Chapter Fifteen

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Ysanne

The next day, a storm of wind and snow roared around the house, rattling the barricaded windows and sending icy draughts into the room. Even Ysanne, who couldn't be hurt by the frigid temperatures, didn't want to do anything other than huddle in front of the fire.

"If only we had books here to pass the time," she said. "I used to once, but they've all been stolen now."

She should never have left them.

She hoped that at least they had been sold, rather than being used as fire tinder for the bastards who'd stolen them.

"I can't read anyway," Edmond muttered, looking away from her.

Once, Ysanne hadn't been able to either. As Richart's wife, she'd had no reason to read – or so she'd been told. But when she became a vampire, she found she wanted to learn. Agnes taught her to read and write, and now she could hardly remember a time when she hadn't been able to do either.

She'd forgotten that, as a peasant, Edmond had never learned.

He didn't like it when she brought up their class differences, however inadvertently, and it probably wouldn't ease his mood if she reminded him that, when she was human, she also hadn't been able to read.

"It's not something to be ashamed of," she tried.

"I never said it was."

Silence.

"I could teach you," she offered.

It was the wrong thing to say.

Edmond's face darkened and he abruptly pushed himself to his feet. "What's the point? When will I ever need those skills?"

"I . . ." What was she supposed to say?

She didn't really know why Edmond was so self-conscious about these things, but maybe that was because she had been born to a very different life. Coming to understand how many people in France suffered a dismal life as peasants was not the same as actually living that life. Edmond had lived it.

"I just thought you might like to learn," she said at last.

"You thought wrong." Edmond shook his head and stalked out of the room

If anyone else had spoken to her like that, Ysanne would have been annoyed. With Edmond, she actually felt bad. She hadn't meant to offend him, but in trying to make things better, she'd only made them worse.

When she hadn't been able to read or write, she hadn't much minded. He'd been taught that such things weren't for women, and she had accepted that. She didn't understand why Edmond appeared to be so sensitive about the subject.

Ysanne sighed a little. She'd lived for the better part of three centuries, but apparently she still had things to learn about how the human mind worked.

Now the question was: did she go after Edmond, or would that make things worse?

In the end, she decided to stay where she was, sitting in front of the fire.

This problem was Edmond's, and it was up to him to decide if he ever wanted to broach it.





About an hour later, Edmond returned, looking stiff and awkward.

"I'm sorry," he said, before she could speak. "That wasn't fair."

Ysanne patted the floor beside her, and Edmond sat down.

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