In which we meet a governess and old vampire Josef gets sassinated by a teenage girl.
Nine Shillings and Victorian Mistress are also available on Wattpad.
London – 1843
The governess was late. A good start.
We were waiting in Bran’s study. I was sitting on Bran’s lap with my feet on his desk while I read a book on magic. Bran had his arms around my waist and his scratchy face against my neck. Josef was sitting in a chair opposite, beating out the seconds against the arm with his fingers.
I’d decided to assume Freyja was telling the truth about me having some magic. So, if I did have some, I‘d rather not have it sucked out of me by our murderer, which meant I needed to learn to control it. If my magic was of Fae origin the book wasn’t much help; it was about witch magic which seemed to revolve around chalk sticks and being sensible. How dull.
‘I’m too old for a governess,’ Millie muttered from where she was examining a bookcase of volumes on mathematics and astronomy. ‘The other girls don’t have them.’
‘They did,’ Josef said. ‘And your sisters certainly need one.’
She took a book off the shelf and perused it. ‘Lot never had a governess.’
‘Charlotte is hardly the model of a lady,’ Josef said under his breath.
Bran kissed my cheek. ‘Ignore him.’
‘I do,’ Millie and I said in unison.
Bran chuckled and Josef glared at the bottoms of my boots. It must’ve been terrible for a vampire as old and powerful as him to get a tongue lashing from a fifteen year old girl.
‘I bet she doesn’t even understand polynomials,’ Millie said flicking through her book.
I had no idea what ‘polynomials’ were but it sounded clever. ‘This is what happens when girls have unfettered access to books. Another Ada Lovelace in the making.’
‘A little support, brother,’ Josef said.
‘Good luck with that,’ Millie said quietly.
‘This is between you and Charlotte, Josef,’ Bran said.
‘Told you,’ Millie said without looking up from her book.
‘I thought you liked at I did as I pleased?’ I said.
‘A little too much,’ Millie added in her undertone.
The leather of Josef’s armchair squeaked when he turned to look at her and she sniggered.
If Josef was annoyed at anything I wished he’d tell me so we could argue about it.
The squeak of Josef turning back roused me from my thoughts. ‘Such behaviour draws too much attention.’
‘And your reputation for fucking anyone who stands still long enough doesn’t?’ I asked.
Josef gave me a look that could’ve felled an elephant. I sighed, I missed our verbal sparring about his chances of getting a fuck.
He tilted his head to the side, I’d seen Bran do the same when he was listening to things in the distance. ‘She’s here,’ he said, got up and walked out the room.
‘How can he recognise one coach?’ I asked.
Bran opened his mouth to reply but Millie overrode him, ‘Maybe it’s like you two.’
I gave her a questioning look.
‘Can’t we send her back?’ Millie said, as if she hadn’t made an open ended statement.
‘Don’t look at me. I didn’t agree to it,’ I replied.
Bran mumbled about Josef taking liberties while managing to be noncommittal. Had we debated the matter I wouldn’t have won, even if I’d cheated and given Bran his favourite treat. They were right, the girls needed an education and Bran couldn’t teach them anymore and start a detective business.
The woman Josef brought in was about my age, taller, darker, and, the little twinge I was beginning to recognise as jealousy pointed out, prettier. Then my logical mind overrode the idea that Bran would be tempted away.
He went still against my back and I wondered if my fleeting thought had shown.
She cleared her throat, walked to the desk and offered me her hand. ‘I’m sure we’ll be great friends, Miss Maguire.’
‘Only if you get my name right,’ I muttered, still holding my book.
She flexed her fingers. Josef widened his eyes at me and glanced at her. Millie lowered her book.
The governess looked over her shoulder at Josef. ‘Papa, you said –‘
The artic chill that had descended when she entered dropped to instant freeze.
Millie gaped. Bran shifted beneath me. My gaze flicked from the governess to Josef. My brain was struggling, Josef hadn’t been able to have children for two thousand years and she was human. If anyone knew vampires couldn’t have children it was me, Bran and I had been together almost six years before I became a vampire.
‘I’ve said something wrong, I apologise,’ she said.
Millie sidled over, her thumb marking the page in her book, and whispered, ‘Your father is my father’s best friend and your father’s been trying to roger my mother for years, then secret child. This is better than the theatre.’
The governess, I should’ve asked Josef her name, stared at us. ‘Oh…’
I wasn’t bothered about the ‘secret child’ as Millie put it. I was more concerned about the fact I knew she wasn’t Josef’s daughter and didn’t know if she knew. Did she know about vampires? If she knew about vampires she must’ve figured it out. If not, why not?
Bran was staring at Josef like he was going to stab him in the eye.
Millie put her book down on the reading table, grabbed the governess’ had and dragged her towards the door. ‘I’ll show you your room. This is going to be great.’
The door shut and we were silent for a few minutes as the footsteps retreated.
‘Will her mother be visiting?’ Bran asked with venom in his voice I hadn’t known he possessed.
‘Of course not,’ Josef said. ‘And I’d thank you not to take your dislike of her out on Veronica.’
‘Do you really think she’ll stay away when she knows?’ Bran asked.
I glanced between them. Surely Josef hadn’t brought the daughter of one of Bran’s former lovers to the house as the governess to our children? From the anger in Bran’s face I’d take a wild guess that there was more to the story than an illegitimate child.
Josef blinked first. ‘You have Charlotte now, surely that makes up for it?’
‘Get out,’ Bran said.
I dropped the book and grabbed Bran to stop myself falling. I hadn’t known he could shout. Not like that.
Josef shut the door quietly when he left.
I stayed for moment arms around Bran, his tension seeping into me. Then I swung myself round to face him. He didn’t meet my gaze.
‘I shouldn’t have shouted at him,’ he murmured.
‘If you’re angry shout at him. I think Josef can take a little shouting.’ Josef needed more people to disagree with him, he reckoned that was why he liked me. ‘What can I do to help?’
‘Can I hold you?’ he asked.
I snuggled into him. ‘You don’t have to ask for cuddles, chuckaboo.’