I’m breathing too loud. Must breathe softer, quieter. I don’t want her to find me. If she finds me…
Ambrose made himself as small as he could. “I can’t let her find me.”
But his voice was too loud. His breathing carried too far.
Olessa came with whips made out of sunlight and holy water.
He tried to shrink away from her, but he couldn’t move.
She smiled – a smile made out of madness and ire. “Let’s see what these marvelous whips will do to you, vamp.”
“No. Please don’t.”
She raised them in the air. The whips tangled and twined around each other like vipers.
She laughed, wild and heartless.
The snakes came rushing down at his head and arms.
Ambrose startled awake and lay there, shivering.
I can’t go back. I can’t go back. Don’t take me back there.
Where am I?
He raised his head and glanced around.
His arms flared out. Seat. Door. Seat. Too close together. Too close. Too close. I can’t go back. “I can’t. I can’t!” He whimpered. “Don’t take me back there.” He covered his face with his hands. “Don’t take me back. I can’t. I can’t.”
The movement ended.
My breathing’s too fast, too loud. She’ll hear me. She’ll find me. She’ll hurt me. I don’t want. I don’t want.
A door opened and closed.
He couldn’t stop shivering.
The door by his head opened.
“Don’t hurt me. Don’t. Don’t.”
He uncovered his face and looked up at his fellow vampire. “Raven.”
“You are safe, sir.” He leaned his head against the door frame and closed his eyes. “Are you all right?”
Ambrose sat up, even though his body wanted him to stay down. “All right?” He scoffed. “Hardly. Where are we?”
“My home.” He opened his eyes. “Do not be afraid, sir. You are safe with me.”
Hildreth staked the vampire and, in his mind, it was another Ambrose.
I can do it. I can do it. He won’t take me down.
He looked over at Elsie and smiled. She was a whirling dervish of kicks and blows and stakes. He tried to imagine her in a demure wedding dress and failed. He tried to imagine her in any kind of dress and epic failed.
I can’t wait. If we could be married right now—
“Oh, look at this. Tra-la! Two hunters. Tra-la—”
Hildreth staked him.
—I would do it.
She staked her last vampire and looked over at him. “You okay?”
A vampire jumped off the IHOP roof and knocked Hildreth flat on his face. “So hungry.”
“No!” Hildreth struggled to dislodge her.
The vampire whispered in his ear, “You don’t know, hunter, how hungry I am.” Her claws tore through his collar, exposing his neck. “Ahhh, you don’t know. You have no idea how good you smell. Delicious. So hungry.”
“Get off of me. Get—”
She licked his bared skin.
“No. No!” He grabbed her hair and pulled.
She retaliated by biting the sleeve of his coat.
He let out a yell and slammed his arm into her face.
Her fangs sank through the coat’s layers and grazed his skin.
“Get your ugly wench self off my fiancé!” Elsie kicked her in the face.
The vampire snarled. “Ugly? Look who’s talking – the dog-faced boy.”
Elsie kicked her again. “At least I don’t look like a rabid bull.”
The vampire rose to her feet. “Rabid bull? A rabid bull?” She charged at Elsie. Only to get a stake in the heart.
As the vampire fell to the ground, Elsie knelt beside Hildreth. “Are you all right? Did she…Did…”
“Elsie.” He smiled at her. “Elsie.”
“Are you hurt?”
“You’re worried about me. You—”
“Oh, shut up! This is no time to be indulging in fantasies about—”
He sat up. “You saved me.”
“Of course, I did. Did you think I wasn’t going to do anything? Did you think—”
“Elsie. Just stop.”
“Don’t yell. Don’t be mad. Just—”
“You stupid stupid. Of course, I’m going to yell at you. You nearly got yourself killed. Do you expect me to be all la-di-da about it? Do you—”
“I love you. My Elsie. My beautifully passionate Elsie.”
“Is that supposed to make me stop yelling at you?”
He grinned. “Yes.”
She smiled despite herself. “You’re so stupid. I hope you know that.”
He stroked her face. “I love you, Elsie.”
She leaned her face into his hand and closed her eyes. “Hildreth.”
I can’t wait until we are husband and wife. His smile fell. But I know now that I have to leave her.
I won’t discuss it now. Right now, I just want to be in this moment and enjoy it as it is. No fears. No regrets. Just me and her. My Elsie. “I love you so much.”