Elsie staked another vampire and attached a tracker button to the body. She activated it just as Hildreth came onto the scene.
“Hey, Elsie baby! What’s happening?”
“Hildreth!” She ran over to him, but stopped half-way. “Who’s the kid?”
“A stray puppy I happend to find on the streets. Can we take him home with us?”
Elsie stared at Hildreth. “Are you serious?”
He laughed. “Yes and no. Yes, he is a little stray, but no. I was just teasing about taking him home with us.” He thought about it. “Or maybe not. He wants to become a hunter.”
“I was going to take him to Master Shinowa, but…I don’t know what the proper protocol is. I’m not a scout.”
She walked over to the boy and crouched. “What’s your name?”
“Are you sure you want to become a hunter? It’s dangerous. You could get hurt or killed or changed into a vampire. A vampire could break your back and paralyze you. A vampire could claw your face half-off, leaving you disfigured. A vampire might snatch you up and keep you as his blood letter.”
“Blood letter? What’s that?”
“The vampire will keep you locked up and drink from you every night. He won’t kill you. He won’t change you. He’ll never let you go. He’ll never have to hunt again, because you will always be there.”
Jim-Marie held his head a little higher. “I don’t have a family or a protective gargoyle. I don’t have a home, even. If I don’t become a hunter, I’ll become dead. I almost got killed tonight, but he saved me.”
The Collectors came and carried away the fallen vampire.
Jim-Marie watched in wonder.
Hildreth smiled at him. “You’ve never seen The Collectors before?”
“Never so close before. What are they?”
“Hildreth.” Elsie stood. “This situation makes me uncomfortable. If vampires were to come rushing out at us right now, he would be vulnerable. Take him somewhere safe. Either my house or yours.”
“I’ll take him to mine. I need to restock my Bossman 550.”
“Do you have any stakes on hand?”
She huffed out an irritated sigh. “You never learn.” She removed the stakes from the stake belt around her left ankle. “This probably won’t be enough, but it’s better than nothing.”
“I love you, Els.” He took the stakes and attached them to the stake belt around his right wrist, leaving one out to hold onto. Just in case.
Elsie kissed Hildreth. “I love you too. Be safe.”
“Always, baby.” He took Jim-Marie’s hand. “Come on. Let me take you home.”
Ambrose was on his absolutely best behavior as Barbara introduced him to her extended family and friends.
Aunt Maura and Aunt Nora came over to him. They stared and ogled him, ever so slowly crossing the line between rude and OHMYGOSH! STOP STARING AT ME! uncomfortable.
Aunt Nora smacked her lips. “Sooooo, do you have any brothers?”
Ambrose fake-coughed. “Sorry. I, uhh, had a tickle in my throat.”
“Oh, I’d love to tickle your throat.” Aunt Maura purred.
Ambrose cleared his throat. “No. I don’t have any family.”
Aunt Nora’s eyes gleamed behind her horn-rimmed glasses. “Well. That’s easily fixed. I’ll adopt you.”
“Uhhh. No. No, that isn’t necessary. I’m fine.”
“Mmm-hmm. You said it. Sooooo fine. Oh! By the way, if you two lovebirds try out the BDSM kit, please call me and tell me how you liked it.”
Ambrose’s mind glazed over.
“I want to make sure it’s the real stuff and not some cheap plastic rip-off junk.”
Ambrose silently nodded his head.
Barbara looked up at him and smiled. She gently squeezed his hand.
His mental fog-over lifted. He smiled at her.
Aunt Maura pushed her round-framed glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Same thing with the Babymaking Kit.”
Ambrose’s power of speech returned to him. “Don’t worry. We’ll let you both know how it all turns out.” He grinned and took Aunt Maura’s hand. “And thank you very much for the negligees. I could say more, but I’ll be a gentleman and leave it at that.”
The two sisters burst into delighted twitters.
“You should totally kiss her again.” said Aunt Maura.
He looked down at Barbara and his grin softened into a gentle smile. “I think I can manage that.”
But Barbara beat him to it.