“Well. That was certainly a different way to end it.” Ambrose looked down at her and smiled.
Barbara had fallen asleep, but she was still hanging on to his arm. Her head rested just below his shoulder.
“Barbara.” He said it softly, not even close to loud enough to wake her.
So, of course she didn’t wake up.
He reluctantly pried his arm out of her choke hold.
She moaned unhappily in her sleep.
“What should I do with you? Leave you out here? Or take you to your room?”
He thought about her room with its thickly scented atmosphere.
“Yeah, no. Not going in there again if I can help it.” He laid her down on the couch and covered her up with a fluffy throw.
It wasn’t until he had her all covered up that he noticed the picture on it.
A poofy gray Persian kitten sat in the middle of a basket. Marigolds and pansies surrounded the little fluffball.
The precious darling looked like it wanted to kill whoever had dumped him into that basket. You could just see it in its fierce golden eyes.
Ambrose smiled. That isn’t me.
Elsie unzipped Hildreth’s jacket. She laid the side of her head just below his neck.
His voice vibrated in her ear as he said, “And someone as fierce as you will not surrender her children without putting up a fight.” It was a pleasant feeling. It comforted her even more than his words. “I know how you are. My lovely, fierce Elsie. You’ll beat the trainers into mashed potatoes. Clumpy, lumpy mashed potatoes without any gravy.”
“Huh? Hey, are you listening? Wait. Are you sleeping? What the heck, Elsie?”
She released him and looked up at the sky. “It still isn’t dawn.”
“Tsk. Tsk. And you’re just gonna change the subject.”
Hildreth stretched his arms. “Still a couple more hours before dawn.” He curled his hands up to his shoulders and stretched his back. “Mmm. Question is: What should we do with those couple more hours?”
He dropped his arms with an exasperated sound. “Elsie, really? Of all the wild and crazy things we could do, you choose work? Come on, baby. Let’s play hooky.”
“Master Shinowa wouldn’t approve.”
“Of course he would. He shipped us, Elsie. He shipped us so hard.”
“I can’t imagine him shipping anyone. He doesn’t seem like the romantic at heart.”
“He totally is. You should have seen him tear up when I told him about our engagement. Manly tears everywhere. He cried. I cried. It was spectacular.”
She smiled. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”
His expression softened, but he didn’t say what he was thinking.
He shook his head. “Nothing. Just thinking.”
“Okay. So. Say I agree to play hooky with you. What did you have in mind?”
He brightened. “I’m so glad you asked. See, I was doing my route today and I happened to see a new shop in town.”
She cringed. “Is this that new hamburger shop?”
His eyes widened. “What?”
“Nothing! Tell me about this shop you saw.”
“No. No. No. I can’t let this one pass me by. New hamburger shop? Tell me more.”
She sighed in deep resignation. “It’s like the International House of Pancakes, but just all hamburgers.”
She could have sworn his eyes glistened and sparkled.
“Like IHOP, but with hamburgers. I can’t even imagine that.” He grinned. “You know what that means. Right?”
“I’m going to have another hamburger. Okay. I’ll bite. But you’ll have to do something for me.”
“I’ll tell you after we eat.”