Hildreth slowly opened his eyes as she moved away from his lips.
I want more.
Elsie rubbed her thumb across his lips
“I have a surprise for you.”
“Two surprises, but you have to wait for the second one.”
“Hmm. Which surprise will I like better?”
She thought it over. “It’s hard to say.”
He smiled. “I’m intrigued. So, there’s one you can’t tell me about, which means there’s one you can tell me about.”
“It’s the reason why there was no toast on your plate.”
His face fell. “Oh, no. Is it slabs of cold tofu?”
She laughed. “No. Just no.” She side-swiped some eggs onto his fork and offered it to him..
He accepted it.
“It’s something that appeals to your—-”
His face brightened. “Hamburgers!”
“For breakfast? Yuck. No.”
“I’ll give you a hint: cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, eggs, and maple syrup.”
He almost drooled. “The most awesome egg nog ever.”
“Too bad.” He reclaimed his fork and edged off a piece of the eggs for her.
She opened her mouth and let him put it in.
“Wait.” Hildreth did a mental rundown of her ingredient list. “Is there any bread in this wondrous concoction? Maybe some…toast?”
“And is this toast from…France?”
She swallowed her mouthful. “Most certainly.”
He pumped his fist in the air. “Yes! Elsie’s gonna make me French toast!”
She snagged a piece of bacon from his plate, only to have him snatch it back. “Nuh-uh, Vamsing. That strip of bacon is all mine!”
“Fine.” She returned to her seat and picked up a piece of bacon from her plate.
Only to have him snitch that one too.
“You do that again, I’ll smack your hands off.”
He laughed. “You would too.” He ate her piece in three quick bites. “mmm-mm-mmm!”
So, of course, she had to punch his arm again.
Elsie set the emptied plates in the sink, washed her hands, and pulled out the ingredients for French toast.
She was aware of Hildreth watching her. It should have made her feel self-conscious, but it made her smile.
For all of his blather about cheerleaders and miniskirts and nurses, I trust him. I know he will never stray on me.
She poured the milk into a mixing bowl, cracked the eggs into it, added all of the necessary spices, and whisked it.
Hildreth hobbled over to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Let me help you.” he whispered in her ear.
His nearness, his touch, and the intimacy of his whisper made her want to collapse in his arms. “Okay.” she whispered back.
He kissed the highest point of her jaw and released her. He claimed the whisk before she could drop it.
Does he know how much he affects me? Does he have any idea?
Hildreth went to work whisking the life out of the French toast slop. He sighed. “So, what are we doing about Mark Caten? Do we take him seriously and run for the highest hills?”
“I intend to talk to him.”
He scoffed. “A lot of good that will do. He’ll just make you furious.”
“That’s why I intend to talk to him in person. If he makes me too angry, I can punch him.”
He shook his head. “Elsie. Don’t. He already threatened to kidnap you. If you go there, he will kidnap you.”
“I’m not a damsel, Hildreth. I’m not going to get kidnapped.”
He glanced back at her. “I know, but I don’t trust him.” He resumed his whisking.
Elsie thought it over.
If the roles were reversed, would I want Hildreth to pay Mark Caten a visit against my wishes? Would I want him to pay Ambrose a visit without my permission?
And definitely no.
She rubbed his shoulders. “What do you want to do?”
His whisking hand went still. “My gut instinct is telling me to run away from here. Go somewhere far out of his reach. Maybe spend more quality time with Master Shinowa.”
“Would that vampire really come running to Mark Caten’s beck and call?”
She kissed the back of his neck. “You really want to know if he’d kidnap me for Mark Caten’s evil schemes?”
Hildreth went silent for a couple of moments. “Would he?”
“No. Mark Caten would have to be holding a very sharp stake to Ambrose’s chest to make him do something like that.”
“You don’t think that vampire’s love/lust/whatever for you would be enough motivation?”
“To surrender me to the man who locked him up in that infernal exhibit? It would take an absolute act of God for that to happen.”
“Then…What do you want to do, Elsie?”
He turned to face her. “But what if we’re wrong? What if—”
“I’ll call in reinforcements. I’m sure Jane wouldn’t mind lending me her gargoyle.”
“Would that be enough?”
She smiled. “You should never underestimate a gargoyle’s protectiveness. He’ll keep me safe.”
She stroked his face. “Don’t worry.” She turned on the stove and opened the bread bag. “Let’s make our French toast.”
Hildreth made a flourishing hand gesture. “Oui, oui, mademoiselle.”