Did my husband have disloyalty—treachery—on his mind?
Wriggling back down under the blankets, I moved toward Lucius in the massive bed—in which, as he’d once confessed, he’d probably been expected by the Vladescu Elders to take my life, conveniently removing his Dragomir bride from power and allowing the Vladescus to have unchallenged dominion over both our families. ” I got up on one elbow and shook him gently, needing to see his dark eyes and hear his deep, reassuring voice. I took his hand and tugged to give myself some space to breathe.
He rolled onto his back and fumbled for me under the covers, which were expensive and stiff and made me miss the soft, worn-in flannel sheets on my bed in Pennsylvania. High on top of that Romanian mountain, in the heart of a confusing castle that I supposedly governed but where I still got lost in the twisted corridors, the night got very still. After a few minutes of forcing myself to forget about the nightmare, I started to drift off to sleep again, when suddenly Lucius muttered, barely whispering, his breath chilly against my neck, “Betrayal.”I stiffened in his arms.
In response to the pressure of my body, he turned and pulled me close, so I could feel the entire length of his powerful warrior’s body against mine, like a shield at my back.
They cast scary, shifting shadows on the gray rock walls and definitely didn’t do much to warm up the stark décor, which consisted of a semicircle of benches for witnesses, a worn spot on the stone floor where the accused would stand, and a long table, where I sat next to Lucius in a hard, straight-backed chair. “Excuse me.” The Elders pulled in their chairs so I could pass behind them. A vote that could elevate Lucius and me to king and queen.
A posthumous wedding gift to guide me as I learned to be a princess. Pressing tighter against my husband—how weird that still sounded—I listened to his steady breathing, which always calmed me down when I got nervous. Like every other room aboveground, this one had a fireplace with a blazing fire, but the flames seemed more hellish than cheerful. And I certainly didn’t look at Claudiu or the other Elders, who would be all too aware of why the American girl raised by vegans was rushing out of the room, nearly tripping over her long formal dress. .”I knew that I was—again—hurting Lucius’s and my chance of winning a crucial vote of confidence later that year, when the most influential Vladescu and Dragomir clan members would convene at a big summer congress of vampires.