Vamps (Vamps, #1) by Nancy A. Collins
"Youcan drop me off here, Bruno," Lilith Todd said as she slid a Christian Louboutin heel onto her right foot.
The chauffeur quickly glanced over his shoulder at her as he piloted the vintage Rolls along Sixth Avenue. Bruno had been driving the Todd family to and from their various destinations since the days of cobblestones and coach-and-fours. Before that he'd been an offi cer in some European army.
He asked, "Are you sure, Miss Lilith? I can drive around the block one more time if you like."
Lilith checked to make sure her backless emeraldgreen Dior dress was zipped to the waist and glanced at her Patek Philippe watch. She was secretly pleased to see she had broken her personal best for changing from her school uniform into her party clothes in the back of the limo.
"I said now, Bruno."
"Yes, Miss Lilith."
As the driver stopped at the club in the section cordoned off for valet service, a young man dressed in the Belfry's standard-issue black designer pants, T-shirt, and dinner jacket hurried up to open the car door. The Belfry was once an Episcopal church built by robber barons. More than 125 years later, the rich and famous still streamed through its ornate double doors; only now they came to minister to the fl esh and drink the spirit.
Even though it was after two in the morning, there were plenty of wannabes hanging around, grumbling among themselves and eyeing the beefy bouncers guarding the entrance to the club. As Lilith extended a shapely leg onto the curb, the throng on the wrong side of the velvet ropes turned toward her, hungry for a glimpse, no matter how fl eeting, of celebrity glamour. With a toss of her head, Lilith moved up the stairs to the door, her long, honey-blond hair fl oating behind her like a bridal veil. One of the bridge-and-tunnel rats elbowed her companion in the ribs and pointed at Lilith as she breezed by.
"Look! There's someone famous! Isn't she . . . ?"
"I don't think so," her friend said, squinting like a jewel appraiser trying to tell the difference between a precious and semiprecious stone. "Too young. But I'm pretty sure she's someone famous. Or she's rich. Maybe both."
Lilith brought her hand to her mouth so that no one could see her laugh. Oh, she was rich and famous, all right. Just not in the way the wannabes were thinking. As she reached the front door of the club, a new bouncer stretched out a bulging arm, blocking her way.
"You look the part, lady," he said, his eyes traveling up and down her svelte body. "But I need to see some ID."
Suddenly the valet ran up and tapped the bouncer on the shoulder. The huge mountain of man-muscle lowered his head so the valet could whisper into his ear. Lilith smiled as she saw the panic cross his face.
"Sorry, my mistake," the bouncer rumbled, exposing his throat in deference as he stepped out of her way.
"Enjoy your night, Miss Todd."
Lilith crossed the glowing entryway and headed toward the massive main dance fl oor that fi lled what had once been the church sanctuary. She looked up at the DJ booth housed in the old pulpit and waved at the young man spinning trance at deafening levels. She spotted Sebastian, the club's party promoter and appointed guardian of the VIP lounge on the second fl oor. He rushed toward her as fast as his custom-made blue leather shoes could carry him. As always, he was ecstatic to see her.
"Lilith! Baby! You look positively ravishing! It's so good to see you!" he shouted over the throbbing punch of the club's sound system.
"Hello, Seb," she yelled back. "Are the others here?"
"Jules just arrived. Go on up to the Loft; I have your favorite vintage warmed and ready for you."
"You're my favorite, Seb!" she said, kissing the air to either side of his thin cheeks.
"I'm sure you say that to all the devilishly handsome club promoters who let you drink for free!" He winked.
As she entered the former choir loft that served as the VIP lounge for the club, Lilith spotted her promised, Jules de Laval, sprawled on one of the divans. He was dressed in an Armani polo T-shirt, the sleeves rolled up to give his biceps maximum reveal, chatting with Tanith Graves, one of her best friends. With his tousled, collar-length strawberry-blond hair, green eyes, perfectly straight nose, and strong masculine jaw, Jules looked like a movie star and loved to act the part. Tanith and Lilith enjoyed passing for sisters, and since both girls had blond hair, oval faces, fake tans, and the same taste in high-end fashion, it was an easy con to pull off.
Sitting next to Tanith was her boyfriend, Sergei Savanovic, one of Jules's classmates from Ruthven's. With his dark, shoulder-length hair, black eyes, and penchant for turtleneck sweaters and leather jeans, Sergei could easily be mistaken for a Russian poet, but he was actually from Serbia, as he was quick to point out to anyone who bothered to ask.
Carmen Duivel and Oliver Drake were sprawled on the opposite sofa. Carmen's baby-doll face and coppery tresses perfectly complemented Oliver's dirty blond hair and bad-boyish good looks. Like most vampire couples, Oliver and Carmen were seeing each other simply because they knew they looked good together.
"There she is," Jules said, smiling as he got to his feet. "I was beginning to think Teacher kept you after school."
"Thank the Founders it's Thursday!" Lilith laughed as they embraced. "I don't see how clots can stand going to school fi ve days out of the week!" She gave the room a cursory glance as she kissed him on the cheek. "Who's not here yet?"
"Melinda," Carmen replied.
"Big surprise there," Lilith said with a roll of her eyes. "She's always late."
"Like you have room to talk! You're not exactly the most punctual," Jules chided.
"Yes, but I'm fashionably late, sweetie. There's a difference. So what dish have I missed out on?"
"Ollie was telling us how he managed to score backstage passes to the Victoria's Secret Pink Party for everyone," Carmen said excitedly.
"One of my father's thralls is a publicist for the company," Oliver explained.
"Victoria's Secret? Oh, please." Lilith sniffed.
"Yeah, I wasn't really sure I wanted to go," Carmen said, her previous enthusiasm suddenly curbed. "What was I thinking?"
"I'm going to get a drink. I need to wash the taste of school out of my mouth," Lilith said. "Don't gossip too much while I'm gone - I'll just make you repeat it when I get back."
As she walked up to the bar made from parts of the church pipe organ, she could see that the bartender was already reaching under the countertop. "The usual?" he asked.
"Here you go," he said, handing her a wineglass fi lled with something that could be mistaken for claret. Lilith sniffed the bouquet, smiled, and nodded her approval.
On rejoining her friends, Lilith saw that Melinda had arrived. With her pale jade eyes, cafe au lait skin, and elaborately braided hair, the daughter of Anton Mauvais was a mesmerizing beauty - and one who was standing a little too close to Jules.
"Glad to see you fi nally made it, Melly," Lilith said as she slid between the two in such a way that Melinda was forced to take a step back.
"I had to go home to change my clothes," Melinda explained, "or I would have been here sooner."
"What are you drinking, Lili?" Sergei asked.
"AB neg served at body temperature with a hint of anticoagulant: just the way I like it."
"So - how was school?" Jules prompted.
"Ugh! Please, don't remind me!" Lilith grimaced.
"So far we're a week into the fall semester and it already blows donkey dongs."
"I didn't realize that donkey dongs were a unit of measure." Jules chuckled.
"Shut up!" Lilith said, slapping him playfully on the leg. "You know what I mean! Anyway, I was hoping they'd start treating us more like adults and less like fl edglings this year. Maybe let us take a fi eld trip, do some luring, you know? No such luck! I can already lure any of the clots in this club with one hand tied behind my back!" She drained her glass and slowly and sensuously licked her lips.
"If that's what you're interested in, we could always go slumming," Tanith suggested. "There are plenty of drug dealers to be found in this city, day or night. No one would notice or care what happened to them."
"Down around Washington Square Park is an easy spot," Jules suggested off-handedly, giving Tanith a wink.
Tanith lifted an eyebrow but was careful to make sure Lilith didn't see the look on her face. All of Lilith's friends knew better than to respond to Jules's fl irting, even in jest.
"Really? So let's go!" Lilith said, refusing to acknowledge Jules's behavior. The marriage between Lilith Todd and Jules de Laval had been arranged by their families when they were still babies and was viewed as the perfect merger of Old World power and New World wealth.
The de Lavals were the most aristocratic family in the whole city. Jules's father, the Count de Laval, had a bloodright that predated the reign of Clovis I, and he still owned considerable property in his native France.
Despite having changed the family name from
Todesking on moving to America, the Todds had no claim to royalty. However, they were richer than Midas. By arranging a marriage contract with the de Lavals, Lilith's father had guaranteed that his precious daughter would indeed grow up to be a real princess - or at least a countess - and the de Lavals were assured of the steady stream of money necessary to make sure their collection of chateaus, palaces, and castles remained in the family.
Of course, none of this stopped Jules's eyes - and other body parts - from wandering on a regular basis.
"We could do it this weekend, I guess." He shrugged.
"That's if you don't mind some of the boys tagging along."
"I'm always interested in partying," she said, snuggling up to him. There was a buzzing sound and Jules pulled out his cell phone. "It's my dad," he said with a frown. "I better go."
Lilith tried to angle her head so she could see the name on Jules's caller ID, but he had already palmed the phone. "Since when do you go scampering home when Daddy calls?" she asked.
"Since I got a failing grade on my last alchemy test,"
Jules replied sourly. "He threatened to cancel my trip to Vail if I didn't put in at least a couple hours studying after school."
"See you tomorrow night, then?"
"Sure," Jules replied. As he bent down to kiss her good-bye, Lilith rose to meet him. Jules cradled the back of her head in his palm as his tongue slipped into her eager, hungry mouth. After a long, fi nal kiss that felt real, he looked into her eyes and gave her his patented sexy smile. "I gotta go, babe. Call me when you get up."
Lilith watched as Jules left. Even though the Loft was packed, the crowd parted without him having to say a word. She silently wondered if he really was going home or if it was simply an excuse to be with someone else. There would be plenty of time for him to go out without her after they got married. Until then, she wanted Jules all to herself. The idea of Jules doing the things to another girl that he did to her was enough to trigger bouts of jealous anxiety in her.
Lilith glanced down at her hands and saw that they were knotted into fi sts. "Excuse me for a moment, will you?" she said to the others as she stood up. "I need to make a run to the little girls' room."
The VIP lounge's ladies' room was considerably smaller than its counterpart downstairs, with only two toilets and no mirrors mounted on the wall over the sink. Lilith quickly scanned the fl oor, checking to make sure there weren't any feet visible under the stalls. Satisfi ed that she was alone, she dropped the lid onto one of the toilets so she could sit down. Her hands were already starting to shake as she pushed the bolt lock home behind her.
She put her Prada bag down between her feet and reached inside, her fi ngers blindly groping for the zippered pocket where she kept the forbidden stash no one knew about: not her parents, not Tanith, not even Jules.
She just needed a little hit, that's all. Just a little something to take the edge off and boost her selfconfi dence. Everybody thought she had it so easy. But being the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect student, the perfect girlfriend all the time was hard work.
She deserved this.
She opened her hand to reveal a small tortoiseshell case compact. She smiled to herself as she unsnapped the compact's lid, revealing its contents.
A small, circular mirror.
Lilith stared at her refl ection for a long moment, tilting the compact fi rst one way, then another in order to see as much of her face as possible.
She had been told all her life that she was beautiful. Her mother said so. Her father said so. Jules said so. Tanith said so. And when she became older, others said so - not with words, but with their eyes. Even though she was only sixteen, Lilith was accustomed to lustful looks directed at her by people of all ages and persuasions. Still, no matter how many times others told her she was attractive, it wasn't the same as being able to see it with her own eyes.
However, the relief the small mirror provided her didn't come without a price. If she was ever caught with it in her possession, she would be automatically expelled from school and brought as a criminal before the Synod, the governing counsel that saw to it that the ancient laws of her people were obeyed.
Lilith scrutinized her hair and makeup, checking to make sure she looked her best before clicking the compact shut. As she returned the mirror to its secret hiding place, her hands were once again steady, her manner assured. Before she exited the stall, she made certain to fl ush the toilet, just in case someone had entered the restroom in the meantime and might be paying attention. After all, appearance was everything. She was herself again: Lilith Todd, Vampire American Princess.
"Where've you been for so long?" Melinda asked as Lilith rejoined the group.
"I'm bored. You want to go downstairs?" Lilith said, ignoring the question as she drained the last of her drink.
"Sure." Tanith shrugged. "Sergei hates dancing, don't you?"
"All my best moves are in the boudoir." Sergei grinned crookedly. "I'll stay here and catch a buzz, if you don't mind."
"Same here," Oliver said as he sipped his drink.
"Come on," Lilith said, taking Tanith by the hand.
"Let's dance." She turned to look at Carmen and Melinda. "Coming?"
Carmen and Melinda exchanged a look, then hopped to their feet and followed their friends without saying a word. Even though the dance fl oor was packed, Lilith and her entourage effortlessly moved through the crowd until they reached its center. As the quartet danced, laughed, and giggled among themselves, Lilith became aware that she was being watched. She looked around and saw a man in his mid-thirties staring at her intently.
Normally she ignored the clots that frequented the Belfry, but she was bored and she'd been drinking, and she liked his look. Perhaps she would have a little fun of her own. She met the man's eyes and nodded ever so slightly.
The clot fl ashed a smile that revealed expensive dental work and moved toward her. She glided up to meet him, her eyes locking onto and holding his own. On seeing what Lilith was doing, Tanith, Carmen, and Melly quickly positioned themselves between the couple and the surrounding club-goers, effectively isolating the prey from the rest of the humans. As they continued to dance, the clot appeared oblivious to the fact that his newfound partner was gradually working him to the edge of the dance fl oor.
He placed his hands on Lilith's waist, his eyes blazing with a mixture of lust and pharmaceutically fed heat, but she easily slipped from between his fi ngers. She smiled, wagging a fi nger in mock reproach, but still didn't say a word. Instead, she nodded in the direction of the nearby ladies' room. His eyes brightened even more.
After checking to make sure the coast was clear, Lilith quickly led her prey into the restroom, the members of her entourage closing in tight behind her. Tanith followed immediately after her to serve as goalie, while Carmen and Melinda stood guard at the door, turning away possible intruders.
Lilith kept her eyes focused on her prey as she steered him backward, toward the middle toilet stall, the door of which was already standing open.
"So, uh, is your friend interested too?" the clot asked eagerly, his eyes fl icking toward Tanith, who stood behind Lilith, blocking his exit to the door. Lilith glanced over her shoulder at Tanith and the two shared a knowing smile. "Yeah, she'd like a piece of you as well."
Lilith gently pushed her prey farther into the stall until the back of his legs made contact with the porcelain bowl. "In fact, we'd all like a little taste of you."
The man grinned as he loosened his tie and dropped down onto the toilet, staring up at Lilith like he had just walked into a hot sex fantasy. Four gorgeous young chicks ready, willing, and able to have group sex with him? What's not to like?
That question was answered when Lilith lunged forward, unsheathing a pair of retractable two-inch fangs, which she buried in his exposed jugular. The clot barely had time for a short, strangled cry of alarm before the neurotoxins in her saliva spread through his system, paralyzing his vocal cords and robbing him of his motor skills. His eyes rolled back in their sockets, showing only whites.
Although she had consumed human blood all her life, Lilith had only experienced the real thing straight from the vein two or three times before. As her prey's blood fl ooded her mouth, she was amazed at how alive it tasted. She sucked greedily at the crimson liquid, shivering in delight as her prey's vitality spread throughout her body.
"Hey, don't bogart him." Tanith grinned as she tapped Lilith on the shoulder.
"Be my guest," Lilith said as she stepped aside to give her friend a turn.
Tanith picked up the clot's limp right arm, pushing the sleeve of his suit back as she bit into his exposed wrist. He didn't moan or even blink.
As Lilith looked away from the scene in the bathroom stall, her attention was caught by her refl ection in the mirror above the washbasins. She moved closer, transfi xed by the sight of her mouth glistening red and wet, as if coated in fresh lipstick. Behind her she could see Tanith emerging from the stall, blotting her lips on a piece of toilet paper, as Carmen ducked in for her share of the evening's fun.
Suddenly there was a fl urry of noise as Sebastian pushed his way into the ladies' room. He had a wireless headset clipped to one ear and a concerned look on his face.
"What in the name of hell is going on here? I got a report that someone was blocking access to the women's restroom."
Lilith moved to put herself between the club promoter and the toilets. "It's just girl stuff, you know. Nothing to get upset over, Seb."
"What are you kids doing downstairs anyway - ?
Is the ladies' room in the VIP lounge not working?"
Sebastian's gaze dropped to the fl oor and his eyes widened. "Wait a minute - are those men's shoes?"
Stepping around Lilith, he yanked open the door of the stall and stared at the man propped up on the toilet like an oversize rag doll. The clot's chin rested on his breastbone and his skin was nearly as white as the surrounding tile. Sebastian grabbed the man by the hair and lifted his head, then let it drop.
"What have you done?" he yelped. "You know the rules - no tapping on the premises! At least not during club hours!"
"Look, Seb - don't get upset, okay?" Lilith said, trying to defuse the promoter's alarm. "You can always put him in the cellar with the others, right?"
"Don't get upset?" Sebastian growled, fl ashing his fangs in open annoyance. "Do you know who this is?"
Lilith and the others looked among themselves and shook their heads. During the thrill of the hunt, no one had bothered to ask the prey his name.
"This man is a very important music industry executive! He can't just disappear! And he most certainly can't disappear from my club!" Sebastian picked up the clot's limp right arm and felt his wrist. "He's still alive. Praise the Founders for small favors."
"Maybe we can drop him off at a hospital or something?" Tanith suggested.
"He's not going to an emergency room with all those bites on him!" Sebastian snarled, clearly irritated by the huge inconvenience of it all. "He looks like he fell into a snake pit." Sebastian pressed a fi nger to his Bluetooth and shouted angrily into the mouthpiece.
"Andre! I want the ladies' room in the chapel sealed off immediately! See to it no one, and I mean no one, comes in here. I dunno - tell 'em someone fl ushed a sanitary napkin."
"So what do we do now?" Lilith asked. She had never seen Sebastian so angry before and it made her uncomfortable.
Sebastian heaved a sigh and rubbed his furrowed brow with the heel of his palm, doing his best to reel his temper in. "What's done is done. I'll handle this. There's no point in freaking out, okay? I'll take care of our friend here. I'll have the boys run a transfusion on him. He'll wake up sick as a dog. Knowing this prick, he'll just assume he got lucky. But you're going to have to leave and stay away for a while."
"You mean we're banned from the club?" Tanith wailed.
"Oh, c'mon, Seb - aren't you overreacting?" Melinda asked.
"Overreacting?" Sebastian barked, rolling his eyes in disgust. "We can't run the risk of attracting attention here! Police would be bad enough, but the last thing the Belfry needs is Van Helsings!"
"But if we're banned from here, where will we party this weekend?" Carmen pouted.
"Anywhere but here," Sebastian growled. "For all I care, you can party in hell."