I traveled down to the dining room and I couldn't help but notice how eerily silent the entire house was. All of the staff members were busy attending to the guests at my gala.
I knew quite a bit of people were coming, both Royal's and Lycan's.
While the Royal's were my number one issue, they weren't the only ones trying to win me over.
Royal families were known throughout the world by Lycan's and humans, but there were also other families to think about.
In each Kingdom there are those few families that are rich. Typically they own some part of town or a major business. Those families can be human or Lycan.
Caroline's family is considered one of the wealthier families. Her Mom own's a party planning company, and most likely tended to the details of my gala.
There would be many wealthy families here tonight, all hoping to be my mate.
There hasn't been a human on the throne in hundred's of years, but that only encourages them more.
I stood in the empty dining hall, awaiting my Dad to walk me into the ballroom.
The golden necklace was warm against my chest and buzzed almost merrily.
I was all too aware of Viktor's dominating presence.
I could feel his eyes roam me freely, now that we were finally away from everyone else. The silence and the heat of his gaze was too much.
I turned to face him, nearly jumping back at how close he stood to me.
His obsidian gaze roamed my face, glancing down at my necklace before he ran his eyes down the length of my dress.
"Beautiful." The word was spoken quietly. His accent curled around the word and made it sound almost exotic.
"T-Thank you." I replied, breathless as I watched him lift his gloved hand.
An overwhelming urge came through me. One that sent a shiver down my spine, and caused a slight tremor to run through my hands.
I wanted to rip the black mask from Viktor's face, and tear the gloves from his hands. Anything that separated him from me needed to be removed.
"We've been teasing the guy for weeks and now you wanna act all dazed?" Aela shook her head.
I grimaced at her, "Yeah and he's ignored us all week for that."
The glove on his hand was cold against my heated skin, and I stood silently as his finger ran down the length of my face.
"I don't think he can ignore us for any longer." Aela murmured, enjoying his light touch.
My insides were a knot of confusion and desire. I wanted to skip my gala all together and drag Viktor back to my room.
Viktor's hand fell to his side as another pair of footsteps entered the room.
My eyes were locked on Viktor's onyx eyes when my Dad cleared his throat.
It was difficult to pull my eyes away from Viktor's towering form.
My Dad frowned at the look on my face, his eyes flickering to Viktor for just a moment.
"You don't think he saw anything, do you?" Aela mumbled.
I shook my head, "If he did, he'd already be freaking out."
"Everything alright, Bella?" Dad frowned, taking a few steps towards me.
I sighed, "Just trying to put my game face on."
It wasn't a total lie. I was dreading this gala, but also anticipating gaining valuable information.
The biggest storm bustling within me had an entirely different cause, one that I kept buried.
"I know these events aren't enjoyable." Dad frowned, running a hand through his salt and pepper hair. "Just try to have fun."
He gave me his lopsided smile that tugged at the corners of my lips.
I looked at the suit my Dad was wearing and grinned at the red and gold crown nestled on his curly hair.
"Looking handsome, Dad." I giggled when his cheeks turned a light shade of pink.
I walked up to my Dad and straightened the red tie he was wearing, pulling it a little tighter around his collar.
"And you my daughter, look like a queen." Dad smiled down on me, the lines around his eyes seemed much more prominent.
I smiled up at him, "And what if I don't feel like a Queen?"
My stomach was full of knots, and my thoughts were more jumbled than ever. Is this what our Kingdom needs in a Queen?
Dad always seemed to know what to do. He never seemed confused or jumbled.
Dad was quiet for a few moments, his silver eyes scanning my face. "Being a good ruler doesn't mean you have everything figured out, Bella. Being a ruler means loving your people and wanting what's best for them."
"I definitely have that part down." I let out a breathless chuckle.
Dad smiled down at me, putting his arm out for my own. "You're smart and compassionate, Bella. You're the first female born to an Alpha King, that make's you more special than you could ever know. You'll be a ruler that makes history."
I felt my stomach clench at Dad's words. I felt weighed down with expectations and pressure, but his words seemed to lift me. The back's of my eyes burned with unshed tears.
"Don't go making me cry now." I giggled, following it with a sniffle. "I'll definitely be late if I ruin my makeup."
"You'll do great, Bella." Dad smiled as I linked my arm through his own.
We walked in silence to the ballroom on the other side of the mansion.
A thick red carpet was laid along the floor, while a long red rope separated the two wings of the mansion.
A few guards were posted at the entrance, keeping the guests from venturing to this part of the house.
"Happy Birthday, Princess." One of the guards, Andre, smiled down at me.
Andre was a Lycan, but didn't have a high position in the pack. Nonetheless, we treated him with the same respect we would anyone else.
"Thank's Andre." I grinned back at him.
Andre extended his bare hand, a sheepish smile on his face. A light blush formed on his tan skin.
"I hope you don't mind, Alpha King." Andre gave my Dad a sheepish smile.
I stifled a giggle, even though my stomach was rolling.
Male Lycan's and humans would all be trying to touch me tonight, to see if I'm their destined mate.
It wouldn't be completely awful if Andre was my mate. He was cute and compassionate, with his goofy smile and adorable dimples. He had a slight hispanic accent that made him even cuter, but for some reason it still felt wrong.
Even before I placed my hand in Andre's, I knew he wasn't my mate.
When my skin touched his own, nothing happened. Just warm skin on slightly clammy skin.
Andre's smile faltered a little bit and I gave him a sympathetic grin.
I could feel Viktor's strange gaze on me the entire time. I wish I could've turned to him and read the emotion flashing in his dark eyes.
"Don't worry, Andre. You'll meet her someday and she'll be absolutely amazing." I placed my hand on his shoulder, relieved when he grinned back at me.
Dad and I continued walking down the hall, a silent Viktor flanking us.
"I think this is going to be harder on me than it is you." Dad chuckled, shaking his head.
I raised my eyebrow at him, a small smile playing on my lips. "What makes you say that?"
"Well for one, I'm going to want to kill anyone that touches my daughter." Dad chuckled, leading me to the base of a large staircase.
I chuckled at the stern look on his face, "I'm not looking forward to it either."
"Let me know if anyone get's too friendly." Dad raised his eyebrow at me. "If anyone tries anything, have Viktor escort them out."
A nervous giggle escaped my lips at the mention of Viktor. I had a feeling Viktor would do more than escort them out, but I kept that to myself.
Dad walked me up the large staircase and to a set of large oak doors. The doors were embedded with gold and jewels of different colors. Once we walked through these doors, we would descend down the staircase in front of everyone at the gala.
"Are you ready, Bella?" Dad smiled down at me, his eyes full of unspoken emotion.
I let out a sharp breath, "As ready as I'll ever be."
"I'm sorry your Mom couldn't be here for this, Bella. She was always so much better with this kind of stuff." Dad shook his head. I could always see his love for her in his silver gaze, which only made the prospect of finding my mate much scarier.
Anyone could see the love in Dad's eyes when he talked about Mom. That was the downfall when it came to having a mate. If anything happened to them, you would never move on. You would spend the rest of your days missing them, waiting for the moment where you finally met them again.
"I'm glad you're here Dad." I smiled up at him, "I couldn't do this without you."
With those last words, a pair of guards opened the doors and we walked through to meet the crowd.
I had been in the ballroom many times, and each time the size astounded me. It was easily the size of a football field.
We walked through the doors and up to the balcony that looked over the crowd.
I stifled a hysteric giggle as I wondered how they cleaned this room. The walls were easily twenty feet high, and the chandeliers looked deadly.
The classical music stopped, and all eyes lifted to meet my own.
If I hadn't been through years of training and etiquette, I promise I would have thrown up under all of the attention.
A cacophony of colorful dresses and dark suits stood out in the crowd, hundreds of eyes clamoring for a chance to meet my own.
I tightened my grip on my Dad's arm, and felt a wave of relief as he squeezed back.
"The Alpha King, Damon Adair and his daughter, Princess Arabella Adair." One of my Dad's finely dressed men called out into the quiet crowd.
We stepped from the balcony and began to descend from the giant staircase, every single eye in the room glued to us.
It was then Aela decided to speak up and provide her infinite wisdom.
"Keep your eyes ahead of you." Aela whispered in my head.
I nearly rolled my eyes, "Why are you whispering? No one else can hear you."
"Shh, just focus. You don't want to fall." Aela hushed me.
Again, I stifled a groan. I wasn't worried about falling before. "You're not helping me, Aela."
A grimace almost fell on my face, "Smile, Bella! You don't want to look constipated. But don't smile too wide, you'll look like you're off your rocker."
"Aela." I growled, letting a small yet polite smile form on my lips as Dad and I came down the stairs.
"Geez, this is too many stairs." Aela mumbled.
"Sh." I growled, ignoring anything else she had to say.
Somehow I managed to get down the stairs without a single mishap, which gave me a tiny glimmer of hope for the night.
We walked over to a small platform next to the stairs and I kept my eyes on the crowd as Dad began to speak.
Viktor stood off of the platform, mere feet away from me. For once I couldn't feel his gaze on my back, and I knew he'd be on high alert with this many people around. I couldn't help but notice some of the cautious glances Viktor earned. Only a fool wouldn't be able to feel the aura of power that rolled off of him. I'm sure the black mask and gloves only added to their anxiety.
"I would like to personally thank you all for coming." Dad gave the huge crowd a smile. "As you all know, finding your mate is an occasion that deserves celebration. My daughter Princess Arabella, is now of age to find her other half. Once the identity of her mate is revealed, she will have one week before her Coronation, then she will take my place." Dad kept his expression stoic under the murmurs of the crowd.
It was no secret that many Lycan's and Humans detested the idea of an Alpha Queen. Those people were stuck in the old ages, whereas my Dad and I looked to the future. It was an ancient notion that only a man could rule a pack, that women were mere figure heads.
My Dad's words were two sided, he was letting everyone know where he stood. He was letting them know that his daughter was no mere figure head, that I would become Alpha Queen.
I was sure some of the men here assumed they would become Alpha King if mated with me, and boy were they wrong. I had no intention of stepping aside to let some man rule. While I was still unsure of myself, I knew one thing. This throne belonged to me and my family.
Dad turned to me, and took a step back. This was him signaling for me to speak. Public speaking didn't come as a surprise to me anymore, I had been doing it since I could talk.
Sheila's previous words ran through my head, and I decided to act on them.
"Welcome everyone." I gave a dazzling smile that hid the full extent of my nerves. "It brings me great joy to spend this special day with all of you. Finding my other half is something I hold special to my heart. I look forward to meeting you all."
I let my voice flow from my lips, high and delicate. I kept the knowledge from my eyes and put on a face of clueless beauty.
I needed them to think I was nothing more than a pretty face in search of her darling mate. From the hungry look in some of the men's eyes, I think I succeeded.
The crowed clapped politely and Dad extended his hand for the first dance. I happily took it and let him guide me out into the middle of the ballroom. I gave small smiles to the crowd as they parted for us.
My Dad placed his hand on my hip, and I placed my own on his shoulder. Our other hands were joined as the musicians resumed playing.
I swayed and turned with the music feeling completely at ease for once. I had been dancing with my Dad for as long as I could remember. He's the one who taught me everything I knew. Some of the best days of my childhood involved watching him dance with Mom, hearing the breathless giggles that left her lips as she spun and twirled.
Viktor stood off to the side, just at the edge of the huge crowd. His eyes darted around, faster than I would've thought possible. Once his obsidian eyes locked on my own, it was like everything around me had stopped. My heart fluttered in my chest and I gave him a small smile before turning my attention back on my Dad.
"What're you up to, Bella?" Dad raised his eyebrow at me, twirling me in time with the music.
I batted my eyelashes up at him, keeping my voice as hushed as possible. "They think I'm just a pretty face. I'm letting them believe that."
Something flashed in my Dad's eyes and he looked almost impressed, "You talked to Sheila haven't you?"
I nodded, "Her and Shannon are quite..insightful?" I laughed, knowing Dad could never keep anything from Sheila either.
Dad shook his head, a small smile playing at his lips. "Sheila and her daughter have a special gift. Unfortunately that gift can be a huge pain in our asses."
I laughed at his comment. Sheila was as close to my Dad as Shannon is to me, "They can be very helpful at times."
"They can." Dad nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. "I keep treating you like a child, Bella. For that I apologize."
"I'm your daughter, Dad. You're always going to try and protect me." I gave him an understanding smile.
"I'm not going to dissuade your decision, but I will warn you." Dad gave me a grim smile as we continued to dance, "Be careful with these men. They have been playing these games much longer than you, so stay on your toes. And do not trust any of them."
"It's about time someone beat them at their own game." Aela sounded confident in my head, but my Dad's words worried me.
I frowned, "How do we stand a chance against some of these men?"
"We stay on our toes, like Dad said. They'll never suspect us, Bella. Their cocky and already think their winning." Aela replied.
"I'll be careful." I promised my Dad, "But it's about time someone beat them at their own game."
A grim smile formed on my Dad's face as he looked at me with respect, "I never was one for games, but you already know that Bella. If anyone were to beat them, it would surely be my own daughter."
"They'll never see it coming." I nodded, keeping my carefree smile on my face.
"Let me know if you find anything out, will you?" Dad murmured the words, his own smile returning to his face.
"Of course, Dad." I patted his shoulder as the song ended.
Uncle Jaspar approached my Dad and I, earning some irritated glares from the other men in the crowd.
"Might I have a dance with my niece?" Jaspar grinned at Dad and I.
"Of course, Jas." Dad chuckled, giving me a wink before he walked off.
Others fluttered onto the dance floor and my eyes widened when Caroline began dancing with an attractive blonde guy. She caught my gaze and waggled her eyebrows at me. I let a grin form on my face, and turned back to my Uncle.
We danced the same way Dad and I had, my hand on his shoulder while one of his hands rested on my hip.
"Are you ready for the rest of the night?" Uncle Jaspar chuckled, reminding me of the nervousness I had felt previously.
I let out a small sigh, a smile still on my lips. "As ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."
"Everything will change once you find your mate." Jaspar smiled, as if he had forgotton what he told me last week.
I kept my gaze clueless, and let a small smile form on my lips. "And what if I choose someone who isn't my mate?"
"Your father might not understand, but I would." Jaspar nodded, "In my experience, sometime's one must choose their own mate."
"I'll think that over, Uncle." I smiled back at him, ignoring the twisting feeling in my gut.
"That is a very beautiful necklace, Bella." Jaspar smiled, his eyes flickering down to the emerald that rested against my throat. "I recall your mother wearing that for quite some time."
"Dad gave it to me for my birthday." I grinned up at him. I was going to say more, ask about the potential power the necklace held when something shut me up. The necklace itself grew warm around my neck, almost uncomfortably warm. The moment I decided to keep my mouth shut, it felt cool against my skin.
It was almost like the necklace was warning me. Not particularly against Uncle Jaspar, but against revealing the necklace's secrets.
There was no way to tell who was listening in on our conversation, and it was in my best interest to play ignorant.
"Maybe the ability we get is to know when to keep quiet." Aela snickered, "I was hoping for something cooler."
"Me too." I frowned, "Like being able to fly or something."
Aela grimaced, "I'm a wolf. I don't do flying. I was thinking something more like firepower."
I scoffed, "The last thing you need is firepower. I'd never hear the end of it."
"Did your father say anything else about the necklace?" Jaspar smiled down at me.
The necklace felt warm again and I looked up at him in confusion, "Was there something he should've told me? I know it belonged to Mom. Is it special or something?"
Something flashed in Jaspar's eyes and he chuckled, "Nothing you need to worry about at the moment. That necklace was given to your mother by her own mother."
The music began to end and Uncle Jaspar pulled me closer for just a moment.
"I fear I got carried away for a moment, but there's a reason I asked for a dance." Uncle Jaspar gave me an apologetic smile. "I've found some interesting information on your bodyguard that I thought you might want to hear."
Aela's ears perked up at his words, and I found myself interested as well.
"What is it?" I asked, but Uncle Jaspar glanced at the rest of the crowd.
"I'll catch up with you later. There's too many people waiting to speak with you." Uncle Jaspar gave me a sympathetic grin and a quick peck on the forehead.
"Happy Birthday, Bella. And best of luck!" I nearly cackled as Uncle Jaspar retreated from the crowd in haste, striking up a conversation with my Dad who sat across the room.
With a playful glare at my Uncle, I somehow managed to make my way to the large table where many servers stood.
I nearly jumped out of my shoes when I felt Viktor's presence behind me.
"Goodness, you scared me." I sighed, placing my hand over my chest.
Viktor stared at me with his obsidian eyes, one if his dark eyebrows raising at my pale expression. My heart fluttered at the sight of him and I let my lip stick out in a small pout.
"Next time make some noise or something. You're like a damn ninja or something." I shook my head, nearly giggling as I heard a huff come from Viktor's covered lips.
"I wouldn't mind ditching this entire thing and spending the rest of the night with Viktor." Aela mumbled.
I sighed, "You and me both, but we have to be here."
"Hello, Princess." Multiple male voices spoke in almost a chorus.
I let out a giggle as four men approached me. I could easily tell that three of the men were Lycan's, most likely from rich families.
"Let the games begin." Aela rolled her eyes.
The four men spent little time introducing themselves, they had approached me for a reason. Each one told me their name and their family, and openly welcomed my hand in their own.
They were all attractive in their own way, but none of them caught my eye. One of them had to be well into their thirties, while the other three looked to be around my age. While I had no particular limit on how old my mate was, I hoped he was somewhere closer to my own age.
Each time I feigned interest as I looked into a new set of eyes, keeping my gaze hopeful at the chance of meeting my mate.
As I suspected, nothing happened when my hand met any of their own. Each time, I feigned disappointment and let out a little sigh.
Viktor watched my entire interaction with the men silently. I caught his eye once the four men walked away. He cocked his eyebrow at em and tilted his head to the side.
"You could become an actress." Aela nodded in approval.
"You think so?" I snickered. If Aela thought my acting was up to par, I must've been doing something right.
"Need something to drink, Princess?" One of the servers smiled at me.
The server was young, and most likely my own age. He had one of those slim yet chiseled faces, with a dark layer of stubble grazing his chin.
"Water, please." I smiled at the guy. "Are you going to ask for my hand too?" I chuckled at the guy when a light blush formed on his face.
What I really wanted was some wine, but the last thing I needed was for everyone to think I was the "boozy princess".
"Not to worry, Princess. I won't ask for your hand." The guy chuckled. "My boyfriend is actually one of your stylists!"
I watched his warm chocolate eyes light up at the mention of his boyfriend and I smiled.
"Doni, right?" I grinned, "Actually, he should be around here somewhere."
The server's mouth popped open, "He's here?"
I grinned, "Of course he's here."
Doni's boyfriend was going to say more, but another voice cut him off.
"Arabella!" Caroline squeaked from behind me.
"If I see Doni, I'll send him your way!" I called out, turning from the server.
"I've been looking all over for you." Caroline huffed, shaking her head. Her face looked flushed, and I wondered if it had anything to do with the blonde guy she was dancing with.
"Actually, have you seen Shannon?" I frowned, scanning as I could for a golden dress.
Caroline nodded, "Yeah, but that was awhile ago. I'm sure she's around here somewhere! There's someone who wants to meet you."
I nearly rolled my eyes, but instead I plastered a fake smile on my face and followed Caroline.
I knew right away that I wouldn't particularly like this man. It was the blonde guy Caroline had been dancing with.
He looked like a super model. Sandy blonde hair, tanned skin, and gleaming White teeth. His scent and physique screamed 'Lycan'. Without a doubt, he was one of the Royal Families.
There were many Royal families throughout the world, none nearly as big as my Dad's.
"If it isn't the guest of honor, Princess Arabella." The blonde guy shot a gleaming smile at me, one that made plenty of women swoon.
"You need to be one of those women." Aela grumbled in my head.
Holding back a sigh, I put my own dazzling smile on my face. I let my eyes flicker over his torso, acting as though I were taking him in.
A cocky smirk formed on his full lips, and I hoped he couldn't see right through me. Hopefully he was too cocky to believe I was faking it all.
I nearly grimaced at how close he was standing to some of the other female guests, each of them looking as flushed as Caroline.
"He's turning out to be quite the player." Aela rolled her eyes.
"And what's your name?" I smiled coyly at the sun kissed man.
Irritation flashed through his eyes at my question, and I instantly wanted to back track.
"You don't know my family?" The sun kissed guy huffed, irritation clouding his blue gaze.
"My Dad never found it important to teach me. My mate will know all of that for me." I gritted my teeth and put a ditsy smile on my face.
His eyes instantly cooled and his gleaming smile returned to his face, "The name's Bryton Duboi."
The name instantly clicked in my head. I knew the Royal families by heart, but I had no clue what they all looked like.
"Duboi." I tasted his last name on my tongue, "Of course I know your family. Isn't your Kingdom huge?"
Alright, I definitely sounded ditsy. Even Caroline had a look of confusion on her face.
"Fourth largest in the world." Bryton sniffed smugly, extending his hand to meet my own.
I stepped forward gingerly, letting false interest play out in my eyes. I filled my green gaze with clueless hope as I placed my hand in his own.
We stood like that for a few moments and once irritation flooded his eyes, I let my lip stick out in a disappointed pout.
"Leave us." Bryton gestured at the girls who seemed to flock towards him.
Caroline looked all too happy that Bryton wasn't my mate, and she skipped away joyfully.
"I was really hoping you'd be my mate." I frowned, letting my eyes flicker down to his lips and finally his torso.
Bryton's lips twitched as he glanced at some of the other men, "In my family, mate's are an option. Things could still work out between us."
"An option?" I asked, cluelessly.
Bryton lifted his hand and tucked it under my chin, turning my head to the side slightly.
It wasn't the same as when Viktor would do it. I felt like a doll on display as Bryton looked over my features.
"So lovely." Bryton mused to himself. "My Mother and Father are not mates, you know. Father's true mate was much too weak to rule a Kingdom. Power is important in our.. particular career. Think over how beneficial I could be, dear."
Bryton gave me one last dazzling smile before he let my chin go.
I was completely itching to get away from him and find Shannon.
My intuition might not be as sharp as Shannon's but Bryton definitely felt sleazy.
"You'd be his little trophy Queen while he filled his bed with other women." Aela murmured.
"Lucky me." I pretended to swoon, rolling my eyes at the thought of Bryton.
How Dad got along with the rest of these families were beyond me.
"Were technically on the brink of a war. Maybe he doesn't get along with them as well as we thought." Aela shrugged.
"I'm certain they treat him differently because he's a man." I sighed, "This is something were going to have to deal with."
"Everyone will make this harder on us. All because you're a woman." Aela growled.
"Someday they'll see." I assured her. If I had a daughter, things would be much different when she took the throne.
I squeezed through many people, stopping to greet many human and Lycan males. Each time I feigned disappointment when they realized they weren't my mate.
Some of the men even had the audacity to inform me what they could offer, if I chose to name them as my mate.
One could give me money, one could give me strong children, the other could give me endless social status.
Not a single offer appealed to me, nor did any man.