"Rose, is everything okay?" Lissa asks, looking up from her textbook with a worried glance.
My back is straight and I keep my impassive guardian mask in place. "Yes Your Majesty," I reply in a professional tone.
Christian raises an eyebrow from where he lies sprawled on her bed, playing with an idle flame.
"Maybe you should be more concerned about your exam tomorrow and less concerned about the help, dear," he says with a smirk.
Lissa shoots him a withering glare that softens into a smile when she sees his winning grin.
He returns to his little flame and Lissa turns back to me, a small flush creeping across her cheeks.
"Rose," she says when I don't look back at her.
I try my hardest to stare resolutely forward, but my head seems to move of its own accord. I glance briefly at Dimitri and then back at the wall in front of me.
It's not like she hadn't noticed that we were opposite sides of the room before now, but she had obviously chalked it up to some new guardian technique. Now she takes in my stiff posture and the furrow between Dimitri's eyebrows and frowns slightly.
"Guardian Belikov," she says sweetly and he turns to look at her. "Would you please leave the room?"
His expression remains neutral, but he politely shakes his head. "I'm afraid that I can't leave my charge, Your Highness."
She gives Christian a calculating look that he doesn't notice and then seems to make up her mind.
"Christian can leave too," she replies and Christian's head snaps up.
"What? Why?" he moans.
"I promise I'll make it worth your while," she says with a smile that both Dimitri and I pretend not to see.
I've never seen Christian move so fast, not even when we were being pursued by Strigoi. He's out the door in four seconds flat, meaning that Dimitri has no option but to follow. He gives me one last pleading look before closing the doors behind him.
Lissa pats the seat next to her in invitation, but I remain standing.
"Rose," she warns, "Don't make me order you."
I deliberate for another moment, but then I decide that it's best if I do what she wants. Becoming queen hasn't done much for her patience.
"What happened?" she asks again, but this time her voice belongs to my best friend and all of a sudden I really want to tell her.
"Dimitri," I grumble, folding my arms.
"Yeah, I guessed that much. What did he do?" she asks. "Did you guys…?" She trails off suggestively.
I give her a sad look.
"No!" she gasps.
"Yes!" I wail.
"What, at all?" her eyes are wide.
"He fell asleep!" I reply, putting my head in my hands.
She's lost for words. "But that's… I mean…"
"I know," I tell her glumly. "And we haven't seen each other in months. I got all dressed up and everything."
She looks sympathetic and then sighs. "I don't blame you, but he must have been really tired."
"Too tired to stay awake for ten more minutes?" I moan. "I mean, a girl's got needs."
"Maybe we can rearrange your schedules a little…" she muses.
I shake my head. "I don't think that's going to-"
But I'm cut off by the sound of the door opening, announcing the re-entrance of Christian and Dimitri.
As they make their way back to their former positions, I do the same and relax my face into the neutral guardian expression. I can feel Dimitri's eyes on me, but I refuse to acknowledge him and stare resolutely into space.
Christian eventually gets bored of his game and moves over to where Lissa is once again trying to study for her test. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that our presence is no longer welcomed as he moves closer and closer to her, so I walk outside, hearing Dimitri follow my lead.
We stand a discreet distance from the doors until our replacements arrive to relieve us from our shifts. I head straight to the gym.
"Rose! Rose! Roza!" Dimitri calls, but I ignore him and run faster around the track. I'm quite warm when I'm done, so I take off my jacket and throw it into a corner. Then I move to the punching bags.
I continue refusing to acknowledge his presence up until the moment he grabs my arm.
"Rose," he says calmly. "Speak to me."
I whirl around aiming a kick at his side which he blocks with graceful ease, but no small amount of surprise and all of a sudden we're sparring.
"What did the Queen want?" he asks as he dodges another kick by grabbing my leg.
I twist out of his grip and try to sweep his legs out from under him, but he's too quick.
"She wanted to know what was wrong," I answer through gritted teeth, blocking a feeble punch and returning one with three times the necessary force.
He takes the hit to his shoulder with a grunt and attempts to pin me down, but I dance away, looking for an opening. "Which is…?" he asks, dodging a second punch that almost got his head. "That was illegal!" he complains.
"You. Fell. Asleep!" I punctuate each word with a punch and the last one gets through his defences, hitting him in the stomach. But his torso is so muscular, I probably end up in as much pain as he is.
I shake out my fist and duck to avoid his retaliatory swipe.
"You discussed our sex life with the queen?" he says, outraged
I don't reply, but I aim my knee directly at his groin. He only just jumps out the way in time with a horrified expression on his face. "Rose, you aren't fighting fair," he says, now sounding slightly worried.
"She's my best friend, of course I told her!" I return in what would have been a shout if I wasn't attempting to control my breathing.
Dimitri seems to decide that I've crossed the line and he narrows his eyes. All of a sudden I'm blocking swipe after swipe as he attempts to knock me down, with no time for an attack of my own.
"Do you know how tired I was, Roza?" It's almost a growl. "I'd been awake for four days straight because we were so short staffed."
"We haven't seen each other in months!" I yell, forgetting for a moment to block his advances in my anger.
Then I'm lying on the floor on my back, with what seems like every inch of Dimitri holding me pinned to the floor. I try to wriggle out from underneath him, but it's like lying under a wall. I can't move.
"So that's what this is really about?" he says, slightly out of breath. "You're mad because it's been so long?"
I don't reply because I don't have to; he knows me too well. I close my eyes so that I don't have to look at his beautiful face that I've missed so much.
"Roza," he whispers, pressing a kiss to my forehead. "You know I've missed you too. Don't you think it's been just as hard for me?"
My muscles go slack as I admit defeat. "I know," I say in a tiny voice.
He releases his hold on my wrists but remains where he is, bringing his hands up to cradle my face.
"I knew it wouldn't be easy," I say, not quite meeting his eyes. "But I didn't know it would be this hard."
He smiles a sad smile and presses his forehead to mine, bringing our lips just inches from each other and stroking my cheeks.
"I know it's hard," he softly replies, "But we need to make the most of our time when we're together."
I see his point. I've already wasted some of our precious time with this argument.
"But you fell asleep," I whine.
He chuckles quietly. "Like I said, Roza, I was tired."
A sly smile steals across my face. "Are you tired now?" I ask.
He returns my smile and kisses me gently. "No, Roza," he replies, "But I'm sure you can think of a way to tire me out."
After dinner, Dimitri and I return to the Queen's chambers where she's sitting at her desk with her textbook once again.
She looks up as I walk in and smiles.
"Did you sort out your problem?" she asks with a twinkle in her eye.
My professional mask slips a little as I meet Dimitri's gaze.
"Yes, Your Majesty," I reply in a cool voice. "It's all sorted."
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! If you did (or didn't) and wish to tell me so, please review! Your support and suggestions mean so much to me. Whether you favourite or not is up to you, but I strongly recommend it. Then again, I may be biased.
Shout out to Gigi256 for inspiring me to write more and to my Beta reader NB313. Go check out their stuff, I promise you won't be disappointed!