“Enjoying the meal?” Claire nodded. She had almost finished her plate, but Van had only touched his food. He had drunk a couple of glasses of wine, however. “Tell me, Claire, how is it that a beautiful girl like you doesn’t have a boyfriend?” Claire wiped her mouth.
“Well, since you mention it, I do have a boyfriend back home, who is buff and would kill anyone who took me out.” Claire laughed at Van’s expression. “Not really. I don’t know. I’ve always been serious with my schoolwork and…well, I guess no one asked me.”
“Your gain?” Van smirked.
“Definitely.” The waiter brought the check and Van slipped a few bills into the folder. Then he stood up and offered his hand to Claire. “Shall we go?”
“I figured we could walk around the city for a bit.” Claire smiled as she took Van’s hand, and he led her out of the restaurant. “Have you ever walked around the city?”
“Not at night.”
“It’s the best time.” They walked down the block and passed restaurants, clubs, and shops. Claire was looking at everything, and Van enjoyed watching her reactions. They walked through the bustling streets and talked more about their families and home lives. Claire did most of the talking as Van listened. They stopped momentarily to listen to music playing in a shop. They looked through the front, which was a giant window, and saw couples eating and dancing. Van stared at Claire as she watched the couples with delight. Then he grabbed her hand and pulled her into a dancing position. Claire caught her breath as she realized how close they were. She couldn’t find words to say and looked up to see Van smiling. He started dancing with her, slowly turning in circles to the music. She relaxed into his arms and stepped closer to him. She rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. He softly hummed the tune in her ear. He breathed in her scent and it filled his nerves with impulses, which he ignored. Nothing was more perfect than that moment.
“Claire, I have to tell you something.”
“Mm-hmm.” He smiled to himself and held her closer.
“I think I’m falling in love with you.” She looked up at him, then, and stared into his eyes. She brushed his hair away from his eyes and leaned up to kiss him. He held her close and kissed her gently, never wanting to let go. The kiss deepened and Van felt his fangs penetrate the skin in his mouth. He opened his eyes and stepped away from Claire, not showing her his face. His breathing was heavy. “I’m sorry. I just…this is all so new for me.”
“It’s okay.” She stepped toward him. “I’m sorry if I’m going too fast.”
“No. It’s just…” He turned back around and smiled at her, his fangs receded. “I don’t want to mess this up.” She smiled and touched his cheek.
“You won’t.” She lightly kissed his cheek. “I think I’m falling for you too, Poet Boy.” Van smiled and they finished the dance.
They arrived back at the campus and headed to Van’s room. He unlocked the door as they were laughing and walked inside. Claire was about to say something when they both noticed Korbin sitting on his bed. He was reading a book and sipping a crimson liquid through a straw from a bag. Van’s eyes widened in alarm.
“I thought you and Nyx were going out?” Korbin raised his eyebrows and looked at them.
“Something came up. How was the date?”
“Hello, Claire. Nice to see you again.”
“You too, Korbin. What are you drinking? It looks interesting.” Korbin looked down at his drink and then up at Van, whose face was frozen.
“Just cranberry juice. It’s high in antioxidants.” Van let out a breath.
“Oh. I never liked cranberry juice. My grandma tried to make me drink it when I was younger.”
“It’s a favorite of mine.” Korbin smiled.
“Okay, well, I guess we’ll head out. I don’t want to bother you.” Van started to herd Claire out of the room.
“You’re not a bother. You’re more than welcome to stay.”
“Thanks. Maybe another time.” Korbin waved good-bye.
“You look great, Claire, by the way.”
“Thanks!” Van shut the door behind them and they went outside. “Why didn’t you want to stay?”
“Um…sometimes Korbin can be a bit…uncomfortable. He, uh, asks really personal questions.”
“Let’s just watch the stars. It’s a perfect night.” Claire smiled and followed Van down to the park.