Part 1885 – “Shut Up And Listen.”

Elsie pulled into Hildreth’s driveway, but she didn’t shut the car off.

“And here we are.” He leaned towards her and gave her a quick kiss. “I’ll see you later. We are hunting tonight, right?”

“Are you kidding? Do you really think I’ll let you go hunting the night before our wedding?”

“Uhh, yeah?”

“No. Not happening.”

Hildreth frowned as he unbuckled his seatbelt. “So, what? You’re going to hunt alone?”

She tightened her grip on the steering wheel.

“Els? Are you?”

“I want to. It feels wrong not to do it. There are people out there who need our protection. This is our city. We have a responsibility to protect them.”

“But? Wait. There is a But…line about to happen, right? You aren’t going to just leave it unsaid, are you?”

She stared straight ahead at his house.

“Els.” He curved his hand along her face. “Hey. Elsie baby, I’m not doubting your ability to protect yourself. You’ve been a solo hunter all your life. You are a fierce fighting beast. You’re the freaking Marauder. But I don’t want to lose you. I’ve come close far too many times. I can’t lose you now.”

*****

Elsie looked into his eyes.

What if I had loved him like this from the very beginning? What would have happened? Where would we be?

If Ambrose hadn’t….

Ambrose.

Hildreth kissed her again. It was a gentle, loving kiss, but it filled her with that need to grab his hair, his skin, all of him. It stole her breath away.

I should tell him.

Not that it matters. It doesn’t matter. Nothing even happened.

Hildreth released her. “You know, I could easily do this all day.”

“Mmm.”

Besides, he isn’t even questioning it. He trusts me.

But if I don’t say something, his mind will conjure ridiculous scenarios about Ambrose and me getting hot and heavy with each other. I know him. I know how his jealous brain works.

I need to tell him.

Hildreth sighed. “Unfortunately, I can’t. You have things you have to do. I have things—-”

“Nothing happened.”

He lowered his hand. “Huh?”

Elsie unbuckled her seatbelt. “I said, nothing happened.”

“Okay, but that doesn’t clue me into what you mean.”

“When you left me alone with Ambrose.”

He sighed and rolled his head back. “Ugh. I knew that rotten, bug-faced vampire had to sneak into this conversation somehow.”

“Hildreth. Shut up and listen to me. I want you to know this and I want you to know it now. We will not go into our wedding day with this hovering over your head. So, listen.”

He looked at her expectantly.

“He didn’t touch me. He didn’t kiss me or bite me. But there was one small moment where he made a move towards me.”

He tightened his jaw.

She punched his arm.

“Ow! What—-”

“He didn’t do anything. He left me. And I am fine with that.”

“Did you want him to—-”

“No. There was a time when I would have wanted him to do something, anything. There was a time when I would have thrown myself at him as soon as you walked away. But it didn’t happen. Most important of all, I didn’t want it to happen.”

“If he had touched me, if he had kissed me, maybe I would have felt an echo of that old thrill. But I would have been furious with him. For him to do something like that, hours before his own wedding…I would have beaten him up. Barbara does not deserve that kind of betrayal.”

Elsie couldn’t resist touching him. She ran her fingers through his hair. “Neither do you.”

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