Chapter 13 - The Depths of My Heart

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I decided to indulge in some quality procrastination before I tackled my new poem. The one Sabine destroyed had taken me nearly a week. I was creatively drained, not to mention still sore from her sabotage.

The king must have kept his word. Sabine glowered at me from across the room during breakfast that morning. Feeling bold, I waved at her. She turned away, clutching her butter knife so tightly I was afraid she'd come over and try to slit my throat with it. But she didn't. A forced smile appeared on her face as she pretended to listen to what the girl next to her was saying.

After breakfast was over and everyone was filing out of the room, I called after her. I knew I was playing with fire, but I couldn't help it. I deserved to be petty for once after everything she'd done to me.

At the sound of her name, Sabine stopped. Her hand clenched into a fist, knuckles white. Then, as if nothing happened, she relaxed and kept walking. I stared after her, stunned. So she was ignoring me now? If only she would have done that from the beginning, and not after the king gave her a warning.

Lydia and Shelby were too busy practicing to talk to me, which seemed to be the norm for today. Everyone was either perfecting their routines or putting last minute touches into their artwork. I was glad to be exempt from the chaos for now.

While the girls busied themselves with being made up and styled for their presentations, I passed the time by walking around the gardens and swimming. Mindless, relaxing activities were always good for inspiration, and I needed ideas.

It would be easy to rewrite my old poem from memory, but I didn't want to. Somehow, I couldn't muster up the same sadness I felt over my breakup with Rowan. It was as if they were torn to shreds and thrown out the window along with the original poem. When I pictured his face, I felt nothing. And when I tried to conjure up the emotions Rowan used to inspire in me, a different face appeared in my mind. Brown hair instead of black. Blue-green eyes instead of brown. Vampire instead of human...

For a brief moment I actually allowed myself to think of what would happen if I won the competition. I imagined the luxurious fairy tale wedding we'd have, my head adorned with a golden crown. I pictured us alone, in his bedroom the night of our wedding. My cheeks flushed red at the thought of his kiss, the electrifying sensation of his hands exploring my body. Then I thought of his teeth sinking into my neck and I shivered.

I clutched my neck, feeling two phantom pinpricks throbbing as if I had really been bitten. This was wrong, so wrong. I couldn't love a vampire. I couldn't become one of them. I couldn't drink blood, stay young forever while my family and everyone I knew grew old and died.

The future wasn't something I thought about with frequency. Sure, I daydreamed the possibilities — coming home from work to a quaint little cottage on the beach, taking a sunset walk with the man I loved... Those seemed like real possibilities with Rowan. I always thought we'd be together for the rest of our lives. Get married after college, live in a series of crappy apartments until we could afford a house, have kids that had his dark curls and my blue eyes...

The king couldn't give me any of that. He promised a world of gilded darkness. Luxury and blood. Power and war. This competition was beautiful cage, separating us from the reality of the vampire court. Maybe someone like Sabine would fit right in to that world, but I couldn't. I had to ensure it never happened.

The previous day's thoughts lingered with me as I sat down to write my new poem the next morning. Looking back now, it was a bit presumptuous to think I'd win. There were still twenty four girls competing along with me. Any one of them could become the queen. If the king had any sense, he'd pick one of them.

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