a/n: I don't usually do this, but because I think fans of Vampire Academy would enjoy the series, I am recommending Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series as a fantastic read. It also features a sort of mentor/student relationship. One major difference between VA and NH, though, is that there are some SMOKING hot sex scenes in the books. SMOKING! If you are interested, the first book is called Halfway to the Grave. If you do decide to read it, I'd love to hear what you think! It's one of my favorites!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your well wishes. Losing my grandfather is one of the hardest things I've ever been though, and words can't express how much I appreciate your kind words!

If there was a bad day for Rose Hathaway to be on the other end of a gun, this one was it. Not because it was Christmas, and not that she'd have preferred any other day, but this day she had plans. They didn't include friends, and they didn't include work—something new for her.

And the icing on this crummy cake as to why she didn't want to get shot? Dimitri had already lost one partner in the line of duty. And while she knew this was in no way his fault, he would take anything that happened today upon himself, because an officer never went off duty.

Her eyes followed the gunman as he paced back and forth in front of them. He might have been packing, but it was clear this was a spur of the moment robbery gone wrong. It was the look of fear in his eyes that jarred her the most. Scared people made irrational decisions.

She looked around at the other patrons in the store—a woman with her arms wrapped around her little boy, who could be no older than ten, a man with a bottle of cheap scotch in his hand, clutching it as if it were a lifeline, and the store clerk, who was shaking in his boots. Rose imagined she'd be shaking in hers, too, if she hadn't been trained for this. That the gunman had grouped them all together was a huge advantage; it would be easier to get him away from a small area of the store than have to keep track of where four other people were while she made her move.

Now she just needed a plan to get them all the hell out there unharmed.

Blue and white flashing lights and from the squad cars and several floodlights lit up the block drowning out any celebratory red and green that might have lingered, but Dimitri had grown oblivious to them. The only thing that held his attention was the glass window of the storefront.


An hour later and the captain's voice was still ringing in Dimitri's head. When they'd pulled up to the scene, his first inclination had been to charge inside, guns blazing. But that was the man in him. The officer in him knew better, and he resisted. It was one of the hardest things he'd ever done.

"How far out is the hostage negotiator?" he demanded.

"Should be here any minute," the chief answered.

"What's our game plan?"

"Let's see how it goes with the hostage nego—"

"No." Dimitri turned to level a glare at his captain. "We are not going to wait and see how this goes. We're going to plan in case this takes another turn that pisses me off. I'm asking again, captain, what's our back-up plan?"

"You going for a suspension, Belikov?" the captain asked. Dimitri noticed the tick in the other man's cheek, but he didn't care.

"Yeah. That'll be plan C," he shot back dryly. "In the meantime, here's what I'm thinking…"

Dimitri knew he was skating on thin ice, but he didn't give a shit. He'd take a suspension if one was doled out; what he wouldn't do was sit by and wait for things to go wrong before he sprang into action. Roza was inside; he wasn't taking any chances.

Hesitating had lost him one partner. He wasn't about to lose another.

His words weren't making sense anymore. From what Rose could tell he'd lost his job, and then his wife and children when he'd fallen apart. Another victim of today's economy. Against her better judgment, she couldn't help but feel for him. But he was growing more frantic—and more dangerous.

While she'd like to let the others know she had a plan, any conversation had been prohibited, and she didn't want to agitate him further. She could see the blue and white lights flashing outside. Her coworkers were no doubt out there ready to act, but she was the one with the most information at this point. They'd no doubt bring in a negotiator, but this man was past the point of reasoning. Unless she could take him down, somebody was going to get shot.

And she sure as hell wasn't up for the paperwork that would bring.

Dimitri was getting more impatient with each minute that passed. The man inside hadn't responded to any attempts at communication. They'd started with the bull horn, and proceeded to phone the store. No answer.

He had everyone huddled near the coolers at the very back of the store; the only sign of movement was the very top of his head over the shelves. But that was enough to let them know he was growing edgy. His pacing had grown erratic, and he'd grab his hair occasionally as if he couldn't focus. This wasn't going to end well, and as it was, his unpredictable behavior was just escalating.

The biggest issue was Rose being inside. No one out here knew the circumstances better than she did, and it was impossible to predict what she had up her sleeve. But he knew one thing for sure. Rose was a hero, and she'd do what she had to in order to keep the people inside alive.

It was now or never. They'd ceased attempts at communication, and Rose knew if she didn't act first, things would soon be out of her control. She inhaled sharply, then rolled her eyes in the back of her head and slumped forward.

"What's wrong with her?!" she heard the woman ask in a panicky voice.

"Shut up!" The footsteps came to a halt, and Rose forced herself to remain still. "Hey!"

When she didn't respond, she heard the footsteps come closer, then the tinniest breeze as the man crouched beside her. Her eyes flew open, and she scissored her legs, knocking both of her captor's feet out from under him. Wasting no time, she flailed until the gun he'd dropped flew across the floor and then rolled him onto his belly. As she straddled his back, she reached for one of his wrists and jerked his arm behind him until she heard him grunt in pain. He stopped struggling immediately, and when she glanced to her left, the others that were there with her were staring with stunned expressions on their faces. "Somebody get his gun!" she ordered. The clerk jumped to his feet and complied.

"Don't go near the door," she warned breathlessly before turning to the man clutching his bottle of scotch. "Grab my phone from my back pocket, and call 9-1-1. Tell them that we're at Michael's Corner Store on Stanley Street, and that Officer Rosemarie Hathaway has the situation inside under control."

Dimitri let out the breath it felt like he'd been holding for the last few hours, watching as S.W.A.T. led the way inside. It was less than a minute before the offender was being led out of the building, and cops swarmed the area.

For the second time that day, he refrained from storming the place. Going in there in this state of mind, there was a good chance he'd give the other men a show. And while he didn't give a fuck, he knew Roza would. She'd managed to handle things inside without anyone getting hurt; there was no need to give her reason to hurt him.

He felt his jaw clench at the thought of everything that needed to be done before he could see her.

Frustration didn't begin to cover the way Rose was feeling. She knew Belikov was on the scene, but she hadn't yet spied him. She felt stupid for the turn her thoughts had taken when she'd first realized she was in the middle of a botched robbery. It really served her right for thinking she was 'special.' She was nothing but a one night stand who'd given in and given it up when he played sweet around his family. What an idiot. She was still going to get him a box of those glazed donuts, though, just so she could shove them down his fucking throat.

She stepped out of the store and pushed her hands in her jacket pockets to ward off the slight chill, then headed for the nearest squad car. She was passing two side by side ambulances that had shown up at the scene when a hand gripped her arm and tugged her between them. Her back landed gently against the side of one of them, and she looked up into Belikov's face.

"Hey," she said breathlessly.

"Hey," he said, reaching up and pushing a stray lock of hair off her cheek. "You OK?"

"Uh…yeah," she said, feeling timid all of a sudden. And maybe a tad bitchy. God, she really needed to stop jumping to conclusions. A small grin broke out on her face. "You know…a day in the life."

Dimitri laughed at her nonchalance as his hand gripped her waist. "Did you give your statement?"

"Yeah. I'm so ready to go home," she admitted.

"Well, that won't be happening any time soon," he informed her.

"Why not?"

He sighed as he lifted his free hand and raked it through his hair. "My family caught wind of everything that happened."


"They're on their way."

"Why?" she repeated.

Dimitri grinned. "Because they're worried about you, Hathaway."


"Even if you somehow manage to shake me off—and fair warning, don't hold your breath—you'll never get rid of them. They're in it for the long haul."

"They barely know me," she insisted in a small voice.

He shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Also, I got a call from some crazy bitch named Lissa."

Roza arched a brow. "Easy, Belikov. That's my best friend you're talking about."

"Told me if even one hair on your head was harmed, I'd be answering to her."

"Good God," she said. "That sounds…just like Lissa."

"Apparently she knows how to wield a machete?"

"Like it's nobody's business."

Dimitri had never been happier to have his life threatened. Finding out there was someone out there who was concerned enough to threaten homicide if Roza was hurt had made him feel better. He grabbed one of her belt loops and tugged her forward until his body cradled hers. "I'm gonna kiss you now, Hathaway."

She lifted her arms and wrapped them around his neck. "I'm gonna let you, Belikov."