Maelin followed Raven’s black licorice and lime scent to the stairwell and up the stairs. She climbed them in steady, calm pursuit.
I will catch up to him when I catch up to him.
She passed the ninth floor.
The tenth floor.
The eleventh floor.
She rounded the corner and nearly tripped over him.
He sat on the third stair up. His face was buried in his hands. His body shook as he cried.
Maelin sat next to him.
What can I say? I can touch him and take away some of his grief. But he needs this. He needs to cry this out.
“I’m here if you need me, Raven.” She resisted the urge to touch him. “I’m here.”
Jeff looked down at Missy.
Her eyes were closed.
Her mouth was closed.
She slept on and on.
I was wrong.
He sighed. “I should have let him enter your mind. Maybe if he did. Maybe.” He took her hand. “Maybe he could have pulled you out. Maybe he could have woke you up. Maybe.”
“You did what you felt was right, Jeff.” Elsie said.
His mouth twitched as he tried not to cry. “Doesn’t mean that I was right.”
My little Tessie, come back to me.
Elsie laid her hand on his back.
He blinked and his tears fell.
“You should have let me beat him up.” Darius said.
“What? While you’re all dressed up in your hospital gown?” Hildreth shook his head. “Bad idea, man. I can just see you flashing us left and right and I don’t like seeing that mental image.”
Arabella grinned at her husband and rattled out a long string of Spanish. She ended it by blowing a kiss at him.
Darius laughed out loud.
“What did she say?” Hildreth asked.
Arabella teasingly bit her lower lip.
“Umm.” Darius looked down at his blanket, but he couldn’t help grinning. “Some things shouldn’t be translated.”
“Huh? Wait. No. You’re right. Don’t explain.”
Darius looked up at her with love.
She traced the outer rim of his ear with her fingertip.
He closed his eyes and sighed.
Hildreth stepped away from the happy couple.
I want to go back to her. I need to go back to her. I can’t stay here a second longer.
“Umm.” Hildreth cleared his throat. “I was going to ask you a question, but I honestly can’t remember what it was. So, I’m going to head back to Tessa’s room. Make sure that Ambrose, Elsie, and Jeff aren’t having a three-way fight to the death.”
I need Elsie in my arms. I need to feel her, kiss her, touch her.
Darius opened his eyes. “Don’t get yourself bitten, Hildreth.”
“I’ll be careful.” Hildreth ran out of the room.
I need her to touch me.