“Adeline, Adeline,” he says, his voice laced with pleasure, and she is back in the bed, Remy’s voice saying Anna, Anna into her hair.

It has been four years without a visit.

Four years of holding her breath, and though she will never admit it, the sight of him is like coming up for air. A terrible, chest-opening relief. As much as she hates this shadow, this god, this monster in his stolen flesh, he is still the only one who remembers her at all.

It does not make her hate him any less.

If anything, she hates him more.

“Where have you been?” she snaps.

Smug pleasure shines like starlight in his eyes. “Why? Have you missed me?” Addie doesn’t trust herself to speak. “Come now,” Luc presses, “you did not think I would make it easy.”

“It’s been four years,” she says, wincing at the anger in her voice, too close to need.

“Four years is nothing. A breath. A blink.”

“And yet, you come tonight.”

“I know your heart, my dear. I feel when it falters.”

Remy’s fingers folding hers over the coins, the sudden weight of sadness, and the darkness, drawn to pain like a wolf to blood.

Luc looks down at her trousers, pinned below the knee, the man’s tunic, open at the throat. “I must say,” he says, “I preferred you in red.”

Her heart catches at the mention of that night four years before, the first time he did not come. He savors the sight of her surprise.

“You saw,” she says.

“I am the night itself. I see everything.” He steps closer, carrying the scent of summer storms, the kiss of forest leaves. “But that was a lovely dress you wore on my behalf.”

Shame slides like a flush beneath her skin, followed by the heat of anger, at the knowledge that he was watching. Had watched her hope gutter with the candles on the sill, watched as she shattered, alone in the dark.

She loathes him, wears that loathing like a coat, wraps it tight around her as she smiles.

“You thought I would wither without your attention. But I have not.”

The darkness hums. “It has only been four years,” he muses. “Perhaps next time I will wait longer. Or perhaps…” His hand grazes her chin, tipping her face to meet his. “I will abandon these visits, and leave you to wander the earth until it ends.”

It is a chilling thought, though she does not let him see it.

“If you did that,” she says evenly, “you would never have my soul.”

He shrugs. “I have a thousand others waiting to be reaped, and you are only one.” He is closer now, too close, his thumb tracing up her jaw, fingers sliding along the back of her neck. “It would be so easy to forget you. Everyone else already has.” She tries to pull away, but his hand is stone, holding her fast. “I will be kind. It will be quick. Say yes now,” he urges, “before I change my mind.”

For a terrible moment, she doesn’t trust herself to answer. The weight of the coins in her palm is still too fresh, the pain of the night torn away, and victory dances like light in Luc’s eyes. It is enough to force her to her senses.

“No,” she says, the word a snarl.

And there it is, like a gift, a flash of anger on that perfect face.

His hand falls away, the weight of him vanishing like smoke, and Addie is left alone once more in the dark.

* * *

There is a point when the night breaks.

When the darkness finally begins to weaken, and lose its hold over the sky. It’s slow, so slow she doesn’t notice until the light is already creeping in, until the moon and stars have vanished, and the weight of Luc’s attention lifts from her shoulders.

Addie climbs the steps of the Sacré Coeur, sits at the top, with the church at her back and Paris sprawling at her feet, and watches the 29th of July become the 30th, watches the sun rise over the city.

She has almost forgotten the book she took from Remy’s floor.

She has clutched it so tight, her fingers ache. Now, in the watery morning light, she puzzles over the title, silently sounding out the words. La Place Royale. It is a novel, that new word, though she doesn’t yet know it. Addie peels back the cover, and tries to read the first page, manages only a line before the words crumble into letters, and the letters blur, and she has to resist the urge to cast the cursed book away, to fling it down the steps.

Instead, she closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath, and thinks of Remy, not his words, but the soft pleasure in his voice when he spoke of reading, the delight in his eyes, the joy, the hope.

It will be a grueling journey, full of starts and stops and myriad frustrations.

To decipher this first novel will take her almost a year—a year spent laboring over every line, trying to make sense of a sentence, then a page, then a chapter. And still, it will be a decade more before the act comes naturally, before the task itself dissolves, and she finds the hidden pleasure of the story.

It will take time, but time is the one thing Addie has plenty of.

So she opens her eyes, and starts again.

New York City

March 16, 2014


Addie wakes to the smell of toast browning, the sizzle of butter hitting a hot skillet. The bed is empty beside her, the door almost closed, but she can hear Henry moving in the kitchen beneath the soft burble of talk radio. The room is cool, and the bed is warm, and she holds her breath and tries to hold the moment with it, the way she has a thousand times, clutching the past to the present, and warding off the future, the fall.

But today is different.

Because someone remembers.

She throws off the blankets, scavenges the bedroom floor, looking for her clothes, but there’s no sign of the rain-soaked jeans or shirt, just the familiar leather jacket draped over a chair. Addie finds a robe beneath and wraps it around her, buries her nose in the collar. It is worn and soft, smells like clean cotton and fabric softener and the faint hint of coconut shampoo, a smell she will come to know as his.

She pads barefoot into the kitchen as Henry pours coffee from a French press.

He looks up, and smiles. “Good morning.”

Two small words that move the world.

Not I’m sorry. Not I don’t remember. Not I must have been drunk.

Just good morning.

“I put your clothes in the dryer,” he says. “They should be done soon. Grab yourself a mug.”

Most people have a shelf of cups. Henry has a wall. They hang from hooks on a mounted rack, five across and seven down. Some of them are patterned and some of them are plain and no two are the same.

“I’m not sure you have enough mugs.”

Henry casts her a sidelong look. He has a way of almost smiling. It’s like light behind a curtain, the edge of the sun behind clouds, more a promise than an actual thing, but the warmth shines through.

“It was a thing, in my family,” he says. “No matter who came over for coffee, they could choose the one that spoke to them that day.”

His own cup sits on the counter, charcoal gray, the inside coated in something that looks like liquid silver. A storm cloud and its lining. Addie studies the wall, trying to make her choice. She reaches for a large porcelain cup with small blue leaves, weighs it in her palm before she notices another. She’s about to put it back when Henry stops her.