“Ah, my daughter,ʺ he said. ʺEighteen, and already youʹve been accused of murder, aided felons, and acquired a death count higher than most guardians will ever see.ʺ He paused. ʺI couldnʹt be prouder.”
“What the hell?" I asked. Is this daring escape being sponsored by Honda?”
“From behind Lissa, I heard Christian say, "Worst. Timing. Ever." Adrian studied Lissa and then looked at Christain sprawling on the bed on the far side of the suite.
"Huh," Adrian said, letting himself in. "So that's how you're going to fix the family problem. Little Dragomirs. Good idea." Christian sat up and strolled toward them.
"Yeah, that's exactly it. You're interrupting official Council business.”
“What was love, really? Flowers, chocolate, and poetry? Or was it something else? Was it being able to finish someone's jokes? Was it having absolute faith that someone was there at your back? Was it knowing someone so well that they instantly understood why you did the things you did—and shared those same beliefs?”
“Abe held my gaze a bit longer and then broke into an easy smile. ʺOf course, of course. This is a family gathering. A celebration. And look: hereʹs our newest member.ʺ
Dimitri had joined us and wore black and white like my mother and me. He stood beside me, conspicuously not touching. ʺMr. Mazur,ʺ he said formally, nodding a greeting to both of them. ʺGuardian Hathaway.ʺ
Dimitri was seven years older than me, but right then, facing my parents, he looked like he was sixteen and about to pick me up for a date.
ʺAh, Belikov,ʺ said Abe, shaking Dimitriʹs hand. ʺIʹd been hoping weʹd run into each other. Iʹd really like to get to know you better. Maybe we can set aside some time to talk, learn more about life, love, et cetera. Do you like to hunt? You seem like a hunting man. Thatʹs what we should do sometime. I know a great spot in the woods. Far, far away. We could make a day of it. Iʹve certainly got a lot of questions Iʹd like to ask you. A lot of things Iʹd like to tell you too.ʺ
I shot a panicked look at my mother, silently begging her to stop this. Abe had spent a good deal of time talking to Adrian when we dated, explaining in vivid and gruesome detail exactly how Abe expected his daughter to be treated. I did not want Abe taking Dimitri off alone into the wilderness, especially if firearms were involved.
ʺActually,ʺ said my mom casually. ʺIʹd like to come along. I also have a number of questions—especially about when you two were back at St. Vladimirʹs.ʺ
ʺDonʹt you guys have somewhere to be?ʺ I asked hastily. ʺWeʹre about to start.ʺ
That, at least, was true. Nearly everyone was in formation, and the crowd was quieting. ʺOf course,ʺ said Abe. To my astonishment, he brushed a kiss over my forehead before stepping away. ʺIʹm glad youʹre back.ʺ Then, with a wink, he said to Dimitri:
ʺLooking forward to our chat.ʺ
ʺRun,ʺ I said when they were gone. ʺIf you slip out now, maybe they wonʹt notice. Go back to Siberia."
"Actually," said Dimitri, "I'm pretty sure Abe
notice. Don't worry, Roza. I'm not afraid. I'll take whatever heat they give me over being with you. It's worth it.”