Scarlet Dusk

Caso Fornax has been given the most important mission of her life. In a move to seize power from the oppressive Kaiser Draco Cetus and his daughter Princess Virgo, the rebel organization Scarlet Dusk sends her into the palace to pose as a maid. Caso's job is simple: find out how to get the organization around the security and into the palace to assassinate Kaiser Draco and his daughter on her wedding day. This is one of the easiest missions Caso has ever been given, but everything starts to go wrong when she starts to fall in love with someone destined to die. As the wedding day quickly approaches, Caso must choose whether she should stay loyal to Scarlet Dusk or follow her heart no matter where it takes her. *** Cover by wattpad user @daehlinovae

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7. Chapter Six

 

CH. 6

 

    My first thought about the reception was that is was loud. I could barely hear the string band playing in the corner over all the chatter. The lounge was so packed with people, I could barely move. I couldn’t believe that most of the people coming to the party still weren’t even here yet. A waiter walked by and I grabbed a glass of champagne. I was starting to understand how Virgo felt overwhelmed all the time. This was all too much.

    “I thought drinking was bad,” Virgo said from behind me. She was holding her own half empty glass and looking at me suspiciously.

    “One drink before the party won’t hurt,” I protested.

    “Exactly,” she laughed, “Come on, you have to try the chocolate cream puffs.”

    Virgo dragged me over to one of the buffet tables crushed under what must’ve been pounds of food. She handed me a little pastry ball and I bit into it. My mouth was immediately filled with chocolate goodness.

    “Leo would love these,” I said dreamily, voicing the first thought that came to my mind.

    She gave me a confused look. “Leo?”

    “He’s my little brother,” I explained, “He loves desserts like this, but we can’t really afford them.”

    It may have just been a misperception, but Virgo seemed to look relieved after I said that. “I thought you had a secret boyfriend or something. I can’t trust someone who would keep secrets like that. If you think he would like this kind of stuff so much, why don’t you invite your brother to the palace?”

    “I didn’t realize I could,” I said, knowing I couldn’t do anything like that while in the middle of a mission.

    “Why not? I’d love to meet him. If he’s anything like you, he has to be awesome.”

    “I’ll think about it,” I lied.

    I finished the glass of champagne I had and drank half of another one. Virgo seemed impressed. Lady Canes stayed away from us for most of the reception, so I actually had a fairly pleasant time. Too soon we were saying our goodbyes to leave and get ready for the main party. Back in Virgo’s room, we were finally able to take our dresses out of the black bags and see what the final product looked like. Mine was a gorgeous midnight blue ball gown with what felt like miles of tulle on the skirt in ruffled layers  It was strapless and covered in glittering crystals. I had never seen such a beautiful dress before, let alone worn one.

    Virgo’s dress was even more breathtaking. It was a brown to white ombre mermaid style dress with thin sleeves that went down to her wrists. The dress clung to her curves and shimmered under the lights. She changed into brown shoes to match.

    “Virgo that dress is amazing,” I gushed.

    “I like how it shows off my ass,” she said. “I love yours too. The style really suits you. We better hurry if we don’t want to be late to the party.”

    Being a perfectionist, Virgo wanted to fix up our hair and makeup before we could go down to the ballroom. Once that was done, we finally left. In the ballroom, the palace staff was putting the finishing touches on the set up.

    “I thought you said we were going to be late,” I said.

    Virgo shrugged. “I like to be early. We’re on time, so that means we’re late.”

    “No one else is here,” I pointed out.

    “Okay, we’re early,” she admitted. “Not as early as I would’ve liked.”

    The band came in behind us and started setting up instruments in their corner. It was a different band from the one that played at the reception. The room was lit up with strings of tiny fairy lights that glowed across the ceiling like stars. Buffet tables lined the wall on one side of the room with an entire table for wine alone. A group of waiters was already pouring glasses to put on trays for service during the party. At the far end of the ballroom, a throne had been brought in and put on a small raised platform, like a stage. I guess Kaiser Draco was more of an observer than a party animal.

    One of the staff members came over to Virgo and said, “Everything’s going smoothly, Your Highness. We’ll be ready to start things up soon. The welcome speeches for Prince Eridanus should be presented in about half and hour.”

    “Great. What are you thoughts about space?” Virgo asked.

    “We should be just under capacity. If you’re worried now, just wait for the wedding party, Your Highness,” the staff member answered with a smirk before walking off.

    “What are we supposed to do before then?” I hissed.

    “Mingle. Talk to people,” she said, glancing around the room. “Look, your good friend Pyxis just walked in.”

    I turned to see Pavo and Pyxis coming into the ballroom. Our eyes met for a fraction of a second and Pyxis briskly walked towards me. Pavo lingered near the edges of the room looking nervous. I assumed he was waiting for the Kaiser.

    “Good evening, Princess Virgo. Lady Cassiopeia, you look stunning tonight,” Pyxis said smoothly.

    “Thanks,” I said sarcastically.

    “You were in such a rush this morning, we didn’t get much time to talk,” he continued. Virgo made a disgusted face.

    “I’m sure you’re busy, Pyxis. Lots of work to do, we’re all busy people. Talking will just have to wait,” Virgo interrupted.

    Frustration flashed across his face before he regained his composure. Pyxis bowed respectfully and said, “Until later then, Lady Cassiopeia.”

    One he was gone, Virgo said, “Don’t worry about him, he hits on everyone. Pyxis is disgusting, but harmless.”

    I wasn’t sure I could believe that. Pyxis seemed determined, like he would do anything to get what he wanted. That kind of person was dangerous. Too dangerous. I’d have to keep an eye on him and find a way to cut him off if he tried to take things too far.

    More people started to filter in. These were unfamiliar faces, the people who attended the reception ended up coming a little later. I saw the Kaiser come in flanked by two guards. His face was stony and he took a seat on his throne, watching the party guests like they were on a movie screen. It was a little bit creepy. Pavo walked over to him. They had a quick conversation before Kaiser Draco took a velvet bag out of his robes. He handed to Pavo who then disappeared behind the curtain into a storage room.

    Strange, I thought. I wanted to follow Pavo but I noticed Kaiser Draco narrowing his eyes at me. He must’ve noticed me watching. I turned away and ducked into the crowd. The room was filling up with people quickly, all lingering around the edges waiting for the dancing to start. I noticed Vega off in the corner talking quietly to the Penbrooks. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized they must’ve been her parents, meaning the Silver Glove was hiding out in Penbrooks Estates. That was the smartest decision the organization had ever made. If they were careful, they could slip right under the Kaiser’s nose.

    Suddenly Pavo was squeezing past me through the crowd. I looked up and Kaiser Draco was gone. Craning my neck to see around the crowd, I caught a glimpse of him coming out from behind the curtains to the storage room. There a golden chalice in his hand. I wondered what was in it and where it had come from. Instead of sitting back down, he stood in front of his throne and cleared his throat loudly. Silence fell over the room.

    “Good evening everyone! I would like you all to offer a warm welcome to Prince Eridanus Orion of the Outer Highlands!”

    Applause broke out across the ballroom. Eridanus was pushed forward into the center of the dance floor. He smiled and waved at the guests, basking in the attention he was getting.

    Kaiser Draco sat down. Virgo climbed up onto the platform next to him, a half empty wine glass in her hand.

    “As you all know, Prince Eridanus and I will be married in a little less than three weeks,” she announced, her eyes gleaming. “I couldn’t be more excited to spend the rest of my life with someone I love so much. Eridanus has always been a best friend to me. There is no possible way to fully compensate him for all he’s done for me and Pagonia. His family has always treated me like a daughter and I’m so happy to officially be a part of it soon. Welcome to Pagonia, prince, and have a wonderful evening!”

    Everyone cheered as Virgo stepped off the platform. A moment later she was next to me holding a full wine glass.

    “Can you hold this while I do the opening dance?” she asked.

    I took the drink from her and she went to meet Eridanus on the dance floor. The band started up, playing a slow song, and they danced for a few minutes before the other guests started pairing off to join in. When the song was over, Virgo came back for her drink.

    “You’re watching how many of those you have, right?” I asked.

“I’m fine, Caso. You should relax. Talk to people, dance with someone. Have a drink,” she said with a laugh. Virgo disappeared back into the crowd, leaving me alone in a sea of stranger. I fought my way over to the wine table. She was right about me needing a drink to get through this. Along the way, I bumped into some guy.

“Pardon, me, lady,” he said, reaching out to steady me.

“Sorry, that was my fault,” I said quickly.

“No worries. I’m Duke Hydrus of Achird Manor,” he introduced himself with a bow.

I curtsied in reply. “Lady Caso.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Caso. Can I get you a drink to make up for the trouble I put you through?” Hydrus asked.

“Yeah, I was on my over there,” I said.

“Perfect,” he grinned.

Hydrus came back with two wine glasses. I gulped mine down and set the empty glass on a passing waiter’s tray. Hydrus looked impressed.

“Not used to palace parties, eh?”

“Nope,” I admitted.

“Then you’re going to need this,” he said, handing me his drink.

I downed that one too, starting to feel a little bit dizzy. Hydrus was watching me with amused curiosity. Just as the band finished their song, he turned to me and asked, “Would you care to dance, Lady Caso?”

“Absolutely,” I said, smiling widely.

He took my hand and led me out onto the dance floor. A new song was starting up and Hydrus put a hand on my hip. Luckily dancing was one of my skills. I may not have been raised as a socialite, but I still knew basic ballroom manners. We twirled to the music in perfect rhythm, our steps so well in sync it was like we had danced together before. When the song ended, I almost didn’t want to go.

“Would you like to go again?” He asked, his eyes sparkling.

Before I could answer, some girl came out of the crowds and shoved me away from Hydrus.

“What the fuck are you doing with my fiance?” she demanded.

“He asked me to dance!” I defended.

She pushed me again, harder the second time. “Stay away from my man, whore!”

“Calm your tits, bitch! I don’t even like guy—”

I cut myself off. Had I really been about to say I didn’t like guys? The wine must’ve been slurring my thoughts. There was no way I didn’t like guys. I had to just because that’s how it was. That’s how I was. Right?

“Look, don’t care, okay? Just stay away from him,” the girl said, her arms folded across her chest.

Hydrus was smirking and that was when I noticed Lady Canes watching us from the edge of the crowd. She smiled coldly. That was when I realized the whole thing had been a set up. She was trying to get me to make a scene. Sorry Lady Canes, but you’d have to try harder than that.

I stormed off of the dance floor and ate a few finger sandwiches to calm myself down. Virgo wasn’t anywhere in sight. I had expected her to not wander off during the party and leave me all alone in an overwhelming environment.

Eridanus came over to the food table, smiling warmly at me.

“Have you had enough yet?” He asked jokingly.

“A thousand times over,” I groaned. “Where did Virgo run off to?”

“Probably the wine table. Even I’ve lost count of her drinks at this point.”

“I should check on her,” I said, stumbling slightly.

Eridanus steadied me. “You aren’t doing too well yourself, Caso.”

I waved him off. “I’m fine, I’ve been careful. Virgo, however, needs to be babysat so she doesn’t get into trouble.”

He chuckled. “You’re not wrong about that.”

I started making my way over to the wine table. As much as I wanted another glass, I knew I couldn’t have one. I was starting to get a little bit dizzy already. Before I could make it there, Pyxis sprang up out of nowhere.

“Lady Cassiopeia, I would be honored to dance with you,” he offered, holding out his hand.

I never got the chance to reject him because I voice from behind me interrupted, saying, “I’ve already reserved Lady Caso for a dance. You’ll have to get in line.”

Virgo slipped her arm through mine and a rush of warmth zipped through my body. I made a mental note there to not drink anymore. Alcohol only muddled my brain and made me think the absolute strangest thoughts.

“I’ve been looking for you,” I said.

“And here I am!” She beamed. “Come on, let’s dance. I don’t like these other guys chatting with my girl.”

I let her pull me onto the dance floor. This time it was a slow song. Virgo pulled me close and we swayed to the beat. She was a little unsteady, so I had to support her while we danced. Hydrus was a good dancer, but Virgo was magical. She leaned down to whisper in my ear.

“Isn’t this fun? Just you and me?”

I nodded, so caught up in the moment, I didn’t really know what I was saying yes to. The song ended, and I had to stop Virgo from falling over. She laughed drunkenly, cueing me to the real problem.

“Virgo, how much have you had to drink?” I asked. She slumped over, unable to even stand on her own, still laughing.

“Forget about it,” she slurred.

“Jesus Christ, Virgo, this isn’t a joke!” I snapped. “You’re so drunk, you can’t even walk! People are going to notice this!”

Virgo started pulling me towards the wine table. “Just one more and then I’ll stop, I promise.”

I pulled her back and forced her to face me. “No. You’ve already had too much. I’m taking you back to your room to sleep it off.”

She frowned and started pushing me towards the doors. “I don’t want these people to look at you. Only I can look at you.”

“If you don’t want anyone looking at us, you have to let me take you out of here,” I said.

Virgo stopped resisting and I was able to get her out of the ballroom without drawing too much attention. The hallway was flooded with maids and other palace staff, so we ducked down into an empty corridor. For once, I actually knew where we were going. I led Virgo to the back staircase where no one would see us sneaking away.

“Can you climb up?” I asked.

She nodded and promptly tripped over the first step. I had to grab her before she could topple over. There was no way I’d be able to carry her all the way up to the fifth floor. After taking a quick moment to think about it, I decided I’d just have to take Virgo to my room. There was a small sofa I could sleep on and she could have the bed.

Slowly, we made our way upstairs one step at a time. Virgo was too tipsy to know what was going on, and I had to lift her up every single step. Eventually, we made it to the third floor. No one was around, so we dashed down the hallway as quickly as we could manage and slipped into my room. I let Virgo slide down onto the bed, then slammed the door. She perked up right away.

“I knew it!” She said excitedly, pushing herself to her feet. Virgo started stumbling and I rushed over to support her.

“Virgo, you need to sit down,” I said sternly.

She laughed, her eyes gleaming in a way I had never seen before.

“I knew you wanted me,” Virgo accused, starting to push me backwards.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“That’s why you brought me here. To get away from everyone else,” she concluded.

“Yeah, because you’re drunk out of your fucking mind and I didn’t want you to trash your reputation,” I corrected her.

Virgo pushed me all the way back up against the wall. She was giving me such an intense look, my breath caught in my throat. One of her hands cupped my face gently.

“My reputation is already gone,” Virgo whispered.

She leaned down and kissed me. I’m not going to lie, I may have been fantasizing about this moment lately, but I never expected it to happen. It was wrong for so many reasons. She was the princess, she was engaged, and I was gonna to be the catalyst for her murder.

I couldn’t help myself, I started crying. Virgo pulled back, concerned.

“What’s wrong, Caso?” She asked tenderly, almost sounding sober for a moment.

“We can’t do this,” I cried, “It’s impossible.”

Virgo wiped my tears away. “Sweetheart, we can do whatever the fuck we want.”

When she leaned in, I kissed her back this time. My eyes were closed, but I saw a burst of all the colors that existed in the world. They all blurred together, wrapping the two of us up in a magical kind of energy. The next thing I knew, my hands were in her hair, hers were on the zipper of my dress, and we were falling over on the bed all tangled up in each other.

We broke apart for a moment and Virgo whispered. “Let them fucking try to stop us.”

The wine I had was stirring my thoughts up, and I soon forgot everything that happened next. All I knew is that nothing would be the same from here. There was no turning back now.

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