“It’s okay.” Ambrose closed his eyes.
“It’s okay.” He yawned.
“It’s okay.” He was vaguely aware of Robin relaxing in his embrace.
Ambrose’s phone rang, jarring the vampire back to consciousness.
Ambrose growled. He pulled his phone out of his slacks’ pocket and answered it. “Hello?”
Barbara closed her eyes as his voice warmed her ear. “Ambrose.”
But her knees trembled and she needed to sit down. She walked over to the seat next to Sarah and managed to sit down before her legs gave out on her. “It’s so good to hear your voice.”
Something in her voice caught his ear. “Are you all right?”
She didn’t respond.
“Barbara?” He let go of Robin and sat up. “Talk to me. What happened?”
“Someone came into my work. He wanted to take Sarah away. He.” Her voice trembled. “He was from The Institute. She almost went with him.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“No. Sammy didn’t give him a chance.”
“Are you safe? Are you okay? Are you—-”
“I’m fine. I’m safe. Don’t worry, kitten. I’m safe.”
He got out of bed. “I’ll come. If you need me—”
She smiled. “I love you so much. I’m fine. I just needed to hear your voice.”
I need so much more than that.
It’s been too long since I’ve felt his fingers in my hair. His lips touching my lips. His arms holding me close as we dance.
But I can’t say any of that out loud. I can’t tell him. It wouldn’t be fair.
So, I’ll just say what I can.
“I love you.”
It’s like a touch.
It’s like an embrace.
“I love you too, Barbara.” He smiled as he imagined her sitting at her desk, her phone to her ear. “I love you.”
If I could just hold her.
If I could just kiss her.
If I could just feel her touch my face, my hair, my skin.
I can’t say that out loud.
I wish I could.
“Be safe, love.”
His words, as simple as they were, choked her up. She couldn’t even think of why.
I want to run to him.
I want to abandon our no touch policy.
I want to fling myself into his arms.
His legs wobbled and he dropped back down on the bed. Maybe it was his day exhaustion.
“Is it Sunday yet?”
He smiled. “You stole my line. Naughty Barbara.”
She giggled. “oops?”
He laughed out loud. “Brat.”
I wish I could be there to see her smile.
The way her face lights up when she laughs.
“But you still love me?”
He laid down and closed his eyes. “I always will.”
Barbara listened to him fall asleep and her heart ached for him.
Sunday is still so far away.
“And I will always love you, Ambrose Smith.”
Sarah side-glanced up at Barbara. She watched how her fear changed into something soft and happy and bright. It was like watching night become day and day become night.
She couldn’t help but wonder what Ambrose was saying. It had to be something very nice.
She rubbed her throat.
No one would ever say such nice things to her. How could they when she couldn’t speak back to them? Sign language didn’t exactly work on the phone.
She thought about the man and his offer.
Sarah looked away from Barbara.
Flames. Flames everywhere. Run. Fast. Faster. Faster. Don’t let the flames catch you. Don’t let them touch you again. Run. Run. Run. Things fell hard and loud and muffled behind her. Walls crackled and warped and sparked. Glass exploded and melted. The exit was up ahead. Just run. Run. Run. Run. Don’t let it eat you. The exit was up ahead. Keep running. Merge into the crowd. Keep running. Outside. Outside. Need fresh air. Get outside. Become fire! Run faster! Outside! At last! She glanced back. The entire building was nothing but flames. She shuddered and ran away.
And she knew.
There was no way that she was going to get her voice or her memories back.
And she knew.
That man from The Institute had lied.
And she knew beyond any uncertainty.
That he was not to be trusted.
That, no matter what he thought or believed, he was wrong.
She would never run to him.
No matter what.