Hildreth opened the back of his Bossman 550. He reset the hammer plates and clicked the stakes into the open slots. He closed the back and locked it tight.
The click of approaching heels spurred him up to his feet. He automatically balanced his weapon on his shoulder.
A young woman in a white basket-weave tank top and blue jeans approached him. “Hunter.”
He put his finger around the trigger.
“You smell good. I’m hungry.” She looked at him with a new vampire’s desperation. “One bite. One. Give me one bite, hunter.”
“Not in this lifetime.”
“Please. You don’t know. You don’t know what it’s like to be THIS hungry. You don’t know.” A line of drool escaped her lips. “You don’t know how many smells. Everything smells. Every little thing. Except fey. No one told me. No one ever told me that it would be like this. No one told me what to do. And. I’m hungry. You smell. Hunter. Hunter smells so good.”
She rushed at him.
He pulled the trigger.
She let out a shrill cry and fell.
Two more vampires ran out of the shadows.
Hildreth spun around and shot them down One. Two.
He stood silent and still, waiting and listening.
But no other vampires rushed onto the scene.
Hildreth attached a tracker button to all three vampires and activated them. He knelt beside the dead girl.
His heart sank.
She’s just a kid. No older than sixteen. Maybe I should have let her bite my wrist.
He frowned. But to what end? I would have wound up staking her anyway. If not tonight, some other night. Maybe she’d wind up biting Elsie.
Maybe she’d bite my neck.
Maybe she’d change me.
The Collectors came.
The glowing luna moth creatures covered her and carried her away.
Hildreth watched them disappear into the city’s night sky.
Just as dawn made its appearance.
Elsie climbed over the cemetery gate and dropped into a crouch. She stood and headed for their usual rendezvous spot – the Williards’ family mausoleum.
What if he isn’t there?
What if he’s hurt?
What if he’s changed?
She climbed the built in ladder on the back of the building.
As long as he’s alive, Hildreth will come to me. I know he will.
She reached the top.
He wasn’t there.
Elsie laid down on the middle of the flat roof.
He will come.
My Hildreth will come to me.
Elsie watched the city-lit night sky surrender to dawn’s warm natural colors.
And Hildreth still wasn’t there.
As long as he’s alive, Hildreth will come.
As long as he’s…
As long as…
She closed her eyes.
She imagined her thought – that one word, one name – unspooling out of her head and flying in one cursived ribbon in search of him.
It would find him…and then what?
Enter his head through his ear, maybe?
Or wrap around his head like a sweatband?
Maybe it would wrap around his wrists and pull him here.
And he’d be here.
My precious idiot.
I can’t wait to see him again.
Hildreth found Elsie sound asleep on the mausoleum’s roof. He sat beside her.
I could wake her up, but I’ll let her sleep.
She frowned. Her hands tightened into fists, which made him smile.
She’s fierce even in her dreams.
Hildreth removed his weapon from his back holster and set it on the roof. He laid down beside her – their bodies not touching.