“Elsie. Your vampire hunter Elsie? That Elsie?”
He nodded his head.
Of course, it would be her. “You looked very…” What’s the word I want? At ease? Comfortable?
Deeply in love?
I don’t want to say any of them. “I couldn’t hear the things you said. But I could see your face. I saw how you looked at her. I saw you kiss her. And now I’m left wondering: Why? If you still feel like that for her…If you want her all that much, why bother with me? Why don’t you just go to her?”
“Because she doesn’t want me.” The pain and the hurt was clear on his face. “I kissed her and I got a slap across the face. I’m nothing to her now. Now that she has her ideal man, why would she want me?” He lowered his gaze. “Why wouldn’t she want him? He’s a vampire hunter just like her. They’ll get married and raise a whole blocking fleet of little vampire hunters who’ll be born with a stake all ready in their fat little fists.”
So. I wasn’t the only one hurt tonight. Knowing that doesn’t make me happy, though.
“I’m an idiot, the worst kind of fool.” He raised his gaze to her face. “I love you and you love me. But I ran to her, thinking and hoping that she’d welcome me back. That she’d forget. That she’d forgive me. But she can’t and she won’t. I look at you and I’m so afraid that you’ll slap me too and tell me to go away, to leave you alone. And I’ll be completely alone with only memories of her and of you.”
The hurt and anger she felt faded, although it didn’t completely disappear.
He knelt before her. “I don’t know if I can be the man you long for. The man you deserve. I can’t help but hurt you. No matter how hard I try, and I have been trying so hard, I wind up saying or doing or being all wrong. And I don’t know.”
He bowed his head. “Maybe. Maybe you’d be better off with someone else. Anyone else. Anyone but me.”
“Sounds like you’re still trying to tell me what I want to do.”
Ambrose looked up at her.
She went down on her knees. “I’m not happy with how things went down tonight. I was looking forward to my dad meeting us as a couple and you. You ran off on me to go smooch some other woman. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. Do you have any idea how that made me feel?”
“It made me feel like…I want to say dirt, but it was something a whole lot worse and lower and worthless than dirt.”
“You’re not worthless.”
“But you made me feel that way. I felt like you were just playing with me until you could find the woman you really wanted to be with.” The hurt and pain surged back into place. “And that woman wasn’t me.”
His posture wilted. “So, where do we go from here?”
“I don’t know. I need time and space to…think.”
“How much time?”
“I don’t know. Give me a week. Just one week.”
“What does that mean? I can’t see you for a whole week?”
“Well, technically speaking, we’ll still see each other at work. But no after hour stuff. That way we can both figure out what we want.”
“I don’t need a week. I know now.” He took hold of her hands. “When I saw that you were gone, I panicked. I thought you were hurt. I thought maybe a vampire came and grabbed you. I thought…I thought I’d never see you again. Elsie was nowhere in my thoughts. It was just you.” He doubled over and pressed his forehead against her hands.
Her anger cooled, but the hurt remained. “Ambrose, I’m not going to run away to Nebraska. I’m going to stay here in Pinkerlee. So, please. Let me have my week. Let me make up my own mind. And I will tell you where we will go from here.”
He raised his head.
The fear in his eyes made her hurt even more.
“If that’s what you want, Barbara.”