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Chapter 50 – The Rules – Raine's POV

I wanted to stop him right there, and demand to know the details regarding our mating ceremony. But I certainly didn't want to be wearing lingerie for that conversation, so I quickly dressed and hurried into the living area.

I found Alaric sitting on one of the couches. He was tapping intently on his computer. I joined him and pulled my knees up underneath me to get comfortable.

He raised an eyebrow at me and murmured, "No coffee? I thought for sure it would be your first choice after last night's alcohol. Or if you prefer, I could call Vasile to come and prepare something."

I didn't respond to his questions. Instead I blurted out, "Exactly when is our union scheduled to occur?" My heart raced as I waited for his response.

He looked at me in understanding and carefully set the laptop aside, so that he could turn and face me on the couch. He studied me intently as he answered, "It is in four weeks."

I felt as though the wind was knocked out of my lungs. I breathed in shock, "Four weeks...Why so soon?"

He must have seen the stark fear in my eyes, because he took my hands in his and whispered, "I promise you it will be okay. Armand wanted it done right away, but both he and Micage will be traveling extensively after next week's Alliance Meeting. We scheduled it for their first availability."

I gasped, "What do you mean their first availability?! What do Armand and Cage have to do with the ceremony?!"

Alaric looked confused and explained, "When two kingdoms unite, both of their Royalty and High Councils are present."

I thought I was going to pass out right then and there. Going through with this union was going to be difficult enough. The thought of Cage watching me do it was horrifying. Tears sprang to my eyes and I whimpered, "No."

Alaric's concern changed into alarm as I struggled to breathe, gasping in air but never getting enough to fill my lungs. He murmured soothingly, "Shhh... Just relax. I know you might feel awkward at having your father present, but it is quite normal in our culture."

He thought I was worried about Armand. Truthfully, I couldn't care less about Armand. I certainly never viewed him as a father figure. But I didn't correct Alaric's assumption. It was better for him to believe I was worried about Armand's presence than try to explain that I was almost mated with Cage.

It took me a full ten minutes, with Alaric rubbing my back gently, for me to regulate my breathing enough to have a coherent conversation. When I could finally speak, I cut straight to the chase and asked, "Do you plan on using the ceremony as a public demonstration for how well you fuck?"

He looked at me in shock, clearly not expecting my question.

But I had to know what I was getting into. Particularly when I only had four short weeks left to prepare, both mentally and physically.

He replied carefully, "I hadn't planned to."

I challenged him, my voice rising in a panic, "But you will be expected to, will you not?! How many ceremonies have you been witness to? Is it not tradition for the male to make a spectacle out of it?! Just so he can flaunt his sexual prowess, and all of the creepy Council members can get off!" I was finding it hard to breathe again.

"Whoa...Slow down. Thus far, you and I have approached each hurdle in our relationship with open and honest communication. Let's do that now. You do not have to be afraid of me. I have every intention of taking your needs and desires into consideration. The word 'spectacle' could mean any number of things, so let's talk in terms of specific acts."

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