We were in the back of the limo, one Nikki actually owned, not a rental, surrounded by its expensive amenities. I sat relaxed but nervous thanks to the shiatsu-style massagers built into the seat while Nikki finished her phone call about our reservations. She had made every effort to impress with the restaurant and getting the art-house movie theater to screen Rush Week Vampires for us afterwards. At some point I expected her to spring the idea of dancing on me, but hoped she wouldn’t as I had no desire to go to a ball on Valentine’s.
“So, Matthew, how much Champagne do I need to ply on you before I can easily seduce you?”
I chuckled. “Not much, but the bubbly’s not my kind of drink.”
“Yes, I know. I also have a delightfully aged scotch, as well.”
“That would probably do it, but before you go trying to get me liquored up, I wanted to give you this.”
I steeled myself as I reached into my suit jacket pocket and pulled out a necklace box. Nikki took the thin black velvet box from me with a bemused smile, and then opened it. I didn’t know what quite to expect from her as a reaction. She didn’t go through any of the usual. No big gasp, no tears of joy, no fluttering of hands in excitement. Instead, she pulled the pendant out by its chain and regarded it.
On the end of the chain dangled a gold colored rose stem, complete with leaves and thorns, capped by carved petals of white stone.
“It’s just quartz, nothing too fancy, I’m afraid, but it made me think of you. I made sure there’s absolutely no silver in it or the chain, just to be sure.” Pure silver would burn through the skin of a vampire.
“Do I smell roses?”
“Oh, yeah. I, uh, picked up some rose extract and put a drop in there, just for, you know.” I shrugged and passed over a small vial of the extract to her.
“It’s an exquisite gift, Matthew.”
“Hardly. Not compared to the stuff I’m sure you usually get.”
“Indeed, I am not counting the cost, but the thought behind the gift.” She handed the pendant to me and gathered her hair in her hands.
I reached around and put the necklace on, only fumbling with the tiny clasp twice.
“You chose white. I’m sure red dominates the majority of pieces such as this, but you found white, no matter the provenance of the stone.”
“Well, yeah. Because of the painting.” I had recovered a few paintings for Nikki, but of all the ones she owned, the one that stuck most in my mind was one she had painted of a white rose stained by blood.
“And that is why I regard the gift so highly. You have been able to peel back layers, yet remained respectful of boundaries. Honestly, Matthew, I never know what to expect from you.”
“I’m just a guy.”
She gave me a withering, amused look.
I shrugged as she gave a bemused sigh. She touched the pendant, and I could tell she wished she could use a mirror, but it wouldn’t give a reflection.
“It looks good on you. Though I guess your earrings look out of place, now.”
The sapphires and gold earrings didn’t exactly clash with the pendant, but they didn’t really complement one another.
“A detail. Now, the restaurant and one of your gifts awaits.”
“Oh, I got you something else, too, but it’s for later.”
“I dislike being left in suspense.”
“Gummi bears,” I grinned.
“Perfect for flicking at the theater screen,” she grinned back.