Chapter 17

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 Danielle wakes early and nervous. This is it; this is The Day. The sky is still gray with impending dawn, but Laurent is already up, sipping an espresso and reading Le Figaro in the corner of their room. He always rises before dawn, he blames the military for it, and stays up past midnight. Laurent needs less sleep than any other human being Danielle has ever met.

"Morning," he says, seeming a little surprised. "Un café?"

She half-smiles. "I don't think I'll need it today. I'm wide awake." Awake and tense. She wants to throw herself into work, occupy the butterfly farm in her stomach with something productive, but today there is no more work; the mechanism of protest is grinding away, and it is too late to oil any more gears.

"Maybe you need a little physical distraction," he says, his voice inviting.

She shakes her head. "Not today."

He nods.

"I'm sorry," she says, taking it as a faint rebuke. "I know I've been all distant and busy. I never thought I'd turn into one of those women who spends all day at the office and turns down sex because they're too distracted by work. It just happened. But it'll be over tonight."

"Don't worry. It's all right."

And it is, too, she can feel it. On paper, she and Laurent should be a disaster. She moved to a strange new city with him after knowing him for only two weeks of desperate mutual peril. Then Danielle all but disappeared from his life to devote herself to work; in the last six weeks they have spent almost no ambulatory time together, and slept in the same bed only on those three or four nights a week she made it home from the warehouse. By rights they should have drifted apart. Instead she feels, beneath the giddy madness that still comes over her sometimes when she looks at him, a quiet certainty that all will forever be well between them, that the ordinary rules of relationships do not apply, their bond somehow strengthens even when they are apart.

That doesn't mean she wants him to be absent. She aches to spend more time with him like their first week in Paris. Danielle cannot think of a happier week in her life. The others returned to London, Keiran to his job, Angus and Estelle to confer with the foundation, and Laurent and Danielle had this apartment and the city to themselves. That first week here, exploring the city by day and each other by night, going on long walks down streets full of so many gorgeous wonders Danielle does not believe they could ever be stained by ordinariness, staying up for dizzying all-night marathons of sex and conversation until they fell asleep murmuring in each other's arms at dawn, then waking tired but oh so eager for another perfect day to begin – that first week was bliss. For him too, she knows it, she still shivers when she thinks of Laurent's wracked, halting voice when he finally told her about his past, and the way he picked her up and spun her around as if she was a weightless prop later that day, giddy with pleasure, atop the steps of Montmartre, with all Paris stretched out before them like a magic carpet of delights. She has been in love before, but never like this, never so painless, so uncomplicated, so perfect.

What he does today could put him in jail for many years. But somehow this doesn't worry her; somehow she is certain that he and Angus and Keiran will do their jobs perfectly and safely. It is the protest she has orchestrated that makes her nervous. The inside of her skin seems to itch with anxiety. She feels no anticipation. She just wants today to be over without anything going horribly wrong.

** *

Keiran checks into the Sheraton La Défense using his real name. No harm in it. Nothing he does from here will be traceable back to him. LoTek's Law: Always be invisible. He can't get caught unless one of his four co-conspirators turns on him. And no fake ID is likely to help him then.

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