Elsie assaulted the punching dummy with a series of hard kicks and fast blows. Her mind was a deliberate blank, focused only on her actions.
Someone hugged her around the waist.
She let out a yell and thrust her elbow back with all of her strength.
“oof.” He released her.
She turned quickly and moved into a defensive position.
Hildreth rubbed the lower part of his ribcage. “Darn it, woman. You tryin’ to kill me?”
She grabbed him and pulled him into a fierce kissing session. Images from her nightmare edged into her mind. She kissed him harder. Held him tighter.
He pulled his head back and stood there for a moment, completely breathless.
“I was just about to ask you that myself. What? Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally enjoying this, but…something’s wrong. What’s wrong, Elsie?”
She spun around and kicked the dummy so hard its liver should have snapped in half.
He put his hands on her shoulders. “Talk to me. Don’t shut me out. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing.”
“Which means it’s something.” He pulled her hair aside and kissed her neck.
The warmth of his breath on her skin melted her tension.
“According to your mother, anyway.”
“It’s stupid. It isn’t worth talking about.”
“So? I happen to like talking about stupid things. And if it will make you feel better—”
“I had a bad dream.”
She stared at the dummy. “We were getting married.”
“So far not a bad dream.”
She smiled. “No. Except for the fact that you were wearing a basketball jersey with baggy denim shorts and high-top sneakers.”
He laughed. “I love it! Forget about getting a tux. I’ll go with that. Pure comfort. Bare knees. Bare arms. Air out those armpits. Wait. I feel like something is missing. Hmm. Oh! I know! A backwards baseball cap. Yes!”
“No. If you do anything of the sort, I will beat you up.”
“Hahaha! You totally would too.”
“Anyway, I was saying my vows and focusing on your face.”
Her smile fell. “Ambrose.” She could feel Hildreth back away.
He strolled up the aisle. His eyes were fixed solely on her. Halfway up the aisle, he extended his claws. “Elsie.”
“You left me to fight him.”
Ambrose threw his head back and laughed. Hildreth broke into a run. Stakes appeared in his hands. Ambrose kept laughing.
“You fought him.”
“Okay. So far this isn’t a great dream, but…”
“He used his claws.”
Strips of ragged skin dangled off Hildreth’s cheekbones and jaw. Blood stained his neck, his chest, all the way down his basketball jersey.
“You kept fighting, but you were weakening. You tripped and fell.”
His stakes disappeared. Ambrose dove at him with bared fangs.
Hildreth’s eyes went blank.
She tightened her hands into fists.
“Elsie. Hey. Look at me.”
She shook her head.
He rubbed her shoulders. “I’m not going to leave you, Els. I’m here. I’m right here. I’m not going to hunt him down. I’m not even gonna send him a wedding invitation.”
She swallowed hard. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t. Hey, look at me.”
She turned to face him.
He cupped her face in between his hands. “You and I are going to grow old together.” He smiled – a gentle, loving smile. “We’re gonna see our 25 children grow up and have 25 children of their own and they’ll have 25 children of their own. And we’ll see them all. Our hunting days will be sepia-colored memories of being young crazy agile creatures. I’ll probably go bald and get a bit of a paunch.”
She laughed at that. “I wouldn’t be surprised with the way you eat.”
“And you’ll be this radiant white-haired woman with false teeth.”
“They’ll be very nice false teeth. All shiny and white and sparkly. And I will love you still.”
She hugged him.
He wrapped his arms around her. “And that vampire will be long forgotten by us both.”