“Dawn is coming, miss. I must head home before they declare me staked and gone. I have been gone too long.”
“What about me? Do you really want me?”
“I don’t know. I am solicitous for your welfare. I want you to be safe. I don’t want them to steal away your voice. I don’t want them to hurt you or to destroy you.”
Can I accept affection from her?
She isn’t a child. Certain details make that sufficiently clear.
Perhaps she is a teenager.
He scrutinized her face, trying to separate the younger from the older, the immature from the mature.
In the end, he gave up.
I can’t tell.
She spread her hand on his knee.
Raven startled so hard he banged his head on the underside of the desk’s top. He winced and rubbed his head.
“Are you okay?”
“You startled me.” He shook his head. “I need to go home. Pack up what you can’t do without. Try not to take too long, miss. I need to get home before day’s light shines.”
“I know.” She smiled. “And I have nothing here to pack up.”
He laid his hand on top of her hand. “Then. Let’s go, Missy. Let’s go home.”
They walked through the bad side of town. Vampire and human. Predator and prey. Man and woman. Night and day. Moon and sun.
If there were any hooligans hiding in the shadows, they let Raven and Missy pass by unmolested.
He side-glanced at her from time to time. But he kept his thoughts inside his head.
They walked steadily ahead in silence.
As they walked up his driveway, she grabbed hold of his hand and held tight.
“Is there a problem, miss?”
She wordlessly shook her head, but he was certain he understood.
“I will not let them hurt you. You’ll be safe. You are safe, Missy.”
She sighed and loosened her grip. “Can I sleep with you?”
He stopped and stared at her. “I’m terribly sorry, but I beg your pardon?”
“Can I sleep with you? In your room? On your bed?”
“What?” He released her hand. “No! I couldn’t possibly. I…No. No! That sort of thing is not done. It can’t be done. It isn’t decent. It isn’t proper. It just isn’t. I can’t. No.”
“Why? I only want to sleep with you.”
“Missy. I have no idea how you were raised or who raised you, but…” He sighed. “How do I even explain this? I am a man. You are a young woman. We can’t share a bed. It would… cause significant problems.”
“What kind of problems?”
He ran his hand through his hair. Did no one explain to her about the birds and the bees? I suppose not. They saw her only as a potential weapon and nothing more. “It would make me uncomfortable.”
“Why? I slept under the desk with you. You didn’t seem to mind that too much.”
“That was completely different. Believe me. This…It wouldn’t make me happy.”
Please tell me she understood that much.
“Couldn’t I just curl up on the edge of your bed?”
“You’d fall off.”
“Could I sleep on the floor then?”
She looked at the house.
“If you’re worried about the other vampires…”
She shook her head.
“Then, what do you fear?”
She wrung her hands. “I’m going to run back to them. If you don’t weigh me down, I’ll get up in the middle of the night and run back to them. If you hold me in your arms while I sleep, I won’t do it. I’ll stay.”
Raven hesitated. “I’m not sure I understand. When you say that you want to sleep with me, is that all you mean? You don’t mean anything more? Anything of a…” How can I phrase this? “…more intimate nature?”
“I just want to sleep and be safe.”
“And nothing more?”
“Not sure what you’re thinking, but I just want to sleep.”
She just wants to sleep. She doesn’t want…
But I can’t.
If she slept next to me…
“I can set a cot in my room. It will not be the same as sleeping next to me, but I will be there if you need me to rescue you. Are you all right with that, miss?”
She smiled. “Then, yes.”