Chapter 4: The Talk

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Ten minutes later, Dimitri and I met outside the showers. We shared a nervous look and a quick kiss, and then headed off to meet Alberta.

She opened her door just as Dimitri raised his hand to knock.

"Right on time!" she said, glancing at the clock. "Belikov, I'm impressed."

My stomach growled, and she laughed.

"Get her some food when we're done here, Belikov. I know you two have missed dinner, and I know how Rose gets when she's hungry. You're a good guardian - I wouldn't want to lose you."

"Hey!"

Dimitri grinned. Traitor. Alberta looked mildly shocked. She'd probably never seen him without his guardian's mask on, I realized. I wondered if he'd be able to summon it again after today. Probably. This was Dimitri, after all. Known to the novices as the 'Russian Battle God.' I smirked. Of course, I now knew he was a god in more than just battle...

"Rose!" Alberta dragged my attention back to our meeting.

"Sorry, Alberta. Guess I'm more tired than I realized." I said sheepishly.

She raised an eyebrow. "Why am I not surprised?"

I felt a blush rise to my traitorous cheeks. For all my bravado, I wasn't used to the innuendo directed at me to be true.

Alberta chuckled, then covered it with a cough. "Anyway, Rose, as I was saying, we need to discuss your relationship with Belikov."

"Please don't fire him!" I begged.

"Rose." Alberta cut me off with a small smile. "I'm not going to fire him. But, we do need to talk about this."

I groaned. "Are you 'talking about this' as surrogate mother Alberta or Campus Head Guardian Petrov?"

She paused for a moment, then said "both."

Well. This could get interesting.

"Before we start, though," she said, "I spoke with Kirova while you guys were getting cleaned up, Belikov. She said that's fine, so long as you keep up your current training hours and Rose keeps her grades up."

"Spoke to her about what?" I was still confused.

"I asked if I could drop my status as your mentor." Dimitri explained. "Don't worry," he added, at my horrified expression, "it won't change how we train. It will just remove the mentor/student labels – we'll train as guarding partners."

"So... what will be different?" I asked suspiciously. If he was trying to weasel out of training with me....

"To us? Nothing." he said matter-of-factly. "To the outside world, we'll be partners – equals – instead of mentor/teacher and student." He smiled at me. "It removes one of the main barriers to our relationship."

"So, it's a good thing."

He grinned. "It's a very good thing."

"Wait – does that mean Kirova knows about us?" I was mildly horrified.

"No. Well, not explicitly." Alberta looked thoughtful. "Though I'm not sure she'll be too surprised – she's sharper than she lets on."

After a moment of contemplative silence, she continued. "Now, as to your relationship – I have a few ground rules."

"First of all, Rose, you're almost 18. Please keep it under wraps until then. It would be even better if you could keep it quiet until after graduation, but I'm not holding out hope."

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