I woke up surrounded by darkness. Or at least, what should have been darkness. I was underground with no light in sight, only dark brown earth with the occasional root or insect to spice things up. I was packed in pretty tightly, and that was when I noticed.

I was as pale as a ghost.

It was then that all of the happenings of God-knows-how-long-ago came back to me as suddenly as a frying pan to the face. Or as it would be now, a silver stake to the heart. I could think clearly for the first time in months.

I was free of the drugged haze.

But something felt off. I couldn't quite figure out what it was. All I knew was, I felt happy. So very, very happy, and not just because I had Dimitri. And then I figured it out.

I was free of Lissa.

Her dark influence had disappeared in a flash, probably leaving with my blood. Would Dimitri feel the darkness? No, probably not. But more importantly, I had lost Lissa! I had failed as her guardian! I was dead to the world.

I was a Strigoi.

But oddly enough, I didn't feel like one. I didn't feel cruel or mean or anything. Hell, I felt emotions for Lissa. Then again, Dimitri did feel something for me…the ring on my finger was proof of that. But maybe the fact that I was down here proved something else. I realized though, Dimitri loving me or not, I had to get the hell out of here.

With my new strength, I began to claw towards the surface. It was like swimming. Had I still been dhampir (and breathing somehow), I could never have gotten out of here. But I did. Within a few minutes, I broke the top of the soil and blinked into the new light. It was way brighter out here, but it didn't take long for me to hell, light! I was in the light! Wasn't I supposed to die now?

"Good to see you've finally awakened, Roza." The voice that I loved so much snapped me to attention. I leaped into his arms with a speed that was inhuman. Well duh, I wasn't remotely human anymore.

He laughed and began to stroke my hair. We were just outside the garden, and the flowers bombarded my senses, although pleasantly. The best scent however was giving me a fanged grin.

"So…this is how bright the night appears to you?" I looked around with my newly nocturnal eyes, and it looked like it was the middle of a summer day.

"Yes. And isn't it nicer than the stars?" He looked out in the distance but for a second, preferring to rest his gaze on me.

"Only because you're out here." I snuggled in closer, and he was no longer cold to me.

"Roza…" He continued to stroke my hair. "You have no idea how beautiful you are. Even with the dress torn as it is…"

I looked at myself. A long red silk dress adorned with golden embroidery covered my snowy skin. It was beautiful, even with long rips at the legs and a few tears along the straps. Oops. I had been thinking more about getting out of my grave, not the dress.

"Well if you hadn't buried me like I was dead, I wouldn't have had to claw myself out and torn the dress. What was up with that, anyways?" I pushed him away about an inch as I tried to be angry. Even Strigoi, it was hard.

He glared. "It was necessary for the ritual…Mrs. Belikov." An eyebrow rose and he smirked at the end.

Although I liked the sound of that, I had to know more. "Really? Sounds stupid and unnecessary to me. How come I never learned that at St. Vlad's?"

He sighed, clearly annoyed the reminder of our marriage did nothing to derail me. "When one is awakened, they must find their way out of the earth. It is to represent that we are stronger than the earth and anything else in it, and to make sure our ranks are good enough. If you cannot find your way out of a flimsy hole, then clearly you do not deserve the true way of life. And you didn't know about it because we don't want our enemies to know about it. Fledglings only rise when the sire wills it, and most sires only will it when the area is clear."

I thought about this some. "Makes sense. But what about those who turn by killing while feeding?"

He smiled. "They've already proven their worth. Anyone can be bitten, few are strong enough to kill with a bite. Anyways, we've talked enough. Let's get inside. Galina and the others are waiting for you." Dimitri stood up, gracefully as ever, and he offered his right hand to me.

I took it with my left and rose as gracefully as he did, and we walked through the garden with our hands entwined. I picked up muffled voices and animal noises with my enhanced hearing, but it was still uncomfortably quiet between us.

Apparently Dimitri had noticed too. "So, Mrs. Belikov. Are you regretting not awakening sooner?" He was still smirking.

"Nah, it was fun while it lasted." I moved my neck to show what I meant. "But maybe later I might regret it." My hand moved itself out of the hold and squeezed the area close by.

The red-ringed eyes looked over me, slightly hungry. "Oh, you'll regret it…" His voice was warmer than it had been, but still those eyes creeped me out. Hopefully it was an acquired liking. What did I look like with those rings? I guess I'll never know, seeing as how I didn't have a reflection anymore.

We continued to walk in silence, hands back to being intertwined, until we made it to the door. He eyed me over more seriously now. "Are you ready?"

"Of course I am." Of course I'm ready to talk to a room full of undead monsters who probably hated my guts. The same ones who, in a past life, were my worst enemies. Who probably still are my worst enemies.

Oh hey, isn't that something nice to think about. The fact that now…

I am my own worst enemy.

((Hey guys! If it was implicitly stated in one of the other books that this is not how Strigoi rise and there's some other deal, please tell me. It's been a while since I've read the others, I only brushed over Blood Promise for this book. These chapters are going to be short and frequent, so stay tuned! Thanks for all the readers and faves…although I'd love more! And keep the reviews coming!))