Twice Tempted Page 48

Yes, but the two of them are going to be family -

Did you hear Vlad describe his family? He didn't even get to the part where his younger brother kept trying to kill him.

And on and on. As I'd feared, I'd morphed into Gollum.

What I finally said after the seconds ticked by was this:

’’I don't blame you for being upset, Dad. If my daughter told me she was marrying the undead Prince of Darkness, I'd flip out, too. You don't have to like it or approve, but you can't stop me, and I hope . . .’’ I swallowed to relieve the lump that suddenly shot into my throat. ’’I hope you'll be at my wedding.’’

Then I went over to him and kissed his cheek before leaving the room. Whatever my dad, Gretchen, or Marty decided to do, I had a wedding to get ready for.

Chapter 28

At some point, I felt sure I'd wake up. I wasn't the girl who had an exquisite gown handmade with fairy godmother - like quickness for her wedding. I was the girl who lost her mother before I could really get to know her. Who had her dreams crushed, whose family harbored resentments, who couldn't touch anyone without risking their lives, and who drowned in darkness from all the sins her abilities forced her to relive.

That didn't look like the girl in the mirror. My dress had a creamy bodice overlapping at the bust to increase my modest curves. Under that, a multilayered chiffon skirt was inlaid with lace clusters and tiny seed pearls. The lace bolero jacket left my decollete bare but hugged my neck and shoulders before descending into sleeves as sheer as spiderwebs. They came to my fingers, embroidery clusters concealing my long, zigzagging scar. My hair was up, a diamond-studded clip underneath the bun. That clip held up the back of a sheer cathedral veil with more pearl adornments. The front of the veil was currently thrown back in case I needed any final touch-ups on my makeup.

No, the girl in the mirror didn't look like she'd suffered from loneliness, isolation, or an influx of images from the worst deeds people inflicted upon each other. She looked happy. One might even dare to use the word blessed. Was it any wonder I had a hard time reconciling that she was me?

Gretchen appeared in the reflection. ’’Don't even think about crying during your vows. It'll ruin your makeup.’’

My sister's comment was a dash of reality in these unreal circumstances, but that was fine. She was here, dressed in a strapless amethyst satin gown that showed off curves I needed creative draping to duplicate. Her shoulder-length black hair was up, adding an air of sophistication, and her dark eye makeup made her appear older than her twenty-two years.

’’You look amazing,’’ I told her.

’’No,’’ she said, her voice becoming soft. ’’You do.’’

Then she shocked me by hugging me. Underneath the hairspray and body lotion, I caught her scent, like lemons and sea spray. I inhaled, knowing I'd never come across either of those without thinking of my sister.

She let me go with a snort. ’’Did you just smell me?’’

Sheepish, I nodded. ’’All the blood Vlad gave me put more than my hearing into overdrive.’’

Another snort. ’’You get weirder by the day, you know that?’’ Then she glanced around, but the three genius seamstresses had left. ’’Well, do I smell okay? You can't beg, bribe, or steal perfume in this place.’’

A house of people with hyperactive olfactory senses? I didn't doubt it. Perfume would be like mace to vampires.

’’You smell fine,’’ I assured her.

Taps sounded at the door. Gretchen opened it, revealing Marty. He wore a black tuxedo that must have been recently made because he didn't own one, and it fit him like a glove. His bushy sideburns were now neatly trimmed and his thick black hair was slicked back, adding a hint of rakishness to his formal appearance.

’’It's time,’’ he said. Then he stared. ’’Wow, kid. Both of you,’’ he hastily added.

I turned so Marty could see my entire dress, careful not to trip on my train. ’’I still can't believe Sinead, Frances, and Bertrice made this in six hours. Those vampires sewed so fast, they almost caught the threads on fire.’’

My voice trailed off as someone else appeared behind Marty. Hugh Dalton also wore a tuxedo, and his gray-black hair was freshly cut. The lines in his face looked sharper, but lips that had been drawn into a slit softened somewhat as he looked at me.

’’No matter what I think about this, Leila, you're my daughter, so you are not walking down that aisle alone.’’

I swallowed hard. Gretchen hissed, ’’Eye makeup!’’ and elbowed me, but her eyes had a new shine, too. It had been a long time since we'd done anything together as a family.

Marty took Gretchen's arm. ’’Come on, beautiful. I'll show you where to go.’’

She gave her hair a final pat and then blew me a kiss. ’’See you soon, sis.’’

The two of them left. My father continued to stare at me. Then he let out a sigh that seemed to come from deep inside him.

’’You're sure you want to do this?’’

’’I'm sure,’’ I said in a steady voice.

He took my arm. My new current-repelling, ivory gloves only came to my wrists so he absorbed a shock, yet he concealed his wince behind a strained smile.

’’I was afraid you'd say that.’’

I barely recognized the third floor. The normal furnishings were gone and the dark walls were covered with white silk. More silk hung from the ceiling, creating an elegant tenting effect. The hallway had flowers wrapped around white stone torches that were spaced with polished shields between them. Those shields picked up the firelight and reflected it, bathing the entire hallway with a golden glow. The scent to my newly sensitive nose made the air heavier and sweeter. Walking through it was like traversing an enchanted tunnel.

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