Home > Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(2)

Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(2)
Author: Deborah Harkness

Freyja’s third guess was correct, right down to the plastic bag that still smelled vaguely of the garlic Charles had used in his triumphant bouillabaisse. Phoebe had known Marcus’s plan to flout the rules and stay in touch was not a good idea.

“You are breaking your agreements,” Freyja said matter-of-factly. “But you are a grown woman, with free will, capable of making your own decisions.”

Technically, Marcus and Phoebe were forbidden to speak to each other until she had been a vampire for ninety days. They had wondered how they might bend this rule. Sadly, Freyja’s only phone was located in the entrance hall, where everyone could hear your conversations. It seldom worked properly, in any case. Every now and again it gave a tinny ring, the force of the bells inside the ancient device so strong that they rocked the handset in its brass cradle. As soon as you picked up the receiver, the line usually went dead. Freyja wrote it off to a bad wiring job courtesy of a member of Hitler’s inner circle during the last war; she was not interested in fixing it.

After considering the challenges of the situation, Marcus had, with the help of Stella and his friend Nathaniel, come up with a more secretive means of communication: cheap, disposable cell phones. They were the kind used by international thieves and terrorists—or so Nathaniel had assured them—and would be untraceable should Baldwin or any other vampire want to spy on them. Phoebe and Marcus purchased them in a shady electronics shop located on one of the 10th arrondissement’s more entrepreneurial streets.

“I am sure, given the situation, that you will keep your conversation brief,” Freyja continued. She glanced at her computer screen and addressed another envelope. “You don’t want Miriam to catch you.”

Miriam was hunting around the Sacré Coeur and was expected to return in the small hours of the morning. Phoebe glanced at the clock on the mantel—an extravagant affair of gilt and marble with reclining male nudes holding up a round timepiece as though it were a beach ball. It was one minute before midnight.

“Good night, then,” Phoebe said, grateful that Freyja was not only three steps ahead of her and Marcus, but at least one ahead of Miriam, as well.

“Hmm.” Freyja’s attention was devoted to the page in front of her.

Phoebe escaped upstairs. Her bedroom was down a long corridor lined with early French landscapes. A thick carpet muffled her footsteps. After closing the bedroom door, Phoebe reached up onto the top of the armoire (Empire style, circa 1815) and snagged the plastic bag. She pulled out one of the phones and switched it on. It was fully charged and ready for use.

Clutching the phone to her heart, Phoebe slipped into the attached bathroom and closed that door, also. Two closed doors and a broad expanse of thick porcelain tile was all the privacy this vampire household afforded. She toed off her shoes and lowered herself, fully clothed, into the cold, empty tub before dialing Marcus’s number.

“Hello, sweetheart.” Marcus’s voice, usually lighthearted and warm, was rough edged with concern—though he was doing his best to disguise it. “How was dinner?”

“Delicious,” Phoebe lied. She lay back in the tub, which was Edwardian and had a magnificent high back with a curve to cradle her neck.

Marcus’s quiet laughter told her that he didn’t entirely believe her.

“Two bites of dessert and a nibble here and there around the edges?” Marcus teased.

“One bite of dessert. And Charles went to so much trouble.” Phoebe’s brow creased. She would have to make it up to him. Like most culinary geniuses, Charles was quick to take offense when plates were returned to the kitchen with food still on them.

“Nobody expected you to eat much,” Marcus said. “The dinner was for your family, not you.”

“There were plenty of leftovers. Freyja sent them home with Mum.”

“How was Edward?” Marcus knew about her father’s reservations.

“Dad tried to talk me out of our plan. Again,” Phoebe replied.

There was a long silence.

“It didn’t work,” Phoebe added, in case Marcus was worried.

“Your father just wants you to be absolutely sure,” Marcus said quietly.

“I am. Why do people keep questioning me?” There was no keeping the impatience from her tone.

“They love you,” Marcus said simply.

“Then they should listen to me. Being with you—that’s what I want.” It wasn’t all that she wanted, of course. Ever since Phoebe met Ysabeau at Sept-Tours, she had craved the inexhaustible supply of time that vampires possessed.

Phoebe had studied how Ysabeau seemed to fully extend herself into every task. Nothing was done quickly or for the sake of getting through and checking it off one’s endless to-do list. Instead there was a reverence to Ysabeau’s every move—how she sniffed the blossoms in her garden, the feline stealth of her steps, the slow pause when she reached the end of a chapter in her book before she went on to the next. Ysabeau did not feel that time would run out before she had sucked the essence from whatever experience she was having. For Phoebe, there never seemed to be enough time to breathe, dashing from the market to work to the chemist’s for cold medicine to the cobbler to have her heels fixed, and back to work.

But Phoebe hadn’t shared these observations with Marcus. He would learn her thoughts on the matter soon, when they were reunited. Then Marcus would drink from her heart vein—the thin river of blue that crossed the left breast—and learn her deepest secrets, her darkest fears, and her most cherished desires. The blood from the heart vein contained all that a lover might conceal, and drinking from it embodied the sincerity and trust that their relationship would need in order to succeed.

“We’re going to take this one step at a time, remember?” Marcus’s question reclaimed her attention. “First, you become a vampire. Then, if you still want me—”

“I will.” Of this, Phoebe was absolutely certain.

“If you still want me,” Marcus repeated, “we will marry and you will be stuck with me. For richer and poorer.”

This was one of their routines as a couple—rehearsing the marriage vows. Sometimes they focused on one line and pretended that it would be hard to keep. Sometimes they made fun of the whole lot and the smallness of the concerns the vows addressed when stacked up against the size of their feelings for each other.

“In sickness and in health.” Phoebe settled deeper into the tub. Its coolness reminded her of Marcus, and its solid curves made her wish he were sitting behind her, his arms and legs enfolding her. “Forsaking all others. Forever.”

“Forever is a long time,” Marcus warned.

“Forsaking all others,” Phoebe repeated, putting careful emphasis on the middle word.

“You can’t know for sure. Not until you know me blood to blood,” Marcus replied.

Their rare quarrels erupted after just this kind of exchange, when Marcus’s words suggested he’d lost confidence in her and Phoebe became defensive. Such arguments had usually been settled in Marcus’s bed, where each had demonstrated to the other’s satisfaction that although they might not know everything (yet), they had mastered certain important bodies of knowledge.

But Phoebe was in Paris and Marcus was in the Auvergne. A physical rapprochement wasn’t possible at the moment. A wiser, more experienced person would have let the matter drop—but Phoebe was twenty-three, irritated, and anxious about what was about to take place.

“I don’t know why you think it’s me who will change my mind and not you.” She intended the words to be light and playful. To her horror, they sounded accusatory. “After all, I’ve never known you as anything but a vampire. But you fell in love with me as a warmblood.”

“I’ll still love you.” Marcus’s response was gratifyingly swift. “That won’t change, even if you do.”

“You might hate the taste of me. I should have made you try me—before,” Phoebe said, trying to pick a fight. Maybe Marcus didn’t love her as much as he thought he did. Phoebe’s rational mind knew that was nonsense, but the irrational part (the part that was in control at the moment) wasn’t convinced.

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