Hildreth saw Elsie. She was seated at a table in the middle of the dining area.
But she wasn’t alone.
A tall, unfortunately familiar man with black hair stood beside her.
Hildreth clenched his hands and strode over to the table. “Elsie?” He scowled. “What is he doing here?”
Ambrose looked at him and back at her. “No. Elsie, not him. Tell me it isn’t him.”
“I’m telling you to leave.” Elsie said.
“You can do better than…” He gave Hildreth a disparaging glance. “…this. You could have me.”
“I already gave you my answer. Take it and leave.”
Yeah. You tell him, Elsie.
Ambrose smirked. “Okay.” He swooped down and kissed her.
Shock sealed Hildreth’s throat and froze him into inaction.
Elsie’s hands flared out.
Ambrose leaned closer to her. He grabbed the sides of her chair. His mouth covered hers, caressed hers.
He’s doing this just to insult me, but she’ll put an end to it. She’ll stop him.
Elsie relaxed. She latched her fingers into his hair and pulled him in closer. She kissed him again and again, barely taking a moment to breathe.
She kissed him like he was all that she ever wanted.
She kissed him as if they were completely alone.
She kissed Ambrose Smith like Hildreth Mayhew didn’t exist.
The memory gnawed holes in Hildreth’s stomach. His posture stiffened. His voice tightened with anger as he asked, “Why would she want something as worthless as that?”
Elsie shot a sharp look at him.
Incandesca strolled over to him and tapped the vampire mark on his neck.
He flinched from her touch.
“Because Ambrose Smith is lovely and desirable. I know. I know he is. I’ve seen him.” Her finger trailed to his throat. “Talked to him. I envy the person who changed him. Ohh, I would have loved to be his Master. He smells so good. I can only fantasize about how good he tastes.”
“I can’t imagine him tasting good at all.” Hildreth swatted her hand away. “Probably tastes like mildew and dead weeds.”
“Poor, pathetic human. There’s so much you don’t know.” Her gaze lowered to his neck. “You will never know.”
“If you’re talking about being a vampire, I’m good with being ignorant.”
Her gaze returned to his face.
Master Initskay sat all huddled up in the corner of the training room. He dragged his claws through his skin over and over and he never bled.
“I never want to know. I never want to change.”
Hildreth stood still as Master Initskay sank his fangs into the girl’s neck. His Bossman 550 felt like it was 550 pounds of solid steel. He couldn’t raise it. He couldn’t move.
“I don’t want to become a monster.”
“So says the man who is in league with the Marauder.”
A bright smile stretched across his face. “In league with her. I’m in league with her.” He nodded. “I approve of this statement. It sounds so freakin’ awesome.”
Incandesca huffed out an annoyed sigh and turned to Elsie. “So, to get back on topic, what do you say, Marauder? Are you willing to leave my vampires alone so we can multiply and conquer this city and make it all ours?”
“That is an insultingly stupid question. Probably the stupidest I’ve ever heard anyone ask me. I am a hunter. No matter what you may say or promise me, I am a hunter. This is me.” Elsie held her head higher. “I am Elsie Vansing the Marauder and I have nothing further to discuss with you.” Elsie snapped her fingers. “Hildreth. Come.”
He started to follow her, but Incandesca grabbed his arm.
“Are you just the Marauder’s pet dog? You come when she snaps her fingers. You come when she gives you the Come command.”
“Pet dog. Huh. I hope I’m something cute.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“I would like to be something sleek and powerful like a German shepherd or a doberman.” He shook his head. “I have a bad feeling I’d be more like a golden retriever. Elsie would definitely be a border collie. I can totally see that. As for Jeff—”
She released his arm with an exasperated “Ughh! Are you being this stupid on purpose?”
“Huh? How was any of that stupid? These are serious ponderings.”
“What about my offer?”
He smiled. “Not worth the pondering. Sorry. I’m on Team Elsie the Hot Marauder all the way. I don’t see any reason to—”
“What if I surrendered Ambrose Smith to just you?”
His smile fell.
What would do if I had him in my grasp? I could pin him down. Hurt him for all of the hurt he’s inflicted on me.
But to what end?
If Elsie found out, she would be disappointed in me. Master Shinowa would be disappointed in me.
And so would I.
“Think about all of the things you could do to him.”
“Sorry. I’m not gay.”
Irritation sparked in her eyes. “That is NOT what I meant. I know you hate him. It’s obvious.”
He scratched the back of his head. “You know? I’m not really sure why I’m still standing here, listening to you trying to sway me to the dark side. Seems kind of silly. Bye!”
And he ran after Elsie.