Vampire Kisses - Royal Blood Part 16

Becky's face sparkled. "Whose?"

"It's a total colossal secret."

"Are there any other kind?"

"Not even Matt can know."

She paused."Forever?"

"No, just until the auction is over."

"I can totally do that."

She leaned in close.

And I said in my softest voice, "The paintings I'm auctioning off are Alexander's."

"That's awesome!" she declared. "But why is it a secret?"

"Because we don't want anyone to know he's the artist. We're afraid that no one will buy them if they know they're from a teenager. And one that lives in the Mansion."

"I see your point. But what will you do with the money?"

"This is an even bigger secret. We plan to buy the Mansion."

It wasn't long before Matt pulled into the driveway.

"What's up?"

"Nothing," Becky said as she got into his car. "Nothing is up. And I don't have any more to say about it, either. And for that matter, I never will."

A confused Matt drove off as Becky looked out the window and smiled.

28.

The following morning we sat through several painfully boring English presentations. Students had revelations of being Web designers, pharmacists, and restaurateurs. I prayed we wouldn't get to Trevor and me, but the clock had ten minutes remaining. My prayers weren'tanswered.

"So what did you learn about yourselves?" Mrs.Naper asked.

Trevor, always the star, had no inhibitions about being the center of attention. He sprang up next to Mrs.Naper's desk while I walked past my cla.s.smates as if I were headedfor the guillotine.

"When I was in kindergarten," Trevor began, "like most boys, I wanted to be a superhero." A few girls in the front row giggled. Trevor stopped and shot them a cold stare until the girls glanced away. "Of course, I'm not thatkidanymore," he continued, "but I do like action, speed, and compet.i.tion. What I've learned from this a.s.signment and the interview is that when you are a kid, you don't worry about what others think of your ideas. And your dreams have no boundaries. It might be easy, predictable, and even safe to follow in my parents' professions. But my essay is about how a superhero has courage, and it takes courage to follow your dream. And my goal...," he began, and then turned to me, "is to be a professional soccer player."

"Tell us something we don't know," aPradabee said, flipping through her notebook.

I was really surprised at Trevor's speech. I had challenged my nemesis with my earlier a.s.sessment of him and he felt he had to prove to me that he wasn't the coward I thought he was. I wondered if I hadn't said anything, if Trevor would have stood here proclaiming he wanted to be a real estate developer like his dad.

The cla.s.s applauded and Mrs.Naper grinned at her student pet. "Very interesting and well spoken, Trevor," she complimented. "Now we have just enough time for Raven's presentation before the bell rings."

I gazed out at my fellow students. They glared back like I was the lead act at a freak show.

"When I was young," I began, "I wanted to be a vampire."

My cla.s.smates snickered. I pursed my lips and clutched my fist.

"Settle down," Mrs.Naper commanded.

I looked to Becky, who gave me the thumbs-up sign.

"And since then," I continued, "I've lived my life in a way and style that reflects that. It never mattered to me what other people wore-"

"Obviously," I heard someone say.

"Orsaid" I continued. "And because of this I've always been an outcast. Just by being me. So I imagine that I'll find a profession that suits me-perhaps being an editor of my owngoth fas.h.i.+onmag ," I said enthusiastically. "But as we are looking toward our future, I'm not sure it matters what we want to be but ratherwho we want to be. Someonehonestor deceitful?Someone kind or cruel?Someone loyal or unfaithful? In any profession we can elect to be any of those things. I think this a.s.signment is not only about what we choose todo but about who we choose tobe. I choose to always be loyal to myself."

I stood in front of my cla.s.smates, waiting for their response. No laughter. No snickering. No booing. I turned to Mrs.Naper and Trevor, who both appeared stunned.

Just then the bell rang.

Relieved the a.s.signment was finallyover, I followed Trevor and handed in my essay. As the students filed out of cla.s.s, I overheard a cheerleader speaking with her friend.

"I know I said I want to be a model, but what I meant was anice model,"

"Yeah," said one of thePradabees . "When I have my designer clothing line, I'll give ten percent of the goods to charity."

After the two girls left, a member of the band was suddenly standing next to me. "I said I wanted to be a teacher,butI really haven't decided what I want to do," he shared with me. "You made me feel that it was okay to focus on myself for a while. And the rest will follow."

"I think it will," I said rea.s.suringly.

Mrs.Naper put Trevor's and my essays in her folder. "In all the years I've been giving this a.s.signment, yours and Trevor's presentations were two of the best." She gloated.

Trevor put his arm around me before I could bat it away. "Guess that means we'll be working together again very soon," he said triumphantly, and disappeared into thehallway.

Becky handed me my backpack."Seems like your presentation was more powerful than you planned. Maybe you should be a motivational speaker."

"Can I wear combat boots?" asked.

"You'll be the only one," she said, and dragged me out of cla.s.s.

29.

I'd never attended, nor had reason to attend the gala affair known as Dullsville's Annual Art Auction. My parents were more than happy and quite surprised that I was trading in an evening at the cemetery for one spent at the country club. My dad actually gave me the keys to his SUV since Jameson would be driving theSterlings later. I chauffeured the unknown and mysterious artist, Alexander Sterling, to the event.

The country club's parking lot was as huge as a theme park's and seemed miles away from the club. Lexuses , Bentleys, and BMWs lined the front entrance. Anyone who was anyonevaleted their car and saved all exercise for their chats at the bar.

I pulled into a slot a football field away and joked to Alexander that we should wait for the shuttle bus.

"You should actually be arriving in a limo," I said to my very handsome and quite nervous boyfriend.

All the members were dressed to the nines. Hats, scarves, and enormously overpriced sequined clutch purses dotted the affair. Art collectors from around the area hobn.o.bbed with the members.

All the bigwigs in town were present, including the mayor, Mr. andMrs , Mitch.e.l.l, and Mr. Berkley.

The snooty members were buzzing around, acting like they owned themultiacre building. Anyone who was anyone was at the auction. It was rumored that paintings, sculptures, and jewelry would be sold. Since not much else goes on in town, and since it attracted out-of-towners, too, this was a major event.

Annual Art Auction signs led the way to the banquet room I'd beento previously with Trevor. It was there that a ticket table had been set up. We waited in line behind several women decked out in their Sunday best. When it was our turn to buy tickets, the seller was surprised by her oddly attired customers. But I wasn't bothered. I acted like I didn't even notice, just like Mrs. Sterling did. Alexander was prepared to pay, but I insisted. "You need to save all the money you can,'' I said.

There was a buzz of self-importance. Old and young wealth rubbing elbows with other thoroughbred moneymakers. Sotheby's it wasn't, but the auction was a close second.

Members gawked at Alexander and me with disapproval. I couldn't wait until Mrs. Sterling arrived with her umbrella and turned heads.

The bar was filled with gossip, smoke, and drinkers. I was dying to get a soda, but I wasn't sure what the etiquette was- Would I have to pay for it? Tip? I opted to wait until my parents showed up.

Cookies and cakes were spread out on a few banquet tables and I managed to gulp down a few, but Alexander pa.s.sed, Alexander was as nervous as I was when I attended his parents' first dinner party. My boyfriend was used to being sequestered in a mansion, with Jameson and me as his only companions. Now he was in the midst of Dullsville's finest. Not only were there a lot of people, but his paintings were going to be sold in front of the entire town.

Outside the banquet hall, a table was set up for a silent auction fund-raiser, with such goodies as spa treatments, restaurant gift certificates, and discounts at Armstrong Travel.

As we approached the auction room, I grew anxious, too. This event could send Alexander packing his bags toRomania and me to my bedroom, grieving for the next ten years.

The auction room seemed like the ones I'd seen in movies. Lines of folding chairs were placed like pews in a church, facing a podium and an easel. We tried to slip in unnoticed, but for us that was impossible. Alexander and I grabbed two seats in the back, behind two tall club members, I was ready to kick anyone who scoffed at my boyfriend's artwork.

This was a huge night for Alexander. He wasn't used to being around so many people. He fidgeted in his chair and I clasped his hand rea.s.suringly.

"If you are really uncomfortable, we can leave," I offered. "We don't have to stay."

"No. I'm not leaving" Alexander said. "And neither are you. We are staying to see this thing through."

Dullsville's elite began entering the room in full fanfare. Alexander was the only true royal one, but the club members entered as if they were expecting their names to be announced like kings and queens.

Jameson entered on the arm of Ruby White, his girlfriend, along with Janice Armstrong, her business partner and my former employer at Armstrong Travel Agency.

Mr. Mitch.e.l.l, an older version of Trevor complete withmoussed blond hair and khakis, arrived in the company of other millionaires and sat in the front row. Mr. Berkley came in a few minutes later and sat a few rows behind him.

With every person's entrance, my heart beat faster and my hands grew hotter.

My parents finally arrived and spent a fair amount of time greeting everyone they knew.

My mom eventually spotted us, and she and my dad came over.

"I think it's wonderful that you two came to the auction/' my dad said, shaking Alexander's hand.

"Maybe next year you can auction off your paintings, Alexander," my mom said.

"Sarah, we'd better get seats before it fills up," my dad suggested. "Good luck," they said, and found

two empty chairs in the middle.I felt a sudden commotion as members were focused onsomething out in the hallway.Just then Mr. and Mrs. Sterling entered the room. Her open black and red umbrella was in hand, and she wore a skin-tight camisole dress and monster-size heels. Mr. Sterling walked in with his skull cane, wearing a suit, a flashy green tie, and his cape.A huge smile spread across my face. A few women fanned themselves with their auction signs. No one talked to theSterlings , but everyone talked about them. Whispers ensued as the gossipmongers were in top form.

The members were very curious about the locals-who arrived with who and what they were wearing-and just as curious about the strangers' conservative fas.h.i.+on choices. TheSterlings upstaged everyonein their attire.

The only ones who greeted them were my parents and Mr. Berkley.

I held up my hand to wave them over, but Alexander quickly clutched it.

"I want us to be alone on this."

Mr. and Mrs. Sterling eventually sat next to Jameson and crew.

Finally, Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l stepped up to the podium. "Welcome to our annual auction. In a moment, I'll

bring out your auctioneer. We'll be presenting art in many of its forms- pottery, paintings, sculptures, and wood designs. Thank you all for coming tonight. Good luck and good bidding."

The auctioneer, an elderly gentleman dressed in a suit, came out to the podium. A volunteer placed a gla.s.s-blown vase be jeweled with sparkling gems on a table. Its image was enlarged on a video screen behind the podium.

I was on the edge of my folding chair.

Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l read a brief description of the vase. "The bidding starts at five hundreddollars "

"Five hundred dollars.That's a lot ofmoola !" I whispered.

"Shh."

"Whatever you do, don't raise your hand," I said, teasing. "No matter how much you want to buy it for me."

Alexander wasn't laughing. "I didn't price my work very high. Maybe I should have."

"Your paintings are much more valuable than a dumb vase."

Signs began to wave and the bidding price immediately soared. Within minutes the vase sold for over a thousand dollars.

"I wish I had something fancy to sell," I said, seeing dollar signs before my eyes. "I could make millions."

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