A sudden hot flash blazed through me. Maybe standing next to Vasyl in a small hall getting married might have something to do with it.
Although the ordained minister, Paul Kostova, wore no priestly robes, he had donned a very nice dark suit with a dark tie and white shirt. No crucifix hung from his neck—which would have been a big faux pas in this crowd. He had thinning brown hair, a long face that might have seen thirty-something years. Black-rimmed glasses perched on his long nose as he read from The Vampire's Creed, and daubed his brow repeatedly. I have to admit the guy had guts to stand up in front of a room full of vampires and werewolves. You wouldn't know the man had done twenty similar marriages by the way his brow beaded sweat, but that's what he had told me when I found him on the Internet. Luckily, his home base, Rockford, was a mere forty-five minutes from my hometown, Moonlight.
In the state of Illinois, once this ceremony came to a close, our marriage would be considered legal and binding. It would also count in the vampire world, and that was all that mattered at this level of my weird life, which seemed to be taking a carnival ride to Hell as of late.
Vasyl and I had both taken a blood test to confirm that no relationship existed between us. Not that I was worried about it.
Marriage? Me? No one ever asked me before Vasyl did a few weeks ago. Vasyl had never been married, although he's lived over one thousand years as a vampire. But then, he had been a priest in his human life. However, I had a feeling in his vampire life he was no saint, because no one can kiss like him and be a virgin.
What would my brother, Randy, say if he knew?
“Sabrina Strong, do you take this man in holy matrimony, to have and to hold till death do you part?” his question cauterizing my vivid thoughts of what my family would do if they found out I was marrying a vampire. Actually, it would be two thunder strikes at once. The whole idea that vampires existed was something I hadn't breached with my brother and his wife as yet. But I knew the day was coming.
“Uh,” I said as another flash caught me unguarded, like someone slapped me with a cold towel. Overwhelmed, I thought I was about to spontaneous combust. I wasn't having a vision—I was certain of it—but suddenly something clutched me in the solar plexus. It hurt initially, but then it simply felt like someone grabbing my stomach and pulling me.
My sudden gasp caught Vasyl's attention. His head jerked as large erudite eyes scrutinized me. Vasyl asked low, “Cherie, you are alright?”
“No,” I murmured under my breath, “catch me.” Everything went black at once, but I didn't fall, at least not in the real sense of the term.
The world around me shifted. A slight chill in the air cooled me significantly. The air pressure had become markedly different, and my ears became full. The pulling became a yank. I became suddenly small, like a speck of dust. I vaguely remember that feeling when I'd traveled through time and space via ley line to land in a completely different place. I simply knew I no longer stood where I had been. In fact, I wasn't sure I remained on terra firma. The certainty of my transportation to somewhere else came in loud and clear to my brain.
Eyes open, I made an effort to see my hand in front of my face, but only darkness met my eyes. My fear ramped up because I thought I'd traveled into Dark World, where vampires and demons ruled. If so I was in a big load of trouble, because I'd been told there was a bounty on my head because of what I had done while there with Tremayne. The Council must have been really pissed at me if they'd put a bounty on my head. I couldn't blame them. After all, I did hack off the twin tails of a major vampire-demon, and killed a designer pet demon while I was their "guest." They'd left me no choice because it had attacked the three of us, Tremayne, Rick, and me. Besides, it was damn ugly.
My eyes adjusted to the diminished light and varying degrees of shadow against lighter areas began to emerge. I knew I stood inside a domicile, and not outside. I tried to use my clairvoyant abilities to tell me where exactly I was, but I had trouble working through the power that surrounded me. The source of light took me a handful of seconds to ascertain. I decided the lighting was both moonlight and candlelight, since one source undulated like that of a flame, and another poured in from a window beyond the area where I stood.
Someone's presence overwhelmed my senses—a male presence. Since I felt no pheromones, I had to presume he was human. I reached out. His emotions became tangible. Oops. He was very human if he was that excited.
“Who's there?” I asked into the darkness, my voice echoed slightly. Nearly devoid of furnishings, the room felt and sounded hollow. My clairvoyant abilities produced a bedroom in my mind's eye. Yep, definitely a bed in here. My abilities also affirmed I was no longer on Earth, but in another realm. It had another feel to it—a texture only my senses could ascertain. Where, precisely, was still unclear, except I knew I wasn't on Earth. It simply felt different.
“Show yourself!” even I could hear the edginess and distress in the command. I hated my insecurities. I simply couldn't get the bitchy, ass-kicking thing down. My voice gave me away every time. I caught myself twisting the ends of my gloves—another give away I was nervous or fearful.
A slight rustling of material, possibly twenty feet away, made my eyes dart in that direction. The moon's beam angled in through the only window in the next room revealing a figure. I stood in a tiny separate room—a closet or a small alcove—my back against the wall. I rocked away from the wall. The stranger sat in the darkest shadows, at the other end of the next room. I felt no threat from him. At least, not yet.
The seated figure shifted forward, and the moonlight revealed him in gradual increments. Pale hands draped over the back of the dark stained wooden chair, then the shiny white fabric of his shirt draping his arm. His face emerged from the darkness as he leaned further into the pale moonlight. I would rate him handsome to good-looking. The most remarkable thing I saw was his raven black hair, with a swath of blond—no, white—cutting a stripe down one side of his head. I couldn't tell how old he was precisely. Undoubtedly well into his twenties.
“Don't be frightened,” he said in a moderate, to somewhat tenor voice. “I'm not a sanguine.”
“Oh, well that's good to know,” sarcasm thick in my voice. “That puts me right at ease.” Not. I stepped out of the closet. No point in making it easier for him to capture me if that was his intent.
“I like the dress, however, if that helps?” he went on. “It's very suggestive.”
I looked down at my wedding dress. There was nothing suggestive about it. The dress had an empire waist—I have no cleavage to speak of—and the hem came to the tops of my heels covering me in yards of white satin and lace. “This is suggestive?” I grabbed a bit of taffeta and lifted it. The thing weighed a ton.
“Yes. It suggests that you are a virgin.”
“As if!” I scoffed.
“You aren't?” he chuckled. “That's alright, I'll enjoy the pleasure at any rate.”
“I'm always amazed at the lengths Arabella's mares go to in making it all so much more exciting for me.” He stood and swung his leg over the back of the chair and cleared it rather quickly—much easier than a normal human would have been able to without being a member of an Olympic gymnast team.
“Again, excuse me?” My face became hot. Moving slightly toward a window, I looked out. Shit. I was on a second floor and there was no balcony or anything to interrupt a jump, should I make an escape through the window.
“Am I spoiling the effect you wanted to make? My apologies, my dear. Let me introduce myself, at any rate. My name is Jett. Jett of Wallachia.” He had a slight accent I couldn't quite place. He paused, seeming to expect me to react to what he'd just said.
I rolled my eyes and let go an expletive under my breath. When he advanced on me, I moved along the wall, tripped on the train of my stupid dress—cricking my ankle because of my stupid three inch heels—but quickly regained my balance. When I looked up, he was an arm's reach of me. I uncovered and held my right hand up to him (where I wore the mystic ring which allowed me to not become influenced by a vampire's thrall). I wanted to stop him from getting any closer. The closer he got the better I could see him. Oh. Wow. He was more handsome than I'd at first thought, and human, not a vampire—so the mystic ring wouldn't work on him—and at least six feet tall with broad shoulders. Husky build.
He stopped within a few feet of me. A look of surprise making his dark-as-pitch eyes wide for a brief second, and then he blinked. Eyes, like twin black mirrors, reflected moonlight, or a candle flame, mesmerized me.
“How did you do that?” he asked.
“Make me stop.”
“Are you a sorceress?”
“You wouldn't be able to stop me like that... unless—”
My panic rose. This was a good time to make an exit, if ever there was one. I wasn't sure how I had arrived, I surely didn’t know how to go about leaving, I just knew I had to get back to my own world. Somehow, the intense thought made it happen.
No dramatic poof, none of those stupid, or weird sounds you hear in a movie or TV show accompanied it. It simply happened. It felt exactly like when Rick had taken me to Dark World and back. The ear popping, the feeling of being small and then large again not pleasant, nor unpleasant—although I could do without the ear popping thing.
Suddenly back, standing beside Vasyl in front of Paul the minister, I knew by the gasps flooding my ears I had done something amazing. Vasyl and the priest looked startled by my sudden re-appearance. Obviously, I had been physically gone.
“Ooh la' la'! You are back!” Vasyl said, amid sudden cheers and clapping, as though I’d performed some sort of crazy magic act. Maybe I had. “Where did you go?”
“I don't know,” I said low against the dying noise of the small crowd of on-lookers. I pasted a smile on my face and turned to Paul the preacher. “Continue.”
The frozen, disbelieving look on the minister's face transformed into a nervous smile. “You're sure you won't be disappearing again?” he asked in a stage whisper.
“I'm pretty sure I'll stay here.” I hope.
“Very well.” The minister cleared his voice and nodded to me and then to Vasyl. “We shall continue with the wedding vows then.” He turned back to the Vampire's Creed. “Vasyl, repeat after me. I, Vasyl, give you this ring...”
“I, Vasyl, give you this ring...”
I trembled with the realization I was going to be married—not to a man, but a vampire. Doubts loomed. Did I love him? I questioned myself on this. Why hadn't I thought about this before now? Oh, God, how do I get into these things?
The part where the pastor said something about forsaking all others—that I'd never heard before in any ceremony—sent my mind to “all others.” Well, to only one other: Dante.
God... Dante. My heart twisted suddenly with the thought of how he had died loving me, and me loving him.
My knees quivered when they got to the part “...to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live...” because obviously Vasyl would outlive me.
When it was my turn to repeat these lines my mouth, dry as the Arizona desert, repeated each portion, sounding wooden to my ears, as if I didn't mean a word of it.
I shouldn't even be here...
“With the powers vested in me by the state of Illinois, and the Vampire Association of North America, Vasyl, you may bite your bride.”
Stunned, I twirled on Vasyl. “I'm not going to let you bite me!”
“Cherie,” Vasyl soothed.
“You didn't tell me you were going to bite!” I swatted him with my bouquet. Pink and white rose petals showered all over the floor. Some stuck on his black suit. I noticed one pink petal perched on the opening of his shirt—he'd left the first three buttons undone, and wore nothing around his neck (and no socks or shoes). I became envious of that one little pink petal being so close to his bare chest, the black hairs begging me to pluck the offending petal off him—with my teeth. “I've changed my mind. I don't want to belong to anyone!”
“Mon amour. Do not be foolish!” he argued gently.
“Perhaps the young lady would like to—”
I swung around on Preacher Paul. “No! I would not!” He took two steps back as though I'd swung at him.
“The wedding is off!” I threw the bouquet down at Vasyl's feet and twirled away.
Vasyl made an Uber-vampire move and got in front of me. He tried to hit me with his thrall. Son of a bitch! One long white satin glove no longer covered my right hand, and so I thrust it in his face. “I don't think so!” The words were barely past my lips when Vasyl went flying away from me, across the room, sailing over the two dozen werewolves seated on my side—who quickly ducked. Vasyl hit the wall and fell half crumpled to the floor. Unhurt, he rebounded quickly. The shock on his face said it all.
Oops. I looked at my hand. I had merely held up my un-gloved hand to Jett, the dark-haired man in the other world, but he didn't go flying. My action only stopped him from advancing on me. I must have been angry enough to make Vasyl go flying.
Cheers and applause went up as I stormed down the aisle. About time I'd gotten my head straight about marrying a vampire. Four people filed in behind me and marched with me toward the door.
“You tell him Sabrina!” Heath Sufferden, one of Tremayne's vampires, cheered and followed on my heels.
“Girl, you just kicked ass!” Jeanie, my best friend, and newly turned vampire cooed, sidling up beside me. She was my bridesmaid, and Heath had stood in as the only groomsman. There hadn't been enough time to find people to stand up for us at the wedding. Leif, Heath's twin brother, shouldn't have shown up at all, but he had, and had brought his constant companion, Darla.
“I did, didn't I?” The adrenaline shooting through me felt oddly uplifting. Going into this wedding, I hadn't been sure it felt right. I knew now it wasn't. What I had just done felt freeing, telling me my decision to stop it was right. The heat on my face cooled significantly when I punched through the door of the hall, and clattered down the cement steps into the November night.
I halted three steps onto the sidewalk eyeing the white limo parked at the curb. A banner proclaiming “Just Married” across the back with blue and silver crepe ribbons fluttered in the breeze, under the pole lights in the parking lot.