I TURN to the mirror for one final inspection. My usually straight hair is intricately pinned up with a few dark tendrils spiralling down to frame my face. Checking they’re only escaping where I want them to, I move onto my make-up. No lipstick on my teeth – check. No eyeliner smudges – check. No mascara kisses on my lids – check. No... Wait a minute... “Oh fudge!” It’s taken me hours to get to the point where I’m just about ready to go and now I’ve got to start over. “Fudge! Fudge! Fudge!” I run into my dressing room and fling open the wardrobe doors. What the hell am I going to wear that matches... wait, what shade? I check the mirror again. Yep – silver! My eyes have changed from their usual emerald green – which matches my dress perfectly by the way – to such a light blue-grey, they look silver.
“Raven! You’re going to be late!” shouts up my Mum.
“I know, I know.” I yell back flinging the entire contents of six wardrobes over the dressing room floor. “Aha!” I cry in triumph, pulling the midnight blue satin from the hanger and shimmy out of the dress that took me all afternoon to choose.
I return to the mirror and in record time add a touch of navy eye shadow to the corner of my eyes, blending to give them a smoky look. I dust on some silver glitter to my cheekbones, glide on some slightly sparkling lip-gloss, blow myself a kiss, and run down the stairs, trying not to fall and break my neck as I shove on a pair of strappy, silver heels.
“I thought you were wearing the green silk?” puzzles my Mum. “Oh” she takes a step closer “Silver? Well, they look very pretty” she smiles, “like sparkling stars in the midnight sky” she adds, motioning to my dress. I roll my sparkling stars at the drama and Mum chuckles.
“I’ve got to go. Dee will be wondering where I am.” I start transferring the contents from a gold to a silver clutch bag.
“What are you going to tell her about...?” she gestures.
“Nothing. I won’t need to. She’ll probably just assume I’ve got new contact lenses to go with my dress” I laugh. “Last time, she told everyone they were to match my lipstick”.
“Oh yes. You had lilac lips for a week” she grins nostalgically, passing my keys.
I blow her a kiss and scramble out the front door to my beloved baby sitting all shiny and polished in the driveway. I turn the key and she purrs to life. I love that sound. “Come on baby, let’s go and get Dee so the party can start.”
Pulling up to Dee’s house I lean on the horn to let her know I'm here. Although in reality, it’s more to annoy Mrs. Abbot across the road. She’s the type of person who simply has to have something to moan about or she’s just plain miserable. Her curtain twitches ad I smile and wave just to infuriate the old battleaxe even more. Turning back, I see that Dee is making her dramatic exit from the house. I grin as she stops at the top of the steps and slowly turns to give me (and Mrs. Abbot) a full view of the backless halter dress. Then she flicks her blonde curls over her shoulder pouting her full lips that are painted the same scarlet shade as her dress.
“Get in you harlot!” I shout. Her pout breaks into a laugh as she saunters down the path and into the car.
“You’re just upset that I’m not into you like that. But maybe if you get me really, really drunk, you might get lucky” she winks.
“Oh shut up” I grin, pulling away from the kerb with a satisfying growl of the engine. “You know this car is the only girl for me.” She laughs, nodding in agreement, and waves to old Mrs. Abbot, whose scowl sends us into another fit of giggles. “So tell me about my date. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”
“Oh relax. He’s harmless, you’ll like him. He’s... different.”
Uh-oh “Different how?” I ask cautiously, my mind conjuring up all kinds of images that could fit the description different.
“Not bad-different” she shrugs. “There’s just something about him that’s...” she seems to be searching for the right word. After millennia, she simply shrugs again.
“Different?” I offer dryly.
“Yes!” she agrees, not noticing my eye roll. “Don’t worry, he hasn’t got three heads or anything,” she smiles reassuringly. “In fact, if I wasn’t with Jamie, you might have competition.”
I glance at her sideways “but he is a guy, right?” She cracks up laughing. By the time we drive through the hotel gates, she has regained her composure somewhat.
I park the car as close to the doors as I can get – these heels aren’t meant for gravel car parks. “I really wish you’d use the valets” she moans.
“What?!” I balk, “and suffer the consequences of letting someone else behind the wheel of my baby?” I turn to my gleaming steed. “Don’t listen to her baby. I wouldn’t let just anyone drive you” I coo.
“Seriously? You want to walk home?” She gives me an eye roll, which is nowhere near as practiced as mine.
“Actually I’m staying at Jamie’s tonight” she sticks her tongue out and turns towards the venue for tonight’s revelry.
I gaze up at the magnificent building brightly lit by the industrial flood lamps that have been strategically placed to avoid directly hitting any of the windows, therefore not disturbing the hotel guests as they sleep. The light bounces off the ivy covered stone, creating interesting shadows as the evening breeze forces the leaves to dance. The effect makes the building look alive.
“Beautiful.” A voice startles me out of my trance.
“Yes it is.” My eyes scan the shadows in search of the person belonging to the voice. As part of the shadow breaks away to reveal a great pair of Diesel jeans on an amazing butt, my breath catches; and that’s before I’ve had a chance to scan the rest of him.
“I wasn’t referring to the building” smiles the stranger who I suddenly realise I’m gaping at. Idiot! Be cool. It’s only a guy. You’ve seen one before, even if he is mouth-watering I tell myself, blushing at my moronic teenage reaction. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I guess that was a bit of a cheesy line,” he smiles. Swoon.
“Oh God. I’ve got to go.” His smile drops and I realise I said that out loud. “Sorry” I mumble and practically sprint through the doors into the foyer.
“There you are!” calls Dee. “Why do you look so flushed?”
“And where’s Martin? He was going out to find you.”
“I found her” says a familiar voice behind me; I cringe. “I’m afraid I may have made a bad first impression.”
“You?” asks Jamie incredulously, wrapping her arms around Dee’s waist from behind. “How is that even possible? You’re always a hit with the ladies. You almost turned me straight” she laughs.
“I can see why” agrees Dee, scanning Martin from head to toe. From the corner of my eye, I note he seems happy with the inspection.
“Alright, that’s enough you” laughs Jamie, grabbing her hand and pulling her into the ballroom. “You,” she calls over her shoulder “make a better second impression.” Then I’m left alone with Martin silently cursing Dee for leaving.
I turn with a smile plastered on my face. It feels completely false and it doesn’t look like he’s buying it anyway. “Martin?”
“Guilty as charged. I would have introduced myself sooner, but you ran away” he grins.
Another cringe. “Umm...yeah...sorry about that. I didn’t know you were... you know... my date. But hey, at least I didn’t run away screaming,” I add brightly.
“Yet” he adds. “Just so you know she was exaggerating.” My blank expression encouraging him to elaborate, he continues: “Jamie. She made it sound like I’m a complete player, and I’m not.”
Lie. My alarm bells sounded. My father taught me from a very early age how to spot these signs, or in this case, lack thereof. He also taught me how to keep my face neutral in the split seconds that it took to conclude a person was trying to manipulate me. Usually I didn't bother using these abilities - people were too easy to read, but I found myself curious about Martin. His body language would tell most people that he was slightly embarrassed, but sincere. However there are little tell-tale signs that only someone with my keen eyesight would notice – the lack of red tint to his skin pigmentation and the even pitch to his tone of voice being dead giveaways. Although my lack of response seemed to bother him somewhat, he was adept at keeping his own facial expressions under control. My curiosity peaks.
“I’m parched,” he announces. “How about a drink?” He smiles pleasantly and a warm feeling shoots through me. He’s harmless. Suddenly I feel very sure of that and I relax. I realise he's probably just as nervous as I am and I'm probably being a bit paranoid. I needed to give him a second chance.
“I’m parched, how about a drink?” I offer. He’s harmless. Second chance. Parched. Drink. Need a drink. I find myself taking his offered arm as he escorts me into the ballroom and over to the bar. It’s so warm in here. Before I realise it I’m handing Martin an empty glass in exchange for a full one. “Oh no, I can’t. I’m driving.” I put the glass to my lips and take a sip as I scan the dance floor, watching the bodies writhing in time to the music.
“Here.” I turn to see Martin smile as he exchanges my empty glass for a new one. “Drink.” I’m about to tell him I can’t, when I forget why I can’t. I lift the glass and drain it.
After the next, the ballroom starts to sway in time to the music; the bodies around me pulsing in rhythm, surrounding me, closing in. “I feel...”
“You need air” says Martin taking my arm.
“I need air” I let him steer me to the French doors. We leave the over-heated room, filled with warm bodies threatening to suffocate me. The lights are too bright. I turn to the shadows of the surrounding gardens and follow a path off to the side. A few steps farther I spot a bench hidden among some trees; I make my way over. Each step is heavier than the last and a feeling of lethargy overcomes me. I feel drugged. I stumble and an arm reaches out to steady me. “Martin?” He smiles down at me, but something feels off. “Something’s wrong,” I murmur more to myself, trying to remember. “What do I need to remember?”
“That you shouldn’t drink so much?” he laughs.
“I shouldn’t drink so much? No. No I shouldn’t be drinking. Why? There’s a reason. I can’t remember.” The ground begins to spin and I reach for the bench.
“Here. Let me help.” He lowers me carefully, sits next to me, and pushes my head back. He brushes his fingers over my cheek and I shiver. He moves closer and wraps an arm around me. “Let me warm you up.”
“No” I shake my head, immediately regretting the action as the world shifts.
“You’re cold. Let me warm you up.” He pulls me to him.
“No,” I mumble again as I feebly attempt to push him away; his solid form doesn’t move.
“Relax Raven” his lips skim mine gently and I shiver again. He chuckles, continuing to plant small kisses along my jaw.
Alarm bells are sounding in my head, but I don’t seem to be able to understand them. I need to focus. Why do I need to focus? I feel Martin’s mouth moving down my neck, his tongue darting out to lick at me. He needs to stop. “Stop” I murmur. My hand moves to his chest to push, but my strength is slowly ebbing. I move my other hand to his hair to pull his mouth from me. I need to focus. I feebly attempt to push him away again.
“It’s ok. Relax.” I feel his lips move as he whispers against my skin. “Relax and it won’t hurt.” I feel his teeth grazing gently. “Relax. Just let go.”
“Just let go?” I repeat.
“Let it happen” he whispers, though his voice seems to sound inside my head.
“Let it happen.” I hear a growl building seconds before I realise it’s too late. I can’t stop it now. My fingers tighten in his hair. I pull his head back and sink my fangs into his throat. Delicious, warm blood fills my mouth and I swallow just as the next wave flows over my tongue and down my throat. I can’t help but moan in ecstasy as I take his very essence into my body. I feel his blood pouring into me, replacing the alcoholic fog, cleansing my system of the poison. Clarity returning. Reality sets in and I abruptly release the chemicals that will stop the flow of blood, lick up the remaining evidence of my indiscretion, and seal the wound. As I move Martin back against the bench I realise his eyes are open. I jump to the farthest side of the bench in shock as his eyes stay locked on mine. “You should be unconscious” I accuse.
“You’re a vampire,” he states calmly in a strained voice. My immediate reaction is to deny it, but let’s face it, I just drank his blood – rocket science it ain’t!
“Shed!” I look around to find that we’re alone. Probably something I should have done earlier, before I started snacking. His disjointed laughter brings him back into focus. “Why are you laughing?”
“Did you just say shed?” he chuckles.
“Umm...yeah. I don’t see the point in swearing,” I explain, feeling foolish. This sets him off again. His laughter soon turning to coughs. I move to him with concern, before I see the glint of amusement still apparent in his eyes.
“Oh Raven. I think I like you,” he grins.
“Why aren’t you freaking out?” I question cautiously.
“Well I admit it’s a little weird to hear someone shouting about a wooden outbuilding, but I really don’t think it’s anything to freak out about.” Before I can catch his train of thought, he answers my question.”Besides, this is entirely my own fault. If I’d known you were a vampire I wouldn’t have coerced you into drinking alcohol. I just figured you weren’t responding to my charms because you were too uptight. Guess I was wrong,” he smiles. “You really should have known better than to let me influence you.”
“Wait... what? You influenced me? You’re a vampire?”
“Well duh! Do you think that’s a love bite I was giving you?” he points to my neck. My hand automatically flies to the spot and I wince as I notice the dull ache for the first time.
“You drank from me?” I panic. Oh no. No, no, no.
“Barely. I didn’t get more than a mouthful before the worm turned” he sighs. “Looks like I’m going to have to find myself another meal.” His eyes search the area briefly before resting once more on me. “Who are you anyway?”
His eyes tighten. “I know all the Ancients, and the Pured, so I know you have to be a Turned. But no Turned would be able to overpower me. So, if you’re not a Turned... who are you?” he ponders.
Panic really starts to set in. Adrenaline floods my system and my brain kicks into overdrive. I consider making a run for it, knowing he wouldn’t be able to catch me. His hand clamps around my wrist. “Don’t even think about it” he warns, obviously sensing my intention to bolt. On second thoughts... He knows my name; he knows Jamie, and Dee.
“Tell me who you are or I’ll be forced to use compulsion” he threatens. His threat turns over in my mind. Compulsion? Yes it’s the only way. His eyes are already boring into mine in an attempt to intimidate me. I almost laugh out loud at the irony – he clearly doesn’t know who I am... let's keep it that way. “Or I could ask Jamie or Dee.” I hear the underlying threat and all my previous amusement disappears instantly. I look deep into his eyes and concentrate all my effort on projecting my will onto him. His eyes widen for a fraction of time as the realisation of my power and what I’m doing hits home, then his eyes glaze over as I feel the compulsion focus. Forget I send. Forget tonight. Forget Jamie. Forget Dee. And forget me. Do you understand? “Forget” he repeats numbly. I give one final mental push before blurring as fast as I can for my car.
I flip open my phone and text Dee:
D8 A DISASTER
CALL U 2MORO X