Pure, p.41
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       Pure, p.41

         Part #2 of Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Page 41

 

  I hadn’t known that, but I seriously doubted at eighteen I needed to be in that kind of position of power. Maturity didn’t happen overnight. My eyes and mind were fastened on that dress. “There’s not going to be anyone there I know. And no offense, but my idea of fun isn’t spending a night with a bunch of pures. ”

  “None taken. ” Laadan pulled out the skirt. The hue of the red caught the light, casting a faint glimmer over the dress. “Seth will be there. So will Aiden. ”

  I looked at her sharply. “Why would I care if Aiden will be there? He’s a pure. Where else would he be tonight?”

  Laadan smiled faintly. “Would you like to try it on?”

  “No thank you. ”

  “Humor me, why don’t you? Your mom wore a dress like this once, and I only have a little while before I’m due downstairs. ”

  The yearning to try the dress on was a physical ache, but I shook my head. Laadan persisted until I found myself standing in front of a full-length mirror with the red silk dress on. She stood behind me, hands on my shoulders. “You look beautiful. ”

  The dress was stunning. It was made to fit me—or at least altered to do so. The silk hugged from my chest to my hips before gliding out around my thighs. I twisted to the side, grinning. The back looked just as good as the front. Red was definitely my color. For a moment, I let myself drift into a dream where Aiden actually saw me in something this elegant and sexy.

  And what if Seth saw me in this? Even my dirtiest imagination couldn’t capture his response accurately.

  “I should probably take this off before I ruin it. ”

  Laadan pulled me away from the mirror and sat me down in front of a small table full of makeup and other suspicious-looking things. I started to stand, but she planted her hands on my shoulders again. “Alex, there is no reason for you to stay in your room tonight while everyone else is enjoying the ball. So be still and let me do something with this hair of yours. ”

  “I don’t want to go. ” I twisted around so I faced her.

  She turned me back around and picked up a brush. “Why? Is it because you have your session tomorrow? Wouldn’t that be even more of a reason to relax and enjoy tonight?”

  I frowned and tried to ignore the soothing way the brush moved through the tangles in my hair. “It’s not because of the session tomorrow. I just… don’t want to go. ”

  Ignoring me, she picked up a curling iron and started twisting long sections of hair around the barrel. I gave in to the primping pretty quickly, still having no real intention of going to the ball. It was nice to have someone make me pretty, even if all the hard work would be wasted on my pillow. Chattering on about my mother, she moved on to the makeup and when she was done, I barely recognized the smoky-eyed girl staring back at me.

  Laadan had outdone herself.

  She’d piled the curls atop of my head, but pulled several thick strands down to cover my neck and tease the bodice of the dress. The curls seemed strategically placed, as they hid the scars.

  “What do you think?” she asked, a powder brush in her hand.

  I had no idea what to say. The blush accented my cheekbones, making them appear higher than normal. She’d covered the bruise on my jaw without coating my face with makeup. The mascara and artfully applied shadow turned my eyes into the warmest chocolate instead of the dirt color they usually favored. Red stain plumped my lips in a way that begged to be kissed.

  “Wow. My nose looks small. ”

  Laadan laughed, setting the brush down. “Wait. The only thing you are missing is…” Drifting off to a dresser and opening a large velvet box, she rooted around for a few moments and pulled out a silver chain with black stones surrounding a ruby.

  The necklace probably was worth more than my life, but she dropped it around my neck and clasped it. “There! Now you’ll be the belle of the ball. ”

  I stared at myself, wanting a picture of this moment. I don’t think I’d ever look so… unlike me again. If Caleb could’ve seen this, I think he might’ve complimented me.

  Laadan glanced at a clock gilded in gold. “And we’re finished just in time. The ball has only just begun, and you will make a fashionably late entrance. ”

  My gaze drifted down the mirror. “I can’t go. ”

  “You’re being silly. You’re going to look more beautiful than any pure-blood in that room, Alex. You’ll belong. ”

  I stood, shaking my head. “You don’t understand, Laadan. I do appreciate all of this and it was fun, but I… I can’t go. ”

  She frowned. “Perhaps I don’t understand. Would you explain it to me?”

  Slowly, I turned back to the mirror. The girl staring back at me looked beautiful if no one looked too hard or too close. If anyone did, the picture of perfection would start to fall apart. There wasn’t a pretty dress in Laadan’s closet that could fix that.

  “Alex?”

  “Look at me,” I said quietly. ” You don’t see… them? I can’t go down there and have everyone stare at me. ”

  Laadan’s concerned face appeared above my head in the mirror. “Honey, everyone will be staring at you because you look beautiful. ”

  “Everyone will be staring at my scars. ”

  She blinked and took a step back. “No. They’re not even—”

  “I know they will be. ” I turned around, fingering the delicate chain around my neck. “Because it’s what I notice first on someone. And look at my arms, they’re pretty gross. ”

  And they were. The skin had never quite returned to the original skin tone. They’d paled, like all daimon tags did, but the tiny teeth marks left behind were uneven and red, lining my forearms, starting right above my wrist and ending along the tender skin of the inside of my elbow. The skin was just as uneven and patchy as my neck, but at least the scars on my throat had faded into a shiny color a shade or two lighter than my normal complexion. The bit of cleavage the dress showed off took away from those scars, but my arms totally made up for it.

  Laadan suddenly smiled, which I found really inappropriate considering she

  should be commiserating about how much of a freak I looked. She moved to her closet and pulled a large box off the top shelf. Taking it to her bed, her smile grew wider. “I have the perfect thing. ”

  Doubtful, but I followed her to the bed.

  She flipped up the lid and pulled out two elbow-length gloves in black silk. “Problem solved. ”

  I took the gloves gingerly. “I’m going to look like Rogue from X-Men. ”

  Her nose wrinkled. “Who? It doesn’t matter. Try them on. The gloves will work now. If it were the summer, it would be a tad bit questionable. ”

  I slid one on and it did cover the scars quite nicely, but gloves? For real? Who wore them but old grannies? “I don’t know about this. ”

  Laadan sighed, shaking her head. “This is a formal ball, Alex. Have you been to one before?”

  “Um, no. ”

  “Trust me when I say that you will not be the only girl wearing gloves. Now, come on. We don’t have much more time to stand up here and feel sorry for ourselves. You look beautiful, Alex. More so than even your mother ever did. ”

  I wiggled my fingers in the silk gloves, feeling excitement bubble for the first time. Half-bloods didn’t go to grand balls, and they didn’t have pure fairy godmothers, either. So I’d never really expected to attend anything like this, especially not in this killer dress.

  But here I was.

  A slow smile crept over my face. “Laadan?”

  “Yes?” She stopped at the door.

  “Thank you. ”

  Her hand flew to her heart. “Honey, you don’t have to thank me. I’m just glad I could do this for you. ”

  “You had this planned ever since Lucian mentioned something at breakfast, didn’t you? That’s why this dress fits so well. ”

  Laadan gave a sly smile. “Well, I always thought red would be your best color. ”

 
The ball was in full swing by the time Laadan and I made it downstairs. The soft hum of an orchestra filled the corridors as we moved closer to the ballroom. A display of dazzling candles lit the way.

  My excitement quickly turned into nerves. I’ve never worn anything like this before and attending something like this just went against everything a half-blood knew. Also, orchestra music just wasn’t my thing.

  Would I be expected to waltz? The last time—and only time—had been with Seth and he’d dropped me. I couldn’t hit the ground in this kind of dress—that would be a sacrilege. And who would even dance with me? Was I going to be hugging the wall all night?

  That’s when I started sweating.

  Laadan grasped my hand with hers and led me forward. “You’ve fought daimons and the idea of a ball scares you?”

  “Yes,” I whispered.

  She laughed, the sound reminding me of wind chimes. “You’re going to do beautifully. Just remember that you belong among them. More so than any of them can even realize. ”

  I looked at her warily. “You really do love some half-bloods, don’t you?”

  Her cheeks flushed a fierce red. “I… I just believe that all of us are equal and should be treated that way. ”

  I doubted that was the main reason, but I didn’t push it. She pulled me out of the soft shadows of the hallway, past the frozen furies, and right into the ballroom. I think I may’ve had a minor heart attack standing there, taking it all in.

  The room was massive, the walls entirely made of glass. Crystal vases full of roses sat in every corner and on every table, and flower-covered vines hung from sparkling chandeliers in a dazzling display of light and darkness and streamed across the ceiling. At the far end of the room, a small orchestra sat—mortal musicians. Mortals were easy for both pures and halfs to pick out. It was more than just the physical attributes that set them apart. Their movements were jerky and slow, while the pures glided gracefully around them. Compared to the pures, their expressions

  were bland. They were probably under compulsion to play here and not acknowledge anything weird.

  Pures could get a little freaky after a few drinks.

  Behind the orchestra, Thanatos rose above the mortals to loom over them like some kind of angel of death. His wingspan had to be at least eight feet and the ever-present sad expression had been carved into the marble. Someone had laid a wreath of roses on the god’s head.

  Nice touch.

  Two servants appeared in front of us. One held a tray of champagne flutes and the other carried a platter of finger sandwiches and what smelled like raw fish. I had a sudden mad desire for tater tots.

  Laadan graciously accepted two glasses of champagne and handed me one. She caught my hand before I could down the glass. “Careful,” she warned softly. “This isn’t like mortal champagne. It’s much stronger. ”

  I stared down at the bubbling liquid. “How much stronger?”

  She tipped her head to a table where a pure girl laughed hysterically while her companions looked on in annoyance. She had a glass of champagne in her hand. “That’s probably her second. You sip this champagne. ”

 
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