Stay (Page 47)

“It sounds good as long as you’re still with me. I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

“Don’t worry, Case. You’re not going to be alone any night.”

I brushed my lips against his. “Now that sounds perfect.”

***

The main chambers of The Society were something out of another place and time. I guess that shouldn’t have come as a surprise since it was a supernatural society, but still everything else about The Society was modern.

I found focusing on the stone seating around the room and the large thrones in the center helped keep my mind off the things I should have been concerning myself with. Namely the speech and the fact that within twenty-four hours I was going to be a queen. Wasn’t being a princess enough?

And what about my weakness? If Tiffany had messed with my mind, what would stop someone else? When I’d voiced my fears to Georgina she had told me we’d come to that bridge when we had to cross it, but what she didn’t understand is that things didn’t work that way. You had to prepare in advance because you never knew when your time would be up, and you’d have to face the problem head on. When she wouldn’t listen to my protests, I stopped arguing. Instead I tried to monitor my thoughts more closely. Everything seemed normal, but I was always going to be afraid that I’d find a thought that wasn’t my own. What would I do then?

I started counting the number of people in the audience.

“Casey.” Georgina said my name, interrupting my counting at three hundred and four.

Toby kissed me lightly on the cheek. I let out a few deep breaths before joining Georgina in the middle of the room.

Georgina nodded, letting me know it was time to begin. I had a flashback to a speech in high school I’d completely messed up. This time I had nothing memorized, and I hoped that would help instead of hurt.

I swallowed hard before beginning. There was no microphone, so I was going to have to make sure I spoke loudly enough for my voice to carry. “Today is not a joyous occasion. I am not happy to be here, and I am sure that none of you are either.” I looked out at the sea of black. Clearly the word had spread.

“Sometimes life is not fair, and we are dealt tremendous loss that seems unfathomable, but in life we have to do things we don’t want to do because it’s the only way we can move on, and staying stuck in one place is rarely the answer.” I was rambling, and I knew it. I looked over at Toby and he nodded. “I didn’t know Levi or Allie as well as some of you did. I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up with them in my life, but from the time I did spend with them I learned that they were wonderful people. They were a couple willing to dedicate their lives to the betterment and success of The Society, and in their honor I pledge to do the same. I realize I can’t do this alone. I will be relying on the experience of my grandmother, and the expertise of Allie’s chief advisor, Hailey Kaye.”

Hailey glanced up from her seat and smiled faintly. I hoped that the space I was giving her would help even if it was in a small way.

“I will also have the aid and help of a Pteron that is my deepest confident and companion. As the heir of another powerful Pteron family, his help will be immeasurable.”

A hush fell through the crowd. Evidently this news hadn’t spread. “Although we are not formally mated, he will be with me through this transition.” I turned to him. “Toby, will you please come up here.”

“But you’re both Pterons!” a man yelled from the front row. He stood up as did several men sitting around him. “This is blasphemous. Georgina, how can you stand for it?”

Georgina stood beside me. “We will not be abiding by old wives tales developed as a means to influence the type of children being bred by our leaders. Yes, there is a chance that their children will not be Pteron by nature, but there’s just as much of a chance that they will. Or one will. I will not allow fear to sway our decisions. We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

The man nodded and sat down. The others did too. Georgina gestured for me to continue.

“I can’t pretend to know exactly what I’m doing, but I will learn. What I can promise is that I will do everything in my power to see to it that The Society continues to stay strong. Sometimes the best way to cherish those we have lost is to move forward. We will not lose hope. We will stand united and together ensure a successful future for The Society.”

The clapping started before I realized I was done. I could have said more, but in reality I’d said everything I’d needed to say. Besides, according to Georgina I’d be giving another speech the next day at my coronation. I might as well save material. If I’d said that last line out loud Toby would have applauded me for making a joke. I wasn’t in the mood to be applauded. I just wanted to slip away. I wasn’t meant for the spotlight.

I wished I’d been allowed to wear pants. That way I’d have had my phone on me. I was relying on Toby to tell me if we heard any news from my mom’s clan or Jared and Vera. I couldn’t stomach the thought of anyone else getting hurt.

A line formed and looped its way around the room. I looked for a cause for it. Was there food or cocktails I wasn’t aware of? Then it hit me. They were lined up in my direction. They were lined up to meet me.

I swallowed hard again and waited. I shook hands with everyone who came before me. Some said nothing, a few bowed, and others took my hand and whispered words meant to console me. I smiled at everyone, exchanging polite words when required. Finally only a few people remained.

A woman that looked to be in her forties with shoulder length dirty blonde hair came my way. “You’re looking good, Casey.”

I wracked my brain trying to remember if I’d ever met her. I settled on polite. “Thank you.”

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

“No, sorry.” I went with honesty.

“If you want my opinion, you picked the right man. This one deserves you.”

“I beg your pardon?” What was she talking about?

“This one seems like a good one, but don’t let him talk you into playing kinky games on the phone. I hear he’s into that kind of stuff.” She laughed, but it sounded more like a cackle as she pulled out a vial of a bluish-green liquid.

Before I could process what she was doing or saying, Toby flew through the air knocking over the woman. The vial flew from her hand, smashing into pieces as it hit the stone floor. Thick black smoke billowed up from the liquid as several Pteron guards ran over to her.