“Feeling nervous yet, son?” inquired father as he approached me.
“More excited, really.” I replied, stepping over to hug mother.
“I am. This is quite a gathering. We weren’t sure we’d be able to find you, but Mila called and told me where you were.” stated mother as she casually looked around.
“You should see what some of them really look like.” I teased.
“What do you mean?” she whispered.
“There’s a large series of spells in place that alter perceptions, so those on bad terms with one another won’t be inclined to cause mishaps.” I explained.
“James, dear, I recognize the prince over there. Are you sure it’s working?” she asked, looking concerned.
“Does the man behind him appear twice his height to you?” I questioned.
“No. Twice his height!? You must be joking.” she accused, staring up at me.
Papak, who was standing several feet behind the prince, gave me a grin, obviously overhearing the conversation.
“I’m really not. If you wish for proof, I’m sure he would accommodate you.” I told her, earning a wink from Papak.
“What is he then, son?” asked father.
“One of the eldest vampires in the world. He and his brothers have been around for thirteen thousand years.” I explained. “If ever you two are on Poenari Island again, I’ll gladly talk them into giving you a tour of their collection of antiquities. The stories they told me were incredible.”
Nodding while sounding a little shocked, he said, “We might have to go there specifically for it eventually.”
“We’d be quite honored by your presence.” stated Vito as he and Ariadne walked up behind my parents.
Mother jumped, but father casually wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him.
Holding out a hand, Vito said, “I’m Vito Sanguinem, that one’s brother.” He nodded toward Papak. After my parents each shook his hand, he motioned to Ariadne and said, “And this is Ariadne, Aaliyah’s aunt.”
“Pleasure to meet you both.” replied mother.
“Just Ariadne?” asked father.
“Surnames weren’t common if they existed anywhere when I was born, and unlike the brothers, I never bothered making one up.” she replied.
“I suppose I should have said ‘great aunt’, but only Aaliyah can say how great of an aunt she is.” teased Vito.
“He lies, of course. I can name every last one of my brother’s descendents through the years.” argued Ariadne as she pointedly ignored his joke.
Looking confused, mother asked “So… he wasn’t… um… “
“No, he never became a vampire.” she told us, projecting an image into our minds of a black-haired boy with eyes as green as hers who was probably not much older than me. The emotions that came with the image seemed incredibly strong to me, even by fey standards.
“I simply can’t grow accustomed to seeing things in that manner.” claimed mother.
“Remind me to thank Zachary later.” stated Vito as he looked over to where Zachary had intercepted Adelmar and Anwen when they started approaching us.
“He probably wanted to greet my parents.” I suggested, trying not to smirk at Adelmar’s obvious discomfort.
“Yes, that does seem likely.” agreed Vito. Turning to my parents, he said, “My condolences for the loss of your sanity if he catches you too long.”
“I’ve got one more song for everyone, but first I’d like to inform you that the ceremony will start in thirty minutes” announced Aaliyah from the stage after finishing another song. Please find your way to your seats in that time. If you need assistance, just ask any of the staff. After the wedding, the reception will begin back in this area, so you’ll be able to catch me for more music! I hope you enjoy!” The next song started with a soft, beautiful melody performed on her violin.
“How many people are here?” asked father.
“I’m not honestly certain if you count the security details and other staff, but there are twenty-three-hundred seats.” I replied.
“At least your yard is large enough to accommodate everyone, or you would have us sitting in a stadium.” teased Vito
Father laughed and said, “I did wonder why my son needed quite this much space when he purchased the place, but things are going quite well for him.”
Nodding, Vito told him “After admiring your son’s house, I feel that I might need to look into modernizing more rooms. Mila explained that she can be hired to assist me at any time. James’ business is most intriguing.”
“I completely agree. When he first pitched the idea to me, I never believed he’d come this far, especially so quickly.” replied father. Turning to me, he said, “I’m very proud of you son. I don’t know if the staff mentions it ever, but I highly approve of the changes you’ve made to Somerset Suites. I must say you’re doing an excellent job.”
I leaned down and hugged my parents as I said, “I’m glad you approve. Ready to see me take my next big step?”
Father nodded and mother hugged me tighter.
“Well, then. Ariadne and I best find our seats. I hope we may speak again soon.” stated Vito after Ariadne gestured for him to move.
As they walked away, I stood, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Then I told my parents “I don’t know how much I’ll be able to visit during the reception with all the mingling I’ll need to do. Mila will help you get in touch if you need anything.”
“How long will your honeymoon be?” asked mother.
“Two weeks is what’s scheduled, but I have trouble imagining Alma keeping away from work that long. She typically works throughout most days and into the night.” I explained.
“Marriage can change people. I don’t feel I know her well enough to even guess how things will be for a while, but I imagine she’ll take more time off if you two end up having kids eventually.” suggested father.
“I doubt we’ll have children too soon, but I actually did ask her. She seemed shocked that I needed to ask and promptly explained that heirs are expected from someone in her position. You two should expect grandchildren eventually.” I assured them.
We headed to our places and the wait began. As I looked over the crowd, I was amused by the reactions my friends from high school were having. They obviously recognized some of my guests with how they were attempting to snap photos with their phones. No one else was likely to notice though, not with how the illusions were masking sections.
My head ached slightly as the memory of casting the spell came to mind. The spell was simply too massive for me to really consider well without using that room to enhance my abilities. I felt for my other friends who were acting as part of the staff today. I didn’t really want to make them stand through the ceremony, but I agreed that having them participate in that function would help things run smoothly. All of them were so skilled these days.
Alma had been quick to approve of Aaliyah’s plans for there to be no groomsmen or bridesmaids. Apparently, having others stand with us would be frowned upon by some parts of her family given her station. Jarod had taken the news that I wouldn’t be having a best man fine. The twins had warned him before I even found out. We still had a little bachelor’s party last week, hogging the theater and snacking like maniacs.
I looked over to Aaliyah as she waited to perform the ceremony. Adelmar had apparently felt miffed over the decision for Aaliyah to preside over the wedding, but he had ordered Alma not to try bringing Aaliyah around, making me wonder what she had said to him.
Music started at Alma’s approach ― another part of the spell I had cast ― and my eyes instantly found her. I wondered how Aaliyah’s wedding present to her was going over. I had mixed feelings myself, since temporary sanity for Duke Gruffydd Aiden Pendreigh seemed almost cruel to me. I trusted my little friend though, so things would work out. I could see Alma smiling through her veil as her father walked her down the aisle. My heart was racing. Well, racing by my current standards.
Throughout the ceremony, I probably smiled more than I should have, but I felt an unending happiness every time I looked at her. When we kissed to a tumultuous applause, I felt her heart racing through the spell on my wedding ring and knew she was every bit as happy as I felt.