This was ridiculous. This was her home.
She stepped outside.
The door closed behind her.
Light fell over the courtyard, but it seemed to be an eerie yellow. As she walked across the drive as she had done dozens of times, Tara felt prickles of fear along her spine, and at her nape. “Ann?” She called her cousin’s name. There was no answer.
The large doors to the stable were hooked in their open position, allowing the strange colored light to just ebb into the stables. There was a light switch immediately within the doors. Tara hurried forward, ignoring her premonition and fear. She hit the light switch, and heard a snap and then a buzz. The lights came on, then flickered. She stood poised and ready to run back to the house, but then, the lights came on strongly. And there was Daniel, back in his centuries-old stall, brown eyes very wide.
“Daniel!” She hurried to him, sliding her hand down his long silky nose. He jerked away once. With his rear hoof, he kicked at the wall. He seemed to be looking past Tara, and to the courtyard beyond. She spun around, trying to see what the horse was seeing.
There was nothing there. And yet...
That prickling sensation was still teasing her nape. And it seemed as if the huge horse was shaking as well.
“It’s all right, Daniel,” she said, her tone loud, as if she would assure herself as well. She kept stroking him. He laid his heavy head on her shoulder after a minute and let her continue to pat him. She crooned softly to him. She felt the great animal begin to calm down.
“You all right now, boy?” she asked.
He turned to his hay bin and began munching.
“Good night then, old boy,” she said. Leaving the stables, she hesitated before turning off the light. Going across the drive, she saw no sign of Ann.
“Ann?” she called to her cousin.
No answer. She found herself walking, calmly at first, then racing for the door. But then she reached the house—and found that the door was locked. She cursed herself for not realizing her cousin might have come in first. She pounded on the door.
“Hey! I’m out here!”
She swallowed a burst of panic as the door opened.
Katia, gray hair mussed, a robe thrown over her nightgown, stood staring at her wide-eyed.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Katia stepped out, looking around.
Tara suddenly felt like a fool. There was nothing wrong, and nothing around her but the cool breeze of the night.
“I was just saying hello to Daniel,” she told the housekeeper ruefully. “I thought Ann was outside.”
“She was. She has come in—and gone to bed.”
“No, no, Tara, it is nothing.”
“Well, thank you. I—uh—I didn’t bring my key. I just came out to see Daniel.” Katia nodded, but still seemed to think it was crazy that she had suddenly decided to see the horse at that time of night. No wonder the woman seemed to think she was daft.
“I’m really going to bed,” she promised.
“Bonne nuit,” Katia told her, locking up, hitting the alarm buttons, and yawning as she headed to her own room behind the kitchen.
Tara walked back to her room, walked to the balcony windows, and hesitated again. She was exhausted, but she wanted a shower, wanted to wash away her fear and unease along with the dust of the crypt.
Just shower and sleep.
She let the water run over her, long and hot, then at last emerged and donned a cotton nightshirt. How long had she been up? Endless hours. Jet lag was setting in.
Maybe she would do some more unpacking.
Tara set to the task busily, hanging clothing, then taking out some of the canvases and paints she had brought with her. The easel Jacques had bought her years ago was still in the room. She set up a canvas, and found herself digging into her watercolors. She wasn’t even sure what she intended to do, but she started first trying to create the colors of the nighL An image of grays, blacks, and whites began to form as well. She stared at the canvas, wondering what she was doing. Then she realized that she was really something like the walking dead, she was so tired. She had to get to bed and try to get some sleep.
But once in bed, she still lay awake.
A man had been killed. Brutally, horribly, murdered. And she had been there ... And her purse remained in the tomb. She had to pray God that the police were the ones to find it. And not the murderer.
Paris had changed.
Of course, she had seen the world change before. But nothing like this.
She hated the countryside, and had always hated the countryside. She had always loved the bright lights and bustle of the city, although she would have to say that— along with the machines ripping along the streets—the country had grown up. There were people about There were shops. There were people at tables on the streets, drinking, eating. Some of them ...
Half naked. Ooh, la, la! The clothing these days!
She loved it.
There was a freshness and freedom all about her. Intoxicating. But she yearned for the city, and it didn’t take her more than a few minutes to realize that she needed only to flag down one of the yellow cars to get a ride far, far from the dowdy little church in the village. And the farther they drove, the better, the stronger she felt.
The driver was first amused with her garments, yet he seemed to realize that her jewels were real. Well aware her clothing was not at all what it should be, she quickly convinced him that she was heading for a masquerade. He was young and good looking.
Delectable. She managed to get him talking about the city, about what was happening. She tried to be quite casual, and still ...
It was shocking to hear about the revolution. Shocking, amazing, deplorable. They had beheaded a king
. It was absolutely amazing. Of course, the cab driver then became somewhat suspicious, incredulous that there might be anywhere in the world that she hadn’t learned something about French history of such gravity.
When he slowed to a stop, she leaned forward, and caught his eyes in the rearview mirror of the thing called a taxi. She touched his cheek, and told him that he was quite luscious. He started to smile ...
She chose not to kill him. She did, however, relieve him of his money.
Paris had changed.
And the shops were quite incredible.
She spent hours trying on clothing, telling shop girls that she had come into town for a costume party, only to discover that the mode of dress had changed. And since she was buying things for the evening ...
She was disturbed to find that she didn’t have enough money for all the purchases she wanted to make.
Anger, or the thrill of her renewed power, nearly made her forget that she was in a crowded place. But she controlled herself, and she was glad, because she then found out about something called plastic that could be made into a card that worked better than money. And, of course, at the right moment, she was able to convince the shop girl that she had paid for everything that the sweet young thing wrapped up for her. She obtained more money, and a number of the plastic pieces that made buying so easy. The shop girl was young, naive, prime.
Such a pity that they were in such a public place. The girl was adorable.
Delectable. Surely, delicious.
She would remember the name of the shop.
There were moments on the street that she did not find so intriguing. The behavior of young people had become intolerable. They didn’t know when to make way. The ogled ... ogled, as if they weren’t at all aware of her position, of just who she was, and that, no matter what she had done, eyeing her so was a deadly and dangerous game. But then kings had been killed and who knew who ruled, and what the laws were and weren’t these days. They knew nothing of finesse, of subtle charm, of the way to have what they wanted.
Sometimes, she would return a gaze. And do it in a way that not only sent a flush of embarrassment to a young man’s face, but a flash of fear as well.
Then, she enjoyed herself once again.
Beginning to understand the value of her francs, she paused for wine at a sidewalk eatery, drank, and read from a paper that had been discarded by a previous customer. She shook her head. The changes were amazing. And yet...
What a world. She felt a rush of exhilaration, and yet curbed her longing to go about wildly in celebration. This time, she wouldn’t make mistakes. She would jealously guard her strength, and gain greater power daily. She would send out her messages, seek within the world of dreams, and summon those who should be near her.
She finished her wine, pleased to have discovered that the French still enjoyed the best. And then, she began her explorations again.
There were old landmarks, and new landmarks. There were people and buildings everywhere. The next taxi driver insisted that he should take her elsewhere, that the destination she had in mind was certainly closed for the night She had to insist that she did not care.
He was not particularly attractive.
They came upon the old palace, and the man asked to be paid several times before she even heard his voice. By then, she was so furious that she turned and stared at him. He, of course, fell silent, and later, he wouldn’t remember that he hadn’t been paid. He would twist and turn, having strange dreams that night, but he wouldn’t know why.
She continued to stare, appalled.
What had they done?
Naturally, the place was closed.
Naturally, she entered anyway.
She had no interest in security guards, and kept her distance from them. If she’d been at all rational after being wakened from such a long, deep sleep, she’d not have dug into the worker in the crypt like a half-starved waif. But then, she had been half-starved. But now, she had consumed him, and taken from others, and she could build up her strength through the coming hours when she would rest again. This night was a time of discovery.
She spent hours and hours wandering ... still appalled. Well, of course, there had always been art, but now ...
What had they done to such incredible beauty? But, alas, it was a place she knew, and once loved.
Yet convenient that there were so many shops now attached. By day, she could imagine the number of people. And there were so many corridors and little rooms. It was still a fine place to seek some rest, and a good base from which to observe the new world. At least for the night.