Even with her being the Seer of The Shade, my sister was far from being all-knowing, especially when it came to matters of the heart.
“What do you mean?” she asked me in bewilderment.
I chuckled and shook my head. “You’ll realize soon enough, Vivienne.”
I knew she was about to pry but a foreboding form suddenly caught my attention. Aiden was approaching us. I knew I should’ve talked to him during the past three days, but I intentionally avoided him. I didn’t want him to try to talk me out of marrying Sofia. I didn’t want to go into the whole thing with apprehensions circling my mind. It seemed Sofia felt the same way, but then here he was… This was inevitable.
“May I have a word with you, Derek?” he asked just before he took the final step toward the piano, drumming his fingers over its surface.
Vivienne, eager to get out of the tense situation, nodded her head. “I’ll leave you two alone to talk.”
“Aiden.” I bowed my head slightly, never before feeling more tense around a human than I did with him.
“It seems you’ve been avoiding me.”
I coughed. I knew there was no use in denying the truth. “I have… I meant to ask for your blessing, Aiden, but I was afraid you wouldn’t give it… I love Sofia. I will do everything in my power to protect her and to make her happy.”
He chuckled wryly. “I fear that I’m not at all confident in your ability to protect my daughter, Derek. Even as the most powerful vampire, you’ve gotten her in all sorts of trouble. What makes you think you can protect her as a human – assuming that the cure even works?”
I swallowed hard. I had no idea what to say to that. It was true. Sofia’s life had been terribly endangered ever since she had met me.
Aiden then grinned and smacked me right over the shoulder. “But get that horrified, guilty look off your face, Novak. It doesn’t suit the king of the vampires to look that way. I don’t think any man can protect her completely – even I failed in that. I do know that no one can make her as happy as you can.”
I breathed an audible sigh of relief.
“All I ask is that you be faithful to her, love her… and as much as you are able, do try to protect her. It won’t be easy considering all the trouble she seems to entangle herself in.”
I nodded even as I tried to chuckle at his remark. I couldn’t hide my relief. “So I have your blessing?”
The father of my bride nodded. “I want my daughter happy, and I would give the world to always see the way her face lights up when she looks at you. Do good by her.”
“Yes, sir.” I nodded. And just like that, I had his blessing.
He then smirked before looking me over. “But don’t think this means I trust you or like you, vampire.”
I chuckled. “It would be strange to have it otherwise.” I realized then that I liked the tension between Aiden and me. He kept me on my toes, always reminding me how precious Sofia was. She deserved that.
I looked around. The place was beginning to fill up. My breath hitched. This was it. Nothing could explain the joy I felt inside as the ceremony began. It was surreal. I wanted to pinch myself to find out if it was all really happening.
All of it… all those years in battle… all of those years fighting for the survival of those I loved, fighting for the fulfillment of a prophecy that I did not even fully understand… all of it boiled down to this one moment, standing at the end of a long pathway, right beside a magnificently lit gazebo, watching my beautiful bride come to me.
When she showed up, everything and everyone else faded into a blur, dimming against the radiance of her light. Standing on the other end of the aisle, holding her bouquet of lilies, she was breathtaking in her intricately embroidered gown. When she raised her downcast, green eyes to meet mine, I was done for. She had me breathless and captivated – even more so when that brilliant smile began to light up her countenance. Her glistening eyes were fixed on mine as she winked at me before beginning her march down the aisle.
It felt like an eternity waiting for her to come to me, to be in my arms, but watching every single step was absolutely worth it. I wanted to freeze that moment in eternity. That tantalizing vision of her in that white dress, looking more ethereal than ever before, would forever be etched in my mind.
When she took that final step toward me, taking her father’s hand, so that he could bring her to me, one truth hit the very core of my being. I was racking my brain for the past three days wondering how to express myself once we exchanged our vows, but when it came time for that, I knew exactly what to say.
I could barely look at her as I said the words. It was a strange emotion I wasn’t well-acquainted with. I was about to gush over my love for her and despite all the acclaim and the power I had as Derek Novak, the king of The Shade, in that moment, eighteen-year-old Sofia Claremont made five-hundred-year-old me feel like a boy.
“You saved me, Sofia. You rescued me from myself. You gave me room to feel again, to love again, to once again believe in goodness and kindness and the possibility of light even in the darkest of nights. I’ve lived under the shadow of the prophecy about bringing my kind to true sanctuary. The cure might be my kind’s true sanctuary, but I know now that it’s not mine, Sofia. Your smile, your heart, your life, your love… You, Sofia, are my true sanctuary.”
Chapter 43: Sofia
Chills ran down my spine as I listened to him utter each word of his vows. I had no idea if I was just seeing things, but I could swear that he was blushing. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible for a vampire to blush.
“I will protect you with my life, Sofia,” he proceeded to say, his hands clasping mine.
I was trembling, overwhelmed by the emotions coursing through me. I didn’t know that I could be capable of loving someone this much. “I will love you and support you and do everything that I can to make sure that I too become your sanctuary as surely as you are mine.”
When he finally raised his eyes to look directly at mine, a lump formed in my throat. Then a tear ran down my cheek. “I love you,” he mouthed to me and I responded in kind.
I tilted slightly to the side and smiled at him. “You already are my sanctuary, Derek.” He caught his breath and I couldn’t help but do the same as I brushed my thumb against his hand. “You have been since the day I met you. I am who I am, because you brought out the best in me. You challenged me to become all that I could possibly be and continue to challenge me to live life that way. We are our strongest selves together, our weakest apart. I can’t imagine a life without you and on this day, I hope you know without doubt that my life, my heart, and my love is yours.”
When his brilliant blue eyes began to moisten, I couldn’t stop the waterworks. I didn’t want to cry anymore, but the emotions were so gripping and strong, so overwhelming. In my attempt not to sob, I laughed nervously, and I guess he felt the exact same way because he began to laugh too.
“Sunshine,” he whispered, as he put the ring on my finger. “You’re like sunshine. You light everything up.”
I could feel blood heat up my cheeks as I clung to his hand, sensing both his strength and vulnerability at the same time. I found it strange how he made me feel at that exact moment. I felt both powerless and powerful all at the same time. I was vulnerable to him, and I knew it. But I also knew that he was just as vulnerable to me.
That realization immediately spoke to my longing for intimacy. When Corrine finally pronounced the words that sealed my marriage to Derek, I couldn’t wait to have his lips press against mine. Corrine hadn’t even yet recited the traditional, “you may kiss the bride,” and Derek was already holding my waist and pulling me against him, his lips covering mine.
I lost myself in the heat of his kiss. When his lips pulled away from mine, I found myself leaning forward, practically begging for more until I saw a huge grin on his face.
Derek winked at me. “I want to kiss you, Sofia, but if we go on like this, I might end up hauling you out of the wedding reception and right to my bedroom.”
Right then, I became fully aware that we weren’t alone. Our friends and loved ones were still surrounding us. I practically jumped from where I was standing when they began to applaud us – the newlyweds.
“Sofia Novak.” Derek’s smooth baritone pronounced. “Mmm… I love the sound of it.”
As much as we tried to keep a show of chastity during the rest of the wedding festivities, we simply couldn’t keep our eyes or hands off each other. The idea that I was Sofia Novak was still ringing in my head, emphasized even more when our friends approached us with unadulterated glee.
“You did it!” Ashley exclaimed, as she threw her arms around me. “You married a vampire.” She then gave Derek a teasing look-over from head to foot. “This vampire at that. Who would’ve thought? You better take care of her.”
Derek grinned, his eyes focusing once again on me. “I’d better. She’s my life.”
“I didn’t think I’d ever see this happen.” Gavin grinned and nodded. “History is being made right here. Congratulations to you both.”
“I guess we’re sisters now,” Vivienne said, clasping my hands tightly.
“We are,” I responded, as I embraced her. “Thank you, Vivienne…” I whispered into her ear, recalling the price she paid in order to get me back to The Shade not so long ago. “For bringing me back to him.”
She chuckled. “Well, that wasn’t entirely selfless… we all like him a lot more when he’s around you.”
Derek feigned being wounded as he squinted his eyes at his sister. “Hey… I heard that.”
To that, Vivienne just laughed and winked. “I love you both.”
“Here’s to hoping you don’t kill each other,” Cameron teased, as he lifted a glass of wine toward us. “Welcome to married life.”
“Don’t scare them, Cam,” Liana reprimanded.