Home > Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(16)

Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(16)
Author: Deborah Harkness

Had her nose changed? Phoebe got up and looked in the time-clouded mirror. Reflected there was the room behind her: the elegant curves of the Second Empire bed, the small canopy suspended from the ceiling that turned the bed into a cozy enclosure, the elegant armoire, and a deep armchair expansive enough that you could curl your feet up underneath you when you were reading.

A crease had reappeared in the bedspread.

Phoebe frowned. She had smoothed out that wrinkle. She remembered doing it.

Before she could complete her next thought, she was kneeling on the mattress. Her hands pressed the fabric, over and over. Every fiber of the sheets was palpable, and rough to her touch.

“No wonder I can’t sleep. They’re too coarse.” Phoebe tore at the linens, intending to drag them from the mattress so they could be replaced with something proper, something that wouldn’t scratch her skin and keep her awake.

Instead, she reduced them to ribbons, shredding them with nails that had the sharp ferocity of an eagle’s talons.

“We’ve reached the terrible twos, I see.” Freyja entered the room, her blue eyes frosty over high cheekbones as she surveyed the damage Phoebe had inflicted on the room.

Phoebe had been warned about her second day, and how it seemed to mimic the trials and tribulations of the second year of human age, but she’d had no context for the warning, having never been a mother. She could not remember her own time as a toddler, and not a single one of her friends had children yet.

“Are you nesting?” Françoise, whose once-miraculous omnipresence had become just another source of irritation, studied the mess Phoebe had made.

“The sheets are scratchy. I can’t sleep,” Phoebe said, unable to keep the petulance from her tone.

“We have spoken about this, Phoebe dearest.” Freyja’s voice was reasonable, compassionate. The endearment grated on Phoebe’s raw nerves nonetheless. “It will be months before you take your first nap. A deep sleep is still years away.”

“But I’m tired,” Phoebe complained, sounding like a troublesome child.

“No, you’re bored and hungry. A draugr must be very precise about her emotions and state of mind, so as not to be caught up in fantasies of feeling. Your blood is far too strong and restless to need sleep.” Freyja noticed something in the window, a tiny imperfection. One of the panes was cracked. Her attention zeroed in on the crazed glass. “How did that happen?”

“A bird.” Phoebe lowered her gaze. There was a split in the floor—or was that the grain in the wood? She could follow the line forever. . . .

“This crack begins on the inside,” Freyja said, inspecting it more closely. “I will ask you one more time, Phoebe: How did this happen?”

“I told you!” Phoebe said, defensive. “A bird. It was outside in the tree. I wanted to get its attention, so I tapped on the glass. I didn’t mean to break anything. I just wanted it to look at me.”

The bird would not stop singing. At first Phoebe had found the song enchanting, her vampire ears attuned as they never had been to the trills and warbles. As it went on—and on—however, she wanted to wring the bird’s neck.

If she drank the blood of a bird, would she understand why they sang all the time?

Phoebe’s stomach gurgled.

“I’m too damn old to be a mother. I’d completely forgotten what a pain in the ass children are.” Miriam had arrived. She put her hands on her slender hips and adopted her preferred stance: legs slightly separated, usually clad in some sort of boot (today’s were high-heeled and suede), and her elbows pushing into the surrounding space at sharp angles, daring someone to dismiss her as insignificant.

The rush of pride in her maker was instantaneous and surprising, engulfing Phoebe. Miriam’s blood flowed through Phoebe’s veins, strong and powerful. She might be small and worthless now, but in time Phoebe would be a vampire to reckon with, too.

Disappointment crashed down on her. Phoebe’s throat tightened.

“What is it?” Freyja asked, concerned. “Is the light too bright? Françoise, close those drapes immediately.”

“It’s not the sunshine. It’s just I’ve grown only an inch.” Phoebe had been marking her progress every ten minutes or so on the frame of the door that led into the bathroom. The mark hadn’t risen for the past eight hours. Phoebe had scratched so many lines into that single location with her fingernail that the paint was ruined.

“If height was what you were after, you should have had Freyja sire you,” Miriam said tartly, moving into the room past the nearly six-foot-tall Dane. With one sweeping glance she studied the mess Phoebe had made, confirmed that the window glass was indeed cracked, and fixed dark eyes on her daughter. “Well?”

There was no mistaking the demand for an explanation in her maker’s tone.

“I’m bored.” Phoebe said it quietly, embarrassed by the puerile confession.

“Excellent. Well done.” Freyja nodded approvingly. “That is a tremendous achievement, Phoebe.”

Miriam’s eyes narrowed.

“And,” Phoebe continued, her voice increasingly plaintive, “hungry.”

“This is why no one should be made a vampire until they are thirty,” Miriam told Freyja. “Insufficient inner resources.”

“You were twenty-five!” Phoebe said hotly, her defenses rising at the insult.

“Back then, twenty-five was practically old age.” Miriam shook her head. “We can’t come running every time you feel restless, Phoebe. You’re going to have to figure out how to fill your time.”

“Do you play chess? Embroider? Like to cook? Make perfume?” Freyja began to rattle off the activities of a medieval Danish princess. “Write poetry?”

“Cook?” Phoebe was bewildered at the prospect—and the mere thought made her empty stomach rise up in rebellion. She hadn’t enjoyed cooking when she was human. Now that she was a vampire it was out of the question.

“It can be a very rewarding hobby. I knew a vampire who spent a decade perfecting the soufflé. She said it was very soothing,” Freyja replied. “Veronique did have a human husband at the time, of course. He was quite happy with her efforts, though in the end they killed him. His heart was so blocked with sugar and eggs that he died at fifty-three.”

“Do you mean Marcus’s Veronique, who works in London?” Phoebe didn’t know that Freyja and Marcus’s former lover were acquainted.


The thought of him was electrifying.

When Phoebe was a warmblood, Marcus’s touches had made her veins turn to fire and her fragile human limbs to liquid. Now that she was a vampire . . . Phoebe’s restless mind dwelt on the possibilities. Her lips turned up into a slow, seductive smile.

“Oh, dear,” Freyja said, a bit of alarm in her tone as she detected the direction that Phoebe’s wandering attention had taken. “What about a musical instrument? Do you play something? Can you sing?”

“No music.” Miriam’s lilting soprano turned thunderous, something only a vampire could manage. “When Jason discovered the drum, it nearly drove his father and me around the bend.”

Phoebe had not yet met Jason, the only surviving child of Miriam’s long-dead mate.

She began to thrum her fingers on the tabletop in anticipation. Phoebe had never had a brother, only Stella. Sisters were different—younger sisters, especially. What might she do with an older brother? Phoebe wondered.

Miriam’s hand closed on hers, bone-crushing and painful. “No. Drumming.”

Bored, hungry, and restless, held captive by Freyja and Miriam—how was Phoebe supposed to endure it? She wanted to run outside and breathe fresh air.

Phoebe wanted to chase something that wasn’t a thought, run it into the ground and then—

“I want to hunt.” Phoebe was amazed by the realization. She’d worried about hunting for weeks before she became a vampire, and for the past six hours she’d been pushing the idea resolutely from her mind. Because after the hunting came the feeding from a live human, and Phoebe wasn’t sure she was ready for that.


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