The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 18

I quietly open the door. It’s dark, his huge windows are covered by large blackout curtains. I hear his sheets move, slightly.

“Phoenix ?” My voice is a small, hoarse whisper. I step into the room fully, the light from the open door creating a path on the floor. I hear a slight movement from his bed again, before I can react I see a blur fly from the bed and flash across the dark room.

I stumble backwards a few steps when something collides with me. It’s Phoenix . When I get my bearings I look down to see him, on his knees in front of me, hugging me tightly. I immediately run my hands through his hair.

“Phoenix?”

He shakes his head and keeps his face pressed tightly into my stomach.

“Phoenix, please,” I beg.

He won’t look at me, so I force myself down onto the ground in front of him.

I grab his face in my hands and gently pull it level with my face. His eyes are closed but I can see the dark rings under them. Even exhausted , he is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.

A tear falls onto my outstretched arm and I realize that I’m crying. I’m not sure what to do to calm him. I want him to understand how I feel but no words seem adequate. I make a decision. I’m going to kiss him.

I take a deep breath and lean in before I have time to overthink it and stop myself.

I press my lips to his and the world around us freezes. Everything stops, the earth stops spinning, we are the only people left on the planet. He immediately reacts, cupping my face in his hands, he deepens the kiss.

“My beloved,” he whispers, his voice gravelly and rough.

“What?” I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

“It’s you, Ellie, you are my most beloved.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. I knew the second I saw you.”

I sit in stunned silence, our faces an inch apart. I search his eyes but they hold only sincerity. It feels too good to be true that he wants me, that he feels for me the same desperate need that I feel for him.

"I need you, Noelle. Please, please, never run away from me again," his voice is filled with sadness and hurt.

I lean forward, pressing my forehead to his, breathing in his scent.

“Wait, your gala is tonight. You’re supposed to choose a wife," I shoot back to look in his eyes.

“I’m supposed to choose a wife, it doesn’t have to be at the gala. It could be before the gala, on my bedroom floor.”

“Me?”

“You. I mean, if you’ll have me."

“You want to marry me?”

He laughs “was I too subtle before? Noelle, you are my beloved...”

“I... you...” I can’t form sentences.

“I took you to meet my mom, Ellie, I beg you to be here with me, I try to touch you and kiss you. I was trying not to freak you out so I tried to go slowly. I was hoping that we could spend every day of this week together so that when I told you it wouldn’t seem too soon. I know humans don’t move as fast as we do.”

My heart constricts “human.” I want to tell him, right now, but Alex told me to wait. He wants me, he wants to make me his wife, I should feel as light as air, but I don’t. The secret between us steals away the peace I should be feeling. There is still a chance that he won’t want me. I have never seen him interact with a werewolf, I don’t know how he feels about us. He might not be open to the idea of being married to a wolf even if he is open to treating us better.

“Ellie?” He lifts my face with one hand while sweeping my hair with the other.

“I know it seems really soon, for you, but will you be my wife? I promise, I will love you forever. You are my destiny, the keeper of my soul, my most beloved. I will stand proudly beside you, adoring you and honoring you, always.”

I choke on a sob. I want to scream “yes” from the rooftops. He says he’ll love me forever, maybe that includes when he knows the truth. My wolf is frantic, trying to push forward, wanting him desperately.

“Are you hesitating because you wouldn’t want me to turn you?”

Shit! I hadn’t even considered that. He can’t turn me, and it wouldn’t even be necessary, I’m already immortal.

“Please, don’t let that deter you. I won’t pressure you. If you don’t want it, then I won’t do it, I won’t even try to change your mind. Let me love you for every second of your human life. Please, don’t let that be a factor.”

“Phoenix, I want nothing more than to be your wife, than for you to be my husband but...you’re a vampire. You’re the prince. No one will accept me as your wife, as their Queen.”

“I will be King, they will accept what I tell them to accept. I don’t care that you aren’t a vampire. It doesn’t matter to me, at all. Our souls are connected, Noelle, we are meant for each other human...vampire...it doesn’t matter.”

My heart bursts. I know that this is dangerous. I know that it has the potential to end badly but right now, I need him, come what may. This feels right, however wrong it is, however many reasons there are to run, I want him and this.

“I’ll marry you,” I smile through my tears, “I’ll marry you!”

He pulls me into a tight embrace.

“I love you, Ellie” he places gentle kisses all over my face. He stands, lifting me in his arms, my legs securely around his waist.

“You look tired.” I touch his face, trying to memorize the feeling of his skin against my hands.

“I haven’t slept much recently.”

“Me either.”

“Want to lay down for a while?”

“What about the gala?”

“Do you want to go?”

“No!” I imagine Madam Viciosos’ rage multiplied by two hundred. I don’t think things would end particularly well for me.

“Then we’ll skip it. The point is to find my wife, I found her.”

“You really want to marry me, Phoenix? Me?”

“Noelle, do you not realize what you are? In a world full of hate, you are light. You’re kind, forgiving, gentle and warm. You are everything I’ve looked for. Vampires don’t normally marry until their fifties, and Kings don’t rule until their eighties or nineties. These are unusual circumstances. The fact that I found you is fate, Ellie. My life is falling apart, but you hold me together. For me, there will never be another.”

“It’s just hard for me to believe that you feel that way about me. To me, you are all those things. I have never known the affection or gentleness that you’ve shown me. My whole life, I have been a part of a group, like...like a small piece in a much bigger picture. I don’t really matter as an individual, only how I relate back to my role. You’re the only person that has ever cared about me, the real me. You notice the things I like, you listen when I talk about my interests and you don’t think they’re stupid. I guess I’ve never felt seen, or valued.”

“You’re everything, Ellie. To me, there is nothing with more value than you.”

He presses his lips to my forehead and freezes there. I can feel tension in his arms and chest. He’s upset. It’s like I have a link to his mind, to his heart, I just understand. He’s mad that I haven’t felt valued. How I’m treated matters to him. He cares about the way other people act and behave around me.

A feeling washes over me, like warm water, I can’t control it and I don’t want to stop it. I grab his face and kiss him, hard. He’s startled for a moment but recovers quickly. He growls deep in his throat and the sound vibrates in my bones. My blood is on fire.

“Take me to bed, Your Majesty.”

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