I'D OFTEN DREAMED ABOUT waking up with Dimitri, waking up in a way that was ... ordinary. Sweet. Not because we were hastily trying to catch sleep before fighting our next foe. Not because we were recovering from sex we had to hide, sex laden with baggage and myriad complications. I just wanted to wake up together, in his arms, and have it be a good morning.
Today was that day.
"How long have you been awake?' I asked drowsily. My head was on his chest, and I was wrapped against him as best as I could manage. My wounds were healing rapidly but still had to be babied. We'd found a few creative workarounds last night. Sunlight now spilled in through the windows, filling my bedroom with gold.
He was watching me in that quiet, solemn way of his, with those dark eyes that were so easy to get lost in. "A little while,' he admitted, lifting his gaze to the sunlight-filled window. "I think I'm still on a human schedule. Either that, or my body just wants to be up when the sun is. Seeing it is still amazing to me.'
I stifled a yawn. "You should have gotten up.'
"I didn't want to disturb you.'
I ran my fingers over his chest, sighing in contentment. "This is perfection,' I said. "Is every day going to be like this?'
Dimitri rested his hand on my cheek and then moved down, tipping my chin up. "Not every day but most days.'
Our lips met, and the warmth and light in the room paled compared to what burned inside me. "I was wrong,' I murmured when we finally broke the long, languid kiss. "This is perfection.'
He smiled, something he was doing an awful lot of lately. I loved it. Things would probably change once we were back out in the world. Even if we were together now, Dimitri's guardian side would always be there, ready and watchful. But not right now. Not in this moment.
"What's the matter?' he asked me. With a start, I realized I'd begun to frown. I tried to relax my face. Unbidden, Adrian's words had come back to me, that the next time I was in bed with Dimitri, I should think about others who weren't so lucky.
"Do you think I ruin lives?' I asked.
"What? Of course not.' The smile changed to shock. "Where would you get that idea?'
I shrugged. "There are just a lot of people whose lives are still kind of a mess. My friends, I mean.'
"True,' he said. "And let me guess. You want to fix everyone's problems.'
I didn't answer.
Dimitri kissed me again. "Roza,' he said, "it's normal to want to help the people you love. But you can't fix everything.'
"It's what I do,' I countered, feeling a little petulant. "I protect people.'
"I know, and that's one of the reasons I love you. But for now, you only have to worry about protecting one person: Lissa.'
I stretched out against him, noticing my injuries really were constantly improving. My body would be able to do all sorts of things soon. "I suppose that means we can't stay in bed all day?' I asked hopefully.
"Afraid not,' he said, lightly running his fingertips along the curve of my hip. He never seemed to get tired of studying my body. "They come first.'
I brought my mouth back toward his. "But not for a little while.'
"No,' he agreed. His hand slid up to the back of my neck, tangling in my hair as he drew me closer. "Not for a little while.'
I had never attended a royal coronation before, and honestly, I hoped I never would again. I only wanted there to be this one queen ruling in my lifetime.
Eerily, the coronation was kind of a reverse of Tatiana's funeral. What was the old saying? The queen is dead. Long live the queen.
Custom dictated the monarch-to-be spend the first part of the coronation day at the church, presumably to pray for guidance, strength, and all that spiritual stuff. I wasn't sure what custom did in the case of atheist monarchs. Probably they faked it. With Lissa, who was fairly devout, I knew that wasn't a problem and that she was probably legitimately praying she'd do a good job as queen.
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