Chapter 7
"Dears, would you like to help me with the invitations to a party this weekend?" Katherine asked innocently as she sat reading a fashion magazine for ladies, which was turning out to be interesting, given Kat's curiosity in costume. They were in the parlour at the front of the house, seated around the fire on various couches and pillows.

"This weekend? As in two days from now?" Jane looked up at her in alarm.

"Oh, it's just a little impromptu get-together."

"Sure."

"Anne, what do you think?"

"Hmm?"

"I asked what you thought."

"Of what?"

"Of a party."

"Oh. OK."

"You with us there?"

"Hmm?"

"Argh."

Katherine threw down her pointless magazine and looked at her friend quizzically. 'Since yesterday,' she thought. 'She's been spacey."

Anne refused to look at her, only absently stroking Josephine's pet pug, Fortune, who had rested on the chair beside her. Katherine admitted defeat after a few minutes of staring, shrugged, and returned to her scrutiny of dresses.

Jane was sitting on the windowseat, halfheartedly reading a novel. She set the book down with a sigh and gathered the lap blanket around her. Outside, down the wooded hill, past the wrought iron fence, was the cobblestone street where countless carriages and people hurried by. Jane saw them, and yet did not. Her eyes looked on to something no one else could see.

"I'll return, Mademoiselle. Soon, I shall try."

'That's what he had said,' she thought wryly. 'But it's not what he's done.'

Where was Condorcet? The thought had nagged her since the night he had appeared, but there had been no sign of him. Jane leaned her head against the window, sighing in frustration. Then she noticed a beautiful carriage pull up the winding drive. A familiar woman stepped out, wrapped in a shocking dress of pink gauze.

"Kat? It's Therese."

Katherine looked up, with an amused expression. "Oh, good. I had sent her a note this morning asking if she would help me with my guest list, seeing as I don't know anyone."

Anne had snapped out of her reverie. "Oh, boy," she said, shooing off Fortune so she could stand. The pug would only look at her with indignant, buggy black eyes.

Katherine laughed just as Therese swept in, unannounced.

"Dearests! Hello, all! Rose, it is so good of you to arrange a fete so soon! I was thinking about it the whole way here, and we simply must invite de Montmorency." At this, she smiled knowingly at Anne, who went whiter than normal.

"No," she said forcefully. "We really cannot!"

Therese gave her tinkling bell laugh. "Oh, poor dear! It's all right to be coy, I suppose. But I'm afraid I've already invited him, you see. The man was simply too eager for me to resist."

Anne looked as though someone had just signed her death warrant. She retreated to her chair once more, gravely silent.

Therese and Katherine hurried over to the writing desk where Katherine selected gold embossed paper from a mahogany drawer. She and Therese went over the guest list that appeared to get longer every time Katherine repeated it. "Oh, yes! We simply must invite Fouche. You and I attended a party of his a while ago, and he'll remember it if we don't return the favour," or: "de Stael? Germaine? You remember her. Add that name, too. The woman forgets nothing. Bless her," Therese added as a rather unconvincing afterthought.

After forty or so guests had been decided upon, both ladies leaned back in their chairs with a sigh. Katherine glanced over at her friends. "Ready for a fete, mes amies?"

They smiled weakly.

* * * * *

But, like it or not, the night had arrived. All three girls had gathered in Katherine's chambers to prepare their toilettes. They were in various states of undress, flitting around in chemises and stockings.

"I want to look nice, but I don't want to attract attention." Anne said falteringly as she held up a soft rose coloured silk gown.

Katherine glanced up at her sympathetically. "You're fine, Anne. You should wear whatever you want, and just tell the bastard he isn't wanted."

Anne flounced onto Katherine's canopy bed exasperatedly. "I did! But if you hadn't decided to have this party, I probably wouldn't have seen him again!"

Katherine winced. "I know, but I'm Josephine now," she said in an exasperated, singsong voice. "I have to have a party, or else people will wonder. And Therese is a little hasty with the invitations, but she is a sweet woman. A very generous woman, but sweet." She scrutinized Josephine's image in the mirror. A dark blue gown with a white underskirt and gold trim had been decided upon. It was low cut enough to satisfy Therese's radical ideas in clothing, but also very elegant. Katherine nodded in satisfaction. "Hey, Jane, could you come over here and give me some help with my stays?"

The other girl came to stand behind Katherine. As she pulled at the laces of the tight whalebone corset, she gave a little gasp. Katherine looked into the mirror, but couldn't see Jane's face. "What is it?"

Jane looked at her friend's back in shock. Katherine had always been a bit taller than she was, but now, Jane could almost see over her the other girl's head. And it was a much darker head, for that matter. She spun around and looked at Anne, who nodded in understanding from the bed and raised a warning eyebrow. "Um, it's nothing," Jane said quickly. "I just hurt my finger."

Katherine didn't believe that was it, but she let it go. They were probably beginning to notice what she had been seeing all along. Oh, well. It was about time. Katherine thanked her friend quietly and tied her stays herself, not too tight, but enough to attract attention. Katherine grimaced. "These things are so wretchedly the designs of men."

Jane nodded fervently. "Which is precisely why," she declared, "I am not wearing one."

Anne shrugged, heaving herself off the bed. "I think I will, but I won't tie it that tight. It's only tonight, anyway." 'Or many more nights, depending on how long we're stuck here,' she thought.

A soft knock sounded at the door. "Yes?" Katherine called.

A soft brown head came around the door. "I wanted to see what you were wearing," Hortense whispered shyly, appearing in her white cotton nightdress and lace cap.

Katherine knew the child was supposed to be in bed, for more reasons than just sleep. There was no way the girl (or her brother) could see what went on downstairs, not with the bunch that was due to arrive in less than an hour. But Katherine found herself smiling indulgently and let her in. "Just for a moment, all right? Then bed."

Hortense promptly oohed and ahhed over their gowns and helped Anne select ribbons to bind her hair with in the popular Grecian style. "Silver and pink," she declared, producing the ornaments. "They shall match your dress."

"Very well," Anne said obligingly. It was then that Josephine's maid was called in to do up their hair. Anne's brown locks were bound accordingly, and Heather had chosen a white scarf to hold Josephine's dark hair a la Creole. Jane, after careful deliberation, had decided to tie up her tresses in a loose bun with green and red flowers to match her sprigged white gown. All three sighed in satisfaction as they gazed at themselves in the mirror. "Now, for jewelry," Heather announced. "Louise, could you bring in the boxes, please? And Hortense, love, you had best go to bed now." The young girl slid reluctantly out of the room after receiving a kiss from her mother.

The maid reappeared soon with three leather cases brimming with jewels and other trinkets. She laid them out on the dressing table for their inspection and disappeared. "Thank you, Louise," Katherine called after her. She looked at her friends knowingly. "Gifts from Barras, I wouldn't doubt."

Anne suppressed a joyful laugh. "I don't think I've ever seen so many real gems that I could actually pick from," she murmured, selecting a necklace of sparkling diamonds.

The others quickly agreed. They had lived in a wealthy suburb, but as members of families with average incomes, they had never seen the likes of this.

"My Mom's most valuable piece was her engagement ring, but that had just one diamond," Katherine commented, eyeing a sapphire necklace and earrings. "And some of her grandmother's costume jewelry."

Jane held up an emerald pendant. "Perfect," she announced, clasping it on. "Yes, you're right Kat. This is exceptional."

"Alore, qu'en penses-tu?" Anne queried, turning this way and that so the diamonds flashed. "Beautiful," Katherine smiled. "Now we had better get downstairs."

They hurriedly administered finishing touches, tying each other's sashes and tucking in stray curls. "Ready? Let's go." Katherine closed the bedroom door behind them as they minced down the stairs in their little shoes, which even Jane had had to agree to.

Therese and a few of her gentlemen friends, including her husband, Tallien, a government official, had arrived already. "Rose! Dear!" she called from the far side of the large parlour-turned-dancing-room. Located on the far western corner of the house, it was decided upon as the ideal gathering place, with its rich wood paneling and green velvet trim. On one wall stood a spacious fireplace and a few sofas with gaming tables, while the rest of the room had been cleared for dancing space. Soon, hundreds of heels would be gallivanting across the shiny wood floors. Katherine smiled inwardly as she recalled how she and her friends rolled up the rug that afternoon, slipping and sliding on the floor, much to the shock of the servants.

Katherine rushed over to Therese, determined to be a good hostess. "I am terribly sorry! I hadn't realized how late we were in our toilettes." She smiled graciously at the quiet men, who bowed formally. "Oh, Tallien! How long it seems since I saw you last!" Katherine grasped the man's hands. Josephine had whispered in her ear; "that is Tallien, see? The one in red velvet? Speak to him, he shall know you well."

So Katherine did, waving her friends over. Soon, dozens of guests began pouring in, their carriages rattling past the front door and around to the back. The volume increased as the talking, laughing, and most popular crowd in Paris filled the room. Everyone had to, of course, pay his or her respects to the hostess, but as Anne noticed a swaggering young courtier approach, she began to lament ever having come downstairs. He politely kissed the hand of Katherine first, and then proceeded to his real target.

"We meet again," he leered, mouthing every inch of Anne's appendage. She thanked God it was gloved.

"Yes, and I'm so fortunate to have met God's gift to women yet again in my lifetime," she snapped, ripping her hand away. He laughed softly at this, then melted into the glittering crowd. "I shall return, ma petite putain."

Anne gasped at such a rude phrase, but before she could chase after him in a fury, a soberly clad, bewigged gentleman approached her friend. Had Anne seen him before?

He bowed to them both, a short polite gesture. "James Madison, of the United States of America, at your service, Mesdames," he declared in halted French. Katherine's face betrayed a brief moment of shock. Then she recovered herself. "Merci bien, Monsieur," she replied, giving him her hand to kiss. He bowed once more, retreating to the window on the other side of the room where a delegation of similarly dressed gentlemen stood.

Anne laughed in disbelief. "Madison? What on earth."

Katherine shook her head in shock. "I guess this was a period of negotiations over here... wow. I don't know how many more famous dead people I can take."

Anne and Jane, who was also in the receiving line, both smiled inwardly. If she only knew.

Barras and his crowd of Directors soon appeared. He grinned at Katherine, kissing her hand familiarly. "Another night, Rose? If it is not any trouble, I would like to speak with you outside for a moment." Katherine nodded, confused and a little afraid, and took his arm. They wove through the crowd and headed out the door into the hallway. He led her to a painting of a naked cupid and Venus.

"You have, I presume, met Bonaparte?" he inquired, absently fiddling with his lace cuffs.

She nodded, still confused. She could hear the gentle roar of voices through the closed ballroom doors and was worried about how her friends were faring. "Yes, I have, Barras. I heard from Therese that he has been promoted to Generalship?"

"Yes, General Vendemiaire, the people call him. Has Therese also informed you of how unpopular her husband is?" Barras added, though not cruelly. He seemed incapable of such emotions, like Josephine herself. "He was part of the reason for the rebellion in the first place."

Katherine sifted furiously through her mind for a response. "But was he not the one that threw down Robespierre?"

Barras shrugged, as though it did not matter much, but Katherine detected fear in his dark eyes. "If you believe the legends. Now Rose, you should know as well as I that the people of this country change their minds with every season. I don't believe they know what they want."

Katherine looked at the painting, absorbing this information. A monarchy, Bonaparte said, was what they wanted. Which would explain perfectly the fear in Barras' eyes.

"But you have become acquainted with the General? Friends yet, Rose? I know how amiable you are." He grinned, his familiar expression chasing anxiety out of his face.

Katherine inclined her head. "You could say that."

He seemed satisfied. "Good. Now, I would appreciate it very much if you would become intimate with him."

She was startled. "What! Why?"

He coughed. "He is need of good connections, that is all. Besides, another lover could not hurt."

Katherine was shocked. "Barras, what on earth has possessed you to say this?"

He laughed lightly. "Nothing, Rose! Gracious, but you are nervous tonight. Come; let's return to this fete of yours. Ah, here is Bonaparte now. Fashionably late, I presume, General Bonaparte?"

The younger man, who had been stalking down the hall with his head down, seemed startled and stopped abruptly to greet them. He was dressed in a handsome new uniform of dark blue velvet with the French tricolour as his sash. Yet, Katherine noticed with a smile, his hair still straggled down past his ears. He bowed quickly to the Director and hurried to Katherine.

"Josephine," he murmured, kissing her hands. Katherine looked down quietly at her slippers, and as much as she wanted not to in front of the triumphant Barras, she blushed. "Come, Bonaparte. To the fete!" She took his arm and led him in, pointedly ignoring Barras. She was still, much to her pleasure, shorter than he was, and she glanced teasingly up into his eyes.

As they entered, everyone applauded. "The hostess has returned!" someone shouted, raising a wineglass. "Strike up the dance!" The small chamber orchestra rushed to their seats to oblige, commencing a light waltz. Katherine saw the serious Madison leading a giddy young Parisienne out to dance. Besides making her almost laugh out loud, it gave her an idea.

"Bonaparte, would you care to dance?" she asked, smiling as she snapped her fan shut, still ignoring a smiling Barras.

He bowed awkwardly. "I would love to Madame."

Katherine called for Josephine then, who had been hovering by her ear all night. The said lady duly took over and laughingly helped Napoleon place his hands on her waist. Apparently, he had not danced before, at least not often. Then, holding his other hand, she guided him around the floor, in and among other smiling couples.

Deep in the recesses of the other woman's mind, Katherine called out suggestions. "Get closer to him! Come on, you know you want to! All right, maybe I want to, but. aw, damn" she grumbled as the other woman pointedly refused. "Fine, then. But don't tell me you can't see how he's looking at you right now."

It was true, Josephine conceded. She risked a coy glance at her partner's face. His serious expression had not changed, but as he gazed at her his soft brown eyes took on a fiery light. "Josephine." he whispered.

She had to break the mood. "Bonaparte, do tell me how your winter in Paris has been going," she asked in a strictly friendly tone. "I hear you've moved into new lodgings now that you are a general. Are they any better than that frightfully drafty palace?" She looked at him questioningly as he considered.

"I suppose," he replied. "I transported all of my books over today, so it is much better now."

She couldn't help smiling at that. "You must see my library, then. If there is anything you wish to take, please do. Will you see me tomorrow? Of course, I shall have so many thank you's to write, but I can still show you the library."

He seemed briefly wistful, then became serious again. "Of course, Madame."

She laughed. "Why so formal now? Come, Bonaparte!"

He face appeared impatient, then merely sad. "Because, Madame, you have not given me a reason to hope."

At that moment the dance ceased and the clapping of the participants drowned out his words. He only gazed at her forlornly and bowed, heading back into the crowd.

Josephine accepted another dance, and then two more, until she became too tired to move. She gathered her tasseled silk shawl around her and hurried to the sofas by the roaring fire. She could feel sweat roll down her bare back as the heat poured over her. Just as she sat down, she saw Anne come in from the hallway. Her face had an incredulous expression on it as she walked dazedly over to the seat beside Josephine.

Katherine asserted control as she asked her friend what was wrong. Anne looked at her, as though not sure of who she was. "Oh, yes Katherine!" Then she burst out laughing, long hysterical gasps.

Katherine stared at her, and smiled at confused guests. "A silly joke, that is all," she announced. Then she turned her attention back to Anne. "What is so funny? Is my make-up smearing or something?" she demanded.

Anne wiped a tear from her eye. "No! I wanted to go to my room for necessary business, right? As I walked past the stairs, I heard some funny noises coming from." at this, she dissolved into giggles again. Recovering finally, she continued. "I hear stuff coming from under the stairs, in that little room where we found the instruments. And I look through the door, which was kind of open, and I saw your precious Barras." here she fought not to laugh helplessly again, stuffing her fist into her mouth. "I saw him with another man." She looked at Katherine; eager to see the effect this news would have on her.

Katherine stared. "What do you mean, with another man? Were they talking?"

Anne snorted. "No, stupid! They were making out! Your Barras is a SLASHER!!"

Katherine's face betrayed utter shock, then utter amusement. "Are you serious?!" she cried. Anne nodded fervently, taking her friend's hands in earnest.

"Trust me, if you had seen what I saw, you would not lie! I mean, they were all over each other!"

Katherine laughed out loud. "It didn't happen to be Montmorency, did it?" she inquired mischievously.

Anne shook her head sadly. "No, it was some guy I didn't recognize. But I was laughing so hard I definitely had to pee!"

They continued to dissolve into fits of giggles until Therese appeared, with a stranger on her arm. "Rose, dear!" she said excitedly. "I wanted to surprise you! Look who I have brought from Cherbourg, on leave!"

Katherine searched the new man's face for any signs of recognition. He was quite handsome with curly blonde hair and light green eyes. But she had no earthly idea who he was. 'All right Jo,' she thought. 'So who is he?'

'Oh, it's Hoche!' came the excited voice. 'Lazare! He's returned. here, let me darling.'

Josephine stood and took the man's hands. "Lazare," she whispered. He kissed her hand. "Rose. It's been a long time."

"Je sais," she replied quietly, smiling fondly. "Oh, Therese! Merci bien! What a wonderful surprise!"

Her friend smiled proudly, and then appeared to notice someone. "Oh, there is General Bonaparte. You know, he's an excellent fortuneteller. Must be an island thing. Let's have him tell ours! General, general! Over here please." Therese waved excitedly, tossing her silk shawl this way and that.

He obliged her, leaving his post by the door and coming over. "Yes, Citoyenne?" he said politely.

Therese looked back and forth between her happy friend and the newcomer. "I was hoping that you could divulge our fortunes, General. You must show Lazare and Rose what you can do. Come now, take his palm. That's it."

Napoleon seemed very uncomfortable, but he did as she had said. Josephine glanced at Lazare, blushing. "I pray it is all good," she said. He smiled back at her. "It could only ever be," he replied meaningfully.

Anne, from her perch on the couch, had seen everything, from Katherine's remarkable transformation up to Napoleon's quick assessment of the situation involving Lazare and Josephine. She caught the flash of anger that flitted across his eyes, then the normal look of polite disinterest that replaced it. 'Oooh, burn,' she thought. Anne felt very sorry for him and continued to stare in interest as he studied his rival's hand. Napoleon had quite a crowd now as people gathered around to see his skills.

When he had completed his assessment of Hoche's palm, his voice was cold and calculating. "I think, General," he declared. "That you shall die in your sleep."

Gasps and murmurs boiled through the crowd. "How shameful to tell a fellow soldier of France that he will die such a dishonourable death!" Anne heard someone mutter angrily. She watched in fear as Hoche's eyes flashed fury and he snatched his hand away from the triumphant man's grasp.

But even as a challenge was on Hoche's lips, Josephine saved the day. "Oh, no matter!" she said briskly, taking his arm. "Alexander the Great died in his sleep."

And that was the end of the issue. Anne watched in amazement as the anger left Hoche's eyes and the crowd dispersed, back to dancing or gaming. Napoleon bowed and left, his duty for the party done.

* * * * *

It was a cold October night. Jane shivered as she drew her wool cape tighter about her shoulders. She looked up into the blackness above the silhouettes of the trees where thousands of little stars glistened over Paris and 6 Rue Chantereine. She sighed despondently and sat on a stone garden bench, drawing her cloak over her mouth and ears and staring up at the brightly lit house. However warm it was back inside, Jane had to escape the confusion of dancing, eating, noise, and lovers. It threatened to overwhelm her.

But it appeared she could not escape, even out here. Giggles and little screams coming from the shrubbery by the stone wall let her know she was not alone. Jane scowled in disgust and stood, continuing her walk along the path, down the hillside. Her face was stony now, void of emotion as she burrowed into the cloak and sat on a smooth rock underneath a lime tree.

This was a disgusting time period. Now Jane was no Puritan, knowing full well her modern world, but she had found herself growing more and more alarmed as the evening went on. Women would disappear and return minutes later, pulling up a sleeve, flustered and red faced. The secretive, smiling men that followed them were certainly not the ones who had accompanied them to the party. Jane shook her head, resigned. It wasn't her problem, was it? For now, she had to make sure she laid low. and not in that manner. She didn't want to end up in Anne's position.

"I mean, why do such things?" She declared out loud. "Granted, they didn't. well, no they did have a few STD's, and you could still get pregnant. So yes! That brings me right back to my original question. Why do it? Besides, it only makes you look cheap. Men don't respect you for your mind. Just your body." Jane shuddered. "I despise the idea."

"As do I."

"Honestly, if I had to choose, I believe I'd just not marry at all. Life would be so much easier!"

"Well, it would be rather lonely, don't you think?"

"Perhaps. But no pain, and no power struggles between man and wife."

"Ah! I understand now. An equal rights advocate."

"Of course! A woman has every bit as much of a brain as a man, and sometimes I'm inclined to say more."

"Oh! Mademoiselle, I'm hurt."

Gentle laughter reached her ears. Jane sat bolt upright, realizing that the conversation had not been in her mind, as normal. Instead, seated on the ground beside her rock, plucking at blades of grass, was the Marquis de Condorcet. He inclined his head courteously towards her.

Jane's expression of surprise changed to one of frustration. "It's been so long. why have you not come before?" she asked, hurt.

He seemed regretful. "I'm sorry, Mademoiselle, but the passage of time is different for the dead. I didn't realize it had been so long." He handed her a frosty flower. "Forgive me?"

She took the wilting blossom. Jane couldn't help but smile at his earnestness. "Of course." She twiddled the stem in her gloved fingers. "So. A topic of conversation?"

He thought a moment. "You choose."

"No, you."

"Mais Mademoiselle, ladies first."

"Argh! That will segue perfectly into women's rights, you know."

"Good. Then women's rights it shall be."

"Et puis?"

"Calculus?"

"Oh, yes! Haven't. or didn't you develop theories on that?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I brought this paper I wrote on."

They sat there conversing for quite a while. Women's rights did indeed turn to Calculus, a subject Jane enjoyed. She also almost laughed out loud when Condorcet handed Jane his paper, asking her:

"Could you edit this for me, please? If it is not too much trouble, that is."

Jane's reason for laughter was that her mother back home, working her way through a teaching program at the university, had relied heavily on her daughter to check her papers. She nodded at him, pleased enough with the subject and the one writing it to agree. "But Monsieur, why are you writing such a thing? I mean. you're dead."

He smiled. "Well, honestly, there is not much else to do. And besides, I could slip this in the records and have it published posthumously. It was overlooked, they shall say."

Jane grinned, tucking the flower into her hair.

Condorcet leaned on one elbow, lying sideways on the ground. "You remind me of my wife," he said, studying her.

Jane was startled. "I do?"

He inclined his head.

She stared at the ground. 'I remind him of his wife,' she thought, her initial delight turning to disappointment. 'He had a wife, whom he loved very much, I can remember reading. Well, she was a lucky woman.'

"I should probably get inside," she said, standing up. Her chilled body protested and creaked, her teeth chattering briefly. All the time she had been talking to him, Jane had completely forgotten about the cold night, but now it came back to her with a vengeance. She tightened her cape and swept past Condorcet, who stood up.

"Mademoiselle," he called, catching up to her.

"No," she declared, wheeling around. "Please, I know I have not made it known before, but call me Jane. It's what I'm used to." With that she continued stalking up the hill to the house. But footsteps still dogged her path.

"Mademoi. Jane, please stop a moment! What has happened that you should be so upset all of a sudden?"

She stopped, turning once more to face him. "It is because you don't understand! You are so perfect and yet you still do not understand!" Jane immediately clapped a hand over her mouth, never having intended to say that aloud. She looked at his confused face fearfully and hurried up to the house.

She let herself in the back door by the kitchen and as soon as she'd torn off her cape and gloves, sat down in the coat closet. Jane put her head into her hands. "That was so stupid!" she cried to herself. "How could you have said such a thing? Out loud! What is wrong with you? Or are we."

She stopped. Long seconds ticked by before she answered herself. "No. 'A passing fancy,' as they used to say. It is merely a passing fancy. Nothing more. It was never for me. I don't want it. Besides, someone is already there. He's waiting for her. He probably goes and sees her. Why would he waste his time here? Oh, why, why, why, why, why." Jane leaned back against the mess of frock coats and capes, closing her eyes. A groan escaped her lips.

He had not followed her.

* * * * *

Anne excused herself politely from the card table where she had, thanks to Eugene's tutoring nights before, managed to win a few coins. But it was getting stifling in the ballroom and she was growing weary.

'Not as weary as Katherine', she thought as she watched her now dark haired, smaller friend fill another glass for the American delegate. Anne silently wished her luck and escaped into the hall, brushing past Napoleon, who appeared satisfied with himself. Anne frowned and reminded herself to speak with Katherine later about the Hoche issue.

Underneath a painting of Venus and Cupid, she slid down the wood paneled wall and sat. She looked each way down the hall, hoping no one saw her. Slowly, Anne's eyes closed and the world disappeared.

She dreamed that lips were on hers. Ah, she could imagine it now, even in her sleep. They belonged to a gentleman in a frock coat with mischievous eyes. Perhaps too mischievous, as fingers now trailed down her neck.

Yet, when she opened her eyes to smile, Anne found that it was no such man. "Oh mon Dieu!!!" she yelled in fury, standing up so fast it made her sleepy head spin.

"Quoi, Mademoiselle?" de Montmorency asked innocently as he reached for her face once more. But she slapped him and turned away, spitting on the floor. "Argh, I can't believe I let you put your filthy lips on mine! Oh, my God, ewww!"

He laughed. "I cannot see why you are so upset," he declared. "As you appeared to have no objections."

She screamed now. "BECAUSE YOUR RAGING HORMONES ARE NOT MY PROBLEM!!!"

He was quite angry now and grabbed her wrist, pulling her towards him. "I'll have you know that I stand to inherit a sum greater than any you'll ever see, and I'll be damned if I let you speak such things!" he hissed.

She fought him in a terror, wrenching herself around, but as she felt her wrist bones slide, she eased. 'I don't want to break anything here', she cautioned herself. He leered as she calmed down. "A bit more agreeable now, non? Come now, where's your chamber? I know you're staying here."

Much to her horror, he turned to bring her upstairs, but as he took his first step, he tripped over an unseen object and landed unceremoniously on the floor. Anne felt his grip loosen and she jumped backwards, ready to run. But something caught her eye.

Attired in an embroidered scarlet waistcoat and gold breeches, her rescuer withdrew one shining buckled shoe disdainfully from underneath the young man. "That was far too easy," he said, yawning. "Ah, here arises the young God of Grace. Watch this, Mademoiselle," Voltaire said, winking at her.

De Montmorency struggled up, furious. "What was that?!" He cried, looking all around his feet. "There is nothing!" He looked at Anne accusingly. "You, perhaps? Well, we have better things to be at right now. You may play your games upstairs."

Anne, who was a ways away from the angry young lord, watched in fascination as he lumbered towards her, then stumbled again, this time accompanied by a swift kick in the pants, sending him reeling forward. Anne bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud. Voltaire, however, was positively howling, doubled over in mirth.

The lord had staggered back up again. He pointed a slender, elegant finger into Anne's face. "You! I should have known!" he cried as he fairly bolted back to the party. "I should have known that your voodoo queen of a friend would only live in a house full of her island spirits! Sleep with someone else, if you will. Your friend and that Tallien woman cannot have had so little influence on you! A greater whore there shall never be when you spread your legs, Mademoiselle!" With that, he disappeared.

Voltaire sidled up to the now freely laughing Anne. "Ah, to be young," he said. "And think you can achieve anything. That was good of you Anne, to fight like you did."

She stopped laughing and blinked. "Well, of course! What had you expected me to do?"

He smiled nervously, his finger sliding around his collar. "I was praying you were not a woman of loose morals, Mademoiselle. Now I see you are only a woman of great spirit."

Anne blushed, then grew indignant. "What made you think I had whorish tendencies?"

He drew himself up importantly and took her hand, kissing it in the most gentlemanly of fashions. "Nothing of the sort, Mademoiselle. I would never accuse a young lady of such things. Now, what would you say to getting out of here?"

She nodded gratefully and took his arm. 'It's so real, so solid,' she thought, not realizing she had squeezed his coat sleeve as they walked up the stairs and she led him towards the library. He looked at her, amused. "Yes, you can also feel me."

Anne stopped in the hallway, staring at him, not noticing as a curious maid bustled by with a bucket of ashes. "How much have you heard?" she asked, disjointedly.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, how much of my thoughts have you heard? Are you always. there? With me? Even when." Anne's face flushed at the possibilities.

He resisted the urge to laugh at her alarmed expression. "No Mademoiselle, I am not always with you, although I could be if I wished. But I expected you desired privacy for certain things." here he dwindled into incoherent mumbling and a nervous cough.

Anne smiled, relieved.

"That doesn't mean, however," he said, thoughtfully studying his hands. "That I did not catch what you were dreaming about before I came."

Anne went white. Searching for a way out, she could only brush past him in a flurry of silk. But for the second time that evening a hand caught her arm. She whirled around to face him. "I thank you for saving me like that," she said. "But I'm afraid I must go now. I'm sorry."

He looked sad, an expression Anne had never seen on his normally mischievous face. "I'm sorry, Mademoiselle. I truly should not have embarrassed you like that. Forgive me?" he asked, hesitantly turning her face up to look at him.

"I just don't know how I can even be with you when my thoughts are so open. it frightens me," Anne replied, glancing at him nervously.

He nodded. "I shall cease. I only used that ability because I knew so little about you, but I realize that was unfair. We should get to know each other as two human beings."

Anne studied him, then agreed. "But what I still don't understand," she said as they continued into the library and she sat down on the sofa. "Is why you are here in the first place. Not that I mind the company," she added.

Voltaire rested against the fireplace mantel. "It is odd. Ever since my death, I have wandered France unseen. I stood by the scaffold as hundreds bent their heads to join me. I wished to give them comfort. I watched the feeble-witted King and his vain Queen try to salvage a scrap of dignity as crowds of my countrymen screamed for their blood. Why? Mademoiselle, I don't think I could tell you if I knew. Which I don't, bien sur. Believe me, when you die, you shall find yourself as ignorant as you were when you were alive. I have not yet discovered if a God waits to damn me to Hell. However, I shall declare it yet again (as if I hadn't done so enough while I was alive), that I don't hold with the nonsense of such things." He smiled wickedly. "Perhaps that's why I'm stuck here."

Anne's lips curled faintly in return. "Neither do I. But. do you see others who are dead? All around us?"

He nodded. "I must say, it gave me quite a turn when first I realized the world had rid of me, physically at least. Many people I did not think could see me ended up acknowledging me before they disappeared into a crowd. And this world is a very crowded place, Mademoiselle.

"But as I've said, the dead know one thing, and that is when we're admired. A sour old man such as myself is ready and waiting for any female attention."

Anne laughed. "You aren't sour, and you don't look old," she protested. "Even if you have grey hair. your face is young. I was. surprised."

He seemed pleased. "Good. I suppose things do get better when we die. Well, only certain things." he trailed off, grinning at her.

She inclined a daring eyebrow at him. "I see. I gather you have not met any former lovers who could aid you in your spiritual plight?"

"Ah," he said nervously, attempting to retie his cravat. "Not yet."

"So here, now, do you." Anne began.

He seemed shocked and interrupted her. "Here? Now? We could at least go to your chamber. I can't promise you much, but."

Anne sat bolt upright on the couch and howled. "No! That is not what I meant!" She stood up, stalked over, and proceeded to impatiently retie the garment for him. "What I was going to say was, and I do agree it was an abrupt change in topic, but I wanted to ask if there were any dead people in the room right now." She shot an uncomfortable glance around them.

He shook his head no, but he narrowed his eyes in thought. "However, I do sense someone is not far away from here. You tie an interesting cravat, Mademoiselle." He looked down at the mess of cloth and grinned at her.

Anne looked rueful. "I've never done it before." Then quickly, to change the topic: "Are you able to eat?"

Voltaire seemed sad. "No. A pity, too. Terribly frustrating."

She smiled in sympathy and squeezed his hand. Anne understood, in an odd way. For what seemed like forever she had been denied modern day cuisine, including bagels, soda, and peanut M&M's. The longing only grew worse every time she sat for a meal. These pained thoughts must have shown on her face because her companion looked at her in concern.

"How is your head, Mademoiselle? I'm sorry I did not see how you were earlier. That was quite a hit." He hesitantly reached out to feel the top of her head.

Anne's face flushed in embarrassment. "It's fine," she mumbled. Anne felt awkward as they stood there, his hand on her head in an almost paternal gesture and she, red faced. "Well," Anne said, breaking the silence. "I suppose I should go downstairs now and see how Katherine is faring."

Voltaire nodded, somewhat reluctantly. "Yes, that would be good."

"Do you wish to come, or shall I see you later?" Anne asked, gathering her shawl.

"Oh, you'll see me sometime."

Anne seemed satisfied, and began to leave.

"Mademoiselle?"

She turned back around to face him. "Oui?"

He hesitated, his face very serious. "Please. do not. well, I mean to request that you not."

Anne cocked her head, curious. "I shouldn't what?"

He stepped towards her, reaching for her face. "Please," he said, more clearly this time. "Do not forget that dream."

Anne froze, her eyes staring into his. The noise from downstairs was drowned amidst the rushing in her ears. A silence that seemed like forever, and yet afterwards, not long enough, ensued. "I." Anne began.

CRASH. Anne stopped speaking and whirled around in surprise. A very embarrassed and flustered maid stood in the doorway, a pan of ashes fallen to the floor. She murmured an apology and stooped to sweep it up.

Anne shifted around again and sighed. He had gone. She went to the disturbance and helped the girl clean it up, despite desperate protests from the latter. "Don't worry about it," Anne said, shaking out her skirt when it was done. "I have days like that." She smiled at the maid, who bobbed a swift curtsey and disappeared, still muttering in shame.

Before leaving the library, Anne looked back over her shoulder at the place he'd last been. After a few moments, she left, a hand over her pounding heart.

* * * * *

"Please excuse me for just a moment. Oh, nothing Therese, I'm just going to go speak with Pierre about something. Yes, the punch. Had you noticed? Oh dear. I'll be back, then."

Katherine swept down the hallway, past the painting of Venus and Cupid and into the small sitting room near the front of the house. Because most people seemed to be employing the powder room or the closet under the stairs for their non-dancing activities, the little room was empty. Or so Katherine thought.

She collapsed onto the couch and sat there with her hands over her eyes. She had rarely ever felt so bone-weary. The party had been going on for four hours. It was midnight now, she noticed, as the clock chimed twelve. Katherine pinched herself to keep from falling asleep on the couch, and stared absently into the shadows. She gave a little scream and stood up abruptly.

"Oh, Madame! I'm sorry, truly. I should not have just stood there, unannounced." Napoleon rushed over and worried over the shaken woman. "Please, forgive me," he muttered, taking her hand. "I just couldn't disturb you."

Katherine sighed and nodded, pasting a smile onto her face. "Perfectly alright, General. But may I ask what you are you doing in here?"

He smiled faintly. "Retreating, Madame. It is what a man does when he has nowhere else to go."

Katherine laughed nervously. "What do you mean?" she asked, risking a glance at him.

He stood beside the sofa, searching her face hungrily. "Oh, woman how you torture me. Josephine. I have lost all reason. I have not slept. I have barely eaten. I cannot fathom what has come possessed my senses. And yet you tease me! A true woman! And now. with Hoche."

Katherine could feel her heart pounding, her breath coming in short gasps. She put a shaking hand to her chest. "I do not understand you, General," she said lightly, feigning confusion. "I have known you for so little time. Your jealousy is hardly warranted." It killed her to say such things, but she knew Josephine, who was not helping at the moment, would have done so.

Napoleon seemed intensely frustrated by that. With one irritated sigh, he closed the space between them in a few fast steps and seized her face, his mouth pressing hard on hers. He slid his hands down her back, holding her in a furious, desperate embrace.

Katherine's eyes were wide, then closed slowly as she responded to her very first kiss. 'What a dream this is. It cannot be real.' She brought her hand up to his face and down his back, lacing her fingers through his hair. She could hardly draw breath as she felt herself drowning in passion.

But a familiar warmth was washing over her. 'Oh.no, oh Josephine, please! You can't! Not now! Oh, please, I beg you! Just this once, let me! I. I love him...'

A gentle touch on her arm told her that Josephine's spirit was sliding into her body, pushing Katherine into the familiar cocoon of the other woman's mind. 'I'm sorry, Katherine, please believe me dearest. But this is too much for you. Rest now,' Josephine told her, in that soft, sorrowful voice as Katherine let sleep overcome her. 'Rest now.'

Josephine continued the kiss in her passionate, experienced way, sliding her fingers down his arms and around his waist. But as soon as he broke away from her, she smiled a slow, languorous smile and went over to the fireplace, picking up a trinket from the mantle as though nothing had happened, shooting him occasional friendly glances.

He stood there, arms useless at his side, as though lost without having them around her. Napoleon stared at Josephine, the familiar starved expression on his face. "What have you done to me?" he said in wonder, coming over and holding her face in his hands. She continued to smile warmly. "Oh, Bonaparte. You really are a funny man."

He closed his eyes and kissed her again, savouring the gentleness of her mouth and cheek. She allowed it, closing her eyes lazily. "Josephine Josephine Josephine," he murmered as he broke away and traced the line of her chin, studying her face with his familiar intent expression. "Do you know," he said a matter of factly. "That I believe I am in love with you?"

She laughed. "No, you're not."

He seemed intensely perturbed at that. "Of course I am. I believe myself to be a man who knows his own mind, Madame. And I know this." He stalked over to the door, bowing quickly before he left.

"I will be seeing you again."

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A/N: Alrighty, then. A heavy and lengthy chapter that was, that took me so long. Oh, but it was soooo much fun to write. ^.^; Please let me know what you think!

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