As the nurse left the room, Jeff returned to Missy’s side. “Tessie. Right now, all that I want, all that I really want is for you to wake up. Open your eyes, sweetie. Look at me. I’m still here.”
He thought about Laura.
He ached for her.
“I know.” He sighed. “I know I’m not easy. I know I’m difficult. I’m stubborn. I’m nothing like how your mother was. I guess I could blame years of training, years of hunting, years of facing death every night. Staring death in the face and never knowing whose face it would finally be. Maybe it would be a stranger. Maybe a friend. Maybe even someone I loved.”
He took her hand again. “Am I stupid for wanting to run back into that life? Am I being selfish, chasing after danger and glory? Am I wrong? Should I refuse to do it? Is that what you would want? Tell me, Tessa. It’s all up to you. I know what I want, but if you want different. If you want me to stay safe and retired, I will. I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever it takes to make you happy. Just tell me. Say it. Say it. Say yes. Say no. Open your eyes, baby. Look at me. I’m here. My Tessa. I’m here.”
Missy squeezed his hand.
He let out a sharp cry. “Tessa?”
Her eyes moved restlessly under her eyelids as if she were dreaming.
“Tessa. Open your eyes. I’m here.” He kissed her hand. “I’m here, baby. I’m here.”
Raven waded through the darkness of a dream. “If I keep walking, I will find her.”
“Who are you looking for, James?” asked Miss Farlington’s disembodied voice.
“Missy. I am searching for Missy.”
“Do you really think you will find her in the dark, James?”
“Do not call me James. It is inappropriate. You ought to call me Arden.”
“We are not in the real world here, James. There are no rules. No strictures. No servants. No master. No society to please.” She appeared in front of him. “Here we are free.”
“I am aware of that.” He started to reach for her face, but pulled his hand back. “Yet, I am searching for Miss Teresa Farsigh. I will find her. I will bring her back.”
“She is not here, James. You know she is not here. Only I am here, as I have been for a great many years.”
“That may be so, Miss Farlington. But things have changed. I have changed. I have let you go and I have moved onward. You do not own me. You no longer possess me.” Raven held his head higher. “Here I am free.”
She disappeared and Missy stood in her place. “Raven!” She smiled so wide it hurt his heart. “My pretty shirtless Raven!”
“Missy!” He ran to her. “MISSY!” He reached for her with a lover’s desperation.
“Raven!” She disappeared before he could touch her.
And he was alone in the darkness.
Raven opened his eyes, just as Jeff cried out, “Tessa!” He stumbled up to his feet and rushed over to the bed.
“Tessa. Open your eyes. I’m here.” Jeff kissed her hand. “I’m here, baby. I’m here.”
“Wha? What? What?” The vampire grabbed the bed rail to steady himself. “Missy? Wha?”
Jeff looked at him with shiny-eyed happiness. “Raven, she grabbed my hand and she’s still holding onto it. Look!”
He looked down at their hands. Sure enough, she was holding on to her father’s hand as tight as she could. “Oh! Oh, Missy. My lovely, wild Missy!”
You are here.
Raven reached over the rail and stroked the side of her face.
You are right here, my Missy, and I am here. I am here, waiting for you to wake.