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Richelle Mead

Book 6.5 of the “Vampire Academy” Series



I hadn’t expected to be back in Russia so soon. I certainly didn’t want to be.

It wasn’t that I had anything against the place. It was a nice enough country, with rainbow-

colored architecture and vodka that could double as rocket fuel. I was fine with those things. My

problem was that the last time I’d been here, I’d nearly gotten killed (on multiple occasions) and had

ended up being drugged and kidnapped by vampires. That’s enough to turn you off to any place.

And yet, as my plane began circling for its landing in Moscow, I knew coming back here was

definitely the right thing to do.

“Do you see that, Rose?” Dimitri tapped the window’s glass, and although I couldn’t see his face,

the note of wonder in his voice told me plenty. “St. Basil’s.”

I leaned over him, just barely catching a glimpse of the famous multicolored cathedral that looked

more like something you’d find in Candy Land, not the Kremlin. To me, it was another tourist attraction,

but to him, I knew it meant so much more. This was his homecoming, the return to a land he had

believed he’d never see again in the sun, let alone through the eyes of the living. That building, the cities

here … they weren’t just pretty postcard shots for him. They represented more than that. They

represented his second chance at life.

Smiling, I settled back in my seat. I had the middle one, but there was no way it could be more

uncomfortable than his. Putting a six-foot-seven-inch man by the window in coach was just cruel. He

hadn’t complained this entire time, though. He never did.

“Too bad we won’t have time to hang out here,” I said. Moscow was just a layover for us. “We’ll

have to save all our sightseeing for Siberia. You know, tundra. Polar bears.”

Dimitri turned from the window, and I expected to be chastised for furthering stereotypes.

Instead, I could tell from his expression that he hadn’t heard anything after “Siberia.” Morning light

illuminated the sculpted features of his face and shone off his sleek brown hair. None of it could

compare to the radiance within him.

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen Baia,” he murmured, his dark eyes filled with memories. “So long

since I’ve seen them. Do you think …” He glanced at me, betraying the first glimpse of nervousness I’d

observed since beginning this trip. “Do you think they’ll be glad to see me?”

I squeezed his hand and felt a small pang in my chest. It was so unusual to see Dimitri uncertain

about anything. I could count on my hand the number of times I’d ever witnessed him truly vulnerable.

From the moment we’d met, he’d always stood out as one of the most decisive, confident people I’d

known. He was always in motion, never afraid to take on any threat, even if it meant risking his own life.

Even now, if some bloodthirsty monster sprang out of the cockpit, Dimitri would calmly jump up and

battle it while armed only with the safety card in his seat pocket. Impossible, dire fights were of no

concern to him. But seeing his family after he’d spent time as an evil, undead vampire? Yeah, that scared


“Of course they’ll be glad,” I assured him, marveling at the change in our relationship. I’d started

off as his student, in need of his reassurance. I’d graduated to become his lover and equal. “They know

we’re coming. Hell, you should’ve seen the party they threw when they thought you were dead,

comrade. Imagine what they’ll do when they find out you’re actually alive.”

He gave me one of those small, rare smiles of his, the kind that made me feel warm all over.

“Let’s hope so,” he said, turning to gaze back out the window. “Let’s hope so.”

The only sights we saw in Moscow were inside its airport while we waited to catch our next flight.

That one took us to Omsk, a middle-sized city in Siberia. From there, we rented a car and made the rest

of our journey on land—no planes went where we were going. It was a beautiful drive, the land full of

life and greenery that proved all my tundra jokes wrong. Dimitri’s mood fluctuated between nostalgia

and anxiety as we traveled, and I found myself restless to reach our destination. The sooner we got

there, the sooner he’d see he had nothing to worry about.

Baia was a little less than a day’s drive from Omsk and looked pretty much the same as it had on

my last visit. It was out of the way enough that people rarely stumbled across it by accident. If you found

yourself in Baia, there was a reason. And more often than not, that reason had to do with the large

number of dhampirs living there. Like Dimitri and me, these dhampirs were half-human, half-vampire.

Unlike Dimitri and me, most of these dhampirs had chosen to live apart from the Moroi—living, magic-

wielding vampires—and instead mingled with human society. Dimitri and I were both guardians,

pledged to guard the Moroi from Strigoi: the evil, undead vampires who killed to sustain their immortal


Days were longer during this part of summer, and darkness had only just begun to fall when we

reached Dimitri’s family’s house. Strigoi rarely ventured into Baia itself, but they liked to stalk the roads

leading into town. The fleeting rays of sunlight ensured our safety and gave Dimitri a good view of the

house. Even once he’d turned off the car, he sat for a long time, gazing out at the old, two-story

structure. Red and gold light bathed it, giving it the appearance of something otherworldly. I leaned over

and kissed his cheek.

“Showtime, comrade. They’re waiting for you.”

He sat for a few moments in silence, then gave a resolute nod and put on the kind of expression

I’d seen him wear into battle. We left the car and had barely made it halfway through the yard when the

front door burst open. Bright light spilled into the dusky shadows, and a young female silhouette



If a Strigoi had sprung out and attacked, Dimitri would have had to respond instantly. But seeing

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