I had been mingling in the ballroom for some time, and I was ready for the night to be over. I felt Rupert’s eyes on me everywhere I went. I was sick of fighting my body from running to him while it was being held by another man. I was ready to hide in my room and never have to come back out until I walked down the aisle for the safety of my people.
I felt Val grab my hand and begin to move us back towards the middle of the room. I looked up at him with a small frown on my face.
“What are we doing?” I asked.
He smiled down at me. “A ceremonial waltz. We will start alone on the dance floor, everyone will show their true skin and bless us with the golden light before they change back and join us in a partner changing dance.” He explained.
“Oh,” I swallowed the lump that had formed in the back of my throat. “Will we have to change as well?” I suddenly felt nervous.
He shook his head with a smile. “No, just relax and enjoy the dance.”
I gripped my hand in his, while I placed the other on his shoulder. The music began to flow and I followed his lead across the dance floor. We moved in sync, left, right, back, twist. As we moved I watched as the crowd around us grew tighter. They left us a small space to move around. Hundreds of smiling faces watched us before they bowed their heads and showed their true skins.
I stared at everyone wide-eyed as I took in their Changeling shape. I was still struck with complete awe and fear at the sight of their true forms. I gripped Valerian’s hand and looked up at him. He was watching me with curiosity. A slight smile on his face while he watched me take in the events that were unfolding around us.
“You should get used to it.” He whispered. “You’re one of us too.”
I made no comment to his remark. The last thing that I wanted to think about was that I was a Changeling too. Those were emotions that I hadn’t completely dealt with, and I wasn’t ready to deal with them at that exact moment.
I broke my eye contact with him and looked back at the group around us. I watched as they raised their arms in the air and the golden light, that I had seen so many times, began to form is a large arch above us. I watched as it continued to form a dome over us. It stayed still for a few minutes before it began to grow brighter. I felt the warmth from the light as it grew bigger and brighter over-top of us. Suddenly, the light burst and collapsed in towards us. As the light dusted itself against our skin, Valerian pushed me out into a quick spin before he pulled me back into his chest.
I let out a quick breath as the light began to fade and those around us had changed back into their human form. They smiled at us before they found their partners next to them and joined us on the ballroom floor. The tempo began to quicken and our pace matched it.
“Ready?” Valerian said.
“Ready for what?” I asked. He didn’t respond before he spun me away from his body. Instead of his hand keeping a tight hold on my hand, he let go. I spun into another set of arms. Their hand gripped mine while their other hand sat dangerously low on my hip.
I didn’t need to look up at the face of my new partner to know who it was. My body instantly responded to his touch.
“What are you doing, Rupert?” My eyes met his. I sucked in a breath, as I tried to keep myself calm and my temptations at bay. My body responded to him in ways that I did not understand. I felt my heart quickens in my chest, my palms grew sweaty and my legs quivered beneath me.
“I told you,” He began. “I’m fighting for you.” His violet eyes travelled over my face.
“You already made your choice,” I said in a low voice as he pushed me away from him in a quick twist before he pulled me back into him. This time he pulled me flush against him. I quickly glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. They didn’t.
“One that I shouldn’t have made.”
“You’re right, you shouldn’t have. But you did, and now I have made mine.” He pushed me away from him in another twist and his hands left mine.
I glared at him over my shoulder as I found myself back in the arms of Valerian.
“You okay?” He asked, his eyes glancing up at Rupert.
“I’m fine,” I replied. His eyes moved back down to look at my face. He didn’t respond, but the smile that was on his face before we changed partners was no longer there.
We danced in silence before he twisted me away from him once again. I was not at all surprised to feel the hum of magic flow through my body when Rupert’s hands connected back with mine.
“You should leave,” I said.
“I’m not leaving unless you come with me.” His fingers dug into my hip. I glared at him.
“No. I did what you told me to do. I’m the Princess now, I’m marrying Valerian like you said I should. I made my choice, and I chose my people.” I spit each word out. “You don’t get to do this, not now.” I shook my head.
“Love,” I felt my heart stop for a second. “You know this isn’t what you want. You know that you belong with me.” He spoke quietly. “You know that he isn’t what you want, the darkness surrounds him. You feel it, I know you do.” He moved his face to the side of mine. He spoke against my ear, his breath tickling my skin.
I felt myself grow warm, I knew he was right. I wanted to tell him that, but I had made my choice. It was too late to turn back.
“I know,” I whispered so quietly that I wasn’t even sure I heard myself. I felt him pull back to look at my face.
I felt the tears pool in my eyes. I blinked them away before they fell. “But it’s too late.” I said to him as he spun me away.
“I’m going to turn in for the night.” I said as Valerian pulled me against him.
“Do you want me to get him to leave?” Valerian looked down at me with a frown.
I shook my head. “No, I don’t want to cause a scene.” I smiled softly at him. “Thank you.” I went on my toes and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. “I will see you in the morning.” I smiled before I let go of his hands and moved away from him.
I made one last glance over my shoulder and found Rupert moving to the side of the room towards me. I quickly turned away from him and slid out the side door into the hall. I moved quickly towards the steps. I could hear the footsteps behind me by the time I made it to the first landing. I looked back over my shoulder and caught the bold hue of navy as I turned the corner to take the last few steps to get to the next floor.
I pushed open my bedroom door and moved inside. I turned to quickly close it behind me but it was suddenly stopped by Rupert’s hand grabbing the door and pushing it open. He looked down at me before he moved towards me in one quick stride.
“What are you -” My sentence was instantly stopped by his lips crashing to mine. I heard the door slam shut behind us before everything else fell away and I was transported into a world of just feelings.