The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 7

An hour into washing, drying, pressing then hanging and folding everyone’s uniforms, I’m dripping sweat. A window in this room would be so wonderful. I hear something outside and I freeze.

Even though I work here and I’m doing my job, I always feel like I’m going to get into trouble. I relax when I hear teenage giggling outside the door.

I know I shouldn’t be eavesdropping but I can’t help that they are right outside of the tiny room I happen to be in. It’s not like I came in here to spy, I’ve been stuck pressing uniforms all day. I take a step closer to the door, hoping to hear better. I recognize one of the voices, the oldest daughter of the house, Emilia. The other girl must be a friend.

“How long does he have?”

“I’m not sure, there hasn’t been an official announcement.”

“He’s really looking for a wife, though?”

“Yeah, the King has to step down after the trial is over, if she’s found guilty and the prince is going to take over for him, but not before he gets married.”

“Ohmygod!”

“I know!!! Can you imagine?”

“He’s so handsome, if he even looks at me I think I would simply...pass away.”

“Honestly, same!”

“I wonder how he’s going to choose? If it’s a gala or something I’m sure we would be invited, right?”

“I think, I mean, our parents rank high enough. He probably won’t be looking for common girls.”

“How did your mom hear about this?”

I don’t hear her reply, their voices grow faint, as they walk away from the laundry room.

Closing arguments for the Queens trial haven’t even begun, no verdict has been given. The King is already putting plans in motion to step back? Vampires requires both a King and a Queen to rule.

I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor in the foyer. I hear heels clicking against the tile long before she enters the room.

“I need you to run this to a seamstress before the end of the day. Take it on your way home.”

She holds up a large manila envelope then places it on the table in the center of the foyer. I quickly finish scrubbing the remainder of the floor. Even though I was given an extra task with a timeline, she would be mad if I didn’t finish all of my regular chores.

I quickly grab the envelope and rush out of the house. They live outside of the city, in the upper class residential neighborhoods.

It takes me twenty minutes to get to the cafe, which is on the edge of the city. Hopefully this seamstress is close to that, otherwise I could be in for a very long walk.

There was a name on the envelope “Madam Celine.” How am I supposed to know where to take this? I don’t know who Madam Celine is.

When I get to the cafe the tip of my nose is red and cold. This is perfect weather for shifting. Going for a run in wolf form is one of the best feelings as it is, but in this kind of weather? It’s magical. Everything is beautiful, the trees are orange and red, the sky is blue, there is a chill in the air. I would love to have my fur right now.

Looking into the cafe, I feel tense. It’s really busy, there are vamps everywhere. I see the boy from this morning, still working, behind the counter. He is the only person I can even think of to ask. As much as I don’t want to go in there, I don’t really have a choice. The bell over the door rings as I walk through.

“Back again?” He looks surprised.

“Um, actually, I have a question.” I feel stupid for asking him this. I lift the envelope up and show him the name “Do you know who Madam Celine is? She’s a seamstress.”

Just as he’s about to answer, a woman speaks from behind me.

“What do you want with Madam Celine?”

I turn to find a beautiful but mean looking vampire woman staring at me like she’s repulsed.

“The lady of the house asked me to bring this to her.”

“I see” she looks down at me, both figuratively and literally. “Madam Celine is the seamstress to the royal family. She lives in the residential quarters.”

“At the castle?” I gape at her.

“Obviously.”

I’m stunned for a moment. I’m supposed to take this to the castle? When I don’t respond she snaps at me.

“Are you finished here or are you going to stand here, holding up the line all day?”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Thank you for the information.”

I bow my head before walking toward the door. Before leaving I give the boy a small wave. I don’t have time to mess around, it will take me at least another fifteen minutes to get to the castle and it’s all uphill.

I weave through the crowds as quickly as I can. I’ve gone my whole life without going to the royal grounds, now, I’m going twice in two days.

As I make it to the security wall surroundings the compound I realize I have no idea how to get inside. Taking rapid steps, I follow the wall for about ten minutes before I finally see an entrance.

“Excuse me” I bow my head “I am...”

He cuts me off “This isn’t a pedestrian entrance. Follow the wall down to the next gate.”

“Thank you” I quickly walk in the direction he pointed me in. After a few minutes I see another gate, it is much smaller than the previous one.

“Excuse me, is this the pedestrian entrance?”

“Yes. Do you have permission to be here, human?” The guard is looking at me like I smell like rotten garbage.

“Yes, sir. I am here to deliver this to Madam Celine” I hold up the envelope.

He snatches it from my hands and opens it, inspecting the contents. Another guard steps out of their small office “Do you have any weapons on you?”

“No, Sir.”

He pats me down thoroughly.

“Go ahead.”

“Um, actually, Sir. Can you tell me where I can find her?”

I didn’t know it was possible but he looks even more annoyed by me.

He points toward a walkway covered by beautiful wooden arbors engulfed in flowers. Just past it, I can see that the trail leads through a lush garden.

“Walk through there until you come to the residential quarters.”

I want to ask him how I will know which residence is hers, but I don’t. Hopefully, I will run into someone else.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think they should assign guards to the gates that aren’t the most grumpy vamps in the world. I’m a lowly human, I get it, they hate us but they act like I did something to them, personally.

Walking under the flower covered arbors, I pretend that I’m alone, walking through this beautiful garden. I’m not at the castle, I’m not running an errand, I’m free and enjoying this place because I want to.

There aren’t many places in the city where you can see anything beautiful, trees, flowers, even grass. I never knew that there was such a large and captivating botanical garden here, not that I would be allowed to truly enjoy it.

I know I need to hurry, but I try to look at as many plants and flowers as I can as I make my way through.

As I come to the end of the path I see a row of townhouses. I guess these are the residences for the castle workers? There are twelve on both sides of the street. I can see, further down, there is a small break in the buildings where there is a gazebo with a sitting area then, more homes.

There has got to be at least sixty homes here. How am I supposed to find Madam Celine?

As I come to the first set of steps leading up to the first door I see a name, Marks, in tile above the door. The next door says Deslauriers and the next Hendry. After walking down the road, slowly, reading the names on the doors, it hits me, I don’t know her last name.

I drop my head into my hands. Why didn’t she give me better instructions?

I hear a door click open and I turn to see a beautifully dressed woman looking at me suspiciously from the Hendry home.

“What are you doing here?” Her voice is accusing.

“I’m here on an errand, I’m looking for Madam Celine.” I bow my head slightly.

“Lafayette” she says, nodding her head to the left before slamming the door closed.

“Um...thanks?”

Four doors down, I’m standing in front of, what I really hope is the correct door. Taking a deep breath and rolling my shoulders back I walk up the steps and knock. After a moment I hear sounds from inside. The door flies open and I flinch. Please don’t yell at me.

“Yes, Dear?”

I’m taken aback by not only her endearing words and voice but by her clothes. She’s wearing red, she’s obviously high ranking but it’s not a uniform or normal clothes. Only royalty wear garments that are custom and unique. Her red dress is loose and flowing, the arms a sheer and when she lifts her hands sheer fabric floats like wings around her.

“Madam Celine?” I bow my head, hoping she doesn’t get offended that I don’t recognize her.

“Yes, dear, Can I help you?”

I’m speechless, staring at her with furrowed brows. Can she help me? Is this lady a vamp? She smiles and I see her fangs, she’s definitely a vampire.

“I...umm...my... I’m supposed to give this to you, Madam.” I hand her the envelope. She opens it and reads the paper, then removes a small but of silvery blue fabric.

“Oh, yes. Thank you. Tell Jolie that she’ll have to bring the girl by for a fitting next Saturday. I’m going to need one week.”

“Yes, Madam,” I bow my head.

“You’re a pretty little thing” she says, causing me to gape at her.

She steps back into the house but before she closes the door she whispers “you would look absolutely lovely in purple” then, with a wink, she leaves me standing there, dumbstruck.

I’m a pretty little thing? I would look “lovely” in purple? I’m pretty sure saying that is enough to get yourself charged with treason.

I’m bewildered as I walk down the steps back onto the sidewalk. No vampire has ever been even remotely polite to me. She actually said “thank you,” to me... I’ve heard them say it to each other, but never to a human and never, ever to a wolf.

As I turn to walk away her door opens again. She rushes down the steps with a paper in her hand.

“Darling, could you deliver this to my assistant? Please?”

I take the paper “Yes, Madam.”

“Please, call me Celine. Now, my assistant’s name is Millicent. If you turn left, just through that break in the houses,” she turns me toward the gazebo “you will come to a street, follow it up. When you get to the guard station tell them why you’re there and that you are to be driven to Milli.”

I gape at her. “Yes, Mad- Celine.”

She turns and runs back up the steps, her dress billowing out behind her.

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