Sorry I've been off the map for a while. I promise to update more regularly after this. Please read and REVIEW!

Chapter 4

I walked back to my room later that night. I was exhausted. I had said goodnight to my parents and planned on going to bed the minute I got to my chambers. At the time I hadn't realized that these days were some of the last bit of normality we would have.

I pushed open the French doors to see my sister Maria sitting on my bed.

"What are you doing here?" I asked when I saw her. She smiled. She was still in her finery, looking beautiful as always. Her skirts fanned out to take up most of the foot of the bed.

"To talk, Stania." She said and patted the space next to her. I went to sit by her. We all used to be very close. All of my sisters were but sometimes things just went unsaid between us. There was the age difference and maybe just growing up. We seemed to be spreading apart and I didn't like it.

It felt like old times sitting on the bed, talking until the early morning about all sorts of things.

"Now tell me what is on your mind." She said, gently. I immediately was wary.

"What makes you think something is wrong?" I asked. She gave me a knowing look.

"Papa may not have seen you leave with your guard, but I did. I saw that look you had when Papa announced that he was to be your guard. You looked as white as a ghost. Now, tell me what is wrong." She said. Sometimes I think she is psychic, she knows me so well. I could feel myself blushing.

"Nothing. I was just surprised is all." I tried to shrug it off.

"You forget, Stania, that I have known you your entire life. It was not nothing." She would not rest until she got an answer from me.

"He was a friend of mine when we were young." I said quietly.

She nodded. "I remember. You two were inseparable."

"Yes. And then he left. It seems ridiculous so be mad at him for leaving but we never once talked again. Not in a letter or in person. I felt incredibly-" I tried to think of word. "-alone."

She put my head on her shoulder. "And now you feel strange trying to talk to him?" She guessed. "You get butterflies in your stomach and get nervous?" She continued.

I nodded, awed. "How did you know?" I asked. She just grinned, stood up, dusted off her skirts and headed for the door.

"Call it sister's intuition." She said with a wink. "Good night, Stania." Then she was gone.

I awoke the next morning with a terrible headache and a stomach ache. Sophie called for some orange flower water to soothe me. My sister, Maria came to tell me that she and Olga were going riding and to see how I was.

"Are you sure you are ok?" She asked for the millionth time. And for the millionth time I told her I was fine. Maria and I had always been the closets out of my siblings. We used to share a room until she turned eighteen.

"Ok, I will be in the stables but if you need anything tell Sophie." She said, more like commanded.

"I will." I assured her. Sophie came into the room bringing more water and soup for me. She bobbed to Maria and then came to set the tray down on my bed.

"Someone's here to see you." She said with a mischievous smile.

"Ugh, please tell them I'm asleep. Arguing with my sisters will not make this headache go away." I groaned.

"Well, I'm hurt." A voice from the doorway said and Dmitri strode into the room. I resisted the urge to throw my duvet over my head. I must look a sight with my uncombed hair, unmade up face and ashen complexion.

He seemed to take everything in as he sat back and grinned. I don't remember him having such an infuriating personality when he were younger.

"I came by to tell you that all of your activities have been cancelled today and to see if you were alright." He said.

"I'm fine." I croaked. Once he heard the state of my voice he immediately looked concerned. He crossed the room in a few strides to put his hand on my forehead.

"You feel feverish." He said, worriedly. I was too embarrassed to tell him that the heat was not from fever but from my blush.

He went to tell Sophie to bring a cool towel to put on my forehead. He went to shut the windows. Outside it was cold and crisp. The leaves on the trees were almost all gone now. It wouldn't be long before the first snowfall fell.

I couldn't fight the fact that I liked feeling taken care of. It was different that when my family members did it. My family always made a fuss whenever I was sick because of my hemophilia. My little brother Alexei had it too. And my disfigured back muscles just made them worry more.

Dmitri came back in the room with Sophie on his heels, holding a towel. He took the towel from her hand and gently placed it on my forehead, smoothing out my hair. For a minute we just stayed like that. And the strange part was is that I didn't want him to move. But he seemed to realize that he crossed a line and quickly removed his hand. I looked up to see Sophie grinning at us knowingly. My cheeks have to be blood red by now.

"Well, I'm glad to see you are feeling better, Your Highness." Dmitri said. His use of my title reminded both of us where we stood. I was a princess and he was a soldier. And that wouldn't change.

And without another word he bowed and left the room. I sighed and slumped back down into the bed, hoping it would swallow me up. I drank my orange water and hoped that things would go back to the way they were.