Minnie Kim Vampire Girl #2
What do a trio of faeries, a murder mystery, and a cruel vampire have to do with love? Everything, apparently...
Minnie’s got the perfect dress for her first Sweethearts dance, but Philo’s crazy ex-girlfriend comes to town and she wants him back. To make matters worse, there’s a murderer on the loose and Minnie’s the prime suspect. She’ll be lucky if she survives, let alone gets to the dance.
Meanwhile, the real murderer is on the loose. With the help of an unexpected ally in the Council of Vampires, Minnie might just clear her name and make it to the dance—if she can set aside her insecurities and embrace what makes her unique.
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Having a two-thousand-year-old vampire as your boyfriend isn’t as hot as it sounds. You picture something like Edward Cullen and Bella Swan or Angel and Buffy—actually, dating Philo is a lot like Buffy and Angel’s relationship but, well, you know how that turned out. And the truth is, I’m just not as cool as Buffy. She’d had boyfriends before. She at least knew what it was supposed to be like. She could sort of understand Angel’s broodiness. But I didn’t know anything about boyfriends or boys, and I knew zero, zip, zilch about dating Philo.
“It can’t be that bad,” Stacey said from inside the fitting room. We were at our third store, Stacey was trying on her eighth dress and I’d yet to try on one. I lay on my back on the bench in front of the fitting rooms. My mom would have been appalled at my lack of decorum, but I was already tired, and she wasn’t around to judge me.
“It’s not all bad,” I hurried to reply. “It’s not bad at all. I’m just not sure what it actually is. I’m not sure it is anything.”
Stacey opened the door. “Wait. I don’t follow. He enrolled in freakin’ high school to be near you, he kissed you, he drives you to school every day and eats lunch with you every day, too. He likes you. You like him. Why are you making such a big deal out of this?”
My brain hurt more from trying to figure out the Philo problem than when I’d taken the Yale entrance exams when I was fourteen. “Hey, that’s a good one,” I said, eying the floor-length monstrosity she had on.
Stacey gave me a don’t-think-I-don’t-know-what-you’re-doing glare as she positioned herself in front of the trio of mirrors. She’d look pretty in just about anything, but this wasn’t the dress for her. “Liar,” she said to the mint green satin gown that made her look like a leprechaun.
“You caught me,” I said as she returned to the fitting room. “What about you and Mac? Things still going strong?” I knew the answer already since Mac was just about all Stace talked about, but that was my plan. Get her talking about Mac, and she’d lay off hassling me about Philo. And it worked—for a while.
Two stores later, I was finally standing in front of a mirror wearing a red Asian-inspired dress that made me look older and sexier while being perfectly modest. It was highly unlikely Mom and Dad would see me in it, but I wanted to honor their values, which had made dress shopping a little harder than it maybe had to be. Still, I wanted them back in my life and while I couldn’t change the fact that I was a vampire, I didn’t have to throw it in their faces by rejecting everything they’d taught me.
“Philo’s gonna flip when he sees you in that,” Stacey said with a gleam in her eye. “You look like a China doll.”
“I’m not Chinese,” I said.
“A Korean doll then. Sheesh, you know what I mean.”
“I was thinking I looked like a deadly assassin from a James Bond movie or something.”
“That too. Gorgeous and deadly.”
We grinned at each other like fools. “I’ve found the dress!”
She jumped up from the chair she’d been watching from and wrapped her arms around me so her face reflected right next to mine. She grinned and squeezed me tight.
“I know just the shoes, too. I saw them in that store by the ice cream shop.”
“Dresses by Dahlia?” I gazed at myself for a second longer inside the fitting room, then unzipped the dress down the side, and donned my jeans and T-shirt. It wasn’t the cutest outfit, but I wanted something easy to get in and out of since I figured I’d be trying on tons of clothes. As it turned out, I tried on exactly one dress and it was perfect.
“No, the other one. The one with all black dresses in the window.”
“Oh! Are you gonna get the backless dress from there?” I held the red dress up to me one last time, absolutely in love with the gold embroidery worked along the mandarin collar and down the faux buttons on the back. It fit me like a glove, and I couldn’t wait for Philo to see me in it. If he even came to the dance with me. Since I, um, hadn’t exactly invited him yet. Sweethearts was girls’ choice and I hadn’t gotten up the nerve to ask him. We’d talked about it, and it seemed as if we were going together, but nothing had been said by either of us to make it official.
“No, but the shoes I want you to get are there. I think I’m gonna get that pale pink dress I saw in the first store. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“Typical,” I said, abandoning the fitting room, the dress draped reverently across my arm.
“Ready?” the sales clerk asked as I approached the counter. “This one’s gorgeous. And perfect for a petite figure like yours.” I smiled graciously at her, knowing full well what she meant. I had boobs now that I’d become a vampire, but I certainly was not graced with much in the way of a figure. At least, not by American standards. In Korea, I’d be perfectly normal, maybe even curvy—but not in the States and definitely not when I was standing next to Stacey.
The clerk eyed me as she rang up the dress, as if I’d break down in tears and claim I couldn’t pay when she said the total. But I handed over the credit card my vampire great-grandsire, David, had provided for me, and didn’t blink an eye as the bill was settled. I wasn’t a big spender and generally didn’t waste David’s money, but I had learned it was pointless to argue with him that it was unnecessary for him to give me money in the first place. “There are perks to living a long lifetime, little one,” he’d said, and handed me a thousand dollars. In cash. I still had that money stashed in the little safe in my room at the cabin, but I took his credit card. I had no idea what the limit was on it. Stacey was forever trying to get me to test it, to see how much I could buy before it maxed out, but of course I’d never do that. I did breathe a (tiny) breath of relief when it rang through for the dress without any problem, though.
“So. Philo,” Stacey said once we were making our way back to the Black Market for my shoes.
I sighed and Stacey hooked her arm through mine, pulling me close to her side. She was my best friend and always had been. She’d seen me at my worst, and my best—and this was definitely not my best.
“He’s so quiet and broody and I never know what he’s thinking.”
“Duh!” Stacey tugged me so we wobbled together as we walked. “He’s been a teenage boy for thousands of years. Can you imagine?” Oh, we laughed at that one. Teenage hormones and angst forever. I was so not thrilled to have to deal with those myself and I’d only just started. “Every guy is quiet about how he feels. If I didn’t ask Mac questions, I swear I’d never know anything. I’m always the one to start the conversations—unless it’s about League of Legends or lacrosse. Then I can’t get him to shut up!”
I dragged Stace toward the food court and up to the Jamba Juice bar.
“Yessss!” she said with glee. “Gimme numbers.” This was a game she played every time we came here—she’d pick random numbers or get me or sometimes the clerk to give her random numbers, and then she’d count down the list of ingredients on the board and add them, number by number, to her smoothie. Sometimes, like with the strawberries, marshmallows, cinnamon and chocolate smoothie, she had a winner. Other times, like with the mango, garlic and chocolate smoothie she had last week, they were horrific losers. But Stacey always drank the whole thing. Just on principle.
Me? I always got the pineapple mango smoothie. Delicious. I liked knowing what to expect.
We sat down at a table by the big windows that overlooked the main entrance to the mall. Sometimes we’d try to guess who people were and what they were shopping for, but this time Stacey had something else in mind.
“Listen, you’ve gotta talk to him. Just ask him questions.” She took a sip of her smoothie and I watched for her reaction—I think this one was chocolate with marshmallows, flax seed and pine nuts. “Mmm, nutty,” she said, but I caught the little grimace she made as she forced herself to take another sip.
“Like what kind of questions?”
“I dunno. Do you know anything about him? Besides the fact that he’s hot, looks awesome driving around in his Jeep, and has great taste in girls?” She winked at me and I examined the scratched linoleum tabletop.
“I’m not too sure I’m the kind of girl Philo has a taste for.”
Stacey burst out laughing.
“Wait.” I pressed my palm to my forehead. “That did not come out right.”
“Or maybe it did,” Stacey said. I rolled my eyes. “That’s why you’ve gotta ask him questions. So you don’t know a lot about him. No wonder you’re feeling worried. You should know him better by now.”
I bristled a little at her criticism. “It’s not like I don’t know anything. I know he hates violence and will avoid it as much as he can. A lot of the family likes a little violence—you know, the non-murderous kind—but Philo doesn’t at all. I know he loves his Jeep and washes it himself practically every other day. He was a Spartan back in the day—”
“Wait, for reals?”
I nodded. “And . . . I’m pretty sure he’s been really hurt or something. I’ve seen glimpses of his past, and the feeling I get is a lot of loneliness.”
Stacey watched me, her gaze steady, her normally frenetic self settled and quiet as she considered me. “Broken boys are the hardest of all. I can’t even imagine being him.”
“I know. That pretty much sums up my whole problem. I’m completely inexperienced. I mean, I’m sixteen but let’s be honest—I’m probably one of the most innocent sixteen-year-olds out there.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Stacey agreed knowingly.
“I know most girls are all into the broken boys, but I’d just like to have a regular boy. Someone who will . . . I dunno.”
Stacey waggled her eyebrows at me while she took a long draw of her smoothie. I knew from experience she’d keep making that face until I spilled my guts. She had a talent for milking me for every little detail of my life.
I closed my eyes and sipped my smoothie while I thought about what I really wanted in a boyfriend. “I want someone who I can talk to without worrying about whether he felt like I’m smarter than him. I want someone who will cherish me—you know, open doors for me, bring me lunch sometimes, hold my hand rather than try to get in my pants, but who knows how to give a really, really good kiss.” I could practically feel Philo gently lifting my hair away from my neck and resting his hand there while he leaned down and—
“You realize what you just did there, don’t you?”
“What?” I opened my eyes, only a little embarrassed. This was Stacey. She already knew about all my little weirdnesses.
“Philo. Philo’s your ideal boyfriend. You just described him perfectly.”
I sighed again. “I know.”
“So he’s the perfect boy for you—but you’re worried you’re not the perfect girl for him.”
Stacey put her hand on mine, her fingers wrapping lightly around my wrist. “Oh, jagi. My gramma says love is patient with your faults and passionate about your strengths. Philo’s way older than you, like wayyyy older. You’ve gotta trust he knows what he likes. And he’s hanging around—he hasn’t taken up with any other girls, so you know he’s gotta like you. He’s passionate about your strengths. You just have to trust that he’ll be patient with your faults, too.”
I moved my straw up and down inside my near-empty cup and mumbled, “I guess.” Stacey meant well, and I got what she was saying, but . . . She didn’t know what it was like to date someone like Philo. I knew he liked me, but how long could I really expect him to stay?