The Wedding - Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chatper 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22


Chapter 1

MY BEST FRIEND—I hoped I could still call her that— Mindy Stankowicz, looked completely baffled as crowds of Romanians who knew where they were going pushed past her to get to the baggage carousels at Bucharest’s busy Aeroportul Internaţional Henri Coandă.

I knew that I should rush over and help Min, but I held back, just watching as she searched the crowd for me, her eyes now and then darting to signs in a language that my brief time in Romania hadn’t prepared me to understand, either.

Mindy took a hesitant step forward, then stopped again, obviously not sure where to go, and I still didn’t move, either. My feet seemed bolted down as I tried to sort out all of the emotions that rushed through me just to see a friend from my recent past, someone who’d witnessed everything that had happened in high school, from the day Lucius Vladescu had walked into my life to the night I’d feared he’d been taken away from me forever.

Looking back on our last months of school, I still wasn’t sure if Mindy had deserted me or if I’d abandoned her as things with Lucius had gotten more intense. Mindy had wanted to help me deal with all that I’d been going through with Lucius and Faith Crosse and Jake Zinn, but I’d pushed her away, scared to confide the truth about my feelings for Lucius—and the truth about what he was. Not to mention what I was becoming. Still, the day that Mindy had yanked her arm away from me in gym class, sort of renouncing our friendship, I’d been hurt...

Who had been the worse friend?

Standing in the middle of the crowded airport, surrounded by Romanian travelers who were all hauling their luggage off spinning baggage carousels as announcements were made in numerous languages, Mindy suddenly looked scared, and I remembered one crucial detail from our shared history.

My eighteenth birthday, on the night that Lucius had almost been destroyed, when nearly everybody else, even my parents, in a way, had turned their backs on me and him, Mindy had called to warn me that he was in deep trouble.

She’d had her doubts about Lucius, feared that he might even be hurting me, but in the end she’d come through and tried to save his life, because she’d already known that I loved him.

Maybe if I hadn’t shown up in the barn that night and tried to intervene, things would have gone a little differently. Maybe Ethan Strausser would have grabbed the stake instead of Jake, and Lucius would be gone...

All at once my feet were freed and I wasn’t just walking toward Mindy—I was running. And without even thinking about how things might be awkward between us—I was a vampire, for crying out loud, and we hadn’t seen each other since my transformation—I shoved through the crowds and held open my arms just as Mindy saw me, too, and threw her own arms wide, so we both crashed into each other and started crying so hard that we didn’t even have the time or the composure to say hello.

We hung on to each other for a long time, ignoring the people who pushed past us, some cursing mildly in Romanian. And when we finally calmed down, I blurted out the question I’d been wanting to pose but had been too scared to voice, thinking maybe it was enough just to ask Mindy to fly to Romania for the wedding of a friend she might not even like anymore.

“Will you be my maid of honor? Please?”

Mindy pulled away from me and dragged her fingers under her eyes, which were dripping mascara all over her cheeks, then said, with a shaky, still half-teary smile, “Jeez, Jess, I thought you’d never ask!”

I wiped at my own face, trying to clear away some of my tears, too. “I was afraid—”

That you’d say no. That you couldn’t in good conscience support my marriage to a vampire. That we weren’t friends like that anymore . . .

But before I could find the right words, Mindy squeezed my arm, stopping me from saying more. “Who else is gonna do your hair on the most important day of your life, Jess?” she teased. “Huh?”

For some reason I almost started to cry again—but I was laughing, too. “Nobody but you,” I promised, knowing that everything that had happened between us, all of the weirdness, had been fixed.

Or maybe there was one more thing to say, because suddenly Mindy got serious. “You’re really a—” She glanced around, probably checking to see if there were any English speakers who might overhear. Then she leaned close and whispered, “. . . vampire?”

I straightened a little, not wanting to hide what I was or act ashamed. “Yes. I am.”

Mindy studied my face for a long time, like she needed to see that I was still really, truly me and not just some bloodsucking creature beyond her understanding. Gradually, I saw her smile not only return but get steadier and warmer, as if she was setting aside her last reservations about me. About us. “That’s cool,” she finally said with a nod. “That’s okay.”

I hadn’t known that I needed anybody’s endorsement, but I guessed I needed Mindy’s, because it felt good to hear somebody say that out loud.

What I was now . . . It really was okay.

“Thanks,” I said, as my own smile got even bigger.

I’d been ecstatic about marrying Lucius, but having my best friend back . . . It filled some empty place in my heart, and although we were pretty much adults, and I was about to be married, I reached out and held her hand, just like we used to do when we were little kids on the playground.

“Let’s get your bags,” I suggested, pulling her toward the correct carousel, where most of the luggage had already been claimed. As we stepped up, though, I saw three big, new looking, faux Louis Vuitton suitcases conspicuously taking the ride around for probably the tenth time. When they reached us, Mindy let go of my hand and hauled one, then another, off the belt, and I hurried to grab the remaining bag before it could spin by again.

As the heavy suitcase thudded to my feet, I looked at Mindy, confused. “Three pieces of luggage? But I thought you can only stay for three days, tops?”

Mindy looked at me as if I were the one who was out of my mind. “This is the biggest event of your life,” she reminded me. “It’s gonna take a lot of hair product!”

I started grinning like crazy then, feeling completely happy. I was about to marry Lucius, and Mindy really was back...

“Come on,” I said, starting to wheel the suitcase I’d claimed toward the exit. “Lucius has a driver waiting for us, and we have lots to do.”

“I’m right behind you,” Mindy promised, hurrying along with her two bags wobbling in tow. “Can’t wait!”

I looked over at her and we shared a smile that summed up about fifteen years of friendship and all the hopes and dreams we’d had as girls about falling in love and getting married and living happily ever after.

Then I faced forward and led us both toward the waiting car.

The wedding was officially under way.

Continue to Chapter 2.....

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