Bran is afraid.
London – 1842
Bog standard criminals didn’t seem bothered that I was plotting against the architect of my husband’s despair so I still had to go out and dissuade them from bad behaviour. It was very inconsiderate of them.
Stiff and sore I slid into bed behind Bran, put my arm around him and kissed his neck.
He shied away. ‘Not tonight.’
I rested my chin on his shoulder. ‘You’re going away tomorrow.’
‘I’m going to give you a death sentence,’ he replied, staring at the wall opposite.
‘Ye of little faith,’ I whispered and kissed his cheek.
‘Josef was right, I should’ve stayed away from you.’ He took a shuddery breath and bunched the sheets in his hand. ‘But you’re so… everything about you… I was intoxicated by the thought of you.’ He sighed. ‘I was right all along, it was wrong. I should’ve stayed away from you.’
‘I believe in odds, Bran.’ I put my hand over his heart, it beat unnaturally slow against my palm. ‘We were born seven hundred years apart. What’re the odds that we should ever have met?’
Bran put his hand over mine.
‘It’s rare cards fall so perfectly, Bran.’ I pressed my face to the side of his. ‘I should’ve died years ago in the workhouse, or on the street, or a hundred other times but beating the odds is what I do.’
He shifted onto his back to look at me.
I cupped his face. ‘Brandon you’re so much stronger than you realise. You can do this.’
‘I’m not and I can’t.’
I touched my nose to his. ‘Seven hundred years of Richard and you are battered and bruised but not broken.’ I kissed him softly. ‘Not all strength is physical, my love.’
‘I don’t feel unbroken.’
I caressed his chest. ‘That’ll be the cracks talking.’
‘I don’t think I can do this,’ he whispered.
‘A vampire cannot disobey his maker and you’ve been summoned. It’s too late now.’
‘I can’t harm my maker,’ he said. ‘I can’t protect you from him.’
‘I know.’ I played my fingers over the deep V of skin exposed by his night shirt collar. ‘I don’t need you to.’
‘This isn’t just about you and me, Bran. This is about the children and all the people Richard has hurt and will hurt.’ I paused. ‘Mostly it’s about the children.’ And Bran, but Bran wouldn’t take that observation well, it would aggravate his guilt. ‘Don’t think about me, Bran, think about the children. They won’t be children forever, and then what will Richard do?’
Bran passed his hand over his face and pressed it to his mouth but it didn’t muffle the whimper. I had no doubt the thought had occurred to him, he was a worrier by nature. The risk to the children was an obvious worry. It had bothered my since before I brought them through the door but there had been nowhere else for them to go.
‘When people like me love it makes us more dangerous than ever,’ I said. ‘I will not let Richard hurt our children.’
He wrapped his arms around me and held me close, pressing his face to the curve of my neck and breathing raggedly.
I drew his face away from my neck and kissed him.
‘I’m afraid,’ he whispered. ‘Afraid I’ll lose you.’
‘You can’t be brave without fear, Bran.’
‘You’re never afraid.’
‘Then I’m not brave.’
He looked as though he was going to dispute that so I kissed him before he could. I wasn’t a hero but I was having a hero moment, quibbling over the definition of bravery would only spoil it.
I rolled onto my back pulled him with me, tangling myself around him. I was no hero, I was an utter scoundrel and utter scoundrels will take any opportunity to, maybe, get a shag.
He broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to mine. ‘I don’t want to lose you.’
I caressed his face. ‘I have no intention of dying.’ I kissed him again. ‘The dice are loaded in my favour.’
‘I love you so very much, Charlotte,’ he said. ‘You’re the love of my life.’
I tapped the end of his nose. ‘Then believe and trust me when I say the only way Richard will leave this house is in a dustpan.’
He kissed me deeply and my hands grabbed at him as if I didn’t already have every inch of him memorised.
I wished I was as certain as I sounded.