"Do you have plans for Halloween?" Padma asked her as they hung holiday decorations throughout the Vladmir Government Resources, or VGR, building. Aria shrugged as she took the cartoon paper vampire, which her co-worker and best friend held for her to hang in the reception area over the desk.
"No. I might just stay home."
"Right. I'm sure you have a hot date that you're not telling me about."
"If by hot date you mean a pile of laundry, then that is exactly the case," she quipped as she climbed down from the step ladder and slipped her feet back into her black stiletto pumps. Padma laughed as they put away the orange and black bin that was full of leftover decorations and the stepladder before heading back to their desks in the call center. The chatter of the agents greeted them as they turned the corner. There were no calls coming into the center at this time of night, 9:30 p.m. The chatter was from the agents discussing their plans for the holiday that was only a week away.
Aria was in no mood to discuss her lack of a social life on the biggest vampire holiday of the year. Being a single, first generation vampire on Halloween was equivalent to a dateless human on Valentine's Day.
"Why don't you come out with us?"
"Me and a few girls from here."
"I don't know...." While she liked her other co-workers, she really didn't want to hang out with any of them socially other than Padma. But who knows, she thought. Maybe I'll run into my tall, handsome soul mate--something she had fantasized about lately.
"Oh, c'mon," Padma said as they reached their neighboring cubicles. "It's better than staying at home all night."
"I'll think about it."
Aria sat in the standard black cloth chair with the squeaky wheels and stared at her dark terminal. Not in the mood to log back onto the silent phones, she decided to calm her growling stomach with a drink from the break room. She picked up her Hello Kitty mug from her desk and walked away before Padma could join her.
Located in New Orleans, VGR was a call center that fielded questions from humans about their Medicare benefits. Created by the Vampire Council to give single female vampires a way to earn a living without having to resort to criminal activity to support their lifestyle, the company hired Aria more than fifty years ago. She hadn't planned on working at VGR for as long as she had and was burned out.
The vampire that was the Head of Vampire Resources got smoked by a slayer last week. His position was up for grabs. She applied for the vacancy with a hope that she would get it but suspected it was a long shot. She'd applied for other management positions over the years and had been passed over each time.
All positions of power, even within the company, went to men. Females were only given positions on the phones. She hoped that the council would change their minds and grant an exception in her case. This time, Lorne, her boss assured her that the job was hers for the taking. She had the experience and the skill to run the VR department or any department for that matter, but, there were always two things that kept holding her back; she was female, and she refused to sleep with Scorpio Stansakopolis, the North American Master Vampire.
"Damn it," she exclaimed as she came to a halt in front of the blood machine. A handwritten, out of order sign was taped over the coin return. She inhaled the metallic scent that lingered in the air. Running late, she had forgotten to eat or bring her thermos of standard issue. Her fangs lengthened at just the thought of the warm elixir flowing over her taste buds. She'd have to go out for dinner. Soon.
Everyone, please gather around. Lorne, the president of the company, telepathically summoned the representatives to the center of the main floor.
In the blink of an eye, she leaned against the back wall behind the other customer service representatives, still holding her empty cup. She fixed a strand of ebony hair that had escaped her ponytail. Lorne stood in the center of the group. He was a tall, silver haired, old world vampire that had been president of the company for the last five years.
"As you know, the position of Head of Vampire Resources was made vacant by Chaunrae's untimely death. We have received applications from numerous extraordinary candidates, and I am pleased to announce that we have reached a decision."
Aria bit her lip to stop herself from smiling. She could hardly contain her excitement. No more answering phones. No more base hourly salary. No more cubicle. She was so busy daydreaming about her new life and the changes she wanted to implement that she almost missed the announcement.
"We have decided to appoint Daniel Medcliff to the position."
A thin, dark haired man stepped from the shadows and took a bow as the reps applauded. Aria's mouth fell open. These assholes chose someone who didn't even work at the company and didn't know the first thing about this kind of work over her simply because he had a penis? Her fangs ripped through her gums. She was beyond pissed.
"Please welcome Daniel with open arms." Lorne said, directing his comment toward her before dismissing the group and evaporating into the air. Padma made her way through the crowd and wrapped her arms around her neck.
"I'm sorry. I thought for sure they would promote you this time."
Aria was so angry her body trembled. Seconds later, she found herself in Lorne's immaculately decorated office. He perched on the edge of his oak desk as if waiting for her. When he smiled at her, it took every muscle in her body not to slap it off of his smug face.
"I'm sorry, Aria. I fought for you. I really did."
"I deserve this position, Lorne. I have worked here longer than anybody. Besides that, I'm a first gen."
"I understand," Lorne said, folding his hands behind his back and moving out of striking range. "But the decision was out of my hands."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Then who made it? I demand to know!"
She turned in the direction of the voice that had haunted her dreams for centuries. A deep, sensual timber that had sparked many sleepless nights. He emerged from the shadows so smoothly that he took her breath away. But then again, Scorpio always had that effect of her.
His six-foot-two, muscular frame towered over her five-foot-four one. Tonight, he wore a purple silk shirt with matching tie under a navy pinstriped suit that complemented his olive skin tone and piercing blue eyes. His shoulder length, chestnut hair was pulled back into a sleek ponytail. He looked more boardroom than master vampire.
Aria took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She concentrated on the words of the speech that she had rehearsed for this very moment. But as she looked into his eyes, those words now escape her. How on Earth was she going to get through this meeting without ripping his clothes off?