WARNING: A little violence and some threat.
Charlotte takes Bran out for a practice run.
London – 1842
I stayed to the rooftops, following Bran’s progress on the streets below. This time I was supposed to be, not like the days we spent following each other around trying to figure out our oddities. We’d always known the other was there but I was still sure it wasn’t normal. Not that either of us knew much about normal.
Bran was tracking a thug who specialised in beating rent money out of people, I was playing the role of backup muscle. The thug’s name was David Kent, such an unassuming name for a ‘famous knee breaker’. He wasn’t, he hadn’t broken anyone’s knees, if he hadn’t made it into a police file in a passing mention I wouldn’t have noticed him.
I spotted Kent coming out of The Lion’s Head pub. He paused to light a cigarette and then carried on down the street. I ran across the rooftops, keeping low and jumping the narrow breaks between buildings when they appeared. I got ahead and was at the alley Kent always cut down before he entered it. In all the time I followed Kent he hadn’t changed his route once, it was an impressive show of ego or foolishness.
Halfway down the alley Kent dunked behind one of the stacks of old crates. Bran must’ve forgot to mask himself, he’d got out of the habit and it didn’t affect me so I didn’t know to tell him.
I shifted closer to the edge of the roof and crouched there like a gargoyle.
Bran followed Kent into the alley. Bran was a vampire he could hear Kent’s heartbeat, he had to know when the knee breaker was hiding.
Kent got him in the face with a cosh. Bran stumbled back holding his nose. I swung off the roof and slid down the drainpipe. Kent rounded and swiped at me. I blocked his arm and punched him in the balls. He fell to his knees and dropped his cosh.
Bran was doubled over holding his face.
I picked up the cosh. ‘You smacked my husband in the face your lucky I only punched you in the balls. I like that face.’
Bran prised his hands from his face and his nose was red as a strawberry. It was hard not to grin but I managed.
‘It’s fine.’ Bran rubbed a little blood from his eyes where they’d leaked, instead of watered. ‘It was the surprise.’ He touched his nose gingerly and I wondered how much it hurt for a vampire to be hit on the nose, it was a vulnerable spot.
I crouched down and prodded Kent in the chest with his cosh. ‘I don’t like you going around threatening to beat money out of people. The choice between feeding your children and getting knee-capped is unfair.’
He made to strike me. I swatted his fist aside and knocked him on the head, not hard.
‘So, I’m going to give you an unfair choice,’ I continued, as if nothing had happened. ‘Either you stop knocking the daylights out of people or I lock you in our cellar for my husband to snack on.’ I leaned in closer and whispered, ‘He’s a vampire.’
He looked at Bran with pain scrunched eyes that still managed to be sceptical. I couldn’t blame him, Bran didn’t look like a creature of the night with his deep worry lines and strawberry nose. I turned to him enough to tap my teeth with my tongue. Bran winced at the thought. He wasn’t the intimidation sort, especially by reminding people he wasn’t human, which was why I’d picked Kent for him to practice on. He was a minor thug, not dangerous. Not to us anyway.
Kent made to grab me.
Bran lifted him by the front of his shirt with one hand and pinned him to the wall. I blinked.
‘Don’t touch my wife,’ Bran said.
Kent pissed himself. I wasn’t sure I blamed him.
‘If you hurt anyone again I will find you,’ Bran added.
‘I won’t. I’ll be good, I promise,’ Kent whispered.
Bran set Kent back on his feet and Kent ran down the alley into the night.
‘I’m still going to keep an eye on him.’ I stepped close to Bran and touched his nose gently, it was already turning purple.
‘I forgot to mask myself,’ he said and glanced away.
I clasped his face and kissed the tip of his nose. ‘Poor nose.’ I rested my hands against his chest. ‘Bran… I have this idea I‘ve been thinking about.’
Bran caught a piece of hair that had escaped my careful pinning and tucked it behind my ear. ‘Why do I think I won’t like it?’
‘I…’ I hesitated. Was I really going to tell him in an alley in the middle of the night? It didn’t seem like the best time to put my plan to get rid of Richard into motion.
I lace my arms around his neck and drew him down to a kiss. ‘I have an idea that we should go home and you should let me play doctor on your nose.’ I stoked the tip of said nose with my finger.
He smiled. ‘Oh, I like that idea.’
That was good because he wouldn’t have liked the other one.