Chapter Sixteen

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They didn't talk about it for the rest of the day, and when night came, and Edmond drifted off to sleep, Ysanne slipped out of the bed and tiptoed upstairs to what had once been her bedroom.

"Richart," she whispered.

She spoke to him rather than Julien because her feelings for Julien were still all tangled and knotted inside her. His loss was still too raw.

"I'm so confused," she said, turning in a slow circle in the space where their bed had been. "I see the way Edmond looks at me, and I can't pretend that I don't feel something for him, too. But I came here to say goodbye to Julien, not to offer up my heart to someone else. It's too soon. What do I do?"


"Even if I had said my final goodbyes to Julien, how can I ever risk loving another human? You are too fragile, you break too easily, and you always leave me. Edmond will leave me too."

She waited, as if expecting an answer, then she shook her head.

"You fool," she quietly chided herself. "Asking a dead man for answers."

She tried to picture Richart in that moment, tried to imagine what he would say, but the scraps of memory blurred together, slipping through her fingers, until she realised with a stab of horror that she could no longer remember what colour Richart's eyes had been. She couldn't remember what his laughter sounded like, or the smell of his skin. Had he held her while she slept, or was that some other lover?

Ysanne's chest tightened. She would never forget the man that Richart had been, but so much else of him had been forgotten. No matter how hard she tried to cling to her memories, they faded, and one day her memories of Julien would fade too.

And of Edmond.

"I can't keep him," she whispered. "No matter what happens, I cannot keep him."

She would only break his heart . . . or he would break hers.

Physically, Ysanne was stronger than any human could ever be, but she didn't think she was strong enough for that, not when she was still putting the pieces of her heart back together after Julien's death.

She lifted her eyes to the beamed ceiling.

"Edmond and I are from two different worlds, and one day we will have to part ways," she whispered, as much to herself as anyone else.

That realisation hurt far more than she wanted to admit.


He woke up early the next morning, and lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Ysanne slept beside him, her face turned to the wall, her hair spilling like palest gold between them. In these quiet, precious moments, Edmond could almost pretend that they were just two normal people, a husband and wife like any other. He rolled onto his side, studying the way Ysanne's hair slipped away from her neck, revealing a triangle of skin, the shape of her shoulder-blades beneath her shirt, the curve of her hip. He wanted to touch her so much he ached.

But Ysanne wasn't his wife.

Her heart still belonged to Julien.

Careful not to wake her, Edmond climbed out of bed and slipped on his boots. He went out into the courtyard, where the trees commemorating Ysanne's dead husbands grew.

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