This chapter is a bit short, but I liked it as it was. I am already starting work on the next one, though :)
A scream rent the air and I jumped awake, looking around frantically. Mia was yelling, Eddie was cursing, and something large kept ramming into my seat. I quickly twisted around. My mouth actually dropped open as I took in the scene in the back of the van. Christian, who had gone back to sleep almost instantly after they had gotten him in the van, was awake and, fangs bared, was attacking Eddie.
After a bare second of gaping, I threw myself into motion. Christian was grasping Eddie's shoulders and pulling him toward him as Eddie wrapped his hands around Christian's neck, trying to hold him off. I managed to wedge myself between the two and, shoving at Christian as hard as I could, I succeeded in sending him reeling backwards. I grabbed a hold of his face with both hands and, shoving my face into his, I screamed, "Stop!" as loud as I possibly could.
Thankfully, it seemed to do the trick. Christian froze, staring at me, and after a moment his mouth snapped shut as his eyes widened in horror. As I watched him, I realized that he probably hadn't actually been fully awake. Most likely, in his state of exhaustion and hunger, he had sort of woken up and reacted to the strong smell of blood coming off of Eddie.
"I am so sorry," Christian whispered.
I quirked an eyebrow, "No! Say it isn't so. The great Christian Ozera is sorry?" My attempt at humor earned a giggle from Mia, but Christian didn't seem to find it funny. I shrugged. "Okay, well, Eddie, you take the passenger seat now and I'll sit back here with Christian."
"We're only about 10 miles away from the resort at this point," Mia informed me as Eddie and I settled into our new positions.
"When we get there, tell everyone to stay back and bring feeders. With Christian and," I swallowed, "and Mason in the van, we really don't need a bunch of people swarming around making a lot of noise and fussing over everything."
"Alright," Mia replied and Eddie chimed in, "You got it."
As we pulled into the ski resort parking lot, they did not see a single soul. Probably because it was after midnight. But as Mia and Eddie stepped out of the van, people came running out of the front of the resort. I recognized some of my Damphir classmates as well as a few Guardians. More would be here soon, I knew.
A couple of Guardians stepped towards the van, probably to search it, but Mia and Eddie stepped in front of them. "Everyone is to stay back. And bring us a few feeders, quickly," Mia ordered.
The Guardians hesitated, unsure. "You heard what she said. Until Hathaway says otherwise, you are to step back."
One of the Guardians spoke up, "Guardian Hathaway knows about this?" He sounded skeptical but Eddie brought his chin up and held his ground, saying nothing. Two of our classmates, also guardians in training, stepped up beside Eddie. They must have decided to back him up, although I had no idea why they would. Regardless of the reason, it worked and the Guardians backed up.
Soon after, I spotted a small group hurrying towards us. Eddie opened the passenger door and poked his head in. "The feeders are here."
I nodded and then looked to Christian. "You, feeding. It could get difficult, with you starving like you are. I'll need to put protections in place." Gently, suddenly feeling protective, I added, "Are you going to be alright with that?"
Christian sat very still and stared into my eyes for what felt like forever. Then he nodded.
"Okay," I said and opened the sliding door of the van. Gritting my teeth and bracing myself for the pain I knew would come, I stepped out of the van. My leg almost buckled as I put weight on it, but I refused to show weakness. Not until everything was taken care of. I had made it this far. I waited as Christian climbed out and then I spoke, loudly enough for the small crowd that had gathered to hear. "We were captured by Strigoi. They starved us, which as you all know is especially difficult for Moroi." I nodded to Eddie, who whispered to the two guys that had volunteered to stand between us and the crowd. The two of them stepped up on either side of Christian. Christian's eyes were locked on mine. I couldn't have looked away if I tried. My entire world, in that moment, had come down to the hurt pride, pain, and utter desperation in his eyes.
"You ready?" I asked quietly. After a few more moments, Christian nodded curtly and the two Guardians-in-training grabbed his arms. "Send one of the feeders forward," I ordered. I really wished this didn't have to be done so publicly, but I was afraid of what would happen if we let him walk into the resort. He looked feverish, half mad, like he was fighting to keep any semblance of sanity. Starvation, exhaustion, being bitten, and using magic had all taken a terrible toll. My heart ached for him as he transferred his gaze from me to the feeder and began to lunge forward before throwing himself backward, causing the men holding him to have to scramble to regain their balance. He looked completely panicked now. Stepping up beside the feeder, I reached my hand out, laid it along the side of his face, and wove my fingers through his hair just enough to give me a small grip on his head. His eyes snapped back to mine.
"I will not let you do any serious damage to her, do you hear me? I won't. I promise." His eyes continued to show panic and his head shook back and forth slightly. It was heart wrenching to see such a proud man in such a state. It would kill him later that everyone had seen this. I wrenched my thoughts back to the task at hand. I had to focus. "Do you trust me?" I gripped his hair tighter when he didn't answer. "Do you trust me?"
His head nodded, just once, but it was enough. "Then, while you may not trust yourself, believe in me. I've got your back." I brought my head closer to his. "I've got you. Okay?"
He nodded again and I stepped back, careful to put my weight on my good leg. Slowly, carefully, his eyes never leaving mine, he leaned forward and sank his teeth into the girl's neck. My eyes dropped to where his mouth sucked and I had to swallow hard as a desperation I didn't fully understand ran through me.
Suddenly, Christian jerked back and the feeder cried out in pain as his teeth tore flesh. "I'm sorry," Christian said automatically. But his eyes were still on me. "Rose?"
My eyes snapped up from his mouth to his eyes and I visibly shook myself. "Sorry. Sorry."
"It's okay." I glanced to Eddie, whose face was sympathetic, and then to one of the guys that was holding Christian, who looked very confused, before my gaze settled back on Christian's.
Bringing my chin up, I switched into Guardian mode. I shut down all feelings, pushed out the intense longing running through me, banished thoughts of everything but the task before me. "Next feeder please," I said, happy with how steady my voice was.
Christian looked concerned but he said nothing. As the next feeder stepped in place, his gaze shifted to her neck, and he once again looked desperate, barely sane. He pulled his eyes back to meet mine. I nodded, letting him know I was fine. I would be strong. I would help him through this. They come first. The phrase had become a mantra that I had repeated to myself so many times over the last day to give myself the strength to keep going. They come first.
Christian leaned forward and sank his teeth into the second feeder. This time, I kept my gaze locked on his. After a while, I said softly, "Enough," and, after a moment, he pulled back.
Looking at the girl in front of him, he thanked her. Then he announced that he had enough blood for now and really wanted some real food. I barely heard him. The low buzzing noise I had been hearing since I woke up in the van was getting louder. I felt like the ground was tilting slightly as well. I knew I was coming to the end of my rope at this point so I turned to Eddie.
"Make sure you get yourself taken care of." I told him. Then I turned to Christian. "Christian, make sure that you find out where the people in charge want Mason to be transferred to."
Behind me, I heard a commotion. Turning, I saw my headmistress, Dmitri, my mother, and Lissa rushing out of the resort. The buzzing increased as Lissa's emotions slammed into me. Half turning back towards Christian, I said, "Christian? Catch me." A moment later, I felt myself falling as the blackness took over.
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