Ascend / Page 13

Page 13

“Yes,” I said firmly and nodded once. “I want to do this.”

“Okay.” She stood up. Smiling, she held her hand out to me. “Let’s get you married then.”

I took her hand, and she squeezed it reassuringly when I got up. Duncan stood by the door, waiting for us, and when I started walking, he came over to gather the train so it wouldn’t drag on the ground.

“Wait,” Matt said. “This is the last moment I’ll have to talk to you before this, so um, I just wanted to say…” He fumbled for a minute and pulled at his sleeve. “There’s so much I wanted to say actually. I’ve watched you grow up so much, Wendy. And you were a brat.” He laughed nervously at that, and I smiled.

“And you’ve blossomed right in front of me,” he said. “You’re strong and smart and compassionate and beautiful. I couldn’t be more proud of the woman you’ve become.”

“Matt.” I wiped quickly at my eyes.

“Matt, don’t make her cry,” Willa said, and she sniffled a little.

“I’m sorry,” Matt said. “I didn’t mean to make you cry, and I know you’ve got to get down there. But I wanted to say that no matter what happens, today, tomorrow, whenever, you’ll always be my little sister, and I’ll always be on your side. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said and I hugged him.

“That was really sweet,” Willa said when he let me go. She gave him a quick kiss on the lips before ushering me out of the room. “But I wish you’d said that sometime in the past hour when we were doing nothing. Now we really have to book.”

Fortunately, we never wore shoes, so it made it easier to jog down to the ballroom. Before we even reached it, I could hear the music playing. Aurora had a live orchestra playing “Moonlight Sonata,” and I heard the murmurs of the guests accompanying it.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen were lined up outside the doors, waiting to enter until I arrived. Garrett smiled when he saw me. He’d always been kind to me, so I chose him to walk me down the aisle.

“Be gentle with her, Dad,” Willa said as she handed me off to him. “She’s nervous.”

“Don’t worry,” Garrett grinned, looping his arm through mine. “I promise I won’t let you fall or stumble all the way down the aisle.”

“Thank you.” I forced a smiled at him.

One of my bridesmaids had my bouquet of lilies and handed it to me. I felt a bit better gripping onto something, as if it kept me anchored.

As the wedding party walked down to the aisle, I kept swallowing, trying desperately to fight back the overwhelming nerves in my stomach. It was only Tove. There was nothing to be afraid of. He was one of the few people in the world I actually trusted. I could do this. I could marry him.

Willa gave me a small wave before she turned down the aisle. Duncan was behind me, straightening my train out the best he could, but the music hit the crescendo, and it was my turn to go. Duncan stepped back from my dress, and he and Matt gave me encouraging smiles. They didn’t want to sneak into the service now, so they’d have to wait outside the ballroom, watching from the back.

I stepped on the green velvet carpet running down the aisle, littered with white rose petals from a flower girl, and I thought I might faint. It didn’t help that the carpet seemed to go on for miles. The ballroom was packed with people, and they all stood and turned to face me when I entered.

Rhys and Rhiannon were in the very back row, and Rhiannon waved madly when she saw me. I knew many of the people from my work running the palace, but I had so few friends here. Tove stood at the altar, looking almost as nervous as I felt, and that made me feel better somehow. We were both scared, but we were in this together.

Elora sat near the front, the only person in attendance not standing, but she was probably too weak to stand. I was just happy that she’d been able to make it here, and she smiled at me as I walked past. It was a genuine smile, and it pulled at my heart.

I walked the two steps up the altar, away from Garrett, and Tove took my hand. He squeezed it and offered me a subtle smile as I stood next to him. Willa moved around behind me, smoothing out my dress again.

“Hey,” Tove said.

“Hey,” I said.

“You may be seated,” Markis Bain said. On top of being in charge of changeling placement, he was certified to perform Trylle weddings. He stood in front of us, dressed in a white suit, smiling nervously.

The congregation sat down behind us, but I tried not to think of them. I tried not to think about how I had scanned the crowd, but I’d been unable to see Finn in their numbers. His father was here, standing guard near the door, but Finn had probably left again. He had work to do, and I ended things with him.

“Dearly beloved,” Markis Bain said, interrupting my thoughts. “We are gathered here to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men. Therefore it is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly – but reverently, discreetly, and solemnly.”

He opened his mouth to say more, but a loud banging sound shook the palace. I jumped and looked back at the door, the same way everyone did. Matt was standing just outside the open doors, but Duncan had run down the hall.

“What was that?” Willa asked, echoing the thoughts of everybody in the room.

“Princess!” Duncan yelled, and he appeared in the doorway. “They’re coming for you.”

“What?” I asked.

I tossed my bouquet aside, gathered my skirt, and raced from the altar. Willa called my name, but I ignored her. I’d only made it halfway down the aisle when I heard the gravelly boom of Oren’s voice.

“We’re not coming for anyone,” Oren said. “If this were dirty work, I wouldn’t be here.”

I stopped in the aisle, unsure of what to do next, and Oren stepped into view. Duncan and Matt rushed at him, but the two Vittra guards Oren had with him grabbed them both. As soon as the guards touched Matt, I raised my hand, and using my abilities, I sent them flying backwards. They slammed into the back wall, and I kept my hand up, holding them in place.

“Impressive, Princess,” Oren smiled.

He clapped his hands at that, the sound muffled by his black leather gloves. His long, dark hair shimmered the way Elora’s once had, but his eyes were black as coal.

I hadn’t meant to leave him standing. I’d wanted to send him falling back, so he could feel the force of what I could do, but he hadn’t. The Vittra were stronger than the Trylle, Oren especially, and Tove had told me that my abilities might be useless on him.

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