Chapter 16

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Gasps reached Adrian's ears as they danced close to the watching crowd of wolves. Cinder's shoulder shimmered under the light of the moon for all around to see. Adrian smiled down at her, pleased at her boldness in wearing a dress that would show off his mark. Now there will be rumors, Cinder, no matter how I do or do not look at you. No wolf would mark a woman he didn't love. Did you mean to make a public declaration? She smiled up at him, revealing nothing but thought, I guess that means you can look at me any way you want then. Their song was coming to an end and Adrian answered her, I guess that means I can do this then. He ended their dance by dipping her and kissing her slowly. Cheers and whistles broke out from the onlookers and the pair couldn't help smiling and laughing as Adrian lifted her back up.

As the honored guests of the social bonfire, the second dance was reserved for the new werewolves and their chosen partners from the same group. Cinder watched from her side throne as Sean asked Heidi for a dance and expertly led her around the dancefloor. Adrian reached for Cinder and took her right hand in his. Now that their relationship was public knowledge, it no longer mattered if he touched her in public. She let him hold her hand while she watched the dancers on the floor. His thoughts were dwelling on his people's reaction to the public display of his affections for Cinder. It had surprised and delighted him. He glanced at her sideways and admired her beauty, while her shoulder shimmered in the moonlight and the moonstone around her neck gave off a subtle glow. Even as a witch, she gave off the the powerful image of werewolf royalty and that stirred something deep within Adrian's heart as he looked at her. The second dance ended and the floor cleared. Sean returned to his place standing behind Cinder's throne, observing and guarding from the shadows.

Sebastian walked across the podium and offered Cinder his hand, as her favorite dance started. She took it, laughing and followed him down to the floor to join one of the circles of couples. He twirled her around mouthing the words to the song they both enjoyed. She felt his regret when he had to pass her off onto the next man. Slowly the song progressed and she made her way back around to Sebastian to end the song with him. On the final lift of the song Sebastian gazed up into Cinder's violet eyes with a look of deep love and thought, If every man here isn't in love with you already, they will be by the end of the night. I don't have to read minds to see the looks on their faces as they dance with you or watch you dance with another. Tonight Cinder, you are stealing the heart of the kingdom. The song ended and everyone started clapping for the band, as Cinder blushed at Sebastian's thoughts. Sebastian pulled Cinder close again and held onto her for another slower dance meant for couples, treasuring their closeness. Their relationship had never been a secret to anyone who had been around them but for many in the community this was the first time they had seen the pair of them; their bond could be seen but also felt tangibly if they danced close to others.

Another werewolf came up and asked her to dance and she was whipped away by him into a crowd to join another group dance where they danced in lines. When the song was finished, she made her way back to the podium to rest and enjoy a glass of wine. Adrian again reached for her hand to hold it. He brought it to his lips and kissed it while she looked at him lovingly. The pure love she could feel from him always stole her breath. They discussed the dances and couples as they watched, noticing how the new wolves were fitting in. On occasion, Cinder would lean forward to see Sebastian as the three of them talked and laughed about various things, enjoying each other's company. After some time, Tristan came up on the podium to steal Cinder away for a slower dance for couples. She smiled at him as they floated across the floor, visibly comfortable with each other. He spun her out and back to him, smiling. They had a silent conversation in his mind about their memories of going out dancing to taverns. He expressed a desire to go again and she agreed that it had been far to long since they had had some fun together. A final spin and they ended the song on the far corner of the dance floor. Thank you for the dance, Cinder, Tristan thought as he kissed her hand.

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