Hildreth ended his call. “I’m sorry, Elsie. But I need to know.” He put his phone on the red wicker table beside the bed and left the room.
A loud, pained yell came from the training room.
Hildreth raced inside. “Master!”
Master Shinowa let out another yell as he beat the life and the death out of a punching dummy.
Hildreth took a step back. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be witnessing this.
I should leave.
He punched the dummy at least fifty more times before slumping down to the floor. He pressed the heels of his hands against his forehead and cried a breathless, hurt-filled cry.
I really shouldn’t be seeing this.
Hildeth approached him and knelt beside him. He waited.
“Much sorry, Mayhew. I—”
“Don’t even try to apologize or explain. I understand.” He thought of his parents. “I wish I didn’t. Master, I have a request.”
Master Shinowa lowered his hands, but he did not raise his face. “Speak.”
“I wish to be tested.”
Only then did he raise his head and look at Hildreth.
“I want to be sure that I’m good enough. I want to be sure that I can beat that vampire.”
Master Shinowa sniffled. “There is second page to this request.”
“Yes, Master. If I do not fail my test, I wish to go to Indust City.”
“For what purpose?”
Hildreth contemplated the possible answers to that question. “I seek the truth, Master. I think I know which vampire did that to your brother. But I want to know for sure.”
“For what purpose, Mayhew?”
“Peace of mind. May I have your blessing to do so?”
Master Shinowa rubbed away his tears with his sleeve. “Complete your test, Mayhew, and pass it. I will give you response then.”
“Thank you, Master.”
Master Shinowa stood and Hildreth followed suit. “Return to your room. I will send for you when test is ready.”
Hildreth bowed. “Yes, Master.”
Elsie ended her call and sat in contemplative silence.
For the first time in a long time, she let herself think about Ambrose and remember how it began.
The mail person stood on the other side of the door.
“Isn’t it late for you to be delivering the mail?”
She laughed nervously. “Well. I would love to say I’m not delivering mail, but really. It all depends on how you spell the word ‘mail’.” She gestured towards the porch swing. “After all, he is a male and I am delivering him to you, but. Oh. Fair warning. That thing is a vampire and he might have some sort of disease.”
“What do you expect me to do about it?”
“I don’t know. Hunter stuff, I guess. See, it wasn’t my idea to drag him here in the company’s car. That was all him. He said you’d be able to help him or something. Gotta go.”
As the mail person left, Elsie approached him, ready and willing to kick a hole into his chest if he should try anything.
He didn’t jump up and shout “I keeeel you!”
She crouched in front of his face, ready and willing to smash his nose straight into his skull if he made so much as the wrong move.
She studied his face.
Black hair sopped flat against his head. Black eyelashes. Well-shaped eyebrows. Good features. Nothing’s too big or spaced too far apart or too close together. Calling him beautiful would be an annoying exaggeration. Handsome, on the other hand, is a whole lot more like it.
Doesn’t matter if he’s handsome or ugly. He’s just another vampire. I should stake him. If only I had a stake. I could run up to my room and grab one.
She laid her hand on his forehead. It’s much warmer than it should be. Maybe he really is sick. I wouldn’t wonder with all of that sun exposure he’s had. If he is sun sick, I know how to make him well.
Her gaze lingered on his face. He looks so vulnerable. Like a sick child.
Ambrose raised his head, sniffing the air. He opened his eyes and looked right at her for a long, silent moment.
And she felt like he’d stolen her breath.
“That’s all it took. That one small moment.”
She rose quickly into a defensive stance.
A vampire dressed entirely in black leather stood behind her. “Well.” His voice was a warm purr. “If it isn’t the fancy famous Elsie Vansing.”