The drive to the cliff overlooking the city was very familiar. The side streets, the buildings, the placement of the stop lights and stop signs. All of the stupid little details that only people familiar with the city would notice.
It was like going home.
Ambrose clenched and unclenched his fists.
If he has Robin…What if he has Robin? I can’t go inside. Caten uninvited me. I can’t go inside.
Barbara would have to go inside alone. I don’t know what I would do. I can’t tell her not to. I can’t leave him here. But I can’t go inside. Only she can.
His shivering worsened as Barbara left the city behind her and drove up the cliff’s winding drive.
I can’t crumble. I have to stay strong. I need to keep it together. I need my wits. I need to be smart. I need to—
She drove around the first full loop.
—to be on the lookout for any tricks or lies, whether I wind up talking to Caten or Preyuna. Need to stay alert so I can protect Barbara. I will NOT let Caten or any of his cronies touch her.
She drove around the second loop.
Ambrose shivered so hard his teeth bumped each other. He clenched his teeth and tried to rein in his fear.
I cannot let him see me as weak. He’ll exploit it, as he always does. I must be strong. I can’t let him see my fear. He’ll see it. He’ll know.
One last loop.
Ambrose wanted to just crumple and hide in the backseat. Then, he thought about Caten. He saw that odious smirk. He remembered Caten stealing Maria from him, threatening Elsie, leaving him to suffer in that display.
His hands went still.
She reached the top of the cliff.
Ambrose raised his gaze and fixed it on the imposing mansion. Nothing had changed. It still stood alone on the cliff’s surface. No trees to soften its presence or to make it more approachable. Nothing to hide behind. It stood there — solid, strong, and solitary — like something that had fallen out of the sky and luckily landed right side up. Or like an elaborate prison.
Barbara parked near the building. She turned and looked at him. “Well? Are you ready to do this?”
He kept his gaze on the mansion as if it were an enemy he couldn’t chance to look away from. A million different memories played in his mind.
Walking to the front door.
“If it isn’t my favorite pet vampire! Hello, Ambrosia.”
Washing the gore off his hands. It was nothing. Just a job.
“Make sure he suffers. Make sure he screams and bleeds, Ambrosia.”
Just another day. Just another job. Just more blood to rinse away.
“Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Of course, you’ll do it.”
The blood was under his fingernails and toenails.
“I have another job for you.”
The blood was on his upper eyelid and trickling down his face.
Ambrose curled his hands into tight fists.
“You were keeping her here in an unnatural state, Ambrosia. I did her a favor and let her go.”
Barbara rested her hand on his leg. The touch of her hand banished all of those memories without her needing to do anything more. “Are you all right?”
She rubbed his leg in a comforting gesture. “You sure?”
He smiled. “With you touching me like that?” He leaned toward her and kissed her. “My love, I am perfect. Let’s do this.”