Ambrose found it very hard to take a breath. “Well. Are you sure you don’t want to go somewhere warmer? It’s awfully snowy. And cold. I don’t like being cold.”
“I’m fine. I imagine this conversation will be brief.”
He’s going to say no. What am I going to do? He’s going to say no! “Then, I’ll get to the point.”
How to start? I have to do this right. I have to be careful. “Last time we met, the circumstances were far from pleasant. I hurt her. Not physically. I didn’t…” I’m babbling. I’m being a babbling idiot. He’s going to look at me and think ‘Babbling idiot monkey’. “It was my fault. I know that. I own it.”
I should throw myself on my knees and beg for his mercy. Yeah. Just like I did last time. That sure did wonders then. “Rest assured. I have learned my lesson. I would never do that to her again.”
“Is there a reason why you called me out here? Was it only to rehash old business?”
“No. I just want you to understand. I have changed. I am not that man. I know what I want.” No. No. That’s going too far. “I know who I love. It’s her. I love your daughter, Mr. Addleston.”
“And…” Maybe I should kneel. Maybe I should flat out grovel. I’ve never groveled to anyone. Ever. “I…I want to marry her. Mr. Addleston, I want your permission to marry Barbara. If you will grant it. If…”
His heart pounded hard and fast.
“If you have…if you have no objections?” He’s going to have plenty. Why wouldn’t he? I am a vampire.
“No objections. Hm.”
Please don’t drag this out! Just say yes or no.
“I’d be a fool to say yes.”
I knew it. Ambrose backed up against the building. His legs felt terribly unstable. “Please. Don’t say no.”
“If I say no, what will you do? Thrash me with your claws?”
Ambrose shook his head.
“Bite my neck?”
“No. If I hurt you or kill you or change you, it will destroy the happiness I have with Barbara. She would hate me and I would deserve that hate. I wouldn’t be able to make things right. I wouldn’t even know where or how to start.”
He didn’t look impressed. “I’ve heard the stories about your kind. Your kind’s inclination to promiscuity. Your wedding vows would mean nothing to you.”
Ambrose smirked. “You know nothing about me, Mr. Addleston, beyond that one moment in time. I won’t say that I haven’t slept around, because that wouldn’t be true. But that lifestyle didn’t satisfy me. I hated it. All along I wanted something more. I wanted, I needed someone to hold and keep, someone. That one special someone. I knew if I saw her, if I could find her, I would never stray. She would be my only one. And she is. Barbara is my only one.”
“Can I believe you? Can I trust you, vampire? Barbara is my little girl. She is my angel. I don’t want to hand her over to someone who will neglect or abandon her when she is no longer fresh-faced and young. You’re a vampire. You will never age, but she will. She will go gray. Her waistline will fill in. She will get wrinkles and liver spots and aches and pains. Her bones will become delicate . Will you still love her then? Or will you give her up for something that looks more like you? Always changing partners for one as young as you appear?”
And there it is.
The sad truth of a vampire choosing a human till death. There will be people who’ll see us together and think unkind things. Hateful things. They won’t understand. It’s a frightening step to make. But I will make it with her. With only her.
“No. I meant what I said. I will never stray on her. No matter how unequal our appearances will undoubtedly become, she is my Barbara. My lovely, wonderful, sparkling Barbara. Come old age! Come osteoporosis and a crooked back and menopause! I will never abandon her. Even come sickness and death. I will be with her all the way.”
“How can I be sure that you aren’t just saying what you think I need to hear?”
If he threw me on the rack and dislocated all of my bones and then threw me into a vat of boiling oil, that would be a whole lot less painful than this. “I don’t know, Mr. Addleston. I don’t know what I can say to make you believe me. I only know that what I say is true, whether you believe it or not.”
Mr. Addleston frowned.
Well. I’ve gone and put my foot into it. He’s going to hop into his car and drive off.
“Have you slept with her?”
“No! She doesn’t want me to. It isn’t easy, but I have honored her wishes. I will wait for her.”
“For how long?”
“For as long as she needs. Until she is ready to accept me. Even after we’re married, if you grant your permission, if she doesn’t want me. If she rejects me, I will be deeply hurt. But I will not cross that line without her permission, sir. Because how could I make that right again? I couldn’t. It isn’t possible. It would always be there between us. She would never trust me again. She’d fear me. I don’t want her to fear me. Certainly not because of that.”
The snow piled high on their heads and shoulders as Ambrose waited for his response.
“Do you have a job?”
Ambrose almost laughed. After all of that heavy talk, this…this one I can manage. “Yes. I work for Sammy. That’s why I’m here tonight.”
“Do you have a place of your own?”
“No. I’ve gone through a lot of—” He chuckled. “—I don’t think there’s a polite term for what I’ve gone through these past several months. I haven’t had a chance to really think about house hunting.”
“But you will?”
Wait. Is this him giving me permission? “I will.”
“Do you intend to have children?” He frowned. “Can you?”
“To the best of my knowledge, I can. And no. I don’t have any errant love children hiding out there.”
“If she were to get pregnant, how would you react?”
“I would be thrilled.” He imagined the domestic picture of them together with their baby. “I would be so happy and proud.”
“Would you be a good father?”
uhhh…the questions keep coming. How many more could he ask? “I will. I know I will.” Please tell me that’s the last one.
“Will you go to church with her and the baby? Wait. Can you enter churches?”
“It is a public place that requires no invitation.”
“Will you go with her?”
“It’s been a long time, but yes.”
Ah! Is that it? Is that the last question? Please, oh please be the last question. “Is there anything else?”
“Do you have any STDs?”
“To the best of my knowledge, no.”
“Would you be willing to get tested for them?”
“Of course. Anything else?”
Mr. Addleston’s frown deepened as he thought it over. “No. Maybe I’m forgetting something, but those were the most important questions.”
“And?” He’s going to say no. I’m not good enough. I will never be good enough for her.
“You have my permission.”
Ambrose slid to the ground, panting as if he were winded. “Do you mean it? You’re not testing me?”
Mr. Addleston smiled. It was warm and kind. He grabbed Ambrose’s wrists and pulled him up to his feet. “I mean it. But if you do anything that makes her come crying to me, if she ever shows up on my doorstep with bruises and missing teeth—”
Ambrose gaped. “I would never do that to her. Ever.”
“Good. Because I would beat you to death.”
Oh my Lord. I think he means that. “I swear your daughter will be safe with me.”
“Good.” He dusted the snow off his own head and shoulders. “Let’s get out of the snow. Is there anywhere I can take you?”
“Home. No! I have a ring. It needs a stone. Do you know any jewelers that are open this late?”
“Yep. The Cardboard Box.”
Ambrose laughed. “I should have known.”