A Fall of Secrets(A Shade of Vampire,Book 15)(16) by Bella Forrest
I looked at the watch on my mother’s wrist. It wouldn’t be long now.
“Why don’t you go and bring in the others now? They should all be waiting outside.”
“Good idea,” I said. I could do with some fresh air. Although it wasn’t particularly hot in the hall, all of these chambers felt claustrophobic to me. It was as though the dragons’ heat emanated through the bowels of the mountain.
I hurried out of the hall, along the winding tunnels, and emerged in the clearing. Sure enough, all the other girls were waiting for me. They all had looks of excitement and apprehension on their faces. I noted how much care they’d taken in their appearance. Their hair was done up beautifully and they all wore gowns and high-heeled shoes. As I walked toward them, I was again struck by how weird the situation was. Like a fairytale. Cinderella with dragons. All we need now is a pumpkin.
I looked down at my own clothes. I was just wearing pants and a sweatshirt. I would keep myself on top of the balcony anyway, so hopefully my attire wouldn’t offend anyone. Debbie and a few other classmates hurried toward me in the crowd.
“Have they arrived yet?” Debbie asked.
“No,” I replied. “We’re not expecting them before noon.”
I led everyone down the tunnels and back toward the hall. My mother greeted us at the entrance, inviting everyone to take a seat. My classmates wanted to sit and talk with me more, but my nerves wouldn’t allow it. I wasn’t able to sit still. I stood up and wandered over to the buffet. I walked along the assortment of steaming stainless-steel vessels. I called my mother over.
“When it comes time to eat, we’ll have actual tables, right?” I asked. “So it will be like a proper banquet.”
“Don’t worry,” my mother said. “Corrine already thought of that. At around one o’clock, after everyone’s had a chance to introduce themselves, the witches will arrange for a long table and help with the serving.”
I almost leapt out of my skin when there was a thundering knock at the door. The girls began chattering excitedly, but as my mother reached the door, a hushed silence fell about the hall. My mother opened the door to find the first dragon standing behind it. Jeriad. He looked freshly showered and more radiant than ever before. He was dressed in simple yet luxurious clothing—light linen pants and a loosely fitted shirt that exposed a generous amount of his toned chest. As the other dragons began entering after him, they all looked similarly dressed.
I was surprised that the prince hadn’t been the first to enter. But I didn’t stay to watch. I wanted to make it up to the balcony before he arrived so that I wouldn’t have to meet him again.
I scrambled up the stairs and didn’t look back down at the floor again until I’d reached the top. Now that it was noon, the witches were beginning to arrive to help out—Shayla, Leyni, and a couple of other witches, though Corrine wasn’t among them. I guessed that she was finally having a well-deserved sleep.
As I peered over the railing, I kept my head down low, just so that I could see, but wasn’t easily seen. To my surprise, Theon was the last to walk through the door. He wore a deep blue cloth draped over one bulging shoulder that perfectly complemented his tan skin. Approaching the center of the room, he stood next to the other dragons. They had all gathered together and were looking casually around the room at the ladies in their seats. I couldn’t spot a single girl in the room whose cheeks hadn’t already flushed.
My mother approached the shifters and greeted the prince. He bowed courteously, taking her hand and placing a chaste kiss over the back of it. They exchanged a few words, and then my mother backed away. She looked in my direction and gave me the thumbs up. I glanced back down once more toward the dragons, and to my surprise, Theon’s amber eyes were fixed directly on me. I backed away quickly and sat down behind the piano. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me… as though I was some sort of challenge.
He’d better keep his artistry of romance to himself.
If he tried anything with me, I would tell him in no uncertain terms which direction to head in. So I hoped that he would heed my father’s warning and leave me alone. Heck, we couldn’t afford to offend these dragons. The safety of our island depended on them now. Hopefully the prince was a gentleman.
Placing my fingers on the keys, I began to play. A few moments later, Shayla appeared a few feet away from me and picked up a clarinet. She positioned herself behind me, so that she could view my music sheet as I played, and began to accompany me.
From where I sat, I could still make out what was going on through the holes in the balcony. The dragons had begun to disperse, and were making their way toward the damsels seated around the room.
As they reached each girl, they bowed their heads slightly and held out a hand. The girls accepted, and I was sure at least a few of them were close to hyperventilating as the shifters placed their wide palms around their waists and began leading them to a slow dance. Their forms were so imposing, they dwarfed even the tallest of women.
Not a single word was exchanged as the dragons looked intensely into their partners’ eyes—as though just looking at them was conversation enough. Most of the girls looked too tongue-tied to speak even if they’d wanted to.
My eyes wandered around the room toward Jeriad. He had made a beeline toward my blonde friend Sylvia, who looked ecstatic.
For the next fifteen minutes, they continued to take in their companion’s every detail. Once Shayla and I paused for a few moments to mark a change of pace, they planted gentle kisses upon their women’s hands and moved on to a new partner, where more gazing ensued.