Ambrose looked up at the ceiling and breathed hard, hurting breaths.
His chest hurt.
He wanted to scream or cry.
He scanned the ceiling, waiting for her to appear, for the trace of her scent.
But he knew she would never appear again.
Mark Caten had stolen her away.
He rolled onto his side and broke down. His left hand dug deep into the blanket.
It isn’t fair.
“I’ll make him pay. I’ll. make. Mark Caten pay deep and dear for this. He will suffer. I’ll tear his heart out. See how he likes it.”
If Maria were here—
He raised his head and listened.
Like a cat.
“Like a hunter.”
He growled and got out of bed.
So, Mark’s gone and sent one of his little minions after me. Good. It’s been a while since I’ve killed a hunter.
He licked his lips. This should be fun.
Ambrose strode over to the door, yanked it open, and stepped out into the hall.
He stopped at the sight of her – a woman with long, frizzy black hair and gold-colored eyes.
Her red leather jacket hugged her slender body in a way he liked, but her black jeans were more of a comfortable fit.
Her lily of the valley and musk scent flooded the hallway and overtook him. “Who are you?” The words came out as soft wonder instead of the harsh demand he’d intended.
“I am Elsie Vansing.”
Ambrose took a step back. “I’ve heard of you. You’re the one they call Marauder.” He smiled and bared his fangs. “Well. This should be a lot more fun than I thought.”
He held out his hand. “Come, Elsie Vansing. Dance with me.”
Ambrose opened his eyes and checked on Kevin.
Still asleep. Good.
He sat up and tried to rub the kinks out of his neck. “mnn.”
Another time and another place, that dream would have pierced me like a stake. But that time has passed and that place utterly demolished.
Now, it is a memory without power.
Because of Barbara.
Because I love Barbara.
And she loves me.
Despite what I am.
Who I am.
She loves me and she thinks I deserve her love.
He closed his eyes and fell back to sleep with a smile still on his face.
Barbara woke up.
I can’t imagine loving anyone other than him.
She picked up her cell phone and called Ambrose’s number.
She smiled. “Ambrose.”
“I know. Sorry to bug you.”
“You aren’t bugging me. Keeping me awake, yes. But not bugging me.” He paused. “Is something wrong?”
“I was just checking on Kevin. Is…” She couldn’t finish her question.
He was silent on his end for too many minutes.
“He’s going fast. I’m not sure how many days it’s been, but…” Another long pause.
“Ambrose. Speak to me. But what?”
He sighed. “He isn’t going to last eight days.”
It was what she had been sub-consciously expecting, but her heart sank nonetheless.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe it’s a hidden blessing. He’ll be finished with all of this misery sooner than he’d expected.”
“How…” She wiped her eyes. “How is he taking it?”
“I don’t know. He’s unconscious. Barbara.”
“I don’t want to say this. It will hurt you. I know you. But…These changes are wrecking havoc on him. They hurt him.”
She bit down on her lower lip and tried not to sob into Ambrose’s ear.
“I don’t think…” He huffed out an irritated sigh. “Why can’t there be an easy way to say this? Why do I have to be so tired? Why can’t my brain work right? Why does this have to be so difficult?”
“I don’t think you should see him again.”
“It will not help him or you. You’ll both be stressed. It will only add to his pain. Barbara.”
His voice softened. “I am so sorry. I wish it weren’t like this. I wish that this would be easier for him. I would have never wished this level of misery on him.”
“I…” She sniffled. “I have to get ready for work.”
“I’ll.” Her voice wobbled. “I’ll talk to you later. I gotta go.” She ended the call and dissolved into tears.