Home > Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(17)

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(17)
Author: Richelle Mead

As we sat, and the quiet grew, I studied him over the edge of my cup. He wasn't looking at me, but I knew he knew I was watching. Like every other time I looked at him, I was always struck by his looks first. The soft dark hair that he often tucked behind his ears without realizing it, hair that never quite wanted to stay in its tie at the back of his neck. His eyes were brown too, somehow gentle and fierce at the same time. His lips had that same contradictory quality, I realized. When he was fighting or dealing with something grim, those lips would flatten and turn hard. But in lighter times ... when he laughed or kissed...well, then they'd become soft and wonderful.

Today, more than his exterior hit me. I felt warm and safe just being with him. He brought comfort after my terrible day. So often with other people, I felt a need to be the center of attention, to be funny and always have something clever to say. It was a habit I needed to shake to be a guardian, seeing as that job required so much silence. But with Dimitri, I never felt like I had to be anything more than what I already was. I didn't have to entertain him or think up jokes or even flirt. It was enough to just be together, to be so completely comfortable in each other's presence - smoldering sexual tension aside - that we lost all sense of self-consciousness. I exhaled and drank my cocoa.

"What happened out there?" he asked at last, meeting my gaze. "You didn't crack under the pressure."

His voice was curious, not accusatory. He wasn't treating me as a student right now, I realized. He was regarding me as an equal. He simply wanted to know what was going on with me. There was no discipline or lecturing here.

And that just made it all the worse when I had to lie to him.

"Of course it was," I told him, looking down into my cup. "Unless you believe I really did let Stan 'attack' Christian."

"No," he said. "I don't believe that. I never did. I knew you'd be unhappy when you found out about the assignments, but I never once doubted that you'd do what you'd have to for this. I knew you wouldn't let your personal feelings get in the way of your duty."

I looked up again and met his eyes, so full of faith and absolute confidence in me. "I didn't. I was mad...Still am a little. But once I said I'd do it, I meant it. And after spending some time with him...well, I don't hate him. I actually think he's good for Lissa, and he cares about her, so I can't get upset about that. He and I just clash sometimes, that's all... but we did really well together against the Strigoi. I remembered that while I was with him today, and arguing against this assignment just seemed stupid. So I decided to do the best job I could." I hadn't meant to talk so much, but it felt good to let out what was inside of me, and the look on Dimitri's face would have gotten me to say anything. Almost anything.

"What happened then?" he asked. "With Stan?" I averted my eyes and played with my cup again. I hated keeping things from him, but I couldn't tell him about this. In the human world, vampires and dhampirs were creatures of myth and legend - bedtime stories to scare children. Humans didn't know we were real and walking the earth. But just because we were real didn't mean that every other story-time paranormal creature was. We knew that and had our own myths and bedtime stories about things we didn't believe in. Werewolves. Bogeymen. Ghosts.

Ghosts played no real role in our culture, short of being fodder for pranks and campfire tales. Ghosts inevitably came up on Halloween, and some legends endured over the years. But in real life? No ghosts. If you came back after death, it was because you were a Strigoi.

At least, that's what I'd always been taught. I honestly didn't know enough now to say what was going on. Me imagining Mason seemed more likely than him being a true ghost, but man, that meant I might seriously be heading into crazy territory. All this time I'd worried about Lissa losing it. Who had known it might be me?

Dimitri was still watching me, waiting for an answer.

"I don't know what happened out there. My intentions were good ... I just... I just messed up."

"Rose. You're a terrible liar."

I glanced up. "No, I'm not. I've told a lot of good lies in my life. People have believed them."

He smiled slightly. "I'm sure. But it doesn't work with me. For one thing, you won't look me in the eye. As for the other... I don't know. I can just tell."

Damn. He could tell. He just knew me that well. I stood up and moved to the door, keeping my back to him. Normally, I treasured every minute with him, but I couldn't stick around today. I hated lying, but I didn't want to tell the truth either. I had to leave.

"Look, I appreciate you being worried about me...but really, it's okay. I just messed up. I'm embarrassed about it -  and sorry I put your awesome training to shame - but I'll rebound. Next time, Stan's ass is mine."

I hadn't even heard him get up, but suddenly, Dimitri was right behind me. He placed a hand on my shoulder, and I froze in front of the door leading out. He didn't touch me anywhere else. He didn't try to pull me closer. But, oh, that one hand on my shoulder held all the power in the world.

"Rose," he said, and I knew he was no longer smiling. "I don't know why you're lying, but I know you wouldn't do it without a good reason. And if there's something wrong -  something you're afraid to tell the others - "

I spun around rapidly, somehow managing to pivot in place in such a way that his hand never moved yet ended up on my other shoulder.

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