After eating, I left the bedroom to take a shower when there was another knock at my door. I went to open it and found my asshole cousin, Jeramiah, standing on my doorstep.

He looked at me awkwardly. “I’m sorry to disturb you. Could I have a minute?”

“Uh, yeah.” I pulled the door open, allowing him to step inside.

He coughed his throat clear, then hung his head. “I’ve come to apologize.”

I clenched my jaw. “It’s probably my parents you should be apologizing to.”

“I have already.”

I paused, eyeing him. It was hard to believe that this apparently guilt-ridden man was the same man I’d known in The Oasis, the leader who was feared and respected by everyone in his coven. He’d been quite an enigma to me at the time.

I thought back to the first time we’d met, back in the hunters’ base in Chile. If it hadn’t been for him, my story might have ended back there. I never would’ve escaped. Although he’d had ulterior motives for inviting me to The Oasis, and as horrible and uncertain as that time had been when I’d realized I was trapped there, it’d been a much-needed shelter for me at the time. And it had allowed me to drink blood without needing to kill for it.

His attempt to murder my parents and grandfather was inexcusable in my mind… but I also could not erase his former actions. I was not as forgiving as my mother was—I was still my father’s son, after all—but I did not like holding grudges either. Especially when a person appeared genuinely apologetic.

“Then,” I began, “if you have gained my family’s forgiveness, I suppose you have mine.”

Moving up to him, I extended my hand. He took it and shook it firmly.

“Well,” he said, stepping back. “I won’t take up any more of your time. I’m sure you have ample preparations to be getting on with for tomorrow.”

With that, he turned on his heel and let himself out of my apartment.

As I made my way to the bathroom and got in the shower, I was left to ponder over the power of a simple apology. A taming of one’s ego, an admission of being fallible… the effect that these things could have on a relationship was profound. I couldn’t help but feel that if more people were ready to apologize in the world, it would be a brighter, happier place.

River

The apartment Rose and I stepped into was dreamy. It was just how I imagined a suite in a castle should look like. Beautiful furniture, thick embroidered carpets, dusty tomes lining mahogany shelves, an enormous bed you just wanted to sink into … there was even an old grandfather clock. Rose and I wandered around in a daze, looking through the rooms, and then sat down on the bed. We caught each other’s eye and smiled. I still didn’t know Rose all that well, despite her being Ben’s sister. So much craziness had gone on recently, we’d barely gotten the chance to spend any quality time together. But it was something that I hoped would change in the coming weeks and months.

She reminded me of Ben in some of the things she said, the occasional turn of phrase. Her eye color was also identical to his, as was her dark hair. And she was tall, quite a bit taller than me.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“I’m soaring,” I replied honestly.

She chuckled. “That’s exactly how I felt before my wedding.”

There was a knock at the door. I went to open it to find my mother standing in the doorway, along with my two sisters. They had been housed in an apartment just a couple of doors away.

“Can we hang out with you?” Lalia asked.

“Of course,” I said, letting them all in.

My mom’s smile looked like it had been tattooed on her face. She hadn’t stopped grinning since I’d told her I’d accepted Ben’s proposal. She pulled me in for a cuddle and kissed my cheek before we entered the bedroom.

I had to return to the door less than a minute later, however, as a group of dragon maids showed up. They all wore the same pretty blue smocks, their hair tied up in buns.

“It’s time to begin your skin regimen,” they said. “Your bridesmaids can come, too, of course.”

Bridesmaids. I realized I hadn’t even chosen my bridesmaids yet.

“I wanna be a bridesmaid!” Lalia gushed, zooming out of the door.

“I’ll be your bridesmaid,” Dafne said.

“And of course I will, too,” Rose said, coming to my side.

“Mom?” I grinned at my mother.

“I’ll be your matron of honor,” she said proudly.

“What about your outfits?” I wondered.

“Don’t worry about that,” Rose said. “I’ll sort it out with Corrine.”

The dragons led us down to an atrium of steaming, scented baths down in the lower levels of the castle. Here the maids scrubbed and exfoliated and massaged until my skin felt brand new. As I looked at myself in the mirror afterward, I’d never seen my face so luminous.

We dried and dressed in flowing gowns provided by the maids, then returned to our respective apartments. Since we still had some time before dinner, Rose suggested that we explore the castle a bit.

“Sylvia’s in there with Jeriad,” Rose said as we roamed the corridor outside, pointing to the door on our left. “It’s weird to see so many of my classmates getting married—”

“Hello.”

We turned to see Queen Penelope behind us. She had just stepped out of a dragon couple’s room, and she was carrying a bouquet of orange roses.

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