Chapter 35 – Hopeless Romantic – Raine's POV

Teo and I made our way through a very remote section of the estate. I had been shocked to realize we hadn't even left the compound. Cage would have been furious to know Hayden had actually been inside of the estate, but I had no intention of putting Teo at risk.

I walked silently, too numb to even cry.

Teo said softly, "I'm sorry. If you change your mind and need help to get out, find me."

I looked at him, still trying to understand his loyalties.

The question must have been obvious on my face because he replied, "I don't conform to stereotypes. I see people as individuals. I don't agree with many of the established protocols that Armand has affected, and Hayden has assisted my family in the past at great peril to himself. When he found out you were here, he asked me to look out for you. I've been watching you ever since. I didn't think I was going to be able to get to you before tomorrow, so was shocked when you left Talia's apartment. Maybe it was fate."

Fate, I thought scornfully. My happiness was destroyed and he was spouting about destiny. I had nothing to say to that. When we reached Cage's domain, he left me and I returned to Talia's alone. When I looked at the clock, I realized I hadn't been gone very long. I was thankful Talia was still asleep. I couldn't face her yet. Hell at this point, I couldn't face anyone. I had no idea what to do.

.........

The next day, I stood in front of a mirror in Talia's apartment, wearing the stunning dress we had picked out. My hair and makeup had been done to perfection. I was silent, the same way I had been all day. I knew Talia was worried about me. She kept throwing me furtive glances when she thought I wasn't watching.

"It's time to go," she said softly.

I nodded and followed her without a word. I had spent the night staring at the wall, and still was no closer to coming up with a solution. Now, I was out of time. In just moments, I would be mated with Cage forever.

When we reached the High Council, she gave me a quick hug and let me walk through the doors alone. When I entered, I noticed one of the couch settings had been replaced with a bed. It felt odd. I had been so worried about what would occur on that bed; and now, a public consummation was the least of my problems.

I looked up to find Cage's eyes trained intently on me. He regarded me up and down slowly, his appreciation evident. He was shockingly handsome in a deep dark charcoal, almost black, suit that fit his frame to perfection. He stood next to Felix, one of the council members. Cage had told me that Felix would preside over the ceremony. King Armand and Queen Ileana sat together, along with the three remaining Council members.

Anger shot through me. This was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life, but instead I was fighting back tears, I thought bitterly. Up until that very moment, I still hadn't decided what to do. But as I stared into Cage's unfathomable gaze full of love for me, I knew I had no choice.

I had to tell him.

Before we were joined.

I would rather risk whatever fate he decided for me than deceive or run away from him again. I just had to find a way to delay the ceremony, so that I could speak with him alone.

As I made my way toward him, Vladimir cleared his throat. Unwillingly, I glanced at him. The expression on his face startled me. I had expected him to look irritated or possibly even aroused. But he didn't. I tried to identify the emotion that played across his face and then realized what it was – he looked victorious.

I focused again on Cage as I closed the distance. When I reached him, he took my hand. The expression on his face had turned to concern. He knew something was wrong. I squeezed his hand tightly and whispered, "Wait. I need to speak with you first."

His countenance turned to alarm as he asked urgently, "What is this about?"

"I need to talk with you... Alone," I answered, pleading with him with my eyes.

Before he could say anything, Vladimir interrupted and sneered, "You wouldn't want to chat about how you are the daughter of a fucking hunter and Brialle, would you?!"

Everyone in the room gasped.

Except for me.

I was frozen; my heart stopped cold.

Because I knew I would be dead soon. And that was if I was lucky. There were several fates worse than death.

"What the fuck are you talking about?!" Armand roared in a rage. I had never seen him angry and the livid expression on his face scared the shit out of me. I shook uncontrollably.

Cage had been watching me intently. My reaction was all he needed to confirm Vladimir's accusation. And then his pain matched mine, as he understood what this revelation meant to our union, and to my life. "I found out a few hours ago... I'm sorry," I whispered brokenly, tears escaping down my cheeks.

Vladimir was clearly enjoying himself as he extracted the book that Hayden had shown me only hours ago. I looked at it in shock, now realizing that Hayden had betrayed me. Hayden had insisted that I not go through with the union. Apparently he was willing to do anything it took to prevent me from doing so. He knew Armand would kill me, but yet he had given the evidence to Vladimir anyway. I guess all that talk about keeping me safe was just bullshit, I thought angrily.

He handed the book to Armand. Vladimir had apparently bookmarked it with a folded up sheet of paper. Armand opened it and read the prophecy out loud, his expression turning even angrier if that were possible. He snapped his head back toward Vladimir and demanded, "How can you be sure it is her?!"

Vladimir replied gleefully, "Open the paper. It is her birth certificate."

He had my fucking birth certificate?!

"Where did you get it?!" Armand yanked it open, read it quickly and then crumpled it in his hand viciously. He stood to his feet, his eyes blazing red as he approached me. I wondered if he was going to kill me on the spot.

Vladimir replied, "Apparently my interrogation skills are much more effective than his. I found one of their corporals and after a little convincing, he gave me everything I asked for."

I knew he was lying, but what difference did it make now. Either way, I was still going to die.

Cage stepped in front of me and spoke urgently to Armand, "Wait! We need to discuss this before you do anything."

Armand's eyes flashed as he snarled, "You cannot mate with her!"

Cage replied quickly, "I know that, but we need to discuss whatever action you decide to take next! Let me investigate to make sure we have all of the truth."

My heart broke when Cage so easily acknowledged we could no longer be joined. Maybe some hopelessly romantic part of me wanted to believe my lineage wouldn't matter to him. That he would love me regardless of who my parents were. Clearly I was wrong.

Armand shook with fury. It was obvious he had intended to kill me right then. He ordered through clenched teeth, "Reprimand her to the dungeon."

Almost immediately,two guards were behind me. One of them spun me around and then led me out roughly by the arm.

.

Sooo, I know quite a bit has happened in the story over the last few chapters.  I'd love to hear if you expected this direction or not. 

Please pluck the vote button on your way out... (even if you hate me right now) he he

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