And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself …

Her eyes begin to strain against the failing light.

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind—

“‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on,’” comes a now familiar voice behind her. “‘And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’” A soft sound, like breathless laughter. “Well, not all lives.”

Luc looms over her like a shadow.

She has not forgiven him for the violence of that night back in Villon. Braces for it even now, though they have seen each other several times in the intervening years, forged a wary kind of truce.

But she knows better than to trust it as he sinks onto the sand beside her, one arm draped lazily over his knee, the picture of languid grace, even here. “I was there, you know, when he wrote that verse.”

“Shakespeare?” She cannot hide her surprise.

“Who do you think he called on in the dead of night, when the words would not come?”

“You lie.”

“I boast,” he says. “They are not the same. Our William sought a patron, and I obliged.”

The storm is rolling in, a curtain of rain sliding toward the coast. “Is that really how you see yourself?” she asks, tapping sand from her book. “As some splendid benefactor?”

“Do not sulk, simply because you chose poorly.”

“Did I though?” she counters. “After all, I am free.”

“And forgotten.”

But she is ready for the barb. “Most things are.” Addie looks out to sea.

“Adeline,” he scolds, “what a stubborn thing you are. And yet, it has not even been a hundred years. I wonder, then, how you will feel after a hundred more.”

“I don’t know,” she says blandly. “I suppose you’ll have to ask me then.”

The storm reaches the coast. The first drops begin to fall, and Addie presses the book to her chest, shielding the pages from the damp.

Luc rises. “Walk with me,” he says, holding out his hand. It is not an invitation so much as a command, but the rain is quickly turning from a promise to a steady pour, and she has only the one dress. She rises without his help, brushing the sand from her skirts.

“This way.”

He leads her through town, toward the silhouette of a building, its vaulted steeple piercing the low clouds. It is, of all things, a church.

“You’re joking.”

“I am not the one getting wet,” he says. And indeed, he’s not. She is soaked through by the time they reach the shelter of the stone awning, but Luc is dry. The rain has not even touched him.

He smiles, reaching for the door.

It does not matter that the church is locked. Were it draped in chains, it would still open for him. Such boundaries, she has learned, mean nothing to the dark.

Inside, the air is stuffy, the stone walls holding in the summer heat. It is too dark to see more than the outlines of the pews, the figure on its cross.

Luc spreads his arms. “Behold, the house of God.”

His voice echoes through the chamber, soft and sinister.

Addie has always wondered if Luc could set foot on sacred ground, but the sound of his shoes on the church floor is answer to that question.

She makes her way down the aisle, but she cannot shake the strangeness of this place. Without the bells, the organ, the bodies crowding in for services, the church feels abandoned. Less a house of worship and more a tomb.

“Care to confess your sins?”

Luc has moved with all the ease of shadows in the dark. He is no longer behind her, but sitting in the first row now, his arms spread along the back of the pew, his legs thrown out, ankles crossed in lazy repose.

Addie was raised to kneel in the little stone chapel in the center of Villon, spent days folded into Paris pews. She has listened to the bells, and the organ, and the calls to prayer. And yet, despite it all, she has never understood the appeal. How does a ceiling bring you closer to heaven? If God is so large, why build walls to hold Him in?

“My parents were believers,” she muses, her fingers trailing over the pews. “They always spoke of God. Of His strength, His mercy, His light. They said He was everywhere, in everything.” Addie stops before the altar. “They believed in everything so easily.”

“And you?”

Addie looks up at the panels of stained glass, the images little more than ghosts without the sun to light them. She wanted to believe. She listened, and waited to hear His voice, to feel His presence, the way she might feel sun on her shoulders, or wheat beneath her hands. The way she felt the presence of the old gods Estele so favored. But there, in the cold stone house, she never felt anything.

She shakes her head, and says aloud, “I never understood why I should believe in something I could not feel, or hear, or see.”

Luc raises a brow. “I think,” he says, “they call that faith.”

“Says the devil in the house of God.” Addie glances his way as she says it, and catches a brief flash of yellow across the steady green.

“A house is a house,” he says, annoyed. “This one belongs to all, or none. And you think me the devil, now? You weren’t so certain in the woods.”

“Perhaps,” she says, “you have made me a believer.”

Luc tips his head back, a wicked smile tugging at his mouth. “And you think if I am real, then so is he. The light to my shadow, the day to my dark? And you are convinced, if only you had prayed to him instead of me, he would have shown you such kindness and such mercy.”

She has wondered as much a hundred times, though of course she does not say it.

Luc’s hands slide off the pew as he leans forward.

“And now,” he adds, “you will never know. But as for me,” he says, rising, “well—the devil is simply a new word for a very old idea. And as for God, well, if all it takes is a flair for drama and a bit of golden trim…”

He flicks his fingers, and suddenly the buttons on his coat, the buckles on his shoes, the stitching on his waistcoat are no longer black, but gilded. Burnished stars against a moonless night.

He smiles, then brushes the filigree away like dust.

She watches it fall, looks up again to find him there, inches from her face.

“But this is the difference between us, Adeline,” he whispers, fingers grazing her chin. “I will always answer.”

She shivers, despite herself. At the too-familiar touch against her skin, at the lurid green of his eyes, at the wolfish, wild grin.

“Besides,” he says, fingers falling from her face, “all gods have a price. I’m hardly the only one who trades in souls.” Luc holds his hand, open, to one side, and light blooms in the air just above his palm. “He lets souls wither on shelves. I water them.”

The light warps and coils.

“He makes promises. I pay up front.”

It flares once, sudden and brilliant, and then draws close, taking on a solid shape.

Addie has always wondered what a soul would look like.

It is such a grand word, soul. Like god, like time, like space, and when she’s tried to picture it, she’s conjured images of lightning, or sunbeams through dust, of storms in the shapes of human forms, of vast and edgeless white.