When we start to get near the front door I lower my head and try to step behind Ivan, but he doesn’t let me. Before we go around the last corner he stops and turns towards me. He takes my chin gently in his hand and tilts my head up. “Don’t worry, Crow and I will both be by your side. Keep your head up, Bella, it’s too pretty to be faced towards the floor.”A soft blush covers my cheeks at his comment. He smiles and again starts us towards the front door.
When we get closer I can hear what two feminine voices are saying. One is Sarah, I am not sure who the second voice belongs to. “You’re just my father’s damn whore! You have no say about anything in this house!” The second voice yells, my eyes grow big and I look at Ivan to see him shaking his head wearing a smirk. It must be his sister Nova
“How dare you! I am your father’s wife and your stepmother! I am carrying your little brother! You will respect me or you won’t be coming home ever again!” I flinch as I hear skin meet skin. Ivan pushes me towards Crow and runs to them. I go to follow but Crow pulls me back and shakes his head.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Ivan yells in a demanding voice. “How dare you lay a hand on my sister! The only reason you’re even in this house still is because you’re carrying my little brother and my father doesn’t want to lose his standing. Lay a hand on her again and I will go to the council. You and the baby will be kicked from the family and the clan!” He pauses, “Now, Sarah go tell my father what you did. If I tell him your punishment will be much worse. Nova is his little princess.” Crow chuckles at this.
Heels can be heard heading this way, when Sarah rounds the corner her eyes grow big at seeing me. Her eyes are glistening with unshed tears. She quickly glares at me and moves on. After she is gone Crow puts my hand in the crook of his elbow and leads me to the front door once again. Wow, Nova is beautiful, even in a private school uniform. Her dark brown hair falls in perfect curls down to her shoulders. She is nearly as tall as Ivan maybe just an inch or two shorter. She is slim but in an athletic way, with small breast and a small butt. “Nova, I want you to meet my fiancee, Arabella.” He holds his hand out for me to take. I timidly put my hand into his larger one.
“Wow, she looks like a delicate little thing. Why’d they place her with the dark?” Nova asks, my eyes grow big, and look down. “Aww, I’ve embarrassed the little thing. Man our family is gonna eat you up and spit you back out before the first course. Anyways, we will have to chat later I think I see one of Sarah’s friends pulling in and I am still in my uniform.” She runs off before either of us says anything.
“Sorry, it looks like it will be just us greeting our guest until my father has finished punishing Sarah.” The man who had greeted us last time comes around and says we won’t be alone. He opens the door just as two well-dressed women come in. While the butler is taking their shawls Ivan leans down and whispers. “Ignore their comments.”
“Ivan! It’s so good to see you!” The blond yells excitedly.
“Rebecca, this is my fiancee, Arabella Kynaston, Arabella this is Rebecca Davis, one of Sarah’s friends.” He sighs and when she sticks her hand out to him he ignores it.
“Why don’t you call her mom yet?” The other blond asks him.
“Because she isn’t.” He says plainly, “This is Veronica Williams, she’s Sarah’s sister.”
“Her only sister, Arabella, do you have any clanless siblings?” My eyes dart up to meet her smirking face. I think that is supposed to be an insult. She sighs when I remain silent. “Where is my sister anyways? She normally greets her guests.” Veronica asks as she looks around like she is going to pop around a corner.
“She is getting punished,” What! Did he really just tell her sister that? I look at Crow but his face is completely emotionless again.
“Ugh, of course, she is, let me guess that ungrateful brat Nova had something to do with this?” Veronica says I let go of Ivan’s hand and step towards Crow, sensing Ivan’s anger.
“Say that again about my sister I dare…” Ivan is interrupted by Ubel and Sarah coming in. Sarah puts on a fake smile and starts to greet both of the women.
“Sarah, take both of them to the dining hall,” Ubel tells her, as Ivan once again pulls me next to him. “Almost the whole family said they would be here tonight. Can you believe that?” Ubel asks Ivan.
“I wonder why that is? I thought we agreed to keep her unexposed until she was ready? What happened to that?” Ivan asks him as a black Hummer pulls up in front of the door.
“It’s just family, don’t worry,” Ubel tells him as the door opens and an entire family comes in. All of them are very tall, must be a family thing. The man looks like a twin of Ubel just without the beard. He has two teenage sons, that are also twins, and a daughter who looks to be in her preteens. The twins come right to Ivan and I, whereas the young girl and their parents go to Ubel.
“Hey! I heard you got engaged! Congrats man, is this her?” One of the identical twins asks. He looks over at me and smiles showing his perfectly straight teeth, they both have athletic builds, brown hair, and brown eyes.
“This is my cousins Nolan and Allen. Guys this is my fiancee, Arabella Kynaston,” Nolan is the one who spoke.
“Kynaston? Isn’t that a light last name in England?” Allen asks, raising his eyebrows at Ivan.
Ivan sighs, “Uncle Edwin, Aunt Everly it’s great to see you. Amila, how’s school going?” Ivan asks, changing the topic as well as bringing his family over. Amila shrugs and pulls out her phone. Her dad takes the phone and puts it inside his suit jacket.
She huffs and glares at Ivan, “It’s fine, no I don’t have a girlfriend, no I didn’t get in trouble at school this week.” She is wearing a grey pantsuit with ballet flats. Her brown hair was straightened and let flow to her chin with the other side clipped to the back of her head.
“Arabella, I’ve heard so much about you. To have the gift of the spirits is incredible. Have you been able to summon them?” Edwin asks me, both twins halt their conversation with Ivan and look over at me.
“What are you talking about Dad, that’s the symbol for foresight.” Allen, maybe, asks him. While he looks at the mark on my collarbone.
“But you have two gifts don’t you, Arabella.” He states more than asks, I look up at Ivan but he doesn’t help, so I just shrug my shoulders. My heartbeat picks up as the attention is directed at me. Edwin looks over at Ubel with a questioning look.
“Why don’t you all head to the dining hall while we wait for the rest of the family,” Ubel asks as he leads them out of the room. When they are out of earshot Ivan looks down at me.
“You doing ok?” I nod my head. “Good because my grandparents are coming now with the rest of the family.”
“I need to use the restroom,” I say to try and get away from this big group as three cars pull in.
“Crow will take you and I will meet you both in the hall,” Ivan says as he lets go of my sweaty hand. Crow shes me to the nearest restroom. I close and lock the door behind me. It’s a simple powder bathroom. I turn the hot water on and run my shaky hands underneath it. I am never around this many people. When I went to school I tried to stay away from people. I take a deep breath and try to calm my nerves.
I close my eyes and try some more. “Are you ok,” Crow asks as he knocks on the door. I quickly turn off the water and dry my hands. When I open the door Crow gives me a concerned look. “It’ll be ok, come on let’s go to the dining room.” I clasp my shaky hands together and follow behind him. My heartbeat still not slowing down from earlier. Ivan is standing outside of the double doors and looks up when he hears us.
“Hey,” he says as he pulls me into his arms. “It’ll be ok, if you don’t feel like talking then don’t. Crow is going to be behind us and Malachi, Nova’s boyfriend just came, he is going to be sitting next to you. He is a quiet guy and big so he’ll be blocking some people from being able to see you. Nolan and Allen are across from us.” he puts my hand on the crook of his elbow once again this time though I put my other ontop and put myself closer. I don’t want to do this anymore. I just want my dad back. He’d let me hide behind him as Mom proudly walked into the room with tall heels clacking against the floor. The talking can be heard from behind the door. As Ivan opens one of the doors and the talking is even louder. He directs me next to a buff man with a tattoo on his hand. When I sit next to him he flashes me a gentle smile. He has a golden skin tone and black hair and dark brown eyes. “Malachi, this is Arabella, would you mind blocking her from my grandparents?” Ivan asks him, Malachi chuckles and nods his head in understanding. When both of us are seated four people come out of the kitchen, one of them is Emma, and the other the butler. I’m not sure who the other two are.
While they place small appetizers in front of us, Allen looks at me and asks, “So, how did you and Ivan meet?” Emma places a small white plate in front of me. I smile at her in thanks but then look down at the plate and the smile falls. It’s three oysters… I forget about the question as my face pinches in disgust. Someone laughs across from me. “Ivan, I think your fiancee doesn’t like oysters. It’s Allen I look up at him, my eyes still big.
“It’s fine, I uh, can eat these slimy things…” I mutter the last part.
Ivan hears me and so does Malachi, “You don’t have to eat them, Nova doesn’t like them, and that’s why Sarah chose them as the appetizers.” Ivan tells me, Emma takes the plate and puts down a tea glass for me. She whispers to me that it’s lavender tea to help me with my nerves before running off.
“Ha! Your guest…” Nova starts to shout but Malachi does something to stop her. Ivan puts his arm around the back of my chair.
“Anyways, Allen our engagement was arranged, so we met in the council chambers.” Allen chokes on his oyster, Nolan laughs and pats his back.
“No shit, so it’s true then? Her parents are Elanor and Edward?” Nolan asks as he continues to hit his brother’s back. Their mom gives a concerned look towards her son who is still coughing.
Amila starts to laugh at Allen, “You aren’t supposed to breathe in the oyster! I thought you were the smart twin.” she says between laughs. Their dad chuckles at this until Everly gives him the look that all mothers have. Allen settles down.
“Shit, I’m surprised they let her join this family,” Allen says once he calms down.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nova asks Allen sounding offended.
“Well with your dad cheating on his vow to your mom after she died.” He pauses and points at Sarah.
“We are still next in line for a seat on the council, when one of them steps down Ubel will be in the council. I am sure it’s a way for them to keep a close eye on her. We are also the closest to the council than other clans.” Ivan tells him as the empty plates are taken. When they come out again it’s with soup. Ivan starts to laugh when one is put down in front of him. Nova huffs and starts to get up, Malachi again stops her. Both twins start to laugh as well as a bowl is placed in front of them. Emma comes around and refills me tea but doesn’t put a soup in front of me. I look at Ivan’s bowl but don’t recognize it. “It’s oyster soup.” He hands me a piece of bread that was on the plate. I take the bread and bite into it. It’s not too bad though it has a weird seasoning. The butler comes out with two bowls. One is sat down in front of Nova and the other in front of me. When he sets it down in front of me he tells me it’s cream of brie.
Once everyone is done, Edwin asks Ivan a question. “When is the wedding then Ivan? Will the Page’s be invited?”
“Not until Arabella is done with school.”
“Will you be going to the academy with us?” Nolan asks as more food is brought out. What is that? I look down at the food, it’s some kind of animal, the bone is still attached. “It’s lamb shank, the shin of the lamb.” Nolan smiles, “Another one of Nova’s disliked foods.” How do you even eat this? It looks like it’s on mashed potatoes. Maybe I’ll just eat those.
“She’ll be going once she has a better understanding of everything,” Ivan answers his question. I poke Ivan’s side he looks down, when I motion him to bend down he smiles.
“How do I eat this?” I don’t think I am supposed to pick it up to eat it. He smiles at me and grabs a sharp knife that I don’t have at my silverware placement. Do they think I may harm myself? He cuts his up and then switches our plates.