Home > Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(3)

Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(3)
Author: Deborah Harkness

“I want us to share that experience—as equals. I’ve never shared my blood with my mate—nor have you. It’s something we can do for the first time, together.” Marcus’s voice was gentle, but it held an edge of frustration.

This was well-covered ground. Equality was something that Marcus cared about deeply. A woman and child begging, a racial slur overheard on the tube, an elderly man struggling to cross the street while young people sped by with their headphones and mobiles—all of these made Marcus seethe.

“We should have just run off and eloped,” Marcus said. “We should have done it our way, and not bothered with all this ancient tradition and ceremony.”

But doing it this way, in slow, measured steps, was a choice they had also made together.

Ysabeau de Clermont, the family’s matriarch and Marcus’s grandmother, had laid out the pros and cons of abandoning vampire custom with her usual clarity. She started with the recent family scandals. Marcus’s father, Matthew, had married a witch in violation of nearly a thousand years of prohibitions against relationships between creatures of different species. Then he nearly died at the hands of his estranged, deranged son, Benjamin. This left Phoebe and Marcus with two options. They could keep her transformation and their marriage secret for as long as possible before facing an eternity of gossip and speculation about what had gone on behind the scenes. Alternatively, they could transform Phoebe into a vampire before she was mated to Marcus with all due pomp—and transparency. If they chose the latter course, Phoebe and Marcus would likely suffer a year of inconvenience, followed by a decade or two of notoriety, and then be free to enjoy an endless lifetime of relative peace and quiet.

Marcus’s reputation had played a factor in Phoebe’s decision, too. He was known among vampires for his impetuousness, and for charging off to right the evils of the world without a care for what other creatures might think. Phoebe hoped that if they followed tradition in the matter of their marriage, Marcus would enter the ranks of respectability and his idealism might be seen in a more positive light.

“Tradition serves a useful purpose, remember?” Phoebe said firmly. “Besides, we’re not sticking to all the rules. Your secret phone plan is no longer secret, by the way. Freyja knows.”

“It was always a long shot.” Marcus sighed. “I swear to God, Freyja’s part bloodhound. There’s no getting anything past her. Don’t worry. Freyja won’t really mind us talking. It’s Miriam who’s the stickler.”

“Miriam is in Montmartre,” Phoebe said, glancing at her watch. It was now thirty minutes past midnight. Miriam would return soon. She really had to get off the phone.

“There’s good hunting around the Sacré Coeur,” Marcus commented.

“That’s what Freyja said,” Phoebe replied.

Silence fell. It grew heavy with all the things they couldn’t say, wouldn’t say, or wanted to say but didn’t know how. In the end, there were only three words important enough to utter.

“I love you, Marcus Whitmore.”

“I love you, Phoebe Taylor,” Marcus replied. “No matter what you decide ninety days from now, you’re already my mate. You’re under my skin, in my blood, in my dreams. And don’t worry. You’re going to be a brilliant vampire.”

Phoebe had no doubts that the transformation would work, and blissfully few that she wouldn’t enjoy being ageless and powerful. But would she and Marcus be able to build a relationship that would endure, like the one Marcus’s grandmother had known with her mate, Philippe?

“I will be thinking of you,” Marcus said. “Every moment.”

The line went dead as Marcus hung up.

Phoebe kept the phone to her ear until the telephone service disconnected the call. She climbed out of the tub, smashed the phone with the canister of bath salts, opened the window, and threw the lump of plastic and circuitry as far as she could into the garden. Destroying the evidence of their transgression had been part of Marcus’s original plan, and Phoebe was going to follow it to the letter even if Freyja already knew about the forbidden phones. What was left of the device landed in the small fishpond with a satisfying plonk.

Having rid herself of the incriminating evidence, Phoebe took off her dress and hung it up inside the armoire—making sure that the striped plastic bag was once again out of sight on top of it. Then she put on the simple white silk dressing gown that Françoise had laid out for her on the bed.

Phoebe sat on the edge of the mattress, quiet and still, resolutely facing her future, and waited for time to find her.

PART 1

Time Hath Found Us

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

—THOMAS PAINE

2

Less Than Naught

13 MAY

Phoebe stepped on the scale.

“My God, you are tiny.” Freyja read the numbers to Miriam, who recorded them on something that looked like a medical chart. “Fifty-two kilograms.”

“I told you to gain three kilos, Phoebe,” Miriam said. “The scale shows an increase of just two kilos.”

“I did try.” Phoebe didn’t see why she was apologizing to these two, who were on the equivalent of a raw-foods-plus-liquids diet. “What difference does one kilo make?”

“Blood volume,” Miriam replied, trying to sound patient. “The heavier you are, the more blood you have.”

“And the more blood you have, the more you will need to receive from Miriam,” Freyja continued. “We want to be sure that she gives back as much as she takes. There are fewer risks of rejection with an equivalent exchange of human blood for vampire blood. And we want you to receive as much blood as possible.”

The calculations had been going on for months. Blood volume. Cardiac output. Weight. Oxygen uptake. If Phoebe didn’t know better, she would think she was on trial for the British national fencing team, not the de Clermont family.

“Are you sure about the pain?” Freyja asked. “We can give you something for it. There’s no need to experience any discomfort. Rebirth need not be painful, as it once was.”

This, too, had been a topic of much discussion. Freyja and Miriam had recounted hair-raising tales of their own transformations, and how agonizing it was to be filled with the blood of a preternatural creature. Vampire blood was thuggish, beating out every trace of humanity in its effort to create the perfect predator. By taking blood in slowly, a newborn vampire could adjust to the invasion of new genetic material with little or no pain—but there was evidence that the human body also had a greater opportunity to reject the maker’s blood, preferring to die rather than change into something else. The rapid transfusion of vampire blood had the opposite effect. The pain was excruciating, but the weakened human body didn’t have the time or resources to mount a counterattack.

“I am not bothered by the prospect of pain. Let’s just get this over with.” Phoebe’s tone indicated that she hoped to put an end to this conversational avenue—forever.

Freyja and Miriam exchanged glances.

“How about a local anesthetic for the bite?” Miriam asked, turning clinical once more.

“For God’s sake, Miriam.” When not feeling like a potential Olympian, Phoebe was convinced she was in the most thorough preoperative consultation ever conducted. “I don’t want anesthesia. I want to feel the bite. I want to feel the pain. This is the only birthing process I’m ever going to have. I’m not going to miss it.”

Phoebe was quite clear on this score.

“No act of creation has ever been painless,” she continued. “Miracles should leave a mark, so that we can remember how precious they are.”

“Very well, then,” Freyja said, brisk and efficient. “The doors are locked. The windows are locked. Françoise and Charles are standing by. Just in case.”

“I still think we should have done this in Denmark.” Even now, Miriam couldn’t stop reanalyzing the procedure. “There are too many beating hearts in Paris.”

“Lejre has nearly fifteen hours of daylight this time of year. Phoebe wouldn’t be able to stand so much sunshine so quickly,” Freyja argued.

   
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