“I was putting in place the enchantment to help you three and others blend in with my guests. Sorry if I startled you.” I replied to Papak.
“And what are you insinuating?” asked Alma as she stepped around me to glare at Papak.
“You can come out, Raine. They’re fine.” I called, having felt her presence in the bushes.
Papak moved to grab the tiny kitten from the bushes, but found himself clutching air. “Illusion?” he asked.
“No. Half-demon. She’s that fast.” I replied.
“Half-demon?” inquired Vito, finally joining us. “Yes. I remember Ariadne mentioning her.”
“My brother didn’t mean to startle you, Raine. Would you mind joining us?” asked Zachary.
I suddenly felt her pressed behind me, shaking slightly. The poor girl was all nerves about today.
“Raine, this is Vito, Papak, and Zachary, eldest of the vampires. Gentlemen, this is Raine.” I announced, gesturing to each in turn.
“We would never try to hurt a friend of James.” stated Papak as the giant man leaned to look around me.
“Raine, please don’t cling to my fiancée on our wedding day. Rumors will spread.” suggested Alma as she gently guided Raine out from behind me.
“You’re a pretty one, aren’t you.” cooed Vito, possibly admiring Raine’s dress.
Seeing Raine out from under her hoodie was quite rare. I hoped no one attempted to get too friendly with her during the reception. The poor girl might forget herself and run. She probably was trying to work up her courage by wearing it already.
As he spoke, Aaliyah appeared behind him with Ariadne, winking and vanishing a moment later.
“Vito, are you hitting on this child?” inquired Ariadne as she stepped up behind him.
“No. I was merely acknowledging that she is pretty. I expected a demon’s spawn to be more like Papak.” he replied, gesturing to his brother for emphasis.
“What are you trying to say?” asked Papak as he lifted his brother in one hand. Then he pointed at Raine and asked “Why’s she shaking?”
“S-sorry.” mumbled Raine in a whisper. Her position suddenly shifted.
“What!? I… I… I…” started Cosette, staring around wildly.
“Gentleman, this is Cosette Bourbon. She obviously knows who you three are.” I explained.
“Cosette! Lovely to make your acquaintance.” stated Zachary as he held out his hand in greeting.
I gently took Cosette’s arm and guided her into action. She continued without me.
“I’m… I’m sorry. Mila told me you were here, and I was attempting to figure out how to greet you. I’ve heard so much about you.” she explained, sounding and looking more confident as she spoke.
“Y-your win-window was… open.” mumbled Raine.
“Well, I’m glad I was dressed.” she teased as she turned. Then she guided Raine to stand next to her, denying the girl cover once more. “I love your dress, but why are you wearing it already?”
“I… W-well…” mumbled Raine as she fidgeted and stared at the ground. “P-practice.”
Papak barked a laugh and said, “I know the feeling! Takes me ages to find something I’m comfortable wearing.”
“And he literally means ages. The man is never in touch with the times.” remarked Vito with a smug smile, despite his position.
Papak blew a raspberry at Vito, but then he finally set his brother down. I felt Papak’s suit looked surprisingly fashionable considering the man’s odd proportions.
“Thank you. Ladies, meeting you all is a pleasure, even you, Lady Pendreigh.” stated Vito with a bow.
“I’m surprised you three could attend with how rarely you get out.” she replied.
“Rarely? Aren’t you told that we devour people by the hundreds each night?’ teased Vito.
“Hundreds?” asked Papak. “That hardly sounds dramatic. You’d find hundreds in a single block these days.”
“In a single building with some of the taller ones.” corrected Zachary.
“Fine, but Vito should have said thousands!” insisted Papak.
“Yes-yes, I see your point.” snapped Vito.
“You do get out then?” inquired Alma looking at them with her typical unreadable face.
“Well, I like to go jogging each morning, personally.” replied Papak with a grin.
I smirked, picturing him out for a jog and casually waving at people. Though he was typically squatting, Papak was probably twice my height when he fully stood.
Alma, however, rolled her eyes and said, “Jogging must be a great workout for you.”
“If James isn’t opposed, I wouldn’t mind letting you try giving me some pointers for exercise. I’ve heard you’re a pretty decent fighter.” suggested Papak.
“B-be nice.” stated Raine as she looked up at him.
Papak smile as he said, “I am! I was just offering. Care to try yourself? I must admit I’m curious how strong you are.”
“Please, Raine. That would be most entertaining.” insisted Alma.
“No. Please, don’t.” pleaded Cosette as she gently grabbed Raine’s arm.
“J-James?” asked Raine, looking up at me.
“I don’t want this place devastated, so I expect you to guard everything you throw him at if you choose to accept.” I replied.
“She’s that good, huh?” asked Papak, rubbing his chin.
“No. Her technique is still terrible, but her natural aptitude is far beyond me. I doubt even you saw her fetch Cosette.” admitted Alma with a smile.
“True. She’s easily faster than me.” he replied, looking even more uncertain.
“She could toss him straight up.” suggested Vito, a slight smile playing at his lips.
“Maybe the three of us together should try? We haven’t faced a demon for many years.” suggested Papak.
“I’m not inclined to try.” replied Zachary, holding his hands aloft as if to ward him from the thought.
“I must concur. Though I do remember the spells we’ve used in the past, she seems much stronger, judging by her speed.” mused Vito. “I still think you should try, dear brother, to keep your honor intact after issuing such a challenge.”
“Children, behave.” ordered Ariadne. “James, I would like your permission to enter the forest with these three before your other guests arrive. They’ve been itching to see my family ever since I told them of the survivors.”
“Sure. Let’s head there now then.” I replied. “Sorry, Raine. No tossing Papak yet.”
She nodded. I guided everyone into the forest and let the vampires see the fey once more. A couple thousand years apart meant nothing to the fey. Their feelings were as bright and vibrant as ever, greeting the brothers warmly, though they seemed more excited by Ariadne’s return. I hoped to share such joys many more times this day when my wedding truly began.