a/n: Hey, guys. This is just a short story I came up with. There are going to be one or two more parts—I'm not sure how many yet. It's an alternate way that Vampire Academy could have started. Let me know what you think! :)

"This is not a good idea," I said firmly as I easily kept pace with my best friend. My gaze swept the area around us, making sure we weren't being followed. It was an involuntary action that I'd adopted years ago.

"We've been housebound for months," Lissa said dramatically, and I could feel the excitement pulsing through her as we neared the club. "Come on, Rose. Lighten up. When we left the academy, this wasn't what I had in mind."

"What? Being alive?" I responded dryly. But Lissa was right.

Outside of classes and necessary trips to the grocery store, we didn't leave our apartment. This was no way to live. But it wasn't safe, and my job was to make sure that Lissa was always safe. For years, there had been an entire entourage roaming our old campus making sure Lissa was never in danger. But now—and for the last few years—it was just the two of us. For the first time in my life, I had to be the responsible one, and I was doing a damn good job.

"I don't know how you're not climbing the walls. You're more social than I am!" She turned to the bouncer standing outside of the chem-free club and grinned as she held out her arm. He fastened a bracelet around her wrist—red to indicate she was too young to be served—and after he'd done the same for me, we headed inside.

Lissa was right, I thought as we walked into the club. I missed socializing. Against my better judgment, I felt a grin make it's way across my face. I couldn't remember the last time I'd heard such loud music; it was only a moment before my heartbeat seemed to thump in time with the rhythm. My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and as I looked around, more than a few appreciative glances were cast our way. Some things never changed.

We'd settled in a little college town in Nebraska, and I had to congratulate myself on the find. I felt like Lissa and I were as safe as we could get here…that we might actually have found a place to stay. We'd been here for the past five months—the longest we'd been anywhere since we left the confines of our previous school.

It had been obvious to me from the moment we'd arrived that Lissa liked it here. I loved to see her content, so we'd decided to give the sleepy little town a try.

"Oh, look. There's Ceej," Lissa said, pointing to one of the guys we attended high school with. He waved us over, so we made our way to his table.

"What are you drinking?" Lissa demanded with a grin as we sat down at the table. It was overflowing with our classmates, but there really weren't a lot of choices on how to spend Friday nights…of course everyone would be here. After locating three different exits, I settled back in my chair and watched the exchange.

Ceej—short for CJ (although why a nickname needed a nickname, I had no idea)—held up his wrist. It was adorned with a bright yellow bracelet belying his actual age. "Slipped the doorman a twenty," he admitted with a grin.

"Impressive," Lissa said with an appreciative nod.

"You guys want a real drink?" he offered, obviously smitten with Lissa.

"Sure," she said quickly. "I'll have a beer."

I quickly shook my head and held my hands up in front of me. "I'm all set," I assured him. Lissa had fed earlier, and I already felt a little bit light-headed. I didn't want to compound the feeling with alcohol.

Maybe it had been too long since I'd hung out in a group setting with people my own age, but I'd expected more than half-wit banter and awkward glances where you'd meet a guy's gaze and then he'd blush as he looked away. If Lissa wasn't having so much fun, I'd have insisted we leave. Instead, I made a mental list of what we needed at the grocery store.

Six items in—I'd just added tampons and pickles to the list—things began to look up. A guy walked through the entrance—he had to have been at least six-six or six-seven—and his presence alone was enough to make my heart skip a beat. He had a commanding aura; I'd certainly have done anything he wanted me to, and his brown hair was pulled back into a pony tail. For some reason I'd always found longer hair incredibly sexy on guys. I squinted in an effort to get a better look at him, but it was no use. I couldn't see what color his eyes were from here.

Oh well, I thought with a sigh. At least I'd have some eye candy to help get me through the night.

They were talking about the latest scandal going around town—apparently one of the female teachers had been caught fraternizing with one of her students—and it was a conversation that finally caught my attention. I did love good gossip.

I was absorbed in conversation, so when someone sat down next to me, I automatically moved my chair out of the way.

"Sorry," the person beside me said.

"No problem," I said distractedly as I turned to glance at the offender; I had to do a double take. It was the man I'd been admiring just a few hours ago.

"Hey," I said.

"Hey," he returned.

I nearly smacked myself on the forehead. Hey? Was that really the best I could come up with? Clearly I'd been out of circulation for far too long!

The heat radiating off him was unmistakable. Brown. His eyes were brown. A dark…mesmerizing…chocolate brown. I had to tear my gaze away from his.

"Hey, guys," CJ said. "This is my brother, Chad, and his friend…"

The man next to me grinned-a hearstopping, sexy grin. "Dimitri," he introduced himself. "My name is Dimitri."