Stop fighting me! he said, trying to pull on the arm he held.He was in a precarious position himself, straddling the rail as he tried to lean over far enough to get me and actually hold onto me.“Let go of me!” I yelled back.But he was too strong and managed to haul most of me over the rail, enough so that I wasn’t in total danger of falling again.See, here’s the thing. In that moment before I let go, I really had been contemplating my death. I’d come to terms with it and accepted it. I also, however, had known Dimitri might do something exactly like this. He was just that fast and that good. That was why I was holding my stake in the hand that was dangling free.I looked him in the eye. I will always love you.Then I plunged the stake into his chest.It wasn’t as precise a blow as I would have liked, not with the skilled way he was dodging. I struggled to get the stake in deep enough to his heart, unsure if I could do it from this angle. Then, his struggles stopped. His eyes stared at me, stunned, and his lips parted, almost into a smile, albeit a grisly and pained one.That’s what I was supposed to say. . .” he gasped out.Those were his last words.
Yet, it had been Dimitri’s gentleness and thoughtfulness mixed with that deadliness that made him so wonderful. The same hands that wielded stakes with such precision would carefully brush the hair out of my face. The eyes that could astutely spot any danger in the area would regard me wonderingly and worshipfully, like I was the most beautiful and amazing woman in the world.
Other people spoke, and I tried to keep up with the translations. All the stories were about Dimitri's kindness and strength of character. Even when not out battling the undead, Dimitri had always been there to help those who needed it. Almost everyone could recall sometime that Dimitri had stepped up to help others, going out of his way to do what was right, even in situations that could put him at risk. That was no surprise to me. Dimitri always did the right thing.And it was that attitude that had made me love him so much. I had a similar nature. I too rushed in when others needed me, sometimes when I shouldn't have. Others called me crazy for it, but Dimitri had understood. He'd always understood me, and part of what we'd worked on was how to temper that impulsive need to run into danger with reason and calculation. I had a feeling no one else in this world would ever understand me like he did.
Okay, God, I thought. Get me out of this and I’ll stop my half-assed church-going ways. You got me past a pack of Strigoi tonight. I mean, trapping that one between the doors really shouldn't have worked, so clearly you're on board. Let me get out of here, and I’ll...I don’t know. Donate Adrian’s money to the poor. Get baptized. Join a convent. Well, no. Not that last one.
Roza. His voice had that same wonderful lowness, the same accent . . . itwas all just colder. You forgot my first lesson: Don’t hesitate.
I also never would have imagined I'd quote back a church lesson, but when the rest of the crowd stood up to take communion, I found myself saying to Dimitri: Don't you think that if God can supposedly forgive you, it's kind of egotistical for you not to forgive yourself?How long have you been waiting to use that line on me? he asked.Actually, it just came to me. Pretty good, huh? I bet you thought I wasn't paying attention.You weren't. You never do. You were watching me.
I sprang toward him with the stake, hoping to catch him by surprise. But Dimitri was hard to catch by surprise. And he was fast. Oh, so fast. It was like he knew what I was going to do before I did it. He halted my attack with a glancing blow to the side of my head. I knew it would hurt later, but my adrenaline was running too strong for me to pay attention to it now.Distantly, I realized some other people had come to watch us. Dimitri and I were celebrities in different ways around here, and our mentoring relationship added to the drama. This was prime-time entertainment.My eyes were only on Dimitri, though. As we tested each other, attacking and blocking, I tried to remember everything he'd taught me. I also tried to remember everything I knew about him. I'd practiced with him for months. I knew him, knew his moves, just as he knew mine. I could anticipate him the same way. Once I started using that knowledge, the fight grew tricky. We were too well matched, both of us too fast. My heart thumped in my chest, and sweat coated my skin.Then Dimitri finally got through. He moved in for an attack, coming at me with the full force of his body. I blocked the worst of it, but he was so strong that I was the one who stumbled from the impact. He didn't waste the opportunity and dragged me to the ground, trying to pin me. Being trapped like that by a Strigoi would likely result in the neck being bitten or broken. I couldn't let that happen.So, although he held most of me to the ground, I managed to shove my elbow up and nail him in the face. He flinched and that was all I needed. I rolled him over and held him down. He fought to push me off, and I pushed right back while also trying to maneuver my stake. He was so strong, though. I was certain I wouldn't be able to hold him. Then, just as I thought I'd lose my hold, I got a good grip on the stake. And like that, the stake came down over his heart. It was done.Behind me, people were clapping but all I noticed was Dimitri. Our gazes were locked. I was still straddling him, my hands pressed against his chest. Both of us were sweaty and breathing heavily. His eyes looked at me with pride—and hell of a lot more. He was so close and my body yearned for him, again thinking he was a piece of me I needed in order to be complete. The air between us seemed warm and heady, and I would have given anything in that moment to lie down with him and have his arms wrap around me. His expression showed that he was thinking the same thing. The fight was finished, but remnants of the adrenaline and animal intensity remained.