The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 30

I’m alone with Dannon in a small room beside the ceremonial hall. We’re both gently running our fingers over the fine details of my dress.

Celine has really outdone herself this time! The deep purple dress has a long, sheer train with intricate lavender bead work. The bodice is sheer lace over a sweetheart neckline. The lace continues beyond the bodice covering my exposed skin in the sheer fabric.

We both inspect “my veil.” Leave it to Celine to beautify our inconspicuous fire starting tool.

“Is this going to work?” Dannon asks lowly.

“It has to.”

Celine and Milli burst into the room just then.

“Oh! Noelle! You look stunning! Let’s get you in this dress!” Celine cheers.

She and Milli slowly and carefully pull the dress up, over the intricately designed underwear Celine is forcing me to wear.

“What about the veil?” Milli grabs the long piece of fabric.

“Oh! I forgot all about that. I had them do my hair down, I don’t think it will work.” I hope I’m convincingly fake distressed enough to fool Milli.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Dear.” Celine pats my arm “that hairstyle is perfect! Who needs a veil!?”

“It’s showtime!” Sloane calls from the door.

Celine, Dannon and I look up at the clock on the wall. Showtime, in more ways than one. T-minus twelve minutes.

We gather behind the door to the ceremonial hall. Anxiousness and excitement flow through me. I’m ready to walk into the waiting arms of my husband. I know we will be distracted by the knowledge that the first piece of our plan is in motion but I'm still ready.

Sloane squeezes my hand gently, as I turn to give her a small nod, I see Celine in the side room, slowly, methodically, rolling the veil into a neatly folded bundle. She winks at me as Dannon and Milli pull the double doors open. At the end of the aisle, Phoenix is standing beside the Head of Ceremonies. A tall, beautiful vampire wearing special gold robes, for the occasion.

A passage of early vampiric literature on the sacred gift of a beloved is read. Our eyes burn into each other from across the room. I know there are close to fifty people watching from balcony seats but it feels like just the two of us. Once the passage is read the Head of Ceremonies asks for a blessing from the King. There is a tense silence for a moment before a voice finally speaks.

“In the name of the King, it is with great pleasure that I bless the union of his only child to his most beloved. Please continue the ceremony.”

Arius? Why would he be giving the Kings blessing?

There is an immediate reaction. From where I’m standing, under the balcony, I can’t see the audience but I can hear them. As soon as Arius began to speak, there was an uncomfortable shifting in the chairs above me. Apparently, I’m not the only one wondering what is going on.

I don’t have time to dwell on it, though. The Head of Ceremonies raises his hands, “with that blessing, it is my honor to call the bride.”

With trembling legs, I walk toward Phoenix , toward my future. I focus on his bright smile. I can’t believe that he knows I’m a wolf and he accepts it, with no hesitation. The world is on fire around us, hopefully literally in a few minutes, but I feel only calm. My mate knows, he knows what I am and he still loves me, still wants me. When I reach him he wraps his hands around mine, tightly.

“You are stunning,” he whispers quietly.

Then, he looks over my head and discreetly holds one of his hands open against mine. A moment later, he begins to count down from five with his hand.

Five seconds

Four seconds

Three seconds

Two seconds

One second

Now!

We both let out a nervous breath.

Luckily, we don’t have to speak during the ceremony because neither of us is paying any attention.

Right now, Celine is lighting the match.

We wait, listening for any signs that it worked. We probably won’t be able to hear anything from here, we’ll have to wait until the ceremony is over to find out if it was successful.

I peek over at Dannon, who is still standing by the door. It looks like she’s holding her breath.

If everything is going according to plan, in a moment the main security office should be totally engulfed in flames. They will call out an alert, ‘an emergency in zone three’. All the guards will shut down their posts and rush to contain the fire.

As soon as the gate is completely clear, Miles and Mercer, who are hiding nearby, will unlock it and let in our...guest. Sloane will arrive with a trolley to quickly drive them to the lab.

During the procedure only Mercer and Sloane will be present. We thought it would be less suspicious for only two people to be missing. Miles will bring the trolley back here and join the wedding.

My mind is racing. What is happening? Is everything working? I want to know who the volunteer is but they have apparently asked for anonymity.

I look back at Dannon who is turning to open the door. Celine steps in with a huge smile on her face. I feel Phoenix relax slightly next to me. At least the first part of the plan worked.

“Your Majesty?” The Head of Ceremonies questions.

We both turn our attention to him for the first time.

“I said, ’with this kiss, you seal the bond of your marriage and the bond to your people. To rule and guide, to love your Kingdom as you love one another.”

Without hesitation Phoenix pulls me to him, crushing my body into his chest, lifting me off the ground. He softly grazes my lips with his. He moves, letting his lips skim over my cheek, then lightly touching my ear he whispers, “I will love you forever.”

Before I can respond he crashes his lips down on mine. We are completely alone. The chaos happening outside doesn’t exist. For a moment everything melts away. We are lost in each other. I know I am not the first to have a mate, but it feels like no one has ever loved anyone as much as I love him.

We will need to stop for air soon but I don’t want to.

When we finally break apart, I rest my forehead against his.

“You’re my husband!” I giggle quietly.

The Head of Ceremonies chuckles and we both turn, startled. Oh, yeah. He’s still here. From behind us, I hear the shuffling of feet and quiet whispers as the audience begins to exit.

I turn to look at them for the first time. The King and Arius have already left but I catch a quick glance at a furious Madam Vicioso.

“I invited them,” Phoenix whispers “I wanted her to watch as you became my wife.”

I snort, “I thought that level of pettiness was below you.”

He nuzzles his face into my hair “you thought wrong, wife.”

The Head of Ceremonies clears his throat and steps forward, leaning in close, “Congratulations, Majesties. I speak for many of us when I say, we anxiously await your rule.” He gives a small, tight smile before turning to leave.

“Do we have to go to the reception? Can’t we just go home?” I ask him as we walk toward the doors.

“I wish but I think that would raise suspicions," he chuckles as he takes my hand in his.

As we walk into the courtyard in front of the hall, Miles drives up in the trolley. He gives us a small wink. There is a collective sigh of relief. Dannon, who is usually very serious, let’s out a small chuckle, which starts me laughing, soon Phoenix and Celine join. We stand there, laughing like idiots. The absurdity of the plan, the stress we’ve all felt, the tension, it melts away.

As we all slide into the trolley my thoughts go to Mercer. Please, let the procedure be successful.

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