Home > Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(6)

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)(6)
Author: Richelle Mead

And that was kind of funny, because I think Eddie was trying to protect me. He wasn't stalking me or anything, but I'd noticed him keeping an eye on me. I think after what had happened, he felt he owed it to Mason to watch over his girlfriend. I never bothered to tell Eddie that I hadn't been Mason's girlfriend, not in the real sense of the word, just as I never rebuked Eddie for his big brother behavior. I could certainly take care of myself. But whenever I heard him warning other guys away from me, pointing out that I wasn't ready to date anyone yet, I saw no point in interfering. It was all true. I wasn't ready to date.

Eddie gave me a lopsided smile that added a little boy type of cuteness to his long face. "Are you excited?"

"Hell, yeah," I said. Our classmates were filling in bleachers on one side of the gym, and we found a clear spot near the middle. "It's going to be like a vacation. Me and Lissa, together for six weeks." As frustrating as our bond was sometimes, it nonetheless made me her ideal guardian. I always knew where she was and what was happening to her. Once we graduated and were out in the world, I'd be assigned to her officially.

He turned thoughtful. "Yeah, I guess you don't have to worry as much. You know your assignment when you graduate. The rest of us aren't so lucky."

"You got your sights set on someone royal?" I teased.

"Well, it doesn't matter. Most guardians are assigned to royals lately anyway."

That was true. Dhampirs - half-vampires like me - were in short supply, and royals usually got first pick of guardians. There was a time in the past when more Moroi, royal and non-royal alike, would have gotten guardians, and novices like us would have competed fiercely to get assigned to someone important. Now it was almost a given that every guardian would work for a royal family. There weren't enough of us to go around, and less influential families were on their own.

"Still," I said, "I guess it's a question of which royal you get, right? I mean, some are total snobs, but lots of them are cool. Get someone really rich and powerful, and you could be living at the Royal Court or traveling to exotic places." That last part appealed to me a lot, and I often had fantasies of Lissa and me traveling the world.

"Yup," agreed Eddie. He nodded toward a few guys in the front row. "You wouldn't believe the way those three have been sucking up to some of the Ivashkovs and Szelskys. It won't affect their assignments here, of course, but you can tell they're already trying to set things up after graduation."

"Well, the field experience can affect that. How we're rated on this will go into our records."

Eddie nodded again and started to say something when a loud, clear feminine voice cut through the murmur of our conversation. We both looked up. While we'd been talking, our instructors had gathered in front of the bleachers and now stood facing us in an impressive line. Dimitri was among them, dark and imposing and irresistible. Alberta was trying to call us to attention. The crowd fell silent.

"All right," she began. Alberta was in her fifties, wiry and tough. Seeing her reminded me of the conversation she and Dimitri had had last night, but I filed that away for later. Victor Dashkov was not going to ruin this moment. "You all know why you're here." We'd become so quiet, so tense and excited, that her voice now rang through the gym. "This is the most important day of your education before you take your final trials. Today you will find out which Moroi you've been placed with. Last week, you were given a booklet with the full details of how the next six weeks will play out. I trust you've all read it by now." I had, actually. I'd probably never read anything so thoroughly in my life. "Just to recap, Guardian Alto will highlight the main rules of this exercise."

She handed a clipboard to Guardian Stan Alto. He was one of my least favorite instructors, but after Mason's death, some of the tension between us had lightened. We understood each other better now.

"Here we go," said Stan gruffly. "You'll be on duty six days a week. This is actually a treat for you guys. In the real world, you're usually working every day. You will accompany your Moroi everywhere - to class, to their dorms, to their feedings. Everything. It's up to you to figure out how you fit into their lives. Some Moroi interact with their guardians just like friends; some Moroi prefer you to be more of an invisible ghost who doesn't talk to them." Did he have to use the word ghost? "Every situation is different, and you two will have to find a way to work it out to best ensure their safety.

"Attacks may come at any time, anywhere, and we'll be dressed in all black when it happens. You should always be on your guard. Remember, even though you'll obviously know it's us doing the attacking and not real Strigoi, you should respond as though your lives are in terrible, immediate danger. Don't be afraid of hurting us. Some of you, I'm sure, won't have any qualms about getting us back for past grievances." Students in the crowd giggled at this. "But some of you may feel like you have to hold back, for fear of getting in trouble. Don't. You'll get in more trouble if you do hold back. Don't worry. We can take it."

He flipped to the next page of his clipboard. "You will be on duty twenty-four hours a day for your six-day cycles, but you may sleep during daylight when your Moroi does. Just be aware that although Strigoi attacks are rare in daylight, they aren't impossible indoors, and you will not necessarily be 'safe' during these times."

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