Charlotte finds a question she can’t answer.
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London – 1840
I dragged myself up onto the roof, tipped over into a gap and paused to catch my breath. Below men were shouting, trying to figure out where I’d gone. I put my hand to my side, the leather was wet with blood. I could lie there and bleed out, or get caught and killed, or I could run. I might die, but at least I’d do it on my feet.
I heaved myself up, staggered across the rooftop and jumped the gap. I stumbled, fell and forced myself up. It hurt. God, it hurt. But you’d be surprised what you could achieve when the alternative was death.
If they made it up onto the rooftop I didn’t see. I clambered, scrambled and tumbled across the slates because if I stopped… Well… there wasn’t a foreseeable happy ending.
The only thing that stopped me was when I fell through the front door and my face hit the hall carpet. That stopped everything.
I woke up lying on the chaise lounge in the library with Bran sitting a few feet away in an armchair. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up and he was spattered with blood. My mouth tasted disgusting, sticky and metallic.
I put my hand to my side, expecting bandages, but there was only a fresh shirt and a blanket. I sat up, slowly, the pain was sharp as a kick to the gut but could’ve been worse.
‘You could’ve been killed,’ Bran said quietly.
I lay back but the pain was already fading, as if my muscles had just been remembering how they worked. ‘I got distracted.’
I paused. When going after knee-cappers it would’ve been sensible to plan my attack to avoid getting knee-capped. I hadn’t. I’d been venting my rage at Josef’s inaction on thugs rather than the man himself. Foolish.
‘You know what Josef says, I lack focus,’ I said, looking at the ceiling.
‘I’m sorry, I should’ve –‘
‘Done what? Followed me around like bloody Josef? Stop apologising. You’re always apologising.’ I closed my eyes, rubbed my face and sighed. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean that. I’m… tired.’ I wasn’t, I realised. I’d been stabbed in the side and run home, I should’ve been tired, I should’ve been dead. I felt more awake then I did most mornings.
Bran was silent, I wasn’t sure he was breathing, the clock in the corner ticked away the seconds.
The armchair creaked when he sat back. ‘I gave you my blood. I wasn’t sure it would work. It doesn’t always.’
‘Shouldn’t that turn me into a vampire?’
‘It takes more than that,’ he said.
I shifted onto my side to face him. ‘Would you turn me into a vampire?’
He looked at me.
‘Hypothetically. I’m curious.’
He relaxed a fraction but his fingertips were white against the arms of the chair. ‘You need to be thirty or more.’
‘Thirty? I was surprised when I got to twenty,’ I muttered. ‘Are there are women vampires?’
‘There’s two in the country.’
He sighed. ‘We can’t have children so…’
‘No use for women. Vampire women, anyway,’ I finished for him.
‘No apologising, remember?’ I got up and relocated to his lap, I was never very good at resting. ‘It’s not your fault.’ I caressed his face.
‘What if you don’t make it back in time next time?’ he asked and kissed the heel of my hand.
I touched my nose to his. ‘I’ll die one day, Bran, either way.’
He put his hand over my injured side and looked at me with those sad eyes of his. I cup his face and kissed him, part of me thinking, your best friend has told me your most shameful secret and you have no idea. I didn’t know if I should tell him or carry on pretending I didn’t know. I wasn’t even sure if I should feel bad that Josef had told me, I hadn’t asked him to. I’d not given up looking for the answer but I hadn’t been trying my hardest. I thought Bran would tell me when he was ready, he told me most other things. What would I do if he did tell me? Did I feign surprise or admit I knew? Some things had been so much less complicated when I was alone.
I broke the kiss and rested my forehead against his. ‘I adore you, Brandon.’
‘Why would you say that?’ His hands settled cautiously on my thighs.
‘Wanted to.’ I nuzzled his nose. ‘You can tell me anything, you know.’
‘What’s brought this on?’ he asked.
I shrugged and kissed him again.
He pulled away. ‘You’re not given to flights of sentiment.’
‘Maybe I should be.’ My hands slid down to his shoulders. ‘Maybe I should tell you these things more often. Maybe I should tell you how special you are.’
‘Now you’re just being ridiculous.’ But his hands stayed on my thighs.
‘Has anyone ever told you that, chuckaboo?’ I asked.
‘No,’ he whispered.
‘They should.’ I loosened his collar. ‘If I can see it then you must be very special indeed.’ And I kissed him deeply before he could argue. That was the trick with Bran. Don’t leave him room to argue about how worthless he was. ‘Now. I’ve had my fantastic fight where’s my fantastic –‘
‘What about your side?’
‘It’s fine.’ I kissed him again.
The armchair was too restrictive so he lowered me to the floor, far more gently than I would like. We made love in front of the fire, which is a lot less romantic than it sounds when you factor in carpet burn.