The night of the dance I was full of nerves.

A huge part of me wanted to call Simon and beg off, especially since he nixed the whole carpool idea from the get-go, but my mom had bought the dress and Dee had done an outstanding job making me look pretty.

My hair had been curled and twisted up, exposing my neck. A few strategically placed curls hung over my temples and rested on my bare shoulders. She even sprayed this vanilla-scented glittery stuff in my hair, so when I turned, my hair shimmered. My eyes were a warm brown due to the smoky outline she'd given them. I was also pretty sure she'd applied fake eyelashes, because my lashes had never been this long or thick. Her final touch before she rushed off to meet up with Lesa was the gloss she painted on my lips, turning them a perfect shade of ruby.

I inspected myself in the mirror before I went downstairs. It was like staring at a stranger, and I made a mental note to wear makeup more often.

Mom started crying the moment she saw me.

"Oh my God, honey, you look so beautiful." She went to hug me but stopped. "I don't want to ruin anything. Let me grab my camera." Even I wouldn't begrudge her this moment.

I waited until she returned and took a dozen pictures. Dressed in her nursing scrubs, she looked kind of funny snapping pictures.

"Now this Simon guy," she started, her forehead wrinkling. "You never talked about him."

Oh Lord. "We're friends. Nothing more, so you don't have a thing to worry about." She gave me a motherly look. "Whatever happened with the boy next door - Daemon?

You were hanging out with him a couple of times, right?"

I shrugged. That was a conversation I couldn't even begin to broach with my mom.


"Uh, we're frenemies."

"What?" Her brows puckered.

"Nothing," I sighed, glancing at my hand.

There wasn't a single mark on my fingers. There was a trace though, still lingering faintly, he said. "We're friends."

"Well, that's a shame." She reached out, smoothing down an errant curl. "He seemed like such a nice boy."

Daemon? Nice boy? Um, no. A loud engine from outside ended our conversation. I moved over to the window, peeking out. Good Lord.

Simon's truck was the size of a submarine.

"Why didn't you two go to dinner like Dee was talking about?" my mother asked, gearing up the camera for another round of shots.

Since Simon had nixed the carpool idea, I'd nixed the dinner. Simon was meeting me here, which I wasn't too thrilled about, but meeting at the dance seemed stupid. Not to mention he had the tickets.

I didn't answer as I went to the door and opened it. Simon stood there, dressed in a tux. I was sort of surprised they had ones that fit him.

His eyes, which seemed a little bleary, drifted down me in a way that turned my skin the color of my dress.

"You look hot," he said, thrusting out a corsage that went around my wrist.

I winced, hearing my mom clear her throat.

Taking the corsage, I stepped aside and let Simon in. "Mom, this is Simon." Simon stepped forward, shaking Mom's outstretched hand. "Now I see where Katy gets her looks from."

My mom arched a brow, turning into the Ice Queen. Simon had not made a fan. "Aren't you kind."

I slunk over to his side as I slipped my corsage on, grateful it was not one that had to be pinned on. Simon took having the epic amounts of pictures taken good-naturedly, wrapping his arm around my waist and smiling for the camera.

"Oh. I almost forgot." Mom disappeared into the living room, returning with a lacy black shawl. She draped it over my shoulders. "This will keep you warm."

"Thank you," I said, hugging it closer, more grateful for the coverage than she could ever imagine. The dress had seemed fine earlier, but now with Simon practically drooling on my cleavage I felt uncomfortable baring so much skin.

Mom pulled me aside while Simon waited outside. "Make sure you call me when you get home. If anything happens, call me. Okay? I'm working in Winchester tonight." She glanced out the door, frowning. "But I can leave if need be."

"Mom, I'll be fine." I leaned over, kissing her cheek. "I love you."

"Love you, too." She ushered me to the door. "You do look gorgeous."

Before the tears could fill her eyes again, I fled the house. Getting in the truck required strategic climbing. I was surprised that I didn't need a stepladder.

"Man, you do look hot." Simon popped a breath mint in his mouth before he backed out of the long driveway.

I hoped he wasn't planning to use those breath mints later. "Thanks. You look nice, too." That was the extent of our conversation.

Turns out Simon wasn't a witty conversationalist. Shocking. The ride to school was long and awkward, and I was gripping the edges of my shawl like there was no tomorrow.

Several times he glanced over, smiled, and popped another breath mint.

I couldn't wait to get to the dance.

When we arrived in the parking lot, I found out why he was popping so many breath mints.

Simon pulled a silver flask from the inside of his tux and took a long swig. He offered it to me next.

He was drinking. This was already starting off great. I declined the offer, already making plans to find another ride home. Drinking didn't bother me. Ending up with a drunk driver did.

Seeming not to care, he shoved it back in his jacket. "Hold on. I'll help you get down." Well, that was nice of him, because I was wondering how in the world I was supposed to get down. He opened the door and I smiled.

"Thank you."

"Did you want to keep your purse in here?" he asked.

Oh, hell no. I shook my head and let the tiny clutch dangle from my wrist. Simon took my hand and helped me down from the truck. He pulled a little too hard, and I stumbled against his thick chest.

"Are you okay?" he asked, smiling.

I nodded, trying to ignore the icky feeling building in my stomach.

Outside, I could hear the steady thump of music from the gymnasium. We stopped before the fogged-over doors, and Simon pulled me toward him in an awkward hug.

"I'm glad you wanted to go to the dance with me," he said, his breath minty and tinged with the harsh smell of liquor.

"Same here," I said, trying to mean it. I placed my hands on his burly chest and pushed back. "We should go in."

Smiling, he slid his arms away. One of his hands slipped down my back, over the curve of my hip. I stiffened and told myself it was an accident. It had to be. He surely didn't just cop a feel like that. We hadn't even danced yet.

The gymnasium had been converted over to an autumn-themed dance. Strings of fall foliage hung from the ceilings and covered the doors.

There were pumpkins and cornucopia horns full of leaves stacked in the corners and lining the stage.

As soon as we stepped inside, we were surrounded by Simon's friends. Some of them looked me over and gave Simon a not-so-discreet high five or clap on the back. It was like now they could tell I had boobs, I was suddenly cool. Boys could be so juvenile. While they passed around the flask Simon had brought in, I exchanged strained greetings with the other guys' dates. They were all cheerleaders. Yawn.

I scanned the crowd, spying Lesa with her date. "I'll be right back."

Before Simon could stop me, I darted off toward her. She turned when her date nodded in my direction. I smiled. "You look gorgeous." I had to yell to be heard over the music.

"So do you!" She gave me a quick hug and then pulled back. "Is he behaving himself?"

"So far. Do you mind?" I placed my shawl and clutch on their table when she shook her head. "They did a nice job on this." Lesa nodded. "Still a gym, though." She laughed. "It has that smell."

That was true. Carissa quickly joined us, tugging both of us out onto the dance floor minus the guys. I didn't mind. We danced with each other, giggling and being plain-out stupid.

Lesa danced like a double-jointed hooker, and I think Carissa did the running man at one point.

I caught a glimpse of Dee talking to Adam near the stage. Giving the girls a quick wave, I made my way over to them. "Dee!" She turned toward me, her eyes glistening under the dazzling lights. "Hey." I stopped short, my eyes bouncing between them. Adam gave me a tight smile before stalking off into the throng of dancers. "Is everything okay?" I took her hand, squeezing it.

"Have you been crying?"

"No. No!" She wiped under her eye with her free hand, using her pinky. "It's just that...I don't think Adam wanted to go with me, and I'm not sure I want to even be here. And it's..." She shook her head and pulled her hand free.

"Anyway, you look great! That dress is to die for!" My heart went out to her. It didn't seem fair that she was limited to who she could go out with. Especially considering every male Luxen I'd met was a douche. Since they all grew up together, it must be like going to the dance with her brother. "Hey," I said, getting an idea. "We can bail on this if you want. Go get movies and eat ice cream in our pretty dresses. Sounds like fun, right? We can rent Braveheart. You love that movie." Dee laughed, eyes tearing up again as she pulled me in for a tight hug. "No. We're going to enjoy ourselves here. How's your date?"

I glanced around, not seeing him. "Probably drunk somewhere."

"Oh no." She brushed a strand of hair back.

She'd worn her hair down and straightened it so that it fell over her shoulders like a wave of dark water. "Bad?"

"Not yet, but I was wondering if I could catch a ride home with you guys?"

"Of course." She started pulling me toward the dance floor. "We're probably going to the bonfire afterward. You can come with us or we can drop you off."

Simon hadn't mentioned a party. Maybe I'd get lucky and he'd forget about me. Dee and I skirted the edge of the floor, hand in hand. I'd almost given up on spotting Lesa in the mess, but then I came to a complete standstill.

There was a small candle covered in glass on a white table. It sent a soft flickering glow over Daemon's high cheekbones and full lips.

Ash was nowhere in sight, and honestly I didn't care where she was.

Daemon's stare was so concentrated I took an unintentional step back, but we didn't break eye contact. A craving unfurled deep in my stomach, shooting through me like heated lightning, and that - that was the kind of feeling you couldn't force, couldn't even replicate if you wanted.

And then Simon was in front of me, capturing my hand and pulling me away from Dee and out onto the dance floor. It wasn't a slow dance, but he wrapped his beefy arm around my waist and pulled me against his chest anyway. The hard edge of his flask cut into my ribs.

"You disappeared on me," he said, his lips brushing my ear, dousing my neck in alcohol fumes. "I thought you up and left me."

"No, I saw friends." I tried pulling back, but I was stuck to him. "Where are your friends?"

"Huh?" he yelled, unable to hear me as the music increased. "There's a party tonight down in the Field. Everyone is going." One of his hands was low on my back, his finger resting on the flare of my bum. "We should go." Dammit.

"I don't know. Curfew," I yelled back, trying to maneuver his hand off my rear.

"So? It's homecoming. It's time to party." I didn't bother responding. I was too busy avoiding his hands, which were everywhere. We danced another song before I could successfully extract myself, and the only reason I could was because Carissa saved me.

Things were all over the place then. I spied Ash sitting at the table, looking pissed while Daemon stared at the floor. Several bathroom breaks and dances later, I ended up back with Simon.

For a human, he sure knew how to sneak up on someone.

He didn't reek of alcohol this time around, but dammit, his hands were super friendly as we moved in a tight circle. I could feel every last inch of him, and he didn't seem to mind. I was starting to sweat when one of his hands dropped off my shoulder, narrowly avoiding my breast.

I jerked back, glaring at him. "Simon."

"What?" He looked innocent. "Sorry. My hand slipped."

His hand slipped my rosy red butt. I looked away, debating what to do. I needed to disappear. Quick.

"Mind if I cut in?" a deep voice asked from behind me.

Simon's blue eyes widened as I twisted around. Daemon stood there, a hard look on his face. He wasn't looking at me. His eyes were focused on Simon in challenge. As if he dared the boy to say no.

After a terse second, Simon released me.

"Perfect timing. I needed to get a drink anyway."

He cocked a brow at Simon and then looked at me. "Dance?"

Having no idea what he was up to, I gingerly placed my hands on his shoulders. "This is a surprise."

He didn't say anything as he wrapped one arm around my waist and reached up, taking hold of one of my hands. The music slowed down until it seemed to crawl by in a haunting melody about love lost and found again. I stared up into those extraordinary eyes, stunned that he could hold me so...tenderly. My heart thudded as blood rushed to every point in my body. It had to be the dance, the dress - the way he filled out his tux.

He pulled me closer.

Excitement and dread warred inside me. The dazzling lights overhead reflected in his midnight hair. "Are you having a good time with...Ash?"

"Are you having a good time with Happy Hands?"

I bit down on my lip. "Such a constant smartass."

He chuckled in my ear, sending shivers through me. "The three of us came together -

Ash, Andrew, and me." His hand rested above my hip, having a totally different impact on me.

My skin tingled underneath the chiffon. Daemon cleared his throat as he glanced away.

" look beautiful, by the way. Really too good to be with that idiot." A blush stole over my skin, and I lowered my gaze. "Are you high?"

"Unfortunately, no I'm not. Though, I am curious why you would ask."

"You never say anything nice to me."

"Good point," he sighed. Daemon moved a little closer and turned his head slightly. His jaw grazed my cheek and I jumped. "I'm not going to bite you. Or grope you. You can relax." My witty retort died on my lips when he moved his hand from my hip and guided my head to his shoulder. The moment my cheek touched his tux covered shoulder, there was a dizzying rush of sensations. His hand settled on my lower back again and we moved slowly to the music. After awhile, he started humming under his breath, and I closed my eyes.

This...this wasn't nice. It was thrilling.

"Seriously, how's your date going?" he asked.

I smiled. "He's a little friendly."

"That's what I thought." He turned his head, and for a moment his chin rested against my hair, then he lifted his head. "I warned you about him."

"Daemon," I said softly, wanting him not to ruin the mood. There was something peaceful about this, lulling. "I have him under control." He snorted. "Sure looks like it, Kitten. His hands were moving so fast I was beginning to question if he was human or not." I stiffened, my eyes opening. I counted to ten. I made it to three before he spoke again.

"You should sneak out of here and go home while he's distracted." His hand tightened around mine. "I can even get Dee to morph into you if need be."

Shocked that he'd go to that extreme, I pulled back and looked up at him. "It's okay if he gropes your sister? "

"I know she can take care of herself. You're out of your league with that guy." We'd stopped dancing, oblivious to the other couples. Disbelief coursed through me.

"Excuse me? I'm out of my league?"

"Look, I drove here. I can let Dee catch a ride with Andrew and take you home." He sounded like he had everything planned out.

Then his eyes narrowed. "Are you actually considering going to the party with that idiot?"

"Are you going?" I asked, pulling my hand free from his. My other hand was still on his chest and his arm still circled my waist.

"It doesn't matter what I'm doing." Frustration punctuated each of his words.

"You're not going to that party."

"You can't tell me what to do, Daemon." His eyes narrowed, but I could see the eerie glow beginning to form in his eyes, overshadowing his pupils. "Dee is taking you home. And I swear, if I have to throw you over my shoulder and carry you out of here, I will." My hand curled into a useless fist against his chest. "I'd like to see you try." He smiled, eyes starting to gleam in the darkness. "I bet you would."

"Whatever," I said, ignoring the looks we were starting to get from everyone. Over his shoulder, I saw Mr. Garrison watching us, which worked to my benefit. "You're the one who's going to cause a scene carrying me out of here." Daemon made a noise that really sounded like a growl.

Anyone in their right mind would've been terrified, and I should've been, considering I knew what he was capable of. I wasn't.

"Because you're local alien teacher is watching us as we speak. What do you think he's going to believe when you toss me over your shoulder, buddy?" Every inch of him stiffened.

I smiled like the cat that ate an entire aquarium full of fish. "Thought so." Surprisingly, he returned the smile. "I keep underestimating you, Kitten."

Stealth-mode Simon appeared before I had a chance to gloat over that major win. "You ready?" Simon asked, glancing between Daemon and me. "Everyone is leaving for the party."

Damon's look dared me to not listen to him, and that's pretty much why I agreed. He didn't control my life. I did.

Most Popular