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Her eyes met Anton’s. He was mocking her, facing the mirror where his image did not appear, not a trace of it, not a shadow, nothing to show that Anton was actually there, standing before it, in all his dark beauty. It made the mystery of him all the more perplexing.
After that he stayed out of the mirrors span and another game of cards started, Edward and Anton joining them. Mr Bingham and Mr Kingly took brandy in the armchairs by the fire, leaving Ruby with the couch. She perched on the edge of it and took up a book. She wasn’t sure on the topic, it might have been something to do with cooking, or fish, or cooking fish. Her attention was otherwise engaged. How could she concentrate when Anton was in the room, playing cards like any normal human? There was nothing normal about him. His love was twisted and wrong. He had deluded himself into believing he had genuine feelings for her because she had freed him from his perpetual prison of death. He was confusing gratitude with love, appetite with affection. She didn’t challenge his claims of love in front of her family. There was a lot she wanted to say to him but couldn’t.
“Will you be joining us, Miss Kingly?” Anton asked, nonchalant, shuffling the cards. It sounded like a perfectly reasonable request to anyone but her.
Anton was leering at her. Edward was watching her too, though his eyes did not fill her with icy cold dread.
“Cards are not my excitement,” she said coldly, “I much prefer a good book.”
“And what is it we are reading?” Anton asked, amused, tilting his head as to get a view of the front cover.
“Nothing that would concern you,” she snapped, slamming the book shut and stuffing it under some cushions. Mr and Mrs Kingly exchanged worried glances, alarmed at their daughter’s rude behaviour. Anton acted like he wasn’t insulted at all.
She knew she had angered him, she knew it was dangerous to but a sort of bravery had become her. He needed her to keep his secret and that gave her the confidence to say some of the things she wouldn’t have considered otherwise. She was resolved not to be bullied by him in her own home.
The game recommenced and Ruby was left to her own devices. She sat in silence, hands clasped in her lap, trying to avoid looking at the card table. She knew he was watching her, the way a cat watched a mouse, just as she knew he wouldn’t touch her in front of her family. She wished he would look at someone else. As something that wasn’t human she assumed he saw a lot more than what others saw, beyond the faces humans showed the world. He had been able to delve deeper into her than anyone else had, striking chords in her mind. He made her feel like his instrument, his toy, and he hadn’t finished playing with her just yet.
“Did you hear about the murders in the village?” Anton brought them up casually, “Nasty business. The humans are saying a vampire is to blame. Peasants can be somewhat superstitious even in this age.”
He seemed to savour Ruby’s glowering. The men around the room give their theories. Ruby hears none of them. Annette has paled again, her eyes wide and bright, like a deer that knows it is about to be shot. Ruby had been right. She hadn’t been told about the deaths.
“What say you Miss Kingly?” Anton was relishing this, enjoying it much more than he should have been.
“I prefer not to think of such ghastly things,” Ruby sniffed, turning her nose up at Anton and retrieving the book from under the cushions. She flicked through it haughtily, needing some distraction from death. Anton didn’t give in so easily.
“I thought you had a special interest in the dead,” he said slyly, taunting her with another smile. He was so crude he made Ruby’s skin crawl as she seethed with anger.