Vampire Kisses - Royal Blood Part 8

"Mrs. Sterling was so delighted," my mom continued. "I don't think anyone in town has invited them out socially, so I was proud to be the first one."

"That is very nice of you... but-"

"You don't want us to meet them? Or is it that you don't wantthem to meetus ."

"Both."

"So you want them all to yourself." My mom sighed.

"Is there anything wrong with that? I just met them. Let me have some time alone before you start parading them through the country club functions."

"Well, if I'd known you'd felt so strongly... I guess I can call and cancel."

"Don't youdare! You can't; that would be rude."

"I knew you'd see it my way," she said, and gave me an overzealous mother- triumphs-again hug.

Since I was a kid, allMadison family meals were spent at the dinette-a small, rectangular wooden table with matching chairs. A few scratches and stains showed its age, like rings around a tree. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner; homework; and many school projects took place on this table and chairs. The dining room, however, was reserved for holiday and extended family meals. Suddenly, fancy tablecloths, sterling-silver candle holders, crystal salt and pepper shakers, linen napkins, and china flew out of the china cabinet.

"We don't have any black lace tablecloths," I called to my mom, who was in the kitchen preparing dinner. I searched through the cabinet drawers for Sterling-like decor. All I found in our possession was a pale crimson, a white lace, and a plastic floral one.

"Why would you want a black tablecloth?"

"Do you even know who you are inviting over?" I settled for a brown cloth with embroidered leaves and began setting out my grandmother's china.

"I can't remember a time when you set the table without being asked," my mom said, holding a gla.s.s vase with fresh flowers. "I'll have to invite theSterlings over more often."

I positioned six plates evenly, measuring their distance by the width of my hand.

"You don't want to set it too early. It might collect dust," she advised.

"I want to make sure it's perfect."

Henry and Billy Boy ran up from the bas.e.m.e.nt like an incoming army. "When's dinner?" Billy asked.

I was aghast. "He's not going to be here, is he?"

"Of course; he's part of the family."

"But I only set six."

"Then set eight. We have twelve place settings."

I imagined the conversation switching from talk of life inRomania to talkStar Trek conventions.

Rage raced through my blood. Billy Boy knew it, too. He raised his eyebrows in victory, and he and Henry took off for his room.

I followed the nerd-mates upstairs. I found my new Purse Party messenger bag on my nightstand and knocked on his door.

"No ghouls allowed," he hollered to a few boyish giggles.

I pushed the door ajar. I opened my wallet and flashed him a five-dollar bill. "You'll ask to eat at Henry's?"

His face lit up as if I'd just shown him a mint condition Luke Skywalker action figure. "Sure."

"You promise?"

"Cross my heart."

I gave my brother the bill.

He held it tightly in his hand. "That was to ask," he said. "Not to actually stay."

My instinct was to hit him over the head with my purse. However, he had been trained by the best, so I refrained.

I dug back into my wallet. I had three singles left. "This is *to stay,"' I said, handing him a single. "This is 'to eat.'" I handed him another bill. "And this is to 'not come back until late.'"

"We'll need money for a movie, then." "And nachos," Henry added. "I always eat nachos at the movies."

"I bet you do. Would you like money for video games, too?"

They both nodded eagerly.

"That was a rhetorical question." I snarled. "This is all I have." I handed him a wadded ten and twenty and lint-filled change, "But you can have my firstborn if you spend the night."

"That I'll pa.s.s on," he said as I blasted out the door.

"I thought we were going to have steaks!" I said when I returned to the kitchen. I was missing the aroma of marinade and instead saw scentless water boiling on the stove.

"I decided to make pasta instead," my mom said.

"TheSterlings can't eat that. They have to eat meat. And they like it rare."

"Why-are they animals?"

I bit my black lip.

"Are you sure we can't still get a catering company?" I asked. "Or at least help in serving? They're used to having a butler."

"We are who we are-we don't change for other people. You know that. I think cheese tortellini with salad will be great. Besides, your dad is trying to cut back."

"This isn't about Dad. We are hosts."

"I'm sure they love Italian."

I imagined a bloodthirsty and starving-to-the-boneSterling family leering at my parents for their real meal.

"Doesn't anyone in this family listen to me?" I stormed around the kitchen and opened the fridge. I didn't expect to see blood-filled smoothies, but a girl can always hope. "They don't like garlic, remember.

No garlic bread."

"I know, you've told me a thousand times."

"Well, you didn't remember I requested steaks," I mumbled.

"I'll need your help with the brownies," my mom nudged.

Jameson served flaming pudding. Sarah Madison served microwave brownies.

I zapped the dessert and realized I'd spent so much time figuring out what to wear to theSterlings', I hadn't even begun to pick out what I'd wear tonight.

I raced upstairs and obsessed about what was the perfect attire to wear as one of theSterlings ' dinner hosts. I changed outfits at least five times and, naturally, I settled on the first outfit I originally had on-a frilly black lace skirt, white bodice, black-and-red-striped stockings, and MaryJanes .

I was exhausted by the time the doorbell finally rang.

16.

Igrabbed a knitted blanket and a pair of Billy's sneakers I that were sitting on the stairs and threw them into the hall closet. I straightened my skirt. "They're here!"

"Then answer the door!" my mom called.

I checked myself in the hallway mirror. I was pleased with my reflection.Oh my! I thought.Reflection! I immediately unhooked the mirror and carefully placed it in the closet.

The doorbell rang again.

"Answer the door, Raven/' my mother called. "They'll think we're not home!"

I smoothed out my skirt again and opened the door. Alexander looked gorgeous in a gray silk s.h.i.+rt and black jeans. Mrs. Sterling was packed into a tight black dress and dark knee-high boots, and she held a black lace parasol. Her attire was a fabulous combination of sixties andgoth .

Mr. Sterling sported an impressive silk suit, lavender tie, and brooding half cape.

"Welcome to our home," I said.

My mom rushed over to us, wiping her hands off with a kitchen towel.

My dad came over and did his best to conceal his shock.

Mrs. Sterling collapsed her umbrella. "Mom, Dad, this is Mr. and Mrs. Sterling." My mom extended her hand. "It's lovely to meet you both."

"h.e.l.lo. I'm Ca.s.sandra," Alexander's mom said. "I'm Paul, and this is Sarah," my dad responded.

"Constantine Sterling. Nice to meet you," Alexander's dad said.

"Here, let me take that," my dad said, taking the umbrella. "I didn't know it was raining"

"It isn't," she said evenly. Her violet eyelashes sparkled.

"Well, I guess you are prepared when it does."

"Come in and make yourselves at home. I'm just finis.h.i.+ng up." My mom darted into the kitchen.

My father stuck the umbrella in the closet. "What's this doing in here?" he muttered, noticing the hall mirror lying against his tennis racket.

Dinner at theMadisons might have been theSterlings ' first time slumming it. Our house was nice, but it wasn't a monster-sizemegamansion .

My father led us into the living room.

"Your house is gorgeous," Mrs. Sterling remarked.

I clutched Alexander's hand for security. Now I could see why he had waited to introduce me to his family. The pressure was enormous. What would my mother say? What did they really think of my house?

Our house wasn't tidy, but my mom did clean it. At least the sight of a few cobwebs would make them feel comfortable.

"Can I get you something; to drink?" I asked. "Dinner's almost ready."

"Raven, I need you," I heard my mother bellow.

Of course she did. Now that I had company my mom was getting all demanding. I wanted to keep my eyes and ears on my father and our guests. How could I edit embarra.s.sing conversation if I was out of earshot?

"Can I be of any a.s.sistance?" Mrs. Sterling kindly offered.

TheSterlings were aristocrats. I couldn't imagine Mrs. Sterling serving her own food. Her fingernails were so long, I wouldn't want them to break off carrying salad bowls.

"That's all right. W r hat would you like to drink?" I asked.

"I am so b.l.o.o.d.y thirsty," Mrs. Sterling said, "I could drink a horse."

My dad laughed. "I like your sense of humor."

"How about water?"Alexander answered.

"Perfect," I said, and exited before they could change his mind. In the kitchen I tried to pick up on their conversation. I was moving quickly and the ice dropped out of my hand, I returned with three waters. The drinks shook as I brought them out on a tray.

As soon as I entered the living room, the drinks clanking together, my dad and Alexander jumped up to a.s.sist me. "I'm not sure you have a future in the restaurant biz," my dad joked, " Isee Raven as the owner of a fas.h.i.+onable boutique,"Mrs ,Sterling said.

"Really?" my dad asked. "I was hoping she'd bea tennis pro, but as you see, she doesn't like to wear white."

Great.Thiswhole evening was going to be my dad's chance at his comedy act-with me as the source of his material, "Dad's embarra.s.sing me already," I said to my mom, back in the kitchen.

"He's just having fun. Maybe he's a bit nervous, TheSterlings are very interesting people/'

I placed the rolls, b.u.t.ter, pasta, sauce, and salad on the table in record time.

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