That vampire has probably slept with Barbara by now.
Has that occurred to Elsie? Is she secretly thinking about it and obsessing over it? Is she wishing that he was with her instead?
“Hildreth? You okay? You’re being quiet.”
Is that question even worth asking? After everything we just said, does that question even matter?
“Yeah, I’m good. Got a little lost in my thoughts. But—” He chuckled. “—that shouldn’t be too big of a surprise. You know me.”
“I do.” She paused. “You’re thinking about Ambrose again, aren’t you?”
Whaaaa? How does she do that?
“Uh, why would I do that? He ain’t my ex.”
He watched his targeting dummies race about in erratic patterns.
“Talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. If you’re having second thoughts about this—”
“No!” He pressed a couple of buttons on the control panel. The dummies stopped their erratic behavior and glided back to their spaces along the wall. “Els, I hate to ask this question. It’s a stupid question. It’s.”
“What? What is it?”
“I want to know the full truth.” He went over to the table where he’d left his Bossman 550. He opened the back of the weapon with one hand. “At this point in time, like, you know, right now, Ambrose is married.”
Elsie said nothing to that.
He reset the hammer plates. “I’m sure he and Barbara have already, you know, consummated the deal.”
He stopped. “Don’t get mad at me. I just want to know. I want to know the full truth. Are you sorry?”
“Sorry for what?”
“Sorry that you let him go. Sorry that he slipped out of your fingers. Sorry that he proposed to her, not you. Sorry that he married her, not you. Sorry that he slept with her. Not you.”
There was a long pause on her end of the line. “I’m tired. I’m going back to bed.”
“Els. Please. I know it’s a stupid question. I know it’s a pain and it’s annoying that I keep asking you these kind of questions. I know it sounds like I’m doubting you. But. Els, I just want to know. I want to enter our marriage tomorrow without any lingering doubts.”
“Why do you keep doubting me? I made only one mistake. Only one. I have done nothing else to regret. I haven’t—”
“Els, please. For my own peace of mind, just tell me.”
“You idiot. You sublime stupid idiot.”
“I know I am. I’m sorry.”
She exhaled loudly into the phone. “No, I’m not sorry. And, for your information, Mr. Mayhew, Ambrose Smith did not slip out of my fingers. I deliberately dropped him on the floor and kicked him into the trash.”
He couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Such a wonderful mental image.”
“I wholeheartedly rejected him. Yes, there was a time when the thought of him sleeping with Barbara or any other woman would have made my blood boil. I would have broken my knuckles trying to pound out all of my frustrations. But that was a long time ago. It was not yesterday. It was not at any point today. It is not any future date or time. That time is gone.”
“So, it doesn’t bother you?”
“When we get together, you won’t wonder how it would have been if—”
“Stop it. I don’t love Ambrose. I don’t know why I need to keep repeating this. I don’t love him. I don’t want him. I certainly don’t want to sleep with a filthy vampire. A filthy vampire who, I might add, tried to kill me.”
Her voice gentled as she continued. “You would never hurt me or kill me. I have no doubts about you, Hildreth. I feel safe when I’m in your arms, when I’m out patrolling with you. I feel like everything will fall into place and be okay just because you’re with me. I never felt that way with him. With him, I was never the most important thing in his life. Sleep and blood always ranked higher in his mind. I was always bottom last. Hildreth, you make me feel like I’m worth diamonds and tiaras and elaborate gowns.”
He scratched the back of his head. “I make you feel like Miss America?”
She laughed. “Idiot. You make me feel like a princess.”
“Yes! A warrior princess.”
“Not quite where I was going with that, but okay. Hildreth, what more can I say?”
He smiled. “Tell me to come to you. I’ll run. Elsie, I’ll run to you as fast as I can.”
“I would normally take you up on that offer, but no. You are staying home, young man. No going out on the streets for you.”
“What if I drive? That doesn’t count as going out on the streets.”
“It counts enough. You could get into an accident. Stay home and I’ll stay home too.”
“And together we can both pine and imagine sweet sweet lusty thoughts about each other.”
She laughed. “Of course.”