Hildreth caught up to her easily enough. He grabbed her arm.
She spun around, jerked her arm out of his grip, and punched him in a series of one, two, three, four, five blows. Each strike flowed into the next smooth and easy.
“You want a dance? How’s this for a dance, you stupid vampire?”
“Elsie. I am not Ambrose.”
“I don’t know what’s going through your mind, but I’m not him. I’m just me. Hildreth Mayhew.”
She crumpled to her hands and knees.
He knelt before her. “Maybe that isn’t good enough for you. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I never will be. But I swear I will never hurt you. Even if I were changed. I’d rather die.”
“Why did I have to fall in love with someone like him?” She looked up at Hildreth. “Why couldn’t my first love have been you?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think there’s an answer to a question like that.”
She sat back on her feet and rubbed away her tears. “I thought I was doing so well. I thought I had him all packaged up and stuffed away in storage to be forgotten.” Her hands fluttered in a hopeless gesture. “But it still hurts.” She frowned. “I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like being the sobbing maiden. I’m stronger than this.”
“You are strong. Trust me. I now have the bruises to prove it.”
She smiled, but oh it was such a feeble smile.
“Seriously, though. You’ve managed to stay away from him. You haven’t gone running back to his unholy arms.”
“That’s just it. I don’t know if I want to go back to him. He isn’t you, Hildreth. He tried to change me. I don’t know if I can forgive him for that. Yet…”
“There’s always a yet.”
“I miss him. Right now, I feel like I will always miss him. I’ll never be able to fully let him go.”
Silence fell between them. Each lost in their own thoughts and wishes.
Hildreth smiled. “We should play hooky.”
“You and me.” His smile grew. “Let’s skip out on the rest of today’s lessons and go grab an ice cream and a movie.”
“Master will be mad at us.”
“Not if I tell him that I was trying to find out what was wrong with you.”
She laughed. “Do you have any idea how wrong that sounds?”
“Now that you mention it, yes. But what do you say?”
She smiled and it was a true, bright-eyed smile. “I say, yes.”