"I thought you were going to St. Peters - "

"I was."

"You didn't take the..."

"I... couldn't."


It was everything Anya had been wanting to know. Why hadn't he kissed her that night on the Tasha? Why hadn't he told her he was the kitchen boy who saved her and her grandmama's life? Why had he left? Why had he come back? Why had it taken them so long to get to this point?

"Because... I..."

And then she realized she didn't want to know. She was fairly certain she knew the answer - he was scared, just like she was - and if that wasn't it, then she didn't care what it was. The point was they were here, now, and it was the perfect opportunity to...

Anya gently placed her fingers against his lips, stopping him in the middle of his stammered explanation. Dimitri looked up at her, confused and hopeful, and then she did what he'd been hesitating to do since he'd seen her in that blue dress and realized how much he cared for her: she leaned forward, her mouth slightly parted, her eyes closed softly. He tilted to the side and eagerly leaned in to -

Damn that dog, Dimitri silently cursed as he turned to glare at Pooka, who had just picked the most inopportune moment to bark. What he saw made his eyes widen. The small gray pup was holding the sparkling diamond crown in its mouth. Some part of his mind realized it didn't make sense - a dog shouldn't be holding something so precious as if it was just another toy.

Then, the irony hit him. He was that dog, holding something more valuable than he could even understand. Just as Pooka shouldn't have the crown, he shouldn't have Anya. He would only ruin it. It was too fine a thing for him to have. It wasn't his place to hold something so beautiful. It belonged in a palace. Princesses don't marry kitchen boys.

Dimitri dejectedly reached out and took the sparkling peace of jewelry into his hands. He could only stare at it as it rested carefully on the soles of his palms. They stood up together, both staring in surprise at the crown, as if unsure of how it suddenly ended up between them.

Putting on the toughest facade he could, Dimitri looked back up at Anya - No, at the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

"They're waiting for you."

It was simply a fact. A sad fact, but something that neither of them could argue with. Anya slowly reached out and took the jeweled tiara into her hands before slowly tilting up to stare longingly at Dimitri... and suddenly the crown meant nothing. Compared to him, it was a mere trinket, a sign of a life she didn't want. Never in her life had she desired to be royalty. She had only wanted to find her family, her home, and she had found that, in her grandmama, and Sophie, and Vlad, but most importantly, in Dimitri.

"Dimitri, I..."

"I know."

He cordially tilted his head and, with a longing glance, walked away.

Well, as we all know, that's not how the story ends, so there's no need to worry. I will be updating soon. Maybe tonight, maybe next week...
But comments always speed up the process quite a bit.

Thank you, readers and reviewers.