I had to run, the damage is done
I give it up, I give it up
PARADISE HAD HARDLY BEGUN.
You'd think that after we were done with school life would start to get at least a little less complicated. Of course not. In fact, I think things got worse—crazy right? I know I sound pessimistic, but it's the truth. The next morning after all the good stuff happened, reality returned from its vacation. First, students were forced to leave the school. What the hell was up with that? Then—after finding somewhere to stay—Princess Vasilisa had to meet with the Queen. Yep, I was ecstatic about that. Finally, to put a cherry on top of my fantastic day, the time limit was up. I didn't know what to expect with Dimitri. For all I knew, he could be waiting just around any corner for me. I just didn't know. I still wasn't sure what was going on after our last meeting. I can't believe I had—to be brutally truthful—slept with a Strigoi! I personally think my judgment or higher reasoning or whatever was broken because that was just messed up. The sad part was, I barely even remembered it. I mean, I remember doing it, of course, but, it was different. I hadn't felt like I was with a Strigoi, but with Dimitri—a different Dimitri than the one I knew before and the one who nearly turned me into a soulless monster. Weird. So, that pretty much sums up my life for right now.
Currently, I was in the tiny waiting room outside of Tatiana's chambers with Lissa. After clearing out of the Academy, we were planning to stay at a hotel for a little while, but Adrian surprisingly suggested we crash at his house until the Queen had everything settled for us. He still had no idea Lissa and I were about to take off on another mission. I wanted to tell him but the timing was just never right. That was actually the topic of conversation as we waited. "He's done so much for me," I told Lissa, leaning opposite of her against the wall. "How am I supposed to drop the bombshell that I'm leaving him again—to bring my ex-boyfriend back from the dead? That would kill him, Liss, and I just can't do that."
"I know," she said, frowning. "But you have to tell him, eventually. He has the right to know, especially now that we're staying with him." I knew she was right, completely, but every time I even come close to telling Adrian, I remember everything he's done. He let me take all the money I wanted for my own selfish funding and he was still waiting around to help me even when I was so rude to him and now he was ready to support me in any way he could. I would drop all of this and just kill Dimitri, if I could. But no matter what I or anyone else said, he never left my heart. I couldn't stop thinking about him or missing him or regretting that I hadn't saved him the first time around. No one understood, not even Adrian. "It will probably hurt him," Lissa continued, agreeing with me. "But maybe...."
I scoffed. "Maybe what? He'll feel sorry for me and not get pissed off? He's going to hate me and I completely deserve it!"
Lissa's compassion nearly drowned out my own emotions, but before she could comfort me and assure me that I didn't deserve Adrian's hate, Pricilla Voda stepped out, wearing a welcoming smile. "Princess," she bowed and then nodded at me. Cool. I was going to have to get used to being treated like Lissa's respected guardian. "Queen Tatiana is ready for you."
Lissa and I exchanged wary glances. Queen Tatiana wouldn't be ready for the request we had for her. The only way Lissa would be able to accompany me on my quest is if she got permission from Tatiana first. This wasn't going to be easy. We followed Pricilla inside where the Queen was waiting. I remembered the last time I was in this room, getting bitched out by Your Majesty about my "affair" with her grand nephew. It was ironic that now that I had returned, I kind of was involved with Adrian. Tatiana looked the same, her gray hair, stoic expression, and hideous clothes. We bowed regardless, though how I felt about her could hardly be considered respect. Not that it mattered anymore. I was Lissa's shadow now, to be seen but not heard. Yup, this was definitely gonna take some getting used to.
"Your Majesty," Lissa greeted, polite as always. But I knew there was similar dislike behind her cherubic expression that mirrored my own.
"Princess Vasilisa, good to see you again." Her eyes fell on me. "Oh, what a pleasant surprise! Rosemarie, you became Vasilisa's guardian afterall."
I kept my mouth shut, though I really wished I could gloat in her face. "Now," Tatiana continued, straightening up in her chair. "I believe you requested an audience with me, Vasilisa. What is this meeting about? We have yet to discuss your plans about college. My offer still stands. You can live her at Court while attending any university you choose."
"Well," Lissa began. There was a little hesitance, but remembering I was here, her fear melted away. "Actually, Your Majesty, before any plans are made, I'd like to take some time off. You know, to travel a little before settling down. But, as soon as I return, I'd be happy to accept your offer."
Queen Tatiana's lips flattened to a displeased line. The room was uncomfortably silent as she contempleted what Lissa just said. I could feel the heat in Lissa's cheeks. Her anxiety about what we were doing was killing her and I kind of wished Lissa hadn't asked to go with me. I didn't want to have to put her through this. If Tatiana found out we were visiting Victor's illigetimate brother, that could get Lissa into some trouble. Finally, Tatiana said, "Fine, I'll allow you time to travel, as you wish." Her eyes met mine, icy and merciless. "But you must periodically check in with me. I don't need you dragging off Vasilisa into another one of your corruptions."
That was exactly what we were doing. But Queen Bitch didn't have to know that. "Of course, Your Majesty." I could hide the sarcasm from my tone as I said, "We'll call everyday."
Not happy I agreed so easily, Tatiana added, "And you must take another guardian with you. For the Princess's protection, of course."
This day gets better and better. "Of course," I agreed flatly.
She nodded. "You are dismissed."
Without hesitation this time, Lissa and I fled out of the room. Once we were far enough away from her old hag ears, I exploded. "Are you kidding me? Another guardian? Where the hell am I going to find another guardian this is willing to go through with this plan?"
Maintaining her optimism, Lissa said, "Well, at least she's letting us go."
"Hardly," I spat. "If I can get you another guardian, we're not going anywhere! Damn her. She knew how impossible that was going to be!"
"Rose," Lissa said softly. Calming feelings rushed through me. "Relax, okay? I'll take care of the guardian thing. Let's just go."
I sighed and nodded, following Princess Vasilisa, like I would be doing for the rest of my life.
Adrian's house—excuse me—mansion was located just a few miles away from Court. I was surprised he had stayed so far away, back in Montana, but when I asked him about it, Adrian simply shrugged, unusually quiet about the topic of his home. As expected, the place was gorgeous: a peaceful green estate, with a circular driveway, stone water fountain, balconies on the second floor windows, and acres of land surrounding it. In total, it had 8 rooms, 2 of them guest rooms that Lissa and I would be staying in. Naturally, mine was across from Adrian's bedroom. After Lissa and I unpacked our stuff, we settled in the patio of the backyard with Adrian and Christian, playing cards.
Lissa had promised to "take care" of our guardian problem and for now, I trusted her to do that. But in return, she made me promise to bring up our plans to Adrian in the few days we were staying here. Unwillingly, I had agreed, though I probably shouldn't have. "Yes!" Lissa cheered as she, once again, won the game we were playing. I had never played let alone heard of it, so that left me losing pathetically.
"Damn it," Christian mumbled, throwing his cards onto the table. The rest of us laughed. He was a sore loser and it only pissed him off even more than his girlfriend beat him every time. "I swear you've got some ESP spirit power, Liss!"
I shook my head, watching as Adrian and Lissa sprung to the defensive about spirit powers and attacked Christian, verbally, about it. My eyes wandered to the beautiful backyard again. The patio and pool were enclosed in a screen dome, but the outside was a huge field of trees and flowers. Adrian had explained that his mom loved to garden and it showed. The poinsettias look particularly gorgeous—what the hell am I saying? How could I be worrying about flowers and playing card games right now? My heart rate increased. In the back of my mind, I realized it was shadow kiss darkness that was swallowing me, but that didn't stop my rant.
Here I was, sitting and just relaxing by the pool while Dimitri—deadly, badass god, Dimitri—was organizing my death. What had he said before? You obviously have figured out that I'm not going to kill you. At least, not right now. He was waiting to see what my plans were and that's where things were going to get ugly. If I couldn't get Lissa another guardian and get to Robert, Dimitri would have nothing to wait for and I would have nothing to save him with. Except death.
I looked away from the greenery surrounding us to see Lissa and Christian studying me. Adrian, I noticed, had gone inside. "What?" They looked at each other, having some type of couple-y silent conversation. "Are we having an intervention or something?" I joked.
"Well," Lissa said, "Since you haven't told Adrian anything yet, we can't talk about this in front of him." The bond told me there was new news she had to report.
"What is there to talk about?" I glanced at both of them, a little warily.
Surprisingly, Christian spoke up. "I was going to go with you guys to New York, like Lissa said I would, but after talking to my Aunt Tasha yesterday, I decided to visit her before moving into Court instead."
I nodded. I was kind of hoping to have Christian's fire power as a backup, just in case, but I wasn't going to hold him back from seeing his aunt. We finished discussing the details and Adrian returned holding a box of fresh playing cards. He smiled at me. "See if you can keep up, Hathaway."
I did my best to smile back, despite the pain on the inside.
Two days later, Lissa had delivered. She had gone down to the Guardian Council and worked her magic into getting a temporary guardian that would vouch for us, but keep their distance during our trip. I wasn't happy about the side effects on either of us, but her super compulsion was really coming in handy these days. Early that morning, before the sun set, I found myself standing on the balcony in my pajamas, continuing my previous thoughts during the card game. His voice plagued my mind. There's nowhere in the world you can hide from me. I sighed heavily, glaring out at the sunset.
Light footsteps sounded behind me, followed by the glass door re-opening and closing. "Isn't it a little early for you to be up, little dhampir?" Adrian leaned against the railing beside me. His hair was damp from showering and he smelt of some expensive cologne. It surprised me he was up this early. Lissa never awoke until the moon was fully out. As for why I was up, well, I had no choice. Dimitri haunted my mind, not allowing me to close my eyes without seeing those red eyes or missing his brown ones. I wasn't sure if it was better to hate and be afraid of him than to love and long for him so deeply I couldn't breathe.
"Needed some fresh air," I told Adrian.
He surprised me yet again by sighing in frustration. I glanced at him. Adrian's jaw was clenched. His voice was dangerously low. "You know, I've given you two months. Two damn months, Rose. I thought maybe….maybe eventually she could love me too. All I need to give her is time and show her that I'm not going anywhere. I've always been here, watching and waiting—hoping that you would get over him. Not completely. I know two months isn't enough to forget about someone you loved, someone you would have died for. But at least enough so you can give someone else a chance at making you happy." He shook his head, smiling bitterly. "Not even that."
"Adrian," I swallowed. "I have given you a chance! You are making me happy!" Well, maybe not happy like I'm singing in the sunshine, but I've only felt that type of happiness maybe once or twice in my life. It wasn't easy to accomplish.
Adrian scowled, glaring at me. I had never seen such a scornful look from him before, especially at me. "Rose, every day I see your aura. I know how miserable you are." I opened my mouth to argue, but he cut me off. "And giving me a chance isn't a few pitiful kisses and a 'date' whenever you're bored!"
"You have no idea how I feel! Just because my aura a little more depressing than usual doesn't mean I'm not happy!"
"You're not happy, Rose! At least, not with me. Most of the time you just ignore my existence anyway. I mean, it would be okay if you were at least honest with me, but you're not. You're not even honest with yourself!"
I scoffed, furious. "What the hell are you babbling about now?"
"Okay, okay," Adrian laughed and rubbed his face. "Let's have a little reality check, then? I hate to be so harsh with you, but here it is: Dimitri is dead. You need to accept that. It doesn't mean you have to get over it and move on, but you need to tell yourself the truth for once."
I looked away. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
He brought my face back to his, cupping his hands over my cheeks. "I get it, okay?" Adrian sighed and looked down before returning to my eyes. What I saw in them made me want to step back. "Look, I'm saying all of this because I love you." Oh my god. "I don't usually care this much but I need you to see that so....I said it. I love you, Rose Hathaway."
I didn't even get the chance to breathe. Adrian kissed me, wrapping his arms around my body, and pressing his against mine. His lips moved fluidly against mine until I surrendered, kissing him back. I couldn't stop myself. Maybe it was out of pity, like he said. Adrian deserved this from me and so much more. Maybe it was a small part of me that actually did love him too that wanted this. Maybe I was just a glutton for punishment—or stupid. Whatever it was, it drove me to letting Adrian pick me up bridal style and carry me back into the bedroom.
I pushed Adrian down against the bed, climbing on top of him, and reconnecting our lips. I got a groan of surprise and pleasure in return. Adrian was a lot more skilled with this than I was. He rolled us over, hooking my leg around his hip while my fingers toyed with the edge of his shirt. I expected myself to be drowning in my emotions like I was before, in this position with someone else but I wasn't. I felt nothing except for the painful beating of my heart. I broke apart our kiss to catch my breath. Adrian didn't waste time, removing his shirt and then kissing my neck. My body responded, thinking about his fangs sinking into my skin, but I pushed those desires away, kissing him greedily again. I let him slide his hands up my shirt and then peel it off. I shut my eyes, leaning back against the pillows as we kissed and kissed.
This continued for a few moments, but Adrian finally proceeded to move down my neck and shoulders to my breasts. His hands gripped my waist and I allowed him to touch me, keeping my eyes closed. I tried not to think about what we were doing. Thinking required feeling and I didn't want to feel anything right now—it hurt too much. I just ran my fingers along his warm chest, reminding myself that this is how it could be. I didn't have to change anything. Adrian was here, right now, and ready. But I couldn't run from my emotions. The guilt was choking me and I couldn't remove Dimitri's face from my mind. I wish…we could be together.
I gasped at his voice. Adrian assumed it was because of him and continued whatever he was doing. I fought against the man my heart wanted in my mind undoing Adrian's pants' belt. I couldn't return that…couldn't give her what she wanted. Not when my heart is somewhere else. Shut up, Dimitri, shut up! You're strong—you're so, so strong. It's why I love you. Adrian slid my pants off my body. I tried to breathe while sobbing. Not very easy. That's what I was supposed to say.
Adrian returned to my ear, breathing thickly. "You have no idea how much I've wanted this. I love you Rose, with everything I've got, and I'm going to prove that to you."
It was the final blow. I burst into tears.
Adrian jumped and moved back. It was painfully obvious I wasn't crying tears of joy. The shock and hurt smeared all over his face proved he knew that and finally understood what I was really feeling. "A-adrian," I stuttered out, furiously wiping away my tears, but they kept coming, thick and fast. Through the blur, I could see Adrian had turned his head away while I sobbed pathetically. I might as well have staked him through the heart. "I'm so sorry!" While the truth was out, I might as well keeping going. After I calmed myself down—it took longer than I'd like to admit—I took a deep breath and let it all out. "He's not dead. Dimitri's not dead. I thought I had killed him back in Siberia, but the truth is: I didn't." I met his eyes and seeing them staring back at me with such pain made my stomach twist in knots. But I sucked it up. This wasn't about me. "That's the reason we broke Victor out of jail. It's kind of a long, complicated story but his brother—half brother—is a spirit user that supposedly restored a Strigoi back to life. That's what I'm hoping to do. But the only way I could find Robert was by releasing Victor so he could give me his location. Now Lissa and I are going to leave to New York tomorrow to find him and, hopefully, bring Dimitri back to life." I exhaled and looked up.
Adrian didn't say a word. He stood up, gathered his clothes, and left the room.
"Ready to go?"
I turned away from watching the grand staircase. He's not going to say goodbye. I wasn't surprised that there was an ache in my chest at that realization. It wasn't even that Adrian was mad at me. He was hurt—and that hurt me. A part of me—small, but still there—I realized, did love Adrian too. He was sweet, funny, and caring, not to mention, probably the most loyal guy I would ever meet. He never gave up on me, even when I was gone for somebody else. If we lived in a different world, one where Dimitri Belikov didn't exist, I knew Adrian would be a great boyfriend for me. But, in my screwed up life, Dimitri didn't die and I knew there was a reason for that. One day, I hope Adrian can understand and forgive me.
I looked back at Lissa. "Yeah, let's go." Silently, I followed her out of the Ivashkov mansion and into the car we rented to get us to the airport. We loaded up all our stuff and climbed in. The plane would take us to Illinois and then we would take another one to New Jersey and then ride a train to Brooklyn to begin our search. I plugged the keys into the ignition and glanced at my best friend.
Her fear and anticipation crackled through the bond. I smiled and she rolled her eyes. "Come on, let's go save your boyfriend."
Laughing, I drove off, hoping her statement was correct.
"Finally," I breathed, stepping off the plane. It had been excruciating. Without the wards of Court, my shadow kissed 'friends' made their presence known, along with a five alarm headache that I could never get used to. I managed to keep the ghosts at bay, but the same dark shadows and skulls still hovered.
"Sorry Rose," Lissa apologized again, dragging her suitcase as we exited the terminal. She felt horrible at not being able to help me, along with blaming herself about my darkness to begin with.
"Liss, it's okay." I told her reassuringly. I wasn't mad at her. I knew we would be leaving the wards for this and I accepted the consequences. "I'm fine." The things I do for that monster—my thoughts were interrupted as the cell phone Lissa bought me for "guardian/friendship purposes" vibrated in my back pocket. I checked the caller ID and smiled wryly. Figures. "Hello father,"
"Rose," he said back amicably. "I believe I told you we'd speak after graduation?"
I smirked. "I remember that. Guess that talk's now."
"Exactly," Abe agreed in his jovial way. "Now, from what we had discussed, last time you went on a mission, Adrian Ivashkov funded your expenses, am I correct?"
Thinking about Adrian caused the ache to return. "Where are you going with this, Zmey?" I demanded, half curious and half wary. I think I already knew and I didn't like it.
Abe chuckled. "I would like to make a donation." Oh no. "Instead of clearing out the Princess's or Mr. Ivashkov's piggy bank, why don't you use your father's money for hotel rooms, tickets, food—whatever you need?"
"Dad," the word was still foreign to my lips. "You don't have to do that. I have some money saved up and I—"
"Rose," he interrupted in a stern voice I could only label as paternal. "Just take it."
I dissected ways to fight this and when I realized I couldn't, I sighed. "Fine."
The jolly tone returned. "Good. But, this wasn't the only reason I called. Since you're doing the really hard part, I figured I'd pitch in." Before I could protest to that, Abe kept going, like he knew I would say something. "I'm having some local Alchemists try to track down Belikov—"
"You're what?" Lissa looked at me, alarmed. I took a few steps away, giving her a false assuring smile, and turned my back. "How did you even know who he was? Have you been snooping, Zmey?"
"Not at all," he responded easily. Liar. "But, some of my employees have had some trouble with him in the past, back in Russia. He did a lot of killing, like you, and now that he's Strigoi, the corpse numbers have just taken off." I could only shake my head. "Anyway, I've been trying to track him and his whereabouts but it isn't easy. He's all over the place and we can never catch him."
I smiled cynically. "He's a master at hide and seek, dad."
"Definitely," Abe agreed then sighed. "Well, I've got to go and I'm sure you're busy. We'll keeping hunting and I'll call again soon with any updates. Just keep me posted on Doru."
"Sir, yes, sir!" I joked. He really sounded like a captain or chief of something. Maybe me.
"Goodbye Rose." We hung up.
"What was that about?" Lissa asked, coming up behind me.
I shook my head. "I'll explain later. Let's go before we miss the train."
By the time the train had taken off, Lissa and I were both exhausted. Back at the Academy, we would be just waking up, but in the human world, it was nighttime. This kind of schedule has us both messed up. We sat towards the back of the train, propped up on the pillows Lissa had packed with her, trying to fall asleep. Just as I was drifting off, Lissa whispered, "Rose?"
I reopened my eyes, rubbing them. "What's up, Liss?" I hoped she wasn't going to tell me she missed Christian again. I didn't mind her telling me, but I did mind the flashbacks of the previous night that came with it, through her head.
Her expression was hesitant. The bond told me she wanted to ask something, but was worried about my reaction. She finally said, "What was it like? You're relationship with Dimitri?"
Oh. I wasn't expecting that. I was going to brush off the question, but this was Lissa. I told her everything since kindergarden. If there was one person I should be able to talk to about me and Dimitri, it was her. I paused thoughtfully, remembering all of our practices, teasing him, those smiles that would make my day...."It was...complicated," I laughed. What an obvious answer. "I mean, for most of it, he was just my teacher and I was his student, but I guess there was always something more behind it." I had myself convinced Dimitri only acted different with Tasha, but now I was seeing how he acted around me. Maybe we weren't as sneaky as we thought. "It wasn't until after Mason died and everything that happened over Christmas settled that our relationship really changed. I loved him more than I did before—appreciated him in a different way and I think he did too. We both knew we couldn't be together, but we also knew we couldn't be with anyone else...."
I expected Lissa to be disgusted or shocked or creeped out by our secret relationship. I thought she wouldn't want to hear anything else about my 7 years older mentor and the man that was supposed to be protecting her, falling in love with me. I was wrong. Lissa smiled sadly. "I had no idea all of this was happening." Then, she grew a little excited. "So," she giggled. "Did he ever get jealous with all those guys all over you?"
And so it began. I finally opened up to someone, Lissa most importantly, about everything I had held so closed to me since we returned to St. Vladimir's. It was about time. I told Lissa about him catching Jesse and me making out and how I first realized my feelings for him then, a silly school girl crush. I gushed about that afternoon on the field when he cleaned my hands and we talked about his family and my mom, how so easily I was able to talk to him. And then of course, how he didn't want me to cut my hair. To my complete surprise, Lissa kept asking questions and begged for details, almost like this was some exclusive interview. I was so happy I could tell her all of this. But, it did have its negative parts. When I got to the cabin, tears sneaked out of my eyes.
"It was the first time I had ever felt connected to anything, Liss. It was like I was finally who I was always meant to be—the strong girl Dimitri saw." I swallowed.
Lissa played my role, comforting me, but also lighting up the mood. She gave me a playful nudge, smirking. "Rose Hathaway is not a virgin anymore, finally!"
I laughed and elbowed her. We continued talking for a few more minutes until we finally got to sleep. I felt so refreshed after that and I think Lissa did too. As I drifted off to sleep, my hopes were lifted when my dream setting was chosen for me. I didn't deserve it, but Adrian had forgiven me. I looked around, but then stopped. He hadn't. My hopes were crushed, but as I examined where I was more closely, my heart skipped a beat. I was standing in the cabin.
I waited for Dimitri to come out. I still didn't know how and was beyond confused, but he was managing to get into my head for some form of dream walking. I waited, but he never came. Instead, I noticed there was a piece of paper planted on one of the pillows on the bed. I reached it and froze. Right below the writing on the little white card, was a silver ring. The inscription read:
I love and hated this chapter. It was difficult for me to write (and re-write) but I kind of like how it turned out. It had a lot of important dramatic junk in it, so I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you again and again for my reviews. You guys are so incredible, seriously. I apologize for the long wait. My laptop was literally getting fixed for two weeks so I haven't gotten it back until just yesterday. Hopefully, that won't happen again and I can have the next chapter up much sooner. Thanks again. :)
24 days 'til Spirit Bound!!