“Are you ready?” Clyde’s gentle tone made Rena jump as he took hold of her hands. She forced her shoulders to relax as she let out a long breath. They stayed stiff still.
“As ready as I can be,” she offered, glancing at either side of the alley. The walls on one side of the passage were rather high, perfect for Darlington’s men to hide on was that still the plan. The other side was open, but it did not ease the pressing tightness in Rena’s chest. She forced—much like her shoulders—her breathing to stay calm and even, with a little more success.
Her eyes fell to their joined hands, his thumb making slow circles into her palm. Despite the cold, she hadn’t worn gloves.
“Only a few minutes.” Clyde lifted her chin, making her look at him. “If it’s too much we can still—”
Rena shook her head, taking her hands from his to hold them behind her back. “We’re doing this. I owe it to Briar and Jane.”
Nodding, Clyde took the handcuffs he had taken from the station. Turning her back to him, he clicked them shut around her wrists. The cold metal still made her flinch despite the nearly frozen state of her skin. Clyde gave her an encouraging smile before he pulled the sack over her head. She could barely see anything, only specks of light where she knew a street lamp resided.
Clyde took hold of her arm, firm but not painful. “They’ll be here any second now,” he whispered.
Rena swallowed, not trusting her voice. She tried to focus on Clyde’s touch to keep herself calm. He would be with her the entire time. He would not leave her side. Wherever they were going to take her, they would find Briar and get out. Together.
She could trust him.
She trusted Clyde.
“Detective Graveward,” a female voice sounded, followed by a snort. “I’m sorry, the title still amuses me to no end.”
The steps were muffled by snow, though the occasional click echoed every now and again. Rena frowned at the odd choice of footwear. Not many women could run on heels, nor walk long distances. The leader must truly trust Clyde as well to come with such little precaution. Or that’s what she wanted her to believe. Either way, no other footsteps fell behind her.
“Marinette,” Clyde said in a form of greeting, his voice tight.
“I see you’ve brought me a gift.”
He pulled at her arm, stepping forward. “I was informed had already taken Miss Briar Blakewell prison.”
Marinette hummed, a soft chuckle following it. “That’s right, so who is this?”
Without warning, Clyde yanked the sack from her head a little too roughly. Rena blinked, reaching to remove the hair from her face only to be reminded of her bindings.
Before her stood a woman in tight-fitting pants and a loose tunic that likely belonged to a man judging from its size. The dull light illuminated the blond, wavy hair and the wickedness in her eyes. Her smile was wide and toothy, revealing her sharp fangs.
She did not kill Jane, but she did mutilate Mr. Smith not too long ago.
“Rena Prescott,” Clyde said, pushing her forward. Trying not to stumble, Rena barely kept her footing. “Best friend of Miss Blakewell and Miss Morris. She knows too much. The longer she roams these streets the more likely we are to get caught. She is the last link to be eliminated. Everyone else we can deal with.”
“What suggest we do with her?” Marinette stepped forward, letting a long-nailed finger run along the base of her neck to the tip of her chin, causing her to shiver. Marinette took her time examining her throat while pushing Rena’s hair to the side and out of her face.
“I’d like to keep her for myself.” The ease with which he spoke took Rena off guard. He was a better actor than she had thought. “My personal blood supply. You know how hungry I can get.” Although she couldn’t see him, she knew he was grinning in a way that matched Marinette’s. “I’ll keep her in my room so you do not have to worry about anything regarding her.”
“Suit yourself.” Marinette stepped back, then turned away. “Come along now, I’d like to get back before the sun rises.”
Rena glanced back at Clyde, who squeezed her hand briefly before once more pulling the sack over her head. They followed Marinette to a carriage that had been waiting on them a few streets from Austin Friars Passage.
As Clyde helped her inside, she noted how it was larger than the average carriage. There was more space between her and Clyde than she would have liked, but she was also thankful for it considering she wouldn’t have to bump knees with Marinette.
The door shut and without another word, the coachman slashed his reins. The horses neighed, shaking the carriage before their hooves starting clicking against the wet stone, pulling it into motion. A strong coppery scent filled her nose and mouth, almost causing her to gag. Not being able to see both frightened and offered her comfort. If it looked as retches as it smelled she’d rather not. The carriage wasn’t an ordinary one, that she was quite certain of.
“What did you do with Miss Blakewell?” Clyde asked, his tone bored as if it were ordinary questions that awaited ordinary answers.
Marinette hummed another chuckle. Rena decided she found it irritable. “Like you said, simply imprisoned her.”
Rena frowned at the tone in which she spoke. Like an inside joke with a secret meaning. She did not like it.
“Has someone been feeding off of her?”
Rena’s breath caught.
“Only one,” Marinette said dismissively, “Ethen.”
“I wonder,” Clyde’s voice took a sudden sharp edge to it as he continued to speak, “if Ethen is willing to share.”
Swallowing, Rena made herself let out and take in another breath. If she could, she would have taken Clyde’s hand, nudged him, anything that would remind him to calm down. They could not blow their cover this early on into the scheme.
“Now, now, you’ve already got a bag of your own.” She slapped Rena on her skirt, making her jump. “You know the rules, either share multiple with the whole clan or claim one as your own. Even as a deep drinker it is your own responsibility to take care of your supply.”
Clyde sighed, sinking deeper into his seat in a manner she hadn’t see him do before. “I would only like to know if she is still available for picking.” He waved a hand around before using it to gesture at her. “You know, in case I overdrink.”
Rena shifted in her seat, unnerved by the ease with which he talked about it. She tried to remind herself it was an act, that he was nothing but a good actor. He had spent many weeks with this clan, maybe even months, it was only natural.
“Taken a liking to drink from those you know, I see.”
“They offer better conversation.”
Marinette snorted. “I doubt shouting and cursing you to hell is better.”
“Depends on the conversation.” Clyde chuckled to himself. “And the activities that follow.”
She joined him. “At least that I can agree on.”
Rena’s blood turned to ice as she once again shifted in discomfort. What had she gotten herself into?
Most of the conversation between Clyde and Marinette had been lost to her. She hadn’t slept well the previous night, being plagued by nightmares of this exact night. During the ride, it had caught up to her fast, and she had fallen asleep halfway through. When she woke up again it was to Clyde laying her in a bed, the sack and cuffs removed.
“What happened?” she asked as she rubbed her eyes, sitting up. The bed lowered as Clyde settled beside her.
“You fell asleep and I carried you to my room.”
Glancing around, she was slightly taken aback by the amount of crimson and gold that decorated his room. From the large bed to the desk by the hearth. If it wasn’t either of those, the furniture was a deep, mahogany brown. It was large as well, with a separate door leading into what she assumed a room for bathing and double doors that lead to a supposed hall. It was a room that would only fit inside an equally grand mansion.
“I figured as much,” she mumbled. “Where are we?”
“Before arriving in a new city, the clan is relocated close to it, and considering Marinette’s taste it isn’t too uncommon for it to be in a mansion.” Gesturing around himself, he grinned down at her. “Welcome to the hideout.”
Taking a steadying breath, Rena nodded, returning his grin. “Then let’s find Briar.”
A sudden unpleasant amount of light flooded the darkness, scaring it to the corners where it couldn’t be caught. Dante groaned as it hurt and blinded his eyes for a moment, not being used to it after days in the dark. He had barely time to blink and adjust to it when his shackles were opened and he fell forward.
Someone grabbed his hair, pulling him to his feet and dragging him through the door that he had been staring at, hoping it to open, knowing it never would. But it had. And now he was walking through it. He gasped, hissing as his stiff muscles screamed in protest.
He was thrown down into a chair, finally given time to breathe. He blinked rapidly, willing his senses to adjust to what was happening around him. For a second he believed they were going to kill him, but the chair was too comfortable to be one they would ruin with his blood if he had any left in his system.
Dante’s eyes shot up to Darlington. His hat was gone, his hair more unruly than usual, and he was rubbing the side of his face as he looked at something on Dante’s right.
“About bloody time.”
Dante furrowed his brow, unsure if his ears were deceiving him. He followed the voice, finding that they indeed belonged to the dark-haired girl he thought he would never see again.
Though his relief was short-lived.
Briar looked absolutely livid, besides the fact that she also looked dangerously pale. She was covered in dirt, her locks a greater mess than Darlington’s, and dried blood coated most of the bodice of her dress and neck. Her glare bared fury he had never seen on her before. It was both filled him with fright and joy. Damn, he had missed her.
Darlington moved to the other end of the room, keeping an eye on her as he retrieved his top hat. “Do what you will with him, he was merely leverage on my end. Though I hope you understand this is not how I usually do business, and if it were any other person, they would have gone farther than that threshold.”
“Than it’s a good thing I am not any other person.” Finally, Briar turned her eyes to him, the rage melting away before sparking up again. “Come on,” she said. “We got a lot to do.”
Dante nodded, unable to find the words. With some strain, he pushed himself out of the chair, biting his tongue as he went. He blinked as spots entered his vision, but before he could fall Briar was beside him, keeping him up.
He hated how much he had to lean on her as they left. Briar was obviously not at her full strength either, and yet he couldn’t help it.
“It’s okay,” she whispered, though he wasn’t sure if she was talking to him or herself. Her hands tightened around him. “We’ll be fine.”
“Wha—” Dante coughed, his throat aching. “What happened?”
Dante didn’t think she was going to answer as they continued down the street in silence. It wasn’t under she guided him to sit against a wall at the edge of an abandoned alley that she spoke again.
“Clyde was the one who killed Jane,” she said, “and now he had Rena.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but no sound came out.
She sat down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. “Darlington was never on our side, he was only playing a game, entertaining himself, and it almost cost you your life.”
“We’ll figure this out,” he mumbled, resting his head against the wall behind him, his eyes closing. Even as he spoke them he wasn’t sure if he believed them. He was still processing what had happened just now. “We should get to Anderson, get us both patched up.”
Briar nodded against his shoulder. “We’ll get her back.”
When she made no move, Dante forced himself to stand, offering her his hand. “We will.”
Placing her hand in his, he was shocked by how cold it was. He offered her a smile as she stood, and she returned it with a silent promise in her deep, brown eyes.
Thank you all so much for reading! As you can see the title now as a '(Editing)' tag, meaning that this first draft will be edited and posted on my Patreon. You can read the edited version for just $1 a month :) Same goes for Carved in Crystal! I hope you all enjoyed this story, and yes there will be a sequel so stay tuned ;)
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