I know your eyes are not willing to believe it, but yes! It's an update! I didn't consciously abandon the story, I just didn't know where to take it and kept putting it off until I got... well, here. I'm not proud of it, but at least now I know where we're heading. This is supposed to be a short story, so I believe there won't be more complications now.

Sorry to keep you waiting!


I didn't want to listen to her.

I didn't want to see her.

I didn't want to acknowledge her existence.

We had moved to the living room and Tasha was clinging to my arm, stating she actually forgave me for my previous indiscretions – which would be having my... hum, "little me" pressed tight against Rose's backside. And what a backside, should I say.

Back to the matter at hand, I could hear the woman saying something, but all that I could focus on were the beautiful, angry eyes in front of me. Rose had her back against the living room wall, arms crossed and a scowl marring her face. Her eyes darted from glaring at me to the hand Tasha had on my biceps. I didn't like it either, but I had no idea how to put the woman on her place without being rude. After all, we had been friends for at least half the years Rose had seen in her short life and, even though I wanted nothing more than to shake some sense into Tasha, I couldn't forget said reasons above. I was just that refined.

Rose scoffed and rolled her eyes.

"Dimka?" Tasha's annoying voice called me and I had the impression it was not the first time. She shook my arm. "Where?"

"Where what?" I snapped, slightly miffed already.

She smiled indulgently at me. "Where will we be sleeping?"

I stared at her in utter disbelief as I froze in place, the little hairs at the nape of my neck bristling. I think I heard Rose growl.

Fuck me sideways.

"I don't know about Dimitri, but I have a dirty piece of cloth waiting for you by the kitchen door, bitch", Rose all but snarled.

Laughter exploded around us, reminding me of the presence of the Ivashkov guy. However, not even my dislike for him could surpass the burst of amusement I felt at Tasha's thunderstruck face. It lasted only a second before morphing into wrath, pure and ugly.

"How dare you, you little piece of blood-"

"Enough!" I cut her, my blood boiling for once. More than ever, I wanted to give her that punch she was begging for. She stared up at me, indignant, until she saw my glare. Yeah, if looks could kill... I have no idea how I managed to control myself, but, for the sake of us all, I did it.

Adrian, aka playboy vampire with no scruples, decided it was time to make his presence known.

"You know what, little dhampir? I think we should let those two to each other. Don't you happen to have room in your place for one more?" he asked Rose with a suggestive wiggle of his brow. I felt ready to transfer that promised punch to him.

Rose was fuming, teeth and fists clenched in obvious, though unexplainably controlled, fury. A small part of me, one I wasn't particularly proud of, actually hoped she would deliver those punches for me.

"Actually," she screeched with a strange emphasis, looking at Ivashkov, but not really seeing him, "I have a lot of room in my bedroom. I wouldn't mind at all having company," she finished with wide, angry eyes. For some reason, she was aiming her anger at me. Good Lord, I had done nothing! I felt my neck get warm as I started seeing red. "You can go sleep with your dear Natasha. Enjoy," she said to Tasha, ignoring me. She grabbed Ivashkov's hand and yanked him out of the room with her.

I made a move to go after them, but my arm was pulled back. I turned around, pissed, already knowing what to expect. Tasha had a somewhat coy expression on her face, but it looked far from convincing.

"What?" I snapped.

Her face fell a little. Shit, I had to remember we were friends after all. Tasha could be arrogant and sometimes mean, though she usually didn't notice it. Her haughtiness was naive in its foundations.

"I'm sorry, Dimka. I didn't mean to make you mad."

I exhaled tiredly.

"Just... forget about it." I shook my head. No use arguing with her now. Though I was still very much pissed, it would lead to nothing good.

She clutched my arm harder.

"But, Dimka, you have to see... That girl is up to no good. She's trying to seduce you."

I turned my head slowly, trying to show her with my eyes the deep dislike I felt for her right then.

"It's in her eyes every time she looks at you," Tasha insisted, "She wants you, Dimitri. I know such things when I see them."

"You would know about it, wouldn't you?" My voice was dripping with sarcasm and Tasha noticed it. She was surprised for a moment, but we were interrupted before she could say anything.

Ivashkov cleared his throat, hiding a smirk. I hated him.

"Can I have a moment with Belikov, Tasha?"

She eyed me, then him, suspiciously, but nodded her agreement and left the room in silence. Good. I wanted her as far from me as possible.

"What do you want?" I asked through clenched teeth, not turning to look at Ivashkov. I want to use something to help me vent my frustrations and his face was just there, begging to be crushed. Better keep still. Precautions, precautions...

He laughed.

"Rose is asleep. Incredible how anger can wear people out. It's your own fault, you know."

I turned around sharply, facing him.

"My fault? What the hell are you talking about?"

"You should have spoken against Tasha. You should've cut her off when the first syllable went out of her mouth."

I narrowed my eyes.

"I wasn't raised to offend people that haven't harmed me."

Oh, how I wanted to take that crooked smile out of his face.

"Such a gentleman," he commented with a shrug, "but look where it got you – in a room with Tasha and me in another with Rose. Well, I can't complain."

I took one step forward, my hands itching. "I'm not sharing a room with her. And you sure as hell will not be sleeping anywhere near Rose." My whole body was vibrating with anger at that point, but Ivashkov seemed unimpressioned by it.

He laughed again. However, something in him sobered up a little.

"As you wish, Belikov. That's not what I'm here to talk about, anyway."

That got me curious.

"What is it, then?"

It took him thirty five seconds of a long stare away from me and through the window to start talking.

"Your story kind of worked. They're not happy about it, but it has happened before, though no one could imagine something like that from you. Always so focused, our Guardian Belikov."

"Again, Ivashkov. What are you talking about?" I was so tired it was starting to overcome my anger.

This time, he smiled.

"Of you. Running away with a lover. And nobody had ever even heard of you having a girlfriend, so they were all stunned. And right when you were in middle of a serious investigation, perhaps the most important of your life. You could be the princess' guardian if you brought her back. You had high bets on you, you know. Then, suddenly, you disappear. Only news from you are that you ran away with a lover. Unexpected. Shocking. But, after awhile, they let it go, because there had been precedents. It's not unheard of to have guardians running away from time to time."

He stops and muses, then, so lost in himself I wonder he'll be back any time soon. With a blink, he focused on me again.

"It's not the same for Rose. She's kidnapped the last of a royal lineage, kept a princess in danger of facing Strigoi. You have to know, Belikov. They won't stop looking for Rose and Lissa. And when they find them, Lissa will go back to her comfortable life, but Rose will have nothing. She's already been judged and convicted."

A moment of silence passed between us. Every beat of my heart hurt. It shouldn't be like this. I knew I had given up fighting against Rose, but that didn't mean I wasn't aware of her deeds. She deserved whatever might be brought against her, so why did I feel so desperate? So immensely protective? Could my attraction to her be getting so out of control? Unless it was... something else. Something more.

No.

I shook my head, not quite able to think about it. All I knew was that I had to protect.

"I won't let anything happen to her."

Ivashkov smiled, but it wasn't a happy one.

"It isn't in your hands. Once, with your reputation and strength, you might have helped her. You don't have those anymore."

He was right, of course, at least about my reputation. But I was still strong. That boy was giving me a headache and I wanted nothing more than prove him wrong.

"Why do you say that?"

Ivashkov was already leaving the room when my question stopped him. The look he gave me spoke volumes. He was concerned – for Rose, of course. I understood that all he had told me was for her good.

"If you have to ask me that, than you are dumber than I thought."

I ignored his poor attempt of testing my patience.

"Why?" I repeated with more force.

He looked me in the eye.

"Because you can't think straight anymore. And you know why that is?" I held my breath. "Because you're in love."

He closed the door quietly after him and left me with my headache.

...

I was asleep and, in my dreams, she was with me. Soft touch and warm caresses, slow and lazy kisses all over my skin. A peck on my lips, the sweet taste of her mouth. Our tongues mingled and I felt her fingertips on my brows, making my eyelids – and my heart – flutter. Any minute I would wake up because of the pounding of the vital muscle within my chest. Her nails scratched lightly my nipples and I felt them harden under her touch. Roses were never sweeter.

"Roza..." I murmured and I heard a gasp in response.

Suddenly, my chest was burning, like hot fire was spreading through it, but not in a good way. I was about to melt; I was about to burst. The smell of burned sheets reached my nostrils just as I inhaled deeply in order to calm my sleep self. I coughed desperately, trying to get the smoke out of my lungs, but it was useless. The air was getting thicker and I could feel some kind of pressure starting to build inside me, squeezing me from the inside out.

I was going to die.

"Who, Dimitri? Who makes you feel good?"

I opened my eyes and saw Rose crawling up my body in a cat-like manner. I was laying in bed and she placed herself straddling my hips in nothing but her underwear. I swallowed hard.

"Who is your mistress?" she asked, licking a path on my skin, but the voice was all wrong. It was deeper and lower than what she sounded like, as if she wasn't only seducing me, but demanding me.

"What...?" I started, but she put a finger on lips, silencing me.

My eyes widened at the mischief on her face. Rose was always playful, but what I was seeing... There was lust, which called to my own lust, but there was also... Fuck, whatever it was, it wasn't good. Not good at all.

I put my hands on her shoulder, trying to keep her at distance.

"What's wrong?" I asked, concern coloring my words. I didn't want to admit it, but she was starting to give me chills and not the good kind of them.

She stroked my face in what was supposed to be a caring gesture. It was creepy as hell with the obsessed look she was giving me.

"Rose..."

She slapped my face and the pressure tightened inside my chest. Damn, it hurt.

"Not Rose!" she yelled. I looked back at her, astounded.

"Roza..."

She growled. I swear to God, from the deeps of that little body, the most fucking terrifying growl came out. I stared at her in shock, not knowing what to do.

She pushed me with her hands flattened on my chest and there was more than just strength to it. Her hands were hot as fire, burning me into the mattress.

"I promise you this," she started in a deadly cold voice, bizarrely contrasting with the heat on my skin, "If you say her name once more, she'll be handed on a plate back to the Academy faster than you can say 'Roza'. And you'll follow her right after. Wouldn't it be nice, Dimitri? How do you think they'll praise you by completing your job of bringing them back by fucking the novice into submission?"

I froze, unable to make sense of her words, but feeling the dread settle in anyway. What was this Twilight Zone Rose saying? Who was she? It was a nightmare, it could only be.

Breath, Dimitri. You're dreaming, I told myself.

"What do you think of it, Dimka?"

My world spun. Dimka?

I blinked and looked at her. Really looked at her.

And at that exact moment, the door burst open.

"Dimitri! What is...?"

Rose's desperate words as she invaded my room were followed by silence. My eyes danced from the Rose at the door to the one on my lap. I felt like my brain had turned into mush. The one at the door looked pained, so pained, I knew I could only be a motherfucker, even though I had no idea what I had done wrong but be in a nightmare.

Then the Rose on my lap suddenly pulled me against her, her lips touching mine before I could do anything else. My reaction was immediate, pushing her away. This was the wrong Rose, whatever that meant.

I heard a whimper, but when I looked at the door, there was only fury and betrayal on that Rose's eyes. When she spoke, however, her voice was cold.

"Sorry to interrupt."

She left swiftly, my blurry view not able to fully comprehend it. The ache in my chest, though, understood it and went beyond nightmare proportions. It physically hurt.

In a miserable daze, I looked back at the Rose on my lap.

Except it wasn't Rose. And it wasn't a fucking nightmare.

Tasha was smiling sweetly at me, the soft glimmering of compulsion still in her eyes.

There was going to be bloodshed tonight.


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