The moment with Dimitri had been beyond words. I didn't know how to describe it exactly, but in the moment, I knew two things. The first, was that I wanted to kiss him. The second, I was fairly certain our relationship extended far beyond a mentor-student relationship. Both of which, I was thrilled about.
There was one other thing that nagged at my thoughts. Before Abe had barged in, I had experienced a dizzying flash of what I thought were memories. It was a series of three moments. The first was of Dimitri kissing me in the St. Vladimir's gymnasium. Hot. The second was of Dimitri and I running on the track and laughing as he raised his eyebrow at something I had said. The last was the view outside of a cabin window. I didn't remember the context of any of these memories, if they even were memories, but I was both ecstatic and terrified of recovering them.
Abe, my father, had dragged me out of the bathroom once Dimitri finished patching me up under his watchful gaze. The crowd in the living room all wanted to speak to me individually, and it was overwhelming to handle. The only people I couldn't find in the crowd were Denis, Artur and Lev.
Mostly, everyone wanted to hug me and shed a few tears, especially Lissa. "Oh Rose, I thought you had left us again." She sighed into my shoulder as she squeezed me tightly. It wasn't the first time someone had mentioned my leaving, and it had been bugging me that no one was willing to explain it.
"What do you mean, again?" Another flash. This time, the moment was terrifying. It was Dimitri as a Strigoi, handing me a lavish necklace. I flinched, and curiously looked over at him. That couldn't have been a memory… could it?
Lissa looked about nervously, as if waiting for someone to jump in and change the subject. I narrowed my eyes, "What are you hiding from me?"
Silence. Adrian shot up out of his seat on the bed and walked out of the room, making no effort to hide his disgust. Abe slowly stood after him, and nodded.
"She needs to know." Another flash. It was Abe standing in a dusty road in front of a warehouse looking menacing.
"No she doesn't!" It was Lissa, looking desperately between Abe and I with a terrified look on her face.
"What do I need to know? What the hell is going on?" I demanded, anger welling inside me. I was tired of them feeding me the things they wanted and leaving out the important parts. It was like they were giving me my memory selectively.
Abe turned to me, a conflicted look on his face. "Rose, a few years back, you fled Court and never told them where you were going." Another flash. This time, it was of three guys in a dark alley standing over three dead Strigoi. It was Denis, Artur and Lev I realized.
"You went to Russia with my help and hid in St. Petersburg with Denis, Artur and Lev where you hunted Strigoi. No one wanted to tell you because they were all afraid you'd run away again. I, however, think it's cruel to play with your memory like that." With that, he walked by me and exited the hotel room. I froze, numb with the shock of betrayal.
I allowed myself a few moments of reflection, trying to piece together what would have caused me to leave my friends and family behind. It had to be something huge.
"Why? Why did I leave like that?" Another flash. Dimitri behind bars, looking at me with anguish in his eyes.
"Because of me." It was barely a whisper, but in the silence it had startled me. I softened, the moment in the bathroom rushing back to me. What could he have ever done to drive me away?
"What do you mean? What happened?" He frowned, studying the floor intently. When he finally lifted his eyes to meet mine, I felt a shock of electricity run through me.
"I broke your heart." Another flash. Dimitri playing with a stray lock of my hair while he bandaged my hands.
"It wasn't just you. It was all of us. We took you for granted until you had nothing left to give us. We broke your heart." Lissa was in tears as she explained this. Christian came up behind her and touched her shoulders in comfort, giving me an accusatory look like it was my fault to have upset her.
I fumbled for words, unsure how to proceed. "Why… why didn't you tell me? How could you withhold this from me?" I sounded like whiney child, but I didn't care. I felt betrayed, like I could trust no one.
"Why do you think, Rosemarie? We wanted you to come home where you belong and end this nonsense. Why dredge up the past when it's unnecessary?" It was my mother who spoke, and I could feel nothing but resentful toward her. Everything she said awoke a deep seeded animosity over her years of neglect, hiding my father and defending their betrayal.
I shook my head, tears welling in my eyes. Another flash: Janine slapping me in front of Adrian in the cafeteria. The flashes were coming faster now, and I began to put the pieces together. I closed my eyes, and turned my back to them, unable to bear meeting their desperate gazes. I had a choice to make. I knew I didn't have to make it just yet, but it was inevitable.
I walked out the door, into the hallway. Another flash: Dimitri kissing me in his family's living room. The faces of the Belikovs flashed before me: Vika, Sonya, Olena, Karolina, Paul and Yeva. I smiled as the memories of them flashed before me. Would it be so bad to return to Baia? To forget any of this ever happened?
I could feel him behind me, following me. I knew he wouldn't stop, and so I stepped into the stairwell and allowed myself to be caught. I leaned against the wall, closing my eyes and taking in a deep breath to fight the dizziness that came from the memories rushing back. It felt like I was experiencing seven years in five minutes.
He stopped in front of me and I could feel his eyes searching my face for something. I wasn't sure what for, and I had a feeling he didn't know either.
"Roza." That velvety voice. So gentle, like a caress. But I remembered now. The words that same voice had spoken in a church in Pennsylvania.Love fades. Mine has.
"I am not your Roza." I opened my eyes and met his gaze defiantly, feeling my anger rushing back to me as I remembered our encounter in Baia. How dare you kiss me?
He frowned, "You will always be my Roza." His words seemed matter of fact. It was the same phrase he had said in the bathroom, but it had a very different reaction now. Now, I knew.
"Not anymore, Comrade. Love fades. Mine has." I watched as the words sank in, seeing the recognition of those four little words in his eyes.
"You remember," he murmured. I nodded. I hadn't really planned to stick around after I had thrown his words in his face, but something held me rooted to my spot in the stairwell. "You're going to run away again," he said flatly.
It wasn't a question. He was right. That had been my plan when I left that room: find Denis, Lev and Artur and get the hell out of St. Petersburg for a while. It wasn't my most genius plan, but it was all I had come up with yet.
"Yes." I looked at my feet, suddenly embarrassed at how childish my escape plan sounded. It was cowardly. He took a step toward me, closing the distance between us so we were barely an inch apart. He tilted my chin up with his hand, forcing me to look at him. I avoided his eyes for as long as I could, before locking my gaze with his.
His eyes were stormy, a mess of conflicted emotion, but there was a certain tenderness to them. "And that is what you really want?" It was the one question I was afraid of him asking. The one question he knew I wouldn't want to answer. I tried to muster the courage to say yes, to remove myself from this mess and go back to Baia, but I knew my eyes were betraying me. I knew he could see how badly I wanted him to take me in his arms and kiss me.
It was as if he had read my mind. He crushed his lips to mine, not waiting for a response. I didn't need to. He knew me better than I knew myself. I had answered with just my eyes.
My lips were on fire against his. The years of being apart melted away in one kiss. One passionate kiss full of longing, regret and joy. He finally pulled away, looking at me in a way that made me feel naked, like he was seeing my soul. Another flash: Freya's sickening red eyes as she carved Bloodwhore into my arm. I shivered.
"My love for you has never faded. It will never fade. I love you, Roza. Now and always." It was what I had been waiting for since the day he had been restored. His words, so thick with emotion, set my skin on fire and stopped my breath. Dimitri was finally mine. After years of restless nights, trying not to think of him, here he was, bearing his heart and soul to me.
It was almost too good to be true. Almost.
"Dimitri." The tone in my voice changed, and he could sense that something bad as coming.
"You're still leaving." He pulled away immediately and I could see the anguish in his eyes.
"Only for a little bit. I have some loose ends to tie up with my team. I can't just abandon them, they'd be dead within the week." I gave him a small smile, and the tension that had built up seemed to release slightly. "I also don't know if I can really come back to Court. I have a lot of people to make amends with, and I'm not even sure I can do all that right now. I just got my memories back and I feel like I need the time to process it all." He nodded, understanding my need for space, but I could see that he was frustrated. After a kiss like that, it was hard for both of us to part.
"What about this?" He asked tentatively. It was the oddest moment in my life. For the first time, I was in complete control of our relationship. I hadn't realized it until this point, but for as long as I had pursued Dimitri, Dimitri had in some way resisted… except for the cabin of course. Something was always preventing us from being together that he had to acknowledge and I would ignore. Whether it was Lissa, the Academy, his Strigoi form, his guilt, Naomi, it was always something. I had never been in control of the situation, and it was somewhat terrifying. I was so used to fighting against the odds that I had no idea what to do now that I had finally beat them.
"I honestly don't know right now. We've been fighting for so long…" I trailed off, unable to finish the thought for fear of bringing up the past. "We have a lot to talk about, and I think maybe if I return and things at Court settle down, well, then we can talk about it. But I'm going to need some time, Dimitri. I can't…" Once again, there was no need to finish the sentence. He already knew. I can't be hurt like that again.
He nodded his head slowly, lost in thought. I could tell what I had said hurt him. I knew he was hoping for more, but I wasn't ready to trust him like I had before. The memories that had been restored felt fresh and new still. I needed time for them to scab over so that I could think things through. I wasn't sure I could be trusted to make the right decision while in the arms of a very seductive Russian.
He leaned down and pressed his lips to mine, a sweet kiss. I knew it was goodbye, at least for now. When we pulled apart, and I turned to head down the stairs to go find Denis, Artur and Lev.
"Don't leave me waiting too long, Roza." He called. I looked back and flashed him my man eater smile.
"Anything for you, Comrade." I winked and headed down the stairs, but not before catching one of those rare full smiles of his. I committed it to memory, just in case. As I exited the hotel, I could feel Lissa's anguish as she heard what Dimitri had to say. He had explained that I was leaving, but considering coming back, and that I needed space and time to think. I could feel her guilt and sorrow through the bond. It tugged at my heart, making me feel truly sad to be leaving.
Denis picked up on the third ring, and promptly bitched me out in Russian for taking so long to 'ditch the after school special'. I rolled my eyes. Only he could make fun of the dramatic reunion that had just occurred.
They picked me up in a taxi and we headed back to Novosibirsk without so much as a backward glance. I had a lot of thinking to do.