Chapter 33

The dinner was tonight.

There was no time to grieve . . . for any of them. The point they had been waiting for all this time was only a few hours away now.

The motel room was dimly lit with a nightlight that had been left there by the residents before them. They couldn't afford drawing any attention to this room, this included using lights and loud voices. Word traveled fast in the supernatural world and any number of creatures could know which motel they were staying in now. Keeping them stirred away from this particular room was the only defense they had. Carson and Johnson wouldn't be able to get more ammo before reaching the castle and all the weapons were stowed away in the van.

Jake sat at the edge of the bed, holding the bloody blanket Samantha had left behind. It had the blood of his old love . . . and his new one. The prince had been betrayed before. He was too trusting for his own good and he never accepted that before. It was about time to admit it now.

"This castle place will have food right? Like, real food? None of that snail and fish eggs shit." Matt broke the silence.

"Yeah . . . yeah, they have some good food." Carson answered without looking over at the vampire from the table.

"Sweet," Matt nodded.

Nam rolled her eyes. She sat against the wall on the other side of the room, picking at her nails with her pocket knife. Johnson arose from his seat at the table and slid open a closet opposite the bed. Without a word, he began tossing each male in the room a piece of clothing on a sleek wooden hanger, covered with what seemed to be a garbage bag. Jake caught his by the hook of the hanger without even looking up from the blood stained blanket in his lap. The next tossed garment simply draped over Matt's head before he realized it was thrown his direction. He pulled it off himself and ruffled his hair, staring at the outfit. "What the hell are these?" The vampire questioned a second before ripping the bag off the hanger.

"Tuxedos," Johnson answered as he tossed Carson one then grabbed the last for himself. "Put them on, gentlemen. They should all be relatively your sizes. Carson called in to have them delivered here along with the blood, food, etcetera." He nodded over at his partner, giving him the credit.

Matt was the first to eagerly take the suit off its hanger. He instantly began stripping in the middle of the room.

"Oh god . . . spare us." Namir said, and turned her face away from the vampire.

"Yeah, right," Matt scoffed and finished stripping down to his bright red and white polka dotted boxers. "You know you like it."

The rest dressed themselves, but took turns in the bathroom instead of being so bold as to strip down to their underwear in front of one another.

Nam was handed a long, black cocktail style dress after each male was fully clothed again. "Wow . . ." She stared at it and slipped the pocket knife back in her pocket. The shape shifter had always been the strong one, the tomboy. She never got to wear lavish things or any dresses for that matter.

"A hot dress for a hot lady," Matt winked at the shape shifter. He expected a slap or angry snap in return but instead received the unexpected. Namir cradled the dress in her arms and smiled at the vampire. Matt just stared back at her, confused. Nam trotted into the bathroom, giving a girlish squeal before shutting the door to put it on. "Weird,"

While the excited shape shifter slipped into her dress, Jake noticed another dress in the closet. The same dress, in red, hung alone at the end. The prince knew who the dress was supposed to be for. She would've looked good in red.

Carson was the next to dip into the closet. He emerged with four black masks. "By now, anyone or anything that would come for the prince would know what he looks like." He walked up to each person in the room and handed them a mask. "Not all of them know his scent." Carson turned to Jake, who was still slightly distracted by the occurrence not more than a few hours ago. "Your majesty," Carson began.

Jake finally looked up, catching eye contact with the speaker.

"Your majesty, if there's an attack on the castle tonight, every male staff member of the kingdom will instantly put on these masks, as will you. This will hopefully confuse the attackers long enough for us to get you to a safe location." Carson kept eye contact with the prince and waited for a nod.

Jake nodded.

The castle was exactly like the pictures in the books Jake had read. The front doors were enormously tall, made of single strands of green wooden flanks. The outside of the castle was constructed of chipped rocks. It was a magnificent building and the tiny detailed carvings of elegant "W"s on the brass door handles must've taken hours each to chip out.

Jake kept his mask in hand and was amazed at how easily they entered. He had trouble getting into clubs, and now he was effortlessly ushered into a home of royalty; a home soon to be his.

The inside was just as amazing. The walls were made of the same chipped stone and the floor was that of polished, green marble. The ceiling was extremely high and a massive chandelier hung from a dome shaped window skylight. In the corner of the room sat a small orchestra band, pouring out music that danced off the walls and added liveliness to the, what seemed to be, extremely conservative crowd.

A man adorned with a handlebar mustache took all of their coats the second they entered. Jake noticed he too had the same black mask in hand. In fact, as he looked around at the growing crowd inside, almost all the men in the room held onto the same black masks.

Before the group could take another step inside the grand ballroom, Matt blurted out, "Food!" He quickly darted through the crowd to the hors d'oeuvres table.

"Your majesty," Carson put a hand on Jake's shoulder and spoke quietly. "Johnson and I have to go take our places at the dining table. Mingle, have fun, and we'll see you once dinner is served."

Jake nodded and felt Carson pat him on the back before disappearing into the crowd.

Namir stood beside the prince, tickled at the entire scene laid out before her. She couldn't wipe the grin off her face and didn't intend to. It was all beautiful and she felt beautiful. Jake glanced over at her and felt himself smiling at her obvious happiness with the gathering.

"Jacob!" A Scottish woman's voice squeaked loudly from behind the prince. Jake turned around just in time to receive a tight hug from the speaker. "Jacob! You've grown!" An elderly woman squeezed Jake then stepped back, holding him by the shoulders and looking him up and down. "I remember when you were just a wee little toddler, runnin about and droolin." She looked Jake in the eyes and gave him a hearty smile.

The elderly woman's eyes were soft and somehow familiar to Jake. "Minnie?" He stared at her and smiled.

"Yes!" The woman grinned and gave the prince another big hug. This time Jake returned it. His old dog Minnie; Namir had mentioned her when first introducing herself. Jake was finally meeting the human side of his faithful Scottish terrier from when he was a child. The prince held the elderly woman tight for another moment, grinning even as she pulled back to look him up and down again.

"Oh my dear," She smiled up at him and took his hands in hers. "Your father is a good man. He was a great Lord and I know you'll be just like him." She gave him one last hug before slipping back into the crowd.

"Told ya," Namir nudged Jake in the side just before another former pet emerged from the crowd. A younger man, younger than Jake, smiled at the prince. Jake instantly recognized the bright green eyes. They had belonged to his old tabby, Loki.

"Hey," Loki nodded at Jake, obviously slightly nervous to finally speak with him. "So . . . yeah."

"Hey . . . thanks, Loki, or the, um, protection." Jake smiled and nodded back at the young man.

"No prob. You were cool. I mean, I betcha still are but, yeah . . ." Loki trailed off and raised the glass of scotch in his hand. "Have fun, man." He cleared his throat before dipping back into the crowd. The greeting hadn't been as warm as the first but Loki had always been stand-offish, even as a feline.

Namir stuck close to Jacob as they sifted through the crowd, receiving tons of, "Congrats", and "Welcome to the Castle", before reaching the appetizers. Matt stood, leaning against the table with two deviled eggs in each hand and another being sloppily chewed in his mouth.

"Hey, guys," Matt spoke with his mouth full.

"This is a very fancy dinner." Nam growled, glaring at the vampire. "Be respectful, leech."

Matt swallowed the food in his mouth with one gulp and grinned tauntingly at the shape shifter.

After another moment the entire crowd was ushered into the dinner hall for the actual supper portion of the gathering. An older man sat at the end of a long, elegant, green table in a cushioned chair. Jake instantly recognized him. It was him . . . it was the Lord. Lord West stood up from his seat and motioned for everyone to be seated. Almost in perfect harmony, ever guest tucked their chairs beneath the table and sat. Matt simply plopped into his, already full from the appetizers he'd wolfed down earlier.

"I'm pleased to have you all here," The Lord began, "I'd like especially to thank a few key people for attending tonight." He turned and motioned towards Johnson and Carson, who stood at the other end of the table. "Steve Carson and Timothy Johnson of the protective team," The guests all clapped as the two took a small bow. "I'd also like to thank Loki Marshall, Minnie Stevens, and Namir Conway." Each stood and took a small bow as well. The clap this time was accompanied by a few whistles from Matt, who received yet another glare from Nam as she sat back down. "And I'd of course like to thank the most important person here for coming, my son."

It took a minute for Jake to realize he was talking about him. Namir prodded him. "Stand up," she whispered. Jake slowly rose from his seat, gazing at the Lord, who smiled back. Before the crowd could clap, the end of a rope fell onto the prince's dinner plate. Jake stared down at it then followed the rope up with his eyes. He followed it all the way up to the chandelier. A group of vampires sat perched on it, hissing at the guests before repelling down the rope.

"Attack!" Carson yelled from the end of the table. "Masks on!"