Sorry for the short hiatus. I have a lot going on. Found out my ten year old sister needs heart surgery and I am in the middle of a semester in grad school.

I hope you really enjoy the chapter. I will try to have the next one up faster!

I turned my head toward the door of my room. My eyes locked on his. Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than for him to come much, much closer. "Yeah, well, I probably wouldn't have made it without Moroi magic. Thank you for your help back there. Don't know what I would do without you, Christian."

The last sentence rang in my ears. It should have been 'don't know what I would have done without you', past tense. But I couldn't correct myself without drawing more attention to the mistake. What was I even thinking? I was obviously still out of it, making something out of nothing. I shook my head and turned my gaze back to Dmitri. He stepped closer.

"We should talk soon," he said.

I nodded, melting a little at the warmth in his eyes.

Lissa spoke up, "Christian and I need food anyway. You two can talk and I'll be back to check on you." She patted my hand before heading towards the door.

Christian moved into the room instead of out of it and Lissa tugged on his hand. "Come on, Christian. Let us give them some space to talk about Guardian things."

Christian continued to hesitate, his eyes locking on mine. "You'll be okay? You don't have to talk about anything you don't want to."

I was taken aback by the concern written plainly in his expression. I felt warmth spread through me as I sensed a kind of connection between us that didn't exist before. I guess tragedy really does bring people closer. I gave him a small, reassuring smile. "I'll be fine, Christian." Still, he hesitated. "Really," I assured him. "But thanks. You know, for caring."

His face went blank, his chin came up, and he gave me a sharp nod. As soon as the door closed behind him, I laughed.

"What is funny?"

"Did you see his reaction? The second I suggested he cared, he closed up and became stern." I turned toward Dmitri. "Sound like anyone you know?"

Dmitri sat down next to me, surprising me. He rarely came so close to me outside of our fighting sessions. He surprised me even more when he reached out and twisted a lock of my hair around his finger. "I thought I had lost you, Roza."

My heart sped up at the sound of the nickname. I heard it so rarely. I always missed this side of him, the side that I liked to think belonged only to me. I reached out and clasped his free hand between my own. "I always survive. One way or another."

His gaze dropped to the still healing wounds on my neck. "Barely, this time," he whispered, his voice sounding raw, choked.

My eyes widened. It was rare to see any emotion in Dmitri's face, but this- he looked haunted. If I didn't know better I would even say there was fear in his eyes. I brought a hand up to his face, cradling his cheek. "Dmitri, what is it? What's wrong?"

Dmitri pulled my hand from his face and held it. Tipping his head forward, he leaned his forehead against mine. "I thought, I thought that if I put distance between us, if I told you to move on, that I could stop myself from loving you. Because I can't love you and guard Lissa. If I love you, I'll put your life before hers and I can't do that. But then you went missing and I could barely function. That's when I realized that it's already a lost cause. If it was your life or hers I wouldn't hesitate."

My mind whirled as I tried to comprehend what he was telling me. He pulled back slightly so that he could look into my eyes. His hands came up to frame my face. "Don't ever put me through that again, you understand? I can't do that again."

I nodded. I couldn't stand the pain in his voice. We sat there like that, staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, I cleared my throat and spoke, "What does all of this mean?"

"I don't know," he answered honestly.

A knock sounded on my door. Dmitri pulled away and stood up as the door swung open. Lissa glided into the room, graceful as ever. Dmitri glanced back at me, "We'll talk more later, okay?"

I nodded and he left. Lissa came and sat down beside me.

. . .

The next two days passed in a blur as we all packed up and traveled back to the Academy.

I steeled myself for the moment I had been avoiding ever since getting back. The moment when I had to look Mason's parents in the eye and explain to them how I had failed to bring their son safely home. How he had died trying to save me.

Slowly, I walked to the front driveway of the Academy. His parents would be here any minute now. Dmitri had tried to convince me not to come, had said it wasn't my responsibility. But he didn't understand. No one did, except for those of us that were there. We had kept our account of what happened as simple as possible. The pitying looks we were getting were bad enough. We knew if people knew the whole story, the situation would quickly become unbearable. Gossip about Christian's family had just started to fade away due to his relationship with Lissa. People had just recently quit making blood whore comments about me after finding out Liss used to drink from me. Plus, everyone would be horrified to learn that the Moroi had used magic and Eddie had been used as a feeder. Keeping quiet was the best option for everyone involved, even if it meant that I felt an acute sense of isolation. Liss and Dmitri meant well, they just didn't have any idea what the experience had been like.

I stopped by the drive, standing apart from the small group waiting for Mason's parents. My mother's voice rang out. "Rose, what are you doing here? You should be in bed."

She began walking toward me, but pulled up short when a black car came into view. I straightened my shoulders as the car rolled to a stop, almost directly in front of me. Mason's mother stepped out first. I had met her once and had found her a very nice lady who spoiled Mason horribly.

My mother briskly walked towards us, but Mason's mom didn't pay any attention. She walked up and, to my surprise, enfolded me in a hug. I patted her back awkwardly, unsure of what to do. She pulled away and clasped my hands in hers. "Are you alright? I heard you were gravely injured."

I had to swallow down the lump in my throat before I could respond. My mother took that opportunity to jump in. "She is quite alright. If you would like to follow me, we will get you settled in." Pretending she hadn't spoken, I responded, "I am fine. Thanks to Mason. I wouldn't be here without him. I am terribly, terribly sorry. I tried to protect him, but," I broke off. Her son was dead. The last thing she needed to hear was excuses.

"My son has always done what he thinks is right and is unstoppable once his mind is made up. I am just glad that you made it back alright. He talked about you all the time. You pushed him to be better, inspired him. He thought you were wonderful, and so do I." Tears filled her eyes and the lump in my throat grew bigger. "I heard about how you defended his body, despite the wounds you sustained doing so. Thank you."

Tears escaped my eyes and trailed down my face. "It was an honor to be his friend." She nodded and gave me another hug. She then turned to my mother. "Alright, let's go."

My mother nodded. Before turning to leave, she glanced at me and something that looked suspiciously like pride lit her eyes. As she walked away, I gave myself a mental shake. It must have been a trick of the light. I had never been anything but a nuisance to my mother. Pride was not something she was capable of feeling where I was concerned.

A hand settled lightly on my back and I jumped, twisting around. I suddenly found myself staring into Christian's eyes, his face barely a foot from my own. "Are you alright?" he asked.

My gaze dropped to his mouth as my breathing became slightly erratic. Quickly, I looked away and tried to get myself under control. What the hell was happening to me?

"Rose?" he prompted. I snapped my attention back to his eyes. I ruthlessly reigned in my wayward emotions. Raising my chin, I responded. "You keep asking questions like that, Ozera, and I will be forced to assume you have decided to like me."

As I predicted, the concern disappeared behind an unreadable mask. After a moment of studying her eyes, however, his expression abruptly changed again, a smile tipping up one corner of his mouth. "You and I are more alike than I thought. I just might decide to start liking you after all." With that enigmatic remark, he walked away.

I stood, frozen, as I thought over the two strange conversations. Dmitri appeared by my side. "Are you alright, Roza?" he asked, worry evident in his tone.

I pasted a smile on my face. "Yes, I'm fine." I could tell he didn't believe me, but he did not call me out on it, for which I was thankful. It had already been an exhausting day and it was only noon.

. . .

I somehow made it through Mason's funeral and my Molnija ceremony. As I walked across campus, I tried to ignore the whispers and stares. I was going to meet Christian and fulfill my duties as his Guardian. Field training would hopefully help keep my mind off of everything.

As I caught sight of Christian, my heart rate sped up. This had been my reaction to him every time I'd seen him in the last week. I wondered if Lissa's feelings for him were leaking through the bond. I certainly had no better explanation for the unsettling phenomenon.

"Hey, Rose. Liss and I were just heading over to feed. Then we'll go eat some real food, okay?"

I tore my gaze away from his mouth. I nodded, suddenly becoming preoccupied with a bit of dirt on my sleeve.

A few minutes later, I was standing beside Christian while he waited in line for a feeder. I was thankful that he wasn't one for small talk. It took way more concentration that it should have for me to not focus on any of the Moroi feeding. I hoped that the cravings caused by our little trip would go away soon. I glanced over to Eddie where he was standing with Lissa and saw he was resolutely staring at the ground. Apparently I wasn't the only one struggling.

Christian stepped up to feed. Every ounce of my attention immediately became focused on his fangs as he bared them and then bit. Intense longing shot through my body. The rest of the world faded away. All I could see was his hands wrapped around the woman's shoulders, his teeth buried in her neck. I wanted his hands on me so bad my chest hurt. I needed him to bite me more than I needed my next breath. A hand settled on my shoulder and jerked me back to reality. I spun around, hands raised, ready to attack.

The person the hand belonged to backed up, hands raised. "It's just me Rose," Eddie said, concern creasing his forehead.

I glanced around wildly as I realized where I was. People were staring at me, whispering to each other. I knew I looked completely crazy. Christian was watching me warily, looking just as concerned as Eddie. "I, I have to go," I told Eddie. I then turned and quickly left the building.

As soon as I stepped outside, I began to run. Before I had even gotten three steps, someone grabbed my arm. I jerked to a stop and turned, suddenly finding myself captivated by the bluest pair of eyes I have ever seen. Turning, I began to lift my hand to his face before I realized what I was about to do and jerked my hand back down. Christian slid his hand down from where it was gripping my arm until he engulfed my hand with his own.

"What's going on, Rose? You look like you've seen a ghost."

My mind screamed at me to pull my hand back, but I couldn't stand to lose contact with him. My mind scrambled to understand the emotions careening through my body. I felt like my entire world had narrowed down to this man. Just the thought of walking away from him made my body scream out in agony. All I wanted to do was drown my senses in him.

"Rose? Are you okay?" Lissa's voice sounded like it was very far away. "Rose?" I slowly turned towards her, feeling like I was underwater, my movements delayed, my hearing muffled.

Christian dropped my hand and everything came into sharp focus. Sounds became clearer and I noticed how worried Lissa looked.

"I'm fine. Really. I just was thinking of Mason, that's all. I... I just really want to go for a run, shake things off." Bracing myself, I turned towards Christian. Emotions threatened to overwhelm me again, but I ruthlessly shoved them down. "I know it's against protocol with this field training stuff, but do you think that I could catch up with you in like an hour, after you've eaten breakfast?"

Lissa answered before Christian could. "I actually want to steal him for some alone time after we eat, so why don't you just meet up with us for lunch?"

I nodded, barely hearing her. It took effort for me to turn away from Christian. My walk quickly turned into a jog my sole goal to put as much distance between myself and Christian as possible. If I was honest with myself, I had first noticed these feelings as I fought to keep him from Eddie in the van. They had gotten worse and worse since. It was out of control, insane. Liss would kill me if she knew. Christian would be revolted. Soon, I worked myself up to a full-fledged run, moving as fast as I could. I just wanted to outrun the crazy feelings for Christian, the pain of losing Mason, the disconcerting changes I had noticed since the trip. I could swear my canine's were a little sharper. Not as sharp as a Moroi, but different than before. Or maybe I was just being paranoid- when Mia's blood had healed me, I'd panicked. I don't want to be different than everyone else. I just want to blend in and quit having to deal with people's whispers. As my thoughts swirled, I kept running. I ran until I was too tired to run anymore. Collapsing on the ground, I was careful to not think of Chrisitian. Of all of my worries, the weird feelings for him were the scariest.

I was exhausted and I allowed myself to drift off until I was only half awake. Lissa's emotions spiked and before my half-conscious mind could stop it, I'd been pulled into her mind.

Lissa pulled Christian in for a kiss. Christian pulled back a few inches, "Liss, what are we going to do about Rose? She ran out of there like a bat out of hell."

Lissa sighed and began unbuttoning Chistian's shirt. "You all have been through a lot. She probably started thinking about Mason. Or Eddie. Who could blame her for freaking out a little? If I were a damphir that spent three days with a Strigoi treating me and my friends like dinner entrees, I would be a bit horrified to be in a feeding room too." She slid her hands down his chest and his eyes drifted shut. Leaning forward, Lissa began dropping kisses along his jaw and he sighed in pleasure.

In the next instant, Christian was pushing Lissa back against the wall behind her. His arms wrapped tight around her back as his mouth crushed hers. There was a ripping sound and Lissa's shirt was being thrown to the ground. His hands seemed to be everywhere at once, sliding over her skin.

As I watched the scene, I became aware of my own reactions. My heartrate was galloping at an alarming rate, my breathing was ragged, and I felt heat coil tight, low in my belly. I began tugging hard, trying to pull out of Lissa's mind, horrified that I was actually aroused by the events unfolding. I couldn't get out. Not because Lissa's emotions were strong enough to hold me captive as was generally the case when I couldn't free my mind, but because of my own emotions. Part of me was screaming that I needed to get out, that I had no business watching this, let alone getting pleasure out of it. But that part was fast being drowned by the part that needed to feel Christian's kiss, his touch.

Gathering all of my strength, I gave a mighty mental shove and managed to pull myself back to my own surroundings. I tried to shut out Lissa's emotions, but as her excitement rose, her emotions melded and mixed with the arousal still thrumming through my body. This was crazy. Absolutely insane. I began to run again. I could tell by their surroundings that they were in the church. I couldn't believe I was about to interrupt them, but I had to. I couldn't- I wouldn't watch them like some sick voyeur, but I could feel the pull on my conciousness. It was unrelenting, threatening to pull me under. I didn't know how long I would be able to hold out against my own sick cravings. As the church came into sight, I lost the battle, slipping back into Lissa's mind.

Christian stepped out of his pants. Lissa and him were now clad only in their underwear. "Liss, are you sure about this?" he asked, his voice gravelly.

"Absolutely," she responded. "When you went missing, it was horrible. I realized that life doesn't come with any guarantees."

Oh, God. They were about to have sex for the first time. Liss would never forgive me if I interrupted that. I fell to my knees as Christian's fingers slipped under the hem of Lissa's underwear. The incredible amounts of desire sweeping through Lissa and I both made it hard for me to remember how wrong this all was. I should not be observing this.

I felt someone shake my shoulders, calling my name. I once again began to fight to pull myself loose from Lissa. My head jerked back and I found myself staring into Adrian's eyes.

"Rose? Rose?"

"Oh, God, Adrian. I don't know what the hell is happening to me. I'm losing it. Completely losing it." I was babbling, probably not making any sense, but I couldn't seem to stop myself as desire I shouldn't be feeling raged through my body.

"What are you talking about? What's going on?"

"These cravings. They're not normal. They came out of no where. I don't think of him that way. At least, I never have before. It's crazy. I can't be feeling this. I can't be wanting this. God, it'll break Liss's heart. It'll break Dmitri's heart. But I want him so bad I can barely think. I've been fighting it for almost two weeks, but Liss, she's, she's... and I can feel everything she feels. I can't fight her emotions and mine." I felt like screaming, pulling my hair out. Feelings of pleasure kept pouring through me, spiralling higher and higher as I fought to distance myself from Lissa's feelings. It was completely maddening.

"Calm down, calm down. Start at the beginning. When did all this start?"

"When did what start?" I was having trouble following what Adrian was saying, distracted as I was.

"You said you are having cravings. For what?"

I closed my eyes, ashamed. "You can tell me. You can trust me. I'll help you. I swear I will."

"Christian. Everytime I see him, all I can think about is kissing him, his bite. I have to fight not to reach out and touch him, not to beg him to do whatever he wants with me." I stopped, horrified that I had said as much as I did.

Adrian's face remained placid, "When did these cravings start?"

I thought back, thankful for the distraction from what was happening in the church. "I noticed them when we got back to the resort, when Christian fed." A wisp of a memory flickered. I concentrated on it. "No, no, the first time was when we were still in the house. The Strigoi had fed on me. He was taunting Christian. He told him that when he was ready to feed, he should pick me because I would want it just as much as Christian would. Christian looked at me and I felt it for just a moment before I passed out."

"What makes you think the feelings aren't natural? You both went through a terrible ordeal together, after all."

"Before this trip, I had less than zero interest in Chistian," I said, glaring. "And I have felt this kind of desperation before. It's unnatural."

"When have you experienced this before?"

I shifted my eyes away, embarrassed again.

"Rose?" Adrian prompted. "If I'm going to help you, I need all the information."

"I had a spell placed on me. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with desire for... someone. I couldn't think past the desire. Everything was hazy. When the charmed necklace was removed during certain... activities, things suddenly became clearer. That's how I feel when I see Christian- hazy, overwhelmed. But I am not wearing any jewelry."

Adrian studied my face for a few moments, then nodded. He brought his hands up to rest on either side of my face. "We'll figure this out, okay?"

I nodded, hoping to God he was right.

As usual, if you review, I'll send you the beginning of the next chapter as soon as it's written.