With her heart in her throat, Briar tumbled onto the front steps, banging her fist on Rena’s family home’s front door. When the lady’s maid opened, curse ready on her thin lips, Briar almost hit Mrs. Edwardson on the nose.
“Where’s Rena?” Briar asked before Mrs. Edwardson could speak. She gripped the doorframe, looking behind the maid. “I need to speak with her immediately.”
“Mr—Mr. Graveward escorted her to the station an hour prior,” Mrs. Edwardson said, the surprise clear in her voice.
Briar cursed as she turned away, ignoring Mrs. Edwardson scolding as she ran down the steps and to the station. Her fingers dug into the fabric of her skirt, shaking.
Her mind was racing, spinning, unable to stop. First Jane, then Dante, now Rena . . . No, she couldn’t lose anyone else. She couldn’t. The rational part of her knew that Dante wasn’t gone completely. He was a vampire, he had to be somewhere. But even if he was alive he was gone, and if Rena were to end up dead as well he wouldn’t be there to hold her up.
Hell, she needed him to hold her up now.
Shoving herself into the station, she immediately marched to Clyde’s office. If she could find Rena that wouldn’t be needed. If only Rena was beside her she could see things clearly again. She might have seen the trap if that were the case.
As she stood in the middle of Clyde’s office, her chest heaving with each breath, she heard the click of the closing door before anything else. When she turned, Clyde leaned against it, hands in his pockets, his eyes unreadable.
“So close,” he whispered. “We were so close to having this all go under without a single hitch.”
Briar swallowed, searching the room for anything she could use to defend herself. She had to have taken something with her from home. Stupid.
“Where’s Rena?” she asked, standing her ground. “What did you do to her?”
Feigning innocence, he cocked his head to the side. “What are you talking about, Miss Blakewell? Is she not at home?”
Clyde pushed away from the door, taking a long stride closer to her. Digging her heels into the ground, she willed herself to stay where she was. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of showing her fear.
“I know what you’ve done,” Briar hissed, “who you are.”
“About time.” Though his lips formed a grin, it did not meet his eyes. Something flashed across them, a far cry from the mask he was putting on, but it was gone in a second. Briar did not dwell on it, hardening her glare instead.
“What did you do to Rena?” she asked again.
He leaned forward until his gaze met hers directly. “I would never hurt her.”
As much as she wanted to call out his lie, the words died on her tongue. Because it wasn’t one. His face was like stone, the grin gone, completely unreadable except for the honesty in his eyes. They did not waver from hers, not even blink, until he was certain she understood.
Slowly, Clyde leaned back again, heaving a sigh. “Do you think I wanted this, Briar?” He ran a hand through his hair, the bandage around his arm barely visible on his wrist. “Do you think I wanted to fall for her? That I wanted to get close to anyone here? I hate what I have done to Jane. The pain in Rena’s eyes, I see it every time her name is mentioned. You think I could bear to lose her if she ever came to find out I killed her best friend?”
Pressing her lips into a thin line, Briar held onto her glare as Clyde turned back to her, now rubbing his chin as he watched the floor. “Then what will you do with me?”
“Keep you away from tonight’s meeting for starters.” Lifting his head, he continued to pace. “I can’t kill you, as tempted as I am, but it would only add to the list of things she can’t forgive me for. I’d like to keep that as short as possible.” He hummed to himself. “I honestly had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but I’ll have to lock you up for the time being.”
Despite herself, Briar laughed. “Locking me up? Are you daft?”
Clyde raised a brow. “Possibly. Now, enough chit-chatting, I have a lot to do now that you’ve ruined everything.”
Briar stepped back, hitting his desk and bracing her hands against it as Clyde approached her again. Her fingers inched closer to the lamp that was positioned on her left. With a steady gaze, she waited until he was close enough. His hand reached for her right arm, but before he could grab it Briar swung the lamp across his head with all the strength she could muster.
Clyde groaned as he held his head, giving her an opening. She slipped away easily, opening the door and rushing into the hall. Too easily. Why wasn’t the door locked?
Her breath hitched as she was met by the empty office. In her panic, she hadn’t noticed the absence when she entered. It was painfully clear now.
She glanced back over her shoulder. Clyde leaned against the doorframe of his office, a thin trickle of blood running down his temple, a knowing smile on his lips. Briar raced to the front doors, but they had been locked since she came in.
“A call came in this morning,” Clyde said, his footsteps followed. “Something about the exact location of the clan and how all officers were needed at the site.”
Gathering her skirt, Briar rushed to her father’s office. If only she could put a door between her and Clyde, then she would at least have a second to think, to find an actual weapon.
As if sensing her thoughts, Clyde spoke again. “It’s locked. All of them. You have nowhere to hide, nor will you find any silver in this building.”
Blood rushed in her ears. Searching desperately for a way out, Briar kept as much distance as she could but soon found herself trapped in a corner. She tried the door to her father’s office, but Clyde hadn’t been bluffing.
Pressing her back against it, she sucked in a deep breath as her hand closed around her necklace.
Made of silver.
It could buy her some time, maybe enough to pick one of the locks. Her free hand slid into her skirt pocket.
“Do you know why I have only one fang, Briar?” Clyde continued his lazy steps, a new air of arrogance that did not suit him taking over. “I was one of those monsters Dante told you about. Those that once tasted blood could simply not stop taking and taking, draining my victims before I could reconsider. Let me ask you again, Briar, do you truly believe I wanted that?”
Again, she said nothing as she waited until he was close enough. When he was only a step away, she yanked the chain from her neck, charging forward, but Clyde caught her arm before she could get anywhere near him.
“Not falling for the same trick twice.”
“That’s what I hoped for.”
She ripped her other hand from her pocket, taking Jane’s necklace with it and pressing it to the side of his face. Clyde screamed as he loosened his grip. Freeing her hand, she quickly wrapped the silver chain around his neck completely, pulling at it from behind. Burning flesh filled the air as his groans of agony continued. He clawed at the chain, but it was too thin, too deeply buried in his darkening skin for him to grasp. Only when he fell to his knees, hands limp by his side, did Briar release the chain.
Her hands were shaking as she watched Clyde’s body slump to the floor. Had she . . . killed him? No. Briar shook her head, turning to the front door. No, he was a vampire, he would recover with a bit of time. For not she had to hurry and find Rena.
Taking the pins from her hair, she kneeled down to the lock, cursing her still shaking hands as they refused to cooperate with her. She held her breath as she worked the lock, only daring to release it when the soft click sounded.
Turning the handle, Briar glanced back as she stood. She froze. Clyde was gone. Only Jane’s necklace remained on the floor where she had left him.
It was the last she heard before her vision turned to black.