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.”
“There’s a boy throwing rocks at our window.” Claire laughed and walked toward the window.
“And why should that concern me?”
“Because he is quite handsome.” Claire peeked through the curtains and saw that it was Van. Surprised, she took in her breath and shut the curtains tightly. Her roommate raised her eyebrows. “You know this guy?”
“Yeah. We’re going on a date Friday.”
“Really? Well, don’t you think you should see what he wants?” Her roommate smiled at her. Then Claire opened the curtains and the window and leaned out.
“What are you doing?” Van shrugged his shoulders.
“Come out here.”
“What? It’s after midnight! You’re crazy!” Van smiled crookedly and her heart melted inside her chest. “Okay. Give me a minute.” She shut the window and grabbed a light jacket as she pulled her tennis shoes on. She ran out the door as her roommate yelled after her, “I’m not waiting up for you!”
Claire ran outside and nearly ran into Van. He smiled down at her.
“I’m here.” He grinned and breathed in deeply.
“You smell good.”
“Oh, well, I just had a shower.” Claire smiled back at him. “So what did you want?”
“Follow me.” Van started walking away from the dorm building. They passed through the campus grounds and out of the campus’ lights. They entered a park that was completely black. Claire looked around, barely able to see anything.
“It’s so dark.” She looked around in the darkness until she looked up at the night sky. Millions of stars sprinkled the black sky like fireflies. She was in awe as she slowly twirled around, her head looking up at the glittering gems. She smiled and looked at Van. “This is beautiful!” Van, his hands in his pockets, walked closer to her.
“I thought so too.” She looked back up just staring. Van laughed. “You’re going to strain your neck. Here, let’s lie on the grass.” Van laid on the spongy grass, with his hands behind his head. She laid next to him and looked around.
“It’s kinda scary when it’s this dark.” Van looked at her and brought his hands out from behind his head. He stroked one of her cheeks.
“Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.” She looked at Van and grinned. “Your eyes are simply stunning.” Claire blushed and looked away from his eyes. She shivered as a gust of wind blew by. “Are you cold? Here.” He scooted closer to her and wrapped an arm behind her neck, so that her head rested on his shoulder. Van breathed in and sighed. “You do smell amazing.” Claire looked back into his deep eyes, blushing again. They were so close. Van leaned in closer as his hands grazed her cheek. Their lips were about to touch when a light shone on them. It nearly blinded Claire as Van jumped up and defensively crouched in front of Claire, slightly growling.
“Hey, you kids! The park’s closed after dark!” Van straightened up as the police officer walked toward them.
“I’m sorry, officer. We were just admiring the night sky.”
“That’s alright, but you’ll have to leave. That’s the rules.” Van nodded and they started walking out of the park. The officer watched them until they left the park. After a period of awkward silence, Claire started laughing. Van looked at her as they walked.
“What’s so funny?”
“You.” She smiled up at him and Van rose an eyebrow. “Were you going to pounce on him to protect me?” She started laughing again.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he muttered. Claire kept laughing until she saw that he wasn’t.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be laughing at you.” She looked up at him. “You’re not mad, are you?”
“You look upset. What’s wrong?”
“I just…nevermind.” Claire stopped him.
“No. Tell me.”
“I hated that we were interrupted, that’s all.”
“Oh. Well, that’s understandable.” They continued walking until they were back at Claire’s dorm. “This is my stop.” She smiled, but saw that Van was still disturbed. “Thanks for tonight. We still on for Friday?” Van nodded. “Okay.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Night!” Then she ran inside the building, leaving Van standing there, dumbfounded. Then he smiled and headed back to his dorm.
Korbin was watching a football game as Van dressed for his date. Van held two shirts in his hand. He turned to Korbin.
“Which one?” Korbin glanced over and then back at the television.
“The blue one.” Van slid the blue shirt on and started buttoning it.
“Steelers and Titans.”
“Steelers. 14-0.” Silence. “Ever wonder if some of them are vampires?” Van shrugged.
“Never really thought about it.”
“It makes me wonder. Some of these guys are just way too good.” The halftime announcers came on and Korbin turned his attention to his brother, who put on a black jacket. “Where are you taking her tonight?”
“Dinner at a nice restaurant and a walk around the city. Where’s Nyx?”
“She had a study group. We’re doing something later tonight.” Korbin stood up and fixed Van’s collar. “Look, Van, you’re my little brother so I have to look out for you, okay? I know it sounds like lecturing, but I just don’t want anything to happen to you.” He put a hand on his shoulder. “You understand, right?”
“Yeah and I appreciate it, Korb. I know you’re just looking out for my best interests, but I can’t help who I fall in love with. You were just lucky your soulmate was another vampire.”
“Just do me a favor, okay? Let me know when it gets really serious with you and this girl. And, if you ever need help with your control, just call me.”
Claire turned to her roommate and held up two dresses.
“Depends. Do you want to sleep with him or just kiss him?”
“What kind of girl do you think I am?”
“Okay, then go with the black one.”
“Not the red one?”
“Not if you want to leave this room. He’d jump all over you in the red one.” Claire rolled her eyes. “I’ve seen you in those dresses. Whether you think so or not, you are gorgeous.” Claire slipped into the black cocktail dress and examined herself in the mirror. “Let me do your hair.” Claire smiled as her roommate did her hair and she finished her makeup. “There.”
“Where did you ever learn to do hair?”
“My sister. She went to school for hair and nails.” Claire looked at herself in the mirror one more time. Her hair was pulled up with wavy locks hanging down around her face. Then she turned around and looked at her roommate.
“How do I look?”
“You’re gonna kill him.”