After half an hour of nothing but staring at the fire and tapping his finger, Dante sighed heavily before standing. “Fine.”
Miss Blakewell’s brow drew together. “Excuse me?”
Retreating to his bedroom, Dante returned with a satchel. He threw it down on the couch beside Miss Blakewell, causing her to jump. “We’re leaving.”
Glancing around his apartment, he started to gather what he didn’t want the police to touch and potentially break. There was no use is taking any clothes. It would only confirm his plan of not returning any time soon. Other than that Dante did not possess any necessities, only fading memories in the form of trinkets.
A bit hesitant, Dante turned to the two skulls on his bookshelf. He didn’t want to touch them, but neither did he want them to be seen by the police. Taking a cloth from one of the drawers at his desk, he put it over the smallest skull of the two. Cursing his shaky fingers, he picked it up as gently as he could without letting it fall. Only when it was safely wrapped and placed in the satchel did he breathe again.
Turning to the larger skull, he caught Miss Blakewell’s gaze, though quickly everted it. Dante was well aware that she’d been watching him and that his actions revealed more about his person than he ever cared to discuss, but he was hungry, and when he was hungry he needed to stay busy.
Repeating his previous action with the larger skull, relief washed over him when they both sat safely inside the satchel. Picking up his coat from the back of the armchair, he draped it over his shoulders before putting on a matching top hat and pulling the satchel over his shoulder.
Miss Blakewell barely had time to stand as he opened his front door, gesturing for her to go. “Ladies first.”
“I’m not quite sure if you are polite or impatient,” she said, causing him to grin.
“Whichever suits your fancy.”
She looked him over for a brief second before answering. “Impatient it is.”
“Where are you taking me?” Miss Blakewell asked, displeasure clear in her tone.
Dante had expected as much. “Whatever you’re thinking, you’re correct.”
She stopped abruptly, but Dante didn’t pay her any mind. “Have you gone mad?”
“Possibly.” Glancing over his shoulder, he smiled at her. “Why do you ask?”
In a few steps, she was beside him, catching hold of his arm. This time, he let her.
“You’re not taking me home,” she demanded, her voice low. “We need to get you somewhere safe first.”
“And I—” Dante pointed at his chest “—will be a gnarly mess if something happens to you, Miss Blakewell.”
“I can handle myself.”
“Doesn’t mean I can,” Dante growled, the words coming out darker than he intended. Clearing his throat, he looked away, leaning back slightly. “What I mean is that I can’t promise you your safety, and neither can you promise mine. I’m already a wanted man, I don’t need more on my conscious than I already have.”
Miss Blakewell released his arm, some of the anger leaving her features. “Will you leave London?”
After a moment of silence, he shook his head. “No, I will retreat to an old family home at the edge of the city. It is mostly forgotten, no one will find me there.”
Telling her might not have been his best idea, but it eased his mind knowing that someone knew his location. That, perhaps, on a cold, lonely day, someone could visit. Dante knew it wasn’t likely. Even in London, no one had visited him to seek out his company alone. That sliver of hope he still carried had to go out at some point, didn’t it?
“You’ll get lonely.” Her gentle voice caught his attention again.
Dante nodded, turning away to continue their walk. “Terribly.”
“That doesn’t ease my mind one bit.”
Glancing down, he found Miss Blakewell having trouble keeping up with him. He slowed his pace. “Then I’d call you too kind, and the first to trouble themselves over me.”
His stomach growled, causing Miss Blakewell to step aside the tiniest bit. Dante’s smile faltered, but he couldn’t blame her for her reaction. Inhaling deeply, Dante stepped aside, creating a distance between them he hoped was more comfortable for her.
“There is no need to fear me,” he mumbled after she didn’t speak her mind. “The animal blood has dulled my senses for human blood, including my hunger for it.”
“I wasn’t scared,” she said, her voice higher than usual. “You simply startled me.”
A chuckle escaped Dante’s throat before he could stop himself. “In that case, I’d better keep my stomach in check. Can’t have you jumping around every time it grumbles.”
Miss Blakewell laughed as well. He hoped the indication of his comment went unnoticed by her, but he couldn’t be certain. Miss Blakewell was, from what he could tell of their few hours together, a bright and observative young lady with a bit of a wilder side. If he had the time, Dante would have liked to explore it quite a bit, but he didn’t have the time, and he knew it would lead him nowhere.
They came to a halt in front of Miss Blakewell’s home. Dante glanced up at the building, remembering how often he had passed this exact black and silver door, unaware of the young lady that grew up behind it.
“It’s here where we’ll part ways,” he said, turning back to Miss Blakewell. “I bid you goodnight and farewell, Miss Blakewell.”
“Briar,” she said. “My name is Briar, please call me by it.”
Dante nodded, unable to keep the smile from his face. “Very well. Goodnight, Briar.”
“Till we meet again, Dante.” Bowing a slight bow, she moved past him.
On the tip of his tongue lay a word he hadn’t said for many years, yet he was tempted to yell it out now. Before he could, he swallowed it back down, turning to the long road ahead instead.
With each step he took, a slight jump was added. A woman was murdered. Dante was framed for it. He had to leave London for at least fifty years. Another vampire had potentially entered the city, one that wasn’t as friendly.
Yet, Dante laughed to himself.
He hadn’t felt this light in ages.
From what Clyde knew of Dante, he had to admit he underestimated the vampire. And so had he underestimated the Chief’s daughter. Briar was more reckless than he had anticipated, and it tested his patience.
Wiping his fingers over the half-empty shelve, he noted the dust had gathered around an object. Two, in fact. Dante had been here, not too long ago, and he wasn’t planning on returning. Clever, how he took no noticeable belongings and leaving the fire burning.
But something was off. Something that the Chief would have noticed if Clyde hadn’t come here first. Good thing he had caught on to his trial before anyone else had. Picking the large, black coat up from the bed, Clyde swung it over his arm before leaving the apartment, making sure the door was shut but not locked. After all, Dante had set his disappearance up so nicely, it would be a shame to ruin it for him.
Clyde shoved her hands into his pockets as he descended from the stairs. Briar, as clever they said she was, appeared to be rather careless. However, Clyde couldn’t put all the blame on her. Dante should have known better as well, leaving evidence like that just laying around.
Stepping outside, Clyde welcomed the cold, midnight air on his face. Reaching for his coat’s pocket, he retrieved a folded letter that had been in Dante’s bottom desk drawer. He shook his head at it, scoffing as he retrieved a pack of matches as well. Opening the folded piece of paper, he lit the match, holding it to it until the flames licked the parchment and started to devour it.
“You’re lucky that I was around to save you, Dante.” Clyde watched as the flames consumed the ink, tilting it as they climbed up. “This could have ended badly for both of us if I hadn’t.”
What remained of the letter, Clyde threw on a heap of horse waste, not bothering as it caught fire. By morning, both the waste and letter would be gone, as if it never happened.
As Clyde retreated into the shadows, he whistled a haunting lullaby. His mother used to sing it for him, but with the time that had passed, his memory didn’t serve him right, and what was left was the shallow bones of what used to hold warmth and life.