The vampire panted as he ran.
I’m so dead and doomed.
I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to—
He tripped over his own shoelace and took a hard tumble to the pavement. Before he could get up, Elsie was down on him, flipping him onto his back.
His pupils widened as she raised her stake.
I DON’T WANT TO DIE!
He moved quickly.
He put his hand on her forehead and went with the first thought that came to mind – I am a vampire and I am hungry. Hungry. Hungryhungryhungryhungry.
Her face went pale.
Elsie dropped her stakes and scrambled up to her feet. She looked at her fingernails in horror. “no. Please no. No!”
He fled the scene as discreetly as he could.
“That umbrella was a family heirloom. It came across the ocean on the Mayflower.”
“Huh? I didn’t realize they had umbrellas back then.”
Yellow Slicker Woman scoffed. “You just don’t know anything, do you?”
Hildreth thought about it. “I guess I don’t know when umbrellas were invented, but it just seems like they were a more recent invention.”
“See? You know nothing. Good day to you!” She spun around to leave.
Her phone rang.
“Hello? Oh, snookums! I hope you’re okay.”
“Is Elsie all right?” Hildreth asked.
She glared at him and walked away.
“Hey! I asked you a question!”
She kept on walking.
“Guess there’s only one way to find out.”
Hildreth ran down the street.
If the vampire’s all right, what about her?
After what he did to me, there’s no way Elsie would have let him escape so easily.
Is she all right?
Is she alive?
Is my Elsie alive?
She staggered out of an alley. Her face was so pale it was almost white.
Hildreth couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak.
He couldn’t think.
He ran to her.
She looked up at him with wide, tearful eyes and shook her head. “Don’t. Hildreth, don’t come near me. I’m hungry. I’m so hungry. I’m so terribly hungry.”
He hugged her. “Then—”
A mental image flashed before his eyes.
Master Initskay sat huddled in a corner of his own dojo. He scratched his arms over and over. His eyes were full of grief.
I don’t want that to be me.
He took a breath and said, “Then, bite me. Drink from me. Drain me. Kill me. Change me.”
He kissed her neck. “I’m here, baby. I’m here.”
“Hildreth.” Her voice wobbled. “Are you going to keep your promise?”
He closed his eyes.
I can’t do it.
Not to her.
I can’t hurt her.
But I don’t want her to become like Master Initskay.
I can’t put her through that mental torture.
He slowly released her. “Els. Before I answer that question, I want to be sure. After what he did to me, I need to be sure that you are changed. Okay?”
He gently took her hands and examined them.
He checked her fingertips.
They were all intact with no tell-tale slits.
He pressed on all of her knuckles.
No claws burst through her skin.
Hildreth let go of her hands and examined her mouth.
Not a single fang – hidden or revealed.
Not a single flattened, white cyst mark on her gums.
He almost collapsed with relief.
“It’s okay, Els. You’re okay. You’re okay.” He hugged her as tight as he could. “Baby, you’re still you.”
She hugged him.
“Elsie. My Elsie. My Elsie.”
“It’s only an illusion. It will pass, baby.” He rubbed her back. “You’re okay. You aren’t a vampire. You’re okay. I got you. You’re okay, baby. We’re okay.”