Authors: Cecilia Lonski
We were getting closer now.
Just a few weeks ago, I graduated from high school and was about to open a new chapter in my life; a better, more reassuring life. Now, as I anxiously run my fingers down the ends of my thick and wavy red mane, I couldn't help but admit how very wrong I was; there were no answers post-graduation; only more uncertainty and dread.
“So, that's how he found out about the affair!” whispered an overly excited middle-aged woman with a guitar case and two dogs at her side.
“Oh, wow.” I tried my best to sound completely interested in her story, though I was completely absorbed in my own distressing thoughts.
Seriously, how was I so naïve about post-graduation?
How did I get here?
Maybe my parents were right; I should go to college and pick any major. No more shuffling around, waiting for answers to drop right in front of me.
“Uh-huh. It was an ugly mess, I'll tell you that. I'm actually surprised you haven't heard about it. The whole town has!”
Her loud voice took me out of my momentary depression. But I continued to act oblivious.
Of course everyone in Richmond has heard about the affair between the much-respected town doctor and his daughter's best friend who was a high school senior; with a population under 5,000 it's difficult to have an actual private life. Everyone here talks and gossips. Everyone knows everyone's secrets: relationships, affairs, eating disorders, number of followers on Twitter, etc. Except the vampires; they always keep to themselves. Though that never stops the human residents from trying to dig out some dirt on them. And people always wonder why I want to leave and live in a city.
The middle-aged lady eyed me suspiciously up and down. “Where are you heading? This route goes slightly out of town and it's getting a little late for a young girl like you to be out.”
Should I tell her that I was heading to meet a billionaire vampire who is looking to recruit eight girls for his personal enjoyment? Her reaction would certainly humor me. I turned and smiled at her, “I'm meeting a friend and staying the night. I'll be fine.”
Just to be clear: No, I'm not a prostitute. I'm no slut by any means of the imagination.
Here's the thing, my very good vampire friend, Artie Stevens, is best friends with Josef Constane, a vampire who has more money than he could ever spend. Every so often Mr. Constane invites a group of girls to attend his parties and travel with him. According to Artie, there was no sex, no kissing –
It kind of confused me and it was actually pretty difficult for Artie to explain. Apparently, Mr. Constane just likes to have a good time and wants to offer an adventure of a lifetime for human girls who wouldn't even dream of half the things he can provide them. And right now, I was in desperate need of money. And my part-time job as a ballroom dancer at a local hotel wasn’t going to do get me what I needed.
But the truth is that I really didn't want to do this. I didn't want this to be the way I made money. Sure I could have picked up more hours at the hotel or maybe get another part-time job somewhere. But I wasn't going to make enough. I needed a lot more actually for a reason... And according to Artie, Mr. Constane would gladly fit the bill.
Now, with my dignity left at the last bus stop, I was heading down to Mr. Constane's office where I will be interviewed for a potential spot in the final eight. If I was lucky to make the final eight, that is.
My nerves began to skyrocket as the bus got closer to approaching my destination. And it didn't help that I wasn't all too confident about my outfit choice. Artie told me to come properly dressed (“properly” to him meant hot but not slutty) but being in school all morning made that difficult. So I opted for an ivory sweater-knit dress that was short enough to make some impression but not short enough to get some unwelcome stares at school. All in all, Artie probably won't be too pleased as he heavily stressed that Mr. Constane prefers his girls to be dressed immaculately at all times.
Heck, if I didn't get a spot then it wouldn't be the end of the world so I wasn't going to fuss too much about it.
I took a deep breathe, stepped into the elevator, and pushed the button for the top floor. The elevators had mirrors on all four sides which forced me to look at myself. I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't get a spot to be honest. I'm certainly not top-model worthy in any way, which according to Artie is what Mr. Constane usually goes for. I'm short, small-chested with uncontrollably wavy strawberry-blonde hair, pale skin that won't take in any sun, doe-eyed hazel-green eyes and an overall appearance of a virginal disaster.
No, I wasn't a virgin but that never stopped anyone from assuming so. In town, I'm known as Quinn the good girl who never gets into trouble, never drinks, never hooks-up, etc. How little they know of me...
Oh shit. I'm here. I can't stop my heart from beating uncontrollably fast as I approach the front desk with a stunning brunette sitting on the other side.
Yeah, I don't belong here
Somehow, I managed to bring the words out of my trembling mouth. “Hi, I'm Quinn Turner and I'm here to see Josef Constane.”
“Please take a seat in the waiting room around the corner.”
I took a few steps as I turned the corner to find myself in a waiting room full of many beautiful women. They were mostly brunettes or platinum blondes with tan skin. And many of them looked as if they had just come off the runways of Paris. They all looked up at me as I made my way to the back of the room where I spotted an empty seat. Judging by their expressions, they knew I didn't belong as much as I knew it myself.
I should go. I am just humiliating myself just being here!
The small glass coffee-table in the center of the room had a stunning display of gourmet cupcakes and small fruit tarts.
“Oooh, those look yummy, huh?” I turned to a blonde that sat to my right and smiled. Some small talk might help alleviate the anxiety I was feeling heavily.
She squinted her eyes at the table and murmured, “Those have like a shit-load of calories.”
“Yeah, they do. What were they thinking offering them to us?” I nodded, cleared my throat and reached for a magazine on another table nearby.
Just when I made the choice of reading a business magazine (there were no other choices really), the brunette from the desk came into the room, looked at me and waved me over to her. She turned and started walking as I followed her. “Just so you know, you're late.”
“Um, yeah like ten minutes. Sorry I had a class over at the other side of town and I took the bus here.” It was difficult keeping up to her pace. She was a fast walker despite wearing what looked like eight inch heels.
“Mr. Constane waited for you at the request of Mr. Stevens. All the other girls were interviewed long before your scheduled time at 4 and they are all waiting to be dismissed. But they couldn't be until you got here.”
Shit. I didn't know that. “I'm really sorry.”
She acted like she didn't hear me. “Mr. Constane likes to dismiss everyone at once as well as provide transportation for all.”
We suddenly came to a door and she turned around to face me. She quickly glanced across my entire body before whispering, “good luck”. She turned and opened the door. “Mr. Constane, the last one is here.” As I stepped in, she walked out of the room.
Near the floor to ceiling glass windows were three men. Artie and another stood side by side next to a chair which was occupied. I presumed it was Mr. Constane. He stood up from his seat and pulled his arms behind back.
As I started walking towards them, I felt my legs wobbly and I had a hard time breathing. Okay, he was handsome.
No. He was hot, freaking hot! Tossled sandy-blonde hair, hazel eyes, tall, broad shoulders, muscles in all the right places, and an impeccable bone structure that would make even the Calvin Klein model casting director swoon beyond belief.
“Miss Turner, I presume?” He held out his hand for me to shake.
His voice was a low-deep husky one.
Oh my goodness!
“Yes, Quinn Turner. It's nice to meet you” I couldn't help but grin and I could feel the heat in my cheeks. His hand shake was firm. And although it was cold (
he's a vampire) I nonetheless felt a wave of heat from the contact.
“Mr. Constane.” No first name?
I barely acknowledged Artie and the other man. How could I? Mr. Constane was very distracting.
He motioned me to sit on the sofa across from them. As I did, he slowly sat back down on his seat with his hand stroking his chin and mouth. It looked as though he was trying to suppress a laugh. Oh no, he was laughing at me! Of course, he was. I am a fool to even be here.
I looked down on the floor, feeling too ashamed to look at him or Artie for reassurance. “I'm very sorry that I'm late. I have this one professor who likes to ramble on way after the class has ended. And then the bus was delayed. That also explains my poor choice of outfit. I would have come here looking nicer but I have this other professor who is a perv and I didn't want to send him some message because I came to school looking super nice. Ha!” I stopped laughing when I realized no one else was.
Josef's eyebrows quirked up and he looked down at my dress and my white pin-up heels. “You look fine. Who told you you don't?”
“Oh, thanks. I was just told that I was supposed to come in more fancy attire than school girl.” I quickly looked at Artie who shrugged his shoulders.
Josef took a file from the other man who stood beside him. “I expect my company to look good but it's refreshing to see someone who didn't try too hard to impress. You came here dressed with what you would normally wear.”
That was a first. No one really appreciated my style. On a day-to-day basis I aim for casual-chic with a hint of the 60's. I don't know why but I was always fascinated by the 1960's in general. I wonder if he was around that time...
Josef looked through the file, not glancing up at me as he spoke. “So, you are a student at the Richmond Community College. What courses are you taking?” He finally looked at me and it felt like fire was blazing from his eyes.
Feeling really warm, again I looked down at my hands. “I'm taking three right now. Sociology 101, British Literature and Art History. I...I'm actually not sure what I want to major in or if I will for sure transfer to a University. But I like art.” I looked up to find him staring with a hint of a grin.
“Artie tells me you met at your work. Which is where?”
“It's at the Richmond Grand Hotel on the lake.”
“What do you do?
“I dance. I'm one of the weekend dancers at the ballroom.”
His jaw suddenly went tense as he looked back to the file. “You like to dance?”