So, I finally caved and made a Pinterest board for all the wedding stuff. If you want to have a look at decorations/dresses/food, then search for user theperennialeff (Hollie F). There's a board called ALS3 with everything on it. I got a bit carried away.
My sleep was disturbed by movement on the other side of the bed. It was unlike Dimitri to make such a commotion getting up. Usually he snuck out of bed like a ninja, leaving me to sleep in while he took the first shower. Pleased at the thought of a morning snuggle, I threw an arm over the warm body and burrowed in close.
Hair tickled my nose. It took me a moment to realise that Dimitri's hair was not long enough to do that.
My eyes snapped open, and a wave of platinum blonde locks greeted me. I sat up so fast my head spun.
"Oh my God. I'm getting married today." I groped around, patting Lissa's face blindly. "I'm getting married!"
Laughter came from the doorway. Through bleary eyes I saw Viktoria creeping back into the room, wearing a dressing gown and a towel on her head.
"I can still help you escape, Roza," she giggled. "We'll be halfway to Novosibirsk before he notices you're gone."
"And miss all the food your mom's prepared? No chance." I stumbled out of bed, kicking Sydney in the process. She made a worryingly inhuman noise in protest. Viktoria and I grimaced. "She'll be fine after coffee," I promised. "Is the bathroom free?"
"Yep. I even saved you some hot water."
I hugged Vika as I passed. "My hero."
The pounding of the hot water on my skin was just what I needed for my body to become as awake as my brain. My mind was spinning with everything that had to be done, even though I knew Lissa's planning had left nothing to chance. The morning was planned down to the minute, and she wouldn't let anything go astray. Still, my chest fluttered with nerves and anticipation.
Lissa's schedule had set aside a solid five hours between waking up and leaving for the church, and I'd woken up before my alarm, so I wasn't too worried about not getting everything done in time. Nor was I concerned that something had been forgotten- Lissa and Sydney were far too efficient for that. I even trusted that Christian would remember to bring the rings. Telling myself that everything was going to be okay, I used the soothing lavender shower gel that Lissa had bought me and willed away the nerves. I was getting married, not going into battle. If anything went wrong, it probably wouldn't be life-threatening. It might seem a low bar for some people, but after the drama in my life, the absence of impending death was a rare treat.
When I returned from my (unfairly long) shower, everyone else was awake. Lissa was sat on the end of the bed holding the wedding folder and Sydney was lining up hair products on the desk. Mia was drying Viktoria's hair, but I could still hear music playing in the background.
"This is some serious form. If only the Guardians were this organised."
Barely looking up from her task, Sydney hummed in pleasure at my compliment. She took a small wrapped box from beside my jewellery box and passed it to me.
"Adrian asked me to give this to you."
I tore off the wrapping paper and was immediately struck by memories of a Christmas that seemed too long ago. In my hands rested a small bottle of Amor Amor, the perfume I had kept from the absurdly large box Adrian had given me then. When I caught the scent, it was as though I was back in that opulent chalet room.
Visions of Mason laughing on the slopes, Lissa and Christian twirling on a frozen pond, and sitting on a cold balcony with Dimitri danced before my eyes. Tears followed.
The memories were bittersweet, but I wouldn't have traded them for anything in the world. Those were my last days with Mason, during a time when my love for Dimitri was still fragile and new, not yet tempered by the impacts of outside forces. Even in the wake of the tragedy at the Badica house, possibility hung before us like the moon in that frosty sky.
So much loss had followed, and pain suffered, but I had weathered the storm along with the people I loved the most.
I looked at Mia, whom I had hated then, and Sydney and Viktoria, whom I had yet to meet. Everything that had happened since I opened that first box of perfume had brought my family to me. For every person that was not here with me today, three more I had gained.
Lissa was the first to notice my tears. She tossed the binder onto the bed and moved with impressive speed to pull me into her arms.
"Pay up," I heard Mia say to Sydney. "I told you she'd cry before breakfast." I didn't even have it in me to be mad- I was too overwhelmed by love and nostalgia to feel anything else.
"Better you get it out of your system now, before you put makeup on," Sydney reasoned. "Do I need to tell Adrian off for giving you a bad gift?"
I pulled away from Lissa and shook my head. "No, he did great. It's just finally hit me, I think."
"Good hit or bad hit?" Lissa asked.
"Good." I smiled through my tears, relieved that I now had a name for the butterflies in my stomach. "I can't wait to marry Dimitri."
I thought I saw Sydney murmur a prayer of thanks in response to that. Lissa just smiled her radiant smile. "Then let's get you ready to get married."
At about 10 O'clock, Olena and Karolina came upstairs carrying trays of breakfast. One was filled with sliced fruit, and the other with bowls of porridge. The thick Russian style of oatmeal was far from my favourite, but I was starving, and it would do.
Before I could grab a serving, Olena scooped me up into a hug. I hoped it wouldn't mess my hair up.
"Oh, Roza," she crooned, already in floods of tears. "You have made me so very happy."
"Mama," Viktoria protested, "Roza needs to breathe."
As soon as Olena let me go, apologising profusely, I was dragged into another embrace. The slight iridescence of the grey fabric beneath my cheek told me it was Abe. I said a prayer of thanks to whoever was listening that it wasn't bright yellow or something equally hideous. When he was done, I was incredibly grateful for my mom's reserved display of affection. She smiled awkwardly and patted me on the arm.
"You look great, mom." Surprisingly, she really did. Abe had made good on his promise to get her to wear a colour, even if her dress was only navy blue. It had cap sleeves and a modest neckline, but the wrap bodice cinched in at the waist in a way that accentuated her amazing figure. With her fiery hair falling around her face, she looked prettier than I had ever seen her.
My dad was staring at her as if he agreed. I didn't want to unpack that, so I turned around and began putting my jewellery on; my grandmother's bracelet, my chotki, and my Nazar.
Once the parents had satisfied themselves that I wasn't having a meltdown, they left so that Sydney could start my makeup. We were working in a well-coordinated production line to get hair, makeup and dresses all sorted in minimal time. Still, three hours had passed by the time we were ready to go into the garden and have pictures taken. Before I could make the perilous walk downstairs in my high heels, Lissa held me back so she could slip something into my hair. I saw a flash of red and white and rolled my eyes.
"If that was a rose, I'm going to kill you."
"It's just a little one!" Lissa protested. "You need something in your hair since you're not wearing a veil."
I craned my neck around to check in the mirror for what she had added. Indeed, there was a small red bud nestled amongst a sprig of gypsophila, tucked into the twisted section of hair that held the rest away from my face. The rest was left loose and curly, just how I knew how Dimitri liked it best.
I wondered whether he would be wearing his hair loose, and how his morning was going in general. Lissa had been in contact with Christian, and it seemed the guys had enjoyed a bit of a lie-in compared to us. I just hoped that they'd make it to the church on time.
"You can't be serious."
I froze on the threshold between the bathroom and bedroom. When I'd stepped into the shower, Christian had still been in bed, and neither Adrian nor Eddie had made an appearance. Now both men sat on the bed, fully dressed, while Christian reclined in the desk chair. My charge's eyes lifted from his phone at Adrian's words.
"What's the matter with him?" Christian asked, beating me to it.
Adrian waved a hand towards my head. "His hair."
"What's wrong with my hair?" I patted it self-consciously. No strands had come out of place in the last two minutes, so I couldn't understand his problem.
"You wear it like that every day. Are you getting married or going for a workout?"
"It's practical," I protested. "And presentable." Even as I spoke, a lock fell into my eye. I shook it away. Adrian looked pained.
"Dimitri, this is not the time for 'practical and presentable'. I know you're stylistically challenged, so please, for the love of St Vlad, let me fix it for you."
I looked to Christian for support, but he was trying to hide a smirk behind his coffee cup. Eddie just refused to meet my eye by fiddling with his cufflinks.
"I really don't think Rose will care."
"Better not to risk it. Especially when she could be tempted by an ex with far better hair." Adrian ran a hand through his messy waves.
"Fine," I grit out. "But your hair isn't better than mine."
"It won't be once I'm through with you." Adrian leaned over and kicked Christian in the shin. "Move. I need this seat."
"That's no way to speak to your King."
"Shut up and get your ass into the bathroom, or I'll give you a makeover too." Christian ran like there was a Strigoi on his tail.
I allowed Adrian to force me down into the rickety chair and grit my teeth as he yanked the elastic from my hair. "Eddie, could you fetch my toiletry bag from our room?" Adrian combed my hair while he waited for Eddie to return with an oversised washbag. It was as big as the duffle bag Sydney had brought for the whole stay. I still found it odd that their relationship worked as well as it did.
For twenty minutes, I let Adrian comb and spray and tug at my hair. I thought about Rose, and how beautiful she was going to look in her gown. Soon we'd have time all to ourselves with nothing but the ocean demanding our attention. I loved being surrounded by my family, but the last few days had incredibly stressful.
I was dragged from my reverie by Adrian tapping my shoulder. I steeled myself for whatever horror he had subjected my hair to before daring to look in the mirror.
The hair was half pulled up, but loosely enough that it didn't appear so severe as normal. Some strands hung artfully around my face but didn't fall into my eyes like usual. The twenty different sprays Adrian had used were holding them in place.
"Formal, yet relaxed," Adrian declared. "That's the vibe you were going for with the wedding, right?"
"Yeah." I turned my head to the side. I couldn't understand how this had taken so long to achieve. "It's… nice. I thought you'd try something more dramatic."
"I'm long past wanting to punish you for stealing my girlfriend." In the mirror, I could see Adrian was smirking. I was glad we were past that animosity. He'd become a good friend to me, all things considered.
"You tried to steal her from me first."
"In my failure lies my innocence." His expression turned serious. "I'm glad you two figured it out, though. Rose deserves all the happiness in the world, and she would never have found it with me."
"You were meant for someone else."
Adrian's face dissolved into the lovestruck expression reserved for when anyone mentioned Sydney, and I left him to clean up the mess he had made with hair grips and spray bottles.
"Very dashing," Christian said with a smirk as he slicked back his own hair into its usual style. "Now are we nearly ready to get out of here? Lissa will kill me if we're late."
"We've still got ages." Adrian reached into his jacket pocket and removed a flask. "Vodka, anyone?" He rolled his eyes at Eddie's frown. "Aw, come on. It's a tradition."
Appointing Adrian as our Tamada might have been a mistake. He had seemed the obvious choice for the friend that would lead the celebrations, but his enthusiasm at the job offer should have been a warning.
Still, it was too late now. I grabbed the flask from Adrian, took a swig, then passed it to Eddie.
"I'm sure even my mother's had a shot or two," I assured him. "Besides, if you drink it, Adrian can't."
When the vodka was gone, we went downstairs for breakfast. The Moroi split a portion of buttered toast, saving themselves for dinner, but Eddie and I went all out with omelettes and sausages piled high. Rose would have been in heaven. Perhaps I should have mentioned food in my vows?
I took the notebook from my pocket and scanned the lines for somewhere to add a mention of doughnuts, or bread, or ketchup-laden tacos.
"Dimitri, please tell me those aren't your vows."
I looked up to see Christian gaping at me. "They are..?"
"How long are they?"
"Four pages." I turned over another leaf. "And a half."
"And is half of that written in Russian?"
I looked closer. Some phrases were indeed still written in my native tongue, and a quick scan told me that the sentiment would get lost in translation.
"It's more of a draft. I was going to just see what felt right in the moment."
"You mean after you heard Rose's vows."
"Yes. That too."
"Dimitri," Adrian clapped a hand to my back. "You need to relax. Cut some of this crap out- you don't need a whole paragraph about music for a start- and boil it down to the most important bits."
The words seemed to taunt me from the page. "I'm not so good at being concise when I'm talking about feelings. Especially in English. It's very difficult to explain how it is I feel. I just end up rambling until even I don't know what I'm trying to say. Luckily Rose usually shuts me up before I take too long."
"Why didn't you ask for help before?"
"Because I knew you would be like this!"
Chrisitan and Adrian rolled their eyes, but Eddie took pity on me and took control of the notebook. "It's too late to write new vows now so you'll have to stick with some of what's already here. Keep this quote- I like that one- and then boil the rest down to bullet points. Choose three things you love about Rose and three things you want to promise."
"No way will he stick to that," Adrian scoffed.
"It's a better plan than leaving him to ramble on about the… corn palace? What even is that?"
I snatched the notebook back, hiding the next sentence containing corn puns beneath my arm. "Thank you, Eddie, I think I can take it from here." My groomsmen continued to make fun of me as I tried to fix my vows, but at least it was somewhat constructive criticism.
Finally I had something resembling an appropriate set of vows, and we made our way to the church. People kept stopping me in the street to offer their congratulations, some clearly irked that they hadn't been invited. In a small town like this, everyone expected to be a part of everything. Unfortunately for them, Rose and I had wanted a small wedding. They'd have to make do with the gossip that would percolate the community for the next week or so.
Abe was waiting at the church doors, looking only slightly like a criminal about to make a shady deal. I let out a breath I hadn't realised I had been holding when I saw his tame (for Abe) choice of suit.
"My soon-to-be-son!" Abe greeted, looking me up and down. I felt like I was fifteen, not twenty-five, and I was waiting to pick Rose up for a school dance. How the man could make me feel so immature on my own wedding day was beyond me.
"Abe," I replied, cautiously stepping into his embrace. I had a stake concealed in my sock, but Abe probably had many more weapons than that.
"Your heart is positively pounding, Dimitri. Are you feeling all right?"
Behind me, Adrian snickered. I heard someone, probably Eddie, hit him.
"Just excited to start the rest of my life with Rose, Sir."
Abe's answering smile was razor-sharp. "Excellent. Let's go and talk to the priest. He was telling me the most fascinating story earlier…"
I let him lead the way, and Eddie fell into step beside me. "You know he likes you really. He'd have killed you already if not."
"I know. I just wish he wouldn't choose today to be overdramatic."
"He'll stop when the girls get here."
I checked my watch. Over an hour until the guests were even supposed to start arriving. If I survived that long, it would be a miracle.
We had half an hour before the wedding began, and everything was just about ready. I stood in the hallway surrounded by only my bridal party, everyone else having gone on ahead.
I'd just given Zoya her Disney bracelet, and she was twirling around like a little princess herself. Her dress was white tulle with little purple butterflies stitched into the skirt. Karolina had made it herself, and I was seriously impressed. She'd managed to match the butterflies to the exact colour of Viktoria's dress, and the same embellishments fluttered in her hair and on the wicker basket of flower petals Zoya held. The overall effect was beyond adorable. Lissa had burst into tears when she'd seen the little girl all dressed up and stomping around in her new Cinderella 'glass slippers'. The heels of the translucent jelly shoes lit up when she walked, and I noticed Mia eyeing them covetously. I might have been in danger of being upstaged, had she been taller than my knees.
When she almost dropped the basket of petals in her excitement, Viktoria scooped her up and held her tight.
"Hyperactive flower girl? Check." Vika bounced her niece so she giggled. "Does that mean we have everything we need now?"
I glanced around. My bouquet waited on the sideboard, but tucked inside the ribbon, something shiny caught the light; something that hadn't been there when I put it in the fridge the day before.
It was a new tube of lipgloss, the kind I liked. Dimitri must have slipped it in there last night. It was then that I realised I hadn't thought to pack any in my purse for re-application. Of course Dimitri had predicted this- how often did I complain about forgetting to bring my lipgloss out with me?
"Yeah," I told Viktoria as tears pricked the corners of my eyes again. "Everything except the groom."
"Then let's go and get him."
It was only a short walk from the house to the church, but the cobbles made me glad of the flats I was wearing. Mia almost rolled an ankle twice when the heels of her stilettos slipped on the uneven ground. Sydney held her arm after that, and since Viktoria was carrying Zoya, it left Lissa free to link her arm with mine. It felt a little like when I had walked her down the aisle at her own wedding.
"Thank you," I said suddenly, surprising myself as well as her. "I know we've had a few ups and downs planning this, but I'm really grateful for everything."
"Thank me when we've made it through the day!" Lissa joked, but the blush on her cheeks showed me that she appreciated my gratitude. "But it's been an honour to plan this day for you and Dimitri. The last few months have been insane," she pressed a hand to her abdomen, wedding ring glinting in the sunlight, "but this has been a very welcome distraction from how scary it all is."
"I'll be right beside you for your next adventure," I promised. "Our whole crazy family will. Even Yeva, though I still don't understand how you managed to win her over."
"If I'm honest, I think she just really likes babies."
"She probably wants to use them in her potions."
Our conversation died away as we drew level with Viktoria and the others. We'd turned a corner and the shining white façade of the church now stood before us, its vibrant dome reaching for the sky summer.
Ready or not, I thought, here I come.
Next chapter is actually the wedding. PROMISE.
Also, yeah, Dimitri's hairstyle is 100% based on Henry Cavill's perfectly messy hair in The Witcher. He was one of my fancast favourites for Dimitri long before the movie was ever made, and seeing him slaying monsters and shit has just brought back all of those feels. Sorry not sorry.
Review and Dimitri will write cute vows for you