Ascend / Page 16

Page 16


“So throw me out.”

“I might.” I raised my head defiantly, and that only made him laugh.

“Oh, this party would be so dull without me,” Loki said.

“You didn’t hear about the ceremony, then?” I asked. “Oren came to wish me well.”

“I heard one of the guards talking about it,” Loki said, his caramel eyes growing serious. “They said you did well and that you stood up for yourself.”

“I tried to anyway,” I shrugged. “He’s looking for you.”

“The King?” Loki asked, and I nodded. “Are you going to hand me over to him?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” I teased, and he smiled again, erasing his momentary seriousness. “So, where’d you get the suit?”

“Believe it or not, that lovely friend of yours, Willa,” Loki said. “She brought me a whole slew of clothes last night. When I asked her why she was being so generous, she said it was out of fear that I would run around naked.”

“That does sound like something you would do,” I smiled. “Why are you wearing all black, though? Didn’t you know you were going to a wedding?”

“On the contrary,” he said, doing his best to look unhappy. “I’m in mourning over the wedding.”

“Oh, because it’s too late?” I asked.

“No, Princess, it’s never too late.” His voice was light, but his eyes were solemn.

“May I cut in?” the Best Man asked.

“No, you may not,” Loki said. I’d started to move away from him, but he held fast onto me.

“Loki,” I said, and my eyes widened.

“I’m still dancing with her,” Loki said, turning to look at him. “You can have her when I’m done.”

“Loki,” I said again, but he was already twirling me away. “You can’t do that.”

“I just did,” he grinned. “Oh, Princess, don’t look so appalled. I’m already the rebel Prince of thine enemy. I can’t do much more to tarnish my image.”

“You can certainly tarnish mine,” I pointed out.

“Never,” Loki said, and it was his turn to look appalled. “I’m merely showing them how to dance.”

He began spinning me around the dance floor in grand arcs, my gown swirling around me. He was a brilliant dancer. We moved with grace and speed, and everyone had stopped to watch us, but I didn’t care. This was the way a Princess was supposed to dance on her wedding day.

The song ended, switching to something by Mozart, and he slowed, almost to a stop, but he kept me in his arms.

“Thank you,” I smiled. My skin felt flushed from dancing, and I was a little out of breath. “That was a wonderful dance.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, staring intently at me. “You are so beautiful.”

“Stop,” I said, looking away from his compliment as my cheeks reddened.

“How can you blush?” Loki asked, laughing gently. “People must tell you how beautiful you are a thousand times a day.”

“It’s not the same,” I said.

“It’s not the same?” Loki echoed. “Why? Because you know they don’t mean it like I do?”

We did stop dancing then, and neither of us said anything. Garrett came up to us. He smiled, but his eyes didn’t appear happy.

“Can I cut in?” Garrett asked.

“Yes,” Loki said, shaking off the intensity he’d had a moment ago, and grinned broadly at Garrett. “She’s all yours, good sir. Take care of her.”

He patted Garrett on the arm once for good measure and gave me a quick smile before heading back over to the refreshment table.

“Was he bothering you?” Garrett asked me as we began to dance.

“Um, no,” I shook my head. “He’s just…” I trailed off because I didn’t know what he was.

I watched Loki as he drained another glass of champagne, and then he left the ballroom just as abruptly as he’d entered.

“Are you sure?” Garrett asked.

“Yes, everything is fine,” I smiled reassuringly at him. “Why? Am I in trouble for dancing with him?”

“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s your wedding. You’re supposed to have a little fun. It would’ve been nice if it was with the groom, but…” He shrugged.

“Elora’s not mad, is she?” I asked.

“Elora doesn’t have the strength to be mad anymore,” Garrett said, almost sadly. “Don’t worry about her. You’ve got enough to deal with.”

“Thank you,” I said.

I looked around the dance floor. Willa was dancing with Tove again, and when she caught my eyes, she gave me a what the hell look. I’m assuming that was referring to my dance with Loki, but Tove didn’t seem upset. That was something at least.

8. Morning After

Even though I had on a wedding gown that had to weigh at least twenty pounds, I’d never felt so naked in my life.

I stood at the foot of my new bed in my new bedroom. These had been Elora’s chambers, but they were mine now, mine to share with my husband. Tove was next to me, and we both just stared at the bed.

When the reception started winding down, Tove’s parents, my mother, Willa, Garrett, and a few other ranking officials, including that disgusting Chancellor, had ushered us up to the room. They were all laughing, talking about how magical this would be, then they shut and locked the door behind us.

“On wedding nights, when a Prince or a King were married, they used to close the curtains around the four poster bed,” Tove said. “Then the family and officials would sit around all night, so they could be sure that they were having sex.”

“That is really disturbing,” I said. “Why on Earth would they do that?”

“To ensure they would produce offspring,” he shrugged. “That is the only reason why they arranged marriages.”

“I guess I should be happy they’re not doing that with us.”

“Do you think they’re listening outside the door?”

“I really, really hope not.”

We kept staring at the bed, refusing to look at one another, and I don’t think either of us knew what to do. I wanted to wait long enough until I was certain everyone had grown bored and left, but past that, I had no idea how this night would go.

“This dress is really heavy,” I said finally.

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