Lot and Josef go searching for Marly
Hastings – 1844
Waiting. I was never very good at waiting.
Perhaps waiting was the sensible thing. We could wait to find out who The Rider might be and be no closer to who sent them, what was happening at Field House, or if Marly had anything to do with it. Prowling was the answer. Prowling didn’t always achieve anything but it felt productive.
Marly wasn’t at the hotel so the next place to look was the mine. At the entrance I had to click my fingers three times before a globe of light flared to life above my hand. ‘Down a bloody mine again when we could be at home.’
‘Marley!’ Josef shouted into the darkness and it came back to us on an echo.
I looked at him. ‘Subtle.’
I shook my head, clambered through the gap, and dropped down into the tunnel. Perhaps that wasn’t wise for me to go first but if Marley was in on anything that might hurt Josef I was going to put my fist through his chest. It was possible, I’d seen Bran do it.
The air grew cold, stale, and still as we went deeper. My feet scraped over the stone floor, Josef’s didn’t.
He opened his mouth, then closed it again.
‘Hm?’ I asked.
‘I was going to ask a silly question.’
‘Veronica always tells the children there aren’t any silly questions,’ I replied.
He sighed. ‘I was going to ask if you ever have the feeling you know something but you can’t remember it.’
‘All the time,’ I said. ‘My memory is perfect, not instant. Then there’s the things I’ve absorbed so I know them but I don’t know I do. If I don’t know I can’t recall them without digging through my whole memory and there’s a lot in there.’
He chuckled. ‘That there is.’ He shook his head. ‘The ones that seem to stick are the ones with the strongest emotions. Bran, Agape, the children…’ He glanced at me. ‘You.’
I caught his hand and squeezed it. ‘I find the same. The touch of you, the scent, taste.’ I smiled. ‘Sound. Memory is visceral and emotional so facts are always harder.’
‘I can’t decide if that makes me feel better or not.’
I stopped and looked up at him. ‘Just because I remember something doesn’t mean I can call it up.’ I caressed the side of his face. ‘But it’s in there somewhere.’
He exhaled as if he was deflating.
‘If we were home I’d definitely be putting my hands down your trousers right now.’ I wafted the glowing one. ‘But one’s a bit on fire.’
He laughed. It echoed and I swung round, unsure if it was just the echo or if I’d picked up something else too.
‘This place gets to me,’ I murmured.
‘You’re not afraid, I’d smell it if you were,’ He sniffed my hair loudly and it was my turn to laugh. ‘I love you.’ He kissed my forehead.
I put my unlit hand against his back and pressed against his chest. ‘I love you too.’
He nuzzled the top of my head. His muscles were tense against me and I wondered if he could sense something I couldn’t, he was far more adept with his vampire senses.
Still pressed against him I looked up and traced the line of his gaze. ‘Cover your eyes,’ I whispered in Punic.
He did. Energy burnt through me. I threw up my glowing hand. The light flared. Marly snarled and stumbled into the wall, hands over his face. He shoved away from the wall and took off running.
He was still in handsome Marly mode but his suit was filthy and torn. He took a path that narrowed. My small frame fit through easily but Marly was faster. It slowed Josef’s muscular bulk to human speed and he fell behind.
My foot found air. My head hit a ledge. I tumbled down a tunnel and smacked into a wall. I lay dazed, forehead throbbing as the damage repaired.
‘Charlotte,’ Josef shouted.
I pushed myself to my hands and knees, shedding dust and bits of rock. ‘I’m fine, just dirty. Again.’ I relit my hand and the light cast shadows over the rough walls of the small cavern.
There was a scrambling in the tunnel. Pebbles bounced out and scattered across the floor. I peered up, struck by the thought he might get stuck, and narrowly avoided getting kicked by a boot. His hands curled around the edge of the hole and he pulled himself through on his back. He was covered in dirt, clothes crumpled, and hair tousled and dusty. He wore annoyingly it well.
He cupped my face and examined the blood on my forehead. Head wounds were always bloody but it had already healed. He kissed me and held me tight, finding bruises I hadn’t been paying attention to.
‘You’re alright?’ he murmured.
I squeezed him back. ‘Fine.’ I pressed my face into his neck and exhaled. ‘I fell for the bloody hole trick.’
I smacked his rear lightly and he chuckled.
There was a crash and pebbles and bits of stone sprayed across the ground around our knees.
I groaned. ‘We couldn’t have caught up with him.’
Josef peered up into the dark. ‘I could’ve tracked him through the tunnels.’
‘Could we lift the rock?’
His jaw worked for a moment as he considered. ‘If there’s enough space to crest the lip but Marly is an old vampire, he would’ve thought of that.’
I wanted to say he might not have but being stuck in a tunnel wrestling with a rock was a vulnerable place to be. The tunnel was too narrow for both of us so there was no strength in numbers.
There was another tunnel at a right angle to the one I’d fallen through but I couldn’t say I liked that thought more than the blocked one. Sitting in a cavern because neither route could be called safe would never get anything done. At least with one tunnel blocked they were unlikely to get in behind us.
‘I’m going first.’ I crawled over to the tunnel.
‘I’m stronger,’ he said.
‘I’m smaller and less likely to get stuck.’
His nose twitched and he nodded. The smaller person finding a path through was easier than him getting stuck and having to be pulled back or pushed through, and possibly getting more stuck.
I gave him a kiss. ‘At least you can look at my arse while we’re crawling.’
He smiled and shook his head.
Part of me wish Bran was there, I always felt better when we were all together, but he couldn’t have coped with the tight, dark, tunnels. We wouldn’t be together again if we didn’t get going.
I took a deep breath and started crawling.