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T H E PA R I S A F FA I R

CHAPTER 1

The hanging oil lamps swayed and gusted at the opening of the door. The wind brought in the stench from the Seine. A man and woman stepped into the Trois Amis tavern and stopped just beyond the door. The man was lean and dark haired and perhaps taller than he looked. He slouched with a casual ease that took off several inches. A greatcoat was ung carelessly over his shoulders. Beneath, his black coat was unbuttoned to reveal a striped crimson waistcoat. A spotted handkerchief was knotted loosely round his neck in place of a cravat. The woman, who leaned within the circle of his arm, wore a scarlet cloak with the hood pushed back to reveal a cascade of bright red curls, brilliant even in the murky light of the tavern. Glittering earrings swung beside her face, though surely they must be paste rather than diamonds. Her rouged lips curved in a smile as her gaze drifted round the common room with indolent unconcern. The other occupants of the tavern glanced at the new arrivals. It was an eclectic crowd, a mix of sailors, dockworkers, merchants, women who plied their wares along the docks, a few young aristocrats in sporting dress. And soldiers, in the uniforms of Russia, Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, England. These days, less than two months

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after Napoleon Bonapartes defeat at Waterloo, one couldnt go anywhere in Paris without seeing soldiers. After a moment, the crowd returned to their dice, drinks, and irtation. The accordion player seated in the center of the room, who had paused briey, launched into another lively air. The couple moved to the bar, where the gentleman procured two glasses of red wine. While he was engaged with the barkeep, several men ran appreciative gazes over the lady. One went so far as to put a hand on her back. How much? he asked, his head close enough to her own that his brandy-laced breath brushed her skin. The lady ran her gaze over him. Her eyes were an unusual color between green and blue. She brushed her ngers against his face and then put a gloved hand on his chest. She gave a dazzling smile. More than you can possibly afford. The man regarded her for a moment, then shrugged and grinned. Cant blame a man for trying, he said, and moved towards a fair-haired girl by the replace. The gentleman turned from the bar and put one of the glasses of red wine into the ladys hand. If he had noticed the man making her an offer, he gave no sign of it. He touched his glass to hers, and they threaded their way through the crowd to a table neither too obviously in the center of the room nor too deep in the shadows. Experience had taught them that the easiest way to hide was often to remain in plain sight. The lady tugged at the cords on her cloak and let it slither about her to reveal a low-cut gown of spangled white sarcenet. The gentleman shrugged out of his greatcoat, slouched in his chair, and ran an eye round the room. I dont see anyone matching the description, the lady said in unaccented French. Nor do I, the gentleman agreed in French that was almost as awless. Were a bit early. So we are. But Id give even odds on whether he actually puts in an appearance. Hes never been our most reliable asset. The lady tossed back a sip of wine. Oh, well. At least weve had a night out.

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The gentleman grinned at her. I can think of places Id rather take you. But this one has a certain piquancy, chri. An evening without diplomatic small talk. Bliss. The gentleman slid his hand behind her neck, then went still, his ngers taut against her skin. The lady had seen it, too. The man they had come to meet stood by the door, a short, compact gure enveloped in a dark greatcoat. He removed his hat to reveal hair that was several shades darker than its natural color. A good attempt at disguise, but nervousness still radiated off him. Well, the gentleman murmured to the lady. People can surprise you. The lady touched his arm. Ill take care of it, Malcolm. Malcolm Rannoch caught his wifes wrist. Be careful. Suzanne Rannoch turned to look at her husband. Really, mon amour, youd think you didnt know me. Sometimes I wonder. Malcolm pulled her hand to his lips, the gesture irtatious to anyone watching, but his grip unexpectedly strong. Remember, were in alien territory. She squeezed his ngers. When are we not? Suzanne moved into the room, her spangled skirts stirring about her, and bent over the accordion player. He gave her a quick smile. A moment later, he launched into a lilting rendition of La ci darem la mano. Suzanne began to sing, her voice slightly huskier than usual. She moved towards the nearest table and brushed her ngers against the face of the portly man who sat there, then bent over a young Russian lieutenant at the next table, her burnished ringlets spilling over his shoulder. The buzz of conversation stilled. The dice ceased to rattle. Malcolm allowed himself a moment to appreciate his wifes skill, then picked up his greatcoat and glass of wine and strolled across the room to the corner deep in the shadows of the oak-beamed ceiling where the man he was to meet had taken up his position. My compliments, Rivre. Malcolm dropped into a chair across from him. I gave even odds on whether or not youd actually put in an appearance.

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Antoine, Comte de Rivre, cast a quick glance about. For Gods sake, Rannoch, what do you mean coming up to me openly? You were thinking wed pass coded messages back and forth instead of having a conversation? If were noticed My wife has things in hand. Your Rivre stared at Suzanne, who was now perched on the edge of a table, leaning back, her weight resting on her hands, her skirt pulled up to reveal the pink clocks embroidered on her silk stockings. Good God. I dont think youve seen Suzanne in action before. Were both more accustomed to disguise than you are. Rivre looked from Suzanne to Malcolm. The way youre dressed you cant help but attract attention. But the man and woman people will remember seeing tonight will seem nothing like Malcolm Rannoch, attach at the British embassy, and his charming wife. Malcolm pushed his glass of wine across the table to Rivre. You look as though you need it more than I do. Rivre took a sip of wine. His ngers tightened round the stem of the glass. I pass messages. I dont Indulge in this cloak-and-dagger business. Quite. Its all very well for you British. Rivre twisted the glass on the scarred wood of the table. The yellow light from the oil lamps glowed in the red wine. Youre protected by embassy walls and diplomatic passports. Its getting more and more dangerous for the rest of us. The Ultra Royalists have been out for blood ever since the news from Waterloo. I sometimes think they wont rest until theyve rid the country of every last taint of Bonapartism. Im not sure even Talleyrand and Fouch can hold them in check. He grimaced. Mon Dieu. That Id ever be calling Fouch the voice of moderation. If nothing else hes a survivor, Malcolm said. As is Talleyrand. Prince Talleyrand, who had once been Napoleon Bonapartes foreign minister, and Fouch, who had been his minister of police, had both managed to survive in the restored Royalist government.

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Even they cant hold back the tide, Rivre said. Look how Ultra Royalists are going after men like la Bdoyre La Bdoyre was the rst ofcer to go over to Bonaparte when he escaped from Elba. You arent on the proscribed list. Yet. Rivre cast a glance about and leaned forwards, shoulders hunched, voice lowered. Fouch receives more denunciations every day. Youve heard Royalists in the Chamber of Deputies clamoring for blood. Cleansing, they call it. Its the Terror all over again. Malcolm cast an involuntary protective glance towards Suzanne, who was tugging playfully at the cravat of a Prussian major. He looked harmless enough, but these days Malcolms every sense was keyed to danger. There was no denying France in the wake of Napoleons defeat was a dangerous place. Frenchmen clashed in the street daily with soldiers from the occupying armies of Prussia, Russia, Austria, Bavaria. And, Malcolm could not deny, England as well. Royalist gangs had ravaged Marseilles and Toulon and other cities. Its dangerous, Malcolm conceded. But that doesnt mean you My cousins in the Chamber, and he wants me dead. My father got the title when his father was guillotined in the Terror. He wants it back. There are legal avenues he could pursue. But getting rid of me would be quicker. And it would be vengeance for his father. Hes worked his way into the Comte dArtoiss set. Its only a matter of time before Im arrested. The Comte dArtois, younger brother of the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII, was known for his zeal in exacting retribution on those who had supported Napoleon Bonaparte. It had been easier when Napoleon was exiled the rst time. After his escape from Elba and his second defeat, at Waterloo, the Ultra Royalists wanted blood. Malcolm studied Rivres usually cool blue eyes. The irony being that while you served Bonaparte you passed messages to the British. But theres no way I can prove it, damn it.

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We could help. But being a British spy isnt likely to gain you favor with the French, even the Royalists. Precisely. Im damned either way. Youre not generally one to talk in such melodramatic terms. I dont generally fear for my life. Rivre cast another glance round the tavern. Suzanne was now standing on one of the tables, arms stretched in a way that pulled the bodice of her gown taut across her breasts. A whistle cut the air. Malcolm reclaimed his glass and took another sip of wine. What do you want, Rivre? Safe passage out of France. I can talk to the embassy Not through ofcial channels. That will take too long. Get me out of Paris and across the Channel within the week. Once in England I want a pension, a house in the country, and rooms in London. You dont set your sights low, do you? Do you have any idea how much Im giving up leaving France? For a moment, Malcolm could smell the salt air at Dunmykel, his family home in Scotland, and hear the sound of the waves breaking on the granite cliffs. It wasnt easy to be an exile. Even if one had chosen the exile oneself, as he had done. We dont turn our back on our own, Rivre. No? Rivre gave a short laugh. What about Valmay and St. Cyr and I dont turn my back, Malcolm said. Far be it from him to defend the sins of British intelligence. But I cant make you guarantees of that nature on my own authority. Take it to Wellington or Castlereagh or whomever you damn well have to. But I want an answer within twenty-four hours. You seem very condent. I am. Rivre reached for the glass and took a long drink of wine. A whoosh sounded through the tavern. Suzanne had jumped off the table and landed in the lap of a red-faced gentleman in a blue coat.

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Rivre set the glass down but retained hold of the stem. Tell your masters that if they dont meet my demands, the information I reveal will shake the British delegation to its core. Malcolm leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. It was not the rst time hed heard such a claim. Its not as though the British delegation has never weathered scandal. And the behavior of most delegations at the Congress of Vienna rather changed the denition of scandal. This goes beyond personal scandal. Malcolm pulled the glass from Rivres ngers and tossed down a swallow. Enlighten me. Oh no, Rannoch. Im not giving up my bargaining chip. But mention the Laclos affair to Wellington and I think youll nd the hero of Waterloo is all too ready to accede to my demands. Malcolms ngers went taut round the glass. What the devil does Bertrand Laclos have to do with this? Rivres brows lifted. Thats right. I forgot you were involved in the Laclos affair. I think Ive said enough for now. Just take my message to Wellington and Castlereagh. I doubt either of them wants to see England and France at war again. Malcolm kept his gaze steady on Rivre, trying to discern how much was bluff, how much was real. I may only be a clerk, Rivre said, but clerks are privy to a number of secrets. I didnt just ask you to meet me because youre Wellingtons best agent. I asked you because what I know about you should guarantee youll help me. Oh, for Gods sake For the sake of your family. A bit extreme, surely, Malcolm said in a light voice that sounded forced to his own ears. My family are a long way from Paris. Rivre leaned back, holding Malcolms gaze with his own. Given her varied career, it never occurred to you that she might have had a child? Oh, God. Rivre knew Your sister, Rivre said. For a moment, the blood seemed to freeze in Malcolms veins.

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His acknowledged sister, Gisle, was seventeen and safely in England with their aunt, where she had made her home since their mothers death. Even given Aunt Francess penchant for scandal and his own absence, he couldnt believe Gelly had had a child without his knowledge. So Rivre must mean Yes. Rivre reached for the glass and tossed down the last of the wine. Tatiana Kirsanova. The blood roared in Malcolms head. So that it took a split second for him to register the gunshot that had ripped through the tavern.