“Happy birthday,” he whispered, kissing the top of her head.
Beth couldn’t hold back her short laugh. “That’s the first thing you’re going to say to me?”
“You got something else in mind?” he asked, the smile audible in his voice.
“How about: ‘Beth, I’m sorry and I promise not to never, ever not come home again, because next time you’ll kick my arse’?” she suggested.
He chuckled. “How about: ‘I love you’?”
She nodded. “Yeah, that’ll do.”
“Good, because, Beth?”
“I love you.”
She smiled. “I love you too.”
Robert didn’t say anything else to her. He did murmur something to Mark, who replied and left, shutting the door behind him.
“Where’s Onyx?” he asked.
“On the sofa, I think, sleeping.”
He stepped back slightly, and then she was being lifted up into his arms. She tried to protest, tried to stop him from picking her up.
“I’m strong enough to carry you, my dearest one,” he whispered in her ear.
After a second or so, she relaxed, letting her head fall against his chest. She could hear his heart beating strongly and found it hard to believe that it had stopped twice the day before. She clutched onto his arm to reassure herself he was real. He kissed her, knowing what she was thinking. She relaxed again as Robert carried her upstairs and into their bedroom.
After he lay her down on the bed and kissed her again, he left the room. She heard him wake Onyx up, and then heard them talking quietly. There was a quiet whoosh and she knew that Onyx had left.
Robert came back and shut the door. He lay down next to her. They were both lying on their sides, simply staring at each other without touching, without talking.
Eventually, Beth said, “What happened?”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I was attacked and hurt very badly, Mark turned up and took me where I needed to go, where things went from bad to worse until sometime last night. That’s all you need to know.”
“Onyx said your heart crashed. Twice, and that they’d operated on most of your internal organs.”
“They were good with their blades,” he murmured.
“Who, the vampires or the surgeons?”
He smiled faintly. “Both. All better now. Just a bit drowsy from all the anaesthesia and a bit achy from the surgery. The internal stitched should dissolve in the next few hours.”
“What would have happened if Mark hadn’t been there?” Beth asked quietly.
“I probably would have been taken to a human hospital and treated with the wrong equipment, the wrong dosages and the wrong machinery. I’m sure they would have found my heart a wonder though.”
“Crocodilians can close certain valves of their heart. So can vampires. But vampires also have a fifth chamber, in the middle. No one’s quite sure why yet.”
“That’s interesting. Now, shut up,” she commanded softly. He smiled and did as she said. “Should I stay off today? So I’m here if you need me?”