Pale Hunt (Editing)

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Chapter 9

With a frustrated groan, Dante crumpled up the piece of paper, throwing it across the room. He rubbed his hand over his face, surely staining it with charcoal. Why couldn’t he get it right? Tilting his head, he looked at the skulls that sat on the empty shelve of an empty bookcase. How different they looked without their fresh and skin.

Turning back to his empty papers, Dante settled for one last attempt. The sun had already started to rise and soon the day would begin.

With each new line he set, the less the drawing started to resemble the man he had in mind. Discarding the idea, he leaned his head on his left hand, letting the right his right one do as it pleased.

Long lashes framed bright and strong eyes that danced with mischief. Dante smiled at the expression, adding a round nose and full lips that curved upwards on one side. With his finger he darkened the cheeks, making it appear like flushed skin. He drew dark waves of hair falling past the shoulders.

As he finished up with a few more details, a warmth settled underneath his skin as his smile faltered. He held the piece of paper up to his face, wondering how he could so accurately capture her but not his own brother.

Huffing, he stood from his chair, ready to throw the drawing into the fire. Before he could, though, his eyes caught movement outside. One by one, white dots fell down to the ground. The longer Dante stared, the more snowflake fell.

Relaxing his shoulders, he looked back at the drawing. Perhaps he didn’t have to burn it, but whatever he did with it, Briar could never see it.

From his place under a tree, Dante watched as Miss Morris was lowered into her grave. He didn’t dare move closer, but he still wanted to pay his respects. He might not have known the girl, but her death was undeserved.

The white ground brightened the somber scene, the still falling snowflakes comforting the guests with their light touch. Holding out his hand, Dante caught a few of them in his leather gloves. The contrast was as striking as his charcoal on a white piece of paper. He wondered if Miss Morris herself let the snowfall, telling her family and friends that she was in heaven. A place of pure white, a place he could never enter.

Turning his gaze back to the ceremony, his eyes found Briar in the haze of black and white. They were filling the hole, the final confirmation that Miss Morris would not return. Not even as the undead. Briar held her hands close to her chest, holding onto the necklace Dante had not yet seen her without. Beside her stood Miss Prescott. Her head rested on Briar’s shoulder, also holding a hand to her chest.

Miss Prescott looked up, catching his gaze with startled eyes. Lifting his finger to his lips, he gestured her to be quiet before turning to disappear behind the tree. Pressing his back against the bark, he continued to listen. With his senses slowly returning, he could already hear better. Although the snow was loud, if he focused he could make out the footsteps of the guests as they left.

“I swear he stood right there,” Miss Prescott said, causing Dante to grin.

The snow crunched underneath their feet as they got closer and soon Dante could smell them. Not yet their blood, but their person.

“He is so dead if you’re right.”

Briar’s comment made him chuckle, turning away from the tree to greet them. However, his senses had fooled him and they were much closer than he had thought. Close enough that Briar was a breath away from running into him.

Clearing his throat, Dante took a step back. “Lovely weather, is it not?”

Seemingly unbothered by their closeness a moment ago, Briar crossed her arms with a glare. “What are you doing here.”

“I came to pay my respects.”

She scoffed. “Quite bold of you to assume no one would recognize you.”

Reaching for his hat and collar, he made sure none of his white hair had started to peek out. “It would surprise you how a little redness in the lips and cheeks could fool anyone.”

“Could you leave?” Miss Prescott asked, her voice smaller than it had been moments ago. Dante had half expected her to interrogate him again now that his appearance had changed quite a bit. Though, it seemed the funeral had left a toll on her emotionally, which was understandable.

If the roles were reversed he would have made the same request. He might not have been the killer, but he was a cause for Miss Morris’s death.

“Of course,” Dante said with a nod of his head. “My condolences, I know what it is like to lose a close friend.”

Stealing a last glance at Briar, he turned to leave. Dante bit his lip. Despite the somber atmosphere his mind seemed to only focus on the least pressing manner. Briar’s upper lip wasn’t as full as he had drawn it, and his hands were twitching to change that.

Deciding to go for a walk before returning home, Dante found himself wandering the white streets. The thick snowflakes covered most of his tracks right after they were made. His returning senses was still something he had to get used to, and he was once again reminded why he had turned to animal blood all those years ago.

As Dante passed a row of houses, an odd smell caught his attention. His gaze landed on the iron gate of one of the houses. Taking a second sniff, he got closer, and surely his nose was filled with the scent of burning flesh. Rotting, burning flesh.

A vampire had touched the gate.

Careful not to follow in their example, Dante maneuvered his way into the front yard of the home. As he got closer a second smell greeted him, one that was unmistakable. The door that he had previously thought was closed now looked to be open the closer he got. Glancing behind him to see if anyone was watching, he pushed open the door and entered the home.

The smell immediately got worse, causing Dante to cover his nose with his scarf. An unsettling weight settled in his stomach as he stepped farther into the hall.

“Anyone home?” he called, but there was no response. Before continuing, Dante took a moment to listen. First, the ticking of the grandfather clock was all that registered, but his heart sank as the buzzing of flies made themselves present.

Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for the sight he was positive he would perceive. And surely, as he entered the living room, he was met by the body of a woman, completely drained from her blood. She was draped over one of the couches, eyes wide, mouth mimicking the screams that went unheard. Flies crawled her skin, entering her mouth and walking over her eyes.

Dante stumbled back, seeking support from the doorframe. As badly as he wanted to run out of the house and never return, he had to confirm something. Swallowing his sickness, Dante gathered his courage and took a step closer to the body. Then another. And another.

One hole.

Clenching his fists, Dante left. He had to find Briar.

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