Chapter 1. 1901

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Kensington Palace was buzzing with activity. It was the annual vampire debutante ball, and every eligible young lady between the ages of 15 and 21 was attending the celebration. They came from miles, some from Scotland. Some from Wales. Son from Ireland. Most came from England. They all wanted to be the future queen of the vampires, the queen of England.

Among the group of 25 young ladies was 15-year-old Caroline Howard. She was the daughter of William and Beatrice Howard, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. She was the Second daughter and younger sister to Eleanor Howard. She had learned at a very young age how to be a proper young lady. She had attended the French court from the age of 10 to the age of 14, and her parents couldn't be happier with her progress. As soon as she became 15, they told her she was eligible for the debutante ball.

Presently, Caroline was standing at the top of the staircase that led into the ballroom, behind several other young ladies, with her mother. She wore a beautiful off the shoulder cream and pale gold silk gown. Her ensemble was finished off with a pair of white satin opera gloves that went to her elbows. Her dark strawberry blonde hair was fixed into an elegant French twist with a braid across the top. She had a cream and rose complexion, strawberry pink lips, and dazzling blue green eyes.

Beatrice smiled at her daughter. You look absolutely ravishing my darling. You are going to outshine everyone here.

Caroline returned her smile. Mother, I don't believe I'm going to outshine everyone. Some of them are quite lovely.

Beatrice. I'm sure they are, but I do not believe they attended court. Much less the French court, like you did. You have more of an advantage for the king than the rest of them do.

Caroline didn't think so, but she didn't want to argue with her mother. So she dropped the subject, and focused on the upcoming announcement of her name along with the others both in front and behind her.

As the first few young ladies were escorted to the center of the ballroom, Caroline noticed the king stepping out on the other side of the ball room, and her heart fluttered. The king was very handsome. He was a few inches taller than she was, with blonde hair, dark blue eyes, and A cream and rose complexion. He also had dark red lips. He was wearing a dashing uniform of cream and gold silk, identical to her ensemble.

Beatrice squeezed her hand gently. Well, there he is, his majesty, the king.

***

As he stepped out of the shadows and into the Grand ball room at Kensington Palace, 19-year-old James Stewart, king of England, felt as if he was going to burst into flames of frustration. He had no idea how long this debutante ball was going to go on until, and wanted to find his future queen rather quickly. But he knew it was going to be a challenge, considering the fact that he wasn't much older than the ladies before him.

Gregory Williams, the kings advisor, and his principal gentleman, came up beside him. Your majesty, I do hate to disturb you, but the crown in the jewelry room has been sparkling like mad the last 10 minutes.

James. Which one do you mean?

Gregory. The diamond and sapphire one. On the middle shelf, front row. I believe it is sensing that you are going to find your future queen tonight

James. I do believe you're right. But I can't be sure. I don't even know any of these young ladies. His eyes scanned the line of young girls, coming to a stop on a beautiful young woman with dark strawberry blonde hair and blue green eyes. He felt his body come alive instantly.

James glanced at Gregory. Do you know who that is?

Gregory glanced at the girl of his kings choosing. I do indeed. That is Lady Caroline Howard, the daughter of the late Duke William Howard of Cambridge.

James. She's quite lovely. Who is the woman with her?

Gregory. Her mother, Beatrice Howard, Duchess of Cambridge.

James straightened as the first few young ladies began to make their way into the center of the ballroom. He watched each of them carefully, analyzing their every movement, every smile, every action. At last, when it came time for Lady Howard to be announced, he felt his heart beat faster in his chest.

***

As her name was called, Caroline felt a wave of uneasiness wash over her, but it was very fleeting. Catching the eyes of the king, she raised her head, lifted her skirt, and slowly made her way down the stairs to join the other ladies. She knew he was watching her, so she gave her best performance. She smiled, she gave a graceful curtsey, and walked with such elegance that she was nearly gliding.

As the last few debutantes were announced to the king and to the gather group of guests, the announcer soon gave the all clear for the king to speak.

James step forward, his head held high. Good evening to all of you young ladies. Welcome to the England debutante ball. As you know, this evening is a very important evening for me. Tonight, I will be choosing my future queen. Because this event is for the age group between 15 and 21 years of age, if I select one of you that is under the age of 16, I shall not have you as my wife until you become of that age. Until then, we shall be courting one another.

Every single young lady except Caroline gave an unladylike whimper of protest.

James. That is my offer. If you do not wish to comply with it, then I suggest you go elsewhere. I am not going to compromise someone's virtue if they are not of the age of 16.

The girls who had protested fell silent, not wanting to make him even more aggravated.

Caroline realized that this idea of waiting to marry a young woman of 16 years of age was a smart move. She didn't want her virtue to be compromised, and she wanted to get to know the king before she made her final decision to marry him and become his wife and queen.

James. In the meantime, let us not dally on the specifics. Tonight, let us enjoy the celebration.

And with that, a group of five violinists began to play a beautiful waltz, and everyone flounced onto the dance floor to begin the ball.

As she watched the other young ladies soon find available gentlemen to dance with, Caroline felt a presence behind her. Turning around, she came face-to-face with James. Almost instantly, she felt the back of her throat beginning to burn with hunger for him, felt her sharp teeth beginning to poke against her lips.

James gave her a soft smile. Good evening lady Howard. He took her hand and brushed his lips against her knuckles. He could feel his own throat beginning to burn, his teeth trying to expose.

Caroline gave him a soft smile, dropping into an elegant curtsey. Good evening your majesty. This is quite a beautiful event you have put together.

James. Thank you. He didn't let go of her hand. Would you like to dance? I noticed that you did not have a dance partner.

Caroline. I'd be honored.

Smiling, James escorted her onto the dance floor, and they blended in with the rest of the dancers.

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