The Night House
Bianca St. Germain works at a Night House, a place where vampires like the aristocratic Jeremiah Archer, pay to feed on humans, and she doesn’t much care what others think of her. The money is good, and at least there, she’s safe. Bianca also doesn’t care that the Night House is killing her. All she cares about is: nauth, the highly addictive poison in vampire bites that brings a euphoria like no drug ever could.
But when Bianca meets James, a reclusive empath who feels everything she does, for the first time, she considers a life outside of the Night House and a someone worth living for. But Jeremiah has decided to keep Bianca for himself; he won’t allow her to walk away.
As she allows her feelings for James to grow, she struggles to contain nauth’s strong hold on her life. If they are to have a future, James must make her see what she’s worth, what she means to him, before Jeremiah and nauth claim her for good.
It’s been one day since I last had nauth.
A chill is starting to set into my bones. As some giant carelessly spills orange and red over the sky, I hurry back to the Night House. This tiny black pillowcase that I call a dress is tighter than it should be, and I’m in heels that force me to walk on my toes. I never took ballet, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been walking on pointe since I came to Philly.
When I reach the building, the sun is long gone. My boss, Finn, waits behind the black double doors. I can’t see him, but I can feel him—or maybe I’m just used to his grimace greeting me. My shoes click against the stone steps. I love that sound. Sometimes I spend my days just listening to everyone walk by. The click, thud and slap of shoes are the real soundtrack of the city.
But the Night House is quiet.
Finn opens the door for me with a scowl. He could be beautiful like the others, if he tried, but he is the laziest vampire I have ever met.
“Bianca St. Germain.” His voice is bored, as usual. “You’re late.”
“Figured you’d rather I take my time than break my ankle in these shoes.” I breeze past him. The chilly night air follows me in, pawing at my back like a neglected pet.
“I can fix ankles,” Finn is still facing the door like I haven’t moved. “Your pitiful lack of manners, however … ”
I shrug him off. “It’s a couple of minutes, cut me some slack.”
“This isn’t high school, Bianca. You’re not a teenager when you’re in here.”
“Sorry, I’ll start investing in stocks or something. That’s what old people do, right?”
He huffs in my direction as I feel my way around the darkness. The whole place is pitch black until the thin hallway forks. To my left, pale blue lights beckon the customers. I go right, through the heavy curtain that leads to the girls’ rooms. Vampires with their night vision don’t need guidance, but I’m fairly certain every girl has tripped at least once down here.
The doors are nearly invisible except for the strips of space at the bottom where they don’t quite reach the floor. Those spaces cast light on my feet as I teeter past on these impossible heels. They’re new, and I’m still breaking them in, but I’ve never felt this tall before.
I hear scuffling and shifting behind those doors. The other girls hide in their rooms all day. They don’t understand why I still crave the sunlight, why I don’t make my room my little home and never leave until I’m called. That’s what Finn wants me to do, what the girls think
I should do, but I would rather sleep on the cracked unyielding sidewalks of Philly than in the Night House. I would rather be homeless than call this place home.
When I find my room, I turn the knob and bump my hip into it. It opens with a groan.
My door has been broken for at least three months. Finn keeps saying he’ll fix it, but he couldn’t care less and we both know it. Still, I keep bugging him. I can’t give up that easily.
My room is like two closets that had the walls knocked out between them. A bed is nestled in the corner. Most of my important stuff is underneath there, like sketchbooks, novels and accessories to hide my scars. One wall is dominated by a large mirror with huge lights, like an actress might have for her dressing room. Though I’m sure an actress would have working lights. I slump into the folding chair and rest my fish-netted legs on the dresser. Makeup and various beauty tools—eyeliner, lipstick, blush—lay scattered over it. This is the only time I can bear to look at myself. Right before I become another person.
I start with the lips. Blood red, the way they like it. Then I frame my eyes in black so that the green pops. I don’t need to do anything to appear pale. That one comes naturally. But I smooth my face with lotion and foundation, and then add rosy cheeks. When I unravel my scarf,
I have to close my eyes. That way, when I open them, I can pretend it’s someone else’s neck covered with scars. Some crazy girl with her makeup on. The scars are nearly invisible, thanks to
Finn and his healing blood, but I can still see clumps of white scar tissue, just a shade paler than my skin. I hate not being able to cover my scars with anything—makeup doesn’t taste good.
When I am done with makeup, I change out of my dress and tights and heels and put on an awful old corset. Each girl has at least one old-fashioned outfit because sometimes vampires prefer to live in the old days. We all have different specialties. My friend Alex is all about the 1950s. I got stuck in the 19th
Tonight, I have an appointment with Jeremiah, and he’s very old and very proper but he’s not above throwing a tantrum if I’m not perfectly in period. Jeremiah is a regular here. For a while, he used to switch between the girls until I showed up. He’s something of a collector, and when he found out I had AB negative, he became my regular. Apparently AB neg means something, or that’s what Finn told me anyway. It’s tricky having the same guy come by all the time because you start to know each other. That doesn’t make it easier. I wish they were all strangers. Unfortunately, I know Jeremiah very well.
So I put on this musty old dress with frills and lace and after it’s on, I am a dusty layer cake. I hate Jeremiah, but he pays nicely so I always get a tip from him. That means a new sketchbook, or maybe I’ll treat myself to a cupcake. century.
Finn knocks on my door even though it’s open. “Jeremiah is here.”
I stifle a groan and meet his gaze.
He gives me a once over. “Fix your hair.”
“One hundred strokes, right?”
“He’s in the Fire Room.” Finn leaves before I can say anything else.
I pick up my paddle brush and make my hair as flouncy as I can, but it’s thick and heavy and sits the same way no matter what I do to it. It could take hours to make my hair salon styled.
Besides, it’s fine the way it is. Maybe not 1800s fine, but Jeremiah will have to deal. It’s not my hair he comes for, anyway.
I step out of my room, and I feel like I walked out of Sense and Sensibility. I like Jane Austen. She writes happy endings.
I hate Jeremiah.
The hallway takes me past all the doors which start to open, like night-blooming flowers.
Alex flashes a smile. Her hair is full of curlers. Jessie tries to zip up her dress by herself even though we all know she can’t. Yvonne runs between her room and Jordan’s, trying to decide which shoes to wear. Both pairs are ugly.
I take the back way into the lounge, away from the front doors. One of Finn’s guys waits by the entrance. He is even less animated than Finn, which is hard to accomplish. He’s probably well paid with some name like Tank or Gunn. We both pretend this isn’t awkward, and he lets me through.
Yet another hallway lies ahead. Another thick set of curtains separates the lounge from the rooms, but I can see a bit of the blue lights on the other side. There, one of the luckier girls gets to pretend she isn’t vamp food in order to be the hostess, taking names. There, vampires sit idly on a long winding couch, tapping their feet, waiting their turn, while they ignore their thirst. There, Finn handles all the customers and tells them to be patient while the girls get ready.
Then we can sneak into the rooms and appear like we’ve been there all along. We’ll ask sweetly,
“What took you so long?” and they’ll blame Finn, but they’ll thank him later.
Inside the Fire Room, creatively named for being the only room with a fireplace, is where it starts. My hunger. It is different from the vamps’. It is a void, embedded deep in my veins, which can never be filled.
The word echoes in my head and sends chills down my spine.
I want it.
I want it now.
But I must be patient and distract myself by taking in the decorations in the Fire Room.
It really seems like it was transported straight from some Victorian’s living room. From the stiff
baroque curtains and the velvet couch, to the unused silverware sitting on the dark wooden table,
I blend right in.
This is one big show for the vampires. The whole Night House feels like a movie set. I am an actress. Finn directs us. Still, I know it’s real. So I face the fire and let it warm my skin as
I wait for everything to get too close.
Rachel Tafoya studied creative writing while at Solebury School and was published in their student run literary magazine, SLAM. She attended a writing program for teens at both Susquehanna University and Denison University, and the Experimental Writing for Teens class and Novels for Young Writers program, both run by NY Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry. Rachel is the daughter crime author Dennis Tafoya.