“I appreciate the offer,” she said, “but Beckham is very predatory. I don’t think that he would want to…share.”

In truth, she didn’t want anyone else. Whether Beckham wanted to share or not mattered little to her in that moment.

Rowland narrowed his eyes and grabbed her by the hair. “I’d like to see Beckham get predatory…”

Reyna cried out at the sudden assault. She closed her eyes and shook from head to toe. “Please…please…”

“Just think, I could taste you right here. And maybe if you’re lucky, I’d let you taste my blood too. Mingled together and you would be remade.” His hand caressed her cheek. “You’d make the prettiest little vampire.”

“Please, please stop,” she said, squeezing her eyes together and trying to release the tension on her hair.

“What is going on?” Sophie asked, appearing out of the dressing room.

Rowland released her roughly. “Nothing. The car is waiting for you. Have the dress delivered.”

And then he turned and strode out of the room. Reyna couldn’t rein in her fear even after Sophie left with a mixture of pity, jealousy, and anger rolling off of her.

“Miss Reyna?” Blythe said. “Have you decided on a dress?”

“Yes. I’d like you to charge this one to the card,” she said, her eyes like molten lava, “and then burn it.”

Chapter 18

With Beckham occupied with work, Reyna hadn’t found time to tell him about Rowland. Maybe she was avoiding it. She didn’t really want to recount what had happened. Beckham was overly protective, and she would rather stay under the radar about it all.

But as the days grew closer and closer to the ball, her anxiety peaked. She didn’t want to see Rowland and have his disgusting eyes on her. She had scrubbed herself clean all afternoon to get over the feel of his hands touching her. To rid herself of the desire clear on his face.

She spent more time with her camera after that, to avoid revealing to Beckham what had happened. The driver had agreed to stop at another clothing store, where she picked up a few plain T-shirts, two pairs of jeans, a baseball cap, and her coveted Converse. She had stashed all of those clothes in a hiding spot where hopefully no one else would find them and throw them away. On the rare occasion that Beckham was home when she was planning to head out, she would stash her street clothes in an oversized bag and change in the car.

It was hard enough getting pictures the way she wanted without standing out like a sore thumb. She never again wanted to encounter what had happened when she had gone back to the Warehouses dressed in silk and heels. She might have a bodyguard, but she knew people were not forgiving of the wealthy in this environment. And she could hardly blame them. She didn’t want their anger to come down on her.

And the pictures she wanted to take weren’t nice normal pictures of the city. She preferred the ones that showcased the true heart of the city, sort of like the black-and-white ones hanging in Beckham’s living room. She wanted to capture what was really happening. She wanted to find her perspective.

Most of her time was spent trying to take pictures of the poor, the homeless, the beggars, blood whores, starving vampires, human–vampire interaction on every level. She wanted to remember what it felt like to see these people. She never wanted to become the establishment or forget where she came from.

Every afternoon after she finished with her shots, she downloaded them to her computer and uploaded them to a secure site Beckham had started for her to organize her photos. He had done it all without even asking her. She figured he was worried she would fuck up and reveal who she was…not that it even mattered. It was just pictures of the reality of city life.

But no matter what she did to occupy her time, the night of the ball approached. She had officially been in Beckham’s penthouse nineteen days. He hadn’t tasted one drop of her blood…and they had barely seen each other the last five days. She was both excited and anxious to spend the entire evening with him.

Beckham had hired a team of artists to do her hair and makeup for the event. When they finished and she looked in the mirror, she barely recognized herself. Her hair was piled high on her head in an intricate creation exposing her neck and collarbones, she noted anxiously. Her eyes were smoky and sultry and her face a perfect mask of porcelain. She hoped he approved.

Swallowing back her anticipation she left her room, to find Beckham leaning against the kitchen bar in a tuxedo, completely engrossed in his cellphone.

“Well?” she asked, turning slowly in her ball gown. She had finally decided on a floor-length, strapless, black and rose-gold lace dress that shimmered with her movement. It hugged her curves and transformed her figure in the most flattering of manners. It had a tasteful slit up the right side, which revealed the strappy black heels beneath.

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