Chapter Twelve

The Dance

As Corbin held the door for Lydia and Amanda, they trickled in amongst the elegantly dressed teenage hopefuls who held the promise of the dance in their bright eyes and secretive chatter. The academy's auditorium had been converted nicely into a grand ballroom for the winter formal dance. Those who entered immediately took notice of the frosted streamers flowing down from above and the snowflake banners that stretched across the walls. Spotlights overhead aimed their ice-blue beams at a slowly revolving mirrored disco ball hanging above the dance floor to softly illuminate it with a winterly glow while the edges of the dance floor were marked with fluffy mock snow. Gentle music permeated the auditorium through an army of surrounding speakers but was kept at a tolerable volume.

Lydia spotted some friends and shot off from Corbin and Amanda to meet them. A few moments later she returned with two girls her age and introduced them to Corbin and Amanda, emphasizing that Corbin was her brother. The two girls swooned under Corbin's boyish smile during his cordial greeting, almost blushing as they turned afterward with Lydia and departed while snickering bashfully. Corbin grinned to himself as he watched them disappear into the swarming crowd of students turned dance partners for the night.

"Well, it looks like I may have some competition after all," Amanda joked as she stepped up beside Corbin.

He turned to her with an amused smirk. "Nah, tonight I'm all yours."

"Mmm...I like the sound of that," she playfully moaned.

A sudden, lightly concerned look overcame Corbin. "Have I told you in the last five minutes that you're gorgeous?"

Amanda rolled her eyes up, feigning deep thought for a moment, then answered,"Hmm...I don't think so, no. Once in the car on the way here, once in the parking lot outside, but definitely not in the last five minutes."

Still holding a semi-concerned expression, Corbin said,"Pardon my lapse because...you are gorgeous."

Amanda smiled demurely at his charming flattery, which his eyes proclaimed as truth as he gazed sincerely at her. His entire demeanor was emboldened in her presence, wanting to seize every opportunity, every small gesture to assert his feelings for her.

"May I have this dance?" he asked, offering her his hand as a new song filled the speakers.

"You may," she accepted, taking his hand, and they worked their way onto the crowded dance floor.

The night was full of dances for everyone inside the auditorium, Lydia even landed a dance with the boy she'd hoped for. Corbin kept his distance from her, so that she wouldn't feel shadowed by his presence, but he kept an eye near her always; and was happy to see her enjoying herself in the arms of her desired suitor. He and Amanda reveled in each other as the night waned and the intimate touch of the dances they shared, along with the way she lost herself in his eyes at times, solidified his feelings for her and dissolved all his pesky fears of openly courting her.

As they were taking a break from dancing and enjoying the seclusion of a dimly lit, remote corner away from the dance floor, Corbin was about to confront Amanda with his feelings when Lydia's presence entered his head with a warming invitation.

Corbin, come dance with me.

Corbin excused himself from Amanda and wiggled back through the mingling masses to find his little sister waiting for him on the dance floor. They exchanged grins then happily joined in the union of a lengthy slow dance.

"Are you having a good time?" Corbin inquired.

"Yes," Lydia eagerly replied with glowing enthusiasm. "How about you and Amanda?"

"Couldn't be better," he assured, to her delight. "So, that young fellow I saw you with earlier, was he the one? Corey?"

Lydia answered with a happy smile and nod.

"Ya know, I think he got a little too close during that dance. Maybe I should find him and have a talk with him," Corbin playfully taunted.

"Corbin, don't you dare!" Lydia scolded in a sharp whisper, knowing he was teasing.

Corbin chuckled. "I wouldn't do that to you. This is your night, and I want it to be memorable for all the right reasons, so I'm really glad you're enjoying it."

Lydia smiled at his sincerity and they danced the remainder of the song in adoring silence. After they parted, Lydia returned to the gathering of her friends while Corbin headed to the punch bowl in order to satisfy his thirst with something sweet. He caught himself filling two cups when he reminded himself with a forgetful shake of his head that the punch wasn't exactly Amanda's drink of choice. He took a long sip from his cup then went back to where he'd left Amanda, finding her leaning with her back against the wall in the darkened corner.

"That was precious," she remarked, with the hint of a smile as she eyed him softly.

"Yeah," he agreed, looking back with a fond smile toward the dance floor.

Turning back to Amanda he lowered his cup to the floor after taking a final sip, then he stepped boldly over to her, leaving only a few inches between them. Showering her with a searching gaze that he settled hopefully on her eyes, which were eerily luminescent in the darkness of the corner, he readied his heart for her.

"So tell me Amanda, what's really between us?"

She glanced down for a second then dodged the intent of his question playfully with,"Right now, just a little bit of air."

Corbin lowered his head with a brief chuckle, then raised it with another earnest inquiry. "Is that all you want between us?"

As he waited expectantly for her answer Corbin's purple-tinted eyes cut through the darkness and saw Amanda's beautiful features torn in conflict. She seemed a little off balance at the question, which was unusual to Corbin. Her eyes fluttered around for an answer. With a gentle tone she hoped would dissuade his feelings without hurting them, she answered.

"Corbin, I'm a vampire. I need the blood of others to live, I need an invitation to enter places of refuge, I..."

"Is that all you are?" he interrupted, leaving her somewhat befuddled as she waited for his point.

"Sure, I see all that when I look at you, but I also see so much more," he declared with a love-struck glare. "I see someone who makes me feel like I never have before, someone who makes my heart sing at the very mention of her name, someone I want to know better than I know myself," he added.

An uncertain moment of silence swelled between them as Amanda wrestled with her own feelings and Corbin waited hopefully.

"I thought...maybe...you saw the same thing," he muttered with a falling tone in his voice.

Amanda bowed her head, afraid of the heartfelt emotions that he stirred within her, afraid to embrace what he was offering, what she truly wanted. The centuries she'd endured because of her dark nature made her accustomed to loneliness, to want, and now she was faced with what she craved more than her curse's demand.

Corbin studied Amanda's withdrawn demeanor for a moment, then he dropped his head with a broken sigh. "I guess...I guess I was wrong," he whispered.

He turned to leave, to escape somewhere so he could pick up the pieces long enough to get through the rest of the night, but Amanda grabbed his jacket from behind, stopping him.

"No, you weren't," she whispered strongly, pulling him back to her and kissing him passionately.

Corbin surrendered to her kiss, and let it put him all back together again as he wrapped her confidently in his arms. When their first kiss finally ended Amanda slid her arms around Corbin and they stood in each others' embrace, sharing doting gazes and flickering smiles.

"You know, you're supposed to be a chaperone," Amanda smirked.

"Yeah, well...," Corbin's words trailed off as he leaned in and swept Amanda away with another kiss.

Back at Allender Manor Gale was nursing a cup of coffee as she sat across from Shade in the comfort of the living room near a warm fire in the stone fireplace. They were casually passing time with conversation as they awaited every ones return so they could know the tale of the dance. Shade eyed Gale intently as she took a drink from her coffee, then she tempted her older sister with a thought.

"You know, seeing the way Corbin lit up this evening around Amanda reminded me of Ethan, how he adores you so."

"Yes, Corbin and Amanda do make a lovely pair, don't they?" Gale responded, instinctively trying to sidestep Shade's mention of her former fiancé.

Shade smirked at Gale's aversion, but continued on with her endeavor.

"Now come on Gale, don't tell me that fire's grown cold, 'cause I know you too well."

A reluctant frown ran across Gale's face as she hoped to dissuade her sister's persistence, but the determination in Shade's waiting expression didn't falter. Gale sighed hesitantly as she sat her coffee cup down.

"Shade, we've been over this before, and you that Ethan and I..."

"Are perfect for each other," Shade finished.

Gale sighed again. Shade pressed on.

"Look, I know you broke it off with him because of your responsibilities here, with Lydia, and because of the mess I made out of my life, but things are different now. Corbin's back and I'm doin' my best to stay on the straight and narrow, we're a family again. You've taken care of us for so long, let us take over now. It's time you tend to yourself, what you want."

Gale considered Shade's argument for a moment. Though it was something she faced nearly every day to herself, now Shade was making it an open debate.

"I don't know Shade, he's probably moved on by now," Gale said, trying to convince herself more than her sister.

"I think not!" Shade declared, arching her brow. "It hasn't been that long ago and besides, the charms of an Allender girl don't fade very easily," she finished, with an encouraging smile.

A glimmer of hope flashed in Gale's eyes before another thought took it away. "But, he still doesn't know about us, about our heritage, our gifts," she countered.

Shade leaned forward in her chair to emphasize her words. "Then tell him. Lay it all before him. That man loves you in a way that's almost frightening, and I know you feel the same about him. Have a little faith in that love."

Gale's blue eyes darted with uncertainty as she pondered Shade's council, but her heart rejoiced at the memories of Ethan that flooded her mind. She started to hope again.

"Maybe I will give him a call, just to see how he's doing," Gale conceded, staring off at the idea.

Shade leaned back in her chair with a victorious smirk, pleased with the effects of her efforts.

Long after the dance ended, when the manor's residents were fast asleep after an exhausting account of the night full of eager details from those who attended the dance, Amanda found herself out on the balcony of her penthouse condo atop one of the tallest buildings on the eastern edge of Bergstad, owned by Gideon.

Still in her dress she gazed up at the stars but was happily lost in the fresh memories of the dance. Corbin's tender touch and warm affection dominated her thoughts, keeping a pleased little smile perched on her face. She was struck by the way he made her feel, by the way his devoted stare made her sway. The centuries she had lived had never brought her one such as him.

The flapping sound of large wings broke her dreamy trance and sent her eyes to a large winged figure approaching the balcony. She watched calmly as the figure swooped down toward her, then pulled up sharply to catch the air with it's outstretched, bat-like wings in order to glide gracefully down to the balcony.

"Hello Gideon," she greeted, as his wings retracted seamlessly into his form.

"Hello my dear. My, you look grand," he complemented as he took notice of her dress while taking a shirt tied around his waist and covering his bare upper torso. "Is that the dress you wore to the Governor's Ball in 1796?"

Amanda nodded, then asked with interest,"Did your trip to Edgeview turn up anything?"

"Only another dead end," he sighed. "Has anything noteworthy occurred in my absence?"

Amanda grinned to herself. "Oh, a few things," she hinted. "Come inside and I'll fill you in," she offered. Gideon went inside and Amanda followed, but not before taking a final look back over the great city's landscape, toward Allender Manor.