Julien's jaw clamped shut tighter than a chast.i.ty belt.
"Major," he continued, leaning over his desk, all trace of good humor sliding from his face, "allow me to be absolutely, perfectly clear. I appreciate your concern for my well-being. I appreciate that you're trying to do your job to the best of your ability. And I will happily admit that I'm far less familiar with the bloodier aspects of life than you.
"At the same time, I am no stranger to violence. My life has been threatened more than once, and I have defended it more than once. I believe in the afterlife, and I even have the audacity to think that I'm headed to the more pleasant place when my time comes, but I'm in no rush to prove it. I am not an idiot, no matter what gossip you might hear, and I am not some ignorant old fool to be taken in by a pretty face.
"When this Widders.h.i.+ns burst into my chamber, she was wounded, and attempting to warn me of some coming danger. As you yourself informed me, she seems to have rather handily dispatched another disreputable fellow who was lurking about the house, one who most likely did intend me some amount of bodily harm. So tell me why I should be worried about this woman?"
"Your Eminence," Bouniard told him, fighting to keep his voice under control, "I'll acknowledge that she probably wasn't here to kill you. It's not her way. But she's involved with people of a much bloodier bent-and putting thoughts of murder aside, she was definitely here to rob you. I don't approve of that, even if you do. And someone wants to cause you harm. So either way, you're in danger. And either way, Widders.h.i.+ns is connected to it, and she's the only lead I've got.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go see if your carriage is ready." Fists clenched so hard his leather gauntlets squeaked, the major rose, bowed stiffly, and swept from the room.
"That," Maurice noted as he moved to stand behind the archbishop's left shoulder, "is not a happy jasper."
"Indeed, no," William agreed.
"Maurice," he said suddenly, swiveling to face his young friend, "you'll not be traveling with me to our next residence. There's something I need you to do for me."
"I'm a very busy woman, Jean Luc." Lisette Suvagne leaned, hawklike, over the edge of the table, her face illuminated h.e.l.lishly by the lamp blazing between her and her unexpected guests. "I have no work for you, and I certainly didn't summon you. So what the h.e.l.l are you and your..."
She scowled irritably at the motley a.s.sortment. Jean Luc had always
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