Author's Note: I know, I know. Another story is the last thing that I need, but I just have to get this out there since it's the kind of story that I'm becoming somewhat known for! I've been thinking about it for a while and finally managed to finish the series again and knew I had to strike while the iron is hot. Plus, this series doesn't get the love that it deserves! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Warnings: Death, language and OOCness.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Word Count: 6, 665


Pain washed over me in physical waves across my body. But I push on. I pull myself across the floor over to the unmoving body in front of me. Well, there was an alarmingly high number of unmoving bodies, but there was one in particular that I was interested in. I can hardly see through the smoke, the pain, and the tears. Tears of pain and of anger. I tried to ignore the pain of my body and my chest, but I had to stop for a moment to try and fill my lungs with air regardless of how hard it is and how much it hurts to just breath.

I'm no stranger to pain. I've been hurt so bad in one instance where I almost died, and in an instance before that, where I did die. I'm no stranger to being thrown around, kicked and hit, pinned, pinched, punched, stabbed by one thing or another and break bones. I've even been shot. I'm no stranger to pain but no matter how many times I've been hurt or how bad it's been, nothing ever really prepares me for the next time I'm hurt. I suppose the only thing I can do after all of it, is power through the next pain with gritted teeth and pray for the best.

I can see smoke billowing into the air around us as fire eats away at the building. I can't spare a look at the dead Moroi attendant next to me. Her blue eyes are wide and lifelessly, watching me unseeing as I crawl past her. There is screaming off in the distance and the sounds of fighting. I should be out there. I should be fighting and protecting my Moroi. My best friend.

But I can't. My leg is speared through. It's a broken piece of rebar that I'm pretty sure shouldn't be there. It's gone right through my right thigh. My leg is on fire and I'm starting to lose feeling in my toes. Ironically, the rebar is keeping the bleeding at bay, mostly. Although I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get some sort of blood infection from the rebar. It looks a little rusty. I honestly can't believe I fell from two stories and this rebar is the only puncture wound I sustained. At least, that can be seen. I pretty sure if my ribs aren't broken, they are at least cracked. A few of them, I'd bet.

But I can't focus on my pain. Story of my life. My pain is the last thing on the list that I need to focus on. It wasn't even in the top five hundred things that I needed to focus on. And it's because the list is so long that I've been able to push onward no matter what is going on around me. Just like now, I can't focus on the agony coursing through my body, my brain, and my heart. I have other things to focus on.

I can't look at all of the dead or dying bodies around me. So many Guardians dead, so many shifting and moaning in agony, fighting hard to stay conscious and alive. I spot Eddie, also dragging himself across the room as well, but his goal isn't Lissa, at the head of the room, like mine is. His is to Jill who was to the left of Lissa.

Clockwise with Lissa at the head, Jill to her left, Christian to her left, Abe to his left and Mia to his left that takes us back to Lissa again. They sit in the center of their own individual triangles that make up a star in the middle of a circle. It honestly looks like a satanic circle to me, made up of all my friends and father. At the very head of the star, still in the circle but not in the triangle like Lissa is, is Sonya and Adrian, both of their heads pointed in toward the tip of the triangle Lissa is in which is resting in the center of all three of them.

It was basically a satanic ritual that one would see in one of those coven, cultic tv shows. I could name half a dozen off the top of my head right now if the circumstances were drastically different. If the love of my life wasn't staggering into the room fifteen feet to my right with his arm over Mikhail's shoulder to try to keep somewhat steady on his feet I might have thought that this was all some sort of sick, twisted joke. That I was dreaming and this was just a horrible nightmare I would soon wake up from in my love's arms, safe and warm in our bed.

But while this certainly wasn't a dream, that didn't mean it wasn't a nightmare.

They both look like hell, probably no different from me. Dimitri is leaning very heavily on Mikhail and while the latter isn't a little guy, he's still struggling to keep them both upright. Both are beaten and bruised and Dimitri is holding his ribs like he's trying to keep them in his body, or they somehow ache less when pressure is applied to them. Even from this distance, I can see blood trickling out of the side of his mouth. He could have bitten his tongue in the action-packed night we are somehow still living through or one of those ribs punctured one of his lungs.

Mikhail's limping, bad, and there is blood flowing down his leg, so intensely, even from this distance, I can see every step he takes is a trial and leaves a bloodied footprint behind. I think he was shot and he's lost all color in his face. He pushes Dimitri against the nearest wall because both of them need a moments reprieve. Both of them cover their mouths in order to stem the high levels of smoke inhalation I'm sure is going on. Mikhail looks dizzy and has the press the heels of his bloodied hands into his eyes to try and force himself to focus. The sheer force of his will is about the only thing keeping him upright at this point.

Dimitri's eyes scan the bodies, looking both grim and horrified by the amount of dead, and suffering. No one was spared. Dhampir or Moroi. It's a bloodbath that I should have seen coming. I should have been able to stop. I should have been able to prevent altogether. I feel worthless, powerless, useless, as I crawl agonizingly slow through the carnage trying to get to Lissa. She has to be alive, she has to be. Of all the people - in this room alone - that I have failed, she can't be one of them. I can't let her be one of them.

I hear Dimitri call out my name, fear at our situation but relief that I was alive is obviously written across his face. I nod slightly at him, but I can't stop. I can't look at my friends, at the haunting, pale looks on their faces as their energy is - or was, and now they're dried up meat sacks - sucked from them. None of them, the five that help make up the star and then Sonya and Adrian at the head of the star with Lissa made seven in total, were completely unmoving. All of their pale skin was practically gray.

They all looked dead.

The hardest, other than Lissa, to look at was Abe. I crawled between Christian on my right and Abe on my left. Abe, who is larger than left, practically untouchable, even with his sickly tan skin was devoid of all color and even being two feet from him, there wasn't even a sign of his breathing. His chest wasn't moving at all. The smoke in the room wasn't the only reason I couldn't breathe. These last few years with Abe have been... well, good. It's only eighteen years without yet he somehow made up for it in the last five years.

I reach out toward him, wanting to touch him, to know if he's alive or not. But I can't. I can't know that. I don't want to know for certain that I only got five years with him. That the old knee breaker could be felled so easily. Somehow, in the story of my life, he somehow seemed like the last boss battle. The hardest to take down. The one you really had to compile all of your skills, experience and brain power into defeating. Yet here he was, beaten. A man whom once seemed so untouchable, so unfazed, was left in a way that reminded me painfully that as large as he seemed, he was still trapped within his own mortal coil.

I curl my hand into a fist, staring at the side of his face a moment longer before pushing myself up onto my feet, slowly, trying to keep most of the weight off my bad leg as I limp across the circle, being mindful not to touch the red lines that make it up, hoping that it's paint and not the alternative. Standing now, though, blasts me with heat and smoke as the fire continues to eat away at the building. We don't have much time left before this building can no longer maintain it's structure and falls right into its own footprint. No doubt killing any and all of us who have yet to be taken by the shadow world.

Coughing and squinting through watery eyes, I make my way to Lissa. My leg is burning with pain and I'm just about ready to rip the rebar right out and bleed to death because it's in my way.


I stop a few feet from Lissa, Adrian, and Sonya, turning to the way I came to see Sydney standing there, looking pained and exhausted.

Dumbly, worried, I yell back, "Are they dead?"

Sydney looks horrified at the sight of the circle and the faces that make it up. Jill and Adrian, in particular, bring her actual, physical agony. She quickly shakes it away, trying to stay strong as she limps her way over, stopping to kneel down by Eddie to make sure he's okay. He's not. Even I can tell he's in a bad way. He's close to Jill, within about two feet, but he can't pull himself any further than that. One of his shoulders is very obvious badly dislocated.

Sydney looks at the circle, her lips moving as she reads some sort of witchy information floating around the circle that I don't see before her face loses all color what so ever as she starts to understand something that I don't.

"Don't move, Rose!" Sydney calls, her brown eyes wide. "Don't disrupt the circle, uh, more than you already have!"

I look down at my legs, very aware of how wobbly I am and the ache spreading across my body. Maybe it does pay off to think things through. I can see Dimitri's face in my peripheral harden with fear. Mikhail looks like he was ready to sprint to Sonya's side to see if she was alright but Sydney's words stopped him. Everyone is in a bad way.

"What's wrong?" I call back, my ribs and throat hurt from just speaking. I sink down, painfully onto my bottom, trying to keep the pressure off of my bad leg. This rebar is really starting to piss me off.

"The magic is activated," Sydney calls, flinching hard when part of the ceiling behind her collapses. Her brown eyes flicker up toward the ceiling trying to decide if the ceiling was going to hold for much longer or not. My bet would be on not.

"What does that even mean?" I yell, angry and annoyed and afraid.

Sydney's lips move as she tries to understand what she's seeing. "The incantation is still active, the magic is still fluctuating. But it's destabilizing, foreign material is disrupting the spell - " She blinks, looking at my leg with widening eyes. "Is that a bar in your leg? Are you bleeding?"

"It's rebar, and are you saying that this can't be kool-aid?"

Sydney glares at me through the desperation in her eyes, so I'm hoping that the situation somehow isn't as bad as I fear it is, but I'm not really sure there isn't a way it couldn't be. I think this is about as bad as it can get. Dread, fear, and pain fill me as the simple thought of just how many people must be dead weigh down on me. It leaves me feeling desperate and afraid. Two emotions I hate.

The building groans loudly, over the roar of the inferno still growing in power around us, threateningly.

I want to reach out and grab all of my friends, pulling them from the circle, but I stayed my hand. This is more Sydney's field than my own, much to my chagrin. I wish I would be able to do it all. I don't really like having to hand over control to other people, even those I love and trust. I think I have a bit of a controlling issue. I don't honestly believe a lot of people would be able to handle things to my standers. I know the rest of the world isn't incompetent, but if it's me I know it's going to get it done right. Or at least, I'll be able to oversee it all.

Roll with the punches as they come along.

But Sydney understood this more than I did, so I had to stay where I was, which was hard to do as every fiber of my being begged me to go and help my friends and my father. Sitting here as the place burned around us grated away at my instincts as a living being and a Guardian and my patience. Everyone's lives are in danger and I'm sitting around doing nothing.

To occupy myself, I look down at the rebar in my leg, losing all feeling in my extremity. It is so unbelievably hard to fight all my instincts to not drag everyone out of the circle and away from danger. But I can't. No matter how much I wish I could. I know that I have to let Sydney do her thing because she knows what she's doing - or at least she knows better than I do - but it's steadily getting harder to do. My head is spinning and I'm in pain and I just can't breathe.

"Sydney, we have to get them out of here!" I yell.

"I know!" Sydney yells back. "I'm thinking!"

"Think faster! They'll die if they lose any more energy!" If they aren't already dead.

"I know, Rose! Damn it!" She runs a frustrated hand through her golden hair streaked with an auburn glow from the fire. I can see fear, frustration, and anger lining her face. The building groans again, louder this time.

"Rose!" Dimitri calls.

He saw it before I did. A part of the ceiling gives away, falling like a blazing piece of heaven unto Earth - and my head. But I did see it in time to scramble partly out of the way, but my luck had the ceiling land on my piece of rebar right as I jerked away to avoid it landing on me, and ripped the rebar right out of my leg. The scream that escaped me was half a squeal and half a yelp. It didn't sound exactly human.

The pain shot up my leg and into my torso, but not down it. I have lost all feeling in the lower half of my leg. Without the rebar in place any longer, I could feel, and see, the blood flowing out of the gaping hole in my leg. I feel it draining out of me like heat being replaced by cold, sliding down my body to my leg and out.

Sydney yells out something, but it's mixed with Dimitri's and Mikhail's voices making it impossible for me to understand what she was trying to say. Or what any of them were trying to say. But a part of me would like to think that at least one of them was warning me about the other piece of the ceiling that fell right onto my back while I was struggling to climb to my feet, unable to feel my right foot.

The initial impact of the burning ceiling is what hurt and threw me back onto the ground, but it was the fire that licked at my shirt, pants, hair, and skin that got me moving. I bucked the heavy degrading piece of ceiling off and spun around trying to put the fire on my person out before it did too much damage, but once again that foot was not helping me. I fell onto my back, which helped put the fire out, but it left me aching and hurt. I'm pretty sure some of my skin has been burned and parts of my clothes sealed onto my flesh from the heat.

I struggle away from the burning ceiling, seeing through the flames, Dimitri was staring back at me, blood nearly pouring between his lips. His hold on his side was strong and pain lines his face. I could see it in his eyes, I probably looked as bad as I felt.

He takes a step closer but his entire body convulses in pain and he clutches his ribs trying to hold them in place, gritting his teeth in agony.

My body hurts. It hurts a lot. Significantly more than it was when I first stumbled into this room. I could have laughed - if I could breath - at how naive I was. This is actual agony. This heat washing over me in sync with the tremors of pain that reverberate through my head and body is so much worse than anything I could have been able to imagine otherwise. I'm bruised, beaten, and burned. The smoke is now so thick in the room that my eyes are watering, my nose, throat, and lungs are burning from the smoke inhalation.

I pull myself up onto all fours, barely feeling anything in my right leg. In fact, if anything, I'm losing a lot of feeling everywhere. That is definitely not a good sign, that's for sure. I look around the circle, eyes landing on Lissa. I could have let out a sob of relief to see her beautiful green eyes staring back at me. They look bleary and exhausted, but she's staring at me. She sees me. She's alive.

"Lissa," I croak, crawling agonizingly slowly over to her. My limbs are shaking so bad that I can barely move. My left arm gives out on me and I slam my chin into the ground, blood filling my mouth a bit. I spit it out and push myself up, willing my muscles to keep pushing me forward. She's alive, but probably not for long if the building collapses around us. I scoot across the ground as much as I can, no longer caring about the lines in the satanic circle. The only thing that matters is getting to Lissa and figuring out how to get her and everyone else out of here.

I can barely lift myself anymore. I'm practically crawling on my forearms and thighs, not even able to really lift my face off the ground, my chin scraping the soot and ash covered floor.

Lissa's green eyes glisten. I don't know if it's because of the smoke, the pain, or because the reality of the situation isn't lost on her. But a lone, single tear slides out of her eye and down toward her hairline as she slowly turns her head to look straight at me. Her lips part a bit like she's trying to say something, but she shivers, as if unable to find the strength to even mold her thoughts into words.

What I wouldn't give to be able to hear her voice.

What I wouldn't give to go back in time two weeks ago before everything spiraled out of control so quickly that we couldn't stop it. What I wouldn't give to kill the son of a bitch who put us all in this position. What I wouldn't give to somehow go back to a time where I would be able to save everyone. Where I would be able to stop all of these terrible things from happening.

Preston Callic, his name like poison in my mind. Preston Callic, you best hope the world opens up and swallows you whole because you are going to wish you were never born when I get my hands on you.

He was going to pay dearly for this. I was going to make sure of it.

My body gives out long before my will does. I'm about a foot away from Lissa when I simply can't move anymore. I stare at her, unable to open my mouth and say what I wanted to. Beg for her to be okay and to forgive me for letting her down. Tell her that she was going to be alright and that I was going to somehow figure our way out of this. Plead with her to not give up and to have faith. To hold on. We would be okay somehow. Somehow.

But I'm so tired. My pain is finally, almost completely ebbed away. The fresh burns on my back don't even hurt anymore and I've lost almost all feeling throughout my entire body. The shadows crawling across my visions is something I recognize well. This isn't the first time I've seen them. It's not even the second or third. The shadows of death that have been following me since the car accident when I was fifteen - the same accident that took the lives of Eric, Andre and Rhea Dragomir - and even long after I cut immediate ties to Lissa through our Spirit Bond. The shadows continued to follow me. I never told Lissa that. I never told her that in high-stress situations or in the moments when my life is nearly cut short in the corners of my vision the tendrils of death would remain. Almost like they were always there, but I had begun to ignore them when in day-to-day life.

But I see them now, slithering across my vision, swallowing it up almost completely. Through the haze of darkness, Lissa's soft green eyes glow brighter than even the sun, shining back at me like a beacon, guiding me back to her. But I can't move. I've lost all feeling in my body. Lissa's eyes aren't the only thing that pierces the darkness, either. Yelling does too. Yelling that has probably been going on for a while now that I simply ignored or couldn't focus on. Through the different voices, I could hear Sydney, her voice pitched high and shaking as if terrified.

"The spell is falling apart! The spell is falling apart!" I didn't know what that meant. Not for me, or Lissa, or anyone in this room with us, but I didn't get the time to ask - even if I had had the strength to - before the shadows wrapped around me once and for all.

"Rose, can you grab that CD from the back for me?"

I unbuckle my seatbelt and turn around in the seat to dig around in the back as Lissa snaps, "Andre! She's not one of those girls fawning over your every whim! Don't tell her what to do!"

"It's okay, Liss," I laugh, trying to find the bag with Andre's CD in it. "I don't really mind. It's back here, right?"

"It should be," Andre says. "That's where I put it."

"If you wanted to look at it, you should have kept it on you," Lissa says, displeased.

I shake my head, shoving a blanket aside, hearing a plastic bag ruffled in the darkness, but of course, I can't see where it exactly is as the bag was also black. "It's okay, Lissa," I say again. "I really don't mind."

"I do," Rhea says from the front passenger seat. "Rose, please turn around and put your seatbelt back on. Andre, you can wait until we get home before you look at the CD if it matters so much to you."

"It's alright, Rhea," I say hand sliding over the bag. I grab it up and spin around, sitting back between the two siblings. "I found the bag." I toss it to Andre and grin over at Lissa, who smiles back, her green eyes rolling in her head.

"You really shouldn't be humoring him, Rose," Lissa says, brushing the loose strands of pale blond hair that fell from her hair tie behind her ears. We pass beneath a streetlight that illuminates the car for a moment. I spot Rhea and Eric smiling at one another as she reaches out and takes his right hand in her own, squeezing it with love in her eyes.

"Lissa," I look toward my best friend, grinning, "you make it seem like I chopped my arm off. I grabbed a CD for him. Lighten up." I link my arm through hers and rest my head on her shoulder and stare up at her. Lissa shakes her head a bit, holding my arm close, looking down at me. We pass under another streetlight once more illuminating the car.

Outside, I see the rain falling on the window, gently sliding down and disappearing from my view as the radio plays softly around us. In the corner of my eye, I can see Andre reading the back of his CD, pale blond eyebrows pulled together. I close my eyes and listen to the breathing of the people around me, the radio playing softly, and the sound of the rain hitting the metal of the car. I felt at total and complete peace. Safe and comfortable in the night where my kind have always thrived in. With everything going on in my life, it's nice to be able to just relax and forget about how the world is falling apart around me.

"After everything we've been through..." Lissa says softly, shaking her head a bit before resting it on top my mine, "...I'm just glad that we can take a few moments to ourselves."

"Can you read my mind?" I ask, smiling faintly. "I was just thinking that exact same thing. Let's take a breather before we go back and face our problems."

Lissa laughs, and it's been so long since I heard her laugh like that. It was soft and tired, but happy. It feels like it's been forever since she and I finally found a few moments to ourselves. Away from the stress and the expectations and the worry. At the end of the day, my best friend and I were still in complete and utter sync with one another. Sure, throughout our lives we've fallen off the bandwagon a bit, but we always managed to find our way back to one another because while Dimitri is the love of my life and the only person in the world for me, Lissa is my soul mate. She's the only one who knows every inch of my soul, even if my daily life isn't always a topic of conversation, she will always be the one who knows my heart so purely and truly.

I close my eyes, listening to her breath next to me. "Do you think Christian and Dimitri are okay?"

"What?" Lissa asks, looking down at me, her eyebrows pulling together when I open my eyes to look up at her.

"What?" I echo back. "What did I say?"

"Dimitri? Christian?" Lissa says for a moment as if the names don't mean anything to her. And at that moment, I don't know them either. I don't know who I was referring to. Somehow, I knew that they meant something to me. They meant a lot to me, but I couldn't place their faces into my head. I couldn't figure out who I was talking about. I know they are important, but for a moment I just... couldn't summon an image of either of them in my head.

I pull away and look Lissa in the eye, hoping that our mental link was still holding. Surely she knows who I'm talking about. Surely she knows the people I speak of, even if I don't.

We stare at each other, trying to remember something we both seem to have forgotten. This nagging, aching feeling in the back of my head that I can't seem to place. I'm forgetting something really important, I just can't remember what it is. Damn it!

"My palace," Lissa gasps, green eyes widening, sending a shock of fear and horror through me. Yes, I remember.

"They destroyed the palace!" I yell at her. She nods.

"They took us. All of us! Abe, Jill, Christian, Mia, Sonya, Adrian! Oh god!"

I grab onto her shoulders, staring into her eyes as they flicker back and forth trying to recall everything. "What did they want, Lissa? What was that pentagram thing? What were they doing to you all? Sydney never got far enough to say."

Lissa shakes her head, forehead creases appearing. "I... I don't know. I don't think they ever said. It was something about Spirit. They needed a whole lot of Spirit. It's why they got Adrian, Sonya and I."

"Adrian was on medication, though," I protest.

"They took him first, remember?" Lissa says, leaning toward me, face flushed with fear and anger. "They must have stopped his medication before they took the rest of us. They had to. I remember feeling Spirit in him before I lost consciousness." She rubs at her forehead, looking worried and afraid. "I don't really remember much else. They used magic to keep us in place and then..." She squints, trying to clear her mind, "I remember seeing you! I woke up to you! To the fire. Oh god, the ceiling was falling apart! We..."

"Died," I whisper. Lissa and I stare at one another, probably thinking the same thing. If we are dead, how are we together?

Lissa chews on her lower lip for a moment before looking around the car, looking at her parents and her brother, sadness, and pain flash across her face as she stomps it down, forcing the sadness away.

"Mom? Dad? Andre?"

"Yes, Lissa?" Eric asks from the driver's seat as we pass under another street light. He doesn't turn to look at us.

Lissa swallows, opening her mouth but no noise escapes her lips and I know why. This is the first time she's died. She hasn't become somewhat desensitized by any of this like I have. Saying the words aloud makes them very real, more real than she wants them to be. We were in our early twenties, neither of us was ready to die. Especially for real.

"Are we dead?" I ask, staring out into the dark night around the car, now feeling fear and worry. That darkness wasn't just night anymore. It was shadows. Shadows clawing gently at the outside of the car. A thin layer of metal separating all of us from the land of shadows.

Eric doesn't respond right away which makes sense. If we are dead, this could all be some sort of weird delusion. And if it's not, then we are a bunch of ghosts talking about being dead.

"That's not an easy question to answer," Eric finally says, not pulling his eyes off the road.

"What do you mean?" I ask. "I feel like that's a very easy yes or no question."

Eric's smile is paper thin and without mirth. "If you were in this car with us, I would assume that you were dead with us, but you were able to unbuckle your seatbelt, Rose. So you aren't bound to it like we are."

"What?" I ask, realizing that I was still no longer wearing my seatbelt, and when I looked around, it's gone. "What is...?"

I look down at Lissa's seatbelt and unclip it. It slides over her shoulder and disappears into the car without a sound. Lissa stares between where it vanished and me with green eyes so wide they almost take up her entire face.

"What? How?"

I spin around to Andre and reach for his clip to see the seatbelt disappears into the seat. I can't force my hand between the fabric. I can't find the clip. I can't get him out of the seat. I grab the strap across his chest. No matter how much I tug or pull, I can't even get it to loosen let alone let him go. He watches me with calm green eyes.

"Andre!" I gasp. "Come on, help me!"

"Thanks for grabbing my CD for me, Rose," he says calmly, offering me that charming smile that melted the hearts of all the girls at our school before he died.

"Andre!" I yell, feeling tears prick at the backs of my eyes. "Don't give up! I can still save you!"

"We watched you, Rose," Andre says, reaching out and grabbing my hands so they couldn't pull on the belt which felt like steel beneath my fingertips. I keep bending my nails back, but I don't care. I couldn't save Andre before, I can save him now! "When we died. We watched you and Liss. Watched as you stumble and fell over. As you run from your problems and toward them. We watched as the two of you split apart and came together stronger than ever before. We watched it all. You were never alone, neither of you. We were always there."

Lissa's voice is filled with sorrow and pain. I didn't need to look at her to know that she was crying. "Andre..."

"No!" I snarl at her, pulling futilely at the belt, unable to remove the belt. "Don't give up, Andre! This isn't the end!"

Andre looks at me sadly, his smile is thin. He pulls my hands from the belt again. "For you, sure. But we are where we belong now. And it's okay. It's all okay."

"I wanted you to put on your seatbelt, Rose," Rhea says softly, finally speaking again. "I wanted you, girls, to stay with us. The world is so cruel and I've seen the terrible things it has done to the two of you. I want to protect the two of you. I love you both." She looks over at us with large, sad blue eyes. "If I could protect the two of you from everything in the world... I would. I'm sorry."

"I think this is the end of the road," Eric says as the entire car is flooded with light. I'm blinded, throwing my hands over my eyes. I hear Lissa yelp in pain and surprise, probably doing the same.

"I don't want to go!" Lissa yells. "I want to stay here, with you! I don't want to go wherever this leads! I want us to stay together! Mom! Dad! Andre!"

"Andre is right, Lissa," Eric says, his voice soft and soothing as the bright light looks more and more golden. A very familiar golden color.

"We have been watching over you two since the day we died," Rhea says just as softly.

"You're never alone, so long as you have each other, you'll always have us too," Andre finishes as the golden light begins to fade into darkness at the sound of crunching metal.

I jerk awake, looking around, heart racing in my chest. "Lissa?" I yell, perhaps louder than necessary in the small space we are in. The car we're in swerves a bit before getting back on the road. I spin around, completely disoriented now in the front seat instead of the back. "Lissa?"


I spin around in my seat to see Lissa sitting behind me in the middle seat, her green eyes wide. My right-hand yanks back a bit, something metal digging into my wrist. I spare a look to see that it's a handcuff before the voice next to me, shocks me into stillness.

"Are you crazy? Screaming in a car? I could have killed us, Novice Hathaway."

I turn slowly to see Dimitri Belikov sitting in the driver's seat, sending me a slightly withering look, but there was a touch of alarm and concern in his eyes. I obviously scared him when I yelled out.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I just had the weirdest - wait. What did you call me?"

Dimitri gives me a quick glance, eyebrows pulling together. "What do you mean?" He looks a bit more relaxed now, but there is this hard look on his face that I don't think I've seen in a while.

"Did you just call me Novice Hathaway?" I ask, disbelief chilling me to the bone. I pull lightly at the handcuff, fearing I might throw up.

Dimitri doesn't say anything for a moment, watching the road before giving me a confused side glance that made my heart sink all the way to the soles of my feet. It was a look that I haven't seen in years. He's looking at me as if he's looking at a stranger. There is no love. No affection. No longing or care. Just a passing glance one would offer someone that they don't know. Fear, worry, and pain coursed through me, chilling me even further. It's like a tidal wave washing over me without any way to stop it.

He doesn't know you, Lissa's voice whispers in the back of my head. He doesn't know you because Spirit did something to us. But how?

I turn in my seat, looking back at her in absolute horror. "I..." I don't know.

Lissa's eyes widen slightly. Did you hear that? Are you shadow-kissed again?

I open my mouth, trying to find the words to fully express how I feel, but my mind is blank. I can't formulate words. All I can think about is Dimitri and how he no longer loves me, no longer cares about me. I am nothing to him while he's everything to me. Wait, does that mean...?

I look down at the handcuffs, then out the dark window to see us passing under lots of trees dusted with snow down a path that I recognize from years of taking it to my one time home in St. Vladamir's Academy.

Novice Hathaway...

My lips part. "Fuck."