The world faded away. There was nothing.
Just Ambrose and just Elsie in that one moment.
The only sound he could hear was the pounding of her heart and the shushed rush of her blood. It called to him in archaic words and whispered desires.
If I bite her, she’ll be just like me. She’ll be mine.
She’ll hate me.
I don’t care.
He shifted into a more comfortable position.
He heard the footsteps a second too late.
Something hard grabbed him by the collar and threw him across the room.
Ambrose tumbled into a crouch and snarled at the interloper.
Ephrem knelt beside Elsie. “Mistress? Can you hear me?”
She didn’t reply.
Ambrose stayed low. “Is she all right?”
The gargoyle’s wings flared out in an aggressive gesture. “You did this.” He grabbed Elsie’s stakes and charged towards him.
Not another fight. I don’t have enough energy. But I refuse to be staked by a subservient gargoyle. But I can’t fight him.
I need to escape.
He ran forward, around the gargoyle’s wings, out the door, up the stairs. The door at the top of the stairs was wide open. He ran through it without question, without looking back, to the front door. He banged the front door open and kept running.
Jane stood at the top of the stairs – her flashlight tight in her grip. “Ephrem? Aunt Elsie?”
There was no reply.
A memory flashed in her mind. His hands squeezing her arm. His teeth biting sharp and deep. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t escape.
She stumbled back and considered fleeing to her room. But then she thought about her aunt alone with that monster. She turned on her flashlight and crept down the stairs.
In the silent dark, her breathing sounded like it was miked to the extreme. Her footsteps were wooden clogs on a thin tin roof. Jane swallowed hard and tried to imagine herself as a light-footed kitten. It didn’t help.
The flashlight beam wibbled and wobbled with her every step, creating shadows that leaped and lurched. Jane struggled to keep her focus on breathing calm, breathing steady.
She thought about Ephrem. She imagined him holding her hand.
She reached the last step and shined her flashlight in a smooth left-to-right motion.
A figure in white staggered out of the shadows into the middle of the main room.
Jane yelped and turned to go running upstairs.
She stopped and pointed the flashlight at the lone figure. “Aunt Elsie?”
Elsie gave her niece a stricken look before dropping to her knees. “Ambrose. He’s gone. Ambrose is gone.”
Jane ran to her aunt. “Aunt Elsie? What happened? Did he hurt you? What happened?”
She hunched her shoulders and bowed her head.
Jane knelt beside her. “Aunt Elsie. Look at me. Talk to me. Did he hurt you?”
“It was my fault. He was right. It was all my fault. I shouldn’t have left him alone. I shouldn’t have. I should have…”
“Did he hurt you?”
A sob caught in her throat. “He tried. I almost killed him. I came so close. He pinned me. He tried to bite my neck. My head. He hurt my head.”
Jane sat back, wide-eyed and afraid. “Where is he?”
“He’s gone. He left me. Ephrem chased after him.” Elsie rubbed the back of her head. “He shouldn’t have gone. Gargoyles can’t be turned into vampires, but they can be killed by them.”
“That is true.” said Ephrem. “But he didn’t kill me.”
Jane ran over to him, threw her arms around him, and held him tight.
“I’m sorry, Lady Jane. I was unable to catch him. I tried, but—”
“Shut up. Just shut up. I’m so glad you aren’t dead.”
He smiled and stroked her head.
Elsie wrapped her arms around herself. “He left me. I didn’t think he would. Ambrose left me.”
The sun shined bright and determined on Ambrose. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Just the big, bright sun.
His energy fell to tripping over his own feet levels.
He stumbled and tripped into a wild apple orchard. He crawled under one of the bushier trees and leaned his head against the gray-lichened bark.
He closed his eyes. His head felt like it was spinning even though it wasn’t moving at all.
His mind dredged up memories of the exhibit. He moaned softly and thought about her instead. About his fangs on her neck. Her lovely, delicious neck. “All I had to do was bite down. I was so close. I could have turned her.”
He opened his eyes and stared up at the sheltering branches. A robin landed above his head. It looked down at him and quickly flew away. “She tried to stake me. She wanted to stake me and she was willing to do it. She came so close.”
Ambrose felt like he’d been stabbed by a whole forest of stakes. He closed his eyes and let the tears come falling down. I can never go back to her.
I’ve lost her.