Hildreth pulled into Clarice’s driveway and turned the key. He sat there, lost in a tumble of fears and doubts.
Maybe I made a mistake.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told her that I was coming. I should have kept things nice and simple. I should have gone to the hospital, talked Jeff off his crazy cliff, gone home, and pretended that I was never here.
He scoffed. “This is ridiculous. Like I told Elsie, it’s daytime. We are not going to run into that vampire. It won’t happen. It can’t happen. He’s all snuggled up in his bed/crypt/coffin/whatever, sleeping like the dead.”
Besides, I’m not here for him.
I’m here for Jeff and that’s the simple truth.
I will keep my promise.
He unfastened his seatbelt and opened the car door.
Just as Elsie opened the house’s front door.
His heart leaped and he couldn’t help grinning. “Els.”
Ambrose growled as Robin bee-lined to the elevators. “We could take the stairs. It would be a lot simpler.”
“Huh?” Robin pressed the call button. “How’s that even make anythin’ like sense? Walkin’ up the stairs will take forever and forty-nine days.”
Ambrose bristled. “Whatever. I’m too tired for this conversation.”
“Oh, that’s a great exit line, if I e’er heard one.” He gave LM a considering look. “Hey. You’re fey.”
“Half-fey.” LM said.
“Yeah, like I said. Fey. Can you teleport us and save Am’rose a whole bunch of misery?”
LM looked down at the floor and shook his head. “Like I said, I’m half-fey, half-human. There are a lot of things I can’t do.”
Robin shrugged. “Sounds like elevator time to me.”
“Stairs.” Ambrose said with a certain degree of belligerence.
Robin glared at the older vampire. “Stupid. You really wanna go climbin’ stairs while you’re barely e’en half-awake? Just how stupidheaded are you?”
Ambrose sighed. “Fine. Let’s just get this over with.”
Elsie ran to Hildreth as he got out of the car. She hugged him. “You’re here.”
His body relaxed in her embrace. “Elsie baby. Yeah, I’m here. Are you mad at me?”
She grabbed the hair above his ears. “Idiot. Do I look mad to you?”
“Hmm. Does mad for me count as an answer?”
Elsie laughed. “You’re such an idiot.” Her fingers flattened against his scalp. “But, you know, I wouldn’t have you any other way. I love you.” Her hands slid down to the back of his neck. “I love just you.”
“Elsie.” He closed his eyes and kissed her. “Elsie. Elsie baby, run away with me.”
“Anywhere and everywhere. To the sky and beyond. To the depths of the sea. To the highest mountaintop. To a bistro that sells really good biscotti. Doesn’t matter where.” He opened his eyes. “As long as I’m with you.”
Ambrose tensed up as the elevator doors slid open like a sideways mouth.
I hate these things. I hate these things.
He followed Robin and LM aboard.
I hate these things SO much!
He sat against the back of the elevator and bunched his knees against his chest. He wrapped his arms around his legs.
Ambrose pressed his forehead against his knees.
Barbara. Barbara, if you were here. If only you were here. I wish you were here.
Elsie admired Hildreth. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad you found me. I’m so glad you stayed with me through all of my ups and downs.”
He took in all of the fine details of her face. “I’m glad you chose me. I will always be glad that you looked at me and found something good.”
“You are so much good, Hildreth. Don’t you dare believe otherwise or I will punch you.”
He laughed. “You would too.”
Something hard bumped Ambrose’s arm.
He raised his head.
LM’s rigid wing bumped his arm again.
Ambrose contemplated the half-fey sitting next to him.
LM wasn’t plain and he certainly wasn’t ugly. But his face lacked the sweet innocence of Isellta’s expression. There were too many moments of hurt in his eyes, in his expression, in the sound of his voice.
What has he seen in his lifetime? Who hurt him?
The half-fey shuddered and wrapped his arms around his stomach.
“So, you don’t like elevators?”
LM shook his head. “I don’t like the motion. It’s unsettling.”
Ambrose winced as the elevator lurched to a halt at the third floor. “Unsettling is an understatement.”
“mmm.” Hildreth smiled. “I could stay here all day if you asked me to.”
“Jeff’s waiting for me. I need to go to him. Will you come with me?”
Elsie punched his arm, catching him by surprise. “Isn’t that why you’re here?”
“Actually, I’m here because I couldn’t bear to stay away.” He grinned. “From your mom.”
She aimed a punch at his face, which he blocked without any trouble. “Idiot.”
“Love you, Els. Love you like mad.”