Her face brightened and she squealed in delight. The next thing I knew, she was suddenly hugging me and asking how I liked the castle and how well Flavian was showing me around. All I could do was simply stare at her excited face.
“Another human! Another human!” And with that, the zombie went zooming out of the room, looking about as frightened as I felt.
I drew myself up straight a moment later and held Tanith at arms length, a serious expression on my face.
“I’m here to rescue you, my princess.”
She stared at me and then burst out laughing. She grasped onto my armored shoulders and her head fell back as she laughed. I shook her and she only laughed harder.
“Oh, Shane, don’t you understand?” she finally asked, trying to catch her breath, a hand pressed against her heaving breast. “I don’t want to go. This is my home, these are my family members.”
“They’re monsters!” I yelled, pushing her away.
Silence permeated the room and eight eyes stared at me in shock. I shifted uncomfortably in my armor as Tanith backed away from me and took one of the gargoyle’s hands.
“Don’t you dare say that again, Shane,” Tanith said quietly. “They are simply misunderstood creatures. If anyone’s a monster, it’s that father of mine! I’m happy here, Shane. These creatures are my new family. You had better accept that.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself. When she opened her eyes, she smiled brightly. “Shane, I’d like you to have met Euclid,” she said, indicating the door the zombie had used as an escape route. “He can be somewhat paranoid, but is otherwise quite a wonderful creature. I’m afraid you scared him, but he’ll come around sooner or later. And the other two nuisances here are Gina and Gray.”
“Nuisances!” one of the gargoyles cried out, and I could faintly recognize a female voice.
“How dare you!” the other, presumably Gray, replied at the same moment.
Tanith rolled her eyes. “Pay no attention to them, Shane. Their favorite past time is to argue with each other and everyone else.”
“I resent that!” both gargoyles shouted, then glared at each other and huffed out of the library through different doors.
Tanith sighed and turned her eyes on Flavian. “Are you going to go, too, Flavian?”
The vampire had been smoothing his slicked hair and admiring his complexion in a nearby mirror. He turned when Tanith addressed him.
“Oh, well, if you insist. I’d better go and see that Eva uses the correct oranges for supper. Mi scusi, my dears.”
And Flavian swept out of the library, leaving me with Tanith.
I instantly grabbed hold of her arm and tried to drag her from the room, but she held fast to a chair that had apparently been bolted down to the floor (I later learned that nearly every piece of furniture had been bolted down so that Gray and Gina could not use them on each other and so that Euclid wouldn’t be afraid that they would get up in the middle of the night to attack him and so that Drago, the gluttonous wood-eating dragon I would soon meet, wouldn’t eat all the furniture) and refused to let me pull her from the room.
“Stop it, Shane,” she said crossly, wrenching her wrist from my armored grasp and pulling herself up straight. “I’m not going back. I can’t. My new family needs me here. Who am I to disappoint them?”
“What about your father and your sisters?” I demanded.
“With me out of the way, my father only has to worry about six princesses that he has to marry off. And my sisters are probably moaning about how they weren’t bright enough to come running over here to avoid Father. Besides, none of us particularly cared for the others. It’s hardly a loss.”
“But, Tanith, these are evil creatures,” I hissed, leaning close to her, ignoring how right she was.
Anger flashed in her gray eyes and she balled her hands into fists at her sides. “I won’t have you insulting my friends, Shane, even though we were once playmates. No, I won’t have it. You are welcome to return to Father’s castle or you may remain here. Eva will show you to a guestroom if you choose to remain. You will probably find her out in the gardens out back or in the kitchen.”
She looked me over, sniffed, suppressed a chuckle, and stalked out of the library. I watched her go and collapsed into the chair she had been hanging onto, my armor clattering as I did so.