Elsie walked through the forest.
It was dark.
The path was vastly inconsistent. It was visible for a few feet only to be engulfed with weeds and grasses for a whole yard and back to a path again.
But Elsie was in her woods and she knew it well. It was her home.
And her house was her palace.
She stepped over a log and deftly avoided an opossum-sized hole in the ground.
She sighed. “I suppose I could have just driven around to the other side of the forest and pulled into my driveway.”
I’m glad I didn’t. I need to think.
Everything I told Hildreth is true. Everything. Every word. I love him.
As for Ambrose—
She stopped and listened.
Coming her way.
She pulled out her stakes and counted.
“Hello, pretty girl all alone in the woods. So helpless. So alone.”
“I am alone.”
He laid his hands on her shoulders. “How about a small kiss?” His fingers crept along her neckline.
She kicked that small space right below his knees.
He fell, grabbed her ankles, and pulled her down.
She kicked him in the face. Hard.
He released her and let loose a wildly inhuman yell.
She dove at him and staked him. “I am not helpless.”
Elsie didn’t want him to do the horror movie trope and jump out of the bushes at her when she least expected it. She sat beside him and watched the light fade from his eyes.
And she thought about Ambrose.
One day, I might have to do this to him. I’ll have to stake him and his eyes will grow dark and empty. And he will be truly dead.
She imagined it a bit too vividly and her heart sank. But if I have to do it…If I must…
Why does it have to be like this? Why do they have to hunt us? Why can’t we live in peace?
She reclaimed her stake. “I suppose an antelope might ask the same question about a lion.” There will never be peace between us because it just isn’t possible. They are hunters and always will be. And we will always be their prey. Until they can find an alternate energy source.
She resumed her journey.
Four vampire surprise attacks later, she followed the path’s turn and curve to her house.
Her house was gone.
It wasn’t even a salvageable wreck. The house was nothing but ashes and nature’s ruins.
It was like staring at a loved one’s grave.
Another vampire leapt out at her and knocked her to the ground.
Elsie fought back with savage energy. There was no elegance or grace to her fighting moves. It was just all pure brute strength and aggression.
She staked him and his light faded into death’s unknown land.
She cried out and staked him again and again and again.
A man’s hand grabbed her wrist.
She screamed and tackled him down.
She came to her senses. “Hildreth?” Her breath came out in short gasps. “Why are you here? You said you were going to stay in the car. You said…”
He hugged her.
She melted into his arms and sobbed into his shirt.
“Who did this?”
“That swine.” He kissed the side of her head. “It’s all right, Elsie. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
No, it isn’t. It’s all so far from okay, but his arms around me…His voice…”Thank you.”
“For being here when I needed you.”
He leaned the side of his face against her head. There were so many things he could have said. Some right. Some wrong. Serious words. Flippant words. But he said nothing.
He just held her and let her cry.