Raven stared at the creature before him.
The creature that was Missy.
She was nothing alive. Only flames in an animal’s shape.
She jumped out of the chair and approached him.
She was as big as an oversized wolf, but she carried herself low like a nervous cat.
He quickly got out of his chair and stood with the plastic chair between him and her.
“This is my truth.” Her voice popped and cracked like burning logs. “I am XQ.”
She transformed back into Missy. “And now. It will be just like Fresno. You’ve seen me as I am. As I really am. You’ll call me a freak and throw water bottles at me and report me to the authorities as some sort of mutant monster alien freakshow of a—”
“I’m not Missy. Don’t you get it? I’m XQ. I will always be XQ. I will never have a normal life. I don’t even know what a normal life is like.”
Raven carefully removed his white gloves. He set them smooth and flat on the table – one on top of the other.
“You’re going to leave me.”
Raven walked over to her. He bared his fangs and extended his claws.
She backed away from him.
He held out his clawed hands to her. “This is my truth, miss. I am Raven. I am a vampire. I have outlived my family and my dear Farlingtons. The only woman I ever loved married another and lived happily with him till her death. I have spent my life alone and lonely. The vampires I held dear to my heart are dead and gone. Even their ghosts are gone. I am trying to rebuild my life, but it is a struggle. I still miss her. I still love her. I have so many regrets. So many…”
She hesitated before returning to him.
“I suppose you will tell me to leave.”
She laid her hands across his open palms.
The simple gesture surprised him. He looked down at her hands. The flames red-orange glow still lit her skin.
He looked at her face. The red-orange color still stained her cheeks down to her neck.
His claw-tipped fingers curled forward, touching her hand’s warm skin.
And she didn’t pull away.