Handsome seemed too subtle of a word to describe Malik. Everything about him was completely charming and his looks to boot had Vanessa more intrigued than she wanted to be. Before seeing his face, she thought of Malik as the monster that took her brother away from her. Now that she saw his face and felt his lips on her hand, she definitely wanted to get to know him more.
She turned to Rylie as Malik pulled Byron aside, “Okay, maybe this party won’t be so bad.”
Rylie let out a soft, feminine chuckle, “You mean HE won’t be so bad.”
Vanessa lightly tapped her best friend’s shoulder, “Fine, he’s…cute.”
“Cute?” Rylie scoffed. “A devastatingly good-looking man approaches you, introduces himself, throws an all-class party for us, and the word you come up with is cute?”
“I’m not sure what word to use.”
“It’s okay V, neither do I…Oof incoming.”
As though summoned, Malik approached the pair with that damn panty-dropping smile on his face. “Miss Owens, Miss Summers, I do hope the accommodations are to your liking?”
Vanessa was taken aback. Who spoke like that in this day and age? Most guys she knew would be like, ‘Ladies, having a good time?’ But here was Malik, speaking as elegantly as he carried himself. “Yes, this is very lovely. Thank you.”
“I was hoping for an excuse to buy a nice dress, this was perfect. Although I really hope to be a guest at Lust.” Rylie mused.
“I’ll have your name on the VIP list and you won’t have to wait in line.” Malik winked. “What about you, Vanessa? Are night clubs to your liking?”
Rylie went to say no, but Vanessa stopped her. “Are you kidding? I LIVE in night clubs! I look forward to putting on a party dress and seeing what Lust has to offer. My standards are pretty high, so I hope it measures up.” She stated with a wink of her own.
Malik looked pleased to hear her response, but his eyes told her that he didn’t believe a word she just said. Thankfully, he didn’t push it. “If my club isn’t to your liking, I’m sure we can find something in my city that measures up to your standards.” He then looked Vanessa in the eye, “They’ll be serving dinner in a few minutes, may I be your first dance of the evening after Miss Owens?”
Vanessa was thanking God for blush and concealer that covered up how red her face was. First she just lied her ass off about her true feelings on the club scene, and now Malik wanted her first dance. “I would love to.” She smiled.
The food was as delicious as it looked. The salmon wellington was tender and crisp to perfection. The medley of fruits and vegetables looked like an edible arrangement. What struck Vanessa as odd was that her and Rylie were the only humans at the table. The staff was human, but her and Rylie were dining. The vampires also dined. Didn’t they drink blood? She thought they didn’t eat.
Malik approached her after the meal and escorted her to the dance floor. Shit. She just realized she knew nothing about ballroom dancing. She froze as Malik placed his large hand on the small of her back and took her other hand into his. He seemed to get that she was new as well. He didn’t ask questions, he didn’t tease her, he simply gazed into her eyes and said, “It’s okay, I’ll lead, you follow.”
The music that played was classical and Malik danced as though he just waltzed out of a Jane Austin novel. Vanessa fell into step with him, and they smiled at one another.
“Byron tells me you’re a pure blood, what does that mean?” she asked as he spun her out and pulled her back in.
“It means I was born a vampire.” He answered matter-of-factly.
“Really? I didn’t know vampires could reproduce.”
“Only the pure bloods can. I lost my parents a long time ago and I was an only child.”
“What happened to them?”
Malik focused on her, “They were killed by hunters. I was taken in by the Balthazar blood line. They offered me their daughter, but I wanted to build this city instead. I wanted to co-exist with humans. There are some ground rules I have to follow in order to rule this city, I abide by them, they let me have it.”
“I’m sorry to hear that your parents were killed by hunters.”
Malik flashed a side smirk, “It was a long time ago, love.”
“So was my parent’s death and I still grieve.”
“But you’re just a human. Of course it still hurts.”
Vanessa pulled back, “Just a human?” her blood began to boil under her flesh. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
“What else would you call yourself?”
“Well, if I’m JUST a human, then my weak self is exhausted and ready to go to bed. Goodnight Mr. Cromwell.” Vanessa pulled from his grip and stormed off the dance floor. She sensed arrogance in Malik, and it was one of the things that made him so damn sexy. But hearing him say ‘just a human’ made it sound…so objectifying. As though she were no more than a glammed-up pile of flesh. This world was still all too new for her and there was so much to process.
She didn’t go to Byron’s. Instead, she went out into the streets for some fresh air. All her ideas of New York City had felt tainted. How many people knew this city was under the thumb of some ancient vampire, or however the hell old he was? Did he pride himself on ruling a city so popular that most stories revolved around it? Anytime something goes south, it always started in New York. The irony.
Vanessa aimlessly wandered the streets trying to take in some kind of normalcy. Within minutes a mist of fog had begun to surround her. She rolled her eyes and went to duck into an alley. The fog dissipated and she turned, ready to confront Malik. But the figure that stood before her was not him. She didn’t recognize the man as someone she’d seen at dinner. And she would know if she saw him there. Vanessa was extremely observant of people around her. Their faces, their names. She internalized it all.
“Hello?” she called out. The man said nothing, he just stared at her. His clothes were ragged and when Vanessa spoke again, drool began to pour from his mouth, and he started to laugh maniacally. He then sprinted toward her at an unnatural speed. A large hand covered her eyes and she blacked out.