Elsie stomped down the stairs as if she were trying to break them. Or fracture her heels. Whichever happened first.
I can’t believe it.
I can’t believe it!
She entered her training room and charged the punching dummy.
No good soulless, heartless, Godless wench!
The punching dummy gave off whoofs of dust with every blow and kick.
How dare she come here to my house.
How dare she!
Claiming Ambrose wasn’t enough for her. She had to sink her claws into Hildreth too. Filth-sopped—
Her mind shut down and she just focused on her solo dance.
He stopped behind her. “Elsie. Look at—”
She elbowed him hard.
Her breath came out in gasps. “I trusted you. I thought. I thought. I thought.”
“Elsie. Look at me. Turn around and look at me.”
She lowered her hands and fixed her gaze on the dummy’s head.
“I didn’t betray your trust. I swear I didn’t.”
“Liar. Shirtless, bald-faced liar!”
“She’s here of her own accord. I did not invite her here. I didn’t even let her in.”
“But she’s here. In my house. Alone with you. And you have no shirt on.” She spun around. “What am I supposed to think, Hildreth?”
“You should know by now what sort of man I am. You should know how much I adore you. If you don’t, I don’t what I can do to make you believe me.”
“You want me to believe you. Then, explain. Explain her. Explain you. Explain why?”
“I went to see Ambrose at the jail.” He tightened his grip on the towel. “It was stupid of me. I should have known better. I do know better.”
“That was stupid of you. What were you hoping to accomplish?”
“I don’t know.” He fell silent for a minute. “I wanted to see him alone. I wanted to know why…” He stopped.
“They showed his mug shot on the news and I wanted to understand. I wanted to see him alone. I wanted to see why. Why he holds such power over you.. Why he’s still able to get you all fired up. I wanted to see what he has that I lack.”
“Idiot. You big stupid jealous idiot.” She startled as she finally noticed his chest wounds. “You’re hurt.” She stepped closer to him and examined them.
“Don’t worry.” He winced as she touched them. “It was claws, not fangs.”
“Huh. Then, you were lucky.” She took the soaped-up towel from him and gently cleaned his wounds. “What about her?” Her voice failed to convey the anger she still felt.
“She came here because she wanted to see you.”
That low-life, vampire chaser wanted to see me? “Why?”
“She wants you to help rescue him.”
She walked behind him and started to work on cleaning the wounds back there. “From what? Jail? I’m sure she can find some shifty-eyed crook willing to help her.”
“Well, that’s the thing. He isn’t in jail anymore, Elsie.”
“What?” She stopped in mid-rub.
“Someone came and took him away. Apparently, they’re taking him to some Hell on Earth place.”
“They’re taking him back there?”
“You know what she’s talking about?”
“It’s the one place he fears the most. Mark Caten’s amusement park.” If I do nothing, he will be there forever. He will never come to haunt me again. I’ll be free. I’ll be able to live a carefree life with the man I love.
She remembered the state he was in when he first came to her. Is it right for me to leave him to that fate? To leave him to neglect and cruelty?
She stared at the eight puncture wounds on Hildreth’s back. But is it right for me to help a monster?
But if I don’t help him, what does that make me? Will I be a monster too?
“What are you going to do, Elsie?”
Her anger was gone completely from her voice as she asked, “What answer can I give you, Hildreth? Tell me. What is the right answer?”
He turned to face her.
“If I help her in any way, even by telling her where he’s being held, it will come back and bite me. I know it will. I’ll regret it. I’ll ask myself over and over, ‘Why?’ But if I don’t help her…Can I really refuse? What is the right answer, Hildreth? What am I supposed to do?”
He hugged her.
She closed her eyes. He’s so warm.
“I don’t know if there is a right answer.” he said. His voice echoed comfortingly inside his chest. “But I think you should talk to her. Listen to what she has to say. Try not to yell profanities at her.”
“Okay. I’ll listen to her.” She chuckled. “But I will not make any promises about not swearing at her.”
He kissed her head. “That seems fair.”