Chapter 9

At exactly two-twenty in the morning, the alarm goes off in the room, and I groan, stretching my arms out. Dimitri's not sleeping next to me, and I briefly wonder where he went before I see him coming out of the walk-in closet, now dressed in a black t-shirt, jeans, and, naturally, his duster.

"Good morning." He smiles and I glare.

"This is not morning. This is a god-forsaken hour to be awake. My theory is that if you're awake before the sun is, you should be checked into a mental institution."

"Well, sorry, but we don't have a choice. We need to get to the station. The train leaves at three-thirty, and it'll take like half an hour to walk there."

"Are you sure it's safe to be walking in the dark?"

"It'll most likely be fine. We walked here in the dark. There are plenty of main roads along the way, and as long as we stick to those, the chances of Strigoi attacking are slim to none. In all the time I spent living here, there was only one major Strigoi attack."

"Also," I add. "We're pretty badass guardians. Strigoi don't have anything on our skills."

"Go get changed, Rose. I'll bring our bags downstairs and wait for you."

"'Kay."

I go into the closet and take out the set of clothes I'd saved for today, and put my old clothes into the suitcase we'd reserved for our used clothes. I change into a pair of black sweatpants with the "Pink" logo on the leg in green, and a tight lime green tank top. I throw a hoodie on that matches the sweatpants, and run a brush through my hair. Thankfully, it's not too tangled after my nap, but it still doesn't look too hot, so I bind it into a high ponytail with a purple elastic. I don't bother with any makeup aside from some shiny lip gloss that tastes like vanilla cupcakes, seeing as how nobody's going to be staring at me on the plane back. I bring the bag from the closet that I'd stuffed my clothes in, and walk around the room once again and make sure we haven't skipped anything that we need to pack. Once I'm satisfied, I take one last look at the room and walk out and down the stairs into the living room, where Dimitri is standing with all the bags.

"You ready to go?"

"Yup, I'm all set."

It's about two-forty by now, so we head out the door. We probably look a bit strange to a passing bystander, with our suitcases and whatnot. We've got three- one for each of us, and then one other one for miscellaneous extra things that don't fit in our own bags.

As we walk, I look around me and take in the scenery that I won't be seeing again for a while. As much as I'd enjoyed making fun of Dimitri's home, I could now understand what he meant all those times when he'd stare off into thin air and ramble about how beautiful it really was.

We walk quickly, and make it to the train station about twenty-five minutes later, at three-ten. We go to the ticket counter and buy the train tickets. There's hardly anyone at the station, and the eerie quiet is starting to make me nervous. Dimitri's on edge as well, looking around every few seconds, as if anticipating an attack. Now that I'm not connected to Lissa anymore, I'm pretty sure that I've lost me extra sense that led me to acknowledge the Strigoi before anyone else. There's no violent lurching in my stomach, so either we're not in immediate danger, or I've lost the ability to sense them. I'm not sure, though, seeing as we haven't encountered any Strigoi since I was shot. I'm not entirely certain that I've given up the capability, though, because I was still able to see the ghosts on the plane ride here. I'll be hard not to completely rely on the nauseous feeling to be able to tell when Strigoi are near.

I move closer into Dimitri's side, and his arm tightens around my shoulder. He'll never admit it, but I think he's scared too. There's always been rumors about attacks happening at the train stations in the middle of the night.

Then I feel it. That familiar heaving in the core of my stomach. "Shit. Shit. Shit." I hiss quietly, and Dimitri looks at me, alarmed.

"There are Strigoi here."

He swears in Russian, and I would be impressed if we weren't in such a dangerous situation. We both stand up and draw our stakes, which are always concealed somewhere on our bodies, or in a place easy to access, like a backpack or something. Mine's strapped to my lower leg, hidden by my baggy sweatpants. My grip on it tightens as we turn so our backs are touching.

"Be careful, Rose."

"I'm always careful."

He snorts. "Can you tell how many there are?"

"The nausea isn't as strong as it's been before, so I'm guessing two or three. Four, maximum."
"Okay, that's not so bad. We can deal with four."

"Easily."

My eyes scout around the horizon. I hadn't noticed before, but any human that had been here previously was gone; they'd probably caught their train and were long gone. It was just the two of us. Well, us two and then some Strigoi. No big deal.

They appear then, all chalky skin and creepy red eyes. There are three of them, and I'm not too worried. The two of us can easily take three of the undead. There's a woman, and a boy that can't be much older than I am. I'm guessing that they're both freshly turned- or 'awakened', as the Strigoi like to say. The third one's gonna be a bitch to deal with. It's an older guy, maybe in his thirties, and if he weren't evil and undead, I'd say he'd have been pretty good looking in his lifetime. By looking at him, I can tell that he's old, having been turned a while ago. He's probably insanely fast and strong, the result of draining many Moroi in his existence. Fun.

"Well, looks like we've got a couple dhampirs to enjoy, don't we?" The older guy's voice rings through the empty station, cold and calculating and void of any emotion.

The female growls in anticipation. "Patience, Anastasia. You'll get your meal."

"Novak, I haven't fed in a day. And these two look tasty- for dhampirs, at least."

"Like hell you will, bitch." I sneer.

"I like this one." The guy, Novak, announces. "She's feisty."

"We'll see how much you like me when this stake meets your chest, asshole."

"Calm down, Roza." Dimitri warns quietly from behind me.

The young boy is the first to attack. They'd formed a sort of triangle around us, the boy facing Dimitri, the female, Anastasia, facing me, and Novak just standing in the middle of it all, waiting to jump in, but only if necessary. The dumb Strigoi had clearly underestimated us. As soon as the boy had lunged at Dimitri, he'd easily blocked the naïve Strigoi's advances, and staked him as soon as he got an opening just a minute later. The boy fell to the ground, and the bastard Novak took his place in front of Dimitri. Anastasia hadn't made her move yet; she just stood there, smirking at me as if she didn't expect much out of a petite, skinny dhampir.

"We gonna do this today, sweetheart?" I ask mockingly, putting on a false sugary tone.

"If you want your death to be sooner rather than later, I guess we could get this going." She takes her chance and jumps at me. I step aside swiftly, moving out of the way, and track each of her movements so I'm ready to block whatever she gives to me. I throw a kick to her ribs, and it's hard enough to make her stagger back a foot or two.

"Not bad, dhampir. Too bad it's got to end for you."

I roll my eyes and sprang at her body. She hadn't been expecting it, so the impact took her by surprise. I pin her down easily by pushing my entire body weight against her, using my arm to hold her neck against the ground and my legs to pin down the rest of her body. She thrashes against me violently, but I notice the opening to her chest and take it, sliding my stake up through the ribs and into her heart. She stops fighting me and falls back, limp and dead.

Dimitri's still fighting the guy, Novak, so I get up, brush myself off quickly, and jump into the fight, plunging my stake into his shoulder from behind. He screams in agony, and Dimitri shoves his own stake into the guy's chest, and he falls to the grimy floor as well. We both fall silent for a moment, breathing heavily. The whole thing had lasted no longer than twenty minutes. It's three thirty-five. The train's late.

"What the hell do we do with these bodies?" I ask.

"Call the Alchemists, I suppose. We can't exactly leave them here."

"Good call." I take out my cell phone and scroll through the contacts until I find Sydney Sage's number. She'd been released from her holding cell at Court, and was back to her normal routine, stationed in Louisiana. It's evening in the United States currently, so I don't have to worry about bothering her while she sleeps. She answers on the second ring.

"Hello?"

"Sydney? It's Rose."

"Rose? Oh my Goodness. Hey! I'd say it's great to hear from you, but chances are, you're calling because you've been in a less-than-ideal situation."

"Right you are, Sage."

"How many are there, and where are you?"

"Three bodies, and we're at the train station just outside Baia."

"Whoa, you're in Russia? Awesome. I'll send somebody to take care of it as soon as possible. Can you hide the bodies somewhere? You're with Dimitri, right? Are you both okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine. Thank God. I'll hide the bodies under a bench or something." I hear the sound of the train coming up the tracks. "I have to go, Syd. Our train's here. Thanks for your help."

"No problem, Rose. I'll see you soon." We both hang up.

Dimitri and I move the bodies so they're stacked under the bench we'd been sitting on, and I pray that a human doesn't come through and see them. It's not even four, though, so the chances of that happening are slim.

As we're finished, the train pulls up at the station, and we gather our luggage and hop in. The cart's not empty, but it's not full, and I'm thankful that we're not alone here, as well. We take our seats in a corner, and I rest my head on his shoulder.
"Well, that was a fun way to start the morning, huh?"

He chuckles. "It sure was." He looks me over. "You're not hurt or anything, are you? She didn't hurt you, right?"

"Nah, I'm all good. What about you?"

"I'm fine too. I might be a bit sore tomorrow, but I'm okay for now. The guy was pretty rough."

"I could tell."

Somewhere along the way, I nod off to sleep, and I'm jolted awake by the train coming to a stop in front of the airport. The sun's coming up by now, and I look to Dimitri. "What time is it?"

He glances at his watch. "It's almost seven. By the time we check in and get to the gate, it'll be eight. We should get going."

I take a bag, Dimitri takes the other two, and we leave the train. We're not far from the terminal we're supposed to go to, so it's a short walk. It takes about forty-five minutes to check in and go through the security checkpoint. After we get scanned, we take our bags and look for our gate. After ten more minutes of walking around, we find where we're supposed to be, and settle down in our seats. Dimitri was right; it's right at eight o'clock.

Twenty agonizing minutes of waiting later, an announcement finally comes over the loudspeaker that our flight is beginning to board. It's five minutes later that we board the plane. Dimitri sticks our bags in the compartment overhead, and sits down besides me. I make a conscious effort to keep my mental blocks up, because I really do not want a repeat of what happened last time. Once we get back, I'm going to have to sit down with Dimitri, Lissa, Sonya, and maybe even Adrian to find out why I'm still experiencing the side effects of the bond without actually being connected to Lissa.

"God, we're finally going home." He sighs.

"I don't want to go either." I put my hand on his knee. "But we kinda have to. It's St. Vlads with Sparky for you, and hours and hours of studying for me."

"I wish we could see each other more often. It was nice these past two weeks waking up and not having to wonder when I'm going to see you next."

"I know, Dimitri. Liss and I will try to come more frequently. She misses Christian too. We're taking extra classes so we can graduate a year early. It's killing us now, with all the extra work and stuff, but it'll be worth it when we can graduate next year."

"I'm glad."

"I'm not supposed to tell you this, but I will anyway. Just don't tell Christian, okay?" He nods. "Lissa's been talking to most of the royals, and her supervisors and stuff, to see if it would be okay if she didn't live at Court, but instead at St. Vladimir's."

"What?" He's shocked.

"She's asking if she could maybe build an extra building on the far side of campus for her offices, suite, and stuff. Her guardians would live there too."

"And everyone's okay with this?" By now, the plane's begun its journey down the runway, and its speed is accelerating. Soon enough, we're hovering above the ground, and climbing higher and higher into the sky by the second.

"Most people are. She is queen, after all. They can't exactly say no to her. Construction on the new building is supposed to start in a couple months."

"This is amazing, Rose!"

"Yup. We can finally live together. And see each other every day."

"So, just one more year after this one, right? And then you'll both be graduated?"

"That's the plan, yeah. We'll finish this year in three months, then it's summer, and then it's our last year. These classes are kicking my ass. I'm really freaking glad we're pretty close to finishing, though I know next year's gonna be ten times harder."

"You'll make it, Rose. I know you will."

"I'm not so sure. I'm still kinda shocked that I actually graduated from St. Vlads. And here, there's no combat class to save my GPA."

"You'll do fine. You and Lissa are majoring in Government and Political Sciences, right?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Government was my best class when I went to school. I'm sure that I can help you study for your finals this year."

"Thanks, Comrade. I have a feeling that I'll need all the help I can get."

"Are you still tired?"

I begin to shake my head but a yawn betrays me. "Apparently I am."

He smiles. "Go to sleep. I'll probably end up unconscious soon enough."

"Goodnight." I mutter. "Or, good morning's probably more accurate."

I wake up when the smell of food fills the first-class cabin.

"Whoa. How long have we been flying?"

"Only like two and a half hours. I guess this serves as our breakfast." A tray that consists of an omelet, a bowl of mixed fruit, some yogurt, and a glass of orange juice is placed on the pull out table-thing in front of me. I dig in. It's not the most fantastic, gourmet food there is, but it's food and that's good enough for me. I have to say, though, going from two weeks of Olena Belikova's cooking to this is a little bit shocking.

"I miss your mom's cooking already."

He laughs outright. "Yeah? I do too."

After I'm done with my breakfast, a lady comes and clears the tray. I stick the tray back in its slot and lean back in my seat again. My mind faintly registers falling asleep, and then I'm out like a light, and I don't wake up until we're landing in Pennsylvania.

Hello, lovelies:) Here's the next chapter! Reviews are fantastic and wonderful!