“You see violence in every gesture,” he muses, running a thumb over his glass. “I fashioned myself to suit you. To put you at ease.”

Anger rises in her chest. “You have ruined the one thing I still had.”

“How sad, that you had only dreams.”

She resists the urge to fling the crystal at him, knowing it will do no good. Instead, she looks to the servant by the wall, holds out the glass for him to fill it. But the servant doesn’t move—none of them do. They are bound to his will, not hers. And so she rises, and takes the bottle up herself.

“What was his name, your stranger?”

She returns to her seat, refills her glass, focuses on the thousand shining bubbles that rise through the center. “He had no name,” she says.

But it is a lie, of course, and the darkness looks at her as if he knows it.

The truth is, she’d tried on a dozen names over the years—Michel, and Jean, Nicolas, Henri, Vincent—and none of them had fit. And then, one night, there it was, tripping off her tongue, when she was curled in bed, wrapped in the image of him beside her, long fingers trailing through her hair. The name had passed her lips, simple as breath, natural as air.


In her mind it stood for Lucien, but now, sitting across from this shadow, this charade, the irony is like a too-hot drink, an ember burning in her chest.


As in Lucifer.

The words echo through her, carried like a breeze.

Am I the devil, or the darkness?

And she does not know, will never know, but the name is already ruined. Let him have it.

“Luc,” she murmurs.

The shadow smiles, a dazzling, cruel imitation of joy, and lifts his drink as if to toast.

“Then Luc it is.”

Addie drains her glass again, clinging to the lightheadedness it brings. The effects won’t last, of course, she can feel her senses fighting back with every empty glass, but she presses on, determined to best them, at least for a while.

“I hate you,” she says.

“Oh, Adeline,” he says, setting down his glass. “Without me, where would you be?” As he speaks, he turns the crystal stem between his fingers, and in its faceted reflection, she sees another life—her own, and not her own—a version where Adeline didn’t run to the woods as the sun went down and the wedding party gathered, didn’t summon the darkness to set her free.

In the glass, she sees herself—her old self, the one she might have been, Roger’s children at her side and a new baby on her hip and her familiar face gone sallow with fatigue. Addie sees herself beside him in the bed, the space cold between their bodies, sees herself bent over the hearth the way her mother always was, the same frown lines, too, fingers aching too much to stitch the tears in clothes, far too much to hold her old drawing pencils; sees herself wither on the vine of life, and walk the short steps so familiar to every person in Villon, the narrow road from cradle to grave—the little church waiting, still and gray as a tombstone.

Addie sees it, and she is grateful he doesn’t ask if she would go back, trade this for that, because for all the grief and the madness, the loss, the hunger, and the pain, she still recoils from the image in the glass.

The meal is done, and the servants of the house stand in the shadows, waiting for their master’s next instruction. And though their heads are bowed, and their faces are blank, she cannot help but think of them as hostages.

“I wish you would send them away.”

“You are out of wishes,” he says. But Addie meets his eyes, and holds them—it is easier, now that he has a name, to think of him as a man, and men can be challenged—and after a moment, the darkness sighs, and turns to the nearest servant, and tells them to open a bottle for themselves, and go.

And now they are alone, and the room seems smaller than it was before.

“There,” says Luc.

“When the marquis and his wife come home and find their servants drunk, they will suffer for it.”

“And who will be blamed, I wonder, for the missing chocolates in the lady’s room? Or the blue silk robe? Do you think no one suffers when you steal?”

Addie bristles, heat rising to her cheeks.

“You gave me no choice.”

“I gave you what you asked for, Adeline. Time, without constraint. Life without restriction.”

“You cursed me to be forgotten.”

“You asked for freedom. There is no greater freedom than that. You can move through the world unhindered. Untethered. Unbound.”

“Stop pretending you did me a kindness instead of a cruelty.”

“I did you a deal.”

His hand comes down hard on the table as he says it, annoyance flashing yellow in his eyes, brief as lightning. “You came to me. You pleaded. You begged. You chose the words. I chose the terms. There is no going back. But if you have already tired of going forward, you need only say the words.”

And there it is again, the hatred, so much easier to hold on to.

“It was a mistake to curse me.” Her tongue is coming loose, and she doesn’t know if it’s the Champagne, or simply the duration of his presence, the acclimation that comes with time, like a body adjusting to a too-hot bath. “If you had only given me what I asked for, I would have burned out in time, would have had my fill of living, and we would, both of us, have won. But now, no matter how tired I am, I will never give you this soul.”

He smiles. “You are a stubborn thing. But even rocks wear away to nothing.”

Addie sits forward. “You think yourself a cat, playing with its catch. But I am not a mouse, and I will not be a meal.”

“I do hope not.” He spreads his hands. “It’s been so long since I had a challenge.”

A game. To him, everything is a game.

“You underestimate me.”

“Do I?” One black brow lifts as he sips his drink. “I suppose we’ll see.”

“Yes,” says Addie, taking up her own. “We will.”

He has given her a gift tonight, though she doubts he knows it. Time has no face, no form, nothing to fight against. But in his mocking smile, his toying words, the darkness has given her the one thing she truly needs: an enemy.

It is here the battle lines are drawn.

The first shot may have been fired back in Villon, when he stole her life along with her soul, but this, this, is the beginning of the war.

New York City

March 13, 2014


She follows Henry to a bar that’s too crowded, too loud.

All the bars in Brooklyn are like that, too little space for too many bodies, and the Merchant is apparently no exception, even on a Thursday. Addie and Henry are crammed into a narrow patio out back, bundled together under an awning, but she still has to lean in to hear his voice over the noise.

“Where are you from?” she starts.

“Upstate. Newburgh. You?”

“Villon-sur-Sarthe,” she says. The words ache a little in her throat.

“France? You don’t have an accent.”

“I moved around.”

They are sharing an order of fries and a pair of happy-hour beers because, he explains, a bookstore job doesn’t pay that well. Addie wishes she could go back in and fetch them some proper drinks, but she’s already told him the lie about the wallet, and she doesn’t want to pull any more tricks, not after The Odyssey.