The casual friendliness of it warmed her. She and Daniel talked easily, sharing opinions, agreeing or disagreeing, putting their heads together to discuss things and laugh about them. They moved from ultra-extravagant operas to risqué cabaret shows without a blink. They drank champagne, brandy, and thick red wine. At the illegal casinos tucked away in covert houses, Daniel put stacks of money on roulette, hazard, and cards, losing without a qualm, but mostly he won. “My uncle Ian taught me how to figure odds,” Daniel said. “He’s never, ever wrong, which can get frustrating. Never, for instance, engage him in billiards. You’ll lose before you even approach the table. But I learned much from him as a youth, and now I’ve added my own experience.” Daniel had a mathematical mind that rivaled his uncle’s. He could figure a string of numbers without writing a thing down, look at an equation then use it to make a piece of machinery work better, and calculate gambling odds on the fly. Daniel often praised his uncles and father for their cleverness, but Daniel had obviously inherited their nimbleness of mind. Violet enjoyed being one of the glittering ladies who sat with their gentlemen while they played cards. Tonight Violet saw that two ladies at their table were subtly signaling what their gentlemen had in their hands to a third man who was quietly doing very well off them. Violet kept her indignation in check and tried not to smile when Daniel won most of the hands anyway. Their ongoing subterfuge paid off at the end of the night. As Daniel and Violet emerged into the cold dawn from the last casino, a man in a long coat and battered hat stepped in front of Daniel and blocked their way. “You’re to come with me,” he said. “Or face the consequences.” Several other men stepped out of the shadows. Violet didn’t recognize them, but she recognized the type—hired bone-breakers. Simon, who’d been quietly following them all night, materialized a little way up the street. Daniel made the little signal that told him to keep back. “Dramatic,” Daniel said. “But about bloody time. Shall we?” Chapter 30 Violet’s heart wouldn’t slow. All the way from the sixth arrondissement to the eighteenth, she tried to take long breaths, to quiet the banging in her chest that was making her sick. Daniel, blast him, only leaned back in the seat, watching out the window as they went. He had Violet’s hand in his, though, not letting go. Jacobi’s henchmen rode with the coach, though Daniel hadn’t allowed them inside. No one was to threaten Violet, touch her, or even come near her. If any did that, all agreements were off. They went to an area of Montmartre Violet had not frequented before. The narrow house they stopped before was respectable looking enough, the street clean, the houses quiet. They went through a front door and into a cold staircase hall lit with kerosene lamps. Up a flight of stairs and into a room in the back of the house, which was warm and well furnished. Violet’s legs were shaking so much as they climbed the stairs that she feared she’d fall. Daniel slid his arm around her waist, lending his strength. But Violet drew away from him and made herself walk on her own into the room, to face the man who’d risen from a chair in front of a paper-strewn table. Her mentor, and her husband, Jacobi Ferrand. Violet’s first thought upon seeing him was that he wasn’t the old man she’d assumed he’d be. But, she supposed, when she’d been ten years old, a man in his thirties would already have seemed old to her. Now he was only about fifty or so, and while his hair had gray in it, he was far from decrepit. Jacobi had never been tall, and Daniel topped him by a foot. His shoulders were slightly stooped, which made him look smaller, but his brown eyes under thick brows were keen and sharp. Violet had known those eyes to be full of interest in her and pride when she learned her lessons well. They’d also filled with horrified guilt when he’d comforted her after the red-bearded man had gone. The guilt had still been there when he’d married her in the little church near his house, handing money to the priest and the few witnesses he’d pulled off the street. Jacobi looked Daniel over. Violet saw Jacobi trying to read him as Violet had when she’d first met him, frowning when he found it difficult. Jacobi’s gaze went from Daniel to Violet, taking in her costly gown, the furs around her shoulders, the diamonds in her hair, and especially the wide band of diamonds on her gloved wrist. He hid his brief flash of avarice under a wide, warm smile and stretched out his arms. “Violet. My little flower. I could scarcely believe it when I heard you had returned to Paris, married, no less. My child, all grown up. Have you no hug for your Jacobi?” Violet took a step back. “No, I’m afraid I haven’t.” Jacobi lowered his arms, looking hurt. “I know. I know. I was bad to you. But that was a long time ago, when I was a foolish, foolish man. I didn’t understand what I was doing.” “Mmph, so you say,” Daniel said. He kept to French. “But why don’t we come to the reason you summoned us here, eh? Which was not for a fond reunion. Tell me your terms.” “Terms?” Violet blinked. “Of the arrangement,” Daniel said. “Jacobi is blackmailing me. Didn’t I say?” Daniel’s pride in Violet swelled. She’d had every right to refuse to walk in here, to beg to remain in the carriage, to not accompany Daniel into the house. Instead she stood straight and gazed at Jacobi with the coldness of a queen. Good. Daniel wanted the man who’d ruined her to understand that Violet couldn’t be broken.