I’m a ball of nerves as I wait on Leo to pick me up. I check my reflection for the millionth time, twirling a wave around my fingers. The girl staring back at me looks familiar, like the me I used to know. For the first time in almost a year, I have on a full face of makeup—albeit, a little more natural than I used to wear it. Nude eyeshadow and blush, with a merlot lip. I’m wearing a thin, short, gray tube dress that shows off my curves and a light black sweater over it. My thigh-high black boots make my legs look miles long.
This is the girl I used to be.
My phone buzzes on the bathroom counter and I grab it up, my heart jumping into my throat.
I’m sorry, something came up. I’ll make it up to you.
My heart sinks. He’s not coming.
I feel stupid instantly, and ashamed. Not only should I not have agreed to this, but it was dumb of me to get my hopes up this way. I don’t bother to reply to his text, instead walking into the living room and sinking down on the couch. I scroll through Pinterest for what felt like five minutes, realizing five was actually sixty.
Still thinking about my disappointment, I decide to drown my sorrows in Italian take-out. I grab my wallet and keys and head out to my car. It doesn’t take long to reach Antonio’s, and as soon as I get out of the car I can smell the garlic. It’s enough to make me drool.
I order fried mozzarella, a medium bacon pizza, and an order of mild wings, assuming my mom will be hungry when she gets home, and then I plop down in a booth to wait, folding my arms on the table and resting my head against them.
“Is this seat taken?”
My head snaps up at the voice. When I look up at him, he’s enough to make me drool, too. Tall, dark, and handsome.
“What’s a witch like you doing all alone on a Friday night?” He asks cheesily, sliding into the seat across from me without waiting for my okay.
“What’s a vampire like you doing all alone on a Friday night?” I play along.
Cliche, I know, but vampires are sexy as hell.
He smiles at me, something sinister in his eyes. The darkness in me recognizes it, and wants to respond. I can feel my will-power slipping away, my pupils dilating, my heart-rate accelerating in anticipation. My magic comes bubbling to the surface, ready to come out and play.
“I’m Ezra,” he introduces himself, holding a hand lazily across the table.
I shake it. “Salem.”
He keeps my hand for a moment longer than necessary and electricity shoots up my arm.
The bad-boy vibes he’s giving off is driving me wild. My brain isn’t working right. Is it so wrong to be bad?
“Badass name,” he tells me.
“Thank you.” My body is reacting to him in ways that don’t make sense. Dark magic is tingling at my fingertips, ready to be used.
This is dangerous.
I force my mind to clear. I’ve got to learn to control this, or soon I won’t be able to leave my house at all.
“So what are you doing here on a Friday night, all dressed up? Date bail?”
“Something like that,” I murmur, sure he can hear my disappointment.
“I would never bail on a girl that looks like you,” he tells me, a playful glint in his eye.
I almost laugh, thinking about the girl with no makeup, hair in her face, wearing baggy clothes. It’s honestly surprising that Leo even bothered talking to me in the first place. What does he see about me that is interesting?
“I don’t normally look like this,” I inform him flatly.
He seems confused. “What do you normally look like?”
“No, I don’t believe that at all,” he says smoothly, still attempting to flirt. “This date—is he your boyfriend?”
“No,” I answer, immediately wanting to kick myself. I should’ve just said yes in the hopes that Ezra would leave me alone. It’s scary how he brings out the bad in me so easily. It’s so tempting to revert to old ways with him. He’s wearing a black t-shirt that grips his muscles just right, with a black leather jacket, and denim jeans. His hair is black, like mine, his skin pale. I could stare into his strange gray eyes all day.
The bells on the door jingles behind me but I don’t pay it any attention, my eyes on the handsome man across from me.
“That’s good to hear. Maybe while I’m in town we could get together. You could show me around,” he suggests.
“You grew up here,” a new, familiar voice laughs.
“Things have changed,” Ezra defends himself as I turn to find Leo standing near our table.
His eyes noticeably widen when he sees me. “Salem?”he chokes out.
I smile politely.
Ezra laughs. “Is this the date that bailed on you?”
“I never said that,” I correct, feeling a blush creep up at hearing him refer to it as a date.
“Didn’t have to, beautiful.”
Leo slides into the seat next to me, his shoulder bumping up against mine.
“I bailed on her because of you,” Leo defends himself. He looks at me now. “I’m so sorry about that by the way. I didn’t know Ezra was coming to town.”
“For a girl like this, you bail on me,” Ezra tells him. “I thought I taught you better than this, little bro.”
I raise my eyebrow. “Little bro?”
Leo rolls his eyes at Ezra. “He’s my step-brother,” he tells me.
“Oh,” I say, surprised. It’s not unheard of for the different creatures of the night to ‘co-mingle’ but it is rare. “That’s cool.”
Leo and Ezra laugh.
“Love is love, is it not, Salem?” Ezra asks, looking intensely into my eyes. “Like, say for example, if you and I...” he drifted off, his voice thick with implications.
“Cool it,” Leo warns him, and then smirks at me. “Salem doesn’t do friends.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” he says, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re very easy to talk to, little witch.”
“Is she?” He asks, not seeming to believe him. “I feel like I’ve had to force conversation with her.”
“You have no problem talking with me, do you?” Ezra asks me, his eyes black. I feel drawn to him, leaning across the table. Leo says my name. I keep leaning, looking at Ezra’s mouth, his lips pulled up over his teeth in a wide, sinister grin. I smile back at him, the same sinister smile on my face. Leo tells him to stop, but I don’t need his help. Ezra ducks his head closer to mine, his mouth only centimeters away.
“That doesn’t work on me,” I whisper into his parted lips, pulling away.
He stares back at me, stunned, before frowning. He leans forward on his elbows. “What do you mean, it doesn’t work on you? It works on everyone.”
“You’re just going to sit there and shrug at me?”
“That’s her thing,” Leo says, smiling at me in awe. “How did you do that? Resist a vampire?”
“I didn’t do anything,” I say. “It just doesn’t work.”
“What are you? Part vampire?” Ezra asks suspiciously. Hybrids definitely go against the norm.
“No,” I laugh. “Just accept you’ll never know.”
“Well, that’s infuriating,” Ezra sighs.
“Yeah, she does that to you,” Leo laughs and then gets a little more serious. “Wasn’t there something you needed to do?”
He glares his response, standing to his feet. “Oh, yeah, that thing,” Ezra says sarcastically. “Hopefully, I will see you around, little witch.”
“Sorry about him,” Leo tells me after Ezra disappears out the door. “He’s a little obnoxious.”
“He was charming,” I say, smiling slightly. And sexy.
He cringes. “I thought you were different,” he reprimands me jokingly. “You were just as enamored by him as all of the other females that flock to his side.” I roll my eyes. “All joking aside, I’ve grown to love him, but he’s not a good guy—typical vampire—hurts people for fun, uses them for his own personal gain and then throws them away like trash.”
“Don’t worry,” I assure him. “I’m not enamored by him.” No, I’m much more interested in his brother...
I can’t let myself think things like this.
“Sure,” he says skeptically.
“He gave me a... bad feeling,” I say, thinking about the dark shadow that passed over me when I was near him. The temptation to use magic, to do as I please, was strong.
“Well, I’m glad you’re smarter than the rest of them.”
A waitress brings my food to the table then. “Enjoy!” She tells me before flittering back to the kitchen.
“You need to leave,” he assumes, sounding a little disappointed.
“I have a minute,” I tell him, not wanting to leave him yet.
“You aren’t keeping anyone waiting?” He eyes my food suspiciously.
We sit in silence for a long moment, trying to figure each other out.
“So... you look different,” he says.
I feel embarrassed, but I’m not sure why. “This is... this is the way I used to dress,” I explain. “This is... the old me.”
“I like it,” he says, a small smile on his lips. “So tonight, had Ezra not messed up our plans, I would’ve gotten to hang out with... the old you?”
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say that,” I tell him doubtfully. “The old me... was... a lot like Ezra,” I try to explain. “Lots of fun, but self-centered. Unfocused. Irresponsible. I hurt people.”
“And you don’t want to be that person anymore,” he guesses.
“I don’t want to be,” I say slowly. “But sometimes I feel like I’ll never get rid of her.”
“And that’s why you don’t want friends... but I don’t see what could be so bad that you feel that you’re irredeemable.”
“Bad isn’t quite the right word.” I don’t know why I’m telling him all of this. I just have this strong urge to let him know me. “The word people would most likely have used for me would be more along the lines of evil.”
“You don’t think evil is too strong a word?” He seems unphased and I know he doesn’t believe me.
I shrug, not willing to tell him all the different ways that I was evil.
“Well, for whatever it’s worth, I don’t get that vibe off of you.”
I blush slightly, smiling a small smile at him. “It doesn’t, in the grand scheme of things, mean very much. I’m glad you feel that way, regardless.”
“You ready?” Ezra asks suddenly, popping his head through the front door.
“Coming,” Leo tells him.
He stands, holding out his hand to help me up. I grab my things and start heading for the door but he catches me by my elbow, gently pulling me back.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” He asks me.
“Why?” I ask suspiciously.
“Let me make it up to you for bailing on you tonight.”
“Pick you up around noon?” He’s grinning at me.
“Okay,” I agree easily. Why did I just agree to go with him?
“Great, see you tomorrow, little witch,” he jokes, playfully ruffling my hair.
I roll my eyes at him, but my heart soars.
See you tomorrow.