Jack heaved a sigh and set down his phone. He met my eyes across the table with a tiny shrug, like he’d just been thinking the same things I had. I nodded. He turned to Fitz, and so did Elodie.
Almost unconsciously, I shifted closer to Stellan, and my foot twined around his ankle, just above his boot. He looked down. A few moments later, Jack and Fitz pushed back from the table and made their way to the railing. Elodie pulled out her phone.
The second no one was looking our way, Stellan murmured, “Are you trying to make it hard to concentrate?”
Hard to concentrate on the bad stuff? Yes, I guess I was. I shrugged. He smirked. A little of the hopelessness lifted. There were worse things than friends who flirted as stress relief.
“I’m being supportive. Like you were with petting my hair. I’m not sure how this is any different,” I whispered, and then I thought of something. “Or is it? Does the thing with your blood—” I cut off. That was about to sound different from how I meant it.
“What?” He shifted closer, so my toes ran up his ankle.
“Now you have to tell me.”
Elodie’s phone rang, and she stood to take the call. I watched her go. “I was just going to ask whether, besides making your scars hurt, the thing with your blood makes the rest of your skin more . . . sensitive? In a bad way or a good . . .”
I trailed off when I glanced over to see Stellan’s eyebrows up at his hairline. He cleared his throat. “So you’re definitely trying to make it harder to concentrate.”
I elbowed him. “And that’s why I wasn’t going to—”
I was interrupted by Elodie rushing toward us.
“How long ago?” she was saying. “No. No, no, no. Get the doctor—well, have him do something more!” She yanked me to my feet, then said into the phone, “We’re on our way.”
Dread curdled my stomach. “What?” I stumbled after her.
“Luc,” she said, pulling me down the stairs. “They’ve infected the whole Dauphin family.”
It’s a trap,” Jack said. Our boat was cruising as fast as the motor could take it back toward the Louvre. We’d thought about jumping out and getting a cab, but it wouldn’t have been any faster.
“We know,” Stellan said shortly. He would run through a wall of gunfire for Luc, and right now, our blood was killing him. Nothing was going to stop him from getting in there.
Monsieur Dauphin had collapsed immediately. He was dead. Luc and his mother weren’t. We’d seen at the sites of the other attacks that there could be a few minutes’ difference in how long it took people to get infected—we could only hope against hope we’d get there in time.
“The Saxons will have people outside,” Elodie said. “They’ll grab you. They’ll grab Jack if they see him, too, because of Cole. It’ll have to be me. Who has a water bottle?”
I pulled one out of my purse, and Elodie dumped the water over the side. “Give me some of your blood. I’ll go in the front. You guys go in one of the side museum entrances. I doubt they have enough people to watch them all.”
Elodie pricked the inside of my arm with her knife, and I let the red drops slide down the inside of the bottle.
We leapt off the boat before it had fully stopped and sprinted up the stairs to street level. Elodie ripped off her wig and stuffed it into her bag to throw the Saxon people off, and took off across the courtyard.
Stellan started to run across the street himself, but Jack grabbed his shirt. “Elodie has the blood. It’ll be worse if they catch you two. Walk calmly. Blend in.”
We joined a crowd of tourists crossing the street, and then Stellan steered us down one of the arms of the museum and to a service entrance, where a security guard stopped us. Stellan barked a few words in French, and surprised, he opened the door. Once we got inside, we dropped the pretense and ran, through a corridor of offices, some loading docks, and what looked like an art preservation lab. When we hit the Dauphins’ suite of rooms, Stellan bounded ahead up the stairs, and Jack and I followed.
I burst into Luc’s bedroom to find Stellan stopped short and Luc sitting on his bed, blinking at us, Elodie beside him.
I grabbed Stellan’s arm, my legs going weak with relief. We weren’t too late. Stellan ran across the room to kneel by Luc, speaking to him low in French.
Elodie got up. “I gave them both your blood.” It had been less than ten minutes since we’d gotten the phone call. “Madame Dauphin is in the other room. They didn’t infect the baby. I saw what I thought were a few Saxon guards outside. I got past them, and I told the Dauphin security to be on the lookout.”
I let Stellan speak to Luc alone for a few minutes before I staggered across the room and dropped onto his bed. “Hello, chérie,” he said, his eyes haunted, voice strained. “This is exciting, isn’t it?”
“Luc, I’m so sorry—”
The door burst open. A woman who must have been the Dauphins’ doctor, judging by the stethoscope around her neck, said something in frantic-sounding French. The whole room froze, then turned wide eyes on Luc.
“What?” I said. “What’s going on?”
Elodie ran to us, dropping onto Luc’s other side. “Madame Dauphin,” she said. “She’s dead.”
• • •
We all crowded around Luc: the doctor, stethoscope in her ears, listening to his heart. Elodie clinging to his hand. Jack pacing at the foot of the bed, chewing a thumbnail. Stellan stood next to me, silent, rigid. I slipped my hand into his, and he squeezed it so tightly I winced. It had only been ten minutes since we’d heard that Madame Dauphin had died, but it felt like a lifetime.
“Why isn’t the cure working?” Elodie barked at the frightened doctor. It was the third time she’d asked.