Ambrose stepped out of the carriage.
He felt sick.
His stomach was nothing but knots.
Rebecca sat on the front porch all alone. She was dressed in a heavy black velvet gown with a deep burgundy border around the hem, the cuffs, and the high collar.
As he approached her, his legs trembled.
After all of this time that I’ve stood aside and let others flock about her, I finally have a chance to speak to her. To speak to my goddess.
He stopped at the bottom of the porch steps.
Why did it have to happen under such circumstances?
She looked up at him. “What is it you want, Ambrose Smith?”
I want you to say my name. Over and over. Say it say it.
He cleared his throat. “Your absence at the funeral has been noted.”
A breeze whisted past, ruffling her carefully fashioned curls.
His fingers itched with the desire to touch her hair, to untie her black hair ribbons, to see her red hair in its naturally frizzy state. “I have been sent to escort you—”
She stood and he choked on his words.
“Please. It’s Anna. Your sister. She…”
Rebecca looked at him and his heart pounded all too hard.
“Anna would want you to be there.”
“I don’t want to be there.”
Her voice pierced him. He couldn’t stop shaking. “Your mother…” He rubbed his hands up and down his arms. “She…uhh…she…”
“You do not seem to understand, Ambrose.” Her shell cracked in fine porcelain lines. “I do not want to see Anna like that. I do not want to see her put into the ground. I don’t…Ambrose.”
“Yes?” He breathed the word rather than spoke it.
“I don’t want to be surrounded by mourners all weeping for my dearly departed sister, all the while my grief is overlooked and ignored. I want to be comforted.” She walked down the porch steps and took hold of his hands.
Ambrose felt like the world had turned upside down and he was breathing all wrong.
“I want you to comfort me.”
His mind shut off on him. “Wha?”
She pulled him in closer. “Comfort me.”
Even though he knew the answer, he asked the question, “How?”
She didn’t answer the question.
She pulled him into a kiss that was nothing at all like the kiss Anna had given him. It was fire and passion and spine-tingling pleasure. It set his skin aflame.
His hands moved all over her without any idea of where they were supposed to be, much less do.
She led him into the house. “Well?”
His heart and brain seemed to have switched places, because he could feel every beat of his heart inside his skull.
“Will you comfort me in this, my hour of need?”
“Yes.” His heart beat faster and harder, but he smiled. “Oh, yes.”
The scent of rotting garbage assaulted his senses and pulled him out of his dream. Ambrose woke up gagging and retching.
He panted and wheezed, which did nothing helpful. It just put more of the bad scent into his mouth.
He pushed himself up on his arms and bowed his head.
Ambrose thought about Barbara. He imagined her sweet scent surrounding him, settling on his skin, filling and leaving his lungs, rushing through every blood vessel, escaping through every pore.
His body slowly calmed down.
His arms wobbled and weakened until he was once more flat on the floor.
He opened his eyes and found that he was nose to snout with Kevin’s muzzle.
“I may not hate you the way I did before,” Ambrose rolled over on his side, facing away from the werewolf. “but that doesn’t mean I want to get all snuggly with you.”
He closed his eyes and imagined Barbara’s scent covering him like a blanket.
He fell back to sleep.
Barbara sat at her desk, typing up a memo for Sammy. She typed it perfectly word for word even though her thoughts were back with Ambrose and Kevin.
Today is his last day as a human.
I wish I could do something for him.
Isn’t there anything I can do?
Some small comfort?
One simple gesture?
Anything at all?
She looked up at him. “Oh! Hi, Sammy. I’ll be done with this in just one minute.”
“Are you well?”
“Oh, yes! I’m looking forward to the wedding. I—”
“You seem to be upset.”
She stopped typing. “Today is Kevin’s last day as a human. After tonight, he’ll be a full werewolf and…I don’t know what happens then. I don’t know if he’ll stay here in Pinkerlee. I don’t know if he’ll be able to find a werewolf pack that will be willing to accept him. I don’t know what he’s thinking, what he’s feeling, what…”
“I am sorry, Miss Addleston. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
She shook her head. “I don’t even know what I can do to help him.” She set her fingers on the asdf jkl; keys, but she did not resume typing.
Silence fell between them.
Sammy cleared his throat. “Well. Look at that. It’s almost lunch time.”
“What? It isn’t even ten o’clock yet.”
He smiled and her wooden pencils turned into yellow and white daisies. “Like I said, almost lunch time. Finish that memo and then go.”
“What? Go to lunch?”
“Go to Kevin. It may not help either of you, but it will ease your mind to see him one last time.”
She jumped out of her seat, ran to the other side of her desk, and hugged him.
Her chair fell into a dead faint.
“Thank you, Sammy.”