Elsie left the restaurant with Hildreth at her side.
She looked up at him.
He looked down at her.
No words were said.
No words needed to be said.
“Well, Miss Vansing. I have safely escorted you home.”
“As if I needed an…” Her smile fell.
Someone in a heavy black trench coat lay all bunched up in the shadowed corner of her front porch.
Hildreth noticed it at the same time. He stepped in front of Elsie. “Hey. This here ain’t a public resting spot. So, why don’t you go find a nice park bench or—”
“Tired. Hungry.” The unknown man raised his head and looked at them with glazed over eyes. “Invite me in.” He laid his head on the porch. “Too warm. tired. hungry.”
“Vampire.” Hildreth automatically reached behind his back and pulled out his Bossman 550. He balanced the weapon on his shoulder.
The vampire opened his eyes and gave him a long, empty look.
The vampire struggled up to his feet.
Hildreth pulled the trigger. The stake ricocheted off the vampire’s shoulder. “That was a warning shot. You even think of getting too close to us and my next shot won’t hit your shoulder.”
“I’m not a threat.” His words came out in a slushed up mumble. “Need a place away from sun. Let me in.”
“I don’t think so.”
“LET ME IN!” He put his hand across his forehead and moaned. “warm. tired. tired. too warm.”
“Hildreth. Don’t waste time conversing with him. Just shoot him.” Something in her voice sounded wrong, which worried him. “I’d take care of him myself, but I’m all out of stakes.”
Stay focused. “Stay behind me.”
The vampire lowered his hand. “Hunter.” He licked his lips. “You’re a hunter.” He staggered down the porch steps. Drool glistened at the corners of his mouth. “Hunter blood tastes best.” He scented the air. “Dry wood and raspberry jam.” The drool escaped the corners. “You’ll be a tasty treat, hunter. And your girlfriend will be—”
Hildreth pulled the trigger.
The stake struck its target and the vampire fell.
Hildreth turned to her. “Are you okay?”
She shook her head. “It’s cold out here. I’m going inside.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Hildreth.”
“No, you’re not. Something’s wrong. Something…”
“I’m just tired. Tired and furious that vampire had the nerve to accost me at my—-”
“Elsie. Look at me.”
“I don’t know what you’re so paranoid about.”
“Because you’re acting…That vampire.” He sighed. “It’s about him again, isn’t it?”
“Hildreth. I’m tired. I want to go inside my house and go to sleep.”
“Fine.” He holstered his weapon and started to walk away.
Elsie held her silence until he reached the driveway’s halfway point. “Hildreth. Come back to me.”
“Please. Don’t leave me like this. Come back to me.”
Does she know how much power she has over me? “Is it him?”
“Just come here. Please.”
He returned to Elsie.
She unzipped his coat and laid her head against his chest.
He hugged her, because he just couldn’t help it. “Elsie. Don’t push me away. Talk to me.”
“He reminded me of Ambrose.”
He tensed up and he hated it.
“When he first came to my house, Ambrose was so weak and vulnerable. I could have staked him twelve thousand times. He wouldn’t have been able to stop me.”
Will he always shadow our memories? That vampire. That rotten soulless vampire. But what can I do?
What can I do?
He held her tighter and closer.
It hurts so much.
But I am not going to push her away.
Not this time.
“I’m sorry, Hildreth. I wasn’t even trying to think of him. I don’t want to think of him. I love you, Hildreth.”
I love her so much it hurts me.
“I adore you and everything you are.”
There’s so much I could say. So much I want to say, I need to say. Why can’t I say them? Why do my words always stick to my throat?
I will say what I can, even if it isn’t quite enough.
I will say it.
“I love you, Elsie Vansing.”