Missy huddled under the desk. “I did it again. I said the wrong thing and now he’s mad at me and he won’t care about me anymore and he let me go back to The Institute and they’ll steal my voice away and he won’t even care and he’ll be glad and he just won’t care. He won’t care he won’t he won’t he won’t.”
“That isn’t true, Missy.”
She scurried out from under the desk.
Raven stood before her in his stiff-collared white dress shirt and black slacks. His cuffs were buttoned tight. His hands were bare.
His face was clean.
“I am not mad at you. I certainly don’t want you to return to The Institute.”
“And…” He sighed. “Dawn will be here soon.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’re not mad at me. You don’t want me to go back. AND?”
“I don’t understand, miss. What do you expect me to say?”
“You’re supposed to address the last part of my rambling.”
“You’re supposed to tell me that you do care for me.”
He gaped at her. “Are you always this brazen?”
“I can’t just say such a thing. I don’t know if it’s even true. I barely know you.”
“Then, get to know me and then you can tell me that you care for me and then we can confess our love for each other—” She clasped his hands and he looked quite alarmed. “—and then we can get married and have a whole bunch of kids I hope none of them are fire creatures like me I wonder if that’s in my genetic makeup as something I could pass down to my children I hope not that would be so—-”
“Missy! Please! You’re going too fast. So many things can change. I could change into someone you hate.”
She squeezed his hands. “Nope. I like you. I know you’re a vampire, but I will always like you. I think you’re pretty and nice and lovely and your skin is so soft and lovely and kissable and—”
She looked at him with honest innocence. “What?”
“What? You can’t what?”
“I can’t move as fast as you can. I can’t just jump from Hello to Love Me all in one day.”
She released his hands. “You don’t want to.”
“That isn’t it.”
“She still owns your heart. Can’t I have a small corner?”
His expression softened. “Can a human be happy with something so small?” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t be.”
“I would. At least, it would be something.” She retreated under the desk. “And now I’ve gone and really ruined it. You’re going to tell me to stay here. You’ll leave me behind.”
She picked at a small patch of cracked linoleum. “So, you might as well go and leave me.”
He stood still and silent for several minutes.
“I don’t know what he’s thinking. I’m sure it isn’t happy thoughts. I’m sure he’s thinking I’m not worth the bother. I’m sure he’s going to just walk away.”
He stood there for a moment longer before crawling under the desk. “I am sorry, miss.”
He smiled. “But nothing. I still want you to come with me. I am not…I will not leave you behind for them to pick over your bones.”
She threw herself at him and hugged him.
His smile grew. “You really are quite a brash creature.”
She sat back on her feet. “Of course. I am XQ.”
“No.” He kissed her forehead. “You’re Missy.”