Viveka is a headstrong female who has caught the interest of the young vampire Lord, Cian. Cian desires companionship and he may have found it in Viveka. The problem? She hates him and his parents, whose true identity is a secret. Among all of that, something dangerous lurks in the south.
I yawned as I sat at the table, glaring at the piece of parchment before me. Yet another letter of courtship. I twirled a lock of my orange hair around my finger, crossing my legs, and waiting for my mother to descend the stairs. I had called for her shortly after receiving the scroll. Finally, footsteps announced her arrival.
"What's the problem?" my mother asked. I pointed to the other chair and then pushed the parchment to her. She read it over and sighed. "Let me guess, you wish to decline."
I stood and went to the window, frowning at the village outside of our home.
"It's just for money, Mother," I said bitterly. "They look at me and see money."
She sighed again then stood beside me. She put a hand on my shoulder.
"It's the way of the world, my dear," she said. "You have reached the age of marriage."
"Yes and no one will let me forget it," I said. "Mother, I am only 20 years old. I have plenty of time!"
"You may come to find that you are incorrect about that."
I narrowed my blue eyes as another messenger approached our door. If it was another marriage proposal, I would scream. I opened the door before he could knock.
"May we help you?" I snapped.
"I come with an invitation from Sir Michael de-"
"No," I said and slammed the door shut.
"Viveka," her mother snapped. "That was incredibly rude."
"So are all these proposals," I grumbled. "Oh, please!"
Someone else knocked on the door. My mother got to it before me. It wasn't a messenger, though. It was a royal guard. We curtsied.
"The Lords and Ladies of Dunkan are preparing for their yearly inspection of the village."
Great, I thought. Just what we need.
"All citizens are ordered to dress and stand outside their homes. They will arrive in half an hour."
"Thank you, sir," my mother said and closed the door. "Let's go ready ourselves, Viveka."
"Yes, Mother," I sighed.
I went up to my bedroom. My mother and I were one of the wealthy families in our village. My father had died five years ago, leaving everything to us. It was exhausting for my mother who had to handle the family finances for the first two years. She was able to understand everything with the help of my father's best friend, Johnathan. Now, though, my father's business was smooth. He had been the head of farming. My mother had been worried; she thought we would have to work in the fields.
Little did she know, I was sneaking to the fields whenever I could. Johnathan's son, Chester, was teaching me all he could about corn. Unfortunately, we could only do it at night.
As for the royals.... I despised them. They almost never showed their faces here. The only times they did were when they held these stupid inspections.
I dressed in my usual dress: it was light blue with a black stripe running diagonally from my left shoulder and down. I left my hair loose. I liked my orange hair; it was unique. It was the result of red hair and being out in the sun for so long when I was a little girl. After my father passed, I was in the house more often. Now I was paler and skinnier.
Trumpets announced the royal family's arrival. I groaned but followed my mother down the stairs. She was in the dress she had married my father in. It was beautiful and white; very unusual here. But my mother had come from another kingdom where white dresses were custom.
She and I stood on the sides of our door. It was part of the colder months and my dress was sleeveless, leaving me shivering. I wish I still had my shawl but I had used it to cart around some vegetables and it tore.
"Would you like mine?" my mother whispered but I shook my head.
To our right, the royal family was coming down through the market place. I didn't know their names and didn't care to. There was a husband, wife, and son. There used to be a daughter but no one knows what happened to her.
My feet were hurting so I leaned my back against the house, sure no one would notice. When the family walked by us we were supposed to bow our heads but I didn't care. I narrowed my eyes at the three of them. The son was looking bored as his eyes passed over my mother and I. He muttered something and the family stopped walking.
"Young woman," the king said and I stood up straight. "Why do you not show respect?"
Because you haven't earned it.
"Please forgive me," I said in a flat voice. "I'm afraid I have not slept well."
The king frowned. "And why is that?"
I lifted a brow slightly and my mother groaned, shaking her head.
"I don't know, your highness," I said in a quiet voice. "It could be from the cold. Or perhaps it could be from listening to little children crying at night from hunger."
"Viveka," my mother hissed but I ignored her.
The king's face was hard to read but I could tell he wasn't happy with my answer. The queen looked puzzled. The son, however, looked incredibly amused. The king let go of his wife's arm and walked slowly toward me. I kept my face even.
"What is your name, young woman?" he asked quietly.
I could feel the citizens' worried eyes on us.
"Viveka," I said proudly.
"Viveka, daughter of the late Miles?" he asked.
He turned to my mother. "Then you must be Mary."
"Your highness," she whispered, curtsying. "Please forgive my daughter. She tends to speak before she thinks."
"Perhaps a day or two in our cells will tie that tongue," the young lord said behind his father.
"Hold your tongue, Cian," his father snapped and he obeyed. He looked back at me. "However, you speak out of line, Miss Viveka." I just stared into his black eyes. "My son does have a point."
"Please," my mother said quickly. "Please forgive her. She doesn't mean any harm!"
The king's eyes searched mine for a long time. I kept the enigmatic expression my mother had taught me on my face. Wind blew through and I wanted to shiver but I refused to. I wasn't going to show weakness in front of him.
"She shall be forgiven," the king said finally. "But you would do well to teach her when to speak."
"Thank you, your highness," my mother breathed and glared at me.
I curtsied. "Thank you for your forgiveness," I said through clenched teeth.
He just walked off. I watched him then returned my eyes to the wife and son. The wife had followed her husband but the son was still standing and staring at me in a way I didn't like. His lips were slowly curling and he made to walk over to me.
"Cian," his father snapped.
With a last look at me, he continued walking behind his parents.