"Mr. Belikov," a mans voice calls from behind me. I turn around to see two Guardians standing beside my usual four guards.
"Yes." I cautiously say.
"You need to come with us." One of them says.
"Why? What for?" Lissa quickly asks.
"Guardian Hans would like a word." He motions for me to follow and I comply.
"Mr. Belikov, have a seat." Hans says as I enter the room. His eyes go wide with agitation when he sees the others filing in behind me. Lissa, Christian, Tasha, and even Adrian accompanied me and are take a seat at the table.
"What is this about?" Lissa asks.
"Princess Dragomir, this matter doesn't concern you." Hans flatly says.
"If it concerns Dimitri, it concerns us." Tasha says with force. I can't help but smirk watching Tasha take on Hans. The only thing better would be seeing Rose going head-to-head with him. Ignoring her, he turns his attention to me,
"Where were you last night?" He asks.
"You can't be serious! Rose has already been arrested for the murder." Tasha's outburst caught us all by surprise.
"One more outburst and I will have you removed." Hans says, never removing his eyes from mine. I take a deep breath.
"I was with Rose." It feels good to get it out in the open, not having to hide my feelings anymore. His expression tells me he already knew though, and his nod confirms it.
"Why ask if you already knew?" Lissa asks. Again he doesn't remove his eyes from mine.
"This isn't about last night." I say.
"Very observant Mr. Belikov." Hans says.
"What do you mean? What else is there? You can't seriously be thinking of a statutory rape case in the middle of a murder case?" Tasha speaks freely. Everyone gives her a sharp look.
"There will be an investigation, at some point, I assure you. But we have a bigger problem. Your little display this morning has put fear back into the Moroi." Hans says. "They're calling it 'Strigoi rage'."
"He's NOT a strigoi anymore! He's been healed. Why can't you see that." Christian grabs Lissa's hand to calm her down.
"What happened this morning?" Tasha asks.
"Mr. Belikov took down almost the entire lot of the Royal Guards, single handedly."
"What? When? He was with us," Lissa's cut short,
"In the coffee shop. You were with Rose when she was arrested." I close my eyes and nod to Adrian. A hush falls over the room.
"I was protecting her." I say breaking the silence.
"A mighty display at that. Do you think you've retained some of your Strigoi fighting strength?" Hans asks. I've had this fear since I was first healed, could it be true? That is precisely one of the reasons I wanted, needed, to stay away from Rose. The unknown. Could my anger be fueled by lingering Strigoi evil?
"No." Adrian says before I can answer. "If you've ever seen him fight before he was turned, then you'd know what he did this morning was just child's play for Dimitri."
"Lord Ivashkov I find it interesting that you've seen Mr. Belikov in battle." Hans states.
"I didn't say I've seen him in battle." Hans stiffens at Adrian's flippant remark.
"But I have." Christian interjects cutting through the tension in the room. "I didn't see his actions this morning, but I did see him take down more Strigoi than we could count. During the attack at St. Vladimir's, he held them off by himself, while Rose alerted the Guardians."
"But not completely unscathed." Hans says.
"If you're familiar with the events, sir, you'd know he did survive the attack. It was the next day during the rescue attempt he was taken." Hans glares at Lissa, she sits tall and proud with a smug look on her face. I hope she isn't harboring too much of spirits darkness.
"Sir, a word if I may?" One of my guards steps away from the wall. Hans nods.
"You've seen Guardian Hathaway in battle. You've seen what she can do. She was amazing at the warehouse. At the end, when she was against," he pauses stealing a glance at me, "no one questioned her abilities." A smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. I remember, she was my avenging angel come to deliver the justice of heaven. I saw it in her eyes at the last moment, she was prepared to kill me. And I her. All in the name of love. A dark and twisted forbidden romance, a tragic love story. Hans sharp voice brings me back to the present.
"Make your point." Hans says.
"He was her teacher, her mentor. He trained her how to fight. Don't you think if she's so gifted, that he would be too?"
"What I think is irrelevant. It's what the Moroi think that counts. And right now they think he has lingering Strigoi strength and possible other side effects." Hans rests his hands on the table, showing sign of fatigue for the first time.
"We can tell the truth." I offer, catching everyone by surprise.
"And what would that be Mr. Belikov?" Hans asks. I flinch. Closing my eyes I take a deep breath.
"I love her and I was only trying to protect her." I finally say. Wow. It feels so good to say it out loud. Lissa smiles at me. I wonder if Rose is with us?
"No, no. That won't do." Hans dismisses the idea with the wave of a hand.
"Why not?" I ask.
"They'll never believe it. You two haven't exactly been on friendly terms lately." Hans stare burns through my eyes. He's right. I've refused to see her. I've wanted nothing to do with her and specifically requested she not be allowed to visit me.
"I can't not do something." I say through a clenched jaw. He's just like the rest of them, asking me to sit back and watch Rose take the fall. "I owe it to her."
"Dimitri, you don't owe her anything." Tasha's words slam into me like a brick. What does she know? Nothing!
"You're wrong. I owe her everything. My life, my second chance. Everything." Running my hand through my hair I continue, "I owe her so much. She gave up everything for me. She left school knowing what that meant, all for me. She never gave up on me. She never gave up hope. I will not sit on the sideline and watch them wrongly accuse her of a murder I know she did NOT commit!"
"Ah, yes. Russia. So glad you mentioned it. Everyone assumed she left school to go on a killing spree after the attack, seeking vengeance. But you say she left for you? Some romantic notion of hunting you down to kill you?" Hans face shows no emotion as he speaks. "Please tell us, what really happened in Russia?" My shoulders roll forward as my eyes close and my head falls forward, my chin resting on my chest. The last think I want to remember...Russia.
"Is this really necessary?" Lissa asks.
"It may help us formulate an angle for this tragic love story." Hans offers, though I suspect he's just after information.