At the coffee shop we're enjoying our breakfast chatting about nothing in particular, when one of my guards steps closer to Rose and asks,
"Hey Rose, are you going to go to the Council today?"
"Yes." She says. Then I see it, that look of mischief flash across her face. "Well, if they let me in that is. I'll even try to be on good behavior." She displays a rueful grin.
"Give them hell! They deserve your wrath over that stupid age law." The guard says.
"What age law?" I ask, looking between the guard and Rose.
"You haven't heard?" Rose asks. I shake my head. "Dhampirs will graduate at sixteen..."
"What?" I say. "No sixteen-year-old is ready to fight a Strigoi. That's suicide!" I can't believe they've passed that stupid law. The Moroi think it will swell the Dhampir ranks, maybe it will short term. But long term, all those sixteen and seventeen year olds will die during their first encounter with a Strigoi.
"How did it come to pass? How could they think they'll be ready so young?" I ponder, not expecting to get a response.
"They used me as an example." Rose said flatly. Her words were full of spite and rage.
"You?" I ask. She nods. If looks could kill, I'd have two daggers through my eyes and a stake through my heart. "But, you're not the average Dhampir."
"I know." She says with a smirk. "I tried to tell them, but you know Royals, they don't listen too well."
It was about that time I noticed a hush fall over the coffee shop. Quickly glancing around I see several of the Royal Guardians enter and head straight toward our table. Now what do they want? Scanning their faces, I see it in their eyes, they're on a mission. Instinctively, Rose and I jump up, knocking our chairs on the floor. We take a protective battle stance, back-to-back.
"You need to come with us." The lead guardian says.
"Leave him alone! He didn't do anything. Why can't you accept that he's healed, that he's a dhampir again!" Rose yells. She steps forward in a gesture to protect me.
"We're not here for him. We're here for you." He says.
"Me?" I could hear the puzzlement in her voice.
"Please come nicely. But if you won't, we will take you by force." The guard takes a step toward her.
"Don't come any closer." I hiss, stepping protectively in front of Rose. Shielding her body with mine. Why would they want Rose? The Queen's Guardians, in such force, I count a couple dozen cramped inside this small coffee shop. What could she have possibly done? This is ridiculous. "You're not touching her." I say through a tight lip.
They advance from all sides. We're surrounded. I won't let them get anywhere near her. I won't even let her join the fight, if they get a single hand on her, it'd all be over. Suddenly she grabs my arm and yells,
"STOP!" I take down another guardian that advanced toward us. And once again, more calmly this time, she says "Stop. Please. Dimitri, please stop."
"I won't let them take you." I whisper. "I just got you back." She gives me a pleading look.
"Please. You have to stop this and let them take me." She says. I see it in her eyes. She's protecting me. The more I fight, the more they're fearful. I'm only making things worse, for her and me. I close my eyes and my head sinks. She grabs my hand and squeezes.
"Okay, I'll go with you. But, leave him alone. He only thought I was in trouble." She says to the guard in charge. Squeezing her hand one last time, she walks toward the guard. He slips handcuffs on her and says,
"Rosemarie Hathaway, you're under arrest for high treason." Rose, what have you done now? Do I even want to know? What did she tell me, something she did for me...well beyond crazy? Oh Rose...
"And the high treason would be?" She asks.
"The murder of Queen Tatiana." he says. Her face sunk, as did my heart. She was in a trance as they lead her away. I took a step forward, but one of my guards blocked me.
"Stay. You'll only make it worse." he says. "You can't help her if you're sharing a cell." I nod in understanding.