WARNING: A bit of euphemism, what’s happening?
Charlotte and Bran go to Josef’s party, Charlotte teaches Josef a lesson and we learn about Bran’s past.
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London – 1839
Unsurprisingly Josef’s ‘small party’ was a party of three. I had to wonder if Josef thought he was being clever or realised he was being completely transparent.
Either way, Mathers’ house was fascinating. He displayed his horde of artefacts proudly in every room, like Bran did with books. There were paintings, landscapes and portraits with no obvious theme to unite them, there were statues from elegant dancers to pagan idols, fossils and tusks and odd looking rocks and things I couldn’t even identify. Stood in his sitting room looking at a large yellowed tusk I got the sense that the world was a lot bigger than I had ever imagined and, having been working my way through Bran’s library, I’d imagined the world as a very big place.
‘You can touch it if you want,’ Mathers said behind me.
‘Why does that sound like a euphemism?’ I muttered.
He chuckled, bent close to ear and murmured, ‘Maybe you want it to be.’
I elbowed him in the gut. He didn’t make any sound but he straightened and stepped away. Fighting the urge to rub my sore elbow I glanced over at Bran sitting on the low couch, he didn’t look best pleased. I smiled at him, then moved away from the tusk to look at a hollowed out rock that’s insides glittered with purple crystals.
‘Amethyst,’ Mathers said, from a suitable distance.
‘I know that,’ I lied and rubbed my thumb over the sharp points. The only amethysts I’d ever seen had been in stolen jewellery.
‘Do you know how Bran talks about you when you’re not around?’
‘Do you always talk about your friends as if they’re not around?’ I asked.
Sure, Josef was handsome with a pleasant face, dark eyes and muscular shoulders his well-tailored suit couldn’t quite hide but the way he acted as if Bran was merely a chaperone said he was more of an arsehole then I’d realised. But, I supposed, he’d had a very long time to get used to everyone doing what he said and my refusal was making me more interesting, the simplest route would simply be to bed him so he got bored and went away. I had an unpleasant notion that if I’d been inclined to be so amenable he’d let Bran know. Rakes gloated, it was a fact of life.
The silence dragged on so long that I looked over my shoulder to discover that Mathers had appeared on the other side of the room, I hadn’t heard or felt him move.
‘Did I hurt your feelings, Mr Mathers?’ I asked.
He poured himself a drink, a whiskey or something similar, at a small table that matched Bran’s drinks table right down to the leaf detailing. ‘You might, if I had any.’
‘Everybody has feelings,’ I replied, leaning back against the rock’s stand with my hands clasped lightly in front of me and my middle finger caressing the pommel of the knife up my sleeve. ‘I hear.’ A knife might not stop him if he turned on me but it would hurt.
‘Live as long as I have and you’ll see that emotions are surplus.’
‘Hm,’ I said.
Mather’s scowled as if I’d scolded him and I had to bite the tip of my tongue to keep from laughing.
When Mathers didn’t reply, except to down his drink in moody silence, I crossed to where Bran was sitting, straddled his lap and looped my arms around his neck. His eyes went wide with surprise.
Josef snorted. ‘That’s a pretty little ornament you’ve got for your lap, Bran.’
Bran blushed, red from collar to hairline. I caressed his faced and kissed him softly. Bran broke away, so I settled for resting my face against his neck. While I didn’t want a man to treat me like he owned me it might sometimes be helpful when I was trying to dispel rakes if Bran acted a touch assertiveness, a little bit of ‘this is my mistress, sod off and find your own’. It wasn’t as if I expected him to hang a sign around my neck saying he paid the rent on my vagina but they were never going to listen to my protests. It was common gossip that our arrangement wasn’t martial, the upper-class rakes therefore assumed that if I allowed one man to pay rent another was no bother.
Josef poured himself another drink. ‘You realise he’s a priest. On a technicality.’
Bran looked away from me.
I raised my head, Bran hadn’t mentioned that. ‘What sort of “technicality”?’
‘The sort where you die but aren’t actually dead.’ Josef smirked.
I smiled and ran my finger down Bran’s nose. ‘Celibacy’s not your forté.’
Bran looked towards the ceiling.
I caught sight of Josef watching us, lips thinned, he’d clearly been expecting a different reaction. I wondered how many times the scenario had played out and how many different versions there were, Life had taught me to be wary of men like Josef; rich, handsome men thought they could have any woman they wanted and do anything to her. With Bran my position was as secure as it could be and he was… safe, a quality not to be sniffed at.
Despite his embarrassment Bran’s hands hadn’t moved from my thighs, I’d barely noticed, their weight had become so familiar. I was comfortable where I was but I knew when I’d misplayed a hand; trying to show Josef I was not going to be moved from Bran’s bed had only intrigued him more. I could see it in the way he was watching me caress Bran’s cheek to draw his gaze back to me.
I knew I should’ve stayed away from vampires as soon as I realised Bran was one but like a fool I hadn’t and I was too far down the path to turn back. I didn’t want to, I realised.
Cupping Bran’s face I gave him an unmistakeable ‘mine’ kiss. His hands went to my waist, Josef forgotten. It must’ve been one hell of a kiss from Bran’s perspective.
Josef slammed down his glass and strode out the room.
He was such an arsehole.