Isabel looked at herself in the mirror and her face, which she hardly recognised, was frowning with worry. The lord had made sure that she was covered in jewelleries and they sparkled angrily in the light. Even her hair that ran down to her waist was decorated with delicate diamond flowers. It would be difficult to go around unnoticed. At least her dress was made from a light material, though it too shone with its bright blue colours.
It was all too much for a dinner. Chadwick surely had more in mind.
“My Lady, they are ready for you.” One of the guards called from the hall.
Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath. Silently, as she walked towards the door, she tried to picture herself looking into the eyes that always calmed her fears and worries. Garret. She promised herself that they would meet again. Leaving all fear behind, she placed her hand on the door. There was no room for mistakes now.
Music, so sweet and tender it nearly brought tears to her eyes echoed up the stairway. It was a violin and an oboe in a perfect duet, backed by a cello in its sonorous sound. It sounded like two lovers singing an amorous serenade to each other.
The violin faded and the oboe slowly turned to a seductive tune as she made her way down the stairs. It beckoned her, it almost felt like it was singing ‘come with me’. She nearly forgot the trials ahead.
“Isabel, my sweet Isabel. You look so beautiful.”
When she heard his voice, all thoughts of sweetness and tenderness evaporated from her mind. There was nothing but possessiveness in his words.
Lord Chadwick bowed to her gracefully and held his arm out to her as she reached the final step. It was difficult to let herself into his grasp, yet she had to keep up her pretence, if she was to succeed in her escape. He led her into a big ballroom, and she could barely contain a gasp when she saw all the guests dancing elegantly to the music which had seemed so sweet to begin with. Now, it was too sweet, it felt sickly.
“What is all this?” she asked, genuinely curious.
“Our engagement party.” Chadwick laughed.
Isabel felt her jaw tighten and she simply nodded. Before she had time to react, Chadwick put his other arm around her waist and dragged her out amongst the guests.
“Let’s dance, my little bird.”
A long time ago, she would’ve loved to let herself free on the ballroom floor, but now she only felt nausea as the music surrounded her. Chadwick led her around dizzyingly as they swirled and swayed with the song. Each move and each step felt forced. She wasn’t dancing as much as she was being dragged around like some kind of stiff rag doll. She felt completely disconnected from her body. It was utterly mind numbing.
Suddenly, she saw a glimpse of a man as pale as moonlight. He looked so familiar. And yet… It couldn’t be. He hadn’t been more than ten feet away. Was her mind playing tricks with her?
“Garret…” she whispered.
A strange chill ran down her spine when she uttered that name.
“What was that, my dear?”
Chadwick tried to look into her eyes but her gaze was searching the room fleetingly.
“My lord, I need some fresh air, if you please?” she begged.
He stopped mid-stride as her eyes met his. She looked terrified. Somehow, he couldn’t help but oblige.
“Of course, my Lady.”
Isabel hadn’t planned for this. If Garret really was here, he was in grave danger.
People bowed and backed away as they made their way through the crowd. Isabel stared at them with wide eyes, searching for the man she so desperately wanted. He was nowhere to be seen. As she had expected, they were followed by two guards.
William led her out into the garden and she walked forward, taking it all in. There was no light out here, but the illumination from the windows shone out in a wide arch that seemed to form a protective barrier from the encroaching darkness. The music and the bustle of people could still be heard from afar, and Isabel felt a strange sense of déjà vu as she was met by the cold night air. It felt so familiar.
“Thank you.” she breathed.
Suddenly, the lights went out. Chadwick was no longer beside her. Muffled cries of pain sounded nearby. It all happened so fast, Isabel stood frozen. She was completely succumbed by the darkness. And then, she felt a looming presence coming up right behind her.
“No, thank you for making this so easy.” A strange soothing voice whispered in her ear.
Isabel shivered involuntarily as she felt his icy breath touch the nape of her neck.
“My brother spoke of you with such reverence,” He sighed gently, “I now see why.”
An icy hand shot up and covered her mouth with such force, she was pulled backward into his cloaked arms. Darkness completely surrounded her.
“Don’t say his name.” he growled.
Desperately, she tried to shake her head, to wriggle her arms and to run, but he was too strong. It felt like she was locked in place by cold steel. All she could do was flail her feet and whimper.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
He whispered soothingly again, yet his hand stayed locked over her mouth. There was such an eerie tone to his voice, it seeped through her like the cavernous hum of a base.
“You yearn for him, don’t you?”
Isabel nodded hesitantly. Silent tears were making their way down her cheek. Never in her life, had she felt so frightened. Where was Garret?
“I can help you, Isabel.”
Sliding his icy hand away from her mouth, he ran it down to her shoulder. Isabel trembled under his touch.
“First, we must leave this place,” He spoke very solemnly yet his voice didn't sound so strange as it did before, “But you will have to hold on tight.”
Suddenly, she was lift from the ground. An arm swung out under her legs and she was cradled into his chest. Looking up, she gasped. It was difficult to see in the darkness, but she couldn’t mistake those features. He looked so much like Garret, it made her heart sting. What really took her off-guard though, was his wings. At first, she couldn’t quite believe it. Protruding from his back, were two massive, black feathered wings. They looked like those of a crow, but the wing span must’ve been at least 16 feet.
“Close your eyes.”
Isabel obeyed, reluctantly putting her arms around his neck for support. Abruptly, there was a loud whoosh followed by a cold rush of air in her face. Overcome by curiosity, she opened her eyes. They were already high above the mansion, which was still plunged in darkness. She’d never been so high off of the ground. It was utterly terrifying yet amazing at the same time. She wasn’t sure how to feel.
Freedom seemed such a fleeting experience for her. Now, she was free from Chadwick, only to fall into the hands of another creature of the night whose intentions were not yet clear to her. Garret had always been adamant that vampires were dangerous. They could not be trusted. But if this man really was his brother, could he really be that bad? He was disturbing like a monster from her nightmares but his face reminded her so much of Garret. She didn’t know what to think.
As they surged forward, Isabel’s eyes watered up and she pinched them shut again. It was very dizzying not being able to see, but the wind was too strong. She huddled closer to the strange man holding her in his arms, shivering not only from the cold, but from fear of what might happen.