Blood Promise Chapter Fourteen

The encounter with Denis left me even more confused than before.It was a shocking illustration of Mark’s warning, an omen of what I too might become if I wasn’t careful.I wasn’t really the same as Denis, was I? I wasn’t aimlessly seeking danger.

I was seeking danger… well, for a reason. I had to fulfill the promise I’d made to find Dimitri. Maybe it was suicidal and I was only deluding myself into thinking it was noble.

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Viktoria left me little opportunity to ruminate. Later that evening, as the family was settling down in the living room after way too much food, she glibly asked Olena, “Can I go over to Marina’s? She’s having a party before we go back to school.”

Wow. It looked like Abe and the Alchemists weren’t the only ones keeping secrets around here. I glanced between Olena and Viktoria’s faces, curious as to how this would play out. Olena and Yeva were both knitting, but Yeva didn’t look up. Viktoria had spoken in English. Olena’s face turned thoughtful.

“You have to leave early tomorrow to go back to school.”

“I know. But I can sleep on the bus. Everyone else will be there tonight.”

“?®Everyone else’ isn’t a convincing argument,” scoffed Olena.

“They’ll all be tired tomorrow too,” replied Viktoria, grinning.

“You’ll miss your last night with Rose.”

“I’ll hang out with her after I get back.”

“Great. And stay up even later.”

“Not that late. I’ll be back by two.”

“Absolutely not. You’ll be back by midnight.” Olena returned to her knitting. But that had been permission if I’d ever heard it.

Viktoria looked at the clock. It was almost eight thirty. Her face told me she wasn’t happy about the curfew, but she apparently decided to take what she could get. Karolina gave us an odd look as we left the room but remained silent. Sonya and Paul, engrossed in TV, barely noticed our departure. I had to find out what was going on.

“Okay,” I said once we were heading upstairs, “what gives? I thought you weren’t going to Marina’s.”

Viktoria grinned and beckoned me into her bedroom. I’d recently learned her bedroom used to be Dimitri’s, and every time I was in here, I had to resist the urge to go bury myself in the bed, even though I knew the sheets had been washed countless times since those days. Somehow, I could imagine them smelling like Dimitri and feeling warm as though we were both lying there together.

“I’m not.” Viktoria began rifling through her closet and pulled out a short, sleeveless red dress with lace around the straps. The fabric was stretchy -the kind that looked like it’d show everything. I was shocked when she began putting it on. It was pretty trashy.

“Is this a joke?”

Nope. Viktoria took off her shirt and jeans and pulled the dress on. She had no trouble with it, but it was every bit as clingy as it had appeared. She wasn’t as filled out as I was on top, but in a dress like that, it didn’t matter.

“Okay,” I said, catching on at last. “What’s his name?”

“Rolan,” she said. “Oh, Rose. He’s amazing. And this is the last night I’ll get to see him before school.”

I didn’t know whether to feel happy for her or sad for Nikolai. This Rolan guy must have been the reason she couldn’t give Nikolai the time of day.

She was totally in love with someone else. Still, that dress…

“You must really like him,” I observed dryly.

Her eyes widened. “Do you want to meet him?”

“Er, well, I don’t want to interfere with your date…”

“You won’t. Just stop by and say hi, okay?”

It felt pretty intrusive, yet at the same time… well, I was kind of curious about a guy who could get her to leave the house in that kind of outfit, particularly when she started applying really heavy makeup: extra-dark eyeliner and bright red lipstick. So I agreed to meet Rolan, and we left the house as quietly as we could. Despite wearing a coat over her dress, Viktoria still didn’t want to run into her mother.

We headed downtown, following a few twists and turns until we ended up behind what looked like an ordinary warehouse in an abandoned part of town. All was quiet, but a tall, tough-looking dhampir stood by a door leading into the building, his arms crossed in front of him. Viktoria brought us to a halt nearby, saying we had to wait there. A minute later, a group of Moroi men of mixed ages wandered up, chatting and laughing. The dhampir gave them a once-over and then opened the door for them. Light and music spilled out until the door shut-and all went silent again.

“So this is Baia’s secret dhampir world,” I murmured. She didn’t hear me because suddenly, her face lit up.

“There he is!”

She pointed to two approaching guys. Both were Moroi. Well, who knew? Viktoria’s secret boyfriend wasn’t a dhampir. I guessed that wasn’t too shocking, really, though the way she’d dressed tonight still bothered me. She gave him a fierce hug and introduced us. His friend was named Sergey, and he smiled politely before hurrying inside where he was apparently meeting a girl too.

I had to give Viktoria credit: Rolan was hot. His hair was dark auburn, soft and wavy. The green of his eyes reminded me-painfully-of Adrian’s.

And when he smiled at Viktoria, it was dazzling. The look on her face was exactly like Nikolai’s whenever he was around her.

Rolan took a hold of Viktoria’s hands and brought them to his lips, kissing each one. Those green, green eyes gazed at hers, and he murmured something I couldn’t hear. She blushed and replied in Russian. I didn’t need any translation to know the content was sexy and flirty. Still smiling, he glanced over at me, and although she’d introduced us, it was like he was noticing me for the first time-and was interested.

“You’re new here, aren’t you?” he asked.

Viktoria wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his chest.

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“Rose is visiting. She’s a friend of the family.”

“Ah,” he said. “Now I remember hearing about you. I had no idea such a fierce Strigoi killer would be so beautiful.”

“It’s part of the job description,” I said dryly.

“Will you be returning to school with Viktoria?” he asked.

“No. I’ll be staying here a little longer.” I still had no clue, though, if “a little longer” was one hour or one year.

“Hmm,” he said thoughtfully. He looked back down at Viktoria and pressed a kiss to her hair, running his fingers along her throat. His next words were to her. “I’m glad you were able to come here before you left. I don’t know how I’ll get by with you so far away.”

She beamed. “There was no way I could leave without seeing you one more time…” She trailed off, too overcome with emotion, and as he leaned down, hand still on her throat, I thought for an awful moment that they were going to start making out then and there.

Fortunately, the appearance of an approaching dhampir girl interrupted them. Viktoria broke from Rolan and embraced the other girl. They apparently hadn’t seen each other in a while and chatted rapidly in Russian, ignoring Rolan and me. Free of her for a moment, he leaned toward me.

“Once Viktoria has returned to school, you’ll be all alone here. Maybe I could show you around then?”

“Thanks, but I’ve already seen everything.”

He kept that big smile on. “Of course. Well, then, perhaps we could simply get together and… talk?”

I couldn’t believe it. This guy had had his hands all over Viktoria thirty seconds ago and was now trying to score plans with me the instant she left town. I was disgusted and had to restrain myself from doing something stupid.

“Sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be around long enough.”

I got the impression that women didn’t refuse him very often. He frowned and started to protest, but Viktoria returned and wrapped herself around him again. He studied me for several more puzzled seconds and then shifted his attention to her, smiling and turning on the charm. She ate it all up, and while the two tried to include me in their conversation, it was clear they were totally absorbed in each other. Rolan might be interested in me, but for now, she was an easier target-and one that wouldn’t be available much longer. I felt that disgust roil up in me again. The longer we stood out there, the more I realized what was going on. All the people going inside were Moroi guys or dhampir girls. And the girls were all dressed like Viktoria. This was a blood whore den. Suddenly, Baia’s secret dhampir world held no appeal.

I hated it. I wanted nothing more than to get out of here. No, wait. I wanted nothing more than to get out of here and drag Viktoria away, even kicking and screaming. Rolan was sleazy, no question, and I didn’t want her anywhere near him. Yet it soon became clear they weren’t going to stand out in the alley all night. They wanted to go inside and do God only knew what.

“Viktoria,” I said, trying to be reasonable, “are you sure you don’t want to come back home and hang out? I mean, I won’t get to see you tomorrow.”

She hesitated, then shook her head. “I won’t get to see Rolan either. But I promise I’ll come see you as soon as I get home later. We’ll stay up all night. Mom won’t care.”

I didn’t know what other protests to make. Rolan’s impatience, now that I’d refused him, was starting to show. He wanted to go inside. I wondered what was there… a dance floor? Bedrooms? I probably could have gone with them to see for myself, despite being underdressed-or, well, overdressed as far as amounts of clothing went. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it. All my life, I’d been taught about blood whores and why their lifestyle was wrong. I didn’t know if Viktoria was becoming one-and I hoped she wasn’t-but there was no way I could set foot in there. It was a matter of principle.

I watched them go with a heavy heart, wondering what I’d just let my friend walk into. Seeing her in that ultra-tight dress, plastered all over him, suddenly made me reevaluate everything. How much of this peaceful life in Baia was a sham? Was Viktoria-the girl who’d called me a sister really not the person I thought she was? Confused, I turned away to head back home-And almost walked into Abe. Again.

“What the hell?” I exclaimed. He wore a tuxedo tonight, complete with tails and a silvery silk scarf. “Are you stalking me?” Stupid question. Of course he was. I hoped his formal wear meant he wouldn’t be dragging me off this evening. His guardians were equally well dressed. Idly, I wondered if a place like this had something to do with his illegal business dealings. Was he trafficking blood whores? Like some kind of pimp?

Unlikely, seeing as most of these girls didn’t require much urging.

Abe gave me that annoying knowing smile of his. “I see your friend is off to an interesting night. I had no idea Viktoria had such lovely legs. Now everyone knows, thanks to that dress.”

I clenched my fists and leaned toward him. “Don’t you dare talk about her like that, old man.”

“I’m not saying anything that isn’t obvious to everybody else. It’ll certainly be obvious to young Rolan soon.”

“You don’t know anything about them!” Yet I didn’t believe my own words, not after seeing them walk off together. Abe, I could tell, knew what I was thinking.

“These girls all say it won’t happen to them. But it always does. It’s what’ll happen to you if you stay.”

“Oh, here we are,” I said mockingly. “I knew a threat had to be coming. The part where you order me again to leave the country or else bad, bad things will happen.”

He gestured toward the door, where more Moroi and dhampirs were going. “I don’t even need to make anything bad happen. You’ll do it on your own by staying here. You’ll waste your life away, running errands for Olena Belikova. Potlucks will become the most exciting thing in your world.”

“They’re good people,” I growled. “Don’t mock them.”

“Oh, I’m not denying that.” He straightened his silk scarf. “They are good people. But they aren’t your people. This is a fantasy. You’re deluding yourself.” He was all sternness now. “Your grief has sent you here. Your man was ripped away from you, and you’ve ripped yourself away from your old friends. You’re trying to make up for it by convincing yourself that this is your family, that this is your home. They’re not. This isn’t.”

“I could make this my home.” I still wasn’t sure of that, but my stubborn nature made me want to contradict him.

“You aren’t meant for Baia,” he said, dark eyes blazing. “You’re meant for better things. You need to go back home, back to your school and the Dragomir princess.”

“How the hell do you know about her? Who are you? When are you going to tell me who you work for? What do you want with me?” I had a feeling I was on the verge of hysterics. Hearing him refer to Lissa snapped something inside of me.

“I’m merely an observer who can tell you’re wasting your time here. This is no life for you, Rose. Your life is back in the States. They say you were on track to be a great guardian. Do you know what an honor it is to be assigned to the last Dragomir? You could spend your life in elite, powerful circles. The reputation you’ve already gained will raise you in status and regard. You have a stunning career ahead of you, and it’s not too late to go back to it. Not yet.”

“Who are you to talk about how I should live my life? I’ve heard that your hands are bloody-Zmey. You’re not exactly a good role model. What is it you’re involved in, anyway?”

“My own affairs. And it’s exactly because of the life I lead that you should listen to me when I say abandon this path and go back home.”

His words were urgent and authoritative, and I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to talk to me like that. “That’s not my life anymore,” I said icily.

He gave a harsh laugh and gestured around us once more. “What, and this is? You want to go off and be a blood whore like your friend in there?”

“Don’t call her that!” I shouted. “I don’t care if you’ve got bodyguards or not. I will hurt you, old man, if you say anything else about Viktoria.”

He didn’t flinch at my explosion. “That was harsh, I admit. She’s not a blood whore. Not yet. But she’s one step away from it. As I said, it always happens in the end. Even if you aren’t used by someone like Rolan Kislyak-and believe me, he will use her, just like he did her sister-you’ll still end up alone with a baby you’re way too young for.”

“Her… wait.” I froze. “Are you saying he’s the guy who got Sonya pregnant? Why would Viktoria be involved with him after he did that and left her sister?”

“Because she doesn’t know. Sonya doesn’t talk about it, and Mr. Kislyak thinks it’s a game, getting two sisters into bed. Too bad for him that Karolina’s smarter than the others or he could have had them all. Who knows?” He gave me a sardonic smile. “Maybe he’ll consider you part of the family enough to go after you next.”

“Like hell. I’d never get involved with anyone like that. I’m never going to be involved with anyone again. Not after Dimitri.”

Abe’s sternness gave way to momentary amusement. “Oh, Rose. You are young. You’ve barely lived. Everyone thinks their first love is the only one they’ll ever have.”

This guy was really pissing me off, but I gained enough control to decide I wasn’t going to punch him. At least, I didn’t think so. I backed up a little, toward the building. “I’m not going to play your game here. And you can tell whoever you’re working for that I’m not playing theirs either and that I’m not going back.” One way or another, whether it was to hunt Dimitri or live with his family, I was staying in Russia. “You’re going to have to box me up and ship me there.”

Not that I wanted to give Abe any ideas. I suspected he could do it if he wanted. Damn it. Who was behind this? Who would want to find me badly enough to send this guy after me? Weirder still, whoever it was was someone who cared enough about me to attempt reason. If Abe had actually wanted to abduct me, he already would have. He could have done it the night he brought me to Baia. All he would have had to do was keep driving to the nearest airport. I eventually needed to figure this out, but first I needed to get away from Abe.

I backed up further. “I’m leaving, and you can’t stop me. And don’t spy on me anymore. This ends now.”

Abe studied me for several seconds, his dark eyes narrowed thoughtfully. I could practically see the wheels of plots and world domination spinning in his head. At last he said, so quietly I could hardly hear him, “It won’t end with them, though.”


He pointed at the door. “Viktoria and Rolan.”

“What are you getting at?”

“You know what I’m getting at. She thinks she’s in love with him. He knows she’ll be back in school tomorrow. Tonight’s his last chance with her, and he won’t waste it. There are lots of bedrooms in there. They’re probably in one right now.”

I tried to control my breathing. “Then I’ll go tell her mother.”

“It’ll be too late. She’d never find them in time, and tomorrow, Viktoria will be on her way to school-and he’ll have no interest anymore. What can her mother do after the fact? Ground her?”

I was getting angry, largely because I had a feeling he was right. “Fine. Then I’ll drag her off myself.”

“That’ll never happen. She wants to do this. She won’t leave with you. Even if she did, she’d just find him again.”

I eyed him. “Enough. You’re obviously hinting at something, so just get on with it.”

He smiled, apparently pleased at my astuteness-or maybe my bluntness. “If you want to save her, you’ve got to go through him. Through Rolan.”

I scoffed. “Not likely. The only way he’d leave her alone is if I offered to take her place.” And hey, friendship only went so far.

“Not if I talk to him.”

“What are you going to do, give him a talk on morality and sway him with reason?”

“Oh, I’ll sway him, all right. But believe me, I won’t do it with reason-well, at least not the kind you’re thinking of. If I tell him to leave her alone, he’ll leave her alone. For good.”

I stepped backward without realizing it and hit the wall. Abe looked scary as hell. Zmey. I didn’t doubt his words at all. He could get Rolan to leave Viktoria alone. In fact, he probably wouldn’t even use his dhampirs. Abe could deliver enough terror-and probably a good punch-to make it happen.

“Why would you do that for me?” I asked.

“As a sign of good faith. Promise to leave Baia, and I’ll deal with him.” His eyes gleamed. Both of us could feel the net closing around me.

“That’s your tactic now? You’re offering me a trade? My leaving isn’t really worth you scaring some Moroi asshole.”

The net grew tighter. “Isn’t it, Rose?”

Frantically, I thought about what to do. Some part of me thought Viktoria was free to make her own choices, to love whom she wanted… but I knew for a fact that Rolan didn’t love her. She was a conquest for him, as shown by his willingness to go after me-and Sonya, apparently. What would happen to Viktoria? Would she become like the rest of the women here? Would she be the next Belikov to have a baby? Even if she had no intentions of becoming a guardian, this wasn’t the right path for her. Karolina had declined to join the guardians and now lived a respectable life with her kids and a job that-if not exciting-was steady and allowed her to keep her dignity. I couldn’t let Viktoria turn down a road that could ruin the rest of her life. I couldn’t let that happen to Dimitri’s sister.


I knew him. I knew his protective nature. He would never let anything happen to those he cared about. I hated the thought of that blood whore den, but I still would have run in to get her-because that was what Dimitri would have done. But I didn’t know if I’d find her there in time. I knew, however, that Abe could-and that he could keep Rolan away forever. And so, I spoke without fully understanding the consequences of my words.

“I’ll leave Baia.”

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