Home > Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(2)

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(2)
Author: Richelle Mead

Abe Mazur stood before me. As always, he was a sight to behold. It was the middle of summer--hot and humid, seeing as we were right in the middle of rural Pennsylvania-- but that didn't stop him from wearing a full suit. It was a flashy one, perfectly tailored and adorned with a brilliant purple silk tie and matching scarf that just seemed like overkill. Gold jewelry flashed against the dusky hue of his skin, and he looked like he'd recently trimmed his short black beard. Abe was a Moroi, and although he wasn't royal, he wielded enough influence to be.

He also happened to be my father.

"I'm your lawyer,' he said cheerfully. "Here to give you legal counsel, of course.'

"You aren't a lawyer,' I reminded him. "And your last bit of advice didn't work out so well.' That was mean of me. Abe--despite having no legal training whatsoever--had defended me at my hearing. Obviously, since I was locked up and headed for trial, the outcome of that hadn't been so great. But, in all my solitude, I'd come to realize that he'd been right about something. No lawyer, no matter how good, could have saved me at the hearing. I had to give him credit for stepping up to a lost cause, though considering our sketchy relationship, I still wasn't sure why he had. My biggest theories were that he didn't trust royals and that he felt paternal obligation. In that order.

"My performance was perfect,' he argued. "Whereas your compelling speech in which you said "if I was the murderer' didn't do us any favors. Putting that image in the judge's head wasn't the smartest thing you could have done.'

I ignored the barb and crossed my arms. "So what are you doing here? I know it's not just a fatherly visit. You never do anything without a reason.'

"Of course not. Why do anything without a reason?'

"Don't start up with your circular logic.'

He winked. "No need to be jealous. If you work hard and put your mind to it, you might just inherit my brilliant logic skills someday.'

"Abe,' I warned. "Get on with it.'

"Fine, fine,' he said. "I've come to tell you that your trial might be moved up.'

"W-what? That's great news!' At least, I thought it was. His expression said otherwise. Last I'd heard, my trial might be months away. The mere thought of that--of being in this cell so long--made me feel claustrophobic again.

"Rose, you do realize that your trial will be nearly identical to your hearing. Same evidence and a guilty verdict.'

"Yeah, but there must be something we can do before that, right? Find proof to clear me?' Suddenly, I had a good idea of what the problem was. "When you say "moved up,' how soon are we talking?'

"Ideally, they'd like to do it after a new king or queen is crowned. You know, part of the post-coronation festivities.'

His tone was flippant, but as I held his dark gaze, I caught the full meaning. Numbers rattled in my head. "The funeral's this week, and the elections are right after ... You're saying I could go to trial and be convicted in, what, practically two weeks?'

Abe nodded.

I flew toward the bars again, my heart pounding in my chest. "Two weeks? Are you serious?'

When he'd said the trial had been moved up, I'd figured maybe it was a month away. Enough time to find new evidence. How would I have pulled that off? Unclear. Now, time was rushing away from me. Two weeks wasn't enough, especially with so much activity at Court. Moments ago, I'd resented the long stretch of time I might face. Now, I had too little of it, and the answer to my next question could make things worse.

"How long?' I asked, trying to control the trembling in my voice. "How long after the verdict until they ... carry out the sentence?'

I still didn't entirely know what all I'd inherited from Abe, but we seemed to clearly share one trait: an unflinching ability to deliver bad news.

"Probably immediately.'

"Immediately.' I backed up, nearly sat on the bed, and then felt a new surge of adrenaline. "Immediately? So. Two weeks. In two weeks, I could be ... dead.'

Because that was the thing--the thing that had been hanging over my head the moment it became clear someone had planted enough evidence to frame me. People who killed queens didn't get sent to prison. They were executed. Few crimes among Moroi and dhampirs got that kind of punishment. We tried to be civilized in our justice, showing we were better than the bloodthirsty Strigoi. But certain crimes, in the eyes of the law, deserved death. Certain people deserved it, too--say, like, treasonous murderers. As the full impact of the future fell upon me, I felt myself shake and tears come dangerously close to spilling out of my eyes.

"That's not right!' I told Abe. "That's not right, and you know it!'

"Doesn't matter what I think,' he said calmly. "I'm simply delivering the facts.'

"Two weeks,' I repeated. "What can we do in two weeks? I mean ... you've got some lead, right? Or ... or ... you can find something by then? That's your specialty.' I was rambling and knew I sounded hysterical and desperate. Of course, that was because I felt hysterical and desperate.

"It's going to be difficult to accomplish much,' he explained. "The Court's preoccupied with the funeral and elections. Things are disorderly--which is both good and bad.'

I knew about all the preparations from watching Lissa. I'd seen the chaos already brewing. Finding any sort of evidence in this mess wouldn't just be difficult. It could very well be impossible.

Two weeks. Two weeks, and I could be dead.

"I can't,' I told Abe, my voice breaking. "I'm not ... meant to die that way.'

"Oh?' He arched an eyebrow. "You know how you're supposed to die?'

"In battle.' One tear managed to escape, and I hastily wiped it away. I'd always lived my life with a tough image. I didn't want that shattering, not now when it mattered most of all. "In fighting. Defending those I love. Not ... not through some planned execution.'

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