"What are you saying? That I'm normally an ungrateful bitch?"
He just looked at me.
"Hey! Not cool."
"Maybe you could redeem yourself with a hug."
"A small one?" he begged.
With a sigh, I walked over and put one arm around Adrian, leaning my head lightly against his arm. "Thanks, Adrian."
We stood like that for a heartbeat. I felt none of the crazy electricity or connection I did with Dimitri, but I had to admit that Lissa had been right about something. Adrian was annoying and arrogant at times, but he really wasn't the bastard I often made him out to be.
The doors opened, and Lissa and the others stepped outside. They understandably looked surprised, but I didn't care just then. Besides, they probably all thought I was pregnant with Adrian's love child, so what did it matter? I backed away.
"Heading out?" I asked.
"Yeah, Mia's got more important things to do than hang out with us," joked Christian.
"Hey, I just told my dad I'd meet him. I'll see you guys before I leave." She started to walk away, then abruptly turned around. "God, I'm so out of it." She reached into her coat pocket and handed me a folded piece of paper. "This is half the reason I found you guys. One of the court clerks wanted me to give this to you."
"Thanks," I said, puzzled. She headed off to see her dad while the rest of us strolled back to our accommodations.
I slowed my pace as I opened the note, wondering who in the world here would want to contact me.
I was so happy to hear about your arrival. I'm sure it'll make tomorrow's proceedings that much more entertaining. I've been curious for quite some time about how Vasilisa is doing, and your romantic escapades are always an amusing diversion. I can't wait to share them in the courtroom tomorrow.
"Who's it from?" asked Eddie, coming up beside me. I hastily folded it up and shoved it into my pocket. "No one," I replied.
No one indeed.
WHEN WE GOT BACK to our rooms, I made up an excuse to Lissa about how I needed to go take care of some guardian stuff. She was eager to patch up the earlier conflict with Christian - probably in the form of clothing removal - and didn't ask any questions. There was a phone in my room, and after calling an operator, I was able to find out which room was Dimitri's.
He was surprised to see me at his door - and a little wary. The last time this had happened, I'd been under the influence of Victor's lust charm and had behaved ... aggressively.
"I have to talk to you," I said.
He let me come in, and I immediately handed over the note.
"V. D - "
"Yeah, I know," said Dimitri. He handed the note back. "Victor Dashkov."
"What are we going to do? I mean, we talked about this, but now he really is saying he's going to sell us out."
Dimitri didn't answer, and I could tell he was assessing every angle of this, just like he would a fight. Finally, he pulled out his cell phone, which was a lot cooler than having to rely on the room's phone. "Give me a moment."
I started to sit on his bed, decided that was dangerous, and instead sat on the couch. I didn't know who he was calling, but the conversation took place in Russian.
"What's going on?" I asked when he finished.
"I'll let you know soon. For now, we have to wait."
"Great. My favorite thing to do."
He dragged an armchair up and sat opposite me. It seemed too small for someone as tall as him, but, as always, he managed to make it work and appear graceful in the process.
Beside me was one of the Western novels he always carried around. I picked it up, again thinking about how alone he was. Even now, at the Court, he'd chosen to stay in his room. "Why do you read these?"
"Some people read books for fun," he observed.
"Hey, watch the dig. And I do read books. I read them to solve mysteries that threaten my best friend's life and sanity. I don't think reading this cowboy stuff is really saving the world like I do."
He took it from me and flipped it over, face thoughtful and not as intense as usual. "Like any book, it's an escape. And there's something ... mmm. I don't know. Something appealing about the Old West. No rules. Everyone just lives by their own code. You don't have to be tied down by others' ideas of right and wrong in order to bring justice."
"Wait," I laughed. "I thought I was the one who wanted to break rules."
"I didn't say I wanted to. Just that I can see the appeal."
"You can't fool me, comrade. You want to put on a cowboy hat and keep lawless bank robbers in line."
"No time. I have enough trouble keeping you in line."
I grinned, and suddenly, it was a lot like when we cleaned the church - before the fight, at least. Easy. Comfortable. In fact, it was a lot like the old days when we'd first begun training together, way back before everything had gotten so complicated. Well, okay...things had always been complicated, but for a while, they'd been less complicated. It made me sad. I wished we could relive those early days. There'd been no Victor Dashkov, no blood on my hands.
"I'm sorry," Dimitri said all of a sudden.
"For what? Reading cheesy novels?"
"For not being able to get you here. I feel like I let you down." I glimpsed a shadow of worry on his face, like he was concerned he might have caused some irreparable damage.
The apology totally caught me off guard. For a moment, I wondered if he was jealous of Adrian's influence in the same way Christian had been. Then I realized it was completely different. I'd been giving Dimitri a hard time because I'd been convinced he could do anything. Somewhere - deep inside - he felt the same, at least where I was concerned. He didn't want to deny me anything. My earlier bad mood had long since vanished, and I suddenly just felt drained. And stupid.
"You didn't," I told him. "I acted like a total brat. You've never let me down before. You didn't let me down with this."
The grateful look he gave me made me feel as if I had wings. If another moment had passed, I suspected he would have said something so sweet that I would have flown away. Instead, his phone rang.
Another conversation in Russian took place, and then he stood up. "All right, let's go."
"To see Victor Dashkov."
It turned out that Dimitri had a friend who had a friend, and somehow, despite the best security in the Moroi world, we managed to get into the Court's prison facilities.