“I can do what I want, Vicki. It’s my life!” I jumped off the podium and stormed into the change room—slamming the door.

The girl in the mirror looked up at me; she was thinking the same thing; the dress was beautiful. I wished I could afford it, because it definitely was the one. But I wouldn’t take advantage of my boyfriend just because he happened to have made a few smart investments in his hundred-year existence. On the other hand, David would love this dress too, and I knew, from the look on Vicki’s face, that I just broke her heart. “Maybe—” I said, reaching out to the girl in the mirror; she smiled.

No. I drew my hand back quickly. “No! We’re not getting the dress.”

“Did you say something?” the clerk asked.

Myself looked at me solemnly.

I shook my head. “Stop pouting. We’re getting the green dress.”

Vicki walked quietly behind me as I headed to the other store, purchased the green dress with my own money and headed to Summer Magic, Masks and Hats Boutique.

“This one would’ve been perfect with the blue dress,” Vicki offered, holding up an almost transparent blue mask. The little stones around the eyes were patterned out like a butterfly, and as she angled it just so, it caught the light, shimmering like a diamond-powdered oil painting.

“Yes.” I swallowed, switching to ‘indifferent mode’ with a noncommittal shrug. “It’s great. But I have the green dress.”

“Oh, well, the only mask here that goes with green is this gold one.” Vicki’s lips spread into a sinister grin. “I know how much you love gold.”

“Gold?” I tried to swallow the vomit in the back of my throat. “I do love gold. And you’re right, it’ll look great with the green.”

Begrudgingly, I snatched the mask, purchased it and left the store, gagging on the bitter taste of regret.

After the first five minutes into the drive back home—in complete silence—I watched Vicki’s face, and the pig-headed me softened a little more. Sam was her only child. He would forever be her only child. I felt kind of guilty for ruining her only chance to do the girlie ‘going-to-a-ball’ thing.

She gave a small smile as we pulled up to the garage door, and my heart sunk into the pit of my stomach.

“What’s David doing here?” I sat forward slightly, looking at his car. “He was supposed to be here at two.” I was supposed to have this dress hidden by then.

Vicki shut the engine off. “We thought it might be better if they started earlier.”

“What’s the matter, Ara? I thought you’d be happy to see David.” Her tone had all the malice of a person who knew that I knew she knew I was totally getting busted—and she was relishing in the idea.

“Of course I’m happy to see him, Vicki.” I closed the car door with my hip and folded the dress over my arm. “I can’t wait to show him my dress.”

“Me too.” She walked ahead and opened the front door for me, all the while grinning like an evil stepmother.

The skin on my neck tightened.

“So you got a dress?” David, with his fingers wedged into his pockets, looked down at me from the top of the stairs, anticipation lighting his eyes.

“I did, and I think you’ll love it.”

He kissed my cheek as I passed him and, as Vicki followed, my shoulders subconsciously hunched around my ears.

“Did you have fun?” Dad asked, standing behind a big red sofa—wedged in the doorway of the spare room.

Vicki shrugged and sat on it.

“That good, huh?” Dad wiped his brow, winking at me.

“She hasn’t changed a bit when it comes to shopping, Greg,” Vicki whined.

My vampire folded his arms, his eyes narrowing as he stared at Vicki for a second, then, his head whipped up and he looked at me with an open-mouthed frown—my cue to leave.

“I’ll just hang this up.” I headed into my room quickly, feeling a jitterbug run down my spine.

When I headed back out to help Dad with the spare room, I half expected David to jump out and attack me. But he didn’t. Worse, he continued to help Dad—all the while saying nothing at all—well, nothing at all to me. He was mad. I knew it. I could tell.

The two boys struggled with the offending sofa while Vicki, who must’ve climbed in past Dad, vacuumed the imprints off the carpet where furniture had been. At last, the bulky lounge shifted, and David pretended to struggle with its weight as he and my dad carried it out of the room and angled it up the stairwell to the attic.

I looked at Vicki, then the stairs and the front door, and considered running for a second.

“Come help with the dusting, please,” she said.

Against my better judgment, I sauntered into the spare room and took the feather duster from her.

“Make sure you dust the cornices, too. I hate cobwebs.”

“Don’t go to a vampire’s house then.” I grinned, imagining David’s house was full of coffins, cobwebs and bats. If David had Vicki and Dad over for tea, she’d conceal a feather duster in her handbag and sneak off to the bathroom every five minutes, but secretly, she’d be removing all of David’s eight-legged pets. Then again, the only reason a vampire would invite Vicki and Dad to tea is if they were the main course.

I looked up, snapping out of my reverie in a suddenly Vicki-less room. “Actually, I do. I think you’d look rather fetching in a coffin.”

David’s eyes narrowed in obvious confusion. “Ara, what are you talking about?”

“The cobwebs.” I pointed to the ceiling, then dropped my hand slowly, realising that wasn’t what he was referring to. “Oh. The dress?”

“I—You know what?” I sunk my hip down on one side, propping my hand on it. “Bite me!”

“It’s just a dress. Get over it.”

He shook his head and backed away as Dad and Vicki waltzed in, carrying the bed head. “Vicki, please, let me take that.” The human David took over for the angry vampire, and I secluded myself in my task while the three of them continued furnishing the room around me.

As time ticked on and my mediocre chores came to completion, I leaned on the tall chest of drawers across from the foot of the bed and watched David, suddenly aware that he wasn’t so much angry that I hadn’t accepted his gift, but hurt. In his day, it was common for a man to send his date a pretty dress. And my declining it was probably seen as very rude. But these were modern times. Things had changed. Women had rights now.

My head nodded in self-satisfaction, but my heart danced a lonely samba under my rib cage as the afternoon sun lit the room and kissed his golden skin. He made it so hard to be mad at him; I knew he was mad at me, and I was mad at him for being mad at me, but now I was mad because I didn’t want to be mad at him anymore—and that made me feel uneasy because I had a right to be mad that he was upset that I hadn’t accepted a gift.

He dusted off his hands after he placed a small set of drawers next to the bed, then smiled at me—the conceited I-know-what-you’re-thinking-and-I’m-finding-it-funny smile.

“Er!” I stomped my foot, balling my fists up beside me. “You’re so annoying.”

“Ara?” Vicki looked up from making the bed, then looked at David as I stormed out of the room and slumped on the settee in the hall.

Dad walked out after me and stopped by soon-to-be-Mike’s door with a look of intense thought, then snickered and walked away. Vicki, with her arms folded around a spare blanket, followed him—after casting an accusatory glare at me.

I folded my arms, scoffed in her direction when her back was turned, and refolded my arms.

“Another one of Ara’s infamous tantrums.” David, with his towering height, stood in front of me.

“I’m not throwing a tantrum.” I slid down in the chair, biting my teeth together.

“Hm.” He turned and headed back into the spare room. “Coulda fooled me.”

“Yes.” He stopped and leaned on the doorframe. “I must admit, that was very clever of you—stuffing your purse with a lesser amount. But you can’t read minds, mon amour—” he tapped his temple, “—so your plan was doomed from the start.”

“Well, you assumed I was submissive, so yours was too.”

“Submissive?” He dropped his arms and moved over to me. “Ara, is that what you think?”

“I don’t know. You seem to know all my thoughts, so you tell me.”

“Ara. Look at me.” He knelt in front of me. “Please?”

With my movements as rigid as a frozen elastic band, I rolled my head upward, but kept my bottom lip in a completely tight pout.

“My love, I’m sorry. I never meant to offend you. I—” He took my hand; I let him, with only a little bit of a fight. “I was being playful, mostly. I truly did not think that my spending money on you would be considered rude or controlling.”

“It’s not that, David.” My tone sung with reason. “It’s that when I tried to decline, you got mad at me.”

“Mad?” He doubled back a little. “You think I’m mad?”

“Ara,” he laughed my name out. “I’m not mad. Not at all. Jeeze, girl, sometimes you really can make a mountain out of a molehill, can’t you?”

Tears coated the surprise behind my eyes. “I thought you’d yell at me.”

“Yell?” His brow pulled low on one side, thought washing across his face. “Ara, what kind of man do you think I am?”

“One that likes to get his own way.”

As if a rope had just pulled his soul out onto the carpet, his face went pale, his eyes draining of the smile. “I’m so terribly sorry if I’ve given you that impression. I—” He shook his head and dropped my hand. “I truly never meant for you to feel that way.”

He smiled. “Don’t. Look, I’m sorry I was pushy, but if it means that much to you, I’m glad you bought your own dress, and I will be happy to see you wear it with pride.”

“Oui, jolie fille.” He touched his hand to the hollow between his collarbones. “I am your eternal servant. You should never feel pressured to do something because I want you to…” He swallowed, his eyes becoming glassy. “And you should never be afraid of me—or my reaction.”

“I wasn’t really afraid—per se. Just anxious.” My shoulders dropped. “I just don’t like disappointing you.”

“My love, nothing you want with your heart will ever be a disappointment to me. You must know that?”

“I do. Now.” I shook my head, laughing softly. “I’m sorry, too, David. I—I mean, it’s not that big a deal—buying my own dress. I guess, in some ways, I just wanted to prove that…that I could make a stand.”

“You, my girl—” He rested his upturned palm along my jaw, “—don’t ever need to prove that to me.”

“David, you’re a vampire—a part of me will always need to prove I’m not weak.”

He looked down then, his eyes focusing on something far away while his lips turned up; my heart skipped at the sight of his dimples.

An eerie feeling swept over me as my gaze followed his to the front door at the base of the stairs. “Why?”

“Come in, Emily,” Sam said as he passed.

“Hello,” Emily chimed in her high but elegant voice, opening the door.

“Hey,” she said, then turned and waved to someone outside. “Bye, David.”

David? Not surprisingly, when I looked back, my eyes fell upon the plain colours of the corridor walls and the rosewood floorboards below the rug David had been kneeling on. “Right on time, Em.” I looked at the clock on the wall as I reached the base of the stairs.

“Yep, and I hope you like scary movies.” She held up a USB stick. “It’s based in Australia—some place called Wolf Creek?”

I shivered. That’s what David meant. “Uh, wow. That’ll be great,” I lied, not really sure why I did that.

I could almost hear David laughing down the street. Well, I hoped he enjoyed his little joke, because he’d be paying for it when I called him at two in the morning, scared, unable to sleep because the bad man might get me—instead of calling Mike, like always.

My arms folded in smug gratification. Well, there you go, that was one thing I’d let him pay for.

“I don’t know.” Emily grinned at Dad as he stood up. “I think Sam has a point.”

“See, old man,” Sam said. “If a senior agrees with me, I must be right.”