The king looked scandalized. Then, to my relief, he laughed.
"You'd fit right in on my board of advisors," he said.
I found myself smiling back, grateful that I didn't doom myself with that statement. We swayed together for a moment, saying nothing. I found myself relaxing, my heart no longer racing. I closed my eyes and pictured the ball room empty of every soul but the two of us.
I blinked the vision away. This was wrong. I couldn't allow myself to slip, to get comfortable around him. He was a vampire and the king, and I couldn't allow myself to fantasize otherwise. I recalled how terrifying his red eyes had looked when I gave him my blood. That... thing was what he really was. I couldn't let myself fall for him.
He must have felt me stiffen because he looked at me, eyes full of concern. I looked out over the dance floor, spying Duke Aldridge spin Sabine around the dance floor.
"Avery, please be honest with me," he said quietly.
I braced myself for his question, though I knew no amount of preparation would be enough.
"Would it really be so bad, to be my queen?"
Letting out an anguished breath, I looked into his eyes. He gazed back with palpable longing, both inquisitive and melancholy.
Would it truly be so bad to be with the king? As much as I denied it, I was attracted to him. But was that enough? I didn't want to be a vampire or a queen. I wanted it even less after witnessing the assassination attempt. The king tried to dress his life up in glitz and glamour, but he clearly feared for his life. If I became queen, that fear would be mine.
I shook my head, finally thinking of my answer. "Your world and mine are simply too different."
The king frowned. "But you've barely just begun to glimpse my world."
"I've seen enough to know I want no part of it," I said firmly.
The king's eyes searched my face for answers. I stared back, hoping I did't betray any doubt in my expression. After a pause, his features softened.
"This is about what happened on the Empress, isn't it?" he whispered.
"Yes and no," I replied. What happened on the Empress appeared to be the final straw. There were so many reasons why we couldn't work, even before then.
"That's the price of power, I'm afraid," he replied solemnly.
"Then you understand why I don't want it," I said.
"But do you want me?"
I stumbled over my feet, startled by his question. The king's lips curved into a smile at my mistake.
"You can't ask me that," I breathed. "Regardless of my feelings I—"
"What feelings?" he cut me off, sparks dancing in his eyes.
"No," I shook my head, drawing away from him.
The music slowed to a stop and I exhaled in relief. The dance was over.
"Avery, wait," he called, but it was too late. I was gone.
Clumsy and winded, I stumbled over to the refreshment table. Faith Weston was there, looking like a glamorous bride in her white ballgown. Sabine stood near her, eyeing the crowd as she took careful sips from a tall glass of water. Normally I would avoid my tormentor at all costs, but I couldn't muster the energy to care at this point.
I grabbed myself a glass and slouched against the table, gulping the water greedily. Faith eyed me curiously.
"You danced pretty well up until the end," she remarked. "How was the king?"
YOU ARE READING
The King's ChoiceVampire
Years after a brutal war left humanity subjugated by vampires, King Nathaniel Bryce seeks to find his Queen among one hundred human girls through an elaborate and expensive pageant. The prize? Immortality. Avery Crawford doesn't care about being im...