Shadow Kiss

By: Richelle Mead

ONE

HIS FINGERTIPS SLID ALONG my back, applying hardly any pressure, yet sending shock waves over my flesh. Slowly, slowly, his hands moved across my skin, down the sides of my stomach to finally rest in the curves of my hips. Just below my ear, I felt his lips press against my neck, followed by another kiss just below it, then another, then another. . . .

His lips moved from my neck toward my cheek and then finally found my mouth. We kissed, wrapping ourselves closer together. My blood burned within me, and I felt more alive in that moment than I ever had. I loved him, loved Christian so much that—

Christian?

Oh no.

Some coherent part of me immediately realized what was happening—and boy, was it pissed off. The rest of me, however, was still actually living in this encounter, experiencing it as though I was the one being touched and kissed. That part of me couldn’t break away. I’d merged too much with Lissa, and for all intents and purposes, this was happening to me.

No, I told myself sternly. It’s not real—not for you. Get out of there.

But how could I listen to logic when every nerve of my body was being set on fire?

You aren’t her. This isn’t your head. Get out.

His lips. There was nothing in the world right now except his lips.

It’s not him. Get out.

The kisses were the same, exactly as I remembered with him. . . .

No, it’s not Dimitri. Get out!

Dimitri’s name was like cold water hitting me in the face. I got out.

I sat upright in my bed, suddenly feeling smothered. I tried kicking off the covers but mostly ended up entangling my legs even more. My heart beat hard in my chest, and I tried to take deep breaths to steady myself and return to my own reality.

Times sure had changed. A long time ago, Lissa’s nightmares used to wake me from sleep. Now her sex life did. To say the two were a little different would be an understatement. I’d actually gotten the hang of blocking out her romantic interludes—at least when I was awake. This time, Lissa and Christian had (unintentionally) outsmarted me. In sleep, my defenses were down, allowing strong emotions to pass through the psychic link that connected me to my best friend. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the two of them had been in bed like normal people—and by “being in bed,” I mean “asleep.”

“God,” I muttered, sitting up and swinging my legs over the side of the bed. My voice was muffled in a yawn. Couldn’t Lissa and Christian have seriously kept their hands off each other until waking hours?

Worse than being woken up, though, was the way I still felt. Sure, none of that making out had actually happened to me. It hadn’t been my skin being touched or my lips being kissed. Yet my body seemed to feel the loss of it nonetheless. It had been a very long time since I’d been in that kind of situation. I ached and felt warm all over. It was idiotic, but suddenly, desperately, I wanted someone to touch me—even just to hold me. But definitely not Christian. The memory of those lips on mine flashed back through my mind, how they’d felt, and how my sleepy self had been so certain it was Dimitri kissing me.

I stood up on shaky legs, feeling restless and . . . well, sad. Sad and empty. Needing to walk off my weird mood, I put on a robe and slippers and left my room for the bathroom down the hall. I splashed cool water on my face and stared in the mirror. The reflection looking back at me had tangled hair and bloodshot eyes. I looked sleep-deprived, but I didn’t want to go back to bed. I didn’t want to risk falling asleep quite yet. I needed something to wake me up and shake away what I’d seen.

I left the bathroom and turned toward the stairwell, my feet light on the steps as I went downstairs. The first floor of my dorm was still and quiet. It was almost noon—the middle of the night for vampires, since they ran on a nocturnal schedule. Lurking near the edge of a doorway, I scanned the lobby. It was empty, save for the yawning Moroi man sitting at the front desk. He leafed halfheartedly through a magazine, held to consciousness only by the finest of threads. He came to the magazine’s end and yawned again. Turning in his revolving chair, he tossed the magazine on a table behind him and reached for what must have been something else to read.

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