Hi everyone! I'm sad to say this is the last chapter of Mesmerising Stranger! I was considering a sequel but I may not have time to write one up. However if I ever do you'll know with an author alert :)

Thanks so much for sticking with the story, It's been great relaying it to you all. Enjoy the last chapter!


Chapter 18:

Previously on: Mesmerising stranger

"Dimitri listened for another ten minutes. But then he'd heard all he could take."

Rose had to open half the cupboards in the break room to find anything remotely edible. Finally, she came across some paper plates. Doritos. A few slices of leftover the cheese and things in the fridge.

She shook out the Doritos, unsure whether she was feeling more mad or hurt. Actually, there was no real contest. Anger won the prize.

For sure, she had some hurts – a variety of bruises from the ugly tangle with Purdue. Her head was pounding from a lack-of-sleep headache. She'd ruined her new black dinner dress. She'd had the hiccups twice in the last hour, and every time she thought of that tussle with Purdue, she got another case.

It wasn't every day she ran into a criminal. It had been a story until today. A TV script. Fiske had died and she'd been pushed off the deck of the boat and things had happened, but none of it had been real until Purdue had his hands on her today. She'd never been afraid of anything in her life before, and now, when she really needed to curl up in someone's arms and feel safe for a while – the stupid lab was filled with strangers.

Why on earth so many police had shown up, she had no idea, but they'd obviously shown up to help, and it was a ghastly hour on a Sunday morning, and none of them could have had time for any kind of food. There was no breakfast food to be had in the entire place. She'd brewed fresh coffee and then tea, but that wasn't food.

On top of which, Dimitri had been closeted in Fiske's office with Purdue and the lieutenant and medics – and everybody else, practically, but her.

Like she was invisible.

Like she hadn't been through hell and a half herself.

Sniffing- loudly – she used the worst paring knife she'd ever seen to create slivers of cheese, sprinkled them on the Doritos, found some dried onions…what a disgrace!...and then popped the plate in the microwave for a few seconds. Possibly she slammed the door on the microwave, but she figured she was entitled.

Her feet hurt, too.

She'd almost forgotten that.

When the microwave pinged, all of thirty seconds later, she reached for the door – and saw Dimitri. Standing right there in the doorway. As if he'd been watching her forever! When she'd needed him! And she'd been miserable! Only then she saw the expression on his face.

She didn't lose all that being mad. She just flew across the room and threw her arms around him.

"Hey. Everything's all right. You're safe, I'm safe. It's going to be all right."

He clung and clung and clung. Or maybe she was the one doing some of the heavy-duty clinging, but darn it, he looked terrible – all rumpled, his cheek swelling up, his shirt ripped, a cut above his eyebrow he'd gotten heaven-knew-how, whiskers on his chin. The worst, though, the really worst, were in his eyes. She'd never seen him look so….sad…before. It was unbearable.

"There was no formula, Rose."

"No?"

"They were working on a real-enough formula. But the one they thought successful – hell, I don't know if it actually was, but it almost doesn't matter, because it can't be duplicated. So. We don't have our cure."

She couldn't make total sense of what he said, but she got the picture. Purdue had faked the formula somehow, and that was the catalyst that switched on the rest of the nightmare. Eventually, she'd ask him about all the hows and whys.

Right then, she was absorbed in what he didn't say – the part that really hurt. Dimitri didn't give a damn about money, never would. He cared about saving the world.

He was pretty much that kind of hopeless, cockamamie idealist.

"Hey," she said, real rough and tough. She leaned back, not wanting to sever that hug, but…well, there were a lot of people around. "All you're really saying is that we don't have a cure now, Dimitri. You've got years and years to work with this. Starting exactly where your uncle left off, and that was darned close to success, right?"

When she broke free from him, he said immediately,

"Wherever you think you're going, come back here."

"Believe me, I'm going right back in your arms, buster. But I promised the boys something…" She took the plate from the microwave. "It's pretty disgusting, I know, especially for breakfast. But there was just nothing around here for me to work with, so…"

She sprinted out of the room, and sprinted right back in about three seconds later with empty hands. "I just felt bad that so many of them came, and they all had to get up so early. Nobody had time for breakfast, and then they were stuck, just hanging and waiting while you were in there with the lieutenant and Purdue.

"You are such a caretaker." He leaned back against the counter and shook his head.

She bristled. "I most certainly am not!"

"You are. You take care of everyone. You sure as hell have taken outstanding care of me." He started walking toward her, one step at a time.

She put her hands on her hips. "Just because I'm a chef doesn't mean I fit the stereotype of the waiting-on-a-man kind of woman. That kind of caretaking role went out in the Middle Ages, you know."

"I realize you can't help it. I suspect it's hardwired in your DNA. So we're not going to talk about how many babies we're going to have."

Her hand slapped her chest, as if that might help keep her heart from imploding.

"Dimitri, neither of us has had a good night's sleep in ages," she said reasonably.

"We've both been battered and beat-up tonight. And terrified. We've only known each other for a very, very, very short time…"

She would have gone on, but he interrupted.

"You're in love with me. And I know damn well I'm in love with you – the way I've never been in love, the way I've never loved anyone else. Now Roza, I realize you have commitment issues…"

"I don't have issues! I'm against commitment altogether!"

He nodded.

"I know. But Roza, I'm not leaving you. I'm not going to die in a fire. I plan on hanging around in your life until we're both white-haired and crotchety – not that you're not already crotchety. I don't want to insult you by implying that your heart's bigger than the sky, and that you're the warmest, most giving woman I've ever known. I do love you, Rose."

"Stop it! You're making me nervous!"

His mouth crooked up in a grin. "Good, I'll practice doing that every day. And in the meantime…I just don't think you're the kind of woman who can sit around, rolling in money every day with nothing to do…"

She wasn't about to let that slur to her character slip up.

"Hey, I could do that. I'm lazy. And greedy."

"uh-huh." From his tone, he was obviously ignoring her. "So I've been thinking. This is my theory. You open a restaurant here."

The idea lodged in her mind like a thorn. A sweet thorn. She had no idea how much she wanted it, how she'd yearned to open her own place, until the blasted man had said the idea aloud.

"What?"

"I'll stake you. But I have terms."

"What terms?"

"You wear my ring. Left hand."
Since he seemed to be still walking toward her, she lifted her arms. It was so easy…to just walk right into the warmth of his embrace.

"You've given out rings before," she reminded him.

"Not like this. Rose. You're the one."
Damnation. A place full of police, no sleep, nerves and heart frayed by everything wrong going on…But when he kissed her right then, the world didn't stand still. The way he kissed her, her whole world spun like a star.

"Dimitri?"

"Tell me," he encouraged her.

"I love you. I'm in love with you. But I've been afraid to tell you, to say it. I don't doubt how I feel. But…I've never trusted in the future, Dimitri. I'm not sure that I know how."

He nodded. "But that's exactly the thing, Rose. You can tell me what you're afraid of. Then we can work with it together. The way you've worked on this crisis with me. Together, it's all right to be afraid."

"It isn't".

He whispered, "Yeah. It is. With me. I promise."

And he proved it, showing her with kiss after kiss after kiss….

Eventually the ambulance left. And the police. Finally, there was no one there but the two of them.

Sunlight streamed in the windows, a warm day heating up outside, the promise of a future whispering in the breeze. In his kisses. In her heart.

He was right. She could be vulnerable. With him.


As I was saying, thank you so much for sticking with the story and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed reading your reviews and relaying it to you all on fanfiction.

Of course it's every girls dream to have someone like Dimitri, and while chivalry might be dead, don't forget..."We accept the love we think we deserve."

This is xxSezaxx signing off of the last chapter of Mesmerising Stranger. THANK YOU ALL AGAIN!