Raven’s day exhaustion sent him reeling back down to his pillow. He stared listlessly at Ambrose.
Something is different.
Something has changed.
Mr. Smith is the same.
This room is the same.
He closed his eyes.
Something is different, but it isn’t something wrong.
What is it?
Raven rolled onto his side, facing away from Ambrose. He curled his arms against his chest and brought his knees up, which was perfectly normal for him.
He started to drift off.
Something is different.
I will dwell on it later.
He opened his eyes. That’s it.
I have changed.
My grief over my lost friends…It is still there, but I feel different.
I feel peace.
He smiled. Yes, my dear friends. I will do it. I will seek out those bad vampires who need protection.
I will protect them.
I won’t be alone anymore.
He fell asleep.
Elsie parked in Hildreth’s driveway. “Well. Here you are.”
She looked at him. “Hildreth, don’t worry about it.”
He opened his mouth to speak.
“And don’t tell me you aren’t worrying about it. I know how you are.”
He stroked her face. His touch ran down to her neck and her shoulders. “Do you want to come inside?”
“I would, but I have so many things to do today.”
“Elsie.” He leaned forward and kissed her. “Do you want to come inside?”
She smiled. “It is cold out here.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “You aren’t cold.”
Her hands traveled down to his chest. She unzipped his coat.
He unzipped hers.
Off went his coat.
Off went hers.
And her cell phone rang.
And his cell phone rang.
“Oh, seriously?” Hildreth answered his phone.
Elsie answered hers.
“Hi, Mom. No. I was just about to go to the store.”
“Hello? Mayhew speaking.”
Hildreth got out of the car. “Really?” He slammed the door. “You’re calling me now? Seriously. What is wrong with you? I already gave you my answer. Did you need to hear it again?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. You were under a lot of duress last time we spoke. I assume you’ve had a chance to calm down and think things over like a normal thinking person.”
“Caten. My answer is final. I am not going to change my mind.”
Mark Caten laughed. “Of course. Of course. I thought I would just check. Let me know when you do change your mind.”
“It isn’t going to happen.”
Mark Caten laughed. “It will. I know it will.”
I should hang up on his pig-swill face. I don’t want to give him to Elsie. I don’t want him to talk to Elsie. I want him to just go somewhere and die.
Elsie got out of the car and came over to him. “Hildreth, what’s wrong? Who is it?”
“You’re a weak willed—”
Hildreth lowered the phone. “It’s Caten.”
“Good. Let me talk to him.”
“He’s on the line, isn’t he? We might as well get this over with.”
He gave her the phone.
“Vansing here. Yes. Yes, he told me about the job.”
Hildreth shivered. I should get back in the car.
“I haven’t had much time to think it over, but I’m inclined to say yes.”
Hildreth retreated to the car. He closed the door and sat there, shivering.
I never should have told her. I never should have told her. I should have hung up the phone. I should have… He chuckled humorlessly. “I should have taken out a restraining order on him. Not that he would have abided by it. Man’s as crazy as a loon in winter.”
He leaned his head back.
Elsie opened the driver’s side door and sat in her seat.
He closed his eyes. “Well?”
She slammed her door.
He raised his head and looked at her. “Elsie?”
“I don’t understand him. I know he’s had a tragic loss, but I really, truly don’t understand him.”
“I offered him my services and he turned me down.”
Hildreth sat there, stunned. “I should be happy about this, but I’m just all manner of confused. Why would he turn you down?”
“He told me that someone else was handling it. He didn’t need me.” She shook her head. “This has never happened to me before.”
He laid his hand on her knee.
“You should go inside.” She sighed. “I have so many things to do.”
“I love you, Elsie.”
“I love you too. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Elsie. Does it really matter that much?”
She shrugged. “Maybe it doesn’t. But I feel so slighted. And the way he phrased it…I just don’t understand.”
He released her knee. “Neither do I.”