Chapter 3

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Lying in bed, I watched the gentle breeze billow the sheer white drapes around the canopy; so whimsical it was like sleeping in the clouds. Soft. Fluffy. Serene. I had done everything from counting sheep to drinking hot tea, anything to keep my mind from thinking about him.

I failed.

His face was embedded in my brain. Dark ruffled hair, those piercing gold eyes, and don't get me started on his abs.

Dear God. Even his name made my body come alive. Devlin. There it was, the longing deep inside me. It pissed me off to no end.

Frustrated, I threw out my arms on either side, plopped in a "T" on the bed.

Why him?

It was a cruel joke. The gods were throwing me a curve ball, and I hated baseball. Realistically, sports in general.

Why would he be the one? A vampire?

For twenty years, I'd been searching for the one with the companion mark—the moon to my sun—the dark to my light. Every male witch in Caledonia had been questioned and none bared the mark. But on a chance encounter with a vampire, my whole world—my future was turned upside down.

An arrogant vampire at that.

What exactly was I supposed to do with a vampire as a mate? What kind of priestess would I be, sealing my future with the enemy?

An exiled priestess, that's what. I couldn't see the other witches in my coven readily accepting a vampire. We'd evolved, but not that far. The division between vampires and witches was as wide as it had ever been. Mate or not, it was impossible and selfish for me to even encounter the idea of being bonded to Devlin.

But what was I to do? It was apparent that the son of darkness was part of me. I didn't even know if it was possible for me to forget about him. Did I want to forget him? The link between us was ancient, and went beyond this realm.

My stomach was in knots and my mind unsettled, so I did what I always did when I felt a in a bind.

Calling upon my gift, I shot a trail of tiny twinkling stars dancing above my head for kicks. It soothed both my restlessness and my irritation at the fates. I loved the sensation of magick flowing through my veins, a power that was as much a part of me as the blood flowing inside them, timeless and extraordinary.

Like most young girls, I longed for true abiding love, for I knew that there was no power, no sorcery, no enchantment greater than opening your heart. As much as I might not want to accept the truth of who Devlin was, I couldn't stop my mind from drifting to him every chance it got. It was tiresome trying not to think of him. The pounding at my temples were proof.

On a sigh, I rolled over to stare at the old clock on the wall. Six o'clock in the morning. At least I wouldn't have to worry about sleep. The golden rays of morning were beginning to stream through the windows, casting light across the wooden floors. I rustled out of bed, rubbing my dreary eyes and began the tedious process of getting ready for the day. And I wasn't kidding. I was expected to look like royalty twenty-four seven. It sucked. I had grown tired of the floor length, flowy dresses by the age of ten, and would gladly turn in silk for jeans every day of the week.

My mother would have dropped dead on the spot.

I sat at the vanity and began brushing out my long red locks. Most days I found the task annoying, but today, time got away from me. Until Kat's heart-shaped face popped into the reflection of the mirror behind me.

"Your mom has summoned for you," she said.

I smoothed the last tangle out of my hair and nodded. "How is she?" I asked, standing.

"Do you want the truth or do you want me to lie to you?" Leave it to Kat to strip away the crap. She kept me grounded, and I loved her for it.

"Don't sugarcoat it." We walked side by side down the long winding corridor. The stone walls were drafty, and the sound of my heels echoed through the halls.

Kat's mossy eyes were full of sympathy and concern. I knew it wasn't good. "She's had better days."

That's what I was afraid of. There was a ceremony soon—the crowning. My mother was stepping down before her health failed completely. No matter how much I protested or the pleas from my father, she insisted that she wanted to see her only daughter take the goddess oath. "Kat, what am I going to do as high priestess?" It was overwhelming. Mom's sickness. The responsibility of a coven. Devlin.

Kat's pixie features twinkled. "Get laid. A lot."

I nudged her with my shoulder, the corners of my mouth lifting. "I'm serious."

"So was I," she mumbled.

I rolled my eyes. Leave it to Kat to distract me with her favorite topic. Sex.

She put a hand on my arm, stopping me before I went into the high priestess's chambers. "Aurora, for real. Are you okay? You seem distance since the other night—troubled."

We both knew which night she was referring to, and I didn't even know where to start. Secrets weren't something I'd ever kept from Kat, but I wasn't sure I was ready to tell her about Devlin. "Just shaken, I guess. Stressed. So much is changing so fast." And it was all out of my control.

I pushed open the one of the doubled doors, nodding to the guard as I passed. Behind my mother's chambers, all formalities were thrown out the window. She just became mom. Climbing onto the larger than life bed, I stared down at her frail and thin face. Red hair laced with grey framed her pale face, slipping over the ivory sheets. Her silver eyes brightened at my arrival.

"Aurora, my love." She placed a cool hand on my cheek. "We have much to discuss. The ceremony is in two days."

I took her hand in mind, sending a bit of warmth. "Don't worry about that. Kat and I have everything under control. I promise." Or so I hoped we did.

"Kat?" A small smile crept over her rosy lips. "Well, that's comforting," she said in a humorous tone. "If you and Kat are organizing the event then there is bound to be problems."

A small smile tugged at my lips. "Your faith in us is astonishing."

She laughed and it sounded like music of the old Celts.

"You know, we're not twelve anymore," I replied with nostalgic fondness. Kat and I might have caused quite a ruckus in our youth, but we were adults now. "We're more than capable of putting together a ceremony."

"Uh-huh," she said, her lips pursed and eyes crinkling in the corners. "Not just any ceremony, Aurora."

It was hard to believe that my mother was sick. Especially, when she looked as she did just now. For a few moments, she looked as she did before getting ill.

The ceremony. Ugh. I did not need the reminder that it wasn't just any celebration. I'd been prepped and prepared for this since birth, and with it just days away, it weighed heavy on my chest and all that came with it.

"Have you contacted the florist, the caterers the gardeners...?" And on and on she went, ticking off a long list of people, making my head spin. For someone whose health was failing, she was still on top of her game.

"Of course," I replied.

Crap. Kat and I were in hot shit.

And I definitely wasn't fooling her. Mom's face fell, turning somber. "Your eyes are cloudy, Aurora. What troubles your heart?"

I swallowed thickly. It was there, on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't form the words. She already had too much to deal with being sick. I wanted her last few weeks to be happy ones, and my having an unnatural attraction to a vampire would not make her happy. "I fine. Really. Don't worry about me."

"That's my job. I know that you wish there was more time, but you will be a fair and just leader. It's in your blood."

Her confidence did little to calm the butterflies freaking out inside my stomach. "Only because of you," I spoke softly. Then I leaned down and kissed her cheek.

Mom might have unwavering confidence in me, but I did not.

How was I going to lead a coven?

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