Barbara sat in the train station lobby with a Glorious House Showcase magazine in her hands. She flipped through the pages full of chandeliers and marbled floors and mahogany wine cellars and sporadic ads for Godiva chocolate.
Sammy sat beside her with a Who’s The Hottest?! magazine.
He tried to read it.
He never even made it past page one. The flagrant superficiality sickened him.
I’m not even sure why I picked this magazine up.
Sammy sighed and set it on the empty chair next to him. “Did Mr. Smith say when he was going to arrive, Ms. Addleston?”
“No.” She lowered her magazine. “But he should be here soon. It couldn’t possibly be that much longer. Right?”
He kept his expression an unreadable blank. “Perhaps.”
“By the way, thank you for coming with me.”
Who’s The Hottest?! burst into flames.
He stared at the burning magazine.
Cold and water and calm. A whole lot of calm. Calm. Calm. Calm. Lake water holding still and freezing stiff and everything is calm.
The flames ducked and sputtered and dwindled down into nothing.
“It was my pleasure, Ms. Addleston.”
The front door opened and Ambrose hurried inside. “Oh, thank goodness for furnaces and heated air.”
Barbara rose from her seat so fast she nearly fell. “Ambrose!” She ran to him.
His face lit up. He caught her in his arms and hugged her.
Sammy felt a twinge of hurt, but he kept his expression completely bland and his thoughts entirely blank.
“You’re here. You…You came.”
“Of course, I came. I told you I would.”
“And you came. Barbara. Oh, Barbara.” He released her. “I’m going to miss you.”
“You make it sound like you’re going to be gone for another six months.”
“It won’t be that long. I promise.” He stroked her face. “I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
Sammy pushed the hurt aside and smiled slightly. The magazine’s ashes rose into the air and twirled in elegant, blackened curlicues.
He clearly sees Ms. Addleston as a treasure. He won’t hurt her.
But if he does…
The ashes came crashing down.
“I will make him taste fire and pain.”
“Did you come here alone?”
She grinned. “Would you be mad at me if I said yes?”
“Aw. That’s too bad. Sammy brought me here. I don’t know what kind of car he has, but it is so cool! It’s like the Batmobile. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has a rocket thruster in back.”
Ambrose glanced around until he caught sight of Sammy. “Ah. Barbara, could you buy my ticket for me? I didn’t bring my wallet.”
“Well. That was bad planning.”
“Tell me about it. Make sure it’s round trip.”
“Mm. I’ll get you a seven day pass just in case you get delayed.”
Ambrose frowned. “Delayed by what?”
She shrugged. “I’ll let you fill in the blanks.” She kissed the side of his face. “I’ll be right back.”
As she headed towards the clerk, Ambrose approached Sammy. “Hey.”
“Hello, Mr. Smith.”
“So. You didn’t tell me that I’d go blind from drinking your blood.”
“I did tell you that my blood wouldn’t agree with you.”
“That is not the same thing as going blind. There’s no comparison.”
“You aren’t blind now.”
“You’re lucky. If I were still blind, I’d…” He remembered who he was talking to. “Well. I would tell you what. That’s for sure.”
“You didn’t tell me that you were leaving.” Sammy’s voice was steady and calm. “I could fire you for that.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll give you fair warning next time.”
Sammy focused on Barbara. “Are you certain I’ll give you a next time?”
Ambrose felt like the ground was cracking and crumbling under his feet. “Are you firing me?”
“No. I’m warning you. Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.”
“I won’t.” He hesitated. This isn’t the right moment to ask, but I need to know. “Why aren’t I hungry?”
Sammy looked back at him.
“I woke up this morning and I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t feel that horrible emptiness. Why? Is it because of your blood?”
“If I choose not to answer—”
“I want an answer. I want to know why. I want to know how long it’s going to last. I want to know if I am free to lead a somewhat more normal life without any more bloodshed.”
“It is a secondary side effect of dragon blood. It is temporary.”
“How long, Sammy?”
He bowed his head.
The chair with the ash mound fell flat on its back.
“A couple of days, at the most.”
“And after that? What happens?”
“You will be hungry. Savagely hungry.”
Ambrose sat in Barbara’s vacated seat.
“You will need to kill at least two people to fill that hunger.”
“Is it…Am I going to be like that from now on?”
“No. But it will take a day and a night for it to fully pass.”
Ambrose looked over at her. “I’ll stay away until I’m right again.”