WARNING: Contains sex. Sort of.
Charlotte and Bran get interrupted by a monster in the garden.
London – 1840
‘Shhh,’ Bran murmured, coming out from under the sheets. ‘They’ll hear.’
‘It’s your fault,’ I replied and wrapped my legs around him. ‘Most men wouldn’t complain.’
He wiped his mouth on his hand, a blush tinged his cheekbones. I pulled him down into a kiss. I’d have preferred it if he’d rinsed his mouth with some whiskey first but I’d make do. Call me strange but I didn’t find tasting myself on his tongue erotic. I rolled him onto his back and the bed protested.
I grinned against his mouth. ‘The bed’s creaking louder than any noise I’m make.’
His flush deepened.
‘I’m teasing.’ I nipped his lip. ‘I can stop if you want.’
His fingers flexed on my hips in the signal for I-want-to-get-you-on-your-back-and-give-you-a-right-good-rogering. He resisted, mores the pity.
‘Is that permission for me to drive?’ I asked.
The door opened.
‘Mummy, there’s a monster in the garden. Can we get in with you?’ Mary asked, not that she and Merry waited to pad across the carpet.
Childus Interruptus worked better on Bran then thoughts of dead puppies, his blood was too busy painting him deep red from hairline to chest but the full glory of his blush was hidden by his nightshirt. We were going to have to get the door fixed, Bran had snapped the lock in his hast to get to Merry during a scream-house-down nightmare.
I slid off his lap and went to the window, the last monster in the garden had been the moonlight through a tree branch. I peered between the curtains into the dark garden.
‘Where?’ I asked.
They got under the covers beside Bran who had his head tilted, listening to sounds we mere mortals couldn’t hear.
‘Under the tree, Mummy’ Mary said as she and Merry claimed spaces on either side of Bran who was scowling at the ceiling.
There were a lot of trees in the garden, fruit trees mostly. I shifted, the chill night prickling my damp skin.
A shadow beneath the furthest visible tree. It was a memorable tree, it was the only one I’d ever persuaded Bran to have sex under, back when we were still in the first flush of excitement.
I went still.
The shadow moved again. It was far away and the moonlight was dim but I could recognise a person lurking in the dark.
I pulled on my trousers and jerkin then grabbed my knives from the drawer they lived in at night. ‘Stay with Pappy.’
On my way down the stairs I strapped on the knives and checked the mechanisms were working. I slipped through the shadows in the garden, rain pattering against the leather of my jerkin. If the shadow was supernatural there was no way I was sneaking up on it in the rain, not that I could sneak up on a vampire.
There was nothing under the tree.
Nothing had moved on my way across the garden. I wondered if I’d let the children’s overactive imaginations get to me in the dark. I crouched down beside the tree.
Boot prints were cut deep into the damp earth, the owner had stood there for a long time. There were no other prints around them, just that pair. I looked up. Nobody lurked in the tree’s branches. The rain beat a steady rhythm through the leaves. The branches creaked. The shapes of bushes and plants shifted in the tug of the breeze.
Cramp started jabbing at my legs.
I flick out one of my blades.
‘I know you’re there,’ I said, rising slowly, back to the tree.
I should’ve got Millie to go to Bran, it was a foolish mistake not to. There was a weight against my skin, someone, real or imagined, was watching me.
‘Afraid of a little girl?’ I asked the dark.
A tree branch groaned.
I stepped forward.
A hand grabbed my arm.
Bran stopped my blade short of his throat.
I lowered the knife.
‘He can’t come into the house,’ he whispered. ‘He wants you to follow him.’
Bran told me once that his maker, Richard, wouldn’t enter the house because he was afraid of what Josef would do if he hurt the children. I searched the darkness for the shadow. I knew I wouldn’t see him. He’d let me see him the first time.
Bran drew me back. I let him.
If Richard had been in our garden I doubted he wanted me to follow him for a game of bridge.
Part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.