Of course, she decided to finish her mail route.
Of course, she decided to drive sanely.
Of course, she had no idea where Elsie Vansing lived.
So, naturally, she had to pull over and consult her phone for directions and such.
And, of course, she had forgotten to charge her phone, which meant that it was deader than dead.
“Just get me to Havaton.” Ambrose leaned the seat so far back he was practically lying on the floor. “I’ll find her myself.”
She may have responded to that statement, but he never heard a word. He had fallen sound asleep.
She stopped the car and poked him repeatedly.
“Hey!” At least fifteen more pokes. “We’re here. Wake up!”
He opened his eyes to half-mast and tried to glare at her. Glaring while at half-mast, however, was a whole lot harder to do than he’d expected. “Why’d you stop?”
“Because we’re here.”
“Here?” He sat up and looked outside into the storm.
“This is Elsie’s house, according to that guy at the gas station.”
He opened the door and stepped outside. Whatever parts of him had dried were thoroughly drenched once more. He ran his hand through his sopped hair and contemplated the house before him.
A modest Tudor house – brown wood, cream siding. No gargoyles. No moats filled with holy water. No vampire heads on pikes lining the driveway.
Just a simple, decent, modest looking house tucked inside a dense forest. “Are you sure this is it?”
She got out of the car and sloshed through the puddles over to him. “Like I said before, I don’t know this Elsie of yours.”
He snapped a sharp look at her. “She is not mine.”
“Yeah, well. That’s your business, not mine.”
“You should leave. I can handle this.”
Thunder roared and lightning flashed as Ambrose wobbled up the driveway.
She hurried over to him. “Tell you what. I’ll walk you up to the door.”
“I don’t need your help.” He listed a little too close to the rose bushes.
She grabbed his arm and guided him to the front door.
He objected the whole way.
She pushed him into the porch swing and told him to stay put. She walked up to the door and hesitated. “Should I knock or ring the doorbell?”
“I really don’t give a…” He drifted off to sleep again.
The scent of lily of the valley and woodsy musk spiraled throughout his dreams, alternating between friendly and dangerous.
Love and hate.
A voice filled with magic and music electrified the air. “I grant you permission to enter my home.”
In his dream, he reached forward to grab that voice to keep its magic close. But it kept evading his touch. No matter how hard he tried, it just kept slipping away. “Come back here!” he bellowed.
It slipped further out of reach.
He ran after it with open hands. “Come back!”
Ambrose opened his eyes wide. For a few seconds, it was too dark to see anything. He sat up and opened his eyes a little wider.
And he could see his surroundings clear as clear.
A simple room. Nothing fancy. A bed, a dresser, a closet, a light fixture on the ceiling, a bathroom, and that was it.
He sat quietly.
He examined his hands. They didn’t look dirty, but they felt horribly unclean – like there should have been a layer of grit in between his fingers.
Ambrose carefully got out of bed and wobbled his way to the bathroom. He washed his hands in the dark until he was satisfied with their cleanliness.
But then he realized that the rest of him felt unclean as well. He glanced at the shower and contemplated his energy level.
The bedroom door opened.
Ambrose startled. He almost jumped into the shower, but he worried about slipping and falling and injuring his pride.
He hid behind the door instead and listened.
The light clicked on inside the bedroom.
He winced and almost shouted, “Shut it off!” But he held his silence.
Elsie. He walked into the bedroom.
Her scent hit him hard. He sank down to his knees and bowed his head.
Elsie walked over to him.
Soft, hunter footsteps.
She crouched before him. Her silver gauntlets glowed sharp in the artificial light. “I could stake you right now. I do have a couple of stakes tucked on my person.”
“I know.” he said softly.
“And, from the looks of it, you wouldn’t be able to fight back.”
He raised his head and glared at her the best he could. “I would try. I will not lie still and let you kill me, hunter.”
“My name is Elsie. Vampire.”
“Ambrose. So? Shall we begin our dance?”
She sat back on her heels. “There will be no dancing tonight or any other night. Not for us.”
He frowned and tilted his head. “I don’t understand.”
She lowered her gaze. “I saw the conditions that you were living in. I didn’t think they would leave you like that. I thought they would give you a place to sleep during the day. I thought–”
She looked up at him.
“I don’t want to talk about that place. Ever. Do you understand me?”
A couple of silent minutes passed between them.
“So.” he said softly. “What happens now?”
“I’ve given it some thought.” She removed her left gauntlet and looked him in the eyes. “I’ve given it a lot of thought.”
He took her hand into both of his hands and held tight.
She didn’t resist.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
“You are not well, Ambrose. You’ve had too much exposure to sunlight and not enough blood to sustain you.”
“What do you care?”
“This is my fault. I never questioned why they wanted you. I just did as I was told.”
He pressed his thumbs into her palm. “I’ve never done this before. Elsie. Are you sure? I might lose control. I might hurt you. I might change you.”
“I know. But I am sure.” Her face turned pale. “Just do it.”
He smiled, baring his fangs. “If you’re going to insist.” He bowed his head and sank his teeth into her wrist.