The children plan a sneak attack
Hastings – 1844
When Josef and I got home the children were running about shouting about animals, except Millie who was sitting in the library staring at the book in her hands as if she was contemplating murder. It made me wonder how long the children had been running around for.
‘Muma! Dada!’ Edward burst into the library. ‘Papa took us see naminals.’
Millie groaned and slid down on the couch.
Josef swept Edward up. ‘What animals did you see?’
‘Saw puppies an’ petted them. They’re all wriggly and licky.’ Edward grabbed Josef’s cravat and put his face so close he almost headbutted him. ‘Canna have puppy? Peeeease?’
‘I want a puppy too.’ Mary hurried in and began digging in Josef’s pockets looking for treats, or puppies.
Josef grinned and looked at me. I wrinkled my nose. Dogs had never liked me and I didn’t much like them.
He crouched down. ‘Me, Mummy, and Pappy will have to talk about it.’
‘That’s what Pappy said.’ Mary stuck her bottom lip out.
They were cunning, attack Pappy and Daddy first and they’d persuade Mummy. One day they’d make excellent confidence tricksters. I was half-surprised we hadn’t turned up to discover a puppy had already taken up residence.
‘Want one with flappy ears an’ wet nose.’ Edward poked his own nose.
‘All puppies have wet noses, babby.’ Mary pulled Quackers, the knitted duck, out of the depths of one of Josef’s pockets. ‘Quackers eated his snack.’
Josef frowned as if he was wondering how the toy had got in there. Toys, biscuits, and other things turned up in the strangest places when children were around.
God knew where the biscuit had gone, that the children hadn’t eaten it suggested it hadn’t been anywhere you’d want to eat it from. Toys got biscuits, it didn’t mean they got the best biscuits. I hoped it wasn’t still in Josef’s pocket.
I lifted Mary up and sat her on my hip. ‘What other animals did you see?’
Merry and Bran were sitting at the dinner table, colluding over the best way to get a puppy.
I sighed. I was going to be outvoted.
‘I’m not looking after a puppy,’ I said, running my fingers through Bran’s hair. ‘I’m not a pet person.’
‘You weren’t a children person either,’ Josef replied, watching us from the chair opposite as he swirled his rum in a glass without drinking any.
Bran tilted his head to look at me. He was lying between my legs with his head against my shoulder and his feet jutting off the end of the couch because no-one made a couch long enough for Bran.
‘You should make a bigger couch,’ I said to Josef as I eyed Bran’s massive feet sticking in the air.
‘I’m fine,’ Bran said,
Josef smiled and sipped his rum. ‘You’re avoiding the subject.’
‘No, I’m not. I’m saying if you want a dog, you’re looking after the dog. I thought dogs didn’t like supernaturals.’
‘If they grow up around magic it doesn’t bother them, it’s the oddness that sets them off,’ Josef said and I wondered if he had been concluding and he’d been arranging his argument in advance.
I kissed Bran’s nose. ‘I didn’t realise you liked animals, except horses.’
He shrugged. ‘A dog is a friend for life, just like a horse.’
‘And there was me thinking they pissed everywhere and ate your shoes.’ I reached for my glass on the floor but my arms were too short without shifting from under Bran. He reached down and passed it to me without moving.
‘I sniff your shoes, you don’t mind that,’ Josef said.
I smiled. ‘Generally, I can still wear my shoes afterwards. Now, if you were to jerkoff into one that would be another matter.’
‘What if I promised to be tidy about it?’
I clapped my hand to my mouth before I spat wine in Bran’s face, forcing it down was a lot easier when I didn’t need to breath. Bran had his hands over his face and was shaking with laughter so maybe he hadn’t noticed his near miss.
I cleared my throat. ‘I wouldn’t put it passed you.’
Josef pretended to think. ‘No, your shoes are too small.’
‘Bad aim?’ I asked.
He sniffed. ‘My aim is excellent.’
I passed my glass to Bran who put it on the floor then I slid my hand into his open shirt.
‘Where are your shoes?’ Josef asked.
‘Can’t you sniff them out?’
Josef clicked his fingers. ‘Speaking of sniffing things out.’ He fished a small but heavy envelop out of his inner pocket and tossed it to me.
It landed on Bran’s face, he picked it up and pulled the invitation out. ‘Does that count as passive aggressive?’
Josef sat forward with his elbows on his knees and his glass clasped in his hands. ‘Agape is going to have a party tomorrow night, I think she might be planning to smoke out the traitors.’
‘How can she organise a party that fast?’ I asked.
He shrugged. ‘Agape’s been a leader along time, organising people is what she does.’
Having seen one of her parties I couldn’t see anyone skipping it. I wouldn’t mind, I didn’t see it being an option.
‘I’m not on the invitation,’ Bran said.
‘Aren’t you?’ Josef frowned. ‘I didn’t read it.’
‘I hope that’s her trying to be considerate because I’m taking you whether she likes it or not.’ I kissed Bran softly and tossed the invitation over my shoulder. ‘Bugger invitations.’
‘I noticed it said “Mrs Mathers”,’ he muttered. ‘Sorry, that sounded childish. You’re Josef’s wife too.’
‘She never asked my name.’ I traced his ear with my fingertip. ‘There’s something going on there, I’m sure.’
‘You’re right, Bran.’ Josef sipped his rum. ‘Charlotte goes by O’Connor, Agape should address her as such.’ He shrugged. ‘I stuck my finger in a book and found Mathers. It means nothing to me, and she knows that.’
‘I think Bran was referring to possessiveness,’ I whispered.
‘If it’s what you call yourself it’s not possessiveness,’ Josef said.
‘Here, here.’ I nipped Bran’s ear. ‘Does my wicked man want to play?’
He sighed and drained his whiskey. ‘I think I’ll just go to bed, it’s been a long day.’ He gave me a quick kiss. ‘Finish your wine.’
I untangled myself from him and let him go up to bed.
‘Are you having problems again?’ Josef asked in Punic.
‘I’m not sure if it’s the memories bothering him or something else,’ I replied in the same. ‘Too many vampires in a small area, perhaps.’
‘Perhaps.’ Josef rubbed his lips with his thumb. ‘I’m worried about him.’
‘I’m always worried about him.’ I drained my glass of wine. ‘We should go snuggle him.’
Josef got to his feet and downed his drink in one. ‘We should.’
Bran was already in bed with his back to the door when we got to the bedroom. I climbed over him and tucked myself in against his chest. His arms went around me and he kissed the top of my head.
Josef got in behind him. ‘Why do you always get the front?’
I draped my leg over their hips.
‘I demand a swap,’ Josef said, then caught my ankle. ‘Though this does have advantages.’
Bran chuckled. ‘Mmm, I love you.’
‘And we love you.’ I kissed him and snuggled in close. ‘We’re here.’
He tightened his grip on me and pressed his face to the top of my head. Josef put his arm around us.
I nuzzled Bran’s chest. ‘We’ll always be here.’