When Antonio and I came to the fringe of the beach, I removed my high-heeled shoes and kicked them aside. They wouldn’t get me very far on sand. I was so focused on Jared that I almost didn’t notice the huge object near the walkway. Realising what it was, I gaped. “The Tower of London.” The seven-foot high sand sculpture was so unbelievably detailed, it was absolutely amazing.

“I thought you might like to have a bit of ‘home’ at your ceremony.” Antonio swept a hand, gesturing for me to look around.

When I did, I gasped again. Dotted around the walkway and bordering the chairs were several sand sculptures of London monuments. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The London Eye, the 02 Arena, the Royal Albert Hall, Globe Theatre, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Eros Statue.

“A friend of mine has an affinity to sand,” Antonio told me. “He is very difficult to track down, as he is very much a loner. But eventually I managed to find him and I had him create these especially for you. Think of them as my Binding gift to you.”

Surprising him a little, I hugged him. He might be a big, bad, powerful vampire, but he was all squishy on the inside. “Thank you. I love them.”

Locking eyes with Jared, I began to cover the distance left between us. On the way, I caught sight of my squad. They each gave me a beaming grin, and then opened their jackets. Pinned to each of their shirts was a sign that said ‘Run’. Squashing my amused smile, I rolled my eyes at their immaturity. Of course Jared hadn’t missed their little joke and he shot them all a playful scowl that they appeared to find hilarious.

With each step I took toward him, the knot in my stomach went tighter and tighter. Not with dread, but with excitement. It was the same excitement that I could sense in him. Finally reaching him, I placed my hand in the one he offered me, accepting Antonio’s peck on the cheek. The powerful Keja went to sit between Luther and Evan on the front row. My very-soon-to-be-brother-in-law gave me a wink, while Luther gave me a respectful nod.

Turning my attention back to Jared again, I smiled one of those idiotic Barbie-like smiles. I seriously couldn’t stop smiling, and the more I tried to drop it, the wider it got.

You look absolutely stunning, Jared told me.

Ah, bless him. I knew he wasn’t great with compliments. You look absolutely edible.

His grin widened. Ready, we then turned to face the Prelate. Hearing a series of laughs behind us, I swerved around, curious. Fletcher, shaking with laughter, pointed at Jared. It was only then that I realised a piece of paper had been stuck to his back that said ‘Help Me’. No prizes for guessing who was responsible for that − particularly since all ten of them were looking everywhere but at me, even as they laughed.

Snatching it from his blazer, I gestured for Evan to grab it. He quickly came forward and took it, fighting to shrink his smile. It didn’t work. Fighting my own smile, I turned back to the Prelate.

I’ll get the ass**les back for that. Jared sounded close to laughing himself.

Just then, the Prelate − who didn’t look impressed − began to speak. Not that I understood a word. What I’d learned from Luther in advance was that the entire thing would be spoken in Latin. Basically, the Prelate said a ritual speech before the vows. Apparently, the general gist was that our death as a human was not the end for us, as vampires, but the beginning of something new; that to find someone to spend our immortal lives with was a special thing that should not be overlooked or taken for granted, but welcomed and valued above all else. It was sort of sweet, actually.

And the great thing about Binding ceremonies – well, great for people like me who didn’t like cheesy stuff − was that you didn’t have to recite a string of vows. After the Prelate asked in Latin if you agreed to love, protect, treasure, comfort, support, laugh with, and forsake all others, in good times and in bad, you simply answered, “ita vero”, which was Latin’s roundabout way of saying ‘yes’.

So Jared and I remained quiet as the Prelate spoke. Despite not understanding him, I was quite enjoying listening to the flow of Latin. When he gestured for Jared and me to join hands, we did as Luther had previously instructed; we joined our palms together and then spread our fingers so that we could thread them through each other’s. Rather than close our fingers, we kept them pointing upwards, so that we had created a ‘V’.

Finally, he then began addressing Jared, who responded, “ita vero”.

Well thank bloody God for that. I wasn’t too proud to say that I’d still had my worries that he might back out.

As if he’d sensed that, he said, Never.

When it came time for me to respond to the Prelate, I said, “ita vero”. I could have been mistaken, but it looked like Jared breathed a sigh of relief.

Only the fact that the Prelate was holding our wrists in place stopped me from wrapping my arms around Jared when his mouth met mine, giving me a drugging kiss followed by a sharp bite to my bottom lip. He took only one sip of blood before pulling back, giving me a chance to return the bite and take a sip of his own blood.

If the Prelate hadn’t still been holding our hands in place, I most likely would have backed away, on guard, when a breeze suddenly began to build around us.

It’s okay, it’s supposed to happen.

It would have been nice if Luther had mentioned this part. Trusting Jared, I remained still and quashed my anxiety. As if that cleared the mental pathway, the psychic connection suddenly snapped into place. I’d expected it to be similar to the link I’d had with my Sire; for Jared to be a small presence in the back of my mind. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was almost like I now had an extra sense, and that sense was totally focused on Jared − on his mood, his welfare, his whereabouts, his emotions, hell, even his vitals.

Pulling me from my musings, heat suddenly spread along my third finger. I had to resist the urge to snatch my hand back at the sensation of someone scraping at the base of my finger with a sharp nail. Then, where a wedding ring might have been, was a black, intricate, beautiful, and almost Celtic-like knot around my finger. The exact same one circled Jared’s ring finger. Touching mine, I realised that although it was much like a tattoo, it was also bumpy. Like brail.

Knots are different for each couple, Jared told me. Yours won’t match anyone’s but mine, and vice versa.

Now I understood why Luther hadn’t told me. He’d known I’d find this kind of nice, and he’d wanted me to have the surprise. Happily accepting Jared’s kiss, I said, I love it.

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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