Van picked Claire up in his car, which was a black Nissan Maxima. Claire slid into the passenger seat.
“Nice car! Is it new?”
“Yeah. It was gift from my parents before coming to college.”
“Are they rich?” Van laughed.
“Kinda.” They started toward the highway. “We’re going to the city.”
“Really?” Van saw the excitement in her eyes.
“I love the city. It’s beautiful at night. By the way, you look fantastic.” Claire blushed.
“You don’t look half bad yourself.” Van could smell the perfume and soap on her body, but that didn’t cover up the scent of her blood. He took a deep breath, wishing he could taste her, but opened the windows a little instead. “Hot?”
“It’s just stuffy in here. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. So…tell me about your brother.”
“Korbin? What do you want to know?”
“He’s older, right? What level is he?”
“He’s a freshman, like us.”
“How old is he?”
“Oh. Why did he wait to go to college?”
“He waited for me to graduate high school. We wanted to go at the same time. We’re pretty close.” Claire smiled to herself. “What are you smiling about?”
“That’s just cute, that’s all.”
“Cute?” Van raised his eyebrows at the word.
“Yeah. You guys are really close. I know brothers who don’t even speak to each other. It’s nice.”
“Oh.” Van shrugged his shoulders. “We’ve always been close. We do most things together, so it just seemed logical to start college together. Do you have any siblings?”
“Yeah. I have a fourteen-year-old sister.”
“Is she a lot like you?”
“No.” Claire laughed. “She is the exact opposite of me. She has a temper and is boy crazy. She’s a hard-worker, but lacks motivation sometimes. She’s a handful, but I love her. We’re pretty close. It’s hard being so far away from her.”
“Ohio. Where’s home for you?”
“Tennessee. What are your parents like?”
“They’re the best parents. They aren’t very strict. They’re fair, and they support me in all of my decisions.”
“Even boys you date?”
“Yeah. They haven’t objected to any yet. Why, worried?”
“What about your parents?”
“They died in a fire when I was young.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. Their best friends adopted Korbin and I. That’s probably another reason why we’re so close. Anyway, they’re great people. They’ve always been there for us.”
“Do you miss your parents?”
“Yeah. I was only four when it happened. Korbin was nine so he remembers more than I do. We don’t talk about it much.”
“I understand.” Van turned onto the highway toward the city. “So, how did you become so interested in poetry?”
“It’s the only thing I remember about my mother. She used to read me poetry every night before I went to bed. She had the most beautiful voice.”
“So, why does Korbin want to study criminal justice?”
“Well, he was closer to dad, than I was. My father was a…soldier.”
“Oh, okay. What branch?”
“Um…he was more of a Special Forces soldier. Classified stuff.”
“Wow. That’s intense.”
“And Korbin wants to do that?”
“He’s not sure exactly. He wants to do something in the career field. What about your parents?”
“My dad’s a mechanic and my mom’s a waitress. We’ve never had money, but it didn’t bother me. We got by.”
“I’d like to meet your family sometime. They sound pleasant.”
“Well, maybe one day you will. What about your adoptive parents? What do they do?”
“Well, mom doesn’t work. She raised us. She and my real mother were best friends since they were kids. Dad is CEO of a company.”
“So they are rich.” Van smiled.
“I don’t like to advertise it, but, yes. They are well off.” They reached the city and found a parking spot. Van helped Claire out of the car and they walked down the sidewalk. They saw paparazzi flashes their cameras at some stars in a car.
“Is that…?” Van shook his head.
“Yeah. I just don’t understand the whole hype about those books.”
“What? The Twilight series?”
“Yeah. I mean, do girls really want a sparkly vampire?” Claire laughed. “Those vampires just aren’t how they are supposed to be.”
“I don’t know, but I read the books. They weren’t bad. My sister is a fanatic, though.” Claire laughed. “She loves those books.”
“Do you like them?”
“They’re not bad. I don’t particularly like Bella. She’s a little annoying for my taste and she’s not a strong female character. I think women should be strong.”
“And Edward?” Claire smiled.
“He’s…not bad. I don’t want to make you jealous.” Van laughed.
“Me jealous of a fictional vampire? Never. Is that how you’d envision vampires, if they existed?”
“Probably not. I mean, for something to drink human blood, they’d have to be…mean, right?”
“So, you think they have no soul?”
“No. I just think they can’t help themselves. I mean, if there was a buffet of gourmet foods, it’d be hard for me not to dig in. I just think, if vampires existed, it would be very hard for them to control their appetites since humans are basically walking buffets.”
“What if vampires did exist?”
“Yeah. Would you be afraid?” Claire thought about it.
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t be filled with fear. I’d find it fascinating, personally. You?”
“I’d…be cautious.” They arrived at the restaurant and Van said a name to the hostess. They were seated immediately. The restaurant was elegant and lit with candles. Claire looked around in awe. Van smiled as he watched her and pushed her seat in for her. He took a seat across from her. “This lighting makes you look stunning.” Van saw the blood rush to her cheeks.
“I’ve never been to any place this expensive. I feel underdressed.” Van smiled.
“Nonsense. You look better than every other woman in here.” They were given menus and Claire couldn’t believe the prices of the meals. The menus were in a different language, too. “Would you like some assistance?” She looked up at Van, who was smiling.
“What’s good here?”
“Everything, but I’ll order you something that is spectacular.” The waiter came and Van ordered for the two of them. “Also, could you bring a glass of your special red wine, please?” The waiter nodded. Van looked at Claire. “Would you like anything to drink?”
“I’m not twenty-one.”
“It’s okay.” He turned back to the waiter and ordered a light white wine for her. The waiter turned and left, and Van turned his attention back to his date. Claire had her eyebrows raised. “My dad has connections.”