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When Terror Comes Full Circle

Prologue: The Carriage

His enemy had left the carriage, but he wasn't sure when it had happened. The memory of what had occurred just hours ago seemed so faded, so unreal; what wonder that he could not remember the details of the past few minutes?

But gradually, he became aware of the paper in his hand, the paper that seemed to have appeared from nowhere, for he could remember no more of when he first received it than he could of when the Englishman had finally taken his leave . . .

I leave you not with my usual verse this time, mon ami, but a single thought--a thought that has been plaguing my brain these past days, since that singularly interesting meeting we had at your esteemed office.

Time after time before then I had remarked to myself how very fine and decent this Citizen Armand must be, to keep the love of so sweet a girl as your Fleurette and to love her in return with such earnestness as I saw in your letter. I hope you don't mind my reading it, sir.

Since then, I have oft wondered whether I was wrong or not.

I suppose I shall continue to wonder for quite some time.

Chauvelin sat motionless in the carriage, staring blankly at the little note in his hand, wondering. The Englishman could have just left, without complications, without trouble; he could have left with no words beyond those final mocking jests that even now grated upon Chauvelin's nerves. He could have left without leaving this enigmatic note in his hand, this note even more enigmatic than his usual.

So why hadn't he?

Chauvelin would have cursed the Englishman aloud for this unwanted complication he held, but he couldn't find the words. His mouth would not form the curses his mind conjured up so easily. Not just now.

Fleurette, his Fleurette, was lost to him forever, ripped from his arms by the combined efforts of the Revolution he served and the man he hated, and he knew he would never see her again.

But she was safe. And he smiled to know she was safe.

He knew enough of his enemy and his ways to realize that from this day forward, she would be as safe as she would have been still living in solitude at Lou Mas--nay, more so. For his was a dangerous, a precarious existence, and there was no mercy now; once he was arrested, those he cared for would be seized without hesitation, wherever possible. And now, he could be arrested at any moment, any moment at all.

Right now, therefore, he would rather hand his Fleurette into the care--the very able care, he grudgingly admitted to himself--of his bitterest enemy, than keep her here by his side, only to watch her head fall under the blade mere minutes before his own.

The carriage was silent, not yet moving, and the night was still. At this moment, Chauvelin felt so very alone; more alone than he had ever before dreamed he could feel.

The door opened suddenly. He didn't even turn his head to see who it was. The Englishman's escort for him, no doubt, to go with him back to Nīmes. He could care less who it might be.

And then he felt the soft brush of a hand against his own, and the sweet kiss on his cheek.

"I'm here, Armand."

He did not care if he was dreaming; he would rather revel in this dream than face the dreadful reality of life at this moment . . . he needed not to ask who it was, for he knew that voice, that kiss. He closed his eyes wearily, allowing himself this one pleasure, this one moment of rest, and murmured her name into the air as he might have a prayer in years of long ago:

"Lucy . . ."

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