"Lissa…" I whisper. Her emotions stir inside my head, dark and worried. Someone's holding my hand and gently stroking my cheek.
"Shh. Rest now," a voice says. That voice is familiar. I struggle to open my eyes.
"Adrian?" I croak.
"Hey Little Dhampir," Adrian coos. I see signs of fatigue and sadness on his face.
"Where's Lissa?" I ask, unsuccessfully trying to sit up.
"She's at the ceremony," he says, forcing me to stay laying down.
"She needs me. She's so upset," I protest.
"She's fine. Don't worry about her," he mumbles.
"What ceremony?" I ask.
"She's been named Queen. You've been out a while," he says.
"She has so much guilt, so much pain. Are you sure she's okay?" I ask. But before he can answer, I close my eyes and search for Lissa. I need to see for myself that she's okay.
Ever since she healed me after the car crash that killed her parents and brother, I've been shadow kissed. We share a special bond; unfortunately it's only one way. I can feel her emotions, as well as tap into her head and see through her eyes, but she can't do anything. My eyes flash open as I yell,
"Rose calm down, let me explain," he says. I take a deep breath, hold it for a count of three, and then breath out.
"I don't want to hear your explanation!" I give up trying to calm down. Calming mechanisms aren't my strong point.
"GET OUT!" I feel the pain, his pain. It's his feelings I feel, plagued with guilt and remorse. My bond with Lissa is gone. I'm bonded to Adrian. He exits quietly.
I close my eyes trying to calm down. Where's Dimitri? If there was ever a moment in time I needed him to preach a Zen life lesson it was now. I sigh. There's only one way to find out what happened. I slow my breathing as I reach out to Adrian's mind. Searching for the events my own memory is missing. It's weird watching myself through Adrian's eyes….
I dart in front of Lissa, with Dimitri close behind me. Was he going for me or Lissa, I wonder? Of course he was a second too slow, I had the upper hand. I was seeing through Lissa's eyes, I saw Tasha pull the gun…
Someone yells out, it's Adrian. He pushes his way toward the aisle. The Guards are in chaos. Several took down Tasha after the gun went off, more are ushering the Royals away. A group of Guards pull Lissa away. Away from what? Oh, my body. As Adrian approaches I see myself lying motionless on the floor, blood everywhere. I was shot.
Dimitri's hovering over me, holding my hand. He looks up to Adrian, grief plastered on his face. Adrian tries to move closer, but the Guards pull him back. Adrian must have used compulsion on them, because they quickly moved away. He slowly kneels next to my body.
"Can you heal her?" Dimitri asks.
"I. I don't know," Adrian's voice falters.
"Will you try?" Dimitri whispers.
"Her aura, it's…" Adrian zone out.
"It's what?" Dimitri snaps, bringing him back to the present.
"It's too late. She's gone," a voice says from behind.
"Can't you bring her back? Shadow Kissed?" Dimitri asks, his eyes pleading to Sonya.
"You can only escape death once," Adrian says, barely audible.
"So this is it? There's nothing else?" A single tear escapes Dimitri.
"There is a way, but" Sonya says. Both Adrian and Dimitri snap their heads to look at Sonya.
"But what?" Adrian asks.
"It'll take both of us, and also another life force. Someone like her, a dhampir."
"What do I need to do?" Dimitri asks.
"Dimitri," Sonya pauses, "with you an ex-Strigoi, the shadow of death also flickers around your aura. I'm not sure if that's the same as being shadow kissed or not."
"Does it matter?" He asks. "Will it not work?"
"I'm not sure. I'm no expert. I've only done this twice before." Sonya says.
"And what happened?" Adrian asks.
"Everything went fine the first time. The second, the life force wasn't strong enough. We had to revive her afterwards," she says. Dimitri nods in understanding.
"It doesn't matter. I owe her my life. She is my life. I'll do anything for her."
"Belikov," Adrian says with a shaky voice. "Are you sure? What if...?" Dimitri shrugs.
"She'll be alive. That's all that matters. I'm nothing without her. But she has Lissa and Christian." Dimitri says slowly, choosing his words carefully. "And…she has you." Adrian closes his eyes.
"She'll never forgive me if I save her, and..." He whispers. Opening his eyes he sees Dimitri smirking.
"Yes. That sounds like our Rose. But have a little faith. Once she calms down, her temper isn't all that uncontrollable." He says smiling.
"Easy for you to say. She loves you." Adrian's voice isn't spiteful. It's full of understanding and a little hint of jealousy.
"Adrian she loves you too. She told me so." Dimitri says quietly.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but if we're going to do this, we need to do it now. Her soul is fading." Sonya interrupts the silence. Looking at Dimitri, Adrian nods.
"Okay, what do we do?" he asks.
"Dimitri, place your hands flat on her chest. Adrian holding my hands, we'll place them on top of Dimitri's and use Spirit. The gift of healing will go through Dimitri's life force to her." They both nod.
Dimitri places his hands on my bloody and lifeless body. Looking to Adrian he says,
"Tell her I love her. I love her so much it hurts. If…tell her to forgive you, to go on living." Putting on his serious, scary guardian face he says, "Oh and Adrian. You had better treat her right. Make her happy. with everything she's been through, she deserves to be happy." Adrian nods.
"I promise." He solemnly says as he and Sonya join hands. I feel the healing power of Spirit course through his body. It overwhelms him. I...
"Little Dhampir," I open my eyes. I'm back in my room with Adrian watching me intently.
"Oh Adrian, what have you done?" His shoulders fall forward in defeat. Tears swell in my eyes. After several moments of painfully awkward silence, he finally says,
"Will you ever find it in yourself to forgive me?" Guilt, remorse and fear are rippling off him. I'm dumbstruck.
"He's really gone?!" I say. My mouth is dry, my palms are clammy, my pulse quickens and my stomach tightens. My whole body goes numb as tears I've been holding back can't be held back any longer. I lose complete control of my emotions.
My heart has broken for him several times before- when he was first turned Strigoi, when I found him in Russia, when he was healed and rejected me- but all that pain is nothing compared to this. This time it's final. He's dead. Not coming back. He's gone forever. I sob uncontrollably.
I feel Adrian's arms wrap around me, I lean into him. I allow him to comfort me with his warm embrace.
"He loved you so much." Adrian whispers in my ear. "He sacrificed himself for you. So you could live, maybe have a family, but most importantly so you could finally be at peace and hopefully find happiness." I cry myself to sleep in Adrian's arms, dreaming of Dimitri, my soul mate who gave his life for me, his true love.