"That kind of thing happens when you keep jumping off roofs,' I said. Jokes were my old standby to hide discomfort. "You know, we never practiced that in our training.'
He smiled and took out bandaging material, wrapping the ankle until it was supported and stabilized. After that, he produced--
"A bag of frozen peas?'
Dimitri shrugged and rested the bag on my ankle. The coolness instantly made me feel better. "Easier than buying a full bag of ice.'
"You're pretty resourceful, Belikov. What else do you have stashed away?'
The rest of the bags' contents turned out to be blankets and some food. I gave him a big grin when I saw he'd gotten me sour cream potato chips and a bar of chocolate. I loved that he remembered such little details about me. My smile faded when another problem quickly popped up.
"You didn't buy any clothes, did you?'
"Clothes?' he asked, like it was a foreign word.
I gestured to my torn dress. "I can't wear this for long. What am I going to do? Make a toga out of a blanket? You're such a guy, never thinking of this stuff.'
"I was thinking of injury and survival. Fresh clothing's a luxury, not a necessity.'
"Not even your duster?' I asked slyly.
Dimitri froze for a moment and then swore. He'd had no need to wear his coat indoors at the Mastranos'--honestly, he didn't need to outside either--and had left it there in the ensuing fight.
"Don't worry, comrade,' I teased. "Plenty more where that came from.'
He spread blankets over the tent's floor and laid back on them. There was a look of woe on his face that was almost comical. Raids, bullets, criminals ... no problem. A missing duster? Crisis. "We'll get you another one,' I said. "You know, once we find Jill, clear my name, and save the world.'
"Just those things, huh?' he asked, making both of us laugh. But when I stretched myself out beside him, both our faces sobered.
"What are we going to do?' I asked. Tonight's most popular question.
"Sleep,' he said, clicking off the flashlight. "Tomorrow we'll get a hold of Abe or Tasha or ... someone. We'll let them handle it and get Jill where she needs to be.'
I was surprised how small my voice sounded when I spoke. "I feel like we failed. I was so happy back there. I thought we'd done the impossible, but it was for nothing. All this work for nothing.'
"Nothing?' he asked in astonishment. "What we did ... this is huge. You found Lissa's sister. Another Dragomir. I don't think you still really understand the weight of that. We had almost nothing to go on, yet you pushed forward and made it happen.'
"And I lost Victor Dashkov. Again.' "Well, the thing about him is that he doesn't stay hidden for long. He's one of those people who always has to be in control. He'll have to make a move eventually and when he does--we'll get him.'
The smile returned to my lips, though I knew he couldn't see it. "And I thought I was the optimistic one here.'
"It's contagious,' he replied. Then, to my surprise, his hand found mine in the dark. He laced our fingers together. "You did good, Roza. Very good. Now sleep.'
We touched in no other way, but his hand held all the warmth in the world. This was hardly a perfect moment, like in the library, but our familiar connection and the understanding between us burned brighter than ever, and it felt good. Right. Natural. I didn't want to sleep. I just wanted to stay there and savor being with him. It wasn't cheating, I decided, thinking of Adrian. It was just enjoying this closeness.
Still, sleep was essential. We worked out a schedule where each of us took shifts. He would stay awake now while I rested, and I had a feeling if I didn't sleep, he wouldn't either when the shift change came. I closed my eyes, and it wasn't my heart I had to slow down this time. It was my mind, the hamster wheel that went nowhere trying to figure out what to do next. Just get Jill to Court. Just get Jill to Court. That was all that mattered. We'd contact someone who could reach Jill. Dimitri and I would lie low, everything would soon fix itself....
I spun around, not even realizing I'd fallen into a spirit dream. I was back in Sonya's garden with all its sunshine and color, and she sat back in a chair, looking expectant.
"I was afraid you'd be up all night, watching your back,' she continued.
"I would if I had my choice,' I replied, strolling over to her. She wasn't quite whom I'd expected to see in my dreams, but at least I'd made contact with the outside world. I wore the black-and-white dress here, but unlike reality, it was clean and intact. "Dimitri thinks we're in a secure location--though he's awake, of course.'
"Of course.' There was a glimmer of amusement in her eyes, but it was brief.
"Where are you?' I asked. "Did the guardians put you in holding?'
"They didn't get me,' she said smugly. "You were their priority, and a little compulsion made sure they didn't see me. I took off ... I hated to leave Emily, though.'
I empathized but was too excited at Sonya's escape. Good news, finally. "But you can get Jill to Court. You're free.'
Sonya looked at me as those I'd just spoken French. "I can't get to Jill.'
I frowned. "Is she under that much security?'
"Rose,' said Sonya. "Jill isn't with the guardians at all. Victor and Robert took her.'
"SHE'S WHAT?' I EXCLAIMED. The dream birds singing in the garden fell silent. "With them? Is that why they called the guardians?'
Sonya's calmness continued, but she frowned slightly. "Victor and Robert didn't call the guardians. Why would they?' "Because ... because they wanted to get rid of Dimitri and me ...'
"Perhaps,' said Sonya. "But not while they were still in the house. Victor's as wanted as you are. It was only Robert's magic that got them out.'
"Then who ...' The answer hit me. I groaned. "John and Emily. I should have known it wouldn't be that easy. They were too quick to accept fugitives into their house.'
"I actually think it was just John. Emily really did seem to believe you were innocent ... even if she didn't like why you were there. I also suspect she'd worry calling guardians would just draw more attention to Jill's identity. It wouldn't surprise me if John didn't even warn her about calling them. He probably thought he was doing everyone a favor.'
"And instead, he lost his stepdaughter,' I said. "But why would Victor and Robert take her? And how the hell did two old men subdue a teenage girl anyway?'
Sonya shrugged. "They're probably stronger than they seem. Compulsion also likely played a role. And as for why? Hard to say. But Victor wants power and control. Keeping the missing Dragomir with him is a good way to possess that.'