Home > Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)(4)

Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)(4)
Author: Richelle Mead

"You'll be fine," Dimitri repeated. "The good in your record outweighs the bad."

It was like he could read my mind sometimes. I smiled a little and dared to peek at him. It was a mistake. A long, lean body, obvious even while sitting. Bottomless dark eyes. Shoulder-length brown hair tied back at his neck. That hair felt like silk. I knew because I'd run my fingers through it when Victor Dashkov had ensnared us with the lust charm. With great restraint, I forced myself to start breathing again and look away.

"Thanks, Coach," I teased, snuggling back into the seat.

"I'm here to help," he replied. His voice was light and relaxed - rare for him. He was usually wound up tightly, ready for any attack. Probably he figured he was safe inside a Honda - or at least as safe as he could be around me. I wasn't the only one who had trouble ignoring the romantic tension between us.

"You know what would really help?" I asked, not meeting his eyes.

"Hmm?"

"If you turned off this crap music and put on something that came out after the Berlin Wall went down."

Dimitri laughed. "Your worst class is history, yet somehow, you know everything about Eastern Europe."

"Hey, gotta have material for my jokes, Comrade."

Still smiling, he turned the radio dial. To a country station.

"Hey! This isn't what I had in mind," I exclaimed.

I could tell he was on the verge of laughing again. "Pick. It's one or the other."

I sighed. "Go back to the 1980's stuff."

He flipped the dial, and I crossed my arms over my chest as some vaguely European-sounding band sang about how video had killed the radio star. I wished someone would kill this radio.

Suddenly, five hours didn't seem as short as I'd thought.

Arthur and the family he protected lived in a small town along I-90, not far from Billings. The general Moroi opinion was split on places to live. Some argued that big cities were the best since they allowed vampires to be lost in the crowds; nocturnal activities didn't raise so much attention. Other Moroi, like this family, apparently, opted for less populated towns, believing that if there were fewer people to notice you, then you were less likely to be noticed.

I'd convinced Dimitri to stop for food at a twenty-four-hour diner along the way, and between that and stopping to buy gas, it was around noon when we arrived. The house was built in a rambler style, all one level with gray-stained wood siding and big bay windows - tinted to block sunlight, of course. It looked new and expensive, and even out in the middle of nowhere, it was about what I'd expected for members of a royal family.

I jumped down from the Pilot, my boots sinking through an inch of smooth snow and crunching on the gravel of the driveway. The day was still and silent, save for the occasional breath of wind. Dimitri and I walked up to the house, following a river rock sidewalk that cut through the front yard. I could see him sliding into his business mode, but his overall attitude was as cheery as mine. We'd both taken a kind of guilty satisfaction in the pleasant car ride.

My foot slipped on the ice-covered sidewalk, and Dimitri instantly reached out to steady me. I had a weird moment of déjà vu, flashing back to the first night we'd met, back when he'd also saved me from a similar fall. Freezing temperatures or not, his hand felt warm on my arm, even through the layers of down in my parka coat.

"You okay?" He released his hold, to my dismay.

"Yeah," I said, casting accusing eyes at the icy sidewalk. "Haven't these people ever heard of salt?"

I meant it jokingly, but Dimitri suddenly stopped walking. I instantly came to a halt too. His expression became tense and alert. He turned his head, eyes searching the broad, white plains surrounding us before settling back on the house. I wanted to ask questions, but something in his posture told me to stay silent. He studied the building for almost a full minute, looked down at the icy sidewalk, then glanced back at the driveway, covered in a sheet of snow broken only by our footprints.

Cautiously, he approached the front door, and I followed. He stopped again, this time to study the door. It wasn't open, but it wasn't entirely shut either. It looked like it had been closed in haste, not sealing. Further examination showed scuffs along the door's edge, as though it had been forced at some point. The slightest nudge would open it. Dimitri lightly ran his fingers along where the door met its frame, his breath making small clouds in the air. When he touched the door's handle it jiggled a little, like it had been broken.

Finally, he said quietly, "Rose, go wait in the car."

"But wh - "

"Go."

One word - but one filled with power. In that single syllable I was reminded of the man I'd seen throw people around and stake a Strigoi. I backed up, walking on the snow-covered lawn rather than risk the sidewalk. Dimitri stood where he was, not moving until I'd slipped back into the car, closing the door as softly as possible. Then, with the gentlest of movements, he pushed on the barely held door and disappeared inside.

Burning with curiosity, I counted to ten and then climbed out of the car.

I knew better than to go in after him, but I had to know what was going on with this house. The neglected sidewalk and driveway indicated that no one had been home for a couple days, although it could also mean the Badicas simply never left the house. It was possible, I supposed, that they'd been the victims of an ordinary break-in by humans. It was also possible that something had scared them off - say, like Strigoi. I knew that possibility was what had made Dimitri's face turn so grim, but it seemed an unlikely scenario with Arthur Schoenberg on duty.

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