Time's Convert Read online
ALSO BY DEBORAH HARKNESS
A Discovery of Witches
Shadow of Night
The Book of Life
The World of All Souls
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
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Copyright © 2018 by Deborah Harkness
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ISBN 9780399564512 (hardcover)
ISBN 9780399564529 (ebook)
ISBN 9780525561347 (international edition)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
Also by Deborah Harkness
Part 1: Time Hath Found Us2: Less Than Naught
3: The Prodigal Returns
5: The Sins of the Fathers
8: The Burying Place
11: Liberty and Restraint
14: A Life of Trouble
Part 2: ’Tis Time to Part18: Fifteen
20: As the Twig Is Bent
24: The Hidden Hand
29: Their Portion of Freedom
31: The True Father
34: Life Is But a Breath
37: A Fence Against the World
38: One Hundred
About the Author
On her last night as a warmblood, Phoebe Taylor had been a good daughter.
Freyja had insisted upon it.
“Let’s not make a fuss,” Phoebe had protested, as though she was just going on holiday for a few days, hoping to get away with a casual farewell at the hotel where her family was staying.
“Absolutely not,” Freyja said, looking down her long nose. “De Clermonts do not skulk around—unless they are Matthew, of course. We shall do this properly. Over dinner. It is your duty.”
The evening party Freyja put on for the Taylors was simple, elegant, and perfect—right down to the weather (a flawless example of May), the music (could every vampire in Paris play the cello?), the flowers (enough Madame Hardy roses had been brought in from the garden to perfume the entire city), and the wine (Freyja was fond of Cristal).
Phoebe’s father, mother, and sister showed up at half past eight as requested. Her father was in black tie; her mother wore a turquoise and gold lehenga choli; Stella was in head-to-toe Chanel. Phoebe wore unrelieved black with the emerald earrings Marcus had given her before he left Paris, along with a pair of sky-high heels of which she—and Marcus—was particularly fond.
The assembled group of warmbloods and vampire first had drinks in the garden behind Freyja’s sumptuous house in the 8th arrondissement—a private Eden the likes of which had not been carved out of space-starved Paris for over a century. The Taylor family was accustomed to palatial surroundings—Phoebe’s father was a career diplomat, and her mother came from the kind of Indian family that had married into the British civil service since the days of the Raj—but de Clermont privilege was on an entirely different scale.
They sat down to dinner at a table set with crystal and china, in a room with tall windows that let in the summer light and overlooked the garden. Charles, the laconic chef whom the de Clermonts employed in their Parisian homes when warmbloods were invited to dine, was fond of Phoebe and had spared no effort or expense.
“Raw oysters are a sign that God loves vampires and wants them to be happy,” Freyja announced, raising her glass at the beginning of the meal. She was, Phoebe noticed, using the word “vampire” as liberally as possible, as though sheer repetition might normalize what Phoebe was about to do. “To Phoebe. Happiness and long life.”
Following that toast, her family had little appetite. Aware that this was her last proper meal, Phoebe nevertheless found it difficult to swallow. She forced down the oysters, and the champagne that accompanied it, and picked at the rest of the feast. Freyja kept up a lively conversation throughout the hors d’oeuvres, the soup, the fish, the duck, and the sweets (“Your last chance, Phoebe, darling!”), switching from French to English to Hindi between sips of wine.
“No, Edward, I don’t believe there is any place I haven’t been. Do you know, I think my father might have been the original diplomat?” Freyja used this startling announcement to draw out Phoebe’s circumspect father about his early days in the queen’s service.
Whether or not Freyja’s historical judgment was accurate, Philippe de Clermont had clearly taught his daughter a thing or two about smoothing over conversational rough edges.
“Richard Mayhew, you say? I believe I knew him. Françoise, didn’t I know a Richard Mayhew when we were in India?”
The sharp-eyed servant had mysteriously appeared the moment her mistress required her, tuned in to some vampiric frequency inaudible to mere mortals.
“Probably.” Françoise was a woman of few words, but each one conveyed layers of meaning.
“Yes, I think I did know him. Tall? Sandy haired? Good-looking, in a sort of schoolboy way?” Freyja was undeterred by Françoise’s dour remark or by the fact that she was describing roughly half the British diplomatic corps.
Phoebe had yet to discover anything that could put a dent in Freyja’s cheerful resolve.
“Good-bye for now,” Freyja said breezily at the end of the evening, kissing each of the Taylors in farewell. A press of cool lips on one cheek, then the other. “Padma, you are always welcome. Let me know when you will be in Paris next. Stella, do stay here during the winter shows. It is so convenient to the fashion houses, and Françoise and Charles will take very good care of you. The George V is excellent, of course, but so popular with tourists. Edward, I will be in touch.