Shadow Kiss Chapter 7

SEVEN

WHEN THE FIRST WARNING for curfew came around, the Moroi packed their things up.Adrian took off right away, but Lissa and Christian took their time walking back to the dorm.They held hands and kept their heads close together, whispering about something that I could have “spied” on if I’d gone inside Lissa’s head.

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They were still outraged over the Victor news.

I gave them their privacy and kept my distance, scouting while Eddie walked off to their side. Since there were more Moroi than dhampirs on campus, the Moroi actually had two side-by-side dorms. Lissa and Christian lived in different ones. The two of them stopped when they came to the spot outside the buildings where the path through the quad split. They kissed goodbye, and I did my best to do the guardian seeing-without-actually-seeing thing. Lissa called goodbye to me and then headed off to her dorm with Eddie. I followed Christian to his.

If I’d been guarding Adrian or someone like him, I would probably have had to put up with sexual jokes about us sleeping near each other for the next six weeks. But Christian treated me in the casual, brusque way one might a sister. He cleared a spot on the floor for me, and by the time he returned from brushing his teeth, I’d made myself a cozy bed out of blankets. He flipped off the lights and climbed into his own bed.

After several quiet moments, I asked, “Christian?”

“This is the time when we sleep, Rose.”

I yawned. “Believe me, I want that too. But I have a question.”

“Is it about Victor? Because I need to sleep, and that’s just going to piss me off again.”

“No, it’s about something else.”

“Okay, shoot.”

“Why didn’t you make fun of me over what happened with Stan? Everyone else is trying to figure out if I messed up or did it on purpose. Lissa gave me a hard time. Adrian did a little. And the guardians … well, never mind about them. But you didn’t say anything. I figured you’d be the first one with a snappy comment.”

More silence fell, and I hoped he was thinking about his answer and not falling asleep.

“There was no point in giving you a hard time,” he said at last. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Why not? I mean, not that I’m contradicting you – because I didn’t do it on purpose – but why are you so sure?”

“Because of our conversation in culinary science. And because of the way you are. I saw you in Spokane. Anyone who did what you did to save us … well, you wouldn’t do something childish like this.”

“Wow. Thanks. I … well, that means a lot.” Christian believed me when no one else did. “You’re like the first person who actually believes I just messed up without any ulterior motives.”

“Well,” he said, “I don’t believe that either.”

“Believe what? That I messed up? Why not?”

“Weren’t you just listening? I saw you in Spokane. Someone like you doesn’t mess up or freeze.” I started to give him the same line I’d given the guardians, that killing Strigoi didn’t make me invincible, but he cut me off: “Plus, I saw your face out there.”

“Out… on the quad?”

“Yeah.” Several more quiet moments passed. “I don’t know what happened, but the way you looked … that wasn’t the look of someone trying to get back at a person. It wasn’t the look of someone blanking out at Alto’s attack either. It was something different…. I don’t know. But you were completely consumed by something else – and honestly? Your expression? Kind of scary.”

“Yet…you aren’t giving me a hard time over that either.”

“Not my business. If it was big enough to take you over like that, then it must be serious. But if push comes to shove, I feel safe with you, Rose. I know you’d protect me if there was really a Strigoi there.” He yawned. “Okay. Now that I’ve bared my soul, can we please go to bed? Maybe you don’t need beauty sleep, but some of us aren’t that lucky.”

I let him sleep and soon gave into exhaustion myself. I’d had a long day and was still short on rest from the previous night. Once heavily asleep, I began to dream. As I did, I felt the telltale signs of one of Adrian’s contrived dreams.

“Oh no,” I groaned.

I stood in a garden in the middle of summer. The air was heavy and humid, and sunshine beat down on me in golden waves. Flowers of every color bloomed around me, and the air was heavy with the scent of lilacs and roses. Bees and butterflies danced from blossom to blossom. I wore jeans and a linen tank top. My nazar, a small blue eye made of glass that allegedly warded off evil, hung around my neck. I also wore a beaded bracelet with a cross, called a chotki, on my wrist. It was a Dragomir heirloom Lissa had given me. I rarely wore jewelry in my daily duties, but it always showed up in these dreams.

“Where are you?” I called. “I know you’re here.”

Adrian stepped around from behind an apple tree that was thick with pink and white flowers. He wore jeans – something I’d never seen him in before. They looked good and were undoubtedly a designer brand. A dark green cotton T-shirt – also very simple – covered his upper body, and the sunlight brought out highlights of gold and chestnut in his brown hair.

“I told you to stay out of my dreams,” I said, putting my hands on my hips.

He gave me his lazy smile. “But how else are we supposed to talk? You didn’t seem very friendly earlier.”

“Maybe if you didn’t use compulsion on people, you’d have more friends.”

“I had to save you from yourself. Your aura was like a storm cloud.”

“Okay, for once, can we please not talk about auras and my impending doom?”

The look in his eyes told me he was actually really interested in that, but he let it go. “Okay. We can talk about other things.”

“But I don’t want to talk at all! I want to sleep.”

“You are sleeping.” Adrian smiled and walked over to study a flowering vine that was winding up a post. It had orange and yellow flowers shaped like trumpets. He gently ran his fingers over one of the flowers’ edges. “This was my grandmother’s garden.”

“Great,” I said, making myself comfortable against the apple tree. It looked like we could be here for a while. “Now I get to hear your family history.”

“Hey she was a cool lady.”

“I’m sure she was. Can I go yet?”

His eyes were still on the vine’s blossoms. “You shouldn’t knock Moroi family trees. You don’t know anything about your father. For all you know, we could be related.”

“Would that mean you’d leave me alone?”

Strolling back over to me, he switched subjects as though there’d been no interruption. “Nah, don’t worry. I think we come from different trees. Isn’t your dad some Turkish guy anyway?”

“Yeah, according to my – Hey, are you staring at my chest?”

He was studying me closely, but his eyes were no longer on my face. I crossed my arms over my chest and glared.

“I’m staring at your shirt,” he said. “The color is all wrong.”

Reaching out, he touched the strap. Like ink spreading across paper, the ivory fabric turned the same shade of rich indigo as the vine’s blossoms. He narrowed his eyes like an expert artist studying his work.

“How’d you do that?” I exclaimed.

“It’s my dream. Hmm. You’re not a blue person. Well, at least not in the color sense. Let’s try this.” The blue lit up into a brilliant crimson. “Yes, that’s it. Red’s your color. Red like a rose, like a sweet, sweet Rose.”

“Oh man,” I said. “I didn’t know you could kick into crazy mode even in dreams.” He never got as dark and depressed as Lissa had last year, but spirit definitely made him weird sometimes.

He stepped back and threw his arms out. “I’m always crazy around you, Rose. Here, I’m going to write an impromptu poem for you.” He tipped his head back and shouted to the sky:

“Rose is in red

But never in blue

Sharp as a thorn

Fights like one too.”

Adrian dropped his arms and looked at me expectantly.

“How can a thorn fight?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Art doesn’t have to make sense, little dhampir. Besides, I’m supposed to be crazy, right?”

“Not the craziest I’ve ever seen.”

“Well,” he said, pacing over to study some hydrangeas, “I’ll work on that.”

I started to ask again about when I could go “back” to sleep, but our exchange brought something to my mind.

“Adrian … how do you know if you’re crazy or not?”

He turned from the flowers, a smile on his face. I could tell he was about to make a joke, but then he looked at me more closely. The smile faded, and he turned unusually serious.

“Do you think you’re crazy?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, looking down at the ground. I was barefoot, and sharp blades of grass tickled my feet. “I’ve been … seeing things.”

“People who are crazy rarely question whether they’re crazy,” he said wisely.

I sighed and looked back up at him. “That doesn’t really help me.”

He walked back over to me and rested a hand on my shoulder. “I don’t think you’re crazy, Rose. I think you’ve been through a lot, though.”

I frowned. “What’s that mean?”

“It means I don’t think you’re crazy.”

“Thanks. That clears things up. You know, these dreams are really starting to bug me.”

“Lissa doesn’t mind them,” he said.

“You visit hers too? Do you seriously have no boundaries?”

“Nah, hers are instructional. She wants to learn how to do this.”

“Great. So I’m just the lucky one who gets to put up with your sexual harassment.”

He actually looked hurt. “I really wish you wouldn’t act like I’m evil incarnate.”

“Sorry. I just haven’t had much reason to believe you can do anything useful.”

“Right. As opposed to your cradle-robbing mentor. I don’t really see you making much progress with him.”

I took a step back and narrowed my eyes. “Leave Dimitri out of this.”

“I will when you stop acting like he’s perfect. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s one of the people who hid the trial from you, right?”

I looked away. “That’s not important right now. Besides, he had his reasons.”

“Yeah, which apparently didn’t involve being open with you or fighting to get you there. Whereas me…” He shrugged. “I could get you into the trial.”

“You?” I asked with a harsh laugh. “How are you going to pull that off? Have a smoke break with the judge? Use compulsion on the queen and half the royals at court?”

“You shouldn’t be so quick to slam people who can help you. Just wait.” He placed a light kiss on my forehead that I tried to wiggle away from. “But for now, go get some rest.”

The garden faded, and I fell back into the normal blackness of sleep.

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