3 yrs after graduation so Rose is 20. In this story Eddie wasn't taken during the attack and Rose didn't come up with the rescue plan – so Dimitri lives!

1. It had been three years since we'd finally graduated from St. Vladimir's and moved to Court. Three years since that devastating attack on the Academy. Three years since the love of my life had chosen me over the woman who could give him everything. Three years, and Tasha still hadn't got the message that Dimitri didn't, and wouldn't, want her.

Every year, Tasha asked him if he'd reconsidered, and wanted to change from being Christian's guardian. And every year, Dimitri told her no. But this year, she hadn't asked. Everyone had breathed a sigh of relief, and thought she'd stopped, but a small voice at the back of my mind told me she wouldn't give up that easily. Maybe I was simply being paranoid, and so I pushed my fears out of my mind and continued with my favourite job in the world – guarding Lissa.

Things hadn't been easy when we'd first moved to Court. There'd been a lot of opposition about me being Lissa's guardian, especially since Dimitri had asked to be reassigned from Lissa to Christian. They'd thought it would be better for Dimitri to guard Lissa, and me to guard Christian, but we had appealed and argued against them, and finally they left us as we were. A few months later, Dimitri and I had come out openly as a couple. There was uproar from all the royals who wanted to use it as another excuse to change Lissa's guardian, but after the first few months when they saw how dedicated we still were, they dropped their complaints. Dimitri and I 'moved in' together, if you could call it that, and with Eddie as Lissa's other guardian, everything seemed to be going well.

'If anything can go wrong, it will.' –Unknown.

It happened four weeks later. We'd been in the human shopping mall that was closest to Court, and, since I couldn't feel any nausea, I'd allowed myself to relax and enjoy this little bit of free time I had with Lissa. She'd deliberately organized for us to go when my shift was over, claiming she's wanted my opinion without me scanning the room constantly in case of a threat. Of course, this meant Dimitri was on his break too, since we worked the same shifts. It meant we could spend this time walking around holding hands like any other couple, rather than being scrutinized and gossiped about.

Anyway, I'd been in a great mood, which was why I didn't notice the gun until it was too late. Dimitri and I had wandered away from the main group slightly, and thinking no nausea equalled no threat, I hadn't noticed the man. He was human and standing about ten feet away from me. At first I'd thought he was trying to show me something.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

I looked down in shock, my hands pressed to my stomach as blood pumped out of the wounds steadily, soaking my jumper and forming a puddle on the floor.

Then I was on the floor. I didn't know how it happened and I was vaguely aware of voices in the background shouting, but I couldn't understand what was happening. I could feel large hands on my stomach and chest, trying to apply pressure and stop the bleeding, and his eyes, filled with tears, were boring into mine – begging me silently to hold on. But my mouth couldn't form the words to reassure him. Desperately, I tried to reach his face, to comfort him with my touch. But my hands only twitched before the darkness became too much and my eyes closed.

A month later:
I woke suddenly. It was strange to see so much light, shapes and colours after being in the darkness for so long. Then, slowly, my memories resurfaced and I realized I wasn't in the mall anymore. Turning my head to the side, my eyes were met by warm brown ones, filled with a mixture of worry, concern and relief. "Roza," he breathed out, "You're awake." It was then that the dull pain made itself known, in my upper chest and two areas of my stomach.

Focusing back on Dimitri, he had a small, sad smile on his face. "I've called the nurse, so she's going to let the doctor and Lissa know you've woken up. They won't be long." He reached out and stroked my cheek gently. "Thank God you've woken up. I love you so much."

Leaning into his touch, I twined my fingers with his. "I love you too, comrade. I'm sorry."

He looked startled. "Why are you sorry? It wasn't your fault, Roza. We're all so used to watching for Strigoi, we forgot about the risk humans can pose. I'm the one who's sorry – I should have noticed him before it was too late."

Shaking my head slowly, I interrupted him. "We're both to blame then. We both could have, and should have, noticed him earlier. We shouldn't have wandered off so far from the group. We should have done a million different things. But, I'm alive, you're alive, and that's all that matters." I tugged on his arm gently, until he was sitting on the bed next to me so I could kiss his cheek. "I love you, Dimitri Belikov."

Brushing his lips against mine, he murmured, "I love you too, my Roza, so, so much," before kissing me properly.

Before things could get too heated, there was a knock at the door, and the doctor poked his head around. When he saw me sitting up, he came all the way into the room. "Guardian Hathaway, it's good to see you awake. Now, I have to do an assessment of you to make sure you're as well as you can be under the circumstances, both physically and mentally." I nodded and Dimitri kissed me once more before leaving the room. "I'll go and find Princess Vasilisa. I love you."

When the doctor was finished, I looked down at my body and gasped. There were tubes everywhere, along with three thick bandages – one just above my right breast, one in the centre of my stomach and the other slightly to the right. There was also a heart monitor beside my bed, and a crash cart that looked like it had been used often. And to top it all off, I had three IV's attached in various places. One lead to a drip that I assumed was providing me with the nutrients my body needed. The second was attached to a blood bag, and the third appeared to be a catheter. I hadn't realised how badly I'd been injured - which raised the question – why hadn't Lissa healed me?

Just as I thought the question, the door burst open and Lissa entered, followed by Dimitri, Christian, Adrian, Eddie, my mom and Mia.

"Rose!" Lissa screeched before jumping on the bed next to me and enveloping me in a hug. I laughed, and soon everyone else was on the bed too, making it a huge group hug. Finally, they pulled back, and Lissa kissed me on the cheek. "Now tell me why you wouldn't let me heal you."

I looked at her in shock. "What do you mean? I haven't stopped you from doing anything, Liss. I was just about to ask you why you hadn't healed me. I mean, I know you said you can't pick and choose who gets healed and who doesn't, but I can get back to guarding you much more quickly if you did."

Everyone in the room was looking at mean in shock now. "Rose," Lissa began slowly. "I've been trying to heal you every day. But something was stopping me. I thought it was you, because you wouldn't be able to cope with the darkness so soon after you were healed."

"No, I would never block you or your magic, Liss. And I don't mind the darkness – you know that. It can't be helped, that's why I'm your guardian." I smiled at her, hoping she lighten up but instead she was looking at Adrian worriedly and anxiety pulsed through the bond.

He shook his head. "Cousin, she's telling the truth. I can see it in her aura. But she's sick too, not just from the bullets. I can't see what it is though." Now everybody looked confused.

My mom spoke up after a couple of minutes of silence. "We'll go and tell the doctor about this; maybe he's got a theory that explains it all." She stepped over to the bed and hugged me again. "I'm so glad you're awake. It was the worst moment of my life when I received the phone call that said you'd been shot." She kissed my forehead. "Get some rest; I'll come see you in the morning."

Gradually, everyone said their goodbyes, leaving me and Dimitri.

Linking my fingers with his, he sat back against the headboard and I leant against his chest. We talked for a long while, and he told me about everything that had happened while I'd been in the coma. Apparently, they'd caught the man who'd shot me, but when questioning him, they found out he'd been compelled. He had no idea who he was working for, and only knew that he'd been ordered to injure – not kill me. That was what had been bothering and worrying everyone at Court, the fact that a vampire had held some part in it. They couldn't find a motive behind the attack, and shooting me in the stomach wouldn't prevent me from guarding again like getting shot in the leg might. If they were after Lissa, the only chance they'd get was while I was healing, which wouldn't be too long.

My theory was that Tasha was behind it. After three years, I couldn't believe she'd give up that easily, but again, there was no clear motive. Why would she hire someone to wound me, rather than kill me so she could persuade Dimitri without me being in the way? The logic didn't fit, but I still told Dimitri my suspicions. Surprisingly, he shared my view. But even between us, we couldn't find a way that would link Tasha. Sighing, I rested my head against his chest, his heartbeat lulling me into sleep.