WARNING: Contains violence.
Charlotte takes on a vampire and finds more trouble than she bargained for.
For previous episodes of Victorian Mistress see the Weekly Serial page.
London – 1840
I may have been in a spot of bother.
We crashed through a pew, I apologise to God, and smacked into the stone floor. I laced my legs around the vampire’s arm and shoved a foot against his throat, forcing his fanged mouth away. The candle light shimmed on his collection of very sharp teeth, the ones around his canines gave me particular pause.
He lifted his arm and slammed me into the stone. The blow jarred my body but I held tight. I pushed against his neck but it wouldn’t give.
I gasped but held.
Pain shot right through to my toes. My grip slackened.
He dived for my throat. I threw up my arm. His fangs snapped down. The metal of my mechanised sheath bowed, clamping my arm.
I kicked at him but he didn’t react. I punched him in the face. He snarled and stink of burnt skin rose. He grabbed my other arm, forcing the rosary around my wrist away. I strained against him, our arms shuddered and shook.
Father Brennan had his back pressed to a door as he waggled a crucifix and shouted scripture. It wasn’t helping.
I was not going to be killed by some fanged fucker resorting to thuggery.
I wrapped my legs around his waist and squeezed.
Blood splashed my face.
He erupted into ash and embers that nipped my skin. My knife clattered to the ground.
I hadn’t been sure my mechanised sheaths would work, not without taking off my fingers. Then there was the rosary, Bran’s books said only a true believer could wield a religious symbol against a vampire and I hoped the Pope was vexed that mine worked. That said, I believed in God, it was The Church I had issues with.
Aching all over I got to my feet and surveyed the scene. It was going to take more than the donations from the collection plate to fix the shattered pew and dinted metalwork. It was surprising the punishment my body could take, pity it had decided to remind me about every blow.
Father Brennan had gone quiet and was staring at me, wooden cross still outstretched. I bent down, picked up my knife and slotted it back into place then I unstrapped the other one before the bent metal cut off my circulation. There was a perfect impression of his teeth in the metal plates that was going to take some hammering to get out.
‘That really was a…’ Father Brennan shook his head. ‘I’d heard but…’
I tucked the bent sheath into the inner pocket out my jacket, good pockets were important to a thief. ‘See? This is why we make plans we don’t go off half-cocked doing heroic deeds and almost getting everyone killed.’
‘Someone has to do something.’
‘You’re the one who wouldn’t let me kill Ellington,’ I said and wiped my bloody nose and mouth on the back of my hand. ‘I could’ve ended this months ago. But no, you had to have it that we haggle with a man who doesn’t play by the rules.’ I brushed at the ash on my clothes but it was a lost cause, it was stuck to the blood and clumped in my hair.
It was all Father Brennan’s fault; he had to go and steal away some children destined to work in Ellington’s factory, it was no matter to Ellington if they lived or died, but nobody stole from him. If he could’ve left things be I could’ve been… out looking for a vampire to practice on and getting pummelled in the process. Sometimes my brain was traitorous.
‘You didn’t see what he was doing,’ he said, quietly, in a way that reminded me of me.
‘Some of us have seen plenty.’ I picked up the pennies and pocket watch left in the scattering of ash and dropped them in the collection plate. It was only fair the vampire pay for the damage. ‘You expect everyone to play by you godly rules but they don’t.’ I sighed. ‘I suppose you’ll be expecting me to take the children now.’
‘Don’t say you weren’t. You’ll tell me it’s the right thing to do then strum on my “tender nerves” pointing out they’ll be on the mercy of to The Church or off to the workhouse. Then I’d surrender to the desires of my womb and take in helpless children because I’m a woman and you don’t have a bloody clue.’
He sucked his mouth tight like he’d bitten a lemon. That was exactly how his plan had progressed. I couldn’t leave children at the mercy of The Church, I’d been at the mercy of the state as a child; moral mess of person that I was I couldn’t send children to that. It didn’t mean I couldn’t resent it, particularly as I couldn’t fault him for rescuing them. He could’ve called me a little sooner though.
Despite my difficulty summing up an argument not that long ago a Bran’s maker had kicked the daylights out of Bran at the house. It didn’t sound safe for children.
Then there was Bran himself. I didn’t imagine turning up with children in tow was really the done thing in relationships. But what did I know?
I leaned against the wall beside the door, rested my head against the cool stone and said, ‘We both know it takes more than a vagina to be a mother.’
He cleared his throat, a blush tinging his cheeks. ‘I’m not asking you to be their mother. I’m asking you to be their defender.’
‘Oh, you are, are you?’ I said. ‘Please, Lot, do you mind fending off Ellington’s men. They may be vampires but –‘
His look said what he would never say aloud.
I nodded. ‘Well, we’re in agreement for once.’
He opened the door.
The two bigger girls snatched their hands away from the smallest one as if they hadn’t been helping her pull on Father Brennan’s vestments. I had no idea how old any of them were as far as I was concerned children came in tiny, little, big and bigger.
The little one poked her redhead through the vestments and flapped her arms beneath the folds of fabric. ‘You’re all dirty.’
‘A vampire tried to eat me,’ I replied.
‘Want a hug?’ She wrapped her arms around my legs.
I peered down at her. She peered up at me.
What on Earth was I supposed to do?
Charlotte’s adventures are now available on Wattpad: @JesseQuill