“Where are you taking me?” Briar asked as they walked an invisible path. After reporting Mrs. Evans’s murder to her father, Briar had wanted to be anywhere but in a room full of grieving women. As if Dante had heard her mind, or simply read her expression, he had offered an escape.
And so here he was, leading her through the snow away from the loud and smelly streets. He smiled down at her, his fangs no longer visible when his lips parted. “If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
“I’d rather know if I was to be murdered.” Briar wrapped her arms around herself, the winter breeze finding its way through her jacket. “I still got some things I need to cross from my list so I would appreciate a beforehand notice.”
Briar nodded. “I decided to make a list of things I’d like to do in my life before I die. If I accomplish all I can rest with an easy heart, knowing that I have lived the life I wanted to live.”
“What is on the list, if you don’t mind me asking.” Dante raised his brow.
“Mostly the men I still want to kiss.” Briar looked up, her lips parted in a challenging grin.
Dante raised his brow, leaning the slightest bit closer. “Does that include vampires?”
She shrugged, pleased with his response. There were two ways men reacted when she told them about her list; they were either intrigued or disgusted. Dante was one of the men she enjoyed toying with the most. “I can’t say I’ve given it much thought before.”
A sudden blanket of warmth came to lay over her shoulders while two hands pressed against her arms. Briar half expected Dante’s hot breath to fan her face, but she was met with cold instead as he spoke.
“I’d gladly write it down for you,” he whispered into her ear, “and cross it out right after.”
Despite the snow, the wind, his damned cold breath, Dante still managed to turn the skin from her neck to the tip of her ears crimson. His hands squeezed her arms before letting go, continuing on his way as if nothing had happened.
Briar swallowed, unsure what overcame her. She had encountered loads of boys and men, kissed over half of them, and never had they said anything that left her speechless. Or flushed. They were hers to toy with, not the other way around.
“Are you coming?” Dante called over his shoulder, a satisfied grin on his lips. “We’re almost there.”
Realizing she had stopped walking, Briar quickly caught up to him, pulling his coat tighter around her shoulder. “A—Aren’t you cold?”
“Was that a stutter?” Dante glanced back, revealing his own red stained cheeks. “I didn’t take you for someone who stuttered when nervous.”
“I am not nervous!” Briar exclaimed, slapping his arm.
Dante chuckled. “No, my dear Briar, the cold doesn’t affect me, neither does heat.”
“Not even when you blush?” Briar asked, her brows furrowing as her frustration got taken over by curiosity.
Shaking his head, Dante removed his hat. “I feel the rush of blood, but not the heat, and I envy that you do.”
After his hat, his glove followed, and before Briar knew what was happening, Dante placed his freezing palm on her flustered cheek. Briar stood completely still, unable to look away as he came closer. His hat and gloves forgotten on the ground, his right hand joined his left on her skin. A chill ran down her spine, making Dante hum a silent laugh.
“What are you doing?” Briar said, refusing to stutter again.
Dante smiled at her, seemingly lost in thought as his thumb started to stroke the soft skin under her eye, slowly moving down until it reached the corner of her mouth. “Please excuse my boldness, it has been a while since I last touched someone.”
Although Briar did not mind his touch, she did want to get back on him for getting her this bothered by simple words. She would not be humiliated by a simple, cold-blooded vampire.
Clenching her jaw, she took hold of his collar. “Than please excuse my forwardness as well, it has been a while since my last kiss.”
Pulling him down, she forced her lips onto his, but only partly. If she ever were to get a kiss from a vampire, from Dante, then she wanted it to be somewhat special. And she wanted him to initiate it. In a way, she thought it more satisfying when there was a certain level of want for her, a want that couldn’t wait. She would shock him a little, give him a taste of what he could have and then let him work for it.
Pulling away from the corner of his mouth, she smiled at him. His eyes were wide, his lips parted, and that pale skin of his colored with blood that was not his own. Briar petted his cheek, more out of curiosity than anything else, before walking off into the direction they were headed.
“Aren’t you coming?” Looking down at her hand, she wished she hadn’t worn gloves. “And please don’t stutter if you plan on answering, it makes it much harder to understand.”
Even as she let her hand fall back to her side, a victorious grin pulled at the corners of her mouth as his heavy footsteps fell behind her. This was to be a game that she had been eagerly awaiting.
“So this is where you’ve been?” Briar asked as she entered the large home. It was magnificently big, though all the colors in it had faded over the years, leaving dull walls and dust-covered furniture.
As she entered the living room, Briar noticed a desk similar to the one in Dante’s apartment positioned close to an almost empty bookcase. The only other furniture that was uncovered from their white blankets was a couch and an armchair. The chair was placed close to the fire, close enough that it had holes on the cushion from where sparks had burned it.
“It was my brother’s house,” Dante said, following close behind her as he started to unbutton his waistcoat. “He left it to me after he passed.”
Briar sat herself down on the couch. “You had an older brother?”
“Younger.” Dante started the fire up again, a sadness conveyed in his every movement as he poked at the wood. “It is a long story.”
“Oh, there is no need to tell it.” She meant what she said, but she couldn’t deny she was curious.
And Dante somehow knew. As he sat down in the armchair, he tilted his head at her with raised brows. “If I don’t tell it now I will tell it later. There is no chance you will let me not tell you.”
“How about you can ask me something first, then?”
Dante nodded, resting his head on his hand. “Very well.”
“What would you like to know?”
“Your favorite color,” Dante answered, a lazy smile pulling at his lips. “Tell me.”
“You’re serious?” His smile widened as he nodded. “Fine, it’s red.”
Undoing the buttons of her coat, Briar shrugged off the fabric and hung it over the back of the couch. “Ask me something else.”
“Dante . . . ”
An anonymous tip was given to Briar, huh. Clyde rubbed his chin as he watched Mrs. Evans’s body being carried out. It was rather convenient that she was found then, or that anyone even noticed her missing. From what Clyde uncovered on Mrs. Evans he was certain the woman hadn’t had anyone close. Both her husband and her son recently came to pass, meaning she was still in her mourning state. That she hadn’t gone outside for a while now shouldn’t have been noticeable.
Stepping over the broken lamp, Clyde approached Chief Blakewell. “What is it, Chief? Something on your mind?”
“It’s nothing,” Chief Blakewell said, waving his hand as he turned away from the mirror. “Briar would have hated this scene. She is very superstitious when it comes to the dead.”
Clyde glanced back at the mirror, raising his chin at his own reflection. “Is that so?”
Chief Blakewell nodded, taking one last look at the living room before leaving as well. “Mirrors, clocks, all of it makes her uneasy. I’m glad she didn’t join us this time, she has enough on her mind as it is.”
Clyde nodded. “Yes, it was for the better.”
Before Clyde followed behind the Chief, however, he opened one of the doors that had been closed on the other side of the hallway. It looked like a normal study, piles of papers on the desk and bookcases stuffed to the brim lining the wall.
Stepping inside, Clyde confirmed his suspicion as a grandfather clock stood proudly between two bookcases. Though it was not ticking, and the time it had been stopped on was not the time of Mrs. Evans’s death. The clock looked to have been recently winded and taken good care of so it could not have stopped on its own.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Clyde shook his head. Again, Briar had been clever with the anonymous tip, knowing her father would not question her, but it seemed she was becoming arrogant as well.
Though, he thought it funny. Clyde had never thought her the superstitious kind.