Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death)

Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death) by Bethany Griffin

Book: Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death) by Bethany Griffin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bethany Griffin
rain down to the grimy floor. Then I turn, waiting for Elliott. The clockmaker hands him a candle on a metal holder.
    “I’m sure you have something to light it with.”
    In answer, Elliott strikes a match against the wall. Then he makes a formal bow. “As always, I am sorry.”
    If the clockmaker makes any reply, I don’t wait to hear it.
     
    At the bottom of the staircase the tunnel widens, though not quite wide enough for us to walk side by side. The floor here is made of packed earth. It’s not muddy, but it is damp. Malcontent’s flooding must have swept through here, too.
    “I can walk in front if you’d like,” Elliott offers.
    I shake my head. I’m tired of following him around. “No.”
    “Don’t blame me if you walk into a spiderweb,” he mutters. “Here, take the candle.” The darkness beyond my candle is absolute.
    “I didn’t think he would tell you,” Elliott says, “About what I did.”
    The horror of it overwhelms me.
    “He wanted to punish you. You’d visited him before?”
    “After I left the palace, I visited him often. I made sure he had enough food. He never seemed to appreciate it.”
    “It’s hard to blame him. . . . Your visits probably reminded him of what he had lost.” We walk on in silence. “Did you check on all of the people your uncle made you hurt?” I like that he cared enough to do this.
    “Only those who are still alive.” And the conversation seems to be over. We move slowly, fumbling through the passage. Every few feet there is an arched area made of brick. The mortar crumbles down on us as we walk along.
    “I can still remember the way my hands shook, holding the hammer. I was thirteen years old.” His voice is steady, neither confession nor bragging. Just simple fact. I don’t know how to respond. But even with this new insight, I can still believe that Will saw Elliott kill a man while smiling. “My uncle doesn’t always kill the people who anger him. Sometimes he does worse.”
    “Did you have nightmares?”
    “Yes.” He is silent for a time. “Eventually I found ways to deal with them.”
    The first time I met Elliott I asked for oblivion, and he brought out his silver syringe. “That night in the Debauchery Club, you said that you rarely shared . . .” My voice is soft.
    He puts his hands on my waist, pulling me back and spinning me around. “I know all about the need for oblivion,” he says. His mask hangs down around his neck. He lets his pack fall to the earthen floor of the tunnel.
    We are very much alike, Elliott and I. He takes the candle in its bent metal holder from me and sets it on a rough rock ledge. It flickers, casting weak shadows around us.
    “But I haven’t needed it since I met you,” he tells me. And then he pulls my mask away from my face and kisses me.
    This time he’s not gentle. He’s rough, and my head snaps back, hitting the wall. Bits of stone to fall all around us. I kiss him back, just as hard.
    My hair catches on the rough stone of the wall as he lifts me, so I’m pressed against him. I wrap my legs around him. What’s left of my dress bunches up around me. The bandage on my shoulder shifts and the wound stings, but we don’t stop. My arms are around his neck.
    I’ve been looking for oblivion in all the wrong ways.
    I pull back for a moment, and in the flickering candlelight he’s so handsome. His eyes are just slightly open, and I want to memorize all of him in this instant.
    Elliott sets me down.
    “I’m sorry,” he says. He lifts one hand to smooth the mortar and dirt from my hair. “We shouldn’t be . . . this is not a suitable place. . . .” I can’t pull my eyes away, fascinated and confused as his sudden regret is replaced by wariness. His eyes narrow. “It’s been a long time since I lost control like that, even for a few moments.”
    I retrieve the candle, readjust the shreds of my dress. My heart is racing, and yet I feel ashamed that we stopped here to kiss when so much is at

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