Everything that happened after his confession happened in a blur of sounds and images and scents. Ambrose tried his best to pay attention to it all, but his day-exhausted mind refused to focus. Everything was nothing.
He just wanted to sleep.
Along the way, someone noticed his lack of caring and escorted him into an empty prison cell. Under normal circumstances, that would have freaked Ambrose into a full out attack.
But he just saw a bed and a place away from the sun’s burn.
He fell asleep with the muzzle still on his face.
Clarice smiled at her daughter. “So. Hot lovin’ Hildreth—”
“—told me that you two were planning on headin’ back to Havaton.”
“Yes. As soon as possible.”
“I’m not gonna pry. I’m sure you got a whole picnic basket full of reasons. Buut! Before you head on back, I want to take you dress shopping.”
“Right now. After all, if we wait until later, it will never happen. Your schedule won’t coincide with my schedule, you’ll be too tired, too hurt, need to rest up for your next big hunting spree. Next thing, you’ll know you’ll be getting married in your old housedress.”
“I don’t have any old housedresses.”
“You’d have to borrow one from me and that just won’t look any good. Not on your wedding day.”
Hildreth smiled. “Elsie in a housedress. Wait. What is a housedress? Is that a nightgown?”
“Oh, dear, dear Hildreth.” Clarice patted him in a patronizing way. “You just don’t know stuff about women’s clothes.” She grinned at Elsie. “I’ll have to buy you a housedress for your wedding night.”
“It won’t have the same appeal as lingerie, but—”
“Can we go now?”
“Let me go grab my purse.”
As she left the room, Hildreth scratched the back of his head. “Do you want me to come with? Or is this one of those mother-daughter things?”
“Well. You could come with. If you want to jinx our marriage.”
“The groom isn’t supposed to see the bride in her gown until the wedding day. Otherwise, it’s a jinx.”
“Are you making this up?”
“No. It’s a real thing. Will you be okay by yourself?”
“Who? Me? I’ll be fine. I’ll watch some tv. Go for a walk. Get something to eat. I’m assuming this is going to take a while.”
“It usually does, unless a girl is lucky.”
Clarice popped into the room to announce her need to take care of something important in another room.
Elsie knew better than to ask.
Hildreth didn’t even consider asking.
As soon as Clarice left the scene, Elsie hugged Hildreth. “And I am lucky.”
He hugged her in return.
The moments passed with them content in each other’s arms.
“Hildreth.” she said softly. “About what happened upstairs…”
He kissed the side of her head. “Don’t worry about it. You needed to punch out your frustrations. I was there.”
“That’s not what I meant.” She released him and backed out of his embrace. “I meant, what I said about Ambrose.”
“Elsie. Stop. Not here. Not now. Can’t we have one conversation, just one, where his name doesn’t come up?”
“Hildreth. Listen to me. This is important. I need to talk about this. I need you to hear this. Please listen to me.”
“I know what I said. I know what it sounded like to me. I can only imagine what it sounded like to you.”
“I know it sounded like I want him to want me again, to kiss me again, to love only me again.”
In her mind, she saw Ambrose standing there, shirtless.
She came around the corner where the bed was. And he never explained her presence.
“That isn’t true. I don’t want him.”
He looked at Barbara with peace and love.
“Hildreth, you and I have something beautiful, something that can’t be compared to what I had with Ambrose, because it surpasses that.”
Ambrose hugged her.
“I don’t want to destroy this love that we’ve built together.”
Ambrose kissed her as if she were everything.
“I don’t want it to end because of suspicions and angry thoughts and jealousies. I need you to know that…”
Ambrose disappeared as she left him behind.
“Hildreth, I’m yours.”