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Chapter 33 – The Dress – Raine's POV

"Where are we going?" I asked Talia as she tugged me along quickly through previously unexplored corridors of the estate. I spend the night with her last night after saying goodbye to Cage.

I couldn't believe that tomorrow Cage and I would finally be mated in an unbreakable union. I thought back to when I first saw him at the club. I had been angry with destiny for leading me to that time and place, only to find a man as dangerous as him. But I guess destiny knew what she was doing after all, I had to admit reluctantly.

Talia brought me back to the present as she replied, "We are going to get you a dress."

"Down here?" I asked in confusion.

"Yep," she answered as we entered a large room and flicked on the lights.

As my eyes adjusted, I inhaled sharply. For as far as I could see, the room was filled with racks and racks of clothing. I breathed, "What is this place?"

"It is our own little storehouse. We are located so remotely that we keep a supply of several commodities on hand, clothing being one of them. I know there is an expansive collection of formalwear in the back."

I glanced at the clothing as I followed her. All of it appeared to be new with tags still hanging on them. When we reached our destination, I gasped, "Wow!"

There were exquisite and stunning gowns in every size, shape and color. Several of them quickly caught my eye.

"I know!" she answered excitedly, still continuing along her determined path. "We need to find the ones specific to the mating ceremonies."

"There are certain gowns just for these unions?" I asked curiously.

"Oh yes. You will see what I mean in a moment."

When we reached one particular rack, I knew exactly what she meant. The gowns were ornately decorated with embroidery and crystals, strategically located, because they were mostly see-through! I stared in shock and whispered, "Seriously?!"

She laughed at my expression and said, "Once you have it on, you will feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. I envy you. Maybe one day my time will come."

I was speechless as I watched her pull out three different dresses. She led me to a large fitting area with a platform and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. There was no specific room to change, just an empty rack where she's hung the dresses. She stepped back, obviously waiting for me to remove my clothes. It was a little awkward as I got naked, but not much. She made me feel comfortable as she chatted and laughed.

The first two were pretty, but when I tried on the third one, I knew it was the one. It had long sleeves and clung to my shape tightly down past my hips, where it flared softly to the floor. It was completely sheer with an intricate pattern of silver embroidery and pink birds. Two adorned my hips, two covered portions of my breasts and several around the hem and train. She had been right. I did feel incredibly beautiful and sexy. I couldn't wait for Cage to see me in this dress.

"That's the one," she whispered in agreement.

..........

Talia was asleep and the night seemed to drone on indefinitely. I stared at the clock. Only a minute and a half had gone by since I checked last. By tomorrow at this time, Cage and I would be irrevocably joined. I tossed and turned, desperately trying to find a position that would help me fall sleep. It wasn't working.

Finally, I eased out of the bed. I slipped into her kitchen, looking for hot cocoa. It always helped me fall asleep. I found none and wanted to growl in frustration, but I kept silent not wanting to wake her. It occurred to me that maybe the kitchen in the main area of Cage's domain might have more choices. It certainly had an unending and varied liquor selection. I was already dressed in sleep shorts and T-shirt, so didn't bother to change as I padded quietly out of her suite, and headed toward the main kitchen in my bare feet.

I reached the kitchen and began opening the cabinets. Some of them were too tall for me to reach, so I would have to find a step stool if I didn't get lucky with the lower ones.

Abruptly, a deep voice spoke with amusement behind me, "We have to stop meeting like this."

I gasped and spun around. Teo was staring at me with a grin. When my heart slowed to a normal rhythm, I admonished him, "Shit, you scared me half to death. Make some noise next time when you're going to sneak up on a girl."

He laughed and replied, "I'm sorry. I forget that you are not a vampire."

I stared at him in speculation. He was taller than me, which meant he could easily reach the higher cabinets.

"What are you looking at?" he asked apprehensively.

"As payback for your naughty behavior, you can help me with the upper cabinets. I am looking for hot chocolate."

"Naughty behavior?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

I affirmed with a smirk, "Yes. It is not nice to scare a girl, so now you get to help me."

"I get to help you, huh," Teo laughed as he began looking through the cabinets. I went back to looking through the cabinets that I could reach. After a moment, he said, "I think I found something that will do just the trick. Would you like me to prepare it for you as well? You know, just to make up for my earlier naughtiness?"

I knew he was making fun of me, but who was I to get in the way if he wanted to help. I replied sweetly, "That would be lovely, thank you."

I jumped up on the counter and waited while he heated water in a kettle. It only took a minute for the kettle to whistle its completion. I stared at his back while he pulled out a coffee cup, spooned the chocolate mix into it and added hot water. He fished out something to stir it with and finally turned to present it to me.

My eyes lit up and I breathed happily, "Thank you!"

He chuckled and jumped up on the counter across from me. I had a little bit of deja vu. This was where we had been when Cage interrupted us before. But this time, I wasn't drunk and Teo was obviously well-informed on my commitment to Cage. If there were any doubt of that, he eliminated it when he asked, "So, tomorrow is the day?"

I blew on the hot chocolate and took a tentative sip. It was good, but had just a teensy bitter flavor to it and I wondered if the cocoa was out of date. Oh well, at this point I would try anything to get to sleep. Otherwise, I was going to look horrible with bags under my eyes tomorrow. After another longer sip, I answered Teo's question, "Yes, tomorrow is the day."

"I'm surprised to find you out here," he commented.

"Couldn't sleep," I explained, drinking again.

He nodded and asked in understanding, "Hot cocoa helps you sleep?"

I pulled the cup away from my lips and confirmed, "Usually. Hopefully it works for me tonight; otherwise I think I will look a little scary tomorrow."

He answered with a surprising amount of fervor, "Even on your worst day, you would still be beautiful."

"Um...thanks," I replied hesitantly, not exactly sure how to respond. It took another long sip, letting the cocoa warm my belly.

He watched me intently.

I wondered why and began to feel a little uncomfortable. I decided I would just take the drink back to Talia's. Before I could jump down from the counter, my head swam. I froze, adrenaline pushing through my veins. My vision blurred and I hastily set down the drink, clutching the counter for support.

He stood to his feet and approached me. He whispered softly, "Sleep now. You won't be out long."

Terror ran through me. What was he saying?!! Before I could ask, my world went black...

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