Elsie listened to his message again and again.
Each listen weakened her resolve.
I should go back to him.
I should explain.
He doesn’t understand.
She set her phone down in mid-message. “I don’t want to push him away.”
But what if he’s a danger?
He tried to kill me.
He aimed his Bossman 550 right at me.
Hildreth never misses. He’s better than that.
He missed on purpose.
Every single time, he missed on purpose.
Someone knocked on her bedroom door. “Elsie? Please let me in. Please let me talk to you. Let me see you. Let me understand what I did wrong. Tell me why you’re pushing me away.”
She marched over to the door, unlocked it, and pulled it open. “What…?”
He stood one-footed with both of his hands spread on the door frame.
He was sopping wet.
“What in the world?”
“I’ll explain in a minute. What happened to you?”
“Me?” He chuckled half-heartedly. “Well, I jumped out of my second floor window, landed in a half-melted snowdrift, twisted my ankle, hobbled all the way here, got splashed by three different cars, all the while worrying my head off about you and if you were safe, if you were hurt, if you were—Els. What did I do?”
“You tried to kill me with your Bossman 550.”
His face turned pale. “I don’t remember.” His gaze traveled all over her in a panic. “Where did I hit you? Where…Are you…I…wh…”
“I’m all right. You didn’t hit me. You made sure of it. Still. It shocked me that you tried. That’s why I locked you up in your room. I didn’t want to look at you. I didn’t want to deal with you.”
She could see her words hurt him.
If only I could take them back.
“I don’t even remember doing it. Elsie, what happened—”
“—was because of that vampire wazooming you. I know. I know. But it scares me that a vampire could take control over you like that.”
“Els.” He hesitated. “Where do we go from here? Is this…” His eyes teared up and it broke her heart. “Is this the end? I can’t…I…Els.”
She looked at him balanced on one foot, dripping street water all over her carpet. “You jumped out your window.”
He shrugged. “No other way out.”
“You honestly jumped out of your window…for me?”
He nodded. “I was scared. I couldn’t contact you. I thought.” His mouth twitched. Tears fell. “I thought that rotten vampire came back for you. I thought he took you away. I thought I’d never see you again. I thought. Elsie. I thought I lost you.” His voice softened. “Have I lost you?”
“You jumped out of a second floor window and twisted your ankle because you were worried about me.” She smiled. “Hildreth Mayhew.” Her smile grew. “You were worried about me.”
“Hey. That’s my line.”
“So? I’m stealing it.”
“Els. In all seriousness, what do you want to do? Where do we go? Do we still go together or…”
“Idiot.” She hugged him, nearly throwing him off balance. “You are such an idiot.”
“If I let go of you, I will be alone. I will never find someone like you. Someone so demented and romantic, so silly and gorgeous, so—” She laid her head against his chest and listened to his heart. “Someone I love with all my heart.”
He gently kissed the top of her head. “Elsie.”
Barbara surveyed the damage to her car as Ambrose spoke to the towing people at The Cardboard Box.
Two doors ripped off the hinges.
Roof dented and riddled with claw holes.
The hood’s all scratched and dented.
She shook her head. “I don’t think it’s possible to fix this.”
“All right. Thanks.” Ambrose ended the call and walked over to her. “They’ll be here in a little bit.”
She folded her arms across her chest and shivered. “Do we have to stay?”
“Just leave the key under the mat.” He scoffed. “Yeah. Good luck to them starting it.”
She shivered again.
“You sure you’re okay?”
“It’s all starting to hit me. How close I came to…” Another shiver.
He wrapped his arms around her.
She could feel him trembling. “Don’t worry. I’m okay.” She hugged him as tight as she could. “I’m okay.”
“I love you, Barbara. I love you so much. I don’t want to lose you.”
She closed her eyes and imagined him kneeling at her side as she took her last breath. She could almost see his grief.
How can I save him from that loss?
There is a way.
Only one way.
And I can’t.
I can’t take it.
I can’t live like that.
So, I can’t save him.
I’m sorry, Ambrose.
I’m so sorry.
“I love you too.”