Dante had been kind to bring her home, but Briar wasn’t joking when she said she couldn’t return till morning. The second he had turned his back to her, Briar had taken off in the opposite direction to Rena’s house. It was still a few more hours until their lady's maid went for her morning errands to gather all the supplies needed for the day. Knowing there wasn’t much else she could do, Briar had seated herself on the front steps of her friend’s house. Although the temperature had dropped quite a bit during the night, she had anticipated as much and hid extra fabrics on her skirt to keep herself warm.
“Thought I might find you here.”
Startled out of her almost sleep, Briar sat up straight, rubbing her eyes. Her brows furrowed as she saw who had addressed her. The sun had only just begun to rise. What was Clyde Graveward doing here this early in the morning?
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” she said before her gaze fell on the dark coat that hung over his forearm. Licking her lips, she hoped the recognition did not show on her face.
“The fearsome vampire Dante has escaped last night,” Clyde started to explain in a lazy manner as if he were talking about the weather. “I noticed him missing this morning before anyone else came in and decided to take a look at his apartment.” Removing his hand from his pocket, he held out the coat to her. “I found this.”
Standing, Briar straightened her skirt, disinterest painted on her face. “What does this have to do with me.”
Clyde narrowed his eyes before pulling the coat back to examine it. “Although tall, Dante is far too skinny to fit the coat. The coat itself is old but a tailored piece, one only the wealthier party of the city can afford. Now, considering its age from the worn sleeves, loosened and missing buttons, and stringy hems, I’d say this belonged to a large, slightly overweighted man. The dust it has gathered indicating it hasn’t been worn for a long period of time.” He glanced up at Briar and away from the garment as he spoke the last sentences, “It is quite impressive how much weight your father had lost a few years prior. Glad to see he fully recovered from his illness, however.”
Briar bit her tongue to keep herself from saying anything rash. Clyde was a detective, it was only natural that he figured this out. She should have been more careful. “It still doesn’t prove how it is connected to me. How can you even be certain it was my father’s? There are enough men that fit your description. How do you even know Dante did not find the piece somewhere and took it for himself, not caring about its condition or size?”
Turning the coat over, he plucked at the back, lifting a single black hair between his leather-gloved fingers. “I believe Dante’s hair to be white, am I wrong?”
“It still does not prove anything.” Her voice came out steadier than she felt. “It could be anyone’s.”
“Perhaps,” Clyde sighed, letting the hair fall to the ground. “All I suggest you do is be more careful next time you break a criminal out. If the Chief had found this at the scene he wouldn’t have been as lenient.”
Briar frowned, moving down one step. “You won’t be giving it to him?”
The side of Clyde’s mouth lifted. “I intend to find Dante before he hurts anyone else, if that means I have to keep quiet to gain your trust I will do just that.”
The clicking of the door’s locks behind her caught Briar’s attention, and so did it Clyde’s. As he momentarily looked up, Briar snatched the coat from his arms, turning around to face the door before he could grab it back. She smiled widely as an older woman appeared from behind the door.
“Oh! Miss Blakewell,” Mrs. Edwardson said as she stepped outside. “My dear, what are you doing here at such an early hour?”
“Good morning, Mrs. Edwardson,” Briar greeted her, taking a step closer to her and away from Clyde. “I planned on meeting with Rena today, but it seems I am a bit early, aren’t I?” Briar laughed as she put a stray stand behind her ear. “Can I wait for Rena inside?”
“Of course, you mustn’t catch a cold.” Mrs. Edwardson hurried her inside, only stopping to glance at the young man at the end of the steps. “Care to introduce me, Miss Blakewell?”
Mrs. Edwardson was well aware of Briar’s habit of bringing unlucky men home with her. Briar had hoped Rena would stop speaking of it to her lady’s maid, but it seemed that even if she did Mrs. Edwardson’s memory was not of the short term.
Waving her hand, Briar smiled at Mrs. Edwardson. “He’s the new detective, we simply ran into one another on my way here.”
Mrs. Edwardson hummed, though it did not sound convinced. “Your taste has improved.”
With a wink, Mrs. Edwardson closed the door behind her, leaving Briar in the empty hallway of Rena’s home. Sighing, Briar hung the large coat on the coat rack before she followed the familiar path to Rena’s room. Having been in the home so often, it had been like a second home to her and Jane. Mrs. Edwardson had taken care of them as much as she’d taken care of Rena.
Stopping in front of Rena’s bedroom door, she knocked against the wood. “Rena,” she called, “it’s Briar, are you awake.”
When no answer came, Briar pinched the bridge of her nose before entering her friend’s bedroom. Of course she would be sleeping, she never was a morning person. Though, Briar thought it hardly fair that she would enjoy a peaceful morning of rest when she couldn’t.
Rena was soundly asleep, as Briar had suspected. Spreading her arms, Briar let herself fall onto the bed and Rena, startling her awake. Yelping, Rena pushed Briar off of her, rolling her on her back.
“Briar!” Rena pulled her comforter to her chest, glaring at Briar. “What in God’s name are you doing here?”
Briar simply laughed, pushing herself up. “I got some important stuff to discuss.”
“It could not wait till after breakfast?”
“It involves vampires.” Briar grinned, knowing she caught Rena’s attention. “Including a certain one going by the name Dante.”
Rena crawled over the bed, grabbing a pillow to hug against her stomach. “He didn’t do it, did he?”
Briar shook her head. “Though, he was heavily drugged before and after the murder, he doesn’t remember anything after he left London.”
“Where is he now?” She glanced around the room as if Dante would suddenly appear from behind one of her curtains.
“He left not long ago, claiming he owned a house at the edge of London that no one knows of.”
Briar had barely finished her sentence before Rena shuffled off the bed, her nightgown flowing behind her as she reached for her books. “Did he give you an address?”
“No.” Briar shook her head. “I was surprised he told me this much, I did not want to push my luck.”
Rena hummed, looking through the pages of a book she had picked out from her shelves. “That’s a shame.”
“Will you be able to find it?”
Rena grinned, closing the book. “Of course, I’ll have it before you can miss him.”
“He is not my type,” Briar said with a laugh. Though, it did not stop the slightest bit of heat that rose to her neck, teasing her at the thought of Dante before he left. “I like my men with a little more color.”
“Let him drink your blood,” Rena said, opening another book, “it should do the trick.”
Briar raised her brow. “How did you know?”
Rena mimicked her movement. “How did you?”
“Dante told me,” she said. “Does that mean it’s true?”
Biting her lip, Rena nodded. “I recently found a journal that documented the transformation of a blood deprived vampire before and after being given human blood. It says the vampire turned back human, and they believed to have cured him, only to fall victim to his bloodlust.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”
Rena leaned against her desk, holding the book on her lap. “I didn’t want to scare you. Knowing vampires exist is chilling enough, knowing that they aren’t as obvious in appearance as Dante is terrifying. And with what happened to Jane—”
“It’s alright,” Briar interrupted, standing from the bed. “What else do you know?”
“That’s it.” Rena offered a smile. “Would you like to stay for breakfast? We can discuss the matter over a full stomach.”
Nodding, Briar smiled back. Some food did not sound unappealing, neither did resting her feet and warming by the fire.
Wiping the dust off the mirror, Dante looked at his reflection. He lifted his upper lip, revealing his fangs, grey gums, and tongue. Unappealing would be an understatement. Closing his mouth, Dante turned away from the mirror. He couldn’t go back into the city looking like this, everyone would recognize him. Though, he wondered if that were the case if he looked more warm-blooded. More human.
He gathered it was worth a shot, but couldn’t quite figure out what the purpose was if he did. Maybe he could return to the city, but what for? To rot away in his apartment as he usually did? Ask if the prostitutes that did not despise him had an evening to spare? They used to stand in line until the rumor broke out that sleeping with him could turn them into a vampire as well.
It had been a rumor full of horse crap, made up by the young woman who he pissed off by doing exactly what he proposed.
Dante did not care for the sexual act, only for the warmth their bodies had to offer. A fire could consume the entire room and he would still feel the chills that ran down his spine. Perhaps for that reason alone, he would start to drink human blood again. Simply to keep himself warm without the need of another source.
Letting out a heavy breath, Dante sat himself down on the comfortable armchair that sat the closest to the fire. As he stared into it, he half expected to hear the ruffling of Miss Blakewell’s dress as she shifted. Looking up, he found only the satchel he had taken from his home. Dante returned his gaze to the fire, plucking at the skin of his lips as he wondered what the dwelling in his chest meant.
It had been too long since he last had contact with anyone. Real, genuine contact.
Although he did not want to meddle in the situation, he couldn’t deny that the thought did not excite him. Even if his life wasn’t on the line, the thrill and danger of doing what was not allowed sounded appealing. Now that he officially had a reason to be put behind bars, why not go a little further?
There was no use in playing a good citizen now.
The corners of his lips lifted into a grin. It was about time he cashed in on some of those favors. The necrophile in the morgue still owed him quite a bit. Dante guessed the man wouldn’t mind draining the bodies of their blood before he had his fun with them.
“I might see you sooner than we both had initially thought, Briar Blakewell.”