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Chapter 15

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We talked about traveling and other random stuff for a while, and it was only a little before nine thirty when she finished her coffee. She set down her empty cup. “This was actually fun. Thanks, I needed it.”

“My pleasure. See, giving me a chance wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Hey, don’t read too much into it. We had coffee. End of story.”

“Does it have to be the end?” I looked her straight in the eye.

“What else do you have in mind?”

“Want to meet up with my friends? I bet Hailey will come if she knows you are. I think she has a girl crush on you.” Hailey had asked about her at least five times that week. She’d even texted me. That had given Jared a laugh and Owen a heart attack. He was always afraid Hailey would push me too far. I didn’t care.

“A girl crush? What are you, like three?”

“No… it’s just funny. She talks about you almost as much as I do.” Had I said that out loud? I guess telling her I talked about her wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. She already knew how I felt.

“I think she’s pretty cool too. Definitely different from my other friends.”

“Different is good, right?” If she liked different, I might be okay.

“It can be.”

“Are you up for hanging out more?” I asked it as a question, but I wasn’t taking no for an answer. Now that I’d built up the anticipation, I couldn’t back down.

“Yeah, okay.”

I led her through the French Quarter, watching her reaction to everything. She might be used to city life, but New Orleans was something altogether different. Although touristy, the Quarter was still a special place, and I was glad she seemed interested in it. If things were going to work between us, she’d have to start calling New Orleans home. Leaving wasn’t an option for me. I was crown prince, and the throne was in the basement of the Crescent City Hotel.

She stopped short in front of a dark bar on the corner. I smiled when I saw what got her attention.

“Wow, are those people seriously dressed up as vampires?” Her eyes were glued on a couple of humans who were holding up a chalice and pretending to drink blood.

I laughed. “If you think those people are weird, you’d be freaked out by the real thing.”

“The real thing? Very funny.” She started walking again.

“What, you don’t think vampires are real?” Here it was. How much did she believe in the legends already?

“No, and I’m glad they aren’t.”

“Why? Do they scare you?” I stopped and took her arm so I could turn her to look at me.

“Does the thought of blood sucking monsters scare me? Hell yes. Who wouldn’t be scared of that?”

I laughed again. Allie was in for one hell of a surprise. “Trust me, sweetheart, in New Orleans, vampires are the least of your worries.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m really glad you asked that.”

Her face paled slightly. “What are you talking about?”

“You’ll have to wait and see.”

“Okay, listen, scaring me isn’t a good way to get me interested, so if you have any weird tricks up your sleeve. just shelve them.” She balled her hands into fists. I could tell it wasn’t anger, but nerves that prompted the action.

“No tricks, hon.” I pulled out my phone and texted Owen. It was still early, but I hoped they’d made it downtown already. The plan was to meet them on my own if things didn’t go anywhere with Allie and to bring her if they did. The part of the plan they didn’t know yet was that I wasn’t waiting.

You there yet?

Yeah. Hailey tagged along too. Is it just you?

No. We’re both coming.

Cool.

I’m doing it. There, I’d said it.

You’re crazy.

Don’t act surprised.

I pocketed my phone. “We’re meeting everyone over at Club 360.”

“What’s that?”

“The lounge on the top of the World Trade Center down by the river.”

“Okay, is it a cool view?”

“Yeah, it’s got a good view.” I laughed again. She had no idea how good of a view she was about to see.

“You promise you aren’t luring me into some trap?”

“A trap? No. Let’s just call it a new experience.” The first wave of nerves hit me. Was I really doing this? Was I really taking the chance? Yes. There was no backing down.

We walked in a comfortable silence, and I held open the door when we arrived. There was a short wait for an elevator, but it was empty when we stepped in. I watched her, trying to hide my nerves.

The elevator doors opened on the top floor, dumping us out right at the club. I led her through the crowd, noticing that she kept checking out her outfit.

“Don’t worry, we won’t be here long.” Not that she had to care about being underdressed.

“Why are we here at all then?”

“Do you ever stop asking questions?” To handle my nerves, I decided to give her a hard time. That usually worked for both of us.

“I only ask this many questions when I fear for my well-being.”

“I assure you that you are in good hands.” I put an arm around her waist, needing her close to me. Her touch reminded me of how important this was. I needed her to know what I really was. She had to accept I wasn’t human, and hopefully she’d like the perks that came with it. I had more to offer her than she could imagine. I spotted my friends. “I see them.”

The three of them were seated at a small window table. Only Jared had a drink. Owen and Hailey were looking around the room nervously.

“Allie! I’m so glad you came!” Hailey jumped out of her seat and hugged her. Allie beamed. It seems that the girl crush went both ways.

Allie smoothed out her tank top, bringing my attention to her stomach. I was sure it was toned and smooth. Picturing her skin helped relax me. “Yeah, I needed a night out.”

“Where’s your friend?” Jared asked casually.

“My friend? You mean Jess? She’s back in New York, thanks to you.”

I was right. It was about Jared.

Jared gave me a confused look. “She left? What does that have to do with me?”

“Nothing. Forget I said anything.” Allie slipped into the empty seat next to Hailey.

“Okay…” Jared shrugged.

She gazed out the window, and once again, I wanted to know what she was thinking. Was she still upset about Jess? Was she just enjoying the view? The only view I cared about was her.

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