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Ian walked out of the room and a moment later, Cascadia and Talise walked in. One with arms full of dresses, the other with a small box as well as a glass of water and something to eat.

"We thought you might be hungry," Talise said as she sat the dishes on the closest table to Sonora.

Cascadia laid the dresses on the bed and stared down at them, then looked back at Sonora. "We were not sure which colors you liked. But really, this would be the best one in my opinion. What do you think?"

The dress she pulled out of the pile was the exact shade of Sonora's blue eyes. When she tried it on, there was no denying that it favored her. The simple cut of the dress as the light material flowed to her mid-calf was deceiving. It was much more elegant on than she would have imagined.

Cascadia started dressing Sonora's hair while Talise searched the box for the right color of earrings. When they were done, the girls pushed Sonora to the mirror. A thin gold ribbon, identical to the one that sat at her waist as a belt, had been woven through her hair. Sonora put her hand to it, the hairstyle should have been a tousled mess but was somehow elegant.

While Sonora knew that most people considered her pretty with this she had crossed into new territory. "Oh, my, thank you!"

"Well," Talise said matter of factly, "we can't have people thinking Ian dragged home some sort of bottom feeder."

Only two things bothered Sonora. One, that the earrings looked entirely too real. She really didn't want to be on edge about losing them all night. And two, while the dress could be adjusted, the shoes could not and they were too big.

Laughing, she held her foot out, showing the young women. "This isn't going to make my clumsiness any better!"

But before Sonora could offer any other argument, they rushed her out the door. 

Getting dressed and looking in that mirror had felt like some kind of fairy tale out of a book or movie. However, once Sonora stepped into the living room it moved to a whole new level. A stray thought formed and floated through her mind. So this is where they come from.

Ian stood with his back to her, once again, looking out the window. His powerful body encased in something similar to a suit, but out of much lighter material. It skimmed his form, fitting him perfectly. 

Ian turned as she walked in and came to stop. Sonora's gaze was attentive to his every move. When his body stopped, his eyes did not, slowly taking in every part of her from the crown of her head to the toe of her sizeable shoes. 

When his gaze came back to her eyes, Sonora realized her breath was rushed. Her cheeks pinked and she looked at the floor. When she peeked back up at him, she found no mercy. His stare every bit as intense, and he was not letting go.

Once again, Sonora's eyes went to the floor, this time lingering. Maybe if she gave him a minute he'd realize she was uncomfortable and would look away. Instead, his footsteps echoed as he walked toward her, then she saw his shoes when he stopped in front of her.

Slowly, she raised her eyes to his. This time her gaze moving over him. The closer to his face she got the harder her heart beat. There is something about this man.

Sonora raised her gaze to his jaw, watched a muscle move along it, but could go no further. Those gray eyes of his. 

But once again, mercy wasn't something he was giving out today. Ian put a hand under her chin and tipped her head the rest of the way until his eyes captured hers. "You are a vision."

Her body stilled to the point she thought her heart had stopped. One, two, then three and it came back with a little extra force. She breathlessly stammered, "Thank you." It didn't seem enough given the situation.

When her good sense came back to her, it slammed through her body as if it were a punishment. Sonora brought her hand up to Ian's and gently pushed it away from her chin. After taking a step back, she cleared her throat twice. 

This is a moment in time, that's all it is. Something that came and now it would go. Nothing special, no matter what it seems right now. Whatever this is, this place, these people, this man, I'm leaving it soon. Sonora was surprised at the little trail of sadness that tracked its way through her body.

"You look nice too," Sonora said and then looking around the room, "you all do." 

Jorah wore something similar to Ian, though in a deep brown. Ian's was dark blue and Sonora couldn't help but wonder if that was intentional. The men wore no ties but had open collars. The tattoo that ran down their arms was copied on the sleeve of their jackets.

"I'm missing something about these tattoos, aren't I?" she asked.

Aleena explained, "Each extended family, or as we call them clans, has a signature tattoo. It is put on each child when they near adulthood. Each child's tattoo is a combination of his mother's and father's houses."

Sonora looked from Aleena's tattoo to each of the daughters noticing both the similarities and differences, along with the shimmer as they moved. "I've never seen any like them."

"No, it is unique to Atlantians," said Jorah. "And now if we are ready, let us join the others."

Ian reached out for Sonora's hand, after a moment's hesitation, she gave it, and let him draw it up onto his arm. "Ian, what others? I thought this was a family dinner."

"It is. For both clans, Mother's and Father's."

"So some grandparents? A few cousins?"

Ian gave a hearty laugh. " Yes, a few. About 100, I think at last count. Or was it two?"

"What?" Sonora squeaked as she quickly withdrew her hand from his arm, "I'm not prepared for that."

"You will do fine, Sunny," he reassured her as he took her hand and replaced it on his arm.

Sonora felt as tense as a piano wire by the time they stood at the entry of the dining room. She pulled Ian to a stop and took a moment to enjoy the beauty of the room as well as calm her racing heart. The wood walls shone against candle and lamplight and there were almost as many flowers as there had been in the garden.

The rest of the room, however, nearly frightened her to death. It was a crowd, definitely more toward the two hundred mark. All of whom had gone from loud conversation to deathly silence the moment she and Ian were spotted. 

Sonora might have thought this was a normal occurrence except for the grip Ian had on her hand and the way everyone stared at her. It wasn't a your so beautiful stare. Not at all.

Aleena, Cascadia, and Talise moved closer to Sonora and Ian to show their support. While Jorah started to speak to the crowd. A little shock ran through Sonora. She hadn't thought of the fact that she wouldn't be able to understand anyone.

Once Ian's father stopped talking, the silence continued before one elderly man offered something that sounded like a complaint. Some grumbled in response but many more laughed. The ice was broken.

"You are now going to meet a lot of people," Ian whispered to her,  "just give a small bow or curtsey, whatever you are comfortable with. They will not expect you to speak as you don't know Atlantian."

Sonora looked at him with wide eyes. Why wouldn't you tell me this ahead of time? She watched the other women and repeated what they did. Ian stood at her side, offering a comforting nod or look from time to time. She must not be embarrassing them too badly.

The reactions of the people were mixed. Some seemed genuinely kind to her, some seemed to be overly curious. Others had no trouble showing their bias, a scowl or grunt their only response as they passed Ian and Sonora. It was not a situation Sonora was used to, and for some reason, she felt bad about it. She had to keep reminding herself that she had done nothing to be receiving such treatment.

As another grumpy Atlantian pasted without even a glance at her and Ian, she couldn't help but wonder how the rest of the evening would go.


A/N: I tried to get all of this scene in the same chapter but it didn't work so I had to divide it into two. This is a tough evening for Sonora!

I hope you enjoyed the chapter. If so, please press the little star below. :)

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