“What did you discover regarding the newest victim?” Rena asked Briar before taking a sip of her steaming tea.
Briar tapped her spoon on the side up her cup before placing it back down. “It wasn’t the same killer as the one who had attacked Jane and Mrs. Evans, this one had two fangs.”
“I thought so,” Rena mused. “So it is true, then? A clan has entered London and is feasting on its inhabitance?”
Briar glanced at the top hat that sat on her dresser. “I’m afraid that is the case, yes.” Looking back at her cup, she took her first sip. “Did you get a chance to ask Clyde about Dante?”
When Rena didn’t answer immediately, Briar raised her brow. Rena’s thumb rubbed the rim of her cup, holding it close to her lips but not drinking from it.
“Only briefly,” she said eventually. “He got . . . upset after I asked him, though.”
“Why did he get upset?”
Rena shrugged. “He thought it meant more than it did.”
“Than what did?” Briar’s frown only deepened. “Did he think—”
Briar’s eyes widened as Rena cut her off with a nod. “He was quite serious about it, apparently, and I broke his heart.”
“He barely knows you.” Briar set down her cup, folding her hands over her skirt. “After the little interactions you shared, how could he have expected something more from you in a situation like this?”
Rena sighed, lowering her cup. “I don’t know.”
“Did he say that specifically? That you broke his heart?”
She shook her head. “No, he said that he was sorry for not realizing we weren’t on the same page.”
Briar bit her lip, thinking the words over. She liked to believe she had broken many hearts, but none of the men she had been with she had known long enough to capture their hearts in the first place. Though she had gotten enough of them accusing her of such a thing, a few days was hardly enough to form a true connection.
But Clyde’s confession wasn’t like one she had heard before. Perhaps Rena was the first he pursued seriously, and therefore was disappointed when his efforts seemed to have gone to waste. However, Briar was quite certain it hadn’t been a waste. Rena was simply harder to charm than any other woman. He would realize that soon enough.
“Did I lead him on?” Rena asked, bringing her attention back to the conversation.
Briar shook her head. “No, he was wrong to expect you to forget about current matters completely simply because you were with him.” Picking her cup back up, she took another sip. “But I think he will realize that himself if he truly wishes to woo you.”
“I’m fairly certain he was about to cry.”
Briar choked on her tea, coughing loudly as she tried to regain the ability to breathe. “He was about to what?”
Rena patted her back, a light laugh escaping her throat from Briar’s reaction. “He got teary-eyed just before he walked off.”
“Clyde?” Briar asked in disbelief. “Clyde Graveward? Detective Clyde Graveward?”
Nodding, Rena sat back in her chair. “Yes, that Clyde Graveward, the same one I couldn’t remember the name of at first, which I wished still was the case.”
“What exactly did you say to him?”
“That I couldn’t understand how he expected me to forget about Jane when I was with him.” Her attention returned to her cup. “And that I was sorry I could be who he wanted.”
“That’s not that harsh.” Briar scoffed. “A man’s ego is so fragile these days.”
“I suppose so.” Rena took a deep breath. “But I did get to ask him about Dante.”
“He knows Dante is innocent,” she said, “and the only reason he said nothing was because he wanted to get this job. I’m not sure if he will help us, though.”
Briar furrowed her brow. “That’s absurd. Would he really let his personal feelings get in the way?”
“No, you’re right, he would not.” Rena took another sip of her tea, her thoughts visible in the lines of her face. “I’m a bit unsure of what to do now, what to say the next time I see him.”
Briar hummed. Although she couldn’t say she dealt with a similar problem before, she knew this wasn’t an easy task. If there was an option that involved never speaking with Clyde again, she would have suggested it. Sadly enough, that was not the case, and unless Rena distanced herself from it, she would have to work with Clyde if they wished to bring Jane’s murderer to justice.
Briar lightly knocked onto Clyde’s office door, not waiting for him to grant her permission to enter. He was looking over some paperwork, rubbing his temple. When he glanced up at her he sighed before returning to the document he was reading, grumbling something under his breath she couldn’t hear. He wasn’t wearing either of his gloves today.
A map on the wall caught her attention as she waited. Or rather, how messily it had been hung onto the wall that was previously empty. Briar took a few steps closer, tilting her head at the peculiar angle. It was obvious Clyde wanted to hide something, and it wasn’t hard to guess what. Moving aside one of the corners, Briar found exactly what she expected.
“My father will not be pleased when he finds this,” she said, turning back to Clyde. “Damaging police property is a rather serious crime.”
Clyde sighed again, this time louder and deeper as he placed the document on his desk. “What is it you want, Miss Blakewell?”
“I spoke with Rena,” she said, his jaw visibly clenching, “and she told me how you believed Dante was innocent. I’m here to discuss your part in all this.”
“My part is none of your business.” Clyde laced his fingers together, the motion causing the cuff of his blouse to shift.
Briar took a step closer, her brows furrowing as she noticed the bandage that wrapped around his wrist. “Are you hurt?”
Following her gaze, he raised his left arm, tugging the cuff back in place. “I sprained my wrist when I hit the wall.”
“Got what you deserved, then.” Briar sat down in the chair across from him, making it clear this conversation was far from over and she had no plans of leaving anytime soon. “Now, about Dante.”
“What is it you want me to do?” Clyde asked, sitting back in his seat as he continued to rub his forehead. “Join your little amateur investigation? Please, I would have more luck figuring this out on my own, you’ll only hold me back.”
“What lead do you have?”
Clyde met her gaze and she raised her brow in return. “The two attacks were from separate vampires, though I believe they are a team, having arrived both with the same train we took.”
“Have you perhaps seen a man with Dante?” Briar asked, not listening to a single word he was saying. He was presenting a theory he barely believed in himself and it was rather clear considering the uncertainty he spoke with. “He was dressed in all black, wearing the top hat we showed you last week.”
“Did you see his face?”
She shook her head. “No, he hid it from me as he walked by.”
“Then it could be anyone,” he said, shifting in his seat. “And even if I did see him, I wouldn’t have seen him with Dante. My only encountered with Dante was at the murder scene.”
Briar bit the inside of her cheek, debating whether or not she should tell Clyde of the clan. She had no reason to tell him. He was untruthful to her so why should she treat him differently? Though, she couldn’t deny that she needed his help. He had his resources, and if he was able to hide the fact that he was purposely steering her father away from Dante till now than she couldn’t risk having him change his mind.
Even if the didn’t like it, Briar gave in. “We think it’s a vampire clan that is terrorizing London.”
“A clan?” Clyde leaned forward as his interest was sparked. “Which clan?”
“One from Bristol,” Briar said, realizing Dante never gave her the name of the clan. Though, they might not have one. “They have a connection to Dante and knew of his reputation in London, knowing that would make him the perfect decoy as well.”
“I see,” Clyde muttered. “How did you get to this conclusion? It is rather farfetched considering that vampires rarely stay in large cities, let alone a whole clan.”
Briar opened her mouth but shut it again when she thought of something better to say. “Why don’t you have a chat with us if you’re so curious, we could tell you all that we know and in return, you do the same. And perhaps then we can finally start working together.”
“I’m not interested in your theory,” he said with a scoff, waving a dismissive hand. “It simply amused me how you got to such an idiotic idea.”
Briar raised a brow. “That is rich coming from the man who has no lead.”
“I have a lead.” Clyde tapped the document he had been reading. “And unlike you, I am doing proper research on the matter. Now, if you could excuse me, I got to get back to work.”
“Rena did tell me more than just that,” Briar said, making no move to indicate her leave. “It made me curious about your intentions. You see, I’m not just here for Dante. I’d like to know if my other best friend won’t get murdered either.”
Clyde visibly tensed, causing Briar to smile ever so slightly. The fool was hopeless when it came to Rena, and she quite enjoyed holding that over his head. Though, before she could let things escalate, she needed to know what his intentions truly were before she let him anywhere close to Rena’s heart.
“Am I a suspect now?”
Briar raised her brow in confusion. “No, unless you plan on breaking her.”
A barely audible breath left as his shoulders released some of the tension, which Briar thought odd.
“I have no interest in Miss Prescott any longer,” Clyde said, his knuckles turning white as he held his own wrist, proving quite the opposite of his words. “She made it quite clear she had no interest in me either.”
“Only because you were rude.”
“I was a true gentleman the entire day.” Clyde shot her a glare.
Briar returned her own, straightening her back as she leaned forward. “You asked her to forget about her murdered friend and to think of you instead. I don’t know how you perceive this but to me, it sounds rather selfish and arrogant.”
His glare did not change, though his jaw continued to clench. “That’s what I am, selfish and arrogant, and if she can’t handle it then there is no reason for me to pursue her any longer.”
The confession didn’t sound right in Briar’s ears. It might be true to some degree, but he wouldn’t have walked off hurt if there wasn’t something else. His wall of defense became as clear as day.
“Why did you want to pursue her in the first place?”
Slowly, he released his wrist, instead hiding his right hand behind his left elbow. “She is pretty, nothing more.”
“You have said so many lies already,” Briar said with a sigh, shaking her head. “Can’t you at least let me in on one truth?”
His protest got lost in his throat as Briar gave him a knowing look. “Fine, I enjoy the way she reacts when I tease her, and the way she smiles.” Clyde let his head fall, releasing a long breath. “I just wished for her to smile, to be the reason she smiled.”
Satisfied, for now, Briar stood. “That wasn’t too hard, was it?”
Clyde didn’t raise his head. “Don’t tell her.”
“I won’t.” She started to the door. “You’ll get to tell her yourself. Just . . . have a little more patience with her, you are the first to ever pursue her, don’t ruin it.” Before she left, Briar turned back one last time. “We’ll be at Hyde Park tomorrow morning, don’t be late.”