“I'M THINKING a classic updo,” Mindy said, head bent as
she leafed through the pages of a special bridal edition of
Celebrity Hairstyle magazine. “Depending, of course, on your
I was torn between checking out the options and watching
the passing scenery from the back seat of the Lexus SUV that
Lucius had provided for our ride from the airport. Apparently
he’d anticipated how much Mindy would pack, because the
SUV had more storage than the other vehicles in the Vladescus’
well-stocked garage . . . the contents of which would soon be
at my beck and call, too, hard as that still was to believe.
Outside the window, the dramatic vistas of the rising
Carpathians unfolded, and now and then when we rounded
a curve on the steep mountain road, I’d find myself staring at
nothing but sky and grab the seat, because I still wasn’t used
to those hairpin turns, either.
Do I really live here?
“Jess?” Mindy tapped my sleeve. “I asked about your
headpiece. It’s gonna be a tiara, right? I mean, it has to be a
I turned to see Min’s eyes gleaming at the prospect of
being part of an honest-to-goodness royal wedding—the kind
we’d never really thought would happen for either one of us,
in spite of what all our favorite Disney movies had taught us
to expect. “Yes, it’s a tiara,” I confirmed, thinking Mindy
might actually be more excited than I was about the wedding
itself. I couldn’t wait to be married to Lucius, but I was
nervous, too, about the ceremony.
Would I follow all the proper protocol?
Would the guests have a good time?
And most important, would any of my relatives—
Dragomir or Vladescu—cause any trouble? Because that was
“I can’t wait to see the dress!” Mindy said, returning her
attention to the magazine on her lap. “I bet it’s beautiful!”
“You’ll see it tomorrow,” I promised, hoping she’d like it.
And I hoped Lucius would like the gown I’d chosen. I’d
designed it myself with the help of a Romanian dressmaker,
and it was a little unconventional. But I wanted to wear
something that would remind him of a certain moment we’d
shared before I’d admitted to liking him.
I could still hear his voice as he’d stood behind me in a
Pennsylvania dress shop, his fingers twisted up into my curly
hair. “Don’t ever again say that you are not ‘valuable,’ Antanasia.
Or not beautiful . . .”
That was the first time I’d ever felt remotely like the
princess I was still trying to learn to be.
Getting nervous again, I resumed staring out the window
and saw the rooftops of Sighisoara in the distance. It crossed
my mind to suggest a slight detour so I could show Mindy
the charming medieval town, just like my Uncle Dorin had
done for me the first time I’d traveled to Romania. But at the
last moment I kept my mouth shut, because there was
something else that I was eager to show Mindy first, even
more than the narrow, quaint streets that Lucius had roamed
as a child.
Leaning forward, I tapped the driver’s shoulder, then read
from a note I’d had Lucius write for me, butchering the words
with my poor accent. “Se opreste cind ai lui Vladescu casa, te
Although Mindy glanced up from her magazine to give
me an impressed look, I knew my pronunciation was way off.
But the driver—one of the stern young guards who’d once
pinned my arms in a dark forest—must have understood,
because he nodded without taking his eyes off the twisting
road and agreed, “Da, bineinteles.”
“What’s that all about?” Mindy asked, seeming remarkably
comfortable for a girl taking her first ride in rural Romania
with a vampiric chauffeur at the wheel of a luxury SUV.
“We’re going to pull over in a second,” I said. “There’s
something I want you to see.”
“What . . . ?”
Before Mindy could even finish her question, the SUV
slowed and eased to the side of the road. I pointed past my
friend’s shoulder, signaling for her to look out her own
She shifted in her seat and, when confronted with the
view, had the reaction I’d expected, because I’d had it myself
the first time Dorin had pulled over at almost that exact spot.
I still had the same reaction every time I saw the place that
was going to be my home. The mixture of awe and disbelief
and maybe a touch of fear that made your jaw actually drop
and that left me, and now Mindy, unable to think or say
anything more than . . .
“Is that place for real?”
Continue to Chapter 3.....