The audience below us gasped. They'd seen the whole show, and they didn't know she was dead.
The circle of couples parted as the other vampires stalked forward. Two men, and three women, stalking across the stage. The girl stared at them with fear plain on her face. She begged with graceful arms, on her knees. When that didn't help, she got slowly to her feet, and her fear was palpable. Someone was projecting emotions onto the audience. There weren't many who could roll me that easily.
I looked up to find one last vamp hovering at the ornate ceiling. Adonis, the blond that had damn near gotten me with his gaze. He wasn't looking at me. His attention was all for the stage. I think he was waiting for his cue. It wasn't him. Oh, I was slow tonight. It was Merlin again. Merlin who I hadn't seen in the flesh, but only through memory. I didn't poke at his power. He wasn't hurting anyone. I was afraid if I poked at him, made him stop projecting emotions into the crowd, that it might raise Marmee Noir again. I was not up to another visit from the Mother of All Darkness tonight. So I left Merlin alone. We'd discuss his sins later, in private.
The vampires were chasing her around the stage. It was a beautifully choreographed game of cat and mouse. They would jump out at her, use that incredible speed to stop her from leaving the stage. She'd almost run past them, but they would be there, grabbing a hand, throwing her backward, sliding her prettily across the stage. I wondered how she kept the white tights so white doing all that.
I felt Adonis move forward. I felt his power reach outward. He flew slowly toward the stage, going down as if on wires, so slow, so incredibly slow. It wasn't a bird of prey, it was like a picture of some heaven-bound saint, except this one was coming down, not going up. He touched the stage and the dancers froze. A red-haired vampire came to his hand as if he'd commanded her. The dancers all formed couples, and began to dance around the girl. She was huddled in the middle, not begging anymore. She had given up on asking for help. She huddled like a white star in the center of the bright colors of the vampires.
They danced, and showed that they could do traditional ballet. Then the music changed. The couples gave themselves more room, and they began to do dancing that would have looked more at home on the stage at Guilty Pleasures than at the ballet. It was still beautiful, graceful, predatory, but it was also very sexual. Nothing that would get you arrested, but as they had been able to convey menace, pity, and derision, with a gesture and a look, now they conveyed sex.
The girl hid her face, as if it were too awful to watch. It was Adonis who stood above her. She raised a startled face, slowly, the way the actors look up in a horror movie when they hear that noise, and know, somehow, that the monster is right there. She gazed up at the handsome man, with that look on her face, in the posture of her body. No matter how beautiful he was, she made you see him as hideous, dangerous, frightening.
He grabbed her wrist, and they did a slow dance, with him half-dragging her, and her trying to stay farther away from him. Her reluctance for him to touch her screamed through her every movement. But he won, as you knew he would. He jerked her into his embrace, and went skyward. He flew her out over the audience, while she struggled, and pounded at him with little fists. So he dropped her. She actually screamed, before another vampire caught her. Caught her just over the audience's heads. The audience gasped and screamed with her. The vampires played catch with the girl. One would rise, then let her struggles make him drop her. She began to cling to them, and they tore her hands from their clothes and flung her to the air. Then Adonis caught her again, and he held her close. I caught the shine of tears on her face as he floated past us. He grabbed that shining fall of hair, and wadded his hand in it. He pulled her neck into a graceful, straining line, and pretended to bite her. Then he threw her to the next vampire, and that one bit her, too. They began to close in around her in a tight floating ball of arms and legs. When they parted, her neck was dotted with fake blood, and she went eagerly to them. Embracing them with graceful arms. It became a lovely feeding frenzy. From one set of arms to another, from one man, one woman, to another, until the vampire's faces were stained crimson, and the girl's dress looked like an accident victim's sheet. The fake blood made the dress cling to her body, so you could see the muscles, the small tight br**sts. It was both alluring and utterly disturbing.
The audience was silent with tension, as the vampires landed on the stage again. They surrounded her, hiding her from view. It gave the illusion that all of them were feeding at once, though I knew logistically that wasn't possible. Too many mouths to fit like that.
A new vampire stalked onto the stage. He was dark-haired, and darker-skinned, pale, but I couldn't tell if it was makeup or skin tone. He chased back the other vamps. He saw the bloody almost-corpse, and he wept. His shoulders rose and fell with it.
Adonis laughed at him, one of those big stage laughs, with the head back.
The dark vampire raised a face livid with anger. They began to dance around the stage. They danced with her bloody corpse as their centerpiece. The other vampires vanished behind the stage. The two men danced. Adonis had more bulky muscles. The dark man was tall and lean, and more graceful than anyone I'd ever seen. He moved like a dream of water, and even that didn't do him justice.
Adonis's dancing came across as clunky, human in comparison. Somewhere in the middle of the dance, I realized I was looking at Merlin.
Merlin won the dancing fight. For that was what it became. They fought in the air, and on the ground, and it looked real. Real anger seemed to be involved, and I wondered if it was projecting, or if they were truly pissed at each other and the fight gave them an excuse to vent it.
Adonis was vanquished, not killed, and that left Merlin on stage alone with his dead love. He leaned over her, held her in his arms, and rocked her. My throat was tight, damn him. He wept and I fought not to weep with him. Jean-Claude did some of this with the audience at the clubs, but he wasn't this good. No one I'd ever met was this good at projecting emotions.
A mob entered from stage right. They had crossbows and torches. They shot the weeping vampire. The crossbow bolt appeared in his chest like magic. Even knowing it was stage trickery it looked real. He collapsed on top of his dead love, and the lights circled round the two dead lovers. He died curled around her, as if, even in death, he would protect her.
The mob came, and the weeping man who had shot the vampire picked up the dead girl. He cradled her in his arms, and a woman from the crowd joined him in weeping. Parents, I thought. They cradled her, much as the dead vampire had. They carried her offstage, weeping, and left the vampire dead.
The stage was empty for a moment, then the vampires returned. They crept out on the stage, cautious, afraid. They seemed bewildered by the dead vampire. It was Adonis who knelt by him, touched his face, and wept. He picked the fallen man up in his arms, cradling him. Then he rose skyward, and the vampires flew away with their fallen leader. They flew away weeping to the sounds of music that sounded like the violins were weeping with them.
The curtain went down and there was a moment of utter silence. Then the audience went wild, clapping, making noises of all kinds. The audience came to its feet and the curtain reopened. The humans came out first, the chorus, but the audience stayed on their feet through it all. When Adonis took the stage, they clapped louder. When the girl and Merlin came down to bow, well, the crowd actually screamed. You don't hear screaming much at the ballet, but you heard it now.
Roses were delivered to the girl, and to Merlin. More than one bouquet of them, in different colors. They bowed, and bowed again, and finally the audience began to quiet. Only then did the curtain close, and the dancers exited to the soft sound of applause and the excited babble of the audience, already asking themselves, "Did you see what I saw? Was it real?"
We'd survived the ballet. Now all we had to survive was the cast party afterward. The night was young. Damn it.
I WAS IN Jean-Claude's office at Danse Macabre. It was black-and-white elegant, with framed kimonos and fans on the walls as the only color. I sat behind his elegant black desk, with a drawer open. I had an extra gun in that drawer. I'd loaded it with silver shot while we waited. Asher sat beside me, in a chair pulled up so he could be close enough to touch me. He was the reason the drawer was open and the gun was loaded, but not sitting in plain sight on the desk, or in my hand already. He thought it might make the discussion get off on a hostile foot. Damian stood on my other side, hand on my shoulder. His touching me, sharing his calmness, was probably why Asher had won his argument about the gun. The other reason he'd won the fight about the gun was leaning up against the door: Claudia, Truth, and Lisandro, looking very bodyguardy against the wall. Where was Jean-Claude? He was out being the media darling. Elinore, as manager here, was also playing to the media. For public events like this, she made a much better hostess. Besides, I was handling other business. The kind the human media didn't get to know about.