Making her way down the steps, Briar pulled down her hood. Dante appeared to have been waiting for her. His hands in his pockets as he leaned back against the stone wall. Briar thought the position would be rather uncomfortable, considering the freezing cold that the stone radiated. Perhaps it didn’t affect Dante in the same way as it did her.
“You really did come back,” he said, watching her as she approached his cell.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Fumbling with her copied keys, she found the one to the cells.
“Even stole your father’s keys for me.” Dante grinned as the locked clicked and Briar swung the door open.
Putting the keys back in her pocket, she said, “These are mine, I made copies of all the keys a few years back.”
Pushing himself off the wall, he walked out of the cell with a confident stride. Briar gave him a questioning look before handing him a large, black coat. “Do you have a place to go?”
“I’m renting a small apartment at the edge of the city,” Dante said as he shrugged on the coat. Even though Dante was quite a bit taller than her, the coat seemed to fit him a bit too big. The sleeves fell over his hands while the first button barely reached his chest. It made him look quite innocent, even with the intimidating appearance of his face.
“We can get your necessities, but we can’t stay,” Briar explained as the pulled her hood back up. “Your address is listed in your folder. It will be the first place they’ll search when they discover you’re missing.”
Making their way up, Dante quietly followed behind Briar as they left the station. Every so often Briar would glance behind her to make sure he was still there. He walked as quiet as a mouse, which was quite unsettling.
It suddenly dawned on her how idiotic this truly was. She was helping a supposed murderer and vampire to escape only to follow him to his home, and if she was not killed by then, leave him there in good faith that he would stay put. Perhaps she really had gone mad.
The thought made her fumble with her keys for a second and she tried to find the right one to lock the station back up. Dante was watching her, she could feel his eyes on her back. Had he even looked away since she arrived?
“You’ve done this before.”
Finally finding the proper key, Briar sighed as she clicked the lock and turned away from the door. She purposefully ignored Dante’s stare as she passed him, expecting him to follow her either way.
“I’ve broken in a few times, yes,” she admitted, unable to keep the smile on her lips from forming. “But it is a first to break someone out.”
Dante fell in step beside her. “Do tell.”
Briar glanced at him, catching his gaze. A curious look painted his eyes while an awaiting smile had his lips curved. Shaking her head, Briar laughed.
“Let’s say half the young men that ended up there were my doing.” This time, Briar was the one watching him for a reaction. “I would visit them a last time to break it off, leaving a searing kiss and a broken heart in a tiny cell. There is nothing more passionate than a good-bye-kiss.”
Dante raised a brow, brushing away some of the stringy hair from his face. “You are not quite what I expected.”
“Neither are you,” she said, tilting her head. The most feared and hated vampire in all of London was, in reality, nothing close to the stigma. It didn’t escape her how easy it was to talk to him, and how easy it was to forget who he was. Briar cleared her throat. “After we gather your things, where will you go?”
“Why would you want to know?”
Briar stopped, her brows furrowed. “Because I need you.”
Turning to face her, the white moonlight caught one side of his features, leaving the rest coated in darkness. “Darling, you’re better off without me. I’m sorry about your friend, but I’m fearing that this is not something you want to associate yourself with.”
Taking a step closer, Briar hissed, “I did not risk my life to break you out because I fully believe in your innocence, Dante—”
“Risk your life?” Dante chuckled, crossing his arms. “I’ve never been a threat to anyone.” He gestured to his face, lifting his upper lip to give a clear view of his fang. “All this? It’s because I consume animal blood, not human. The vampires hidden in plain sight are the ones you should fear.”
Briar’s frown deepened as she stepped back again. “What are you saying?”
“If I drank your friend's blood, I wouldn’t look this sickly. It gives a vampire the glow of life, as they call it. The more human blood a vampire drinks, the more they start to appear like one. Pigment returns to the hair and skin, the fangs start to retract, and so on.” Dante sighed, tugging at a string of hair. “The fact that I haven’t had human blood in over fifty years does not matter to most people, they only care for what they see.”
“So what you’re saying is,” Briar started, processing the information, “a vampire was on that train, most likely the man that was with you, and used you as a decoy to safely gain passage to the city without being noticed?”
Dante gave her a confused look. “Not exactly what I meant, but it is a plausible theory.”
“What did you mean?”
“Simply that I am no threat to you or anyone for that matter, and that you can just leave me be.” Turning away, he continued to walk. “I don’t want to be involved in this.”
Briar grabbed his arm, but he pulled it away with ease. “You were involved the moment you were found covered in Jane’s blood!”
“I didn’t ask for that to happen.” His tone took a darker turn, making clear she was treading on thin ice.
Gritting her teeth, she returned in the same threatening manner, “Neither did I, yet here we are.”
Dante stared at her for a long moment before looking away, sighing heavily. “Do as you please, but I will not take an active part in this.”
Scoffing, Briar followed as Dante continued to walk. If he minded that she was still following, he didn’t mention it. Perhaps she had been too quick in her judgment. Simply because he was involved did not mean he was willing to help her. She did not know this man, not his morals nor his believes. What made her think breaking him out would guarantee his cooperation?
Her anger towards him faded as her shoulder slumped from their tense position. In most cases, her father did all the thinking. He was the careful one, the one that ensured not a single possibility stayed unexplored. It made it all the more clear how alone Briar stood in this operation. Glancing at Dante, she wondered if part of her reason for breaking him out was to have a partner to work with. She’d been too rational, that she was certain of.
Stepping inside Dante’s apartment, Briar was surprised to find how cozy and warm it was. Her feet had tired quite a bit from the long walk and she was all too eager to rest them. Dante moved to light the fireplace before disappearing into a room without saying another word.
Briar took this opportunity to snoop around a bit, her curiosity taking over. Everything was neatly kept, only a sliver of dust coated the furniture from Dante’s absence. A comfortable-looking couch and chair sat close to the fire. The walls beside it were lined with bookshelves. Each shelve was filled with either expensive pieces or books.
As she scanned the shelves, her eyes fell on two skulls. One looked to be of an adult, while the other was smaller, assumingly a child. She reached out to touch them but thought better of it. Turning away, she was met by a desk with pieces of paper scattered all over it. Most of them were crumbled, torn or had the drawing scratched out.
Stepping around it, Briar's eyes landed on a drawing that had a cross over it. It was a light sketch of a boy, no older than ten, smiling. Picking it up to take a closer look, her eyes instinctively glanced back at the smaller skull.
“Please don’t touch that.” Dante’s voice came from the door opening he had disappeared in earlier. Briar jumped, letting go of the drawing.
She opened her mouth to apologize, but much like the first time she saw him, her words failed to be voiced. Dante looked quite . . . dashing. His tattered and mud-stained clothes were replaced by a soft crème pair of dress pants and a white blouse with puffed sleeves. His tousled hair cleaned and combed back now that it was still wet. Cleanly shaves, his pale skin was smooth, almost resembling porcelain. It made her wonder what he looked like when he drank human blood. His appearance alone almost tempted Briar to give her own.
Clearing her throat, she shook herself from her thoughts. Now was not the time. “What is this?”
“That doesn’t concern you.” In a few long strides, he stood before her, gathering the paper together before opening a drawer and shoving them inside. “May I ask why you are even still here?”
“I need to know where you’ll be before I leave,” Briar said, not stepping aside.
“Shouldn’t you get home before your parents notice you missing?” Closing the drawer, Dante walked over to the other side of the room and started looking through his cabinets.
Briar followed once more. “They think I’m staying over at a friends house, I’m not expected back till morning.”
Cursing under his breath, Dante slammed a cabinet shut. Briar flinched at the sound, taking a step back. Dante ran his fingers through his hair, his eyes shut tightly.
“W—what is it?” Briar asked a bit hesitant.
Opening his eyes, Dante looked at her from under his lashes. “I’m starving and out of blood.”
Briar swallowed, a chill traveling down her spine despite the warmth of the fire behind her. “That’s . . . inconvenient.”
Nodding, Dante went to sit in the large chair, a long, heavy sigh passing his lips. “I’ll have to get some in the morning, how bothersome.”
“I suppose,” Briar offered, fiddling with the hem of her dress. “We’ll have to leave soon, however.”
Dante waved his hand, turning his face to stare at the fire. “Leave if you must, I can take care of myself.”
Against her better judgment, Briar clenched her fists and sat down on the couch opposite of Dante. “I’m not leaving until I have what I need.”
“Very well.” Dante continued to stare, his fingers tapping against the armrest. “But I have nothing worthwhile to offer.”
Briar sat back, making herself more comfortable. “We’ll see.”