The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 20

I startle awake, my body trying to shoot up from the bed but I’m weighed down. My sudden movements wake Phoenix who is crushing me again.

“Sorry, Ellie. I can’t stay away from you, even in my sleep.” He chuckles, “why are you awake? It’s two a.m.”

“I have to go, Phoenix , my family is probably so worried.”

“Ok, let’s go.”

“Lets?”

“Yeah, I would like to meet them.”

“I...Phoenix ...I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”

He sits up, panicked, “You're not leaving me, right?”

“No!”

He lets out a sigh of relief, clutching his chest “you scared me, Ellie.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that, I’m nervous to tell them.”

“Why?”

“There are some things that you don’t know, Phoenix .”

“What kind of things, Ellie?” He rubs my back gently.

“They’re wolves,” I whisper.

“Ok,” he says, not missing a beat.

I turn to look at him. This can’t possibly be his reaction.

“Ok?”

“I mean, yes, ok, did you think that would be a problem?”

“Well, yes. Wolves aren’t exactly anybody’s favorites.”

“Love, it doesn’t matter to me. Let’s go see them, then go visit my mother.”

I freeze. She’s supposed to be executed tonight.

“Phoenix ...”

“I’m ok, Ellie. There are some things that I have to explain to you, later.”

I want to question him but I decide not to. If he wants to discuss it later, we will, I’m definitely keeping secrets from him.

My wolf is anxious, demanding control. Being around Phoenix usually makes her calm and easy to control but right now she is agitated, she wants time with him.

As we walk toward the trolley I don’t miss the sly grin on Sloane’s face. My cheeks burn red but before anyone can speak, a man and a few other vampire guards round the corner into the courtyard. I feel Phoenix tense beside me, pulling me closer to him while stepping slightly in front of me. I see Sloane tense too. Her face set in a deep scowl while her eyes dart back and forth between the approaching men.

“Prince,” one of the men says as he bows slightly. His voice makes my skin crawl, there is something sinister about him and my wolf is immediately on edge.

“Arius,” Phoenix responds in a cold, angry voice I’ve never heard from him.

“Who are you hiding there?” He turns his attention to me, “a little pet?”

Phoenix ′ jaw tightens so that I’m afraid he’ll break his teeth.

“You will show proper reverence when you speak about her,” his voice booms through the courtyard, “she will be your Queen!”

Arius cackles out a rough laugh, devoid of humor.

“I had wondered about your absence last night. Guess you didn’t need a gala after all. How lucky.”

He takes a step forward and I instinctively reach for Phoenix’ arm.

“Now, now my Queen, have no fear. What is your name?”

“Noelle,” I muster all of my courage so that my voice doesn’t shake. The vampire before me is unlike any I’ve ever seen. He is not beautiful but haunting. There is darkness swirling in his black eyes and I instantly feel small and helpless before him. He doesn’t love, he doesn’t feel, there is no humanity left in him.

The air feels colder in his presence.

“Noelle,” he says, his slimy voice wrapped around my name makes my hair stand on end. The grin on his face makes a pit form in my stomach.

“What a lovely little thing, you are.”

“Watch it, Arius,” Phoenix barks through gritted teeth.

Arius puts his hand up in surrender and steps back.

“I didn’t mean any harm. We came to check on you. We were so concerned, Your Majesty.” He says in mock distress. “When you didn’t show up at the gala, we worried something perilous had befallen you.”

“As you can see, I’m fine. You didn’t need to trouble yourselves at this hour.”

“Will I see you tonight?” He grins, meaning the Queen’s execution.

“Yes,” is all Phoenix says before gently pulling me toward the trolley. “We have somewhere to be,” he growls while pushing past the guards.

“Please, don’t let me keep you. I have tonight’s tragic events to oversee anyway.” He bows his head before turning to leave.

As they round the corner Phoenix pulls me onto his lap in the trolley. His breathing ragged and hoarse. He buries his face in my neck and takes several long, deep breaths. I can feel his body shaking with tension. He holds me so tightly that it’s painful.

“Phoenix,” I croak “Phoenix I can’t breathe.”

He snaps his head up and releases his grip on me, his eyes frantically searching my face and body.

“Noelle, I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you?”

“I’m fine,” I reach up and cup his face in my hand, “you were just squeezing a little bit tight.” I try to give a small smile but his face is so distraught that I can’t even force one.

“Hey, Phoenix , really. I’m fine.”

“He knows about you now, Ellie. He’s dangerous. I know this is moving fast but I need you to come stay with me. I have to protect you.”

I’m not sure how my uncle is going to react to that but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to stay with him. Not only because my wolf feels at ease in his presence but because I have a feeling he is going to need me tonight. The weight of everything that is going on around us suddenly feels heavy in my heart.

“I’ll stay with you,” I lean forward and gently kiss his lips. He pulls me closer as I try to back away. What started as a chased, sweet kiss quickly becomes more.

Sloane clears her throat and laughs, “sorry to interrupt but you called me here to take you somewhere.” Her voice is light and full of humor.

Phoenix clears his throat “Yes, sorry. We’re going to her family home.”

I absentmindedly point the directions to my house as Sloane drives. Phoenix draws comforting circles on my thigh. We are both deep in thought, neither one of us breaking the silence hanging heavily in the air.

As we pull to a stop in front of the collapsing steps in front of my door, my hand shakes with nervous energy. I’ve walked through this door a million times but this time, my life will change on the other side. My aunt and uncle are about to meet Phoenix , the vampire prince, my fiance.

“Are you ok, Ellie?” His soft voice pulls me from my thoughts, “what’s on your mind?”

“I’m ok, Phoenix . Are you alright?”

He places a soft kiss to my forehead before resting his head against mine.

“There is a lot going on and I’m trying to process it all. There are so dark days ahead, some things that are going to have to be dealt with. I might seem distant or unhappy sometimes but please never mistake or misunderstand how incredibly happy I am to have found you. The world might be burning around us but I have never felt a peace like this. You will be my salvation through all of this.”

I blink back tears. How does he do that?!

“You’re a wordsmith,” I say, biting back a chuckle, “while I can’t phrase it quite as eloquently as you just did, I feel the same way. In such a short amount of time you have become my source of peace and comfort. I can’t help but feel, deep in my soul, that we will get through this together.”

He smiles against my lips before quickly kissing me. “Let’s go meet your family.”

As we slide out of the trolley I see several neighbors peeking from behind their curtains. This should be interesting.

“I’ll be right out here,” Sloane says, scanning the street.

I stop and take a deep breath before opening the door.

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