What was up with the dry ice? It was like a bad magic show in there. Bliss shooed away some freshmen helping themselves to more than one goodie bag on the exit table, and circled the room. She felt a rising panic. She couldn't find Dylan anywhere. The one guy she wanted to see, and he was missing.
She flopped down on the leather couch and looked at the hallway leading to the massage rooms. Two people were making out behind the ice sculpture. The taller figure looked familiar – that worn, beaten leather sleeve, the fringes of that white silk scarf – it had to be…
"Dylan?" Bliss asked.
Mimi turned around. Shit. She should have taken him into the bathroom or somewhere more private. She retracted her fangs quickly and put on her most dazzling smile.
"Bliss, sweetie. There you are," she said.
Dylan turned around, his eyes glassy and unfocused. "What are you doing?" Bliss asked Mimi.
"Nothing." Mimi shrugged. "We were just talking."
Bliss pulled Dylan out of the shadowy corner. She checked his neck for marks, but there were none. Good. She glared at Mimi and led him away.
"What were you doing with her?" Bliss demanded.
Dylan shrugged. He hadn't even realized he was with Mimi Force. He'd been lost in a daze, as if he were under a spell. He blinked his eyes and looked at Bliss. "Where have you been?" he asked, his voice suddenly normal.
"Looking for you," she said.
"C'mon, I want to show you my room," Bliss said.
Dylan looked strange in the confines of her bedroom. It was as if he were too male, too dirty… too real. He smirked at her white princess bed with the fluffy floral comforter, at the pale green rug, the pink wallpaper, the white wicker armoire, the four-story dollhouse, the theater lights on her vanity table.
"Okay, I know. It's a little girlie," she conceded.
"A little?" he teased.
"It's not me. It's my stepmother. She thinks I'm still like, twelve or something."
Dylan grinned. He shut the door softly and dimmed the lights.
Bliss suddenly felt nervous. "Excuse me for a sec," she said, slipping into the bathroom to catch her breath.
It was going to be her first time, and she was a little scared about it. She was going to do it – IT – the Caerimonia Osculor – that would bind him to her in blood she was going to give him the Sacred Kiss – but he didn't know it yet.
Apparently, you just started doing it – and they – the humans – they would begin to writhe in ecstasy and it would all be hot and sweaty and – and afterward she would feel better than she'd ever felt before.
When she walked out, Dylan was already lying on the bed, his back against the fluffy down pillows. He looked skinny and sexy in his ripped Ben Folds T-shirt. He kicked off his Nike Dunks and patted the empty space next to him.
Bliss found his scarf and leather jacket hanging on the bedpost, and it gave her an idea. She slipped a duplicate of her keys in the pocket.
"What are you doing?" Dylan asked.
"Nothing – just giving you something that will maybe make it easier for us to get together next time," Bliss said coyly.
"Well, get over here now."
"I'm cold," she said, slipping under the covers.
After a second, Dylan pulled aside the covers and slid in beside her.
They lay there for a while, listening to the sound of gangsta rap thumping from the second floor.
"You are really cold," he marveled.
"But your skin's warm," she said.
He wrapped his arms around her. They started kissing and Bliss was thankful she didn't black out this time, as she felt his hand explore underneath her dress, reaching for her bra. She smiled, thinking boys were all alike. He would get what he wanted, but not before she got what she wanted.
She closed her eyes, feeling his warm hands unclasp the hook of her bra. He pulled her dress off, over her head. She raised herself a little off the bed to help him, and then she was lying there, in only her Cosabella thong, before him.
She opened her eyes to see him hovering over her. She pulled him closer.
He made a cross of his arms and pulled his T-shirt over his chest. He was so skinny she could feel the ribs underneath his skin. They were both breathing quickly, and in a moment, he was lying on top of her, pushing his body against hers.
She caressed his neck and felt the hard bump underneath his jeans pressing against her thigh. She rolled over him, so that she was on top of his chest. He held her close, his hands caressing her back, slipping off her underwear. She began kissing his mouth, the line of his jaw, licking her way down.
She felt her back teeth extend; she was going to do it – Now! She could almost smell his thick, rich blood – she raised her jaw, and suddenly, the room was ablaze with light.
"What the hell?" Dylan poked his head out of the comforter.
Two giggly sophomores were standing in the hallway, watching them.
Bliss looked up at them, her fangs still sticking out. The two girls at the door screamed.
Bliss quickly disarmed. Shit. The Committee had warned them about this – they couldn't allow the Red Bloods to see them as they were, to know their real nature. They were just some kids. Maybe they'll think they were just imagining things.
There was a loud thump from behind her. Dylan had fallen off the bed and was rolling heavily to the floor.
Still underneath the comforter, Bliss turned and saw what had made him jump. Her father was standing in the hallway. Where had he come from? How had they gotten home so early? Bliss scrambled to put her dress back on.
"What's going on in here?" the senator asked. "Bliss, are you all right? And who are you?" he asked.
Dylan was hopping around, zipping up his jeans and pulling down his T-shirt. He grabbed his leather jacket and stuffed his feet back into his sneakers. "Uh, nice meeting you, too."
"What is the meaning of this?" Forsyth Llewellyn demanded. "Bliss, who was that boy?"
With a sinking heart, she heard Dylan's quick footsteps stomp down the stairs.
He'd never be hers now.
"Young lady, are you going to explain? What exactly is going on in here? And what happened to all of our furniture?"
Schuyler didn't doubt that what Jack had told her was true. He told her about the way they'd found Aggie at the club, with all her blood drained, just like a Red Blood after full consumption, except it had happened to one of their own. Just as they preyed on the humans, something was preying on them. Jack explained that while the Blue Bloods kept to The Code there hadn't been a human death due to blood-sucking in centuries, those that hunted the Blue Bloods were not as chivalrous.
Then he told her about some girl who'd died in Connecticut over the summer. Another Blue Blood. She had been a Hotchkiss sophomore, and they'd found her in the same condition as Aggie. There was also a sixteen-year-old Choate boy who'd died just before school had started. He'd been in The Committee as well. Again, the blood was drained completely from his body. Aggie's death was just the latest one they knew about.
Jack was certain the Elders were hiding something from them, and he was determined to find out what it was. "Why do I feel like I've seen this before, like I've lived this before? But there's something blocking my memory. Almost as if someone's tampered with it somehow. But we need to know. We need to know what's happening to us. And why everyone who's dying is our age. Are you with me?" he asked.
"We need to find out how to stop it. For all our sakes. We can't live in the dark, like we are now. The Elders think it will just go away, but what if it doesn't? I want to be prepared for it – whatever it is."
He looked so passionate and angry, Schuyler couldn't help but put a hand on his cheek. He looked at her intently. "It's going to be dangerous. I don't want to drag you into something you might regret."
"I don't care," Schuyler said. "I agree with you. We have to find out what this thing is. And why it's preying on us."
He pulled her closer to him, and she felt his heart beating in his chest. It was amazing how calm and centered she felt – like this was the only place in the world where she belonged.
He leaned over, his nose gently brushing hers, and she tilted her chin up to be kissed.
When their lips met, and their tongues touched, it was like they were kissing in a hundred different places, and her senses were flooded with new sensations and old memories.
He kissed her, and their souls melted into each other in a melody older than time.
"What a pretty picture."
Schuyler and Jack pulled away.
Mimi Force was standing in front of them, clapping her hands slowly.
"Mimi, there's no need for that," Jack said coldly.
Schuyler blushed. Why on earth was Jack's sister staring at her like that – like, like, like she was jealous of them! How creepy and weird was that? Was she missing something here? Mimi was his twin sister.
"The Llewellyns are here. They're pretty pissed. I came to warn you. We gotta scram."
Jack and Schuyler followed Mimi to the back staircase, where dozens of kids from the party were already streaming out, carrying their goodie bags and chattering excitedly.
"Damn! I forgot to take one!" Mimi cursed. "And I'm out of body lotion, too," she lamented as they walked out to the lobby. The building's concierge looked a tad horrified to encounter a rash of teenagers bursting through, some still carrying beer bottles and cocktail glasses. He gazed openmouthed at the sight of them.
The group dispersed, and Mimi ran out to the street, where their car was waiting. "Jack, are you coming?" she asked, turning around impatiently.
"You're leaving?" Schuyler asked.
"For now. I'll explain later, okay?" he said, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze. Then he let go.
Schuyler shook her head. No. Why did he have to go? She wanted him to stay by her side, not run off again somewhere without her. Her lips still ached with the force of his kiss, her cheeks red from his stubble.
"Don't be like that. Remember what I said. Be careful. Don't go anywhere without Beauty."
She nodded mutely, and was about to turn away. Then, as if she thought better of it, she reached out and grabbed his arm. "Jack."
"I…" she faltered. She knew what she wanted to tell him, but she couldn't bring herself to say the words.
It turned out she didn't have to. Jack put a hand on his heart and nodded. "I feel the same way about you."
Then he turned around and disappeared inside the black Town Car that was carrying his twin.