WARNING: Violence and sexual references.
Charlotte faces unforeseen consequences to her actions.
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London – 1839
I was supposed to sit at the opposite end of the table but, as Bran was only having dinner to keep me company, that was ridiculous. Bran drank blood, he didn’t need food.
We didn’t always eat together, so I dressed up in the deep blue silk dress he liked so much. The gesture meant nothing to me but I knew it meant something to Bran, the only other time I wore one of the expensive dresses was at parties when I had no choice.
Bran was giving his stew great attention, trying very hard not to glance at the swell of my breasts that had been pushed up by my corset and exposed by the dress’ low neck. I didn’t know why he didn’t simply look, he was paying ten thousand guineas a year to look at my breasts and there wasn’t another man around I might be wearing the dress for.
‘You’re quiet,’ I observed.
‘What? No, it’s…’ He half-smiled. ‘It’s nothing.’
I shifted closer, reached under the table and caressed the inside of his thigh. ‘Perhaps I should give you something to think about.’
His fingertips whitened on the edge of the table.
The front door banged opened and there was a muffled exclamation of annoyance from Mrs Stapleton.
Bran pushed my hand away but I was too busy looking at the door ready to retort at Josef. Then Jack, the vampire I’d broken a paperweight over the head of, walked in.
‘Having a quiet dinner with your whore?’ Jack said, he strode over pulled out the chair on the other side of Bran and dropped onto it, sprawling, legs wide. ‘Playing at being human?’ He reached across, took Bran’s glass of wine and gulped from it. ‘Not bad.’ Then he took Bran’s bread, tore off a lump, dunked it in his stew and ate it. ‘That is good. I’m really going to have to eat more often.’ He wiped his fingers on Bran’s sleeve.
Bran kept his eyes fixed on his bowl. Beneath the table my fists tightened.
‘I’m surprised she’s not run away with The Saracen yet. What kind of woman stays with you, brother?’ He slapped Bran’s shoulder. ‘A very well paid one?’ He laughed.
‘Don’t talk about Charlotte like that,’ Bran said quietly.
Slowly my hand crept around to the back of my bodice.
Jack massaged Bran’s shoulder. ‘She’s very pretty. Much too pretty for you, brother.’ He grinned. ‘I bet you don’t even look at that pretty face. Fuck her from behind? Cry afterwards?’ He laughed again and leaned forward, Bran’s wine glass dangling from his free hand. ‘Did he tell you? He’d get that itch that just had to be scratched, pay a whore and then cry about violating some poor girl afterwards.’
My fingers closed on the hilt of my knife.
‘I bet he didn’t even discipline you for what you did to my face.’ His hand tightened on Bran’s shoulder and something cracked. ‘When a bitch misbehaves you kick her.’
Suddenly I was against the floor with Jack’s hand around my throat. I stabbed at his neck. He grabbed my wrist and twisted. Pain shot up my arm and the knife fell. He kicked it away.
‘Never learn,’ Jack snarled.
The corset restrained my torso, the heavy skirt weighed down my kicks, I couldn’t flex my arms enough for a good punch.
Bran grabbed him. He threw Bran aside. There was a crash, breaking wood, falling books and… plaster?
Jack lifted me off the ground. ‘Know.’ He smashed me down and pain shot through my back. ‘Your.’ Again. ‘Place.’ And again. ‘Understand?’
I jammed my thumbs in his eyes.
He screamed and threw me aside. I hit the bookcase, splintering the shelves, then collided with the carpet. Heavy volumes pummelled me and I threw up my arms as the seven foot bookcase toppled.
Bran had the top in one hand. He grabbed it with his other hand and swung it like a mallet. The bottom broke off against the ceiling, leaving a crater in its wake. The bookcase smashed against Jack’s back. He collapsed.
I struggled onto my front and used a bookcase to pull myself to my feet.
Bran threw the pieces of wood aside. He looped something around Jack’s throat and pressed his knee into the small of Jack’s back. The other vampire struggled and gagged, clawing at Bran’s arms and face.
There was nothing in Bran’s eyes. He was expressionless.
Jack’s head hit the floor. His body erupted in a spray of ash and embers that singed the carpet. A moment later his head disintegrated.
Bran rose and pocketed the cheese wire.
I stared at him. He looked away.
‘I’ll give you that one,’ I muttered. ‘Just don’t make a habit of rescuing me.’ I stumbled towards the door. ‘I think I’m going to have a bit of a lie down.’