Caroline promised herself she wouldn't watch him leave her again. She didn't think her heart could stand it, but her eyes were still hungry for the sight of him. The way his broad shoulders filled out his tux, the glitter of the moonlight on his dark hair, and the space he occupied in the world.
She'd read in novels about drinking in the sight of someone and she'd thought it was a stupid description, how can you drink a picture? But she understood now—every cell in her body vibrated to absorb some part of him, to hold on to him. To keep Tyler with her. So she drank, guzzled him like cheap rot gut whiskey, knowing it would turn her stomach and she'd retch up all of her feelings for him, spill them out, but hold them tight even as they cut her.
She ran to the window, feeling much like she imagined Cinderella did. Only it wasn't her shoe she'd left behind, but her heart. This wasn't how being a fairytale princess was supposed to feel.
When she edged the curtain back, the spell was broken and Caroline was reminded with a special brutality that there were no such things as fairy godmothers or happily ever after. The thing she'd feared most in the world unfolded like an origami swan in front of her.
Tyler had come back for her stupid, stupid prom and now he was going to die.
"Was it worth it?"
She didn't scream. It wouldn't do any good. In fact, she knew from experience, the more upset she was for Tyler, the angrier it made him. Hope blossomed foul and dirty in her heart. It was foul because logic told her there was no hope. Klaus was going to kill him and there was nothing she could do to stop him.
All she could do was bear silent witness and cry—but Caroline wasn't that kind of girl. She was a planner, a doer. She made things happen. But in this moment, she was helpless.
Yet, that damned hope burgeoned bright and hot as she looked at Klaus. The set of his shoulders, the hard line of his mouth, even the pale light on his razor blade cheekbones. It made her think about strength. Right now, she'd thought she was helpless, but she wasn't. She remembered all the things Klaus had said to her and all the things she'd said to him. Strength could be quiet and small, too.
He wasn't as big as Tyler, as broad, but Klaus could rip out his throat with terrifying ease.
Caroline couldn't explain it, but she knew if she stayed quiet and still, her small hand-those moments between them-would stay him. She wasn't so foolish as to believe he'd ever let Tyler come back, but he'd give her tonight.
Or so she hoped.
Even though her eyes had been starved for Tyler, she found herself watching Klaus, riveted by the way his eyes glittered and the veins standing out on his forearms as if he exerted some great physical force.
Tyler didn't speak. Didn't answer the question. "Was it worth it?" She'd expected him to raise his chin defiantly, to shout at the top of his lungs that it was. That anything for her was worth it, but he didn't. Even when Klaus advanced on him, there was barely an inch between their bodies.
Caroline remembered only seconds ago she'd been wrapped in Tyler's embrace, as close as Klaus was now. Unwittingly, she remembered the same sensation with Klaus, dancing with him—his hand that could easily break her resting lightly on her spine as he guided them expertly around the ballroom.
She swallowed, pushing all the memories away and anchoring herself in the present.
"In the shared interest of giving Caroline the night of her dreams, I'm going to allow you five seconds before I rip your heart out of your chest," Klaus said as if he were talking about the weather.
Tyler still hadn't answered and Caroline knew it was stupid, she kept repeated it to herself, that nothing was worth Tyler's life. Certainly not a stupid prom. But the part of her that still wanted to be a fairy princess wanted him to think it was, or at least wanted him to tell Klaus that it was.
"Five. Four. Three…"
And Tyler was gone.
Klaus glared at the door, and then down at his feet, shoving his hands in his pockets. This was first Caroline had ever seen him exhibit a kindness he wasn't likely to be rewarded for. Or this vulnerability.
Caroline's fingers fluttered to her chest like a butterfly. Klaus could've killed Tyler then and she'd never have been the wiser. He could've ended his life and continued using Tyler to manipulate her.
She couldn't help but wonder if he'd think a dance with her was worth his life—if he'd have answered the question differently, or hell, answered at all.
Caroline felt horrible for even thinking it—disloyal and awful.
Klaus had to know she was there, sensed her. That had to be it. There was no way that he'd done this for her, really for her and not just as another way to manipulate her. Because if he had, it would change things. Things that had no business changing.
He turned to leave.
She flung the door open before she could think better of it. "Anyone ever tell you it's creepy to hang out on a girl's porch without knocking?"
He raised a brow. "Matt will appreciate being called a girl, I'm sure."
"You know what I mean."
"Did you have a good evening, Caroline? Was it everything you hoped it would be?" he asked, eyes bright.
She didn't want to lie to him, but she wasn't ready to call him on what he'd done. "It was." Caroline suddenly didn't know what to do with her hands, or where to look, because she couldn't look at him. "Thank you for lending me the dress. I'll change before everyone gets here for the after party."
"Would you wear it for one more dance?" He held out his hand to her.
He was asking for a dance. Not because he'd lent her the dress, not because he's spared Tyler, but because he wanted her to give it to him freely.
Something twisted in her stomach and she felt indebted to him. Which was absolutely stupid—she wouldn't be indebted to him if he hadn't threatened Tyler's life in the first place. But, nevertheless…
She couldn't invite him in, but she could go out to him. Caroline wondered if Tyler would see, but she put it out of her head. He was long gone.
Caroline took his hand and she was surprised how easily she fit into his embrace. There was definitely something to be said for these old world males. There was no music but that of the night, no bright lights but the sallow spill of the porch light and the twinkling stars, but he guided her across the highly polished planks of the wooden porch as if it were a royal ballroom.
He didn't speak, didn't try to touch her other than where it was appropriate for the dance, and Caroline felt like a princess again—a princess in a cloud castle with a handsome prince.
She wondered what Klaus would have been like if not for his mother. His father. When he'd been a man rather than a monster.
Caroline wanted to cry for what could have been. He could have been someone's Prince Charming. Someone's always and everything.
She wondered what his face looked like when he was happy. If his sharp smile would be lush, if that darkness in his eyes would be—these were things she had no business thinking about. Not his smile, not the graceful way he moved, not the way they fit together.
All he'd done was be decent and not murder the man she loved. That didn't make him a saint, that didn't forgive all the horrible things he'd done.
Suddenly, it was over as quickly as it begun and he bent low over her hand, brushed his lips across her knuckles. "Thank you for the dance, Princess Caroline."
For a moment, she thought he knew every thought that had pranced through her head like a groomed show pony. But the genuine softness in his expression told her otherwise.
"Do you want to stay?" she blurted. God, what was she thinking?
"I can't. I have business to attend to."
The first thought that popped into her head was that he was going to kill Tyler now. "It can't wait?"
"And what is it that you want from me now, sweetheart?" His expression turned cold.
Caroline didn't know what to say. She wanted a million things from him. She wanted Tyler's freedom. She wanted her own. She wanted to stop feeling these things, they were wrong and strange.
"I… I was just trying to be your friend."
He raised a brow, the calculating monster back where that glimpse of Prince Charming had been. She had to scrub that terminology out of her brain.
"Caroline, any time you've offered anything of yourself to me I haven't asked for, it's always ended poorly for me or my family." His gaze was cool, appraising.
"You're right." She nodded. "I can't say I'm sorry. You did bad things. I'd do it again." Caroline swallowed. "But that's not what this was."
But wasn't it? She thought he was going to kill Tyler, so she rushed to make him pay attention to her again.
"Hmm. So if I requested your presence tomorrow instead, what would you say?"
She cocked her head to the side. "Well, I would say it depends on what activities for which you request my presence. Carnage and mayhem? Not so much. A trip to the city and a museum? Maybe."
"A knitting with entrails class would be out, then?"
Caroline knew she shouldn't have found that funny, it was awful. But she did. The corner of her mouth quirked in a smile. "I'd have to say try again."
"Art museum and coffee?"
It was hard to imagine the vampire doing anything as banal as having coffee. It was even harder to imagine the answer on the tip of her tongue. He was bad. He was a killer. He was… He was trying. He'd done something for her and because he hadn't expected anything in return, she found she wanted to give it. "Yes."