"You can drop me off here, Bruno," Lilith Todd said as she slid a Christian Louboutin heel onto her right foot.
The chauffeur quickly glanced over his shoulder at her as he piloted the vintage Rolls along Sixth Avenue. Bruno had been driving the Todd family to and from their various destinations since the days of cobblestones and coach-and-fours. Before that he'd been an officer in some European army.
He asked, "Are you sure, Miss Lilith? I can drive around the block one more time if you like."
Lilith checked to make sure her backless emerald-green Dior dress was zipped to the waist and glanced at her Patek Philippe watch. She was secretly pleased to see she had broken her personal best for changing from her school uniform into her party clothes in the back of the limo.
"I said now, Bruno."
"Yes, Miss Lilith."
As the driver stopped at the club in the section cordoned off for valet service, a young man dressed in the Belfry's standard-issue black designer pants, T-shirt, and dinner jacket hurried up to open the car door.
The Belfry was once an Episcopal church built by robber barons. More than 125 years later, the rich and famous still streamed through its ornate double doors; only now they came to minister to the flesh and drink the spirit.
Even though it was after two in the morning, there were plenty of wannabes hanging around, grumbling among themselves and eyeing the beefy bouncers guarding the entrance to the club. As Lilith extended a shapely leg onto the curb, the throng on the wrong side of the velvet ropes turned toward her, hungry for a glimpse, no matter how fleeting, of celebrity glamour.
With a toss of her head, Lilith moved up the stairs to the door, her long, honey-blond hair floating behind her like a bridal veil. One of the bridge-and-tunnel rats elbowed her companion in the ribs and pointed at Lilith as she breezed by.
"Look! There's someone famous! Isn't she . . . ?"
"I don't think so," her friend said, squinting like a jewel appraiser trying to tell the difference between a precious and semiprecious stone. "Too young. But I'm pretty sure she's someone famous. Or she's rich. Maybe both."
Lilith brought her hand to her mouth so that no one could see her laugh. Oh, she was rich and famous, all right. Just not in the way the wannabes were thinking.
As she reached the front door of the club, a new bouncer stretched out a bulging arm, blocking her way.
"You look the part, lady," he said, his eyes travel-ing up and down her svelte body. "But I need to see some ID."
Suddenly the valet ran up and tapped the bouncer on the shoulder. The huge mountain of man-muscle lowered his head so the valet could whisper into his ear. Lilith smiled as she saw the panic cross his face.
"Sorry, my mistake," the bouncer rumbled, exposing his throat in deference as he stepped out of her way. "Enjoy your night, Miss Todd."
Lilith crossed the glowing entryway and headed toward the massive main dance floor that filled what had once been the church sanctuary. She looked up at the DJ booth housed in the old pulpit and waved at the young man spinning trance at deafening levels.
She spotted Sebastian, the club's party promoter and appointed guardian of the VIP lounge on the second floor. He rushed toward her as fast as his custom-made blue leather shoes could carry him. As always, he was ecstatic to see her.
"Lilith! Baby! You look positively ravishing! It's so good to see you!" he shouted over the throbbing punch of the club's sound system.
"Hello, Seb," she yelled back. "Are the others here?"
"Jules just arrived. Go on up to the Loft; I have your favorite vintage warmed and ready for you."
"You're my favorite, Seb!" she said, kissing the air to either side of his thin cheeks.
"I'm sure you say that to all the devilishly hand-some club promoters who let you drink for free!" He winked.
As she entered the former choir loft that served as the VIP lounge for the club, Lilith spotted her promised, Jules de Laval, sprawled on one of the divans. He was dressed in an Armani polo T-shirt, the sleeves rolled up to give his biceps maximum reveal, chatting with Tanith Graves, one of her best friends. With his tousled, collar-length strawberry-blond hair, green eyes, perfectly straight nose, and strong masculine jaw, Jules looked like a movie star and loved to act the part.
Tanith and Lilith enjoyed passing for sisters, and since both girls had blond hair, oval faces, fake tans, and the same taste in high-end fashion, it was an easy con to pull off.
Sitting next to Tanith was her boyfriend, Sergei Savanovic, one of Jules's classmates from Ruthven's. With his dark, shoulder-length hair, black eyes, and penchant for turtleneck sweaters and leather jeans, Sergei could easily be mistaken for a Russian poet, but he was actually from Serbia, as he was quick to point out to anyone who bothered to ask.
Carmen Duivel and Oliver Drake were sprawled on the opposite sofa. Carmen's baby-doll face and coppery tresses perfectly complemented Oliver's dirty blond hair and bad-boyish good looks. Like most vampire couples, Oliver and Carmen were seeing each other simply because they knew they looked good together.
"There she is," Jules said, smiling as he got to his feet. "I was beginning to think Teacher kept you after school."
"Thank the Founders it's Thursday!" Lilith laughed as they embraced. "I don't see how clots can stand going to school five days out of the week!" She gave the room a cursory glance as she kissed him on the cheek. "Who's not here yet?"
"Melinda," Carmen replied.
"Big surprise there," Lilith said with a roll of her eyes. "She's always late." "Like you have room to talk! You're not exactly the most punctual," Jules chided.
Excerpted from Vamps by Nancy Collins Copyright © 2008 by Nancy Collins. Excerpted by permission.
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