Peeking through the blinds, Clyde watched as Briar and Rena were deep in discussion as they left. Clyde scoffed, letting the blinds fall back into place. Stalking back to his desk, he sat down while running a hand through his now disheveled mess of hair. Lowering his hand again, he flexed his fingers as he stared at his palm.
Why had he grabbed her?
His fingers still tingled with the sensation of her touch. Rena’s skin had been so soft, so warm, so comforting. Tracing the lines of his palm, Clyde went over yesterday’s event once more. He couldn’t wrap his head around what went wrong, nor why he cared so much about it.
It was no lie when he told her he didn’t want to be alone with his thoughts. He had surprised himself by admitting it, but for whatever reason, the words had passed his lips with ease. When was the last time he felt he could confide his feelings with another person?
But it didn’t matter. Clyde sighed, resting his forehead in his hands. Look where it got him. He took a woman he barely knew to his favorite pasty shop and all it got him was judgmental stared from those present. It would take at least a week before he could return.
A knock on his office door broke through his thoughts, causing him to groan. “Yes?”
Clyde didn’t look up as the door opened, nor when the person entered. Rubbing his forehead, he readied himself to dismiss the person who had entered the moment they were done speaking when their voice caught him off guard.
His head shot up, his eyes wide as they met Rena’s. “Oh, yes?”
She looked down at her skirt, fiddling with the lace of her bodice. Briar stood under the doorframe, arms crossed with a warning glare. As Rena took a deep breath, his gaze returned to her.
“I want to apologize for my behavior yesterday,” she said, looking anywhere but at him. “I get easily embarrassed, and although it is no excuse, I hope you can understand that combined with the funeral things got too much for me.”
Clyde leaned back, a weight lifting off his shoulders that he was unaware of carrying. “It’s quite alright,” he said, “I was at fault too, I shouldn’t have treated you so casually knowing you had a lot on your mind.”
Rena smiled, and his heart skipped a beat. “Thank you for understanding, perhaps we can do it again some time under better circumstances.”
“Of course.” Clyde nodded. “That would be nice.”
“I’ll see you around then, Clyde.” With a tiny wave, she turned back to Briar and together they left.
A long breath left his chest as a grin spread across his face. It was obvious Briar forced her to apologize, but he couldn’t help the relief that filled his body. She didn’t hate him, and the thought made him happier than it should. Why did he care so much about what she thought of him?
Why did he even approach her yesterday? He could have easily walked around her, easily have gone unnoticed by her. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t let her walk by. Her behavior on the first day they met had intrigued him, and he wanted to see her like that again.
Again, it was not a lie that he didn’t like the sight of an upset woman. Perhaps it was a bit of a twisted version of the truth, but it didn’t make it any less true that the sight of her with tears in her eyes displeased him.
Rubbing his thumb over the palm of his hand, he couldn’t stop smiling, remembering her touch even clearer now. Perhaps he could take her to the sweets shop around the corner. Didn’t they have a new candy added recently? He wondered what she would like, if she was more of the harder candy or preferred fudge and chocolate like him.
Movement caught his attention, and as he looked up he saw one of the new recruits staring back at him. Clearing his throat, he wiped the smile from his face as he stood.
“Piss off,” he called before slamming the door shut.
“That wasn’t too bad, now was it?” Briar said as she nudged Rena’s shoulder. “You got him wrapped around your finger.”
Rena shook her head, humming her displeasure with the situation. “Wrapping men around your finger is your thing, Briar, I don’t want to be involved in any of that.”
“Do you not like Clyde?”
“No,” she answered noticeably quick. “No, I do not like him. He is odd, a tease, and not even that good looking.”
Briar laughed, nodding at the coachman as he held the carriage door open for them. “Then look at it this way; you can have him do whatever you please if you simply lead him on a bit. He could pull a few strings for you, and he won’t question us when he is too caught up in your eyes. It is far easier to get him off our backs this way.”
Rena sighed as she sat down across from Briar. “I don’t know if I can do that. He is a strange man, but he doesn’t deserve to be lead on.”
The carriage started to move, the clipping of the horses’ hooves falling into their familiar pattern. Briar smiled mischievously at Rena, too pleased with this outcome. Not even in her wildest dreams could she have imagined this advantage to unfold.
“Then what was that invitation back there?” she asked, watching as her cheeks reddened.
“I only wished to repay him, is all.”
Briar hummed. “Give him a kiss while you’re at it.”
Waving her hand, Briar laughed as Rena hit her arm. “I’m joking, Rena, calm down.”
Briar had to admit she was surprised when Rena mentioned her little adventure to the pastry store with Clyde. Rena, the little girl who would rather watch and observe than play along, going to a store with a man she couldn’t remember the name of. If only Jane could see it, she would have been equally amazed.
Only they knew Rena as someone who spoke her mind. Whenever she was alone, she turned into a completely different person. Jane and Briar made her brave, daring, because they were that way. Though on her own, Rena was quite reserved, and Briar didn’t want that for her. She deeply cherished the bold Rena she came to know and love, and she feared that with Jane gone Rena would retreat back to her shell.
And although she didn’t like Clyde either, she had a feeling that he could help her as well.
Besides, any man with an idiotic grin like his couldn’t be that bad. Briar had seen that look often enough to know Rena had dug herself a deeper hole than she had intended to.
“But I’m serious,” Briar continued. “This could be the perfect opportunity to continue our own investigation without having to worry about Clyde. He already knows we got Dante under our wing and he won’t let anything escape him.”
Rena opened her mouth but closed it again with a frown. “If Clyde is certain that Dante is our killer, then why hasn’t he forced us to give his location after Mrs. Evans’s murder?”
Briar mimicked her frown. “He has been quite lenient on the matter.”
“Do you think he has his own doubts?”
“We did show him the supposed killer’s hat,” Briar said, voicing her thoughts. “He was at the crime scene and he did know of our suspicion of a witness before Mrs. Evans was murdered, it would be odd if he continued to blame Dante for things that don’t add up. He is a detective after all, unlike my father he can’t ignore certain facts.”
“You said he wanted to talk with you before I came him, what did he ask for?”
“What my observations were of the crime scene. I only told him of the single puncture, but it should be enough, especially since he must have seen it as well.”
Rena pressed his lips into a thin line as she looked out the carriage window. “Can we trust him?”
“We’ll have to wait and see, but until we are certain it is best not to let go of too much information.”
Sighing, Rena shook her head, holding back a smile. “Then I suppose I got to keep an eye on him, don’t I?”
Briar chuckled, nodding her head. “That would be for the best, yes.”
“And you’ll keep a close eye on Dante, correct?”
Her lips once again turned into a mischievous grin. “Yes, yes I will.”