Hildreth took her hand and folded their fingers together.
Come Sunday, you will truly be mine.
And I will be completely yours. I will surrender my bachelor status to you and become your husband.
He raised their combined hands and kissed her knuckles.
She smiled at him.
Elsie Vansing’s husband.
He stopped walking and she followed suit.
“What? What’s wrong?”
He looked into her gold eyes and his voice failed him.
So, Hildreth did the only thing he could do.
He kissed her.
She pulled her hand out of his grip and grabbed his hair.
He laughed against her mouth.
“Shut up, Mayhew. Shut up. Shut up.” She kissed him with a fierceness that made his knees wobble.
“mmm…mmm…” He spread his hands on her lower back and pushed her body closer.
A woman screamed in the distance.
Elsie broke out of the kiss.
Hildreth panted. “Do we have to?”
Her scream turned frantic.
“Afraid so.” Elsie smiled and playfully smacked his bottom. “Beat you there.”
He grinned. “Probably not.”
Hildreth outpaced her without even trying.
It will not happen again.
I will not fail.
I will not.
He charged into an uncluttered alley and found the source of all the screaming.
A black-haired woman in a black sequined dress stood in the middle of the alley, screaming as if her life depended on it.
But she was alone.
Hildreth pulled out his Bossman 550 and balanced it on his shoulder. “I sure hope there’s a good reason for all that screaming. Otherwise, I m going to be royally ticked off.”
She stopped and flashed a brilliant grin at him. “Hello, handsome. I was hoping you’d come alone.” She sauntered towards him.
He pulled the trigger.
The bolt bounced off of her.
He frowned and tried again.
Same lack of effect.
He shrugged and put his weapon away. “Okay. So, you aren’t a vampire.”
“I’m surprised you thought I was.” Large white wings emerged from her back. “I am fey.”
“Huh. Well. That’s different.”
She scowled. “And that is a lackluster reaction. Shame on you!”
Hildreth shrugged. “Whatever. I have things to do. So, byyyye.” He turned to leave.
“Hey!” Elsie called out behind him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
But that doesn’t make any—
She caressed the back of his neck. “I’m not done with you yet.”
“I. I don’t understand.”
She stepped in front of him. Elsie’s gold eyes sparkled. “Shut up, Mayhew.” She grabbed his shirt and untucked it.
His heart raced. “Elsie.”
She tucked her hands under his shirt and spread them on his stomach’s bare skin.
His breath caught.
This isn’t right.
She couldn’t have gotten here so fast. And how did she wind up behind me?
It doesn’t make—
She slid her hands up his chest.
He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch.
I’m missing something.
“Come on, Mayhew. Don’t be so shy. Touch me. Undress me. Take me down.”
He opened his eyes.
That is all wrong.
“Do you have any idea how filthy alleys are?” he asked.
Her hands went still. “What?”
“They are incredibly filthy. There’s a lot more than just dirt on the ground. There’s stagnant urine stains and rat feces and well. Rats. Then, of course, there’s the assorted garbage: used condoms, broken beer bottles, discarded drug paraphernalia—-”
“So, what? Who cares about any of those things?”
Hildreth reached under his shirt and grabbed her hands. “You do. Or, to be more precise, Elsie Vansing does.” He smiled. “You are not Elsie Vansing.”
She gaped. “I beg your pardon, but—”
“Hey!” Elsie charged into the alley. “Get your filth hands off my fiancée, you slatternly slut!”
“Oh, what a bother.” The fey changed back into her normal form and disappeared.
Elsie slowed down as she approached Hildreth. “Yeah! You get out of here! You go running back to your—”
“Elsie.” He cupped her face in between his hands and kissed her. “Elsie.”
“No, Hildreth. Not in an alley. Never in an alley.”
He laughed. “You jumped to that conclusion pretty fast. I love you.” He touched foreheads with her. “I love you so darn much.”