Josef tries to play nursemaid to an injured Charlotte and she strikes a nerve.
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London – 1839
I woke up with Josef’s face very close to mine. I lurched away and my plethora of bruises reminded me they were there. ‘What’re you doing?’ The curtains were open, the sun was already high in the sky and my knife was on the bedside cabinet.
‘Making sure you’re still alive,’ he said.
Groaning I lay back down. ‘Don’t those magic senses tell you?’
‘It’s best to be sure.’
‘Uh-huh,’ I said and rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand. ‘Where’s Bran?’
‘He’s gone to meet his maker,’ Josef sat down on a chair he’d pulled up beside the bed. ‘His vampire maker, I mean. He would’ve sensed Jack die.’
‘And you’re not going to tell me who that is because you’ve got to keep “the girl” in the dark,’ I murmured.
He shrugged. ‘Can’t deny it.’
He went still, an unsettling absolutely-nothing-moving still. ‘I told Bran he shouldn’t write that in his date book with a thief in the house. Not in English. But he trusts you.’ His jaw worked for a moment. ‘You’re like a child picking at a scab.’
‘Knowledge is a commodity.’
‘Knowledge can get you kill,’ he said.
‘So can the lack.’
‘So can ridiculous dresses.’
I grinned but it made my face hurt. ‘I bet you wouldn’t say that if it was you I wore it for.’
He turned way slightly on his chair. ‘Your head is alright then.’
I sat up slowly. Once the shock had worn off it turned out I had three cracked ribs, a purple back and a mottled neck and a variety of bruises and tiny burns. Given that I could’ve died I wasn’t going to complain.
‘You’ll heal faster if you rest,’ Josef said but made no move to stop me.
‘And die of boredom.’ I sat back against the headboard. ‘Bran tried to warn me. I should’ve listened. I should’ve known Jack wouldn’t let it go.’ I sighed. ‘When will Bran be back?’
Josef walked around the bed to the side the jug was on, poured me a glass of water and handed it to me. ‘When Richard’s done with him.’
‘What will Richard do to Bran?’ I sipped the water but didn’t bother to look grateful.
‘Bran will be fine. Richard likes having him around.’ He drummed his fingers on the edge of the cabinet. ‘Though we pretend not to be, vampires are territorial by nature. Jack tried to break Bran’s toy, Jack got what was coming to him.’
I stared up at Josef.
He turned away. ‘Will you stop fidgeting and questioning if I give you a book?’ He asked and tapped his finger against one of the shelves. Like every other room any wall space that wasn’t occupied by windows, fireplaces and other furniture was filled with bookcases. ‘You like books, don’t you?’
He really was a terrible liar without his vampire magic to help him, but he wasn’t going to tell me and I was too tired to dance my way to a dead end.
He turned around with a book in his hand. ‘The Prince is educative.’ He tossed it on the bed beside me.
‘Bran wouldn’t be such an arsehole,’ I muttered and sank down in the pillows.
‘Where’s Bran? When will he be back? Will he be alright?’ Josef gave me a look but I said nothing. ‘Touched a nerve?’ He sat back in his chair. ‘As amusing as you are I’d rather not play nursemaid.’
The image of Josef dressed as a nurse made me chuckle, my ribs protested and I coughed.
‘Serves you right,’ he said.
That made me laugh again and I winced. Wheezing I lay back down. ‘I never took to my bed before, if I’d had a bed.’
He reached across and brushed my hair away from my face. ‘No-one will harm you while I’m here.’
But I might hurt him. I murmured a vague acknowledgement, slid my hand under the pillow and gripped the hilt of my knife. I’d slipped it from the bedside table while Josef was looking at the books. I might not have done me much good against Jack but next time I’d be smarter about it. Much smarter.
‘Stay away from my face,’ I said then drifted off to sleep.