and led her to a back stairwell, one usually locked to students. "Five minutes," I warned. Curiosity spread over her face as she opened the door. I kept a close watch. Getting caught in this situation would look very bad on me. But Rose needed this right now even though I didn't think Headmistress Kirova would exactly be sympathetic about it.

After about four minutes I stuck my head in, "You've got to back inside Rose, before someone finds you." I noticed her shoot Lissa a panicked look. Then I heard Lissa say, "I'll take care of everything this time Rose. Everything." Rose then went back to her room and I walked out. "What was that about?" I asked Lissa. "That. It was nothing," Lissa said nonchalantly. "Are you sure, Rose seemed a bit panicked?" "I haven't seen Rose cry since she was in kindergarten." That took me off guard. "Yes, she's very upset isn't she?" "Yeah, but don't worry about Rose. I'll have everyone kissing her feet by the end of the week." I doubted that once a blood whore, always a blood whore.

Chapter 13
I was sure that the rumors Jesse and Ralf had spread would stay forever inside the school always tormenting Rose but surprisingly, I actually heard people defending her. I would hear students say that Rose giving Lissa blood was no big deal that they had to do it for survival and that Ralf and Jesse had made the whole scenario up. There was definitely a shift in power among the students and Lissa was becoming the center of attention all of a sudden. I would hear countless students discuss what she wore and who she was dating. Lissa really had kept her promise. Of course, that wasn't all too surprising, most students wanted to get in good with the last royal Dragomir. Rose I continued with our practice before classes the next day, and she always seemed genuinely happy to be there, even though I knew how much she loved her sleep. We would run together now as usual, bracing the cold Montana weather. I was quiet during these times and I tried to be gentle a bit afraid of causing her a breakdown after what the students had said about her. I never mentioned the rumors to her but I think she knew that they had reach me. After we finished running today, I led Rose through an offensive exercise where she could use any makeshift weapon she could find to attack me. I was surprised that she actually managed to land a few blows on me usually I was way too fast for her, but she was learning quickly.

The hits, however, seemed to do more damage to me than her because the impact would always make her stagger back and I never budged. I had a lot of weight and strength on her though, so she was doing a pretty good job. She continued to attack and attack though, regardless of the odds and fighting with an almost blind rage. I finally called a break and we carried the equipment we used on the field back to the supply room. While putting it away, I looked at Rose's hands and did a double take. "Your hands," I swore in Russian, "Where are your gloves?" Rose looked down at her hands then, the skin on them was raw and chapped, full of swelled blisters and some of them were even bleeding. "Don't have any," she responded, "Never needed them in Portland." I swore again and told her to go sit on the chair while I grabbed a first-aid kit. While I wiped off the blood I assured her, "We'll get you some." Hadn't anyone in the Academy thought of this her matron for instance? Rose looked down at her weathered hands and said, "This is only the start, isn't it?" "Of what?" I asked puzzled. "Me. Turning into Alberta. Her.and all the other female guardians, they're all leathery and stuff. Fighting and training and always being outdoors they aren't pretty anymore." She paused, "Thisthis life. It destroys them. Their looks, I mean." I hesitated for a moment and looked up to her eyes levelly. "It won't happen to you," I began, "You're too" I paused before allowing myself to say something I would regret, finally settling for, "It won't happen to you." I turned my attention back to her hands then, damn, I almost had just slipped. "It happened to my mom," Rose continued, "She used to be beautiful. I guess she still is, sort of. But not the way she used to be." Bitterly, she added, "Haven't seen her in a while. She could look completely different for all I know." "You don't like your mother," I observed. "You noticed that, huh?" she answered. "You barely know her," I told her. Janine Hathaway was a phenomenal guardian, her reputation traveled everywhere and I didn't really understand why Rose wouldn't be proud of that. "That's the point," Rose explained. "She abandoned me. She left me to be raised by the academy."

When I finished cleaning up the wounds, I found a jar of salve and began rubbing it into the rough parts of her skin. "You say that but what else should she have done? I know you want to be a guardian. I know how much it means to you. Do you think she feels any differently? Do you think she should have quit to raise you when you'd spent most of your life here anyway?" "Are you saying I'm a hypocrite?" asked Rose. "I'm just saying maybe you shouldn't be so hard on her. She's a very respected Dhampir woman. She's set you on the path to be the same." "It wouldn't kill her to visit more," Rose muttered. "But I guess you're right. A little. It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have been raised by blood whores." I looked up then, "I was raised in a Dhampir commune. They aren't as bad as you think." The communes had a bad reputation, but I adored my family. "Oh," Rose began, "I didn't mean" "It's all right." I cut her off, focusing my attention back on her hands. "So, did you, like, have family there? Grow up with them?" Rose asked. I nodded, "My mother and two sisters. I didn't see them much after I went to school, but we still keep in touch. Mostly, the communities are all about family. There's a lot of love there, no matter what stories you've heard." "Yeah, but isn't it weird?" asked Rose. "Aren't there a lot of Moroi men visiting to, you know?" "Sometimes," I said, as I rubbed circles into Rose's hands. I didn't mean for my tone to sound that dangerous with the words. "I'm-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up something bad." "Actually you probably wouldn't think it's bad," I said after about a minute, deciding whether I should tell her about my father or not. A tight smile formed on my face and I asked her, "You don't know your father, do you?" Rose shook her head, "No. All I know is that he must have had wicked cool hair." I glanced up then, "Yes, he must have," then returned to her hands. I shouldn't have said that. "I knew mine," I said, careful now of my words. Rose froze then. "Really? Most Moroi guys don't stayI mean, some do, but you know, usually they just"

"Well, he liked my mother. And he visited her a lot. He's my sisters' father too. But when he came well, he didn't treat my mother very well. He did some horrible things," I continued. "Like" Rose hesitated, "Blood whore things?" "Like beating-her-up kinds of things," I replied flatly. "Oh God," Rose said as she tightened her hands, I couldn't help but squeeze back, noticing that I'd been long done with the bandages and now I was really, just holding them. Rose wasn't pulling away. "That's horrible." She continued, and she she just let it happen?" "She did," I smiled, a little sad, "But I didn't." I could almost see the excitement jumping out of her, "Tell me, tell me you beat the crap out of him." My smile grew as I answered, "I did." "Wow. You beat up your dad. I mean, that's really horrible what happened. But, wow. You really are a god." I blinked, "What?" "Uh nothing," Rose said nervously, trying to evade the subject, "How old were you?" I was still wondering about the comment. Did she really think so highly of me? But I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable so I just answered her question. "Fifteen," I told her. "You beat up your Dad when you were fifteen?" she shrieked. "It wasn't that hard. I was stronger than he was, almost as tall. I couldn't let him keep doing that. He had to learn that being royal and Moroi doesn't mean you can do anything you want to other people even blood whores." She stared, "I'm sorry." "It's all right," I assured her. "That's why you got so upset about Jesse, isn't it? He was another royal, trying to take advantage of a dhampir girl." I averted my eyes, not wanting to lie to her face, "I got upset over that for a lot of reasons. After all, you were breaking the rules, and" But I didn't finish, I just looked deep into her eyes, wondering if she could see through me.

"I know you heard what people are saying, that I"Rose began. "I know it's not true," I interrupted. "Yeah, but how do you" "Because I know you," I said firmly. "I know your character. I know you're going to be a great guardian." "I'm glad someone does. Everyone else thinks I'm totally irresponsible." "With the way you worry more about Lissa then yourself" I shook my head. "No. you understand your responsibilities better than some guardians twice your age. You'll do what you have to do to succeed." "I don't know if I can do everything I have to do," Rose admitted. I lifted an eyebrow at her, signaling for her elaborate. She got the message and said, "I don't want to cut my hair." I gave her a puzzled look, "You don't have to cut your hair. It's not required." "All the other guardian women do. They show off their tattoos," Rose insisted. I reached over then, grabbing a lock of her hair and twisted it around my finger. I loved her hair. I let go then, a little surprised with my actions and a bit embarrassed. "Don't cut it," I told Rose gruffly. "But no one will see my tattoos if I don't," she retorted. I moved toward the doorway then, better to leave before I do something worse, "wear it up," I said, smiling at her.

Chapter 14
The next day I went to church and all I was contemplating was the way I felt for Rose. It was wrong, she was my student and I felt like I was taking advantage of her. All night I had thought about the way I'd held her hands the way it made me feel when she squeezed my hands, the way that I had squeezed back, it was socomforting. I'd acted so inappropriately. I basically flirted with her.

I'd almost slipped up and told her she was too beautiful that she could never be like the other guardians because she could never be like any of the other girls. It was so easy to talk to her. I couldn't believe I'd actually told her about my family, that I grew up in a blood whore commune, most people would look down on that, but Rose believed me. Most people would also chastise me for beating up my dad. Then again, most people weren't as irrational as Rose. She always did what she wanted to. Even if sometimes she failed to think things through. I searched the building for her then, knowing she'd probably be sitting with Lissa. All I saw were two boys on their knees begging for something from Rose and Lissa. I hoped that they weren't mocking her. All my life, I've always done the right thing. Doing something immoral, it would haunt me. Even killing Strigoi, who were technically already gone, their souls separate from their body's and their dark remains walking the Earth and killing, even evil Strigoi, haunted me because I killed them. Taking a life isn't something easy to come to terms with. Now I was feeling something wrong. Maybe the right thing was to try to get re-assigned and get away from Rose. But I thought that I could hold my control. Yesterday though things sort of heated up. I'd twireled a piece of her hair, advised her not to cut it and even held her hands. I guess it was inappropriate for a mentor and his pupil to act this way, but it wasn't like I was an old man. I was only seven years older than Rose. That wouldn't be a lot in seven years but right now, it was huge. Not to mention the fact that I need to be focused on the Princess. I'd never been in love.

No I wasn't in love. I don't know what it was with Rose. I just can't explain it to myself I just know that, I want her. And when I see her, it's like the whole world stops spinning and there she is, loose-bullet and all. Ready to act and usually not think. She was learning though, I had to teach her or else who knows, she could get killed one day, She needed to learn how to protect herself. I spent the rest of the day in my room seeing that it was my day off. I wrote letters to my family back in Siberia and read one of my Western novels. They were my escape. Even if Rose made fun of me for it. If I lived then though, I could grab Rose and carry her off into the sunset on a horse. But I don't. And I need to accept that, there will never be anything between us aside from our professional relationship.

Chapter 15
A couple of days later I was sent for to go speak to the Headmistress. When I got there, Lissa happened to be outside the office. "Hey Dimitri," she called. "Hello Princess," I answered with a bow. "It's Lissa," she insisted, "And I just wanted to tell you the Headmistress is going to inform you that you're going to come with me to the mall," a funny feeling came over me as she looked into my eyes, "convince her to let Rose come." "What? I don't know if the Headmistress will budge," I told her, trying to shake off the feeling. "You'll convince her," she said. "Go and convince Kirova," she gestured to the door.

I walked into the office and Headmistress Kirova informed me that Lissa, Natalie and Victor Dashkov and a few guardians would be going on a trip to the mall together and since I was Lissa's guardian I would be going too. "Will Miss Hathaway be going?" I asked Headmistress Kirova. "Oh please don't tell me Vasilisa put you up to this she's still supposed to be on probation," she continued. "Yes," I agreed, "But she has behaved accordingly, followed every rule and even asked for more practices, now I have her for two additional hours a day. I think she deserves a break," I told her. "Are you sure she won't try to escape the Academy again, I'm still not sure if she can be trusted," she replied. "I'll keep my eyes on both on them, besides I think it would be more of a training than a mall escape," I told her, "Rose hasn't had field experience and I believe that this could really help her," I urged. "Fine, but if anything goes wrong, it'll be on you Guardian Belikov, understood?" she informed me. "Yes, of course Headmistress," I assured her. "Oh, and I'd like to know how her so called field experience at the mall goes," she continued, "I'll be sure to ask Guardian Alto." "Of course," I replied, realizing Rose wasn't going to be able to get much free time during the trip then. She would probably be ecstatic anyway though just to get away which made me happy just thinking about it. She really did deserve a break with all that had been going on. It was a little out of character of me to ask the Headmistress that. But I just shrugged it off even though the way Lissa had urged me sort of felt strange. I guess she really did have some serious persuasive skills. Later at practice I informed Rose of the good news, and the strings that were attached. "Headmistress Kirova thinks you've done well since coming back," I informed Rose. "Aside from starting a fight in Mr. Nagy's class?" asked Rose. "She doesn't blame you for that. No entirely. I convinced her you needed a break and that you could use this as a training exercise," I was a little nervous to mention the second part.

"Training exercise?" asked Rose. I gave her a brief explanation as we walked off to meet the others, Prince Victor Dashkov, his guardians Ben and Spiridon, Guardian Stan Alto, Natalie, Lissa and Camille. Victor was going into a coughing frenzy, he seemed very ill yet I admired the fact that he came to spend time with his daughter anyway. We rode out the two hour trip to Missoula in a large school van, leaving just after sunrise. The malls would be open during the day so we couldn't go at night. The van had tinted glass to filter out the light and keep the worst away from the vampires. I sat at the back of the van with Rose and Spiridon so I could dispense guardian information to Rose. "Camille and Natalie don't have personal guardians," I explained, "They're both under the protection of their families' guardians. Since they are Academy students leaving campus, a school guardian accompanies them Stan. I go because I'm Lissa's assigned guardian. Most girls her age wouldn't have a personal guardian yet, but circumstances make her unusual." "She's supposed to have two guardians. Princes and princesses always do," replied Rose. Spiridon answered her with his Southern accent despite his Greek name, "Don't worry, she'll have plenty when the time comes. Dimitri's already one of them. Odds are you'll be one too. And that's why you're here today." "The training part," answered Rose. "Yup," Spiridon replied, "You're going to be Dimitri's partner." A moment of funny silence fell then probably not noticeable to anyone except Rose and me, and our eyes locked. I felt the need to clarify unnecessarily, "Guarding partner." "Yup," agreed Spiridon, oblivious to the tension around him. "You'll probably always be near guard," I continued, "You're female and the same age as the princess. You can say close to her without attracting any attention." "And I can't ever take my eyes off her," Rose noted, "Or you." Spiridon laughed and elbowed me at that, "You've got a star student there. Did you give her a stake?" he asked. "No, she's not ready," I answered. Rose responded just I had expected, "I would be if someone would show me how to use one."

"More to it than just using the stake," I argued, "You've still got to subdue them. And you've got to bring yourself to kill them." "Why wouldn't I kill them?" inquired Rose. "Most Strigoi used to be Moroi who purposely turned. Sometimes they're Moroi or Dhampirs turned by force. It doesn't matter. There's a strong chance you might know one of them. Could you kill someone you used to know?" I asked. "I guess so. I'd have to right? If it's them or Lissa" I didn't like her answer, "You might still hesitate. And that hesitation could kill you. And her." "Then how do you make sure you don't hesitate?" she asked. I told her what I always did, "You have to keep telling yourself that they aren't the same people you knew. They've become something dark and twisted. Something unnatural. You have to let go of attachments and do what's right. If they have any grain of their former selves left, they'll probably be grateful." "Grateful for me killing them?" Rose questioned. "If someone turned you into a Strigoi, what would you want?" I asked her. She didn't reply at that, but I urged on, never taking my eyes off her beautiful face. "What would you want if you knew you were going to be converted into a Strigoi against your will? If you knew you would lose all sense of your old morals and understanding of what's right and wrong? If you knew you'd live the rest of your life your immortal life killing innocent people? What would you want?" I asked. The van had grown uncomfortably silent and I knew that she would come to the same realization I had long ago. "If I became Strigoi," began Rose, "I'd want someone to kill me." "So would I," I answered quietly, realizing that Roza and I had this strange connection between us, we both understood the relationship between good and evil. "It reminds me of Mikhail hunting Sonya," murmured Prince Victor. "Sonya Karyou mean Ms. Karp?" asked Rose. "What about her?" asked Lissa. Rose answered her, "She became Strigoi. By choice, but I don't know who Mikhail is," Rose asked. "Mikhail Tanner," Spiridon answered.

"Oh. Guardian Tanner. He was here before we left. Why is he chasing Ms. Karp?" asked Rosd. "To kill her," I answered flatly, "They were lovers." There was tension all inside the van and Prince Victor politely said, "Perhaps it is time to talk about something else. Today isn't a day to dwell on depressing topics." I think everyone was relieved went we finally arrived at the mall; I immediately shifted into my Guardian role, becoming increasingly aware of my surroundings, making sure danger wasn't lurking in the shadows. Rose stayed near Lissa as near guard while they wandered from store to store and Rose sort of looked delighted. She hadn't really had any fun since she came back to the Academy. All of the Guardians received communication devices that we sometimes used in large areas with group guarding; Rose immediately protested her lack of one. "Why don't I get one if I'm on this assignment?" she asked. "You'll learn better without one," I assured her. "If you can guard Lissa the old fashioned way, you can handle anything." I didn't think she'd budge but she just said, "Fine," with a slight attitude. Prince Victor and Spiridon stayed near the girls while Ben and I fanned out, trying not to look like creepy stalker guys watching teenage girls. I watched the girls intently and scanned the area, making sure that they were safe. The chances of them getting attacked here were very slim, but I wasn't taking any chances. I also got the chance to see Rose interact with Lissa. Lissa was showing Rose a skimpy low cut tank top then, embellished with lace; I think she was offering to buy it for her. Rose's eyes looked longing so I assumed she'd say yes, and then she made eye contact with me, shook her head and handed the tank top back to Rose. I took a small satisfaction in that. At the end, Rose ended up with three thermal shirts and a sweatshirt, luckily Lissa hadn't convinced her to buy any slutty tops. Rose had her hair up now; like I'd told her to wear it and I'd smiled at her when I had seen her. Then, as Lissa was walking towards the dressing room something caught her eye and she pulled a black dress off the rack. The dress was made of silky black material, strapless and sleek and falling to about the knees with just a slight flair at the hemline, everything else looked clingy, like it could show everything making any guy's imagination run wild.

I had a feeling Lissa hadn't been planning on wearing it herself and she immediately showed it to Rose. I think Lissa tried to get Rose to try it on but she shook her head, however, Lissa bought it anyway. Rose would look dead sexy in the dress; maybe even challenge the school dress code. While we were waiting I remembered that Rose had complained that she didn't have much lip gloss left, it was the only materialistic thing I'd heard her complain about and it was something I could actually afford. It may have seemed inappropriate for a mentor to buy his students lip gloss but the minute I saw it I knew it would make Rose happy. Prince Victor then said he was going to buy Rose a necklace that both the Lissa and her were admiring but couldn't afford. It would probably make my gift look even less than nothing, but that's the way it is. I didn't exactly have the means to buy Rose expensive things, but she also wasn't the time to long for such things. The ride home was in tired silence with everyone's sleeping schedules messed up by the daylight trip it didn't affect me much though, I was used to doing night guard which meant staying up during the day. Rose sat next to me and leaned back, our arms touching and the closeness felt amazing. "So I can't ever try on clothes again?" Rose asked quietly. All of the girls had fallen asleep but Prince Victor and the guardians remained awake. "When you aren't on duty, you can," I responded, "You can do it during your time off." "I don't ever want time off," Rose replied. "I want to take care of Lissa always," she yawned then, obviously tired. Then her tone shifted and her question surprised me, "Did you see the dress?" "I saw the dress," I answered flatly. "Did you like it?" she asked curiously. I didn't answer it would be inappropriate for me to. "Am I going to endanger my reputation if I wear it to the dance?" she asked. When I spoke, it was barely above a whisper, "You'll endanger the school." She smiled at that, and then shortly after fell asleep. Her head eventually fell on my shoulder. I just stared at her, enjoying this precious moment where I actually get to be close to her.

I noticed goose bumps on her arm then and put my long coat over her, covering her like a blanket. Rose woke up when the van stopped at the school and pulled my coat off of her, climbing out after me, she looked happy and awake. She sighed, "Back to prison," and started walking next to Lissa towards the commons. "Maybe if you fake a heart attack, I can make a break for it," Rose suggested sarcastically. "Without your clothes?" asked Lissa handing her the bag. Rose swung it happily. "I can't wait to see the dress," Lissa told her. "Me either," responded Rose. "If they let me go. Kirova's still deciding if I've been good enough." "Show her those boring shirts you bought. She'll go into a coma. I'm about ready to," Lissa answered. The shirts weren't boring, it was cold in Montana and they would keep her warm. Besides, Rose didn't need to attract any more attention than she already received. Rose just laughed and hopped onto one of the wooden benches, pacing with Lissa as they walked along, "They aren't that boring," she responded. Rose then hopped onto another bench, "I'm not that responsible." "Hey," called Spiridon as the rest of us trailed behind, "You're still on duty. No fun allowed up there." "No fun here," Rose called back. "I swear shit" And that's when she fell into the bench. I think that she was trying to jump off, but as she did, the wood caved beneath her like it was made of paper and her foot got caught, not going with the rest of her body. Rose's ankle bent in an unnatural direction and she crashed down. I immediately ran to her a little panicked that she wasn't okay. She was screaming obscenities and I kept telling her to calm down, my adrenaline was pumping and Spiridon and I immediately went to try to break her foot out of the wood and free her. We finally managed to break the bench apart, freeing Rose's foot and I carried her towards the infirmary. The entire time she complained that she might not be able to take her trainings in the spring and then she won't graduate. I assured her that it wasn't important, that she would be okay. Lissa came with me and stayed with Rose up until a little while before she woke up. Dr. Olendzki gave Rose some medicine so she was out for a couple hours.

I stayed with her, I didn't want her to wake up and there be no one there. Luckily, the doctor informed me she hadn't broken anything, that it was just a scare. I was relieved; it would be horrible for Rose if she couldn't take her finals in the spring. Eventually she woke up, looking a little disoriented. "Rose," I called. She turned her head towards me sitting on the chair beside the bed. "Hey," she answered, her voice coming out as a croak. "How do you feel?" I asked. "Weird. Kind of groggy," she replied. "Dr. Olendzki gave you something for the pain you seemed pretty bad when we brought you in," I informed her, even though the pain killers had been somewhat unnecessary. "I don't remember thatHow long have I been out?" she asked. "A few hours," I responded. "Must have been strong. Must still be strong. I don't hurt at all," she said looking at her foot. I shook my head and explained, "No because you weren't seriously hurt." "Are you sure? I remember the way it bent. No. Something must be broken." She sat up then examining her ankle, "Or at least sprained." I moved forward to stop her, "Be careful. Your ankle might be fine, but you're probably still a little out of it." She carefully shifted to the edge of the bed and looked down at her ankle. "God, I got lucky," she said after an examination, "If I'd hurt it, it would put me out of practice for a while." I smiled then remembering what it felt like to hold her in my arms and returned to the chair, "I know. You kept telling me that while I was carrying you. You were very upset." "You you carried me?" she asked. "After we broke the bench apart and freed your foot," I explained. Rose looked excited but then her expression faded into embarrassment. "I was taken down by a bench," she groaned.

"What?" I asked. She elaborated, "I survived the whole day guarding Lissa, and you guys said I did a good job. Then, I get back here and meet my downfall in the form of a bench. Do you know how embarrassing it is? And all those guys saw, too." "It wasn't your fault," I tried to console her; "No one knew the bench was rotted. It looked fine." "Still," she argued, "I should have just stuck to the sidewalk like a normal person. The other novices are going to give me shit when I get back." I smiled at her then and asked, "Maybe presents will cheer you up." "Presents?" she asked straightening up. I smiled and handed her a small box with a piece of paper. It was Prince Victor's present, he had asked me to give it to Rose when she awoke. "This is from Prince Victor," I told her. She read the note and said, "That's nice of him," and then looked inside. "Whoa. Very nice." It was a rose necklace, I noticed as she held it up. It looked very expensive. "This is pretty extreme for a get well present," Rose noted. "He actually bought it in honor of you doing so well on your first day as an official guardian. He saw you and Lissa looking at it," I explained. "Wow. I don't think I did that good of a job," she said. "I do," I told her. Grinning, she placed the necklace back in the box and set it near a table. "You did say presents right? Like more than one?" she asked. I laughed at her and handed her the small plain bag with the lip gloss, "This is from me." Puzzled and excited, she opened it. "How'd you manage to buy this?" she asked. "I saw you the whole time at the mall." "Guardian secrets," I told her. "What's this for? For my first day?" she asked. I answered honestly, "No. Because I thought it would make you happy." Rose then leaned forward and hugged me, taking me by surprise.

"Thank you," she whispered. I was stiff at first, but then I relaxed and reached around, resting my hands on Rose's lower back. "I'm glad you're better," I told her, "When I saw you fall" "You thought, Wow she's a loser," suggested Rose. "That's not what I thought," I told her. I pulled back slightly then, looking at her eyes. Then slowly and carefully, I reached my hand out, tracing the edge of her cheekbone and moving up the side of her seductive face. She shivered at my touch, but didn't pull away at all. I wounded a lock of her hair in one finger then, just like I had that day at the gym. Rose then dragged her eyes down, and I think she was looking at my lips. The haze was broken when there was a soft knock at the door, hastily; we drew back, "I thought I heard you talking. How do you feel?" asked Dr. Olendzki. I couldn't believe I'd just touched Rose like that, it was weird, like something had just came over me. She hadn't pulled back though, either. The Doctor made Rose lie down, touch and bend her ankle, assessing for damage and shook her head when she finished. "You're lucky," she said. "With all the noise you make coming in here, I thought your foot had been amputated. Must have just been shock. I'd feel better if you sat out from your normal trainings tomorrow, but otherwise, you're good to go." Rose then began putting on her slippers and looked at me; again, I felt that warm flush take over. "You have a guardian angel," I told her. "I don't believe in angels," she answered. "I believe in what I can do for myself." "Well then," I concluded, "You have an amazing body." Rose glanced up questioningly at me then and I felt the need to clarify, "For healing, I mean. I heard about the accident" "Everyone said I shouldn't have survived," Rose explained, "Because of where I sat and the way the car hit the tree. Lissa was really the only one in a secure spot. She and I walked away with only a few scratches." "And you don't believe in angels or miracles." I said.

"Nope. I" she began but then a shift happened. She looked really concerned. "What's wrong?" I asked Rose. "Where's Lissa? Was she here?" she asked almost frantically. "I don't know where she is," I answered. "She wouldn't leave your side while I brought you in. She stayed right next to the bed; right up until the doctor came in. You calmed down when she sat next to you." Rose closed her eyes then, I think trying to do that bond thing where she can read Lissa's thoughts. After five minutes, I tried shaking Rose back to reality, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Doctor Olenzki was helping me and it seemed like ages before she snapped back. Rose's voice cracked a little then as she spoke, "I know where she is. Lissa. We have to help her," she pleaded.

Chapter 16
"Rose, what is it?" I asked, I could tell she had something on her mind, something difficult to get off her chest and I had an idea of who it was about. "It's Lissa she's, she's in danger," she told me. "Where is she?" I asked, trying to be efficient. "At the church in the attic" Rose answered a little out of it. She was doing that whole bond thing again. "Okay stay hereI'll go get Alberta," I told her and immediately ran to get Alberta. I reached her office a few seconds later, "Alberta." "Dimitri, is something wrong?" she asked, probably guessing from the seriousness in my face and she immediately began getting up. "Yes, something is wrong with Vasilisa, Rose just informed me through the bond," I answered and I went out the room, running now knowing she'd follow. We ran towards the church and then up the attic. I thought that she had been hurt or attacked maybe, but no, that wasn't the case. I would've been okay with that. What I saw, both surprised and horrified me. I wasn't prepared for it.

An unconscious Lissa on the floor, at first I thought she'd been attacked but after further assessment I realized she was bleeding from her wrists and she had a sharp object in one of her hands. She'd done the damage herself. How long had this been going on? Why hadn't I realized. I picked Lissa up and immediately rushed her to the clinic; I could tell that she had lost a lot of blood. Alberta rushed to get a feeder and we tried rousing Lissa to consciousness to drink some blood. Finally, they were able to wake her up to drink some blood. She was going to be okay. I never thought I'd have to worry about protecting one of my charges from themselves. I waited around the exit after Rose had been allowed to visit her in the middle of the night. Rose didn't notice me when she came out, she just walked right passed me but I saw the look on her face. I don't think Lissa was happy with Rose telling on her. However, Lissa could have died had it not been for Rose and I'm glad she had the courage to speak up. I know how she is, always trying to take care of situations herself, but she did the right thing in telling. She should have told sooner, however, this all could have been avoided. But then wasn't realy like Rose, I realized a little frustrated that she would keep something from me. Dr. Olendzki came out then and we spoke. "We'll be releasing Vasilisa tomorrow morning on the condition that she has to come back for daily visits with a counselor. We are also going to put her on some sort of medication to help with the depression," Dr. Olendzki informed me. "Of course," I answered. "Rest assured Guardian Belikov, she's going to be fine," she responded. "Okay," I answered and headed back to my room for some sleep. The next morning I informed Rose about Lissa's condition that she would be out of the hospital but that she would need therapy and be put on an anti-depressant. "Are you and Lissa going to be okay?" I asked Rose then. "I don't know, well, yeah eventually," Rose responded. "She'll probably be angry with me for a while for telling." "You did the right thing," I assured her, "She could have died." "I know," Rose added bitterly. "She'll come around, don't worry about it," I told Rose and then we went ahead with our normal practices.

The rest of the week went by pretty normal. I did my rounds and trained with Rose who seemed a little sad and distanced, but I knew that Lissa would come around soon and be her friend again. Saturday was the dance and Alberta asked me to go take a walk with her. We were discussing the current security system at the academy when we knocked into Rose and Mason. I did a double take and whatever we had just bend discussing completely faded from the world. She was wearing the dress. Rose looked stunning, and like I had told her before she'd endanger the school because she'd endanger me. Then I noticed Mason's arm around her. Envy filled me all over. But Rose's beauty distracted her. All I could do was stare and stare. Rose looked back, but neither of us said a world. Alberta gave them a smile however, clearly not as affected as I was. I could hear their conversation faintly in the background as Alberta said to Mason, "Mr. Ashford, Miss Hathaway. I'm surprised you aren't already in the commons." But all I saw was Rose I looked and looked and couldn't stop. I tried to keep my face composed. Mason defended himself, "Got delayed, Guardian Petrov. You know how it is with girls. Always got to look perfect. You especially must know all about that." What a suck up. Besides, Rose always looked perfect, even after getting all hot and sweaty at the gym. I could think of other times when she could be hot and sweaty but those places shouldn't be visited. Rose always looked great but tonight, she looked out of this world. A part of me wanted to grab her a take her away, but I have a feeling that wouldn't be in our best interest. Rose just kept staring back at me, our eyes were locked. I could hear their conversations going around us, but all I saw was Rose and the a haze was building between us. In that moment, she was everything. I tried to keep my expression from giving away anything. The dress Rose wore clung everywhere exposing every curve and the rest of the shape of her body.

It was almost taunting. Finally, Mason and Alberta stopped their remarks and we parted ways. As Alberta and I walked on, I couldn't help but look back at Rose. "They make a good couple, don't they?" asked Alberta. "No," I responded too quickly. "No? Dimitri!" she joked, " I think you're getting all protective over Rose, Mason's a star student and I think he's always liked Rose," responded Alberta. "Did you see how he was touching her? I'm sure his interest are more hormonal than anything else" I answered. "Dimitri! Rose can handle Mason, I think he'd be good for her, don't worry about them. Rose is a smart and beautiful girl, maybe dating a guy like Mason would be good for her," Alberta told me. "Maybe she doesn't need to date right now," I answered, silently adding unless it's me, of course. "I'll see you later Alberta," I commented and started to walk off, it was getting hard to mask my feelings. "Wait, Dimitri, are you okay?" she asked. "Yes of course," I answered and stocked off before she could say anything else. I ended in my room, angry and not able to get Rose out of my head. For a second I had decided to march right into the commons and yank her away from Mason and take her away with me. What was I thinking. Seeing her though had caused some animalistic passion in me. She stared back I thought. When I had looked at her, her eyes had been tied to mine too. She had held my gaze the whole time too. I refused to take satisfaction in that, because allowing myself that privilege meant fantasying other things that would never be able to happen. That seemed like the saddest thought in the world right now.

To want something so desperately, to be taunted by the sight of it, to be so close to it, but to never be able to touch or feel it. Oh Roza. Eventually, as the night drew on, I was able to fall asleep but it wasn't in the least bit peaceful. I moved all over the bed, yanking the sheets all over and all I could think about was Rose. Some hours passed when I heard continual loud banging on my door. I immediately jumped out of bed, anxious to see what could be the problem. I didn't expect to see Rose when I opened the door, and my eyes widened as I asked, "Rose?" "Let me in. it's Lissa," she insisted. I immediately stepped aside so that she could walk in. She was assessing the room and then she stopped and gazed at me. I expected her to explain herself, but she didn't, she just stared at me. "What's wrong?" I urged. She just gazed at me, and then looked at my bare chest. Almost as if checking me out. Rose then aimed at my chest, trying to touch it and kiss it. "Rose," I exclaimed as I stepped back, "What are you doing?" "What do you think?" she responded, charging forth again, trying to kiss me. Smart ass. "Are you drunk?" I asked, holding my hand out in a warding gesture, trying to stop this situation from happening it was too tempting. It was only so long before my self-control waned. "Don't I wish," she answered, trying to dodge around me. Then her confidence seemed to diminish because she stopped her attempts and stared at me with an uncertain look, finally she said, "I thought you wanted to---" damn, she had noticed. "Don't you think I'm pretty?" she asked. Was she ridiculous, of course she was beautiful but that wasn't the situation? Besides, didn't she understand it wasn't about that. I tried to be stern, "Rose, I don't know what's going on, but you need to go back to you room." Please leave Rose, before I can't hold back.

Instead, she moved at me again, not being deterred but this time, I reached out and gripped her wrists and suddenly, whatever self-control I had completely faded. It was like an electric current shot through the both of us and whatever I had been thinking to tell her fell away. Suddenly, all I wanted was Rose. Suddenly, nothing held me back. I released her wrists then and moved my hands up her arms, slowly feeling her soft skin. I held her gaze, and I was hungry, hungry to feel and touch her and do so many other things. I grabbed her then pull her towards me and pressing her against my body. One on my hands moved up the back of her neck, grabbing a hand full of her hair while I tipped her face towards me. Then I brought my lips down, barely brushing my lips to her. She had been untouchable for so long. I had wanted this for so long, it seemed like if I moved too fast this haze would melt away. I wanted to treasure this moment, but I wanted to do so many things I don't think I could contain myself for much longer. Rose than asked, "Do you think I'm pretty?" grabbing me out of my head. I regarded her with utter seriousness then and said, "I think you're beautiful." "Beautiful?" she asked. I continued and admitted, "You are so beautiful, it hurts me sometimes." I moved my lips back to hers then, and kissed her gently; however, soon passion took over me and I kissed her hard and hungry. Her kisses consumed me but soon kissing wasn't enough. My hands slid down her arms, down her hips down to the edge of her dress, feeling her all over. I gathered the fabric of her dress then and began pushing it up her legs. I continued while she kissed me, sliding the dress up and up, until I'd pulled it over her head and tossed it on the floor. "You you got rid of that dress fast," Rose said in between heavy breaths. "I thought you liked it," she commented. "I do like it," I answered, "I love it," I said in between my heavy breaths. I liked her better without it though. I grabbed her body then and took her to my bed, getting her completely naked. Rose seemed a little scared, so I took thinks slow, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. We laid on the covers, clinging to each other and kissing and kissing. Every touch felt like fire on my skin I couldn't believe this was happening.

Touching her like this it had always been a fantasy, something untangible. It wasn't just because she was beautiful, but just being so close to her felt so good. I murmured her name "Roza, Roza," as I kissed her and she seemed to melt under my gaze. I could tell by the way she acted that she wasn't as experienced as people it was rumored as it was. She was almost shaking and I guessed she was really nervous. I wanted to do so much more, and I think she realized that but I kept my pajama pants on so as to not pressure her. At one point she hovered over me and as I tilted my head slightly, and she caught sight of my neck and lightly brushed my marks tattooed there. "Did you really kill six Strigoi?" I nodded. "Wow," she said. I brought her own neck down and kissed it, my teeth gently grazing her skin, "Don't worry, you'll have a lot more than me someday," I told her. "Do you feel guilty about it?" she asked. "Hmm?" I questioned. "Killing them," she responded, "You said in the van that it was the right thing to do, but it still bothers you. It's why you go to church, isn't it? I see you there, but you aren't really into the services." I smiled at her, surprised and amused that she had guessed another secret of mine, "How do you know these things?" I questioned. "I'm not guilty exactly just sad sometimes. All of them used to be human or dhampir or Moroi. It's a waste, that's all, but as I said before, it's something I have to do. Something we all have to do. Sometimes it bothers me, and the chapel is a good place to think about those kinds of things. Sometimes I find peace there, but not often. I find more peace with you." I rolled her off of me then and moved on top, this time the kissing was harder, I could barely hold back when she was completely naked here in my bed. I looked at her eyes then and saw the decision in there; she wanted me inside of her. Smiling, I slid my hands behind her neck and unfastened Victor's necklace and set it on the bedside table. The minute the chain left my fingers; however, I felt like I'd been punched in the face.

I blinked in surprise and asked, "What happened?" "I I don't know," Rose answered, voice relaying that she felt it too. I felt like I was trying to wake up out of this haze. I still wanted Rose, but that animalistic passion was gone and the current situation was slowly dawning on me. Rose. Naked in my bed. My head felt strange, and I frowned, no longer turned on. I pondered for a few minutes, retracing what had happened. Everything changed when I took off the necklace. The necklace, I realized, and I grabbed it. Suddenly, desire swept all over me and I slid my hand onto Rose's hip, trying not to keep it from going and tracing all over her naked body. I saw Rose's expression changed and she perked up her body, and her breathing became heavy once again. I moved my lips to her neglecting what had just happened. All I wanted was to touch her, nothing else in the world mattered. Then she whispered, "Lissa," voice strained. "I have to tell you something about Lissa. But I can'tremember. I feel so strange" "I know," I responded, still holding on to her, laying my cheek on her forehead. Then the pieces seemed to fall into place and I realized what I had to do. I would never get to touch Rose or see her like this again, I realized. But it was something I had to do. We were trapped here by someone. Someone. "There's something." I tried to explain, "Something here." I pulled my face away and said, "This necklace. That's the one Prince Victor gave you?" Rose nodded and I took a deep breath, removing my hand from her hip and pulling myself away. "What are you doing?" she exclaimed. "Come back." She said. I seriously wanted to. All I wanted in that moment was to make her mine, but instead I climbed out the bed. I felt animal passion and had to fight myself the whole way to the window. Couldn't I just make love to her first? No Dimitri, you idiot, I thought, you're taking advantage of her.

I finally reached the window and managed to open it one-handedly. "What are you going to?" Rose asked, and then realization took place because she sprung out of bed gasping, "No! Do you know how much that must have---?" I let the necklace disappear and suddenly I woke up. "Lissa!" Rose immediately gasped out. "Lissa's been taken!" she screamed.

Chapter 17
My body reacted immediately to the present danger. My charge had been taken. I didn't have time to think about what had just been happening with Rose or even try to decipher through this whole mess of my personal life, I had one mission right now and it was to save the Princess. "Get dressed," I ordered without really looking at her and tossed her a sweatshirt. I ran out the door as fast as I could look somewhat presentable and I was conscious that Rose was following me but I was much faster and I made no effort to slow down right now, the Princess had to come first. I called Headmistress Kirova and told her to get the guardians immediately, I also informed Alberta that the Princess had been taken and pretty soon we all ended up in the guardian's main office. The situation was a mess as we were trying to sort through what had just happened. How could I allow myself to become that distracted? I'd let my guards down, almost slept with my seven year younger student and in the process had lost my charge the last Dragomir to some Strigoi. The entire situation was chaos; no one bought her story though. It seems Rose had gotten into some trouble at the dance and punched Mia so her credibility was waning; however, Rose wouldn't lie about this, especially when there was a lust spell involved. Still, no one believed her story but me as she explained that Lissa had been taken until they retrieved Christian Ozera who had been with the Princess at the time of the accident. How had Strigoi even gotten past the wards? Where was our security in all of this? Finally, the Ozera kid came staggering in, supported by two guardians as well as Dr. Olendski. He had blood coming from the back of his head and wasn't in great shape either. "How many Strigoi were there?" asked one of the guardians to Rose. "How in the world did they get in?" muttered someone else. I had been thinking the same thing. Rose stared at all up us then and said "WhThere weren't any Strigoi." Houston, we have a problem.

The Headmistress spoke first presumably, "Who else would have taken her. You must have seen it wrong through the vision," she assessed, obviously blaming Rose not that she had that much credibility. "No. I'm positive," Rose insisted, "It was they were.guardians," she finally assessed. "She's right," muttered a hurt Christian, wincing as Dr. Olendski touched the back of his head, "Guardians," he assured. "That's impossible," responded someone immediately. "They weren't school guardians," Rose began, rubbing her forehead as if trying to think really hard, "Will you guys get moving? She's getting father away!" she exclaimed. "You're saying a group of privately retained guardians came in and kidnapped her?" asked the Headmistress in an incredulous tone. "Yes," Rose replied with gritted teeth. "They" she paused, "They work for Victor Dashkov," she gasped out focusing on the Headmistress's eyes, "They're his," she finally claimed. It was a shock. Why would Prince Victor Dashkov kidnap the Princess? Suddenly, I was beginning to realize I was missing some pieces of her story and I almost started doubting Rose myself. "Prince Victor Dashkov?" asked someone. No the other Victor idiot. "Please," Rose moaned as she clutched her head, "Do something. They're getting so far away. They're oneighty-three. Headed south," she finally claimed. I knew this would bring trouble. Eighty-three was really far. "Eighty-three already?" asked the Headmistress, as expected, "How long ago did they leave? Why didn't you come sooner?" I better think fast as all eyes scrutinized Rose. She just eyed me anxiously, and I realized I needed to protect her right now. Besides the outburst of telling them there was a lust spell and what it would cause then we'd never get the Princess and I'd be imprisoned for statutory rape. I spoke for Rose then, "A compulsion spell. A compulsion spell put into a necklace he gave to her. It made her attack me," I answered, the lie coming out flawlessly. "No one can use that kind of compulsion. No one's done it in ages," reverted the Headmistress. "Well, someone did," I argued, "By the time I'd restrained her," or myself, "A lot of time had passed."

No one questioned the lie and the group then sprang into action. We decided to separate into three SUVs. No one wanted to bring Rose but how the hell would we find Lissa without her? I convinced them that we needed her and she ended up sitting in the passenger seat, next to me as we drove. The time seemed to slow down then and I drove fast, really fast, Rose only spoke to give a report. "They're still on Eighty-three but their turn is coming. They aren't speeding. They don't want to get pulled over." I nodded without looking at her; don't get distracted, I told myself. Rose had asked me what a compulsion spell was, and I simply told her that there had actually been a lust one on the necklace and when she asked further questions, I simply told her magic earth users used to practice. Had it really been the entire lust spell? I think there had to be attraction for it to really work. At least, that's what I had read about it, but who knows. There had definitely been attraction on my side of the spectrum. Rose probably felt completely awkward probably like I'd taken advantage of her. That thought sickened me; I would never want to do anything to hurt her. Don't get distracted, I repeated to myself. "They're turning," Rose said suddenly, "I can't see the road name, but I'll know when we're close." I grunted and I noticed Rose sitting farther down in her seat, very, very pensive. She probably thinks I'm a rapist. "There," she called about twenty minutes later of awkward and tension filled silence. It was a rough road without any paved gravel the SUV could take it though. "They're turning again. They're in a small cabin They're taking her " she continued. Suddenly Rose screamed making me flinch and the SUV swerved a little in surprise as my grip on the steering wheel jerked, I started to pull over, terribly frightened for Rose now afraid that I couldn't protect her. "No no! Keep going!" Rose insisted as she pressed her palms to her temples, "We have to get there." Alberta then put her hand on Rose's shoulder and asked, "Rose, what's happening?" She blinked back tears, "They're torturing herwith air. This guyKenneth.. he's making it press against her into her head. The pressure's insane. It feels like my her-skull's gonna explode," she sobbed.

I looked at her alarmed and sped up I had to put a stop to this. Rose started to explain, that they were torturing Lissa and that finally she gave in and healed Victor of his disease. It was all strange how could she heal Victor? She tried to explain how Victor looked younger now and that Lissa had passed out from the exhaustion. My anger flared then that pig had taken the girls to the mall and had plotted against my charge, me and worst of all Rose. Now she would never want to be around me again. I started cursing in Russian because it was the only way to vent out some of the orchestra of emotions that I was currently feeling. Finally, we were in eye reach of the cabin and Rose signaled that this is where they had her. We pulled over as well as the two SUVs behind us. All of us got out, and it was over a dozen of guardians. One of them scouted and then reported how many people were inside and outside of the cabin. We came up with a plan who would go in and who would stay outside and go around the door and then dispersed. Rose started getting out of the car then and I quickly stopped that from happening. No way was I going to allow Rose to face danger. "No Roza. You stay here," I told her. "The hell with that. I have to go help her." Is she crazy? She could get hurt? Besides I'd just have to worry about protecting her the whole time. It was bad enough leaving her behind alone in the car and unprotected. But I would make sure none of these bastards got out of the cabin and that no one would ever hurt Roza. I cupped her chin then, trying to reason with her. I so did not need this right now, "You have helped her. Your job is done. You did it well. But this isn't any place for you. She and I both need you to stay safe." Maybe the closeness was a bit inappropriate but desperate times call for inappropriate measures when it comes to Roza. Something clicked then, luckily and she nodded, swallowing whatever protests she had planned and got back into the car. I slipped off then, trying to blend into the trees. My eyes were on Rose for just a second longer before we charged into the house, I noticed her kick the passenger seat then. It was so Rose. Victor's henchmen were surprised but they put up a fight but after fighting Strigoi they were nothing. Besides, I fought with almost a blind rage and these men weren't really willing to be taken as prisoners, they were fighting to the death. All of the events that had occurred tonight burned through me, and I let that rage take over, giving me an extra edge on my fighting. After the massacre of them, someone took Victor prisoner as we searched the house only, there was no Lissa. Had she slipped off in the madness? We sent a search team and I immediately ran back to the SUV knowing Rose's mental tracking device would probably save some time.

Only, there was no Rose. I felt my heart sink then. What if she was hurt? Goddammit! Can she ever listen? I started getting frantic then, hauling orders. Find them! Find Rose! And I immediately ran, desperate to find Roza. I'd never forgive myself if something happened to her if I wasn't able to protect her. I finally found Rose after about twenty minutes of searching in the damn woods, Alberta was trying to hold her up and she was unconscious. Lissa and Christian were there too, but Alberta saw my reaction. It felt like all the blood had drained from my face. Alberta quickly explained, "She's okay. Lissa had to drink from her," she said. My legs felt like jelly. I took her from Alberta then and carried her in my arms. I can't describe how badly it felt to see her in such a state, even if she was going to be okay. I'd been fighting the way I felt about Rose for months now, but now, it was like whatever lid I had put on my heart had been flung open and I knew for sure now that I was completely in love with her. Eventually, we got the girls to the SUV and Alberta explained to me what had happened. Lissa had run away trying to escape, not knowing that we were coming to rescue her. Rose had realized and Christian had actually been hiding in the trunk and came with her to try to get Lissa, they were quite a pair, only they ran into trouble. Victor had psi-hounds that attacked, probably the same psi-hounds he sent after them that Rose told me about when she thought the Academy had sent them. Rose had fought that off but they had gotten Christian. Then, bizarrely, Lissa was able to heal Christian's wounds, after feeding off Rose because she was too weak and that was why Rose had passed out utter exhaustion. Rose stayed in the clinic then where they forced fluids and sugar into her. I stayed too, until she started waking up making sure that she was safe. Lissa then explained to us about her powers, that she had healed Christian and Victor, and even Rose after the car accident. It was all shocking, but overall we decided that it should be kept a secret. A lot of abuse could come from such great power. Victor was being held now in prison at the school until he had a trial and was under 24 hour surveillance. We also found out that it was Natalie who had rotted the bench and that Lissa had actually healed her ankle. All the pieces that I had been trying to figure out all made sense now why they had left and the animal happenings. Lissa also started dating the Ozera kid, Christian, Tasha's nephew. It was nice, especially since people held so much prejudice towards him.

And I tried to stay away from Rose for now. I didn't visit her during her recovery, and I was still trying to handle what had happened and what I was going to tell her. I should turn myself in. But then, who would take care of Rose? How did she even feel about all this? I wasn't ready to deal with all that yet though, so I suspended our practices indefinitely, until finally on the fourth day after Lissa's kidnapping, we ran into each other. She had come into the gym and then she noticed I was there. She couldn't speak probably traumatized that her older mentor had taken advantage of her. I started to walk past her but then stopped and decided that I needed to face the facts and man up. "Rose" I began after a few awkward moments, and decided one of the hardest decisions of my life to condemn myself. "You need to report what happened. With us," I told her. "I can't do that. They're fire you. Or worse," she began. "They should fire me," I answered, ashamed. "What I did was wrong." "You couldn't help it. It was the spell" so that's what she thought. It'd probably been like that for her. It's not like this goddess looking girl would fall in love with her old mentor. She probably thought it was disgusting. How could she even stand to be around me? "It doesn't matter. It was wrong and stupid." She bit her lip then and said, "Look, it's not a big deal." "It is a big deal!" I exclaimed, I'd attack any other teacher if that were to happen between them. "I took advantage of you." "No. You didn't," she said evenly. And then I knew she had wanted me too, and that there was only one way to deal with this. "Rose, I'm seven years older than you. In ten years, that won't mean so much, but for now, it's huge. I'm an adult. You're a child." She flinched then, obviously hurt. "You didn't seem to think I was a child when you were all over me." I flinched then; it hadn't been about that not entirely, "Just because your body well, that doesn't make you an adult. We're in two different places. I've been out in the world. I've been out on my own. I've killed, Rose people, not animals. And you you're just starting out. Your life is about homework and clothes and dances," I tried to explain. "That's all you think I care about?" she retorted, clearly offended. "No, of course not," I defended, "Not entirely. But it's all part of your world. You're still growing up and figuring out who you are what's important. You need to keep doing that. You need to be with boys your own age. Even if you choose not to tell, you need to understand that it was a mistake. And it isn't ever going to happen again."

"Because you're too old for me? Because it isn't responsible?" she asked. I made my face as blank as I could and decided that lying would be best, "No. Because I'm just not interested in you that way." She stared then, searching my face as if trying to tell whether or not she believed me. I continued, "It only happened because of the spell. Do you understand?" She blushed beet red then and just shrugged, sounding like a hurt child, "Yeah. Understood," and then she stormed out of the room kicking the door open. As soon as she was out of sight I punched the wall. I just had hurt the one person that I never wanted to hurt. I'd just ruined any chance of ever being with the girl that I have fallen for. And the worst part is it was the right thing to do. I made the rest of my day with rounds, making sure everything was in place, trying to tell myself, convince myself, I did the right thing. I walked away. I mean, how can I protect Lissa, when all I want to do is protect Rose? It isn't fair to her. I could get over people calling me a pervert. I could get over dealing with what people said. I could deal with Rose's mom kicking my ass, but what I couldn't deal with, was having another charge die. One slip and it could mean death for someone. I was a guardian, above all things. I had my duties and needed to get over this whole Rose thing at once. She had her duties too. As I was making my rounds then I got near the prison and then I noticed the two guardian bodies lying on the floor. Adrenaline surged for me how could have Victor pulled this one off. I opened the door then, warily. Then I saw Rose on the wall, injured. And Natalie, Victor's daughter, hutched over her, about to feed off her, about to hurt my Roza. Fury sizzled through me and I immediately attacked Natalie. She was fast, maybe faster than me with her new Strigoi abilities, but I was much more experienced. She didn't know how to work with her new powers. We both gave and received some vicious hits, but finally I saw my opening and took it, staking Natalie right though her heart. I then yanked it back as she screamed to her bloody death and after making sure she was dead, I ran as fast as I could to Rose.

I leaned over and picked her up in my arms. "Hey comrade," she called softly, way too softly for Roza. "You were right about Strigoi," she said and I noticed her eyelids start to close. She must be hurt she admitted I was right. "Roza, Roza!" I screamed frantically. "Open your eyes. Don't go to sleep on me, not yet," please God let her be okay. She squinted her eyes and me then as I ran towards the clinic with her in my arms. "Was he right?" she asked. "Who?" I questioned, trying to keep her awake and talking. "Victor he said it couldn't have worked. The necklace." Damn, she knew. Hurting her this morning was for nothing. I wouldn't have kept her talking except her eyes started to close again so I asked, "What do you mean?" "The spell," she continued, "Victor said you had to want me to care about me for it to work." I didn't say anything and she gripped my shirt, prying, "Did you? Did you want me?" I couldn't lie to her then, not like this, so I told her the truth, I just let it poor out of me, "Yes, Roza. I did want you. I still do. I wish we could be together." "Then why did you lie to me?" she questioned. We reached the clinic then and I opened the door still holding her with one arm. I yelled for help then. "Because we can't be together," I said. "Because of the age thing, right? Because you're my mentor?" she asked. No, I could deal with that, "That's part of it. But also" I explained, "Well, you and I will both be Lissa's guardians someday. I need to protect her at all costs. 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," she answered, not getting the big picture. "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 said as the medical team came and took her from my arms, ripping a part of my soul.

I had to wait frantically to know whether the girl I was in love with would die or live. Shortly after though, Lissa arrived hearing what had happened and I think she did that weird healing thing because Rose came around shortly after Lissa spent a few minutes with her thank god. And Rose wasn't even hurt anymore. Maybe she had a guardian angel after all. Victor had been found on campus and recaptured luckily so I didn't have to worry about that asshole anymore. After a few days, Rose and I went back to our regular practices again and for the most part we acted as usual. I remained strict with her and there was almost nothing out of the ordinary, except once in a while our eyes would lock with some longing passion and I'd suddenly feel desire fill me. But Rose and I restrained whatever our feelings held; I hoped that these emotions would fade so that one day, we would both be protecting the princess as guardians. But honestly, I only felt myself falling for her more each and every day.