✍️✍️✍️✍️ The Crowns Obsession Chapter 781 - 790 Full Free Chapters ✍️✍️✍️✍️


Chapter 791 - On The Other Side Of The Door

Music Recommendation: Everything is different- Jay Wadley


"Not yet, but thank you for arranging them," Monique thanked her with a short bow and then looked at the servants who were carrying the paintings away. "Are you planning to put something else here, milady?" she asked the young woman.

"Calhoun has asked the painter to come visit us tomorrow. We thought of getting all of us in a frame to remember," replied Madeline. "Some of them are painted in the time when the previous King and Queen were alive."

"I do remember that. It is good to have the family portrait painted and placed here, instead of paintings of people we don't know and care barely about," responded Aunt Monique without mincing her words. "Maybe it will change Lucy's mind and she will stay."

Hearing this, Madeline smiled. It seemed like everyone wanted Lucy to stay in the castle so that they could stay near each other without any worry.

"I heard Theodore decided to go along with her during that time when she will be there in the mansion," stated Madeline, watching two servants who tried to get down the painting from the wall. "Do you feel the same way as Lucy, Lady Monique? About the castle I mean."

"I guess you could say it. But then I don't hold any particular memories of this castle except for work, that is how it used to be," answered Lady Monique. "Everything and everybody needs a change. Like death, change is inevitable and it happens over time."

Madeline agreed to Lady Monique's words, and when she was about to say something, she closed her mouth. She felt slightly dizzy and weak.

"Are you alright, Lady Madeline?" asked Lady Monique in concern.

"Yes," Madeline offered the woman a smile. "I am fine, just probably a little sleep deprived." She hadn't been able to sleep last night until the wake of dawn because of Calhoun.

"You young children sometimes make me wonder if I am missing something," the older vampiress shook her head, and a small tint of redness appeared on Madeline's cheek. "Are your parents coming here tomorrow?"

Madeline shook her head, "They will be coming next week."

"I see," murmured Monique.

At the same time, Madeline felt the uneasiness in her stomach and throat.

She didn't know what was happening, but the discomfort that she had been feeling in her body for quite some time seemed to have appeared again. She quickly left the hall, running towards the nearest room to throw up in the basin.

Monique, who had closely followed Madeline, worried that the girl had fallen sick, her eyes widened in realization, and she ordered the nearby maid, "Get King Calhoun here right this instance."

The maid was startled by the sudden events, and she hurried herself to fetch the King. In the meantime, Monique poured water into a glass for Madeline. She came near Madeline, rubbing her back as the girl continued to throw up.

"I must have eaten something bad," Madeline whispered to herself. Her eyes had teared up, and she thanked Monique while taking the glass of water first to wash her mouth before she drank it, feeling a little relieved. But it was short-lived as she threw up again, and Monique brought the jug from the table, pouring water for her to drink.

With the amount of time Calhoun and Madeline were spending time with each other, Monique was barely surprised by the turn of events. The King loved his wife too much to leave her alone, always holding her or kissing her at every opportunity. She was sure he was going to be ecstatic hearing the news.

"Drink some more water," suggested Monique and Madeline brought the glass close to her lips while her heart beat had increased.

Within a short time, Calhoun appeared in front of the door, and he entered the room. Seeing Madeline sitting on the chair with a glass of water. Monique moved to the other side of the chair to make room for Calhoun.

"What happened?" demanded Calhoun with his eyes narrowed at the thought that someone had tried to harm his beloved wife. "Are you alright?" he got down on one of his knees so that he could look at her.

Calhoun had been working on getting the letter written to the High House when a maid barged into the room to inform him that something had happened to Madeline.

He looked at Madeline's face now that looked pale, and he turned to look at Aunt Monique to see a smile on her lips.

"The Queen is carrying a child," said Monique with a calm voice. "I will step out to give you both some privacy," and she left them alone.

Calhoun's narrowed eyes turned subtly wide now, and he looked back at Madeline, who seemed as surprised as he was. He stood up from his place, and Madeline stood up along with him, staring at him, waiting for him to say something as an anxious look appeared in her eyes.

Suddenly he hugged her, closing his eyes, and he whispered, "Thank you, Maddie. Thank you."

Madeline's eyes suddenly turned moist, and she hugged him back. They had spoken about children, but she didn't expect that day would be today. She was glad that Calhoun was happy with the news.

"I cannot thank you enough for what you have given," said Calhoun, and he pulled away from her to take a look at her. "Are you feeling alright?"

She shook her head, "I feel nauseous."

"No wonder you didn't eat much this morning at breakfast," he commented and took a good look at her. "It is time to rest and eat so that the baby that growth will be fine," saying that he picked her up in his arms, and Madeline laughed, seeing the excitement in Calhoun's eyes.

"There's still a lot of time for that," said Madeline, putting her hands around his neck.

Calhoun didn't listen to her, and he stepped out of the room while carrying her in his arms. "You look pale as ice. Is there something you want to eat? I heard women have strange cravings. I will order the cook to prepare everything you like. Also we'll need to get the room prepared for the baby," he continued to speak, making Madeline giggle.

"Currently I only feel sick, Cal. I think all those other things come after many weeks or months," replied Madeline, her heartwarming at the sight of Calhoun's excitement.

Calhoun carried her to their room before placing her on the bed so that she could rest her feet.

"Make sure to not use the stairs too much and don't go here and there. Don't lift anything heavy," advised Calhoun.

"Cal," Madeline stopped him from speaking more, and she brought her hands forward so that he could hold them. "Let's keep this as a secret until they get married." Tomorrow was going to be Lucy and Theodore's day, and Madeline wanted everyone to enjoy their moment before letting them know about Calhoun and her having a baby.

"As you wish, my sweet girl," he said, bringing her hand towards his lips and kissing the back of her hand. "We are going to have a baby."
Chapter 792 - On The Other Side Of The Door

At the time of the night, Madeline visited Lucy's room to help the vampiress. Now sitting on the bed, she turned the ribbon left and right now and then around Lucy's black hair.

"Will this work?" asked Lucy, surprise evident in her voice. "I never knew I could curl my hair by doing this."

Madeline nodded her head, "It does. Beth and I used to use this trick at night and it used to work wonders in the morning. We used to attend some of the local soiress together."

"It must have been fun, isn't it?" said Lucy, wondering how beautiful the life of a middle-class family was. "Thank you for coming here to help me, Madeline. I truly appreciate your help. I am grateful."

"We are sisters now. Things like these don't need to be appreciated between us," Madeline conveyed her thoughts. "I am more than happy to be helping and be part of this time."

Lucy smiled at Madeline's kind words. She sat there without moving her head so that Madeline could get the rest of her hair tied in ribbons. Once it was done, Madeline wished her goodnight and good rest as tomorrow was an important day.

She got into her bed with her hair that was tied with peach coloured ribbons, her eyes staring at the ceiling while excitement bubbled in her chest. And though she tried to fall asleep, she couldn't because she had been looking forward to this day for a long time.

Minutes passed by, and Lucy realized she wasn't able to fall asleep. She got out of the bed, walking towards the mirror and imagining herself in the wedding gown even though there was still a lot of time to wear it. She smiled to herself, the room turning colourful in her eyes and a piece of piano playing in the back of her mind, which was peaceful.

The time right now reminded her of the day that took place two decades ago. She had stood at the patio, waiting for him to appear, hoping he would come to tell her how he was only joking and he wanted her. If one had looked at her closely the following day, they would have noticed how she had not slept the entire night because she had waited for Theodore, who never showed up.

Remembering about the past turned her nervous about her present. Hearing something on her patio, Lucy's eyebrows furrowed, and she slowly stepped closer to the closed doors.

"Theodore?" she called his name. When her hands reached for the knobs of the door, she heard him speak.

"Don't open it."

So it was him, thought Lucy to herself. Her mind eased itself.

Theodore then spoke from the other side of the door, "They said we shouldn't see each other until we meet near the altar in the church. Isn't that what humans follow?"

Lucy let go of the knob, but she stepped closer to the door, "When did you start believing the ways of the humans?" she softly asked him.

"Since I fell in love with this girl," replied Theodore and hearing the shuffling noise on the lower side of the door, Lucy could only believe that he had taken a seat against the door.

"What else did this girl do?" asked Lucy, her eyes staring at the door, and she sat in front of it.

"Sleepless nights like this. I thought you would have fallen asleep," stated Theodore.

"I couldn't. What about you? What are you doing here?" she asked him before turning around and letting her back lean against the same door where Theodore sat on the other side.

"I thought I could use some company. Yours being the best," replied Theodore, that brought a smile on Lucy's lips. "There's still ten hours to pass."

"Ten hours nine minutes," said Lucy, and she looked down at her hands. "Madeline helped me with my hair. I have ribbons tried in my hair now."

"It makes me curious to see how you look now. What a bad girl you are to tempt me at this hour," murmured Theodore.

The smile on Lucy's lips widened, and as if remembering something, she said, "I invited Ethan for the wedding."

"I see," hummed Theodore, glad that the man had found someone and wouldn't be in unrequited love with Lucy. "Calhoun has invited Helena and Dimitri."

With Theodore, who sat on the other side of the door, Lucy felt less anxious knowing they were both in this together, and soon she fell asleep. When morning arrived, Lucy found herself on the ground and near the door of the patio. Placing her head closer to the door, she wondered if Theodore was still there or if he had left.

Right on time, the doors to her room opened, and three maids appeared to help Lucy in getting ready. On seeing the lady sitting on the floor and one side of her head placed on the door, one of the maids asked,

"Good morning, Lady Lucy. Is everything alright?"

"Ah, yes," Lucy cleared her throat and stood up on her feet.

One of the maids walked forward, towards the other side of the wooden divider to draw a bath, while another maid brought her breakfast to have in the room.

Taking two bites and a few sips of blood from the glass, Lucy got into the bath while making sure her hair wouldn't come in contact with water. The maids helped her wash her with a floral scent that was sweet to smell before drying her and started to help her wear the wedding gown.

As she got ready, Lucy looked at her reflection in the mirror while the maids continued to fix the gown and the layers that came along with it. The wedding gown might have been old, but it was everything she would have wanted. It was simple and elegant with its thread work at the top, her sleeves that left floral patterns and near the gown's hem.
Chapter 793 - Little Change

Music Recommendation: Canon in D - Brooklyn Duo (cello and piano)


By the time Lucy had worn her dress, Madeline had arrived in the room so that she could help Lucy. The ribbons had come undone, and the front of her hair had been brushed back, her hair was tied up with black pins. Three roses that were pale lavender in colour had been pinned to the side before the veil was fixed to flow behind Lucy's back.

A little amount of makeup was put on her with dusted rose on her cheeks and her lips tinted to light pink.

"Who is this beautiful bride that I see now?" came Lady Monique's voice, who had entered the room on seeing Lucy getting ready.

Lady Monique wore a grey and white straight dress that had a little ruffle at the front near her chest, while Madeline wore a pale pink dress, and her blonde hair had been let down.

"You look beautiful, Lucy," praised Monique and Madeline smiled in agreement.

"Really?" the joy in Lucy's eyes was evident as she beamed in happiness.

"Of course, silly girl. I brought you something. Here," saying this, Monique presented a hair comb f that was made with pearls and ivory gold with two flowers and twigs that emerged from it on the sides.

"This…" Lucy was stunned seeing this. It was beautiful.

"It once belonged to my mother which was passed down to me. You are just like my daughter and I want you to have it," said Monique, having Lucy turn around and pinning it in the veil.

"Thank you," whispered Lucy, feeling grateful for being loved by everyone now.

Once she was ready along with the others, they got into the carriage and rode towards Baudeux town and stopped in front of the church.

As she stepped down from the carriage, Lucy could hear the music that came from inside the church. The town looked quiet as it had been abandoned for quite some years now, and it was only a while ago that the High House members had started to reconstruct by working with Calhoun on it so that the other villagers and townsfolk could come to live here.

With no people to peek and hover around as they belonged to the royal family, it gave the privacy Lucy had been looking forward to.

"Is the music coming from the church?" asked Lady Monique and Calhoun, who hadn't entered the church grinned, one side of his lips pulling up.

"I have only one sister. You didn't think it was going to be a dull wedding, did you?" he asked, sending a wink at his wife, who shook her head.

Lucy had mentioned having a simple wedding with not many people as their guests, but she hadn't specified the other details, and Calhoun had used the opportunity to make the occasion more special.

Theodore had already stepped inside the church, and another carriage appeared to halt near the church. Out stepped the two members of the High House, Helena, who was the head of the High House and her right-hand man Dimitri. They were in their High House uniforms and walked to where the other stood, bowing their head in greeting.

Ethan Moryett's carriage had appeared earlier, and seeing Lucy in the wedding gown, he smiled at her.

Within the next second, fire blazed next to the High House members, and Vladimir made his appearance with his faithful servant Odin.

"Good that we are on time," said Vladimir, and when his eyes met a pair of eyes that looked annoyed, he couldn't help but grin. "I didn't know we were having others outside the family to attend the wedding."

Helena quietly glared at the Devil, and she turned her head to speak to the bride-to-be.

"Looks like everyone is here," said Calhoun, looking around the people. "We'll be going inside," he said to Lucy, and she nodded her head. Calhoun was the best man, and Madeline was her bridesmaid.

Vladimir and Odin went inside the church to be followed by Ethan, Calhoun, Madeline and Monique.

Seeing her aunt step inside the church, Lucy, who stood behind, wondered if her aunt would be coming out again as she waited at the side, making her dress proper so that they didn't look wrinkled. After a few seconds passed and the music continued to play inside, and she heard a crackling fire behind her. Turning around, she noticed it was Vladimir who had appeared outside the church.

Did the church repel him? Asked Lucy in her mind. But then this church was an old one, and Gabriel had put a spell so that the vampires and demons could enter without a problem.

Knowing this was the Devil, Lucy was slightly wary of him, but at the same time, he was Calhoun's grandfather.

Vladimir stared at Lucy, his eyes looking at the young vampiress who stared back at him. Since he had found out about this wedding gown that Constance had got made for herself, it was something that had weighed in his mind.

"Is Aunt Monique busy inside?" asked Lucy.

The Devil looked at Lucy with his dark eyes, "No. They are waiting for us to enter the church. I noticed we were short of bridesmaids," he replied, and Lucy turned a little surprised by this.

Vladimir said, "I didn't get to walk my daughter down the aisle because of some of my mistakes. But I still have the opportunity to walk her down the aisle, believing it is how it would feel to give away my daughter in marriage to someone she loved as I accompany you," someone other than that bastard Laurence, he thought to himself.

Lucy smiled at Vladimir's words, and she said, "She would have loved that. To walk with you."

She knew it took a great deal to ignore some of the things and make the best out of the present situations in front of one. She might have been Calhoun's sister, but at the same time, she was also the man's daughter who had broken Lady Constance's heart.

Vladimir then brought his empty hand forward, and suddenly a bouquet appeared in front of Lucy, "I told you I would be bringing you flowers, didn't I. I had Odin pick up the best ones," he said to her. Handing the white and pink flowers in her hand.

"Thank you for bringing them," Lucy smiled while looking at the flowers.

Standing in front of her, he gave his arm, and Lucy put her hand around his arm. The wedding music started to play from inside, and Vladimir said, "It is time."


Note: Placing the hair pin and flowers in comment section ^.^
Chapter 794 - Wedding Portrait

Music Recommendation: Alps- Novo Amor


When Lucy put her hand around Vladimir's arm, she couldn't help but feel the jittery nerves and butterflies that bubbled up in her stomach. The sound of the music played inside the church drifted to the nearby place, leaving something soothing as she walked along with Vladimir next to her side.

When she entered the church, she noticed the walls and the ceiling of the church, which was indeed old, and the windows had been opened for light to pass through along with the air and music.

Looking ahead of her, she noticed Madeline and her aunt standing on the left side. It seemed like Vladimir had truly turned her aunt as her second bridesmaid, and on the right side, she caught sight of her brother Calhoun and Ethan, who must have accompanied her aunt. At the side stood Helena, Odin, who looked young again and Dimitri, watching them. When her eyes fell directly at Theodore, she caught sight of him in the white wedding clothes, waiting for her near the altar.

She saw him smile at her, his smile warm and kind that was directed towards her. Lucy's heart fluttered even more than before on locking her eyes with the groom.

He looked as handsome as the first time when they had met, his golden glasses in place. His hair had been parted to the side as usual, and he looked like a knight, her own personal knight, thought Lucy in her mind. Her heart skipped a couple of beats at how he stole her heart for the millionth time.

The feeling of walking down the aisle with Vladimir was way different compared to the time when she had walked with her very own father.

The last time when she had walked down the aisle, the feeling had felt foreign, but now it strangely felt more comfortable, and it wasn't because she had done this before. She was walking with the Devil who had decided to accompany her, with his daughter's thoughts in his mind and heart. Reaching near the altar, Vladimir finally let go of Lucy's hand and looked at her.

Vladimir could see his daughter's face as she looked at him, his heart tightly squeezing at the thought that she was here now with him. Before he could let her go, he leaned forward to kiss both the sides of her cheeks with an air kiss.

"Thank you," said Vladimir to Lucy, and she offered him a warm smile.

"I will be right here," Lucy surprised with her words as if Vladimir was her very own father, and it was because she noticed the subtle reluctance in his movements. He gave her a nod.

At the same time, Theodore had stretched his hand forward for Lucy to take and join him.

This was it, thought Lucy to herself, and she placed her small hand in Theodore's hand.

She felt him gently wrap his fingers around before having her come stand in front of him. She stared into his eyes that reflected her happiness in them. The entire time, she couldn't stop smiling and to release the excitement, she squeezed Theodore's hand.

She had waited for this time for so long and had dreamt it in so many different ways, but nothing could compare to the way how she felt now. The moment felt so precious that her heart could burst with pure happiness.

The four musicians had taken a seat at the backside of the church as they continued to play the music, and the tone and pace of the music had been lowered to something more serene.

Gabriel, the priest for their wedding ceremony, stood looking at them and addressed,

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in holy marriage. The sacredness of marriage binds us to what we believe and love," said the angel as he started the ceremony. "Theodore Hosteler and Lucy Hawthrone, let us remember that the future happiness is to be in consideration to patience, kindness and affection. To pledge today to each other to remain undivided for eternity."

With only a few people attending the wedding who were close to them, Lucy could be herself without having to worry what the next person was going to think and perceive about her actions.

On the other hand, Theodore couldn't get his eyes off his bride, who stood in front of him. Lucy looked enthralling in his eyes, and though he knew how beautiful she was, he felt like her presence had put him in a trance that only she could break.

The whole night until the early morning, Theodore had stayed with her, listening to her soft snore as she slept against the door with him on the other side of the door. He had given her company until the rays of the sun had started to change the colour of the sky and brightening the land.

She looked beautiful and happy, and he wanted to keep her like this for the rest of their lives. The smile that had been lost years ago had finally returned on her face. He had noticed the unbridle smile on her lips when their eyes had met when she had come walking down the aisle.

It was good to see Vladimir had walked with her because he knew as much as the Devil was evil, she needed an older male who was like a father figure. Even if Vladimir didn't care until the very last few minutes, Theodore knew Vladimir would see the resemblance of his daughter in Lucy.

Gabriel had continued with the ceremony, saying, "It is your duty, Theodore, to your wife to be, Lucy, to cherish and be a loving husband. To be thoughtful to her and be her support. To protect her from danger and to share the love with her. To shoulder her sorrows and burdens until the end," he said to Theodore.

The priest then turned to look at Lucy to say, "It is your duty, Lucy, to your husband to be, Theodore, to be faithful and patient wife, to comfort him and provide him with affection as you support him. To be there for him at the darkest hours and stand next to him with the marriage that binds you both."
Chapter 795 - Wedding Portrait

The others, who were present in the church, watched the couple and listened to the priest's words who performed the ceremony. They were more than happy to see Lucy and Theodore finally getting married to each other.

Standing four steps away from Lucy, Madeline felt her husband's gaze on her, and her eyes shifted to look at him. Her lips widened with a smile when he didn't look away. Calhoun had always been too bold for her, it had been hard to handle those emotions, but she had gotten used to it. She subtly raised her eyebrows, questioning if something happened, but she only received a mischievous smile from him.

"Repeat after me," said the priest, "I, Theodore, take you Lucy, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."

Theodore repeated every word that the priest said. Gabriel then turned to Lucy, "I, Lucy, take you Theodore, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part," and Lucy did the same.

"The rings," said Gabriel.

Madeline, who held Lucy's bouquet, brought the box forward that she had been carrying to give it to Lucy and Calhoun on the other side, passed on the ring that Theodore was going to help Lucy wear.

After pushing the ring on Theodore's ring finger, Lucy brought her own hand forward, and she felt him slide the delicate ring on her ring finger before holding her hands again.

Gabriel then said, "I believe there is no objection with anyone who is here with these two lovely people's union, and now that the bride and the groom have accepted each other's vows. I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride now."

On hearing the priest's words, Lucy had felt the attention on her grow more, and a blush appeared on her cheeks, seeing Theodore step forward.

Calhoun's gaze turned to the side where the musicians were sitting in the corner of the room, and he quietly brought his hand up, rotating his finger, and on cue, the sound of the music went higher as if the entire church was bursting with happiness and joy.

Lucy felt her heart thump as Theodore got closer to her. He whispered to her, "How would you like to kiss me, my wife?"

The butterflies in her stomach grew more like a tornado, and she whispered back, "However you would like to, my husband."

Theodore circled one of his hands around Lucy's waist, bringing her closer to him with a small gasp escaping her lips. The gentle smile transformed to a s.e.xy one, and Theodore leaned in to place his lips on hers, kissing her.

Lucy could feel her toes curl because of the kiss, and she kissed him back. It was a sweet kiss, everything she had wanted and dreamt of before they broke from the kiss with smiles on their face.

Vladimir quietly snapped his fingers, and pink petals of cherry blossoms gently fell from the church's ceiling downwards, where the bride and the groom stood. The petals disappeared once they touched the ground, and everyone looked at the petals that started to shower from nowhere before they started to congratulate the newlyweds.

Lucy's happiness knew no bounds, and the smile on her lips continued to stay as if it was not going anywhere and was here to stay with her. Holding the bouquet again in one of her hands that Madeline passed to her, while the other was Theodore's hand, they were the first to step out of the church as husband and wife, bound by marriage everyone who were present had approved.

"What about the other traditions followed by the humans?" questioned Calhoun, who had found his way back to stand near Madeline. He had both his hands around his wife.

"You mean throwing the flowers?" asked Madeline, turning to look at him, and he hummed in response.

Lady Monique, hearing this, said, "It would be lovely to have it done, but then with one already, it leaves only me and Lady Helena. Lucy dear, you can hand the bouquet."

Lucy looked back and forth between her aunt and the head of the High House, who looked taken aback. As she already knew her aunt's thoughts about her wedding, Lucy went straight and handed the flowers to the High House woman.

Helena was startled by this action, and a frown appeared on her face, "I believe the tradition is about throwing the flowers backwards."

"Keep it," came Vladimir's voice. "It isn't right to refuse such beautiful flowers from the lovely bride," and the corner of his lips pulled up.

Madeline's eyebrows raised, and she looked at Calhoun in question, and he winked back at her. Vladimir had been extra nice today, which was a little suspicious.

Helena turned annoyed by Vladimir's words, knowing the underlying meaning as she had heard about getting the flowers prepared by Vladimir before the ceremony had started. Not wanting to be rude to the new bride, she took it without any complaints.

"How do you like the flowers? I have a whole garden of it," flirted Vladimir when Lucy went back to Theodore, talking to him and the others.

"What do you expect me to reply?" Helena's eyes had narrowed, and her words were direct as her eyes stared back into the Devil's eyes.

The first time when they had met in the cold snow where the dead bodies of the demons laid on the snowy ground, she was sure it was him who had killed all of them. She had sensed something more malicious and eerie about this person, and now that she knew who he really was, she couldn't help but stay on her guard.

"That you will come by the mansion to see and smell it?" Vladimir said it with the same straight face as Helena, and her lips twitched.
Chapter 796 - Wedding Portrait

Music Recommendation: What if? - Guy Jackson


Turning away from Vladimir, Helena was going to speak to Calhoun when she heard Vladimir ask, "When will I see you next?"

Helena was a serious and busy woman who didn't have time for silly things like this. She answered him, "When I die."

"How lovely," smiled Vladimir.

Helena walked to where Calhoun was, and when he saw her approach her, he said, "Thank you for sparing your time to attend my sister's wedding." His eyes subtly moved to look at Vladimir and then back at the woman.

Dimitri, who had joined her, they both bowed their head in appreciation, "Thank you for inviting us. We will take our leave, to take a look at the other buildings to see what it can be converted into before having the people to come and live here. It might be better if the things around are set up beforehand so that there won't be any breaking of rules and there will be an order."

"That sounds good," agreed Calhoun.

"We should get going now," said Helena, ready to leave, but Calhoun stopped her.

"My wife has decided to get a painting, the wedding portrait done today. We would appreciate it if you would be able to join us, after all, there aren't many here," stated Calhoun.

Helena's lips were set in a thin line, and she said, "I think what the Queen means is a family portrait. We are the members of the High House, it would be odd to have us in something special as the family painting is done."

"Not at all," Calhoun's grin widened to show his fangs and he said, "I believe we are family, Lady Helena," and hearing this the woman narrowed her eyes. He turned to look at Madeline while ignoring the small glare sent by Helena. He asked Madeline, "Did you tell the painter what time to arrive and where?"

Madeline nodded her head, "I did. I wonder where they are."

"No worries, we aren't in a rush," said Calhoun, slipping his hand in hers and holding it as he had been excited since he had heard the news from Madeline. To think that next year at this time they would have their child in their arms.

Lucy and Theodore, who stood together, were speaking to each other, where Theodore touched Lucy's face while running his thumb under her eyes, "Are you tired? You didn't get enough sleep," he asked her with concern.

She shook her head with a smile, "Not at all. I am wide awake," she grinned, saying this. She held his arm with both her hands, her head leaning against him.

Lady Monique came around to speak to the couple, "Look at you both all lovey-dovey. You should have just eloped," she said, speaking about the past. Hearing this Lucy nodded her head, and Theodore chuckled.

"My apologies for not doing that, milady," said Theodore and Monique stared at him.

"Take good care of Lucy. I will make sure to break your legs and hands if you are to hurt her in any way," she gave him a stern look before a small smile broke on her lips.

"I promise to take good care of her and to love her unconditionally," he bowed her head, and the older vampiress nodded her head.

Monique then came to stand in front of Lucy, and she placed both her hands on either side of Lucy's face and leaned forward to kiss her forehead, "Be happy, dear Lucy."

"Thank you, Aunt Monique," Lucy was grateful towards her aunt that she had stayed back in the castle for so long.

She was someone Lucy looked up to, and it meant a lot to her that her aunt cherished her the same way she did. She had always been kind to her, guiding her through when she felt she needed the support.

"There seemed to be a little change in plans as we were short of the bridesmaids," Monique apologized for not walking her down the aisle. Lucy shook her head.

"I am happy to have so many people who have come to attend our day today. It means a lot to me," she had let go of Theodore's hand to step forward and hugged her aunt, who hugged her back.

"I know you do, dear," Monique smiled at Lucy's words.

While everyone was still talking, Theodore caught someone inside the church.

"I will be back," he said to Lucy, and she nodded her head before continuing to speak to her aunt while Theodore stepped inside the church to see someone standing at the front.

The people who had come to attend the wedding were standing outside the church, waiting for the painter to arrive, and it being an abandoned place, he wondered who it was. He saw a woman standing with her back facing him, and as he got closer, the person turned to look at him. His eyes widened in surprise, seeing the familiar woman who looked young now, and a smile had settled on her lips.

"Congratulations on your wedding, Theo," wished Madame Fraunces.

"Thank you," said Theodore, watching the woman in surprise. "I didn't know you were going to be here. We would have waited for you to join."

"I didn't miss it. I was one of the first few people who arrived in here," replied Madame Fraunces, and she asked, "How are you?"

"Very happy. Happier to see you here. Lucy told me about meeting you," he said, glad to see Madame Fraunces. "She also told me what Gabriel said about you."

"Did he now," murmured Madame Fraunces without a hint of anger or annoyance in her voice. "He dropped the veil for a while so that I could talk to you."

Theodore was at a loss of words by seeing the woman now as the last time when he went to see her, he had been greeted by her death. It was as if there were many things he wanted to speak, but he knew their time was limited. "Forgive me. If it weren't for me and Calhoun, they wouldn't have killed you."

"It is fine. I never blamed you both for that," replied Madame Fraunces. "I have lived far better than most of the people and longer than any other human. I am happy to see you have finally settled with the person you have loved for so long. I like her. She's kind."

"She is," agreed Theodore.

When she started to glow, Theodore realized her time to leave had arrived, and he said, "I will miss you."

"Me too, Theo. Me too," smiled Madame Fraunces. She said, "Thank you for continuing to remember me. I am glad that I took you in, you turned into a wonderful person."

Fragments of her body had started to move up in the air as if she was evaporating.

Theodore returned the smile, and he bowed his head in respect, "I will always remember you."

"You have been released from your burdens, go now live the life you want. Live and love the girl..." said Madame Fraunces and her eyes fell behind Theodore where Calhoun stood at the entrance of the church, staring at her. She smiled at Calhoun before evaporating into fragments of orange and white light that disappeared in the air.
Chapter 797 - Adjusting Line

Music Recommendation: Haven (from life is strange) - Novo Amor


When Theodore returned to where Lucy was, he was in a slight dazed state as the moment he had been hoping to see Madame Fraunces had come and gone quickly. Like Lucy, who had wanted to see her caretaker, he had hoped to see Madame Fraunces, especially after Lucy had mentioned seeing her in the cemetery.

His eyes moved to look at Gabriel, who was talking to Vladimir about something, and then his eyes shifted to look at the Devil's servant who had not returned to his usual form yet. Even though the veil had already been put back in its place, its after-effects lingered in the land of the living.

"Theo?" Lucy called his name, and he looked at his beautiful bride, who stared at him curiously. "Is everything alright?" she asked him, a little worry in her voice.

Theodore brought his hand forward to tuck a piece of her hair behind her ear while offering her a smile, "Everything is perfect," and this had Lucy smile too.

By Madame Fraunces' words, it was evident that she had finally made up her mind to leave the in-between world to enter Heaven instead of turning into a low-level demon. Several minutes later, the painter who Lady Madeline had summoned to the location appeared in the carriage.

"Our apologies, my King and Queen!" The painter was a woman, and she bowed her head to convey her apologies for being late. With her, there was a man who carried the large canvas, and he bowed his head along with her. "The first canvas had broken and we had to get another one."

"That's fine," Madeline responded with a smile, "I am glad that you have been able to make it here as soon as you could. Cal, this is Fadhila. Fad. She's an excellent painter, her works are exceptionally beautiful."

"Milord," the woman named Fad bowed her head again.

Monique, who stood next to Ethan, muttered under her breath, "I am sure they did, considering the King's reputation of beheading people when he is displeased."

"It's good to see he is more patient in Lady Madeline's presence," responded Ethan, and Monique nodded her head.

"True. With both the siblings married now, I think I can finally rest in peace. In my mansion," she added as she wasn't looking forward to dying anytime soon. "When are you getting married to the girl whom you have been seeing?"

"We were thinking of getting married after four months from now," answered Ethan.

Monique hummed hearing this, "Lucy and you didn't end up marrying each other, but you both are going to share the same year when it comes to marriage." The older vampiress turned her face to look at Ethan, who looked like he had been caught doing something. Apart from the girl he had loved, the rest had a hint about it.

Ethan wasn't sure how to react to it, but Lady Monique patted his back, "It is good to see you have found someone, else I would have felt bad that a good man like yourself didn't get a suitable girl." At her words, he bowed his head. The feelings of love didn't completely go away as she was his first love, but he cared enough to understand her.

Soon everyone was called to stand in a line.

"We are going to stand right here? I thought there would be some seating arrangements made for this," stated Vladimir, while the painter was speaking to the bride and the groom.

The painter, hearing this smiled at the man, not knowing who he was. She said, "Pardon me, but I was told by the Queen that she was looking for something simple that could represent more like a family rather than people just posing. The church will give out the perfect background as its walls are old."

"Are two painters going to be sufficient to capture all of us? I doubt all of us are looking forward to standing here forever," stated Helena, who stood next to her fellow High House member. "The finishing time of the painting will be delayed with us two in it. We should probably go-"

"Please stay, Lady Helena," insisted Lucy, her words were polite, and there was a smile on her lips.

"It seems like Lady Helena is worried that her face won't be captured well. You don't have to worry about it. I am sure the painter knows how beautiful you are," said Vladimir, a crooked smile on his face. His words had Helena narrow her eyes.

Before she could retort to his words, Madeline intervened and said, "Fad is an expert and she's known to finish the painting faster than the most of them in Devon. We can probably have everyone stand first so that she can draw the outline before starting to work on the shades and colours one by one?"

"An excellent idea," agreed Calhoun.

"I would like to have the bride and the groom stand in the middle," informed the painter while the assistant continued to set up the wide canvas on the stand before getting the charcoal ready to be used. "The groom on the left and the bride on the right side. The rest of you can join at the sides so that there are equal numbers on both the sides."

"I am going to stand here," said Lady Monique, walking to stand next to Lucy.

On the other side, Calhoun joined to stand next to Theodore while having Madeline to his right.

Lucy turned back and said to Gabriel, who stood away from them, "You should come and join us, father Gabriel."

The man didn't refuse, and he came to join where Lady Monique stood, and Ethan, Helena and Dimitri joined him. On Theodore's side, Vladimir and Odin joined.

The painter looked at them with a frown on her face and said, "It looks like the frame isn't balanced. Milady," she addressed to Helena, "Milady, if you may please come and stand on this side. That way there will be equal women on both the sides."
Chapter 798 - Adjusting Line

Helena walked around and saw the Devil's servant step away from his master as if he was making space for her to come and stand very next to the Devil. Without showing much reaction on her face, she came to stand there while facing the painter, crossing her arms against her chest.

"To think that we ended up standing next to each other. Isn't this what destiny is about?" Vladimir smirked when he said this to Helena.

"Or it might be the beginning of my bad luck," replied Helena without bothering to turn and look at him. Calhoun couldn't help but clear his throat while not looking at his right side.

"How cold. But no worries. Me being the Devil and along with the bad luck, things will turn into good luck. You know what they say, two negatives equals one positive," responded Vladimir with a grin.

The painter made Lucy's dress proper, while positioning them in a way she wanted before going behind the canvas and said, "This looks great. I will start outlining everyone before I start to add colours."

Once the painter finished working on the outline, she had only Theodore and Lucy stand without the others so that she could capture the expression and every other detail of them.

Theodore didn't want a portrait where they were standing like the rest of the other portraits, and considering how it was their day, he put his arm around Lucy's waist and brought her closer to him. With a smile on his face, he noticed Lucy's smile that broke through her lips.

Lucy held the flower for the time being so that it would come in the portrait that Fad was working on. In a whisper, she asked, "Did you know about it? About them?" her eyes turned to the side where Vladimir and Helena were standing.

"I think it is a surprise for most of us," Theodore replied in a whisper. Maybe not to Calhoun as he seemed to be enjoying the little banter that was going on between the Devil and the head of the High House.

When a breeze came to pass near them, it ruffled Lucy's hair at the side, bringing it on her face. Using his hand, he pushed the piece of her hair behind before making sure her hair was alright.

Lucy's heart warmed at Theodore's action. He wasn't her brother's guard or the King's right-hand man anymore, but her husband. The thought itself made her giddy, and she felt like flying along with the wind that swept where they stood now. This was her most precious day, and she doubted she would be able to replace it with anything else.

Everything had been perfect, and it was thanks to her family and the others who had made it happen.

"Where did you go earlier?" asked Lucy as he had left her side for a while when she was speaking to her aunt.

"Gabriel dropped the veil for a few minutes," answered Theodore and Lucy's eyes widened. It did? Asked Lucy in her mind. "I met Madame Fraunces before she disappeared."

"No wonder Odin is in his younger form again," muttered Lucy. A bright smile appeared after it, happy knowing Theodore had met the woman today. "He's a kind angel, isn't he? Gabriel."

Theodore nodded his head, "He is," he returned her smile with his own.

Though Lucy couldn't take her eyes off of her husband, every time his eyes stayed longer on her, she lowered her eyes as she couldn't believe how handsome he looked.

He wore a white suit as his wedding dress, and his hair looked just like the usual. The polite gentleman and Lucy leaned towards him with a blush on her cheeks.

"Did I tell you how beautiful you look?" he asked her, his words music to Lucy's ears, and she nodded her head.

"You did, but I don't mind you telling it to me again," said Lucy with a grin and the painter who was working on capturing Theodore's facial expression stopped so that she could work on Lucy's expression as it was one that was filled with bliss.

"From now on, I will tell it to you every day," replied Theodore, "I ended up marrying the most beautiful girl I will ever get to lay my eyes on."

As the wedding couple were getting their painting done at first, it gave the opportunity for the angel and the devil to speak to each other.

"It is good to see you here with the rest of them," commented Gabriel, who was standing next to Vladimir. "Both you and Paschar broke rules and have you heirs in the living world."

"Exciting, isn't it. To have the devil's grandson marry an angel's daughter," one side of Vladimir's lips pulled up into a smug smile. "What are you doing here? Isn't mingling with the mortals this closely going to warrant you for a punishment? Or did they turn liberal?"

Gabriel smiled at his former brother's words, "You are too harsh for a person who came from that place that you initially belonged to."

"How about you people give me my daughter back then? I am sure with the erased memories, she will live happily in my company," stated Vladimir.

"Why did I know this was going to come up," hummed Gabriel. The war between the angel's and the demon's has simmered down since Vladimir's return to Hell. Gabriel still hoped for harmony and for people not to fight.

Gabriel had broken the rule when he had let Paschar off when the angel had let Madeline's memories return. He couldn't break another one like that by letting a soul out of Heaven where it was safer compared to other worlds.

"You seemed to have taken an interest to the woman in the living world," said Gabriel, shifting the conversation by looking at Helena, who was talking to her fellow High House member. "Did you know there were some rumours in this world where she and Michael were together."

Hearing this, Vladimir's eyes narrowed. "Rumours is it?"

Gabriel had an innocent smile on his lips, and he replied, "I don't know much about that. I never asked Michael about it as you know how his lips are often sealed."

Vladimir rolled his eyes, "Surely nothing happened," the competitive streak appeared in the Devil's blood on hearing Michael's name associated with the woman he had been eying in the mortal world. "If something like that had happened, he would have been punished."

Eons had passed since he had left the Heavenly realm, and there was no way an angel would have dared to break the rules again by getting into a relationship with a person in the living world because they had seen the punishment he and Paschar had gone through for going against the rules set by Heaven.

"You should come up with something much better if you are trying to rile me up, Gabriel," came the cool voice of the Devil. He watched Helena, her red painted lips moving quickly but quiet to one's ears, her gaze constant as if nothing could ever come to faze her.

The painter took the help of her assistant in mixing the colours to a proper shade, finishing one person's frame after another. As she was a vampire, it was easier for her to complete the work faster than the regular painters who were human.

"Thank you for your patience," bowed the painter, "We'll be finishing the rest of the details at my shop before it will be brought to the castle."
Chapter 799 - Adjusting Line

Music Recommendation: Rhythm of the Breeze- Chapavich Temnitikul


"Thank you for coming here to paint our portraits within one frame," thanked Madeline, and when she turned to look at Calhoun, he pulled a bag from his pocket and threw it towards the painter.

"We look forward for you painting many more portraits of ours," said Calhoun as if he were booking the woman for the subsequent occasions that would take place in the future.

"I look forward to it, milord," Fad bowed her head.

"The walls in our castle are quite empty, aren't they, Odin?" questioned Vladimir to his faithful servant.

"You," came out the sudden threatening voice of the Devil that had both the painter as well as her assistant step back in worry. "You will be coming to Belmount once you finish this portrait. I want to have you make a portrait of mine."

The two people quickly nodded their head and later carried the canvas to the carriage that they had come in, taking their leave.

"We'll be leaving too King Calhoun and Queen Madeline," Helena offered her bows along with Dimitri, wishing the married couple once again before they departed in their carriage.

"We should head back to the castle," suggested Lady Monique, to which everyone agreed. They sent Lucy and Theodore in a different carriage while Calhoun, Madeline, and the older vampiress travelled back to the castle together in the other carriage. Ethan, who had come in his own carriage, and took his leave to return to his mansion for now.

Seeing the carriages leave, Vladimir said, "I guess it is time to return back to Hell."

"We are not going to the Hawthrone castle, master?" questioned Odin, and Vladimir waved his hand at this.

The Devil then turned to look at the angel, who hadn't left the place and questioned, "What are you doing with the veil, my servant has been changing his appearance back and forth."

"He looks quite adorable," complimented Gabriel, and he then added, "It should be fixed by today."

"Hmph," responded Vladimir, "I hope I don't see any of you anytime soon."

Gabriel smiled and said, "We miss you too." Vladimir snapped his fingers, and the next second he disappeared with a sizzle of fire. Seeing this, Odin quickly zapped out of there to follow his master. "I hope one day you can turn back to who you once were," he murmured under his breath, where his gaze was gentle as always.

The carriages that had come here before had all left, and at a distance, he could sense the two High House members inspecting a building to set up another headquarters so that the High House could have control over the affairs of the town.

His eyes turned back to look at the church where even the musicians had left, leaving the place empty. At least, that is how it looked to a person from the living world who continued to exist here. But since he was an angel, Gabriel caught sight of the young-looking vampiress who sat at the front bench of the church.

"My apologies if I pulled up the veil too soon," said Gabriel, walking around the place to come and stand in front of her.

"No, the time was more than enough. Thank you for letting me be here," Madame Fraunces thanked the angel who had granted her wish.

The gentle smile on Gabriel's lips didn't leave, "You did promise me to enter Heaven if I let you talk to him and somewhere it seemed right to do it." If he let the veil down for too long, it would alert others in Heaven, which would bring in questions. "It is time, Sylvie, to complete your end of promise."

Madame Fraunces stood up from the bench, turning back to look at the entrance space of the church before nodding her head, "I am ready."

Gabriel placed his hand on her shoulder, and suddenly they disappeared without a trace, leaving the church abandoned.

The two carriages rode back to the Hawthrone castle with the horses neighing and their hooves clopping against the ground as they pulled the carriages. In one of the carriages where Calhoun sat, he held Madeline's hand firmly in his hand, his ears keenly listening to her heart beat while his eyes were trained outside the window of the carriage.

Strangely like Vladimir, Calhoun had felt as if his mother was here with him today. The gown would be preserved in her remembrance like the rest of the things that belonged to her. A few days ago, when Madeline had mentioned the man named Doughlas, he had gone looking for the man's family, and he did find the person's house.

The house was located near the mountain of Belmount, which was close to where Vladimir's castle was located.

When he had knocked on the door, an older woman had appeared at the door, 'How can I help you?'

Calhoun had worn clothes that didn't highlight his status, and he had let his hair down instead of combing it back. 'I was looking for a man named Doughlas. I was told he lives here.'

The woman had given him a confused expression, 'It has been a while since my father passed away. Was there something you wanted from him? Maybe I can help,' she asked him.

He brought the letter that had been sent to his mother. 'This was sent to this address, to my mother.'

The woman nodded her head, identifying the letter right away, 'I remember this letter, it was written by him, but I was the one to send it. He returned back from the castle he was working at and he had gone to find your mother. When he finally found where she was living, he handed me this letter and said if he was unable to send it in time, I should do it. My father said it was important, and to send it when the bats from the East would come flying to make noise under the full moon. I think he knew, he was going to make it for the next few days. The day he went to meet her, the same evening someone found him on the ground. He had passed his time. I don't know if he met the lady.'

Calhoun had hoped it would bring in some more light to his mother's life, but in the end, it was just a letter to let her know that Vladimir was awake. At the same time, he was glad that some people cared about her.

On reaching the castle, the carriages came to a stop. Lady Monique got down to be followed by Calhoun. He offered his hand to Madeline, holding her carefully so that she wouldn't fall.

In the past, his mother was the only family he had, but now he had a doting wife who loved him, and they were going to have a child. He had a kind sister, where they were connected by blood, and he had Theodore, whom he knew had his back. He had a grandfather and other members like Monique. The family that once consisted of only two people had started to grow.

"Cal?" Madeline placed her hand on his cheek. "Everything fine?" she asked him.

His eyes sparkled, and a grin broke through his lips, "Absolutely splendid."
Chapter 800 - Loving You

Music Recommendation: Friedrich Dances with Jo- Alexandre Desplat


With the sweet sound of the marriage bells that had been tied to the backside of the carriage to let one know that a newlywed couple was sitting inside it, Lucy felt like things around her were changing. Like a reptile that sheds its old skin to let in the new skin on it. When she had left the castle this morning, she was only Lucy, but now she was someone's wife. Theodore's wife.

"Ready to go in?" she heard Theodore question her once they had got down from the carriage.

He offered his hand for her to take, and without a drop of doubt in her mind, she placed her hand in his hand before they started to climb the stairs that were at the front side of the castle. The warmth Theodore's hand held started to transfer to her, spreading to every part of her body like a blanket of security.

Calhoun, Madeline and Aunt Monique were yet to climb the stairs, but they seemed to have stayed back so that she and Theodore could enter the castle first without being hovering.

"Congratulations, Lady Lucy and Advisor Theodore!" The maids who were waiting for the royal family to arrive congratulated the newlywed couple.

And when they finally reached Theodore's room, she felt her heart begin to beat louder and louder as she knew what was going to happen. She had waited for this moment for so long in anticipation, and the thoughts were enough to turn her body hot.

"I cannot wait to see how the painting turns out to be. I have heard about the painter before," she heard Theodore speak to her. With his hand that hadn't let go of her, Lucy had a hard time concentrating on her current surroundings.

"Yes," replied Lucy. "If Lady Madeline has recommended the person to paint, she must be really good."

When Theodore let go of Lucy's hand, she felt as if she had pulled away from the hot flame, and she brought it close to her chest. It wasn't her first time getting married and being with a man, but why did it feel like it was her first time with a man?

Unlike her, Theodore's demeanour was calm, and after letting go of her hand, he removed the white coat that he had been wearing until now. His actions were smooth and calm as he placed the coat on the stand before turning around to notice her standing and staring at him.

Theodore walked to come and stand in front of her, "You have been exceptionally quiet since the time we rode back in the carriage," he noted, and he caught her right hand. "Is there something you would like to tell?" he asked her, his voice low and holding a certain ring in it that made her stomach deliciously flip.

"I don't know why, but I can't think of anything right now," she was heavily distracted by her husband, and she saw the s.e.xy smile that appeared on his lips.

Theodore hadn't removed his glasses from his face and his eyes trained on her, looking down at her hands that had white gloves on them.

He replied to her, "That must be quite troublesome."

"Not much," whispered Lucy when he looked back at her eyes.

"Are you sure about it?" Theodore's head tilted to the side, and he took hold of her hand before his fingers slowly started to pull one end of her glove from her fingers after another before pulling it completely off from her hand. There was something sensual in his gaze, the way he looked at her right now.

The last time she had seen such a heated gaze from him was when he had kissed her cheek two decades ago. But back then, the emotion in his eyes had stayed only for fleeting seconds as it came and went too quickly.

"You seem shy," stated Theodore, and Lucy wished he hadn't pointed out the obvious thing. "Am I too handsome for you to handle today or is it that you are wondering what we might be doing now that we are alone in the room with each other?"

Theodore had never been able to tease Lucy as a dark line had been drawn between them, but now that she was his wife, he couldn't help himself from teasing her a little as she looked lovely in her white dress.

"Maybe both," whispered Lucy and Theodore chuckled after hearing her. Lucy wasn't like the other vampiresses who acted coy as she didn't know how to behave like that.

Theodore pulled out the other glove from her hand before throwing it to the side of the room. "You know, we missed one of the traditions of human weddings."

Worried, Lucy asked, "We did?"

With a straight face, Theodore nodded his head, "We did. The tradition in the marriage doesn't stop by just throwing the bouquet to the females but there's also one more tradition for the groom to follow by removing the bride's garter before it is thrown towards the men, similar to the women."

"I-I didn't know that," responded Lucy, her eyes locking with Theodore's eyes. At the same time, his hand had reached to take out the hairpins that were fixed in Lucy's hair.

Theodore hummed at this, "It is a recent addition to the tradition of human weddings. I didn't want to give something so intimate that is worn by you to be taken by someone else," he said with a hint of possessiveness in his voice. Lucy was finally his, and he wasn't going to share her with anyone. He had stepped closer to her, where he was able to hear her breathing more clearly, noticing how his words had turned her breathless.

"But won't that be breaking tradition?" Lucy softly asked, goosebumps forming on the side of her arms.

A smile formed on Theodore's lips. Neither of them had ever followed the traditions properly, but here Lucy was worried about not completing the last one as it was in regard to their wedding.

"Don't worry, we can do it here. Let us complete that last part of the tradition before I fulfill your imagination," Theodore replied to her, his words gentle yet continued to be sensual.

He then dropped down on his knees right in front of her, and Lucy felt her heartbeat suddenly increase. All this while, he hadn't broken the gaze away from her, and she gulped.