“I can’t do it.” Zora clutched at her skirts and glowered at her sister. “I can’t.”
“This is not really the time to be difficult, Zor.” Murray flung her veil over one arm and stared her down. “I’m not kidding.”
“You didn’t tell me!”
“No shit.” Murray narrowed her eyes and snarled. “I wonder why?”
“Please, Mur. You go first.”
“I’m the bride, Zora.”
She could have sworn a flash of red glowed behind Murray’s eyes. The veil crinkled as it was squished tighter. In the distance, soft music started.
“You should have told me.” She wanted to fight. Losing to Murray wasn’t her style, and she didn’t intend to get used to it, but the whole devil bride thing worked. It scared the crap out of her. “Fine!”
She stomped out of the tent. The amber dome refracted the lowering sunlight and cast the whole courtyard into a blush of pink. It was gorgeous. So were the flowers, the ribbons, the neon blue holographic centerpieces. She growled under her breath, tugged her skirt higher and tramped across the grass to the head of the aisle.
The musician hit the volume and played a slight beat faster. The clone guests’ heads swiveled in her direction. A lot of guests—Zora stopped and stood taller. She brushed her hair back and swallowed her scowl. She could do this. She could do it with dignity. She stared down the row to the altar and cringed. Maybe.
She took a deep breath.
At the altar Rook leaned over and whispered to the Father. Zora’s lip quivered. She exhaled and started forward. She stopped. The music stuttered. Damn Murray anyway. She should have told her.
She imagined running for it. The ship was loaded, stocked and ready to fly. She could handle it as far as the nearest station. She could hire a pilot—somehow. But that wasn’t her style anymore, was it?
She took a step, and another. The music swelled, sped up as if to encourage her, to keep her moving forward. A sea of smiles to either side and Rook in front—just see Rook. He looks nice, doesn’t he? Shiny hair, nice suit. The new body’s working for him, then. That’s nice.
Her eyes flicked sideways. Damn it. She forced her feet to continue, but they wanted to bolt. She wanted to let them. The music said, keep going. You can do it.
Father Mund. They definitely should have told her. She’d be holding on to this grudge a good long time.
She stopped in front of the Emperor and tried to frown at the bastard. The blush creeping into her cheeks probably ruined the effect.
He smiled at her. She bit the inside of her cheek and nodded. At least they were in public. At least he had a job to do. He wouldn’t have time to even--.
She looked to the side. Rook just smiled and stared back down the aisle as if the minister wasn’t chatting in the middle of his wedding.
“Hello.” She remembered her part and slid to the other side.
“You look lovely.” Ignatius Superius I stared at her.
“Uh. Thanks.” The music shifted and she heard a couple hundred clones stand up together.
“Like a goddess.”
She stared at him. “It’s the dress.” Didn’t he have something to do?
She was pretty sure Murray had already started down the aisle. He should be saying something to the crowd, shouldn’t he?
Instead, he leaned closer and stared directly into her eyes. She bit her cheek again.
“I’ve missed you,” he whispered, but she was pretty sure Rook heard him.
She cast a nervous glance over her shoulder. The bride was coming. She’d made it half way down the aisle and only had eyes for the groom. Great. That was considerate.
She should have bolted when she had the chance. But he looks nice in the suit as well, doesn’t he? Like a goddess he said. He misses you. The ship was loaded and ready. She turned and stared at Murray. The dress glowed around the edges. It matched the lapel on Rook’s suit. Nice touch.
She could be off-planet in forty minutes, tops.
Murray stopped and took Rook’s hand. The music faded. They both smiled. Son of a bitch.
“Dearly beloved,” Father Ignatius Mund began.
Zora sniffed. This grudge would last her a long damn time. She felt the heat behind her eyes and set her jaw. It was a wedding, after all. Everybody cried at weddings. Except Zora. That is, except the old Zora. She sniffled uselessly against it.
It just wasn’t her style, was it?