“You look beautiful, darling,” Maximus compliments me as I stand in front of the mirror in my room and I admire the dress Isobel quickly made for me in less than 12 hours. Maximus stands just behind Isobel, who is standing to my right, a smile on her face when she sees the dress on me, “I’ll get Darrius,” Maximus is smiling widely as he eyes me up and down. But then he leans forward until he can whisper in Isobel’s ear and he says, “Nice work, sweetie.”
Isobel rolls her eyes and takes a small step forward, not responding with any words. Maximus joyfully stalks his way out of the room to get Darrius, who is also dressing up.
“You didn’t even have measurements,” I say, as I take in my reflection. The dress was strapless, and simply hugged all my curves and flowed out from my hips, brushing just past my ankles.
“Don’t worry, it was easy,” Isobel says, looking really tired. She probably didn’t sleep at all last night, “I just hope you realise that it isn’t safe for you to stay here,” she sounds like she is scolding me.
I give Isobel a shrug.
“I’m getting used to it. It’s not that bad…” I trail off as I turn to see Maximus stalk his way back into the room, Darrius behind him. I can’t help but grin when I see him dressed from top to bottom in a black suit, “No leather pants…?” I ask and I see Darrius’ eyes light up with amusement.
“Not tonight,” he says, his eyes glued to my dress. He quickly walks up to me and puts his hands on my waist, appraising me, “Perfect,” he murmurs. As he appreciates me I admire that he doesn’t look so barbaric anymore with the proper outfit he is now wearing. He reaches up to lightly grab one of my curls of black hair and he grins back at me, “I’m glad you’re wearing your hair out. Let’s go now. The wedding will begin any moment. We’ll be late if we don’t hurry.”
“You know it’s against tradition to walk with me up the aisle,” I say and Darrius shrugs in return, unfazed.
“It doesn’t matter. I want you to be as safe as possible so I will walk with you. This wedding isn’t religious either, it follows the rules of the vampire world so it won’t be what you expect. Your vows as a human are already written out for you. Here,” I watch curiously as Darrius reaches into his pants pocket and takes out a folded piece of paper. He passes the paper to me and says in a growl, “Don’t be upset by them, Jennifer. It’s just the way things work,” I take the note with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and I slowly unfold and read the contents.
“Darling,” Maximus says from just beside Darrius, amusement laced into his tone, he is trying not to laugh, “You should see the look on your face right now.” My cheeks flush in anger and embarrassment, and I give the note back to Darrius.
I don’t know what to say. I know if I refuse the vows Darrius won’t care, not really. I decide to deal with it when the time comes, when no one can stop me from changing a few things.
“Well?” Darrius asks.
“Let’s go, we don’t want to be late for our own wedding,” I gather my strength to me and grab Darrius’ hand that he holds out for me to grab.
“Come on, Isobel,” Maximus says, “I have to put you back in our room.” Isobel, who is stonily silent, walks up to Maximus but keeps her distance as he follows Darrius and I out of the room.
“I have something else for you,” Darrius says as we walk through his adjoining bedroom, he comes to his wardrobe and takes out a purple rose on a clip from the top draw.
“What’s that for?” I ask, and it comes out snappy. Those vows really hit a nerve with me.
“You said your favourite colour was purple,” Darrius states, reaching over to clip the rose in my hair, “Now you have something your way at this wedding.” I’m happy about the rose but it no-where near calms the nerves rolling around in my stomach.
“Thanks. Can we go now?” I ask quickly.
“Yes, now we can go,” Darrius suddenly grabs my arm and tugs me forward. He wraps an arm around my waist and starts walking with me pulled tight into his side, “I got you, sweetheart, just follow my lead.” Maximus and Isobel have already left as we exit Darrius’ room.
Darrius walks me down the hall; vampire guards are waiting outside and follow in front and behind us as we make our way towards the throne room where my wedding was finally going to take place.
When we enter the room full of 2000 people, both halves of the room packed out and I see the one path leading up to the thrones where the King and a couple of other vampires stand in front of the thrones. I spot Claudia and Johnathan standing together, Claudia in a green dress, Johnathan in a suit.
Dead silence fills the room as Darrius holds me to him, walking with me slowly. The guards follow our progress from behind and in front.
I think that at least if I was killed, I would come back to life.
I look around the room, hearing murmurs start traveling around the hall. I can recognise vampires I’ve seen around the palace but most faces I don’t recognise. I try and spot my parents, hoping to hell they haven’t actually decided to try another rescue attempt on my behalf.
Darrius and I make it to the thrones, both alive, but both tense and ready to spring into action if something strange happened. The King looks amused at our tension and he hardly glances at Darrius or at me.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you Prince Darrius and his human, Jennifer,” The King’s voice booms across the hall and everyone in the crowd shuts up to listen to what the King says next. Darrius keeps his arm around my waist, his eyes searching the crowd, threatening anyone who dared to try and kill me. The King continues, “It is my pleasure to announce that this human will become a permanent part of our palace here and she will be ours to protect. And as a warning to all who dare try and penetrate our royal court, Prince Darrius’ blood holds the cure to this girl’s blood. For those who do not oppose us, don’t bother with your fears of this prophetic human, she is harmless to us yet harmful to those who dare rise against us,” The threat is clear and obvious. Anyone that tried to oppose the vampires of this palace would be at risk of my blood. They wouldn’t have the cure fast enough if the King refused them Darrius’ blood. Aka, I was a weapon and so was Darrius, “Vampires and representatives of other supernatural beings, please feel welcome and enjoy our hospitality. It’s time for the wedding to begin,” The King steps back.
An older vampire shuffles forward, wearing a suit, he looked like an elder. He has a microphone with him to project his voice across to everyone in the hall. He motions for Darrius to let me go so the old vampire can stand between us to read out from the paper he held in his hand.
With a very audible growl, Darrius reluctantly releases me to stand to the side.
Very awkwardly, some of the crowd laughs at our separation and Darrius’ reaction.
I don’t have it in me to smile.
Any moment now and this whole wedding could become a blood bath.
I couldn’t see Maximus… he was probably lurking around, looking for intruding vampire-hunters after dropping off Isobel in his room. Hopefully my parents had the sense to stay home.
“In honour of our old-world tradition,” The old vampire states with a surprisingly clear and strong voice, “Prince Darrius will be joined formally with the human, so that she may be legally in his care. His own to protect and his own to feed from…” I tune out as the old vampire rants on about tradition and vampire laws and ways of living, because as I look out over the crowd, my eyes continuously search for my parents.
After a couple of tense moments I think I spot a familiar face in the crowd. A human dressed as a servant… but it was just a disguise. His face I instantly know.
It was my father without a doubt.
“Sweetheart,” Darrius growls, I snap my attention back to him, my heart beating a million miles a minute. Darrius is staring at me intensely, “Your vows,” he reminds me. He is holding out the two rings Claudia gave him, in his hand, and I quickly take mine, my thoughts quickly thinking of a plan.
“Of course,” I say, slipping on the ring, I turn and face the crowd. Instead of facing Darrius I catch my dad’s eye and I hold it.
I remember the short vows written on the piece of paper. I just had to make a couple of changes.
So here it goes.
“I vow to stay by Darrius’ side,” I begin, “…as his equal. As that is how the prophecy depicts us both. As equals,” I see from the corner of my eye that Darrius has tensed up even more. He could get over it.
“Girl –” I hear the old vampire growl my name disapprovingly but I quickly continue, cutting him off so I can have my say.
“I will allow Darrius to drink my blood, I will stay by his side and stay at this palace because I like it here… But most of all I –,” My dad holds my stare, he looks confused. I hope the next part gets the message through because I don’t want my parents to die a foolish death in trying to get me back, “I love Darrius! I will stay with him for as long as I am alive because we are meant to be together,” I quickly look back to Darrius, expecting to see him glaring, but I find a completely different expression on his face. A smirk.
A raised eyebrow also slowly goes up.
“Your turn,” I mouth silently. Darrius puts on the ring. I remember that my ring should feel hot if I am in immediate danger. It feels completely cool against my skin as I watch Darrius take a step forward and grab both my hands.
“You’re mine,” he growls, leaning forward until his nose touches mine, “And I am yours.”
A moment of silence passes, and I realise that is all he is going to say.
The old vampire coughs to try and break us apart but Darrius and I are too absorbed in each other. I stare back challengingly into his eyes while his own expression is full of amusement and determination.
To hell with assassins and my over-protective parents.
I lean forward and kiss Darrius, the exact same moment he decides to lean in as well. I wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him hard, relishing in the moment. I’m also hoping this really digs home the fact that I was happy here and no one needed to rescue me! He puts his arms around my waist and pulls me in against his chest.
In this moment one thing really does become clear…
He really was mine and I was his.
Too bad the moment doesn’t get to last much longer.
I hear Claudia scream.
Darrius and I let each other go and turn to see Johnathan bent over with an arrow lodged right through his stomach.
“Step away from my daughter!” I turn around to see my dad has pushed his way to the front of the crowd and he is holding a freaking mini-crossbow in his hand and something like a remote control in the other hand.
“Dad, no!” I scream and he just glares at me, just as he aims the cross bow at Darrius and lets one more arrow fly. Darrius, distracted by Johnathan, doesn’t move away in time. The small arrow lodges into his shoulder and he grunts in pain as he spins around to look down at my dad, standing away from the crowd.
“Jennifer, come here,” My dad roars, “Or both princes will be blown to smithereens! These arrows are explosive so no-body move!” I have already stepped closer to Darrius, tears welling in my eyes, adrenaline pumping through my veins. The King has stepped forward, fists clenched. All vampire guards focus their attention on my dad.
“Don’t hurt them!” I tell my dad, holding Darrius’ elbow protectively, I glare down at my father, “They did nothing to you!”
“Come here and they’ll be fine,” My dad says more slowly, “Now, Jennifer. Come with me.”
“I want to stay here!” I suddenly decide to storm down towards my father, anger, frustration and fear roaring through my body, “I’m sick of people trying to control my life,” I lower my voice, stopping a couple of metres in front of my dad, “Leave now, and don’t come back. I’m not going to leave this palace. I belong here. You should leave right now before you die. Darrius and Johnathan are good vampires. You’re mistaken if you think I’m at risk here. I’m more at risk out there, vulnerable to everyone else!”
“Listen to yourself,” my dad scolds, “You have no idea how badly they’ve brainwashed you. Vampires care about blood and power, nothing else. Now come with me or I’ll –”
“No,” I cut him off, “I will not leave Darrius.”
“Then I have no choice,” My dad says it without regret, his thumb moves toward a button on the controller he holds.
“Don’t!” I scream just as another arrow comes shooting through the air but this one hits my dad’s hand. He yells in pain and drops the remote on the floor.
“Give it up!” I hear Maximus speak out now and I look behind my dad as through the crowd, Maximus stalks out, dragging my mum by the arm. She is limping and is defenceless. Maximus holds the mini crossbow my mum would have had possession of before Maximus had found her.
“Natalie!” My father gasps my mother’s name as he sees her being dragged forward with Maximus.
“Disable the explosive arrows or she dies,” Maximus says, dead-serious, “Do it now and I’ll let you both live.”
“Don’t show them mercy, Maximus.” The King growls from the top. I see Darrius standing stock still, the arrow still in his shoulder. Johnathan is kneeling, hunched over, Claudia holding him close to her.
“This gives him a reason to disable the arrows,” Maximus explains calmly, “Do it now and your wife lives. Then if you can run fast enough from the palace, you can both live together peacefully. But if you are too slow I will show no mercy. Make the decision quickly,” Maximus jerks my mum forward and wraps an arm around her neck, ready to snap it.
“No!” I yell out, shaking, my hands itching for a weapon of my own so I could do something. My dad doesn’t hesitate.
“I’ll disable the arrows,” my dad gives in. Without glancing at me, my father reaches down with his good hand and presses a couple of buttons on the controller. He stretches back up and says, “The arrows are disabled, they will harm no one now,” he says with no emotion. I watch as Darrius and Johnathan both yank out the arrows at the same time and throw them to the side.
“Leave,” Maximus shoves my mum forward and my dad catches her before she falls, “Now.”
Both try and scramble for the exit and vampires on all sides, snarling, fangs showing threateningly, watch my parents as they scramble away together.
A couple of moments pass.
My parents were now completely vulnerable…
“Kill them,” The King orders.
Just as I’m about to scream and the vampires are about to pounce, Darrius quickly yells, “No! Let them go!” Everyone halts as Darrius comes down to stand by my side, he grabs my arm as he yells the next part, “We do not want death at our wedding. Anyone else who tries to take Jennifer from me will be shown no mercy. She’s mine, and I’ll do everything in my power to protect her,” There is a moment of silence. No one knows what to do. Would someone else attack next? Try to kill me or any of the royal family?
Maximus trails my parents out of the room, giving me a quick wink before he disappears from view.
He’d keep them safe.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” A new voice, an accented one, comes from near the thrones. At the front of the crowd I see Rafael, who comes through looking pleased and relaxed, “The bride and groom are both safe, there is nothing else to fear. Your highness,” Rafael directs to the King, sounding amused, “I don’t know about you but I’m very thirsty, I think it is time to declare that the celebration begins!”
The King lets out a dry laugh and relaxes his tense shoulders.
“Celebrate as you will,” The King declares, “Any other trouble makers will be dealt with quickly and harshly. Now proceed, drink to your heart’s content.” I hear an audible groan from the crowd. I look up at Darrius curiously.
“W-What’s happening?” I ask, the adrenaline still making me shaky, making my voice wobble.
“We’re safe, you can relax,” Darrius growls, “No one is allowed to feed until the wedding is over. It’s over, so now everyone is eager to drink their fill,” he explains, his own eyes full of roiling emotions from what just happened.
I quickly hug him tight then step back. He didn’t die. Thank god. Darrius grabs my hands and smirks down at me. He is about to say something else but doesn’t get the chance.
“Well done, Jennifer,” both Darrius and I turn to see Jaime standing next to us, she looks skittish, “You got through the wedding, and your parents are alive too!” she smiles at me, “Do you mind if I just, like, uh… stand here for a bit?”
“Why?” I ask, confused.
“I’m just, uh, well… Rafael –” she begins, and trails off when she spots him stalking towards her, “Uh, I got to go,” she quickly skips off towards the crowd and disappears. What the heck?
“She is trying to avoid him,” Darrius says, “Typical human girls, can’t seem to submit properly, can you?” he asks this with amusement and I playfully punch his arm.
“Thank you for letting my parents live,” I say, “I’m glad you’re alive too.”
“Mmmmhm, I’m glad you’re now officially mine. So don’t get any ideas about running away,” he says seriously, “You’re legally my human, so you have to do what I say…”
“Don’t start this conversation,” I say dryly, “I can’t take much more tonight. Let’s just relax, okay?”
Laughing, Darrius literally leans down and picks me up. He throws me over his shoulder and starts stalking down the hall towards the exit.
“Your shoulder!” I gasp, wasn’t he injured still?
“It’s healed,” he growls back.
“Where are we going?” I ask, unable to get off his shoulder because his arm is locked tight around the back of my thighs.
“Where do you think, sweetheart?” Darrius asks mockingly, back to his old self.
“To get some food?” I ask hopefully.
He halts in his strides and I wait for him to respond.
“Did I forget to feed you again?” He asks.
“Yep,” I say, “I’m starving.”
“Damn it,” he mutters under his breath as he changes course, going towards a different section of the room.
“Where were you going to take me before?” I ask.
“Back to our room, sweetheart.”
“Oh,” It comes out as a squeak as he slides me off my shoulder and I stand before him again. He has stopped before a long table of food for humans. I glance away from his possessive, dark eyes to the hot and cold food laid out before me, “You’re room can wait, this is… this is amazing…”
I hadn’t seen this much food in a long time. A human server comes closer towards me and Darrius.
“What would you like?” the server asks.
“Everything,” I say, grinning back.
“Make it quick,” Darrius says, “You can bring the food to our room and eat there.” I look over his shoulder to see Claudia coming towards us. Darrius follows my gaze and then groans when he sees Claudia’s approach.
“Looks like you’ll have to learn patience, Darrius,” I state slyly, with a grin.
Darrius growls in response, “Sweetheart, I don’t have any patience left within me. I’m hungry too!”
I roll my eyes.
He was an arrogant, possessive, impatient prick. But…
We were alive!
And that’s all that mattered.