Judith Ivory

Judith Ivory by Angel In a Red Dress

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Authors: Angel In a Red Dress
posing as a countess, Claybourne had suggested Adrien help locate her, “to find out what she really wanted.” Adrien had declined. But the woman Claybourne had described—“posing as a French émigré and planning to meet some damned Englishman who seems to be helping Frencharistos escape prison”—had sounded remarkably like the woman Adrien and his little rescue group were due to meet the very next afternoon—the woman for whom they had mistaken Christina Pinn. Adrien imagined Claybourne would now want to touch on this project again. If he wanted to stay on Claybourne’s good side, Adrien would have to listen patiently, politely, before bearing down on the issue of exactly who and where this damned Frenchwoman was.
    The Old Man was in no hurry. He brought forth a quill and slashed a paper here and there with ink.
    “The man who just left”—he gestured to the door with the feathery end of his pen—“said no one could find you.” He added, “The dolt. Where have you been? I expected you hours ago.”
    “I had an errand.”
    “I said I needed to see you immediately.”
    “I came as quickly as I could—”
    Claybourne sniffed at that. “You and I both know you went off to some woman’s house first.” Adrien opened his mouth to explain, then thought better of it. “Bad enough,” Claybourne continued, “you still cavort like you do. But to put me second to some quick spill of a woman’s skirts—”
    “Edward, why don’t you tell me about France. I am sure that is more to the point of this meeting.”
    Claybourne cleared his throat. “Well.” He went back to the papers on his desk. He seemed to find something there to smile at, a little glimmer of triumph. “Why don’t you tell me?”
    “Pardon?” Adrien shifted on the settee, bracing himself for the worst.
    “France. It is nice this time of year, isn’t it?”
    “Yes.”
    “I was so delighted to hear you’d gone back again.”
    “You were?” That wasn’t the impression he had gotten the week before.
    “Absolutely. I never thought you’d set foot on French soil after that incident in ’89.” He paused. “But then, you have relatives there.”
    “Dead ones.”
    Claybourne looked up. He set his quill down and sat back in the chair. “And one slightly foolish living one.”
    “Ah.” Something made sense at least. A little.
    Adrien’s grandfather, despite all efforts, could not be induced to leave the country where he was born. It was unfortunate. But Adrien half understood. The man was very old. His memory failed him at times. The familiar was his anchor to reality, to life itself. He couldn’t leave France.
    “All right,” Adrien responded. “I have one. But he is not exactly the sort that would do your schemes any good.”
    “Indeed.”
    “He’s been ill.”
    It was the first out-and-out lie. Something was cautioning Adrien. He could feel the old man’s mind pulling with all its energy at something so tangibly that he could almost imagine a vacuum being created in the room.
    In reality, the door had opened. Several puffs of dust and cobwebs had rolled across the floor. And, Adrien noted, the colossus servant had entered.
    The Old Man pushed away from the desk as he rose. He was not prone to pacing, yet he did two short tours to the fire and back before he caught himself. Hands behind him, he turned to face Adrien.
    “Your going back on your own meant I could ask something of you. That, and of course seeing that you are so fit again. I want to send you into France. Old times.”
    Adrien laughed. “Old times there are gone for good. They’ve hanged or decapitated most of the people I ever knew.”
    “But there is a just cause—”
    “I’m not much moved by causes. You, of all people, should know that.”
    “Ah, yes.” The old mind seemed to reminisce. “‘All ideals drawing life from their own opposition.’ Am I right? Heraclitus, I believe.”
    Adrien dropped his eyes. “I was very young when we started,

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