I pushed him aside and moved toward the door. "I have to--I have to go back to Court. Now. Lissa's in danger. She needs me.'
"Rose. Roza. Slow down.' He'd caught hold of my arm, and there was no escaping from that grip. He turned me so I faced him. His hair was still damp from the shower, and the clean scent of soap and wet skin surrounded us. "Tell me what happened.'
I quickly repeated what I'd seen. "Someone tried to kill her, Dimitri! And I wasn't there!'
"But Eddie was,' said Dimitri quietly. "She's okay. She's alive.' He released me, and I leaned wearily against the wall. My heart was racing, and even though my friends were safe, I couldn't shake my panic.
"And now he's in trouble. Those guardians were pissed--'
"Only because they don't know the whole story. They see a dead body and a weapon, that's it. Once they get facts and testimonies, everything will be okay. Eddie saved a Moroi. It's his job.'
"But he killed another Moroi to do it,' I pointed out. "We're not supposed to do that.' It sounded like an obvious--and even stupid--statement, but I knew Dimitri understood what I meant. The guardians' purpose was to protect Moroi. They come first. Killing one was unimaginable. But then, so was them trying to kill each other.
"This wasn't a normal situation,' Dimitri affirmed.
I tipped my head back. "I know, I know. I just can't stand leaving her undefended. I want so badly to go back and keep her safe. Right now.' Tomorrow seemed years away. "What if it happens again?'
"Other people are there to protect her.' Dimitri walked over to me, and I was surprised to see a smile on his lips, in light of the grim events. "Believe me, I want to protect her too, but we'd risk our lives for nothing if we take off right now. Wait a little longer and at least risk your life for something important.'
A little of the panic faded. "And Jill is important, isn't she?'
I straightened up. Part of my brain kept trying to calm me about Lissa's attack while the other fully processed what we'd accomplished here. "We did it,' I said, feeling a smile slowly spread to my own lips. "Against all reason ... somehow, we found Lissa's lost sister. Do you realize what this means? Lissa can have everything she's entitled to now. They can't deny her anything. Hell, she could be queen if she wanted. And Jill ...' I hesitated. "Well, she's part of an ancient royal family. That's got to be a good thing, right?'
"I think it depends on Jill,' said Dimitri. "And what the after-effects of all this are.'
Guilt over potentially ruining Jill's life returned, and I stared down at my feet. "Hey, it's okay,' he said, tilting my chin back up. His brown eyes were warm and affectionate. "You did the right thing. No one else would have tried something this impossible. Only Rose Hathaway. You took a gamble to find Jill. You risked your life by breaking Abe's rules--and it paid off. It was worth it.'
"I hope Adrian thinks so,' I mused. "He thinks me leaving our "safe house' was the stupidest thing ever.'
Dimitri's hand dropped. "You told him about all this?'
"Not about Jill. But I accidentally told him we weren't in West Virginia anymore. He's kept it secret, though,' I added hastily. "No one else knows.'
"I can believe that,' said Dimitri, though he'd lost some of his earlier warmth. It was such a fleeting thing. "He ... he seems pretty loyal to you.'
"He is. I trust him completely.'
"And he makes you happy?' Dimitri's tone wasn't harsh, but there was an intensity to it that put the exchange on par with a police interrogation.
I thought about my time with Adrian: the bantering, the parties, the games, and of course, the kissing. "Yeah. He does. I have fun with him. I mean he's infuriating sometimes--okay, a lot of the time--but don't be fooled by all the vices. He's not a bad person.'
"I know he isn't,' said Dimitri. "He's a good man. It's not easy for everyone to see, but I can. He's still getting himself together, but he's on his way. I saw it in the escape. And after ...' The words caught on Dimitri's tongue. "After Siberia, he was there for you? He helped you?'
I nodded, puzzled by all these questions. Turns out they were only the warm-up for the big one.
"Do you love him?'
There were only a few people in the world who could ask me such insanely personal questions without getting punched. Dimitri was one of them. With us, there were no walls, but our complicated relationship made this topic surreal. How could I describe loving someone else to a man I'd once loved? A man you still love, a voice whispered inside my head. Maybe. Probably. Again, I reminded myself that it was natural to carry lingering feelings for Dimitri. They would fade. They had to fade, just like his had. He was the past. Adrian was my future. "Yeah,' I said, taking longer than I probably should have. "I ... I do love him.'
"Good. I'm glad.' The thing was, Dimitri's face didn't look all that glad as he stared blankly out the window. My confusion grew. Why was he upset? His actions and words no longer seemed to match lately.
I approached him. "What's wrong?
"Nothing. I just want to make sure that you're okay. That you're happy.' He turned back to me, putting on a forced smile. He'd spoken the truth--but not the whole truth. "Things have been changing, that's all. It's making me reconsider so much. Ever since Donovan ... and then Sonya ... it's strange. I thought it all changed the night Lissa saved me. But it didn't. There's been so much more, more to the healing than I realized.' He started to slip into pensive mode but caught himself. "Every day I figure out something new. Some new emotion I'd forgotten to feel. Some revelation I totally missed. Some beauty I didn't see.'
"Hey, my hair in the alley does not go on that list, okay?' I teased. "You were in shock.'
The forced smile grew natural. "No, Roza. It was beautiful. It's beautiful now.'
"The dress is just throwing you off,' I said, attempting a joke. In reality, I felt dizzy under his gaze.
Those dark, dark eyes looked at me--really looked at me, I think, for the first time since he'd entered the room. A mixed expression came over him that made no sense to me. I could pick out the emotions it contained but not what caused them. Awe. Wonder. Sadness. Regret.
"What?' I asked uneasily. "Why are you looking at me like that?'
He shook his head, the smile rueful now. "Because sometimes, a person can get so caught up in the details that they miss the whole. It's not just the dress or the hair. It's you. You're beautiful. So beautiful, it hurts me.'
I felt a strange fluttering sensation in my chest. Butterflies, cardiac arrest ... it was hard to say what exactly. Yet, in that moment, I was no longer standing in the Mastrano guestroom. He'd said those words before, or something very close. So beautiful, it hurts me. It was back in the cabin at St. Vladimir's, the one and only time we'd had sex. He'd looked at me in a very similar way, too, only there'd been less sadness. Nonetheless, as I heard those words again, a door I'd kept locked in my heart suddenly burst open, and with it came all the feelings and experiences and sense of oneness we'd always shared. Looking at him, just for the space of a heartbeat, I had a surreal sensation wash over me, liked I'd known him forever. Like we were bound ... but not in the way Lissa and I were, by a bond forced on us.