By for Incanto.
On the final night of the year, Maggie studied her nails. They glinted in the harsh light, gunmetal glitter sending out sparks of light like a disco ball. They would do. She pulled the cap from her lipgloss and applied a smear of slick wet shine atop her candy red lipstick.
“Well, Margaret Gilbert,” she said to her reflection in her best disapproving Aunt Judith voice, “you look positively tawdry.”
She smacked her lips. Perfection.
There was a knock at her bedroom door. “Mags, come on. He’s going to leave without us if you don’t get your ass in gear.” Alexa sounded genuinely annoyed. She and Dylan must be fighting again. Fantastic.
“So dramatic,” she teased as she gave her blonde hair a final once-over. “Coming.” She grabbed her ID and greeted her friend on the other side of the door. Alexa’s mouth was a thin, tight line.
“Let me guess, Dylan’s being an ass again?”
“What else?” Alexa replied, rolling her big brown eyes as she snagged her keys and locked the door behind them. “He’d rather be at some stoner party than the one we’re going to. Typical.”
“You know you’re going to kiss and make up before the ball drops. You always do.”
That seemed to perk her up considerably. “True. But I plan on making him work for that kiss.” There was almost a smile playing at the very corners of her lips. A good start.
They slid into Dylan’s car, Alexa up front and Maggie in the back. She wrinkled her nose at the stale scent of cigarette ash and spilled beer. “Shall we?”
“We shall, pretty ladies,” Dylan replied. And away they went. The dashboard clock blinked a lurid red back at her. 10:09. At least they would be fashionably late.
It was unseasonably warm for late December in Virginia. They were headed towards Arlington for a party that promised to be the most talked about on campus for months to come. Daniel Forbes was footing the bill—his parents were spending Winter break somewhere with sun and sand, so their new McMansion in the city was the perfect place for a New Year party. There would be music, plentiful upperclassman boys to choose from, and, most importantly, free-flowing booze for those lucky enough to be invited. Plus, no cop would dare try to break up a party at the Forbes residence. All things were possible when Daddy and Mommy had money, she guessed.
It was a short drive, barely fifteen minutes before they pulled up to the house. Maggie could hear the persistent throb of bass thrumming through the walls. Excellent. Dylan let them out at the front door while he pulled the car around back to park. He was definitely trying to get back into Alexa’s good graces.
Alexa grabbed Maggie’s hand and pulled her through the door and into the foyer, with its fancy wainscoting and faux topiaries. A family portrait of the Forbeses hung in the hall—Dr. and Mr. Forbes, Daniel, and of course Caroline, her auburn hair styled in carefully-arranged waves, and a cold, joyless smile on her perfectly-shaped mouth. She seemed to be disapproving of all the ruckus.
“Let’s get a drink,” Alexa said, as they made their way to the glassed-in porch, where the party was already in full swing. It was dim; the porch was lit with the neon glow of lanterns strung about, and cold blue light emanated from the fancy bar setup. A dancefloor had formed not far from the DJ, techno bass assailing the dancers like sonic bullets.
As they made their way to the bar, which was packed tight with bodies, Maggie felt eyes on her. The guys evaluated her body, the chicks evaluated her clothes. The bartender was moving quickly, but with a practiced smoothness to his motions that was entrancing. One drink after another, it was practically a dance—he tossed the bottles effortlessly in the air and slid drinks down the bar like he’d learnt the entirety of his craft from watching Cocktail.
“Well hello, ladies.” Daniel Forbes slithered up behind them and wrapped his beefy arm around her waist. “Glad you could make it.” His breath reeked of booze. He’d obviously gotten an early start to the evening. A flush of pink blossomed on his cheeks, and sweat glistened at his brow.
“Hey Daniel. Thanks for hosting,” Alexa slid in smoothly, with her best practiced smile. “Killer DJ.”
“Mmmm, yeah. One of Mike’s friends from GMU,” he said with evident effort to keep his words from slurring.
“We were just going to get a drink. Any suggestions?” she asked brightly. The light illuminated the dark curls of hair that perfectly framed her dewy brown skin.
“Hey baaaaaartendeeeeeeeeeer,” Daniel yelled crassly to the barkeep, who held up a finger while he finished pouring a perfectly-proportioned Jack and Coke.
Daniel snorted in indignation at being made to wait, but went on undeterred. “You two look fucking fantastic. Damn, Maggie, when’d you get hot? Your tits look amazing in that dress.” As he tactlessly ogled her breasts, his hand slid over her hip and down towards her ass. With more politeness than he deserved, she thanked him and returned his hand firmly to her waist.
Daniel frowned absently. “Jesus, who you gotta fuck to get a drink at this party?” he muttered whinily. “My own damn party...”
“That would be me.” The barkeep slid up to them. How on earth had he heard that?
Maggie looked him over. He was a handspan shorter than Daniel, and wore a black dress shirt with the subtle sheen of a raven’s wing. His glossy black hair reflected back the blue light of the bar, contrasting harshly with his pale skin. His eyes, too, were dark, and his lips... she exhaled. His lips...
“Well?” he asked impatiently, tapping his fingers against the rail. She noticed a large ring with a dark stone on one of his fingers. A class ring, maybe? Surely he couldn’t still be in college? It wasn’t really that he looked too old, just... too worldly or something. She couldn’t for the life of her picture him in sweatpants rolling into Econ class or playing frisbee in the Quad.
“...margarita, please. On the rocks.” Alexa finished, flashing an apologetic look towards the bartender for Daniel’s lack of manners. The bartender gave a curt nod and walked away. Alexa waggled her eyebrows suggestively at Maggie, wordlessly communicating exactly what her thoughts were on the bartender’s rear view.
“Thasss Damon,” Daniel began to slur, pointing in his direction as he moved down the bar. “Fill in. Mike was gonna do it, but he got food poisoning. Can’t stop puking. This guy seems alright though. Says he usually works in DC.”
A moment later, Damon slid a vividly green drink into Alexa’s hand. “Salt on the rim. And for your… other lady?” he asked dryly.
Maggie realized she’d been too busy watching his hands, and hadn’t even thought of what she’d like. Truth told, she really only ever drank beer, but she felt far too embarrassed to ask him for some Natty Boh. It would almost be insulting. Still, she had no idea what else to ask for that would suggest good taste, but that she wouldn’t have to hold for the rest of the night while she pretended to like it.
“What would you recommend?” she asked, meeting his dark eyes. God, he had eyelashes she’d kill for. Dark and sooty and long as Bambi’s. She’d say they were entirely wasted on a guy except she couldn’t seem to stop staring at them.
“For you? Something sweet.” He smirked, and something about the way he said it made a shiver go up her spine.
“I trust you,” she said.
“You shouldn’t,” he replied with a grin, then smoothly swiveled around to fix her drink.
The music changed to a remix of an old 80’s song. “Ugh, what is this shit?” Daniel said with disgust. “Gotta fix this. I’ll catch you two beautiful ladies on the dancefloor, right? You better come dance.” He squeezed her hip possessively before heading off towards the DJ setup.
Alexa made a face. “See, Dylan might be a pain in my ass, but at least Daniel knows I’m taken. Thank God for small mercies.”
“Lucky you,” Maggie replied, as Damon returned with her drink. “Thanks,” she said, as she took it from him.
She took a sip. It was definitely fruity, and heavy and sweet as it slid down her throat. “God, this is delicious. What is it?”
Damon smiled back at her, catlike. “It’s a Slow Comfortable Screw. Peach schnapps, orange juice, SoCo, and gin.” He looked entirely too satisfied with himself, and she could feel her cheeks grow hot.
“I like peaches,” she said, then deliberately drained the glass in one long pull, pushing it back towards him when she was done, like a gauntlet thrown down. Two could play at this game. Her lipstick left a vivid red kiss on the rim. “I’ll have another.”
He whisked it away, an eyebrow raised. Challenge accepted.
Alexa stared at her in mock disbelief. “Girl. ”
Maggie shrugged back. “What, because Daniel is such a prize?” She giggled into the back of her hand. The liquor was making her feel wild.
Damon returned with her drink. This time, it was red.
“It looks different,” she said. She took a sip. The peach was still there, but this time it was tart. She tasted something like cranberry, then felt the distinct bright burn of vodka as it went down.
“That’s because it is different,” he answered, watching her drink. “That’s a Bloody Peach. So much tastier.”
“It is good.” She giggled again, her tongue darting out to catch a droplet that rolled down the side of the glass before it landed on her dress. “But I think I prefer to screw.”
“Is that a fact?” Something in his eyes when he looked at her made her pulse go wild. He looked like a wolf, and she his prey. Her skin felt like it was on fire.
“C’mon, Mags, let’s dance,” Alexa said, breaking the tension. She’d spotted Dylan across the room, making small talk with Sandi Martin, who was famous on campus for going after taken guys. “We’ve only got one more hour ‘til the new year.”
Nodding, she slid her empty glass towards Damon with an apologetic look, and reluctantly let herself be pulled away. Maggie could feel his eyes on her back as they made their way towards the dancefloor.
The liquor was making her feel warm and loose. The music demanded she dance, and she obeyed. She moved to the beat as the collective heat of the dancers’ bodies began to fog the glass of the porch. With nothing but the insistent pounding in her ears, the music wound its way inside of her, deep into her chest, synchronizing with her pulse. Dylan had returned to Alexa, his eyes dilated, and they were swaying out of time to the music, lost in their own world together. Time and again, Maggie felt hands reach for her, drunken frat boys trying to pull her in towards them, and she pushed them away, eyes closed.
Time was slipping away. Surely, it was nearing midnight. Soon the ball would drop—and little by little, the dancers moved away and into the house, where an obscenely large screen broadcasted the crowds of shameless revelers in Times Square, desperate to get on TV. Maggie saw the dancers begin to pair off, couples making their way towards one another, decisions being made on who would get the coveted New Year’s kiss.
Alexa caught her glance and held it, cocking her head towards the door. Let’s go, she was saying, wordlessly. Dylan had already gone inside.
“I’ll be in in a minute,” she called back. “I just need some water.” Alexa nodded and headed inside. The porch had cleared out quickly. Even the DJ was setting a playlist so he could go inside for the countdown.
Finally still for a moment, Maggie found herself quite alone. She looked out through the glass and up into the glittering black night. A fat gibbous moon hung overhead.
The song ended and a new one began languorously, all muted bell tones and the syncopated clapping of hands.
It's unfortunate that when we feel a storm / We can roll ourselves over 'cause we're uncomfortable...
She exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. The singer’s voice was at once childlike and sultry. She sounded like she had a secret.
Oh well, the devil makes us sin, she sang along quietly. But we like it when we're spinning in his grip...
Maggie didn’t feel him standing behind her until his arms slid smoothly around her, though somehow she’d expected him to be there.
“Is that so?” he asked, his voice pitched low against her ear.
Love is like a sin, my love, the song played on. For the ones who feel it the most...
She struggled to break herself free from the spell woven by the song. The hairs at the back of her neck were standing up, her skin ready for the slightest touch. She shivered in the cooling air, then blinked, willing herself to speak.
Look at her with her eyes like a flame...
“Aren’t you going in to watch the ball drop?” she asked.
He did not release his grip on her. “Why would I? When I have what I’m after right here?”
“And what exactly are you after? A new year’s kiss?” she needled him, trying to sound like she was the one in control. Trying to convince herself, anyway.
He exhaled with a sound that was like a smirk. “That, you’ll freely give. I want something more than that, my peach.”
That got a genuine laugh from her. She pulled herself free enough to face him, a teasing grin on her lips. “My peach, hmm? Because I liked your drinks? That’s about the cheesiest—“
She squeaked with surprise as he cut her off, pushing her back against the glass window. Effortlessly, he slid her knees apart, pressing one of his thighs firmly between them. And then his kiss stopped her breath—a kiss that was hard and hungry, feverish. She would have called it feral but for how smoothly and deliberately he broke it, as abruptly as he had begun it.
“Yes, my peach.” He leaned in, his voice dropped deeper, just above a whisper, deadly serious. His hands were firm against her waist. “A ripe peach needs to be eaten, you see.”
She swallowed, caught halfway between fear and lust, her heart fluttering erratically in her chest like a panicked bird. His eyes were intense, boring into hers like smoldering coals.
“That peach,” he went on, “it aches to be bitten, to have its soft flesh pierced by the teeth. It knows that that is its purpose. It longs to spill its juices against the tongue. To yield, and have each and every sticky drop licked clean until it has no more left to give.” He paused for a moment, taking in the rise and fall of her breasts pressed against him, before finishing. “Above all else, a peach wants to be tasted, savored, consumed. “
He kissed her again, probing her mouth with his tongue, sucking on her lower lip. She became pliant beneath his mouth, her moans shallow and breathy. She felt herself grow wet against his thigh, her hips bucking against him instinctively.
“Am I wrong in thinking that’s what you want?” He slid his palm smoothly up her neck, tilting her chin back with his thumb so that she was looking directly into his dark eyes.
His eyes, which suddenly looked familiar. She couldn’t place them, but somehow knew she had seen them before, or a pair like them. They weren’t... human.
That doesn’t even make sense, she thought. What is wrong with me?
But before Maggie could stop herself, the words were out of her mouth. “What are you?”
She saw his eyes betray shock, covered quickly with amusement. “I’m the devil that makes you sin, of course.” He cocked his head to the side without irony, sliding his glance down to the tangle of their limbs in one deliberate motion. “And it would seem that you like being in my grip.”
The music quietly pulsed, dreamlike in the background, its final strains ebbing out softly into silence. The only sound was their breath, ragged and edged with desire.
From inside the house, she heard the crowd begin to chant—“TEN. NINE. EIGHT—“
“Well?” he asked, releasing her chin so that he could brush the pad of his thumb against her moistened lower lip. She ached with desire.
“I won’t take more than is freely offered,” he coaxed her, his voice smoky and honeysweet. Again, his tongue flicked in between her lips. She felt her knees weaken. Her hands gripped his waist, and she could feel the flat muscles of his abs beneath his shirt. His body promised her pleasure every bit as much as his words.
“FIVE! FOUR! THREE—“
Her blue eyes were wild when they met his. “You’ll know when to stop? If I tell you?”
He nodded, shifting his hips so he was pressed against her in just the right way.
She moaned into his mouth. “Then yes.”
The crowd in the living room sent up a shout to greet the new year, conveniently concealing Maggie’s cry when Damon’s teeth pierced her throat. As the drunken partiers kissed and toasted, she yielded to his hungry mouth. He tasted her, drinking greedily as she spilled her hot, sticky juice against his tongue, then licked the blood that rolled down her neck, bead by bead, from the two small punctures there. Moving lower, he ran his hand up her thigh, slipping a hand under the hem of her dress, caressing her wetness until she shuddered with completion. Her soft, throaty cries were husky in his ear as she came.
When she went slack, he pulled back, carefully cradling her dazed form in his arms. After a moment, he carried her over to the bar, where he gently wiped her clean, healing the marks left behind with a drop of his own blood. He pressed a cold glass of water into her hand. By the time Alexa came to check on her missing friend, it looked no more suspicious than if Damon had just been helping out a girl who had had too much to drink. Ever the Good Samaritan, you know.
Maggie looked a bit foggy, but he had been careful. She would be fine. Alexa thanked him, and with Dylan’s help, carried her back to the car, then home, and then to her soft bed.
For a week, she dreamt of his eyes, of his hungry kisses. One day, Alexa went to the market and came back with a basket full of ripe, fresh fruit. When Maggie saw the peaches, she had to excuse herself to her bedroom, where she touched herself until she came again, crying out his name softly into the quiet of the room.
That night, she was awakened by a tapping on her window. She arose, naked despite the cold, to see Damon perched upon her windowsill. She unlocked the latch and pulled up the window. Her nipples stiffened in the wintery chill.
“You have to invite me in,” he said, simply, as his eyes drank in her bare skin, her long limbs.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she replied. “Do come in.”
Author's Note: Lyrics are from ‘Paradise Circus’ by Massive Attack.
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