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"Crashing a party" had a beautifully destructive ring to it, but Klaus found the reality a disappointment. It had been too easy to get invited, and Elijah's constant reminders that violence was prohibited turned out to be entirely unnecessary. All that awaited them inside the villa was an ordinary party. Witches and werewolves drank and danced with their own kind, each casting occasional disdainful looks at members of the other clan. The ballroom was stuffy, and the human servers moved numbly through the crowd, controlled by some sort of spell that made them just as dull as everything else. Klaus couldn't figure out why his brother had been so eager to attend this event, but Elijah's reasoning was often unsound.
A doe-eyed young woman handed him a glass of champagne, and Klaus tasted it gamely. It was probably of very high quality, but it made no real impression on him. He was, after all, hardly the best judge of beverages served in polite company. "Wait," he called, and the young woman turned obediently, a tray of glasses still balanced on one hand. Klaus stepped closer to her, taking in the honey glint of her hair and the gentle throb of the pulse in her throat. "I need some air." He improvised. "Can you show me to the garden? "
The human girl hesitated for a moment, her lips parted as if she knew she was supposed to refuse, yet couldn't. She put down her tray, and Klaus followed her to the edge of the glittering ballroom. He caught her before the door had fully closed behind them, his eyes adjusting immediately to the darkness of the garden. His right hand curled around her mouth, muffling any sound that might escape, while his left hand brushed her hair away from the skin of her throat. He felt his teeth extend and sharpen as he stared at her smooth neck. His fangs reached for her pulse, tore into her throat, and locked it in place while her hot blood lowed into his mouth.
Klaus's mind had already begun to wander by the time her heartbeat grew faint. His eyes roved the moonlit garden, looking for hiding places. The minute the serving girl was dead he carried her to a honeysuckle-covered wall and concealed her among the clinging vines. Klaus didn't bother to inspect his work too carefully. Leaving the boring party for a boring kill had unexpectedly made him feel even more out of sorts.
He slipped back through the carved double doors, struck for a moment by the light and music inside. His return went almost entirely unnoticed, but not quite. The glow of a dozen chandeliers glinted off a pile of perfect blonde curls, and a pair of serious blue eyes was ixed on his face.
Rebekah must have been spying for Elijah and catering to his tiresome obsession with "fitting in." Making sure the wayward half brother didn't do anything to endanger their brilliant plans.
Together, the three Original vampires could have taken ownership of this ledgling city in a heartbeat, making it a fortress against the enemy that hunted them. Instead, they had spent nine long years cowering in dark corners, feeding only when necessary and ingratiating themselves with the locals. Klaus had agreed to it all for the time being, but he couldn't be expected to forego all entertainment while bending to Elijah's schemes.
He turned away from his sister in disgust, only to see that he was being watched by someone else. The girl staring his way was one of the witches, he thought, although he was almost sure he had noticed her dancing with a lanky werewolf earlier. A lovely young witch who wasn't afraid to stray from her own kind? That might be enjoyable and could even redeem this dreadful party. With her raven hair, porcelain skin, and intensely black eyes she could almost have been a vampire, but Klaus knew that the spells that illed her pretty head were nothing compared to his power.
Klaus imagined splitting the white skin of her throat; he could hear her begging him to. He could be the last man to soak up the light that seemed to radiate from her before putting it out forever.
He watched the young witch move through the room, pausing to speak here and dance there. Now and then her shining black eyes found his before darting away. Klaus moved closer, stalking her through the ball gowns and frock coats like a tiger slipping through tall grass.
The music changed, and the dancers obediently separated into groups of eight, one couple at each corner. Klaus ended up one group over from his new preywas it his imagination, or had she begun to move away as she saw him come closer?but that was easily remedied. The dancers stepped and turned to the music, and Klaus let them carry him and the girl toward each other. He watched until she was just behind him, and then he spun.
"May I cut in?" he asked latly, not waiting for an answer as he pulled her into his arms. Her partner stammered something and then backed away. Klaus didn't bother to watch him go.
The girl's red lips quirked up in a rueful smile. "Poor Gerald," she sighed, her black eyes glittering in the candlelight. "I don't think he saw you coming."
"I think you did, Mademoiselle," Klaus countered, spinning her away from his body and then back in, closer this time.
"Vivianne," she replied, holding up her gloved fingers expectantly. He turned her hand over to kiss the underside of her wrist, letting his lips linger on her skin a bit longer than the usual. She didn't blush the way most girls her age would have; instead she raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"Niklaus Mikaelson," he returned. "It's an honor."
"I'm sure," Vivianne murmured. She glanced away, distracted. Then she looked back up at him and smiled, and it was as if the sun had come out: dazzling, powerful, and dangerous. "Who dragged you to this tedious affair, anyway? Or did you just wander in and lose sight of the exit?"
From across the room, Klaus noticed Elijah lurking at the outer edges of the ballroom. His brother's brown eyes were searching, boring into his. Elijah jerked his head, trying to catch Klaus's attention without anyone else noticing. Klaus stared at him curiously, intrigued by the vehemence of his silent protest. "My siblings assured me this party would be the social event of the season," he answered. "I wasn't convinced, but it certainly has improved dramatically in the last few minutes."
Vivianne's eyebrow ticked up again; he couldn't quite tell if she was lattered or just amused. "I wouldn't have thought you were the sort of man who enjoyed pattern dancing."
"Neither would I." The music signaled a change of partners, but Klaus glared at the young man who held his hand out to Vivianne. "I don't quite have the hang of it," he admitted, "but you dance beautifully. I wasn't aware this city could turn out such polished young women; have you traveled?"
Her onyx eyes glittered with mischief. "I think you want me to know that you have," she interpreted dryly. "You must have seen extraordinary things."
"Oh, I have." Sights that would have made her hair stand on end, but Klaus could save those topics for another, more intimate time. "But you didn't answer, Mademoiselle Vivianne." In fact, he noticed, she hadn't even given him her last name.
She leaned closer to his chest than the dance strictly required. "How terribly upsetting for you." Sarcasm dripped from her voice like honey mingled with blood. "I'm sure you're accustomed to getting your own way."
A short, surprised laugh burst from his throat. "Oh, mysterious Vivianne, I think I would rather have you deny me than get my way with anyone else tonight."
"You shouldn't insult the guest list," she chided playfully. "For all you know, I invited all of these people. They may be five hundred of my closest friends."
"Half of them may be, at any rate." The division between the two clans was still evident; there were no werewolves on their side of the ballroom.
"Peace is a wonderful thing," Vivianne replied, so blandly that he suspected she was thinking something quite different. The long war between the witches and werewolves of New Orleans had inally drawn to a close, and Klaus had seemed alone in not choosing to celebrate. Was it possible that this witch had doubts of her own about the truce? Elijah was adamant that it must go forward with no interference from the vampires, but if some of the witches themselves were dissatisfied
. this charming young woman could be much more than just a meal.
Klaus realized that he was smiling genuinely for the irst time that night. Maybe he ought to let the pretty witch live; New Orleans seemed less dreary for having her in it. "I will have to stay close to you and borrow some of your popularity," he teased. "I don't think I have many friends here tonight."
"How lucky that I'm here to protect you from all these horrible people." She rolled her eyes dismissively, looking for a brief moment like the girl she was.
He smirked. "Protecting the innocent is what I do, Mademoiselle. I'm surprised my reputation hasn't preceded me."
The song ended, and the dancers stopped with it. Vivianne stretched onto her tiptoes, bringing her face so close to his that Klaus could have bitten her lip.
"Oh, but it has," she whispered, her wicked smile blocking out everything else in the decadent ballroom. She reached up to touch him, caressing the corner of his mouth with one long inger. He turned to kiss it, to devour it, but she pulled back out of his arms, and he saw that her fingertip had come away red. A forgotten bit of the serving girl's blood; it must have been there all along.
Vivianne was halfway across the ballroom by the time he thought to follow her, and before he could move, horns gave a celebratory lourish. Frustrated, Klaus waited, impatient but conident there would be a better, more private opportunity to catch her soon.
"Ladies, gentlemen, distinguished guests," a voice cried, silencing the chatter around them. "It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this happiest of occasions. I have the honor to present to you, for the irst time as a betrothed couple, Armand Navarro and Vivianne Lescheres." Vivianne reached the side of the werewolf Klaus had seen her with earlier, sliding her arm through his as if they had never been apart. Her smile was absolutely brilliant as she raised one white arm and waved to the crowd.
The ballroom exploded in a frenzy of applause and cheering, but Klaus was utterly still. Suddenly, the party made perfect sense. They weren't just celebrating the end of the war; they were sealing it with blood. The Navarros were the premier werewolf family in New Orleans, so a Navarro was marrying a witchand for them to agree, Vivianne must be an extraordinary witch.
Klaus narrowed his eyes. Extraordinary, indeed. She must be the one he had heard about: the daughter of both a witch and werewolf. He'd always dismissed the rumors as foolish, and yet the daughter of both clans stood before him with a beating pulse. When Elijah had mentioned this party, he had certainly failed to include some key detailsand the only reason Klaus could think of was that his brother didn't trust him to stay out of the deal that was being struck under their noses.
But someone should intervene. Klaus felt safest when his rivals hated one another at least as much as they hated him.
Besides, Vivianne was far too good to waste on a werewolf.
"She's not for you, Niklaus," Rebekah snapped, appearing beside his elbow. "This alliance has been a generation in the making. Interfering with it is absolutely out of the question, so just forget she exists."
Klaus watched Vivianne dance with her fiancé. Her lithe body moved gracefully across the floor, her skirt following a moment later like a white echo. He didn't answer Rebekah; there was no need. They both knew her warning had come too late.