"But ... you just said you love me. That you want to be with me.' My words seemed clumsy, unworthy of his eloquence.
"And I told you: I'm not going to pursue another man's girlfriend. You want to talk honor? There it is in its purest form.'
I walked toward him, each step ramping up the tension around us. Dimitri kept saying the alley was his turning point. For me? It was now. I stood on the precipice of something that would change my life. For the last week, I'd done a very good job of detaching myself from anything romantic with Dimitri. And yet ... had I? What was love, really? Flowers, chocolate, and poetry? Or was it something else? Was it being able to finish someone's jokes? Was it having absolute faith that someone was there at your back? Was it knowing someone so well that they instantly understood why you did the things you did--and shared those same beliefs?
All week, I'd claimed my love for Dimitri was fading. In reality, it had been growing more and more. I hadn't even realized it was happening. I had been re-establishing our old rapport, strengthening the connection. Reaffirming that of all the people in the world--even Lissa--Dimitri was the only one who truly gotme. I'd meant it: I loved Adrian. It was hard to imagine life without him, but my other words at the Mastranos' had betrayed me: I have fun with him. Now, you should have fun with the one you love, but that shouldn't have been what first came to mind. I should have said, We strengthen each other. Or, He makes me want to be a better person. Perhaps most importantly: He understands me perfectly.
But none of that was true, so I hadn't said those things. I'd sought Adrian for comfort. His familiarity and humor were an important part of my world. And if he was in danger? I'd throw my life before his, just as I would for Lissa. Yet, I didn't inspire him, not really. He was trying. He did want to be a better person, but at this moment in his life, his motivations were more about impressing others--about impressing me. It wasn't for himself. That didn't make him bad or weak, but it made me his crutch. He would get past that, I was certain. He would eventually come into his own and be an amazing man, but he wasn't at that point of self-discovery yet. I was.
I stood in front of Dimitri now, looking into those dark eyes again, the eyes I loved so much. I placed my hands on his chest, feeling his heart beating strong and steady--and maybe a bit faster than normal. Warmth spread through my fingertips. He reached up and caught hold of my wrists but didn't push me away. The lines of that gorgeous face looked strained as he fought some inner conflict, but now that I knew--now that I knew for sure--I could see his love for me. Love mingled with desire. It was so, so obvious.
"You should have told me,' I said. "You should have told me this a long time ago. I love you. I've never stopped loving you. You have to know that.'
His breath caught when I said I love you, and I could see his internal struggle for control become an all-out war. "It wouldn't have made any difference. Not with Adrian involved,' he said. The fingers around my hand tightened slightly as though he really might push me away this time. He didn't. "I mean it. I won't be that guy, Rose. I won't be that man who takes someone else's woman. Now, please. Let go. Don't make this any more difficult.'
I ignored the request. If he'd wanted to get away from me, he could have. I splayed my fingers, touching more of his chest, drinking in the feel of that warm contact I'd missed for so long.
"I don't belong to him,' I said in a low voice, pushing close to Dimitri and tilting my head back so that I could see his face clearly. So much emotion, so much conflict as his heart tried to decide right from wrong. Being pressed against him felt like ... completion. Sonya had said no couple could share one aura or one soul, but ours weren't meant to be apart. They fit together like a puzzle, two individuals making something greater than themselves. "I don't belong to anyone. I make my own choices.'
"And you're with Adrian,' said Dimitri.
"But I was meant for you.'
And that did it. Any pretense of control or reason either of us possessed melted away. The walls crumbled, and everything we'd been holding back from each other came rushing out. I reached up, pulling us together for a kiss--a kiss he didn't let go this time. A kiss I didn't end by punching him. His arms encircled me as he lifted me onto the bed, one hand soon sliding along my hip and down to my leg, already half-bare, thanks to that poor tattered dress. Every nerve in my body lit up, and I felt that desire returned in him--and then some. After a world of death, he seemed to appreciate love more. Not only that, he needed it. He needed life. He needed me--not just physically, but in the same way my heart and soul always cried out for him. What we did then, as our clothes came off and we brought our bodies together became more than just lust--even though there was plenty of that too.
Being with him after so long, after everything we'd endured ... it was like coming home. Like finally being where--with whom--I belonged. My world, my heart ... they'd shattered when I lost him. But as he looked at me, as his lips spoke my name and ran along my skin ... I knew those pieces could come back together. And I knew, with absolute certainty, that waiting for this--for my second time having sex--had been the right thing to do. Anyone else, any other time ... it would have been wrong.
When we finished, it was like we still couldn't get close enough. We held each other tightly, our limbs entwined, as though maybe closing the distance now would make up for the distance that had been between us for so long.
I closed my eyes, my senses flooded with him, and sighed dreamily. "I'm glad you gave in. I'm glad your self-control isn't as strong as mine.'
This made him laugh, and I felt it rumble through his chest. "Roza, my self-control is ten times stronger than yours.'
I opened my eyes, shifting to look into his. I brushed his hair back and smiled, certain my heart would expand and expand until there was nothing left of me. "Oh yeah? That's not the impression I just got.'
"Wait until next time,' he warned. "I'll do things that'll make you lose control within seconds.'
That comment was just asking for a witty Rose Hathaway quip. It also made my blood burn, which was why we were both surprised when I abruptly said, "There may not be a next time.'
Dimitri's hand, tracing the shape of my shoulder, froze. "What? Why?'
"We have a couple of things to do before this happens again.'
"Adrian,' he guessed.
I nodded. "And that's my problem, so put your honor-able thoughts aside. I have to face him and answer for this. I will. And you ...' I couldn't believe what I was about to say. I couldn't believe I meant it. "You still have to forgive yourself if we're going to be together.'