“You’re positive he’ll be here?” Rena asked, fiddling with her gloves before rubbing her arms.
Briar nodded, her eyes scanning the park once more. “He needs to know what we know.”
Sighing, Rena turned her eyes to the Serpentine which was covered in a thin layer of ice. Dante was leaning against one of the trees not far from them, checking whether his bowl hat covered all his hair in case anyone passed by them.
The snow didn’t look as pretty as it had been when it first fell, and Rena wondered why it so accurately represented her relationship with Clyde. Although the day had ended poorly, Rena did enjoy herself. She loved tasting the different sweets Mr. Price had to offer and how Clyde interacted with him. He was genuinely happy, and his grin, that damned overjoyed grin when she liked his favorite sweet, it plagued her mind during the day and in her dreams.
Rena purposely kept her gaze away from the snowdrops that grew close to Dante’s feet.
“Did he mention me?” she asked Briar.
“He did,” Briar said but didn’t elaborate. Before Rena could ask more, the said Devil appeared in the distance. Briar noticed him as well. She turned to Rena. “If you like you can still leave.”
Though hesitant, Rena shook her head and stayed where she was. She had to face him eventually.
As he came closer, Dante pushed himself from the tree and joined the two of them closer to the lake, nodding his head. Clyde did so in return, not saying a single word to any, simply waiting for them to speak. Though, his eyes seemed to avoid Rena’s.
“Clyde Graveward, glad to see you decided to show up,” Dante said after another moment of silence. His eyes narrowed but he didn’t inquire any further.
“Dante.” Clyde shoved his hands in his pocket, turning to him fully. “You look quite well since our first encounter on the train, should I be worried?”
“You know about the appearance changing thing?” Rena asked, momentarily her troubles forgotten.
Clyde refrained from meeting her gaze even as he spoke. “Vampires are more common in Bristol. The hunters like to keep the citizens informed, unlike those in London who believe vampires like Dante to be dangerous.”
“Weren’t you from Wales?” Briar asked.
“Alright then, I suppose I should come clean now that you’re all here.” Clyde sighed, crossing his arms. “The reason I am here in the first place and why I am certain that Dante is innocent is because I am a vampire hunter myself. Your suspicion was correct, a clan that originated in Bristol has traveled to London and I went undercover to catch them, though I have had no luck as of yet.” He turned to Briar. “You were right, I have no leads to work from and I need your help to stop them before this gets out of hand.”
Rena stared at him, her eyes wide. That was not quite what she expected, and it seemed neither was it the case for Dante and Briar. Dante even took a step back at the word hunter.
Though shocked at first, Briar didn’t seem convinced. “Why not tell me yesterday?”
“I had to think it over,” Clyde answered. “I had to weigh the pros and cons of telling you, this is a very serious matter and I can’t have everyone know.”
His eyes briefly shot to Rena, the words he didn’t say clear in that small movement.
“A hunter?” Dante questioned. “Are they out of options that they recruited such a young one?”
The corner of Clyde’s mouth lifted ever so slightly. “I’ve been trained since birth to hunt down and kill any vampire that crosses my path.”
Dante scoffed. “And I see you are quite good at it.”
“That’s enough,” Briar said, raising her hand before Clyde could make another remark. “What is it you need from us?”
Clyde rubbed his chin. “What is it you know of this clan?”
Dante opened his mouth, but Briar spoke before he had the chance. “Not much, only that Dante used to be part of it. We were debating whether we should patrol the streets to see if Dante recognizes anyone.”
“It’s an idea, but not a very practical one. A city this big is easy to hide in, they could be anywhere.”
Rena took hold of his arm, forcing his eyes on her. “That’s why we need you, Clyde, you must have figured out something about their whereabouts.”
He didn’t respond immediately, holding her gaze instead. She couldn’t read his expression and neither could she look away. What was it with this man?
As his name fell from her lips, he glanced at them before breaking away. “I might have some useful information. Chief Blakewell and I interviewed some of the citizens close to the last victim’s murder scene, two of them noticed a figure appear from out the alley and head down the street. They didn’t take a carriage so it could be that they are still in the area.”
Nodding, Briar glanced down the path. “That is a start, for now, let’s meet again later this evening.”
Rena took a step back, releasing his arm as she returned to Briar’s side.
Dante took out a small card from his pocket and handed it to Clyde. “Don’t lose it.”
“I’ll protect it with my life,” Clyde said before pocketing it and tipping his hat. “It was a pleasure as discussing crime always is. Have a good day and until tonight.”
As Clyde walked off, he passed the snowdrops, and Rena thought she saw him pause for a second as he did before continuing on. Not wanting to think of Clyde any longer, she turned to Briar and Dante. She was surprised to find Briar’s brows furrowed.
“What is it?”
Briar looked up, first at Rena than at Dante. “He was lying about who he was.”
“That was quite obvious,” Dante joked.
Briar shook her head. “No, this was too easy, he told us too easily that was a hunter.”
Now that Rena thought about it, it did seem more like a made-up story than a real one. At least, the way he conveyed it was a bit odd. Considering how little he told them before, it did seem strange that he would reveal all of it now.
“I wasn’t sure if I should mention this,” Dante said, catching both their attention, “but halfway through our conversation his breath stopped showing.”
“His breath?” Rena said, exhaling the words simultaneously to make sure she was still seeing her own. She did. And so did Briar’s. The only other person who’s breath wasn’t showing was Dante’s. “Could it be that . . .”
“Clyde is a vampire,” Briar finished for her. “But how?”
“We can’t be certain,” Rena quickly added. “Perhaps it was a trick of the light? Or the temperature rose for a split second without us noticing?”
She knew better than anyone that it wasn’t likely, but she simply didn’t want it to be true. The coldness of his touch suddenly made a lot more sense, though she still passed it off as a coincidence in her mind. Why she wanted this to not be true so badly she wasn’t quite sure. She shouldn’t care. It shouldn’t matter. It should make her happy that this could potentially take her a step closer to Jane’s killer.
“We can test it,” Dante suggested. “Press a silver spoon to his skin, feel his pulse, touch his skin as he blushes, there are more ways than one.”
“We can’t accuse him of anything if we have no evidence.” Briar looked at the direction Clyde had long since disappeared in. “Though all these things must be done in close proximity.”
Her gaze then turned to Rena, followed by Dante’s eyes as well. Rena raised her hands in protest, but Briar took them before she could even voice it.
“I know you don’t like him, but this a quite important,” Briar said, squeezing her hands. “Rena, this could mean that Clyde is deeper involved than we thought, he could be our killer even.”
Rena shook her head repeatedly. “Briar I can’t do it, I can’t get close to him again.”
Dante took a step closer. “Briar’s right, you’ll be the only one to get close. I doubt he will touch anything that might contain traces of iron and silver on his own, you have to get either a pulse or—”
He cut himself off, clearing his throat as a flush crept up his neck. Briar turned to look at him as well, her brows raised. “Or what?”
“Well,” Dante mumbled, clearing his throat again, “vampires don’t generate any body heat, meaning that our insides are equally as cold as our skin, which is the inside of the mouth as well. So you could, potentially, kiss him to figure it out.”
Briar’s eyes widened. “Oh.”
“No,” Rena quickly followed, “no, I will not be kissing Clyde.”
“Oh?” Briar turned back to her. “Why not? That would be the most enjoyable way.”
“Briar, I’m not like you.”
“But this is perfect,” Briar said. “Clyde really cares about you. If you flirt just a little he’ll give in without a doubt.”
Rena bit her lip. She tried to imagine it, his eyes half-lidded, his nose brushing hers, his lips a breath away . . .
Her cheeks started to heat up at the thought alone.
“I’ll check his pulse,” Rena said, crossing her arms, “and that is final.”