The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 40

I wake up alone in our bed. I didn't even feel Phoenix leave. As I reach for the note laying on his pillow the door opens quickly and Dannon rushes in. Her eyes are wide, she looks hysterical.

“Your Majesty, you have to come with me. The King has called a gathering of the nobility in the grand hall. The Prince sent me to get you.”

“This is bad, right?”

“I’m not sure what’s happening but I definitely don’t think it’s good, Highness.”

I take a deep breath and follow her out the door. I fidget in the trolley. Nervously rubbing my hands together. My wolf is on edge, so much so that my human senses are heightened. Everything feels sharper, more in focus.

“Do you happen to know where Sloane, Mercer and Miles are?” I ask her, hoping she knows.

“Miles is with the Prince, Sloane is... waiting for a signal. I don't know where Mercer is.”

I can’t help but smile. Hope is not lost, there is still a chance that we can pull this off. When she parks the trolley I notice the sea of gray uniforms, I can sense that they are human.

“Humans? Why are there so many humans here?” I turn to poor Dannon like she has any more information than I do.

As we walk into the hall I scan through the crowd. There is a group of about one hundred vampire nobility and dignitaries sitting in front while about two hundred humans are seated behind them.

On a balcony in the front the King sits on a throne, Phoenix and Arius stand at his sides.

I am ushered forward, toward the balcony. When people notice me they bow their heads. I recognize three Alpha’s dressed as humans in the crowd. I relax slightly, we aren’t completely alone here.

I am brought to a staircase behind a thick curtain.

“Go up to the Prince,” Dannon gestures to the balcony, “I’ll be right here.”

As I walk up the stairs my mind races a thousand miles a minute. I don’t know what to expect when I reach the top.

I part the curtain at the top and step onto the balcony. Phoenix immediately steps forward and pulls me toward him. He places me as far away from Arius as he can, slightly behind him. My back is pressed against the windows behind us.

“Princess, thank you for joining us,” Arius smiles at me, “You’re the guest of honor in this little gathering!”

Arius turns toward the crowd and I clutch Phoenix . He turns to me and very deliberately makes eye contact with me, then looks beyond me, out the window. I turn slightly and follow his gaze, we’re over the forest, beyond the trees I can see the guard station just outside of our courtyard.

I nod to him. As Arius starts to speak, Phoenix leans down and kisses my forehead, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

“On behalf of the King, I thank you for coming. We have distressing news to share but fret not! We already have a solution to the problem.”

Phoenix locks our hands together.

“It has been brought to our attention, that there are werewolves somehow beating the silver testing.”

The crowd begins to gasp and murmur to each other.

“Please, remain calm, I understand your concern. We believe these wolves are living amongst us, pretending to be human.”

My breath is shallow. The room starts to spin and I rock on my feet. I lean forward and rest my head against the back of Phoenix ′ arm.

“Ever diligent in our quest to keep you all safe, our scientists have developed another test. It is a simple pinprick that will show us, without any doubts, wolf or human. We will begin phase one of testing today.”

My heart hammers in my chest. From the corner of my eye I see Titus stepping in through one of the doors in the back. He looks up toward Phoenix and I and nods so subtly that I almost miss it.

“The test is a small silver vaccine. The amount is so minut that a human will be unaffected. A wolf however, will die instantly.”

The muscles in Phoenix ′ back tense then shake, rage flowing through him.

“As a show of good faith, our Dear Princess will take the first test.”

Arius turns to Phoenix, “Bring her foreword, please.”

Phoenix squeezes my hand hard. He turns so that I can see his face and mouths “shift.” Before I can even register what he said he pushes me back with incredible speed, breaking the window with his other hand. It takes only a second to realize I’m falling before I shift.

I hit the ground running. I can hear screams and chaos behind me. My wolf sprints through the woods. I’ll go to Celine, like we planned.

I run as fast as I can to Celine’s studio. I shift and push the door open. I stumble into the room and quickly look for something to put on. I find a black robe, similar to one she made for me. As I finish tying it around myself Milli steps out of the fabric room.

I immediately feel nervous. Something isn’t right. She looks at me with sheer revulsion.

“Your Majesty,” she says in a cold voice that sounds nothing like the cheerful, pleasant voice I’m used to hearing from her. “What are you doing here?” she questions dryly.

“I’m looking for Celine,” I try to sound calm.

“Naked?” she quirks her eyebrow, “I’m starting to think I may have been right about you,” she says dryly.

My throat tightens.

“You know, I wondered why an antique ring, several millennia old, would be reset in white gold instead of silver, ” She taps her finger to her chin, “Arius thought it was strange, too.”

I begin to look around the room, trying to formulate some kind of plan.

“I’m sorry, am I boring you?”

My eyes snap back to her. I don’t speak, I’m too busy trying to think my way out of this.

“I don’t understand why the Prince would marry you. A filthy mutt. He’s... he’s... wolf, human, whatever, you don’t deserve him.”

I laugh “is that what this is about? You’re jealous? You go running to Arius to try to get rid of me. Why? So you can have Phoenix ?” I stop and cackle, “Even if I’m out of the picture, he doesn’t want you.”

With that, she blows up. She’s on me in an instant. Luckily, I took the time to search the room while she was blabbering.

She knocks me to the ground, I roll across the floor and reach beneath the chair behind me. Grabbing the fabric sheers I saw on the floor. I jump up and plunge them into her neck. She’s hurt and surprised enough that I’m able to shift.

She lunges at me as she rips the sheers from her neck. She swings them, making contact with my back a few times.

I run and jump into her, knocking her body against the ground. She stabs the sheers into my neck. Shit.

I bite into her arm and she screams, dropping the sheers. She uses her other hand to hit my face, repeatedly. I use all my strength to stand on my hind legs with her arm still in my mouth, I push her backwards and she falls into a roll of fabric.

Before she has a chance to move I shift, springing forward I grab one of the small candles from Celine's desk and throw it at the ground.

The fabric ignites instantly. Milli screams before she is completely engulfed in flames.

For a moment I stand, motionless. The room sways as I turn to grab the robe. I clutch my neck, searching for something to stop the bleeding. I find a piece of fabric and tie it around the wound tightly.

I hobble from the studio, moving as quickly as I can. As I run into the courtyard I am surrounded by guards.

Shit.

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