Today you’ll be getting a barrage of posts because I’m playing some hardcore catch-up. I went camping last weekend and have struggled to get back into the swing of things since then. This was supposed to go up Monday – three guesses how that went.
Anyway, this is post one in a series of three that will go up today. For this post, I’ll be using Our Write Side’s Master Class Monday prompt. The prompt, “Gifted grievings,” serves as inspiration for the following snippet of A Vampire’s Bride.
When I wake up, I’m alone. It takes me a moment to remember that Niklaus is back – that we kissed and he held me until I fell asleep. Things are never going to be the same as they were before the events of the week, and I’m not entirely sure if I can handle that.
“Niklaus?” I pull the curtain from around the bed, but the room is empty. A few candles here and there light the space in patches along with the little moonlight that filters in through the window. Rather than dwell on the emptiness, I go about my usual routine. It’s not until I go to pick out a dress that I realize someone laid one out for me on the chair by the mirror. I change into the navy gown before leaving the room.
The castle is quieter than usual, and I wonder if any of the other vampires – or even the council – know about what happened between Niklaus and his family. Instead of seeking any of them out, I make my way toward the guest quarters where Nadya should be. Maybe she hasn’t woken up yet. When I finally get there, it’s empty – as if no one had been there in months.
“Ariella.” His voice makes me jump, and when I turn around to face him, an apology hovers in his eyes.
“Hey…” I try to smile. “Did your sister leave? I was hoping to say good-bye before she did.”
“No – she’s off getting breakfast.” But there’s something else in his tone and I know he’s holding something back. Before I can voice my concern, he takes my hand. “Come on. I thought maybe we could go for a walk in the gardens?”
“S-Sure.” I take comfort in the feeling of his hand, the steadiness of his presence, even though it seems like his mind is somewhere else. We take the familiar path I walked with Nadya these past two days to the garden.
It’s a beautiful night, the half moon providing just enough light for us to see. We walk in silence, and though it should have been comfortable, there’s a tension underneath it all that has nothing to do with the kisses we’ve shared and everything to do with his demeanor. I don’t pay much attention to where we’re going, doing my best instead to contain the knot in my throat that comes out of nowhere. Something bad is going to happen – I can feel it but I don’t know what to do about it.
Niklaus brings us to a stop in a secluded area of the garden, sitting on a bench near the far wall. From the castle, we’re hidden by large rose bushes and a tree.
“I’m sorry, Ariella. For everything.” The knot in my throat worsens, and I can feel the tears beginning to sting my eyes. Niklaus won’t look at me, and instead focuses on the grass.
“I already said – you didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know why you’re still apologizing.” There’s a new tension in his shoulders, his jaw, similar to the kind that seeps into him when he hunts. He’s preparing for something. “Niklaus, what’s going on?”
Instead of answering me, he takes one of my hands and brings it to his lips. Closing his eyes, he places a soft kiss on my knuckles. When he opens his eyes, he isn’t looking at me, but at a spot directly behind me. A moment later I hear them – footsteps.
From the darkness near the wall, I see a face I never expected to see again. “Soren? What the hell are you doing here?”
He doesn’t answer me and instead looks to Niklaus. When I look back at my husband, his eyes are dark, but there’s no menace there. They’re nothing like they were the first time we saw Soren in the forest. “You’re going home, Ariella. Tonight.”
“What are you talking about…?”
“I can’t keep you safe.” There’s a silent fury in Niklaus’ voice, self-hatred boiling underneath the surface. Maybe that’s what sparks my own anger.
“You weren’t worried about that when you picked me!” I snatch my hand away from him. “H-How can you just decide to ship me back? To return me like some unwanted, discarded-”
“Don’t. You have no idea-”
“Oh I think I do. You think I can’t take care of myself? Think I can’t make my own decisions?” I can’t continue to sit, so I jump up from the bench and walk a few paces, ignoring Soren’s presence.
“This isn’t up for discussion.” It’s the first time he’s taken that tone with me – actually demanding I do as he says – and it makes me falter. I switch tactics.
“And the vampire council? They’ll allow this?”
“They’ll think you’re dead. Believable, given what’s happened.” He glares at the ground. I’m not sure what I’m angrier about – the fact that he could have sent me back sooner claiming to have killed me, or that he refuses to take what I want into account.
“Ariella, we have to go – there’s only so long my guys will wait for us.” Soren’s voice reminds me he’s there, and I turn my glare on him.
“Leave without me. I’m not going anywhere.”
It almost seems like he’ll do as I say, until Niklaus stops him with a single look. When the vampire turns to look at me again, his eyes are softer, pleading with me now instead of ordering me. “It’s only a matter of time before I hurt you, Ariella.”
He flinches, and I almost feel sorry at the sharpness of my words. “If hating me is the only way to get you to leave, then please – hate me all you want.”
I bite the inside of my mouth, trying to restrain myself from the next words to come out of my mouth, but I can’t. “I’m in love with you! That’s not exactly a feeling I can just replace with hatred.”
At least he has the decency to look stunned. Unfortunately for me, even confessing my feelings isn’t enough to change his mind. There’s a sadness in his eyes, clouding the anger, but I know he won’t change his mind. “Ariella…”
“There’s nothing you can say to change that, just so you know.” It’s a miracle I’ve been able to hold back the tears, but I can feel my control slipping, my hands shaking. A small flutter of hope sparks in my chest when he takes a step forward, but it’s crushed when he doesn’t pull me into his arms and instead just takes my hand again.
He bows, pulling my knuckles to his lips in a farewell. “Good-bye, Ariella.”
I’m unable to move as he walks past me and back to the castle, leaving me with Soren. When Niklaus is out of sight, Soren finally moves.
“Come on – we have to go.” He at least doesn’t expect me to reach for his hand, and instead places his arm around my shoulders and tries to move me gently. Something snaps in me, and I shove him away.
“I can walk myself.”
Soren nods and leads the way, back in the direction of the darkness near the wall. There’s a door in the wall, hidden by plants. It’s clear that Soren is probably the first person to have walked through it in decades, maybe longer. Plants lie dead on the ground around it, from where they must have been cut away to allow the door to move.
On the other side of the wall, Nadya waits with two men I don’t recognize. She moves as if to speak, but I stop her.
“Don’t bother. Your brother said enough.”
“This is difficult for him, too, you know.” She sets down a case with what I assume is all of my belongings. Between the two men, they pick it up and make their way toward the tree line.
I don’t respond, finally losing my grip on the tears and letting them fall. At least I manage to contain the sob bubbling in my throat. Nadya has the good grace not to attempt to comfort me. Soren tries the arm around my shoulders again, and this time I let it stay there. Who knew it would hurt this much?
I never thought I would end up mourning my marriage to a vampire, mourning the loss of a husband I didn’t want in the first place. Months ago this would have been a blessing, the best thing Niklaus could have possibly given me – my freedom.
The carriage ride back to the village is a blur of tears and nightmares as I do my best to ignore how much I’m going to miss him.
All aboard the angst train!
I’m not really sure where the story is going to go from here (as expected), but that’s obviously not the last we’ll be seeing of our lovely vampire twins. Honestly I didn’t think Niklaus had it in him to let her go, but here we are.
As always, think happy thoughts!