Read Tale of the Century Bride Complete: Historical Vampire Paranormal Romance Box Set Online

Authors: Susan G. Charles

Tags: #Vampires, #paranormal vampire romance, #Paranormal, #immortal, #Norway, #vampire books, #Brides, #vampire, #battles, #Romance, #Supernatural, #War, #conflict, #warrior, #Medieval, #New Adult Romance, #vampire romance, #Coming of Age, #Royalty, #bride, #Historical, #castle

Tale of the Century Bride Complete: Historical Vampire Paranormal Romance Box Set (4 page)

BOOK: Tale of the Century Bride Complete: Historical Vampire Paranormal Romance Box Set
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Catherine merely sighed when she noticed that August Cornelius’s face became more than simply a fleck off in the distance. It had only been a few days since her first, and last meeting, with him and she longed to see him again. She had dreamed of their encounter over and over and hoped for the possibility of repeating it. His noble features shone beneath the armor just like they had that previous night when he saved her from that band of rogue vampires. She was not sure of it, but almost felt that he somehow looked even more dashing today than he did a few days back. His silky, long black hair flowed down his back, a definite contrast to the hard and shiny surface of his armor. His dark, yet mesmerizing eyes moved out over the crowd and the small group assembled today to quickly assess all the century tribute candidates.

Moving closer to the group, he kept his eyes trained on only the women in the center of the town square. Eventually, as he made his way into the center of the village, he dismounted his steed while the royal officer of the court came forward to take hold of his fidgety, high-strung stallion and to take the reins of the riderless horse accompanying them as well. Cornelius swiftly climbed the steps of the gaily decorated small platform, erected specially for the occasion, two at a time. Immediately after reaching the top, the century ceremony began as it did every time, with a short address from Cornelius to the crowd.

“Good afternoon, people of Dalmar,” Count August began his speech, “on this most wonderful day, I thankfully and gratefully accept the tribute you have offered to me here. It is my duty, privilege and honor as ruling lord of Dalmar, to serve and protect you all from all those who would do you and your land harm.”

The crowd cheered and clapped before he could go on any further. A few of the men in the group, obviously a little drunk from having one too many beers during the festivities, we also honking improvised horns and clanging small bells – they were having a really good time. He looked about the group filling the towns center, and waved at them to quiet down so he could continue. The crowd did as requested and after a few seconds even the drunk men were hanging on his every word. After all, they only saw their ruler on special occasions such as this and most of the members of the crowd had never seen him at all, or a vampire either, so he was indeed the perfect center of attention for this festival.

“And even up to this day,” Count August went on, “I have always acted only with your best interests in mind. Should anyone assembled here choose to refute my claim, speak your name and purpose now, and stand at center. I wait to hear your claim.”

The entire crowd grew even more silent at that statement giving any one passionate enough to make such a remark the chance to speak. Everyone looked about the assembly from one end of the town center to the other. The silence went on for a full minute. Of course, no one dared say anything in response even though a few bells were heard clanking once or twice.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Count August broke the silence and continued. “Thank you people of Dalmar. I most appreciate your candor, your time and the chance for me to make a few small statements before we continue on with the wonderful festival that you have created here.” The crowd erupted with applause and cheers to let the Count know that they really did appreciate him and his accomplishments for the village. Bells clanged again and horns blew. After a few minutes the cheering died back down and the Count continued, obviously ready to complete his part of the service as fast as possible.

“Very well then, let us continue. People of Dalmar,” Count August declared, “once again, as payment for my services to you over the past century, good people, I want to acknowledge the sacrifice you make of one of your own to me. No, not a sacrifice of blood, I would never demand that of you, but of one of your own – one lady will be chosen tonight from your village. One from the group of seven you have assembled for me. Today I shall claim one of these seven women gathered here today as my bride.”

The crowd cheered again at his acceptance of their offering along with the accompanying whistles of the horns and clanking of the bells. He went on, “Together, all of us, each one here today, and all that will come in the future, we shall all ensure the safety of this land and enjoy it peacefully for all the generations to come. I understand your grief, people of Dalmar – and time shall come for grieving at the loss of your fair maiden, I know it will happen. But know this,” he yelled to the crowd to make sure that each one could hear him clearly, “she shall be a respected member of my home, and will always be a treasure to me – a gift given me to protect, from all of you, and for all her days!” The crowd cheered louder than ever with this last statement.

Tale of the Century Bride Book One: Chapter 9

Immediately after his last declaration he quickly stepped down from the platform, and began his inspection of the candidates. Catherine nervously rubbed her amulet as she awaited the next thing to happen. The crowd quieted down on their own, almost as if someone had turned off the volume, in just seconds of his reaching the tributes. Silence, except for the occasional bell ringing, was all that could be heard from the sidelines of the assembled group here in the center of the square.

Nervous eyes were everywhere, both among the girls and among the people in the mulling crowd. No one really knew what to expect next. As Count August walked amidst the girls he stopped in front of each woman, one at a time, and carefully looked each one over. Then, taking more time, he also inspected each amulet worn by the tributes, taking the time to actually touch each piece of jewelry worn by the women. This part of the inspection took the longest time of all as he looked at the emblem carefully, considering if it were really descriptive of the maiden wearing it. It was almost as if he were memorizing each and every symbol each maiden wore too. Lastly, he took the hands of each tribute in his, smiling the entire time, and spoke with her for a few minutes before he whispered to her a question to which only he could hear the quiet answer.

Even though Catherine was right there in the group of tributes, she could not hear a word of what transpired between August Cornelius and any of the other candidates, no matter how hard she tried. She really had hoped to hear more of what was going on about her. Even when Count August was standing right next to her examining her beloved friend Rose, she did not hear an intelligible word surface between the pair. Was something wrong with her hearing? Their lips were obviously moving – why couldn’t she hear them?

“Oh no!” she immediately thought to herself! Would she be able to hear what he had to say to her when her turn came? She now wondered considerably about her ability to hear and also what line of questioning he could possibly have prepared for any of the women having met none of them prior to todays event. Her bewilderment soon turned to dread and then moved on to fear at the thought that she would not be able to participate in todays festival because of her sudden and complete deafness!

How could this have happened? And why right now? But just as soon as she had finished that thought she was brought back to reality the instant that he, at last, finally reached her. She was the next to last of the seven – the very moment that his dark, yet bright eyes swept over her she felt herself immediately relax and almost fall into a swoon.

Now, more so than ever before, she got a chance to compare the real August Cornelius to the one in her memory from a few days past. The man standing in front of her today was just as regal, handsome and fit as the one in her memory. Perhaps even more so, given the weight of todays situation. His prominent cheekbones peaked as he shared a tiny smile and his pale skinned seemed to glow from within. Despite being covered by armor, she knew that his physique was chiseled like a finely-carved Michelangelo statue. His long, dark, well groomed hair hung over his back and his dark, doe like eyes shared a precious spirit with her, if only for a moment. She knew how well those eyes worked also, easily bewitching any who fell under his steady gaze for more than a few seconds.

Her hearing seemed to have just returned with his arrival as she suddenly realized that she could hear the clanking of his armor as he walked about her in just the same ways he had done with the other tributes. She couldn’t hold back her smile at that realization. As he moved about her she also suddenly caught a whiff of that wonderful odor that seemed to hang about him like curtains on a window – the earthly scent of pipes, wood and smoke.

Nearing the end of the ceremony, August Cornelius still continued to manage a straight face. Despite that fact and her knowledge of his treatment of the other tributes, Catherine still wouldn’t fight the feeling that he had somehow offered her just the barest hint of a smile when he recognized the soaring eagle symbol now emblazoned on the amulet she was wearing.

He took her warm hands firmly in his own cold ones, and his touch made her heart stop. His touch felt wonderful, even it it were cold, and just then she realized that she didn’t feel terror or the crushing and oppressive craving she had felt days ago when the vampire Mattis had touched her. Instead, she felt a sweet and natural longing to be with him – it felt warm and inviting, it almost felt like home.

Tale of the Century Bride Book One: Chapter 10

“Gaze at me now, fierce eagle.” He said to her with a smile in his voice, his words wrapped around her warmly now like two strong arms. Catherine stopped looking about him and watching his motions and immediately raised her eyes to look directly into his own.

“Fierce eagle, little warrior of the gorge, we only have a few moments before I must move on – do you think you could ever love me?” he bluntly asked her, perhaps hoping to catch her off guard by his matter-of-fact question.

Catherine was overwhelmed by his question, but as she looked into his large dark eyes she knew he would get the only answer he sought since he seemed to be compelling her to only tell the truth.

“Yes, I sincerely believe that I can, yes, Count August,” she answered him truthfully. She felt a little woozy as she spoke to the nobleman, but still warm and happy. Once again, even in her slightly tipsy state, Catherine could almost swear that she caught sight of the slightest bit of relaxation in his eyes, as she answered him, and maybe even the slightest hint of a grin on his well-chiseled, manly face. Then he was gone, on to the last candidate.

Again, just as soon as he left her, all sounds immediately seemed to die off and she could no longer hear the murmurs of the crowd, the tributes moving all around her or the man she had just spoke with as he began to talk to the final woman. There could be no other answer than the fact that he was controlling this somehow. He had to be. She wondered to herself if all the other women were encountering the same sudden deafness as the ceremony progressed?

Within a few minutes he was finished talking to the last member of the tribute group. “Finally,” Catherine thought to herself almost impatiently, waiting for the ceremony to pick up the pace and move on.

Count August walked away just as soon as he had finished inspecting the final bridal candidate. To Catherine, it had seemed like an interminable wait though it probably took less than twenty minutes for the entire process to work itself out, this whole bridal selection process. August took a few steps and returned to the center of the semi-circle, looking over all the women gathered about him with one last comprehensive glance.

He then looked to the crowd, looking from one end to the other as if he were looking for someone in particular. Then he held up one armor clad hand to get their attention and began to speak to the crowd gathered in the square once they quieted down. “My choice… is made.”

His deep, impressive, and authoritarian voice swept over the crowd in the square. The crowd instantly fell silent. He waited just a second, then spoke again, “I choose… the maiden… of the eagle.”

At first Catherine thought she misunderstood what she had heard. There was no way that he could have chosen her! As she thought about it again Catherine’s heart skipped a beat, and almost froze in her chest. Then it exploded into a series of beats so loud she was almost deafened again – it almost felt as though it intended to burst out of her chest.

Just then, her hearing came back! She heard every possible emotion available come from within the angry crowd just feet away. There were no more horns but bells, whistles, crying and yelling – plenty of that was happening. She heard crying from her own family – she could recognize her sisters cries from any where. There were also sighs and yells from those followers of hers who rejected her as the offering, and even happy crying from those other girls, and their families too, who would never again have to worry about being whisked away to a vampire lords estate.

Rose moved to Catherine’s side as fast as her legs would carry her and threw her arms around her. “Catherine…” was all Rose could say as she held on to her friend, sobbing almost uncontrollably.

The two held each other for what seemed like hours – Catherine, still in shock, feebly tried to let her friend know that it was fine and that everything would be all right, by patting her back. Finally she managed to speak only a few words to her friend, “Rose, remember what I told you in the days past? Remember? Please do not fret – I am sure that Count August will treat me well.”

And with that, she hugged her friend tightly one last time before turning to meet her family and a few other friends who had already made it to her side. A crush of family and friends surrounded Catherine on all sides as the other candidates rushed off to be in the midst of the safety with their own loved ones, but not before they all came over and tearfully told Catherine goodbye.

Strange. Although she would not have expected it, had you told her about it earlier she would have called you a liar, but Catherine was smiling broadly – and actually felt serenely calm as she accepted the hugs and condolences of all the people she had known all her life who now came to tell her goodbye.

BOOK: Tale of the Century Bride Complete: Historical Vampire Paranormal Romance Box Set
6.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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