Authors: Mia James
‘Why do you think she tried to kill me? I mean, she kept dropping hints that she knew who the King was. If that was true, why risk killing me?’
‘She was insane, darling, couldn’t you tell?’
‘Yes, but even so. There seemed to be some method in her madness.’
‘Oh yes, Chessy was always playing some sort of game, but she was an expert in keeping her hands clean. The vandalism here and at Redfearne’s? She will have got some minion to do that for her. And that’s why Ling seemed to take over as top dog after I was ousted; you can bet Chessy was pulling her strings, but poor Ling was the figurehead – and a scapegoat if anything went wrong. She would have probably found a way to blame me for sticking Calvin on the gate when she found out your grandfather hated the idea.’
April thought of that night, of the body just hanging there, of the dark pool of blood. She wrapped her arms around herself.
‘Can we go?’ she said.
They followed the path in a loop around the hill, finally coming out in the courtyard by the chapel. As they passed through the gate, April noticed that Miss Leicester was turned away, apparently staring into a filing cabinet.
Is she making a point, perhaps?
wondered April. She couldn’t really blame the woman.
Across the road, April could see the Osbourne’s black town car.
‘This is it then,’ said Davina. ‘Wish me luck.’
‘Luck? Where are you going?’
‘I’ve got to go and empty the mansion, remove all trace of the Osbourne clan. It’s not going to be easy getting Barbara out – might need a crow-bar - but we can’t stay there, especially after...well, you know: now Nicholas has left the building. I can’t imagine Agropharm is going to keep paying the mortgage. I’m thinking of burning it to the ground just to spite them.’
‘Where will you go?’
Davina laughed at the look of alarm on April’s face.
‘Relax, I’m joking – it was nice of you to have me to stay, but I think being somewhere so small and creepy would send me mental inside a week.’
That was more like the old Davina: bitchy and insensitive. It was reassuring, somehow.
‘No, I’m sure we’ll find somewhere more in keeping with the lifestyle I aspire to. Buckingham Palace, maybe.’
April wasn’t entirely sure if Davina was joking about that one. They walked down to the car.
‘Are you going to stick with Barbara? I mean, she’s not actually…’ April trailed off, embarrassed.
‘Not actually my mother, you mean? No, and she’s not exactly a barrel of laughs, either. Gets through a bottle of gin and a can of hairspray every day. But she’s the only family I’ve got left.’
‘I know how that feels,’ said April.
They stood there for an awkward moment, joined by their tragedies, but at the same time divided by them. Davina may have finally chosen the right side, but she had still plotted and killed and fed on the blood of innocents. April didn’t think they could ever truly be friends, but she’d take an uneasy truce with Davina over all-out war any day.
‘Well, I suppose I should say thank you,’ said April. ‘You know, for Chessy.’
‘I suppose you should,’ smiled Davina. ‘But don’t bother; let’s call it even. I feel guilty enough about ... all the other stuff.’
Davina shrugged and opened the rear door of the car. ‘Figure of speech, sweetie. Just a figure of speech.’
If there is a God,
then He had most definitely created Primrose Hill Bakery.
Her nose practically pressed against the glass counter, she pointed at the swirly red velvet cupcakes, the squidgy chocolate cake and heavenly macaroons, and grinned as Gabriel relayed her orders to the lady in the apron. It was all she could do to stop herself clapping her hands and doing a little dance.
‘You’ve got icing on the end of your nose,’ said Gabriel as they walked through the park’s iron gates and up towards the hill. April had already eaten the gateau and was busy picking the icing from the cupcake.
‘Don’t you want any?’ she asked, sucking her fingers.
‘Vampire, remember? Not big on cakes.’
April’s face fell.
‘Hey, don’t,’ he said, bending to kiss the cream away. ‘We’ll find a way through.’
‘Oh, it’s not that, more that you reminded me about the last time we were here.’
She thought of Gabriel’s face that terrible morning when he had taken the Dragon’s Breath and been forced back into his vampire skin. It had been the same expression she had stared into in the hall at Ravenwood. She shook her head to clear the picture away.
‘But it worked, didn’t it?’ said Gabriel, slipping his arm around her waist. ‘Most of it, anyway. And we said we’d come back here when it was all over.’
‘Is it?’ said April as they walked up the steep path. ‘I mean, is it really all over? Do you really think my mum will be able to unite the Suckers?’
Gabriel shrugged. ‘Who knows? She’s certainly got enough power – and enough incentive.’
‘Incentive? What do you mean?’
‘I mean vampires are vampires, April. They move at night, they love power. And they have little love for Bleeders besides the nutrition.’
‘Nice image,’ said April, discarding the case of her cake in a litter bin.
‘The point is, if Silvia doesn’t succeed in pacifying all the vamps, we’re all in trouble. So she’ll move heaven and earth to make sure they toe the line.’
‘But what if ...?’
He put a finger to her lips. ‘No buts, isn’t that what you said this morning? “Let’s live in the present”? It’s good advice.’
She nodded and turned to face the view. It was even more impressive in the summer, the glass towers shining in the sun, the flat bowl of London curving away into the distance. They sat on the same bench they had shared that faraway morning, after the zoo and before the elixir. That bittersweet moment when they had shared their last kiss.
‘I’m glad we came back,’ said April quietly. ‘It’s so beautiful up here.’
‘You’re the most beautiful thing around here,’ he said, pulling her hair back and kissing her neck, sending tingles across her skin.
‘I suppose we should open this,’ said April, pulling the parcel out of her satchel and handing it to Gabriel.
‘You do the honours, lady’s privilege.’
April had been hoping he’d say that – she loved opening presents. She tore at the paper, grinning with girlish excitement. She had guessed at a photo-album or something of her dad’s, but then her mum had said it was for both of them. Inside the paper was a plain white polystyrene box.
She looked up at Gabriel.
She slid open the cover and peeped inside – then jumped to her feet, almost dropping it. ‘I don’t believe it!’ she squealed, her hand flying to her mouth. ‘MOTHER!’
‘What is it?’ said Gabriel, looking in the container. April watched as his expression changed from disbelief, to amazement, then fear. Then he burst out laughing.
‘Silvia Dunne!’ he laughed. ‘You sly fox.’
April sat down and removed the glass vial from its icebox. It was tiny, only about the size of a torch battery and filled with dark liquid. But not just any liquid. Blood. Thomas Hamilton Vladescu’s blood. Silvia must have taken it when April was weeping over Gabriel.
‘Gabe, what do we do?’
April held the vial up to the light. It didn’t look magic or supernatural, it just looked like blood. Could this really bring Gabriel back to her – forever? Could something so small really do all that?
‘What if it doesn’t work?’ she said. ‘Gabriel, what if all those legends are wrong?’
Gabriel smiled and put his hand over hers. ‘Then we keep looking for a cure. You were right, baby. Where there’s life there’s hope – and we’ll be together whatever happens.’
Her eyes wide, her fingers shaking, she handed Gabriel the little bottle.
‘What if it
work?’ she said.
Gabriel laughed. ‘Then I will kiss you, April Dunne. And we will grow old together.’
April nodded, her eyes still on the vial. ‘Good answer,’ she said.
Slowly, carefully, Gabriel unscrewed the lid and placed it on the bench. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Here goes nothing.’
He held out his free hand to April and, nervously, she put hers on top and laced their fingers together, squeezing tight.
‘Ready?’ asked Gabriel.
‘Ready,’ said April, looking into his eyes.
‘Geronimo,’ he said.
And he drank.