Gabriel turned and faced Gavin then graciously accepted his invitation. I carefully looked over the expressions of the three men before me as I watched Gavin and Gabriel shake hands. Philippe looked overly smug and satisfied with the outcome to his malicious proclamation. Gabriel looked thoughtful and contemplative as though he were assessing Gavin and trying to formulate some kind of plan while he introduced himself. And Gavin, he just looked good-natured and friendly; completely naïve as to what had just taken place.
When it was time to leave Gabriel saw us to the doorway and watched as we rounded the barn and made our way up the path towards home. Thankfully, Philippe had gotten between us as we walked and so I was on the left of the path, Philippe in the middle with Gavin on the right. Philippe was quite animated, I imagined from the turn of events, and was telling Gavin what little he knew about Gabriel and his family.
A thousand times I wanted to interject and correct something he said or to stand up for Gabriel when Philippe said something utterly demeaning and false about him but I knew that if I did it would expose the intimacy with which I knew him. Philippe was well aware of that fact and seemed to be pressing me to contradict him as his falsehoods grew bolder and further and further from the truth.
I was flushed with anger by the time we got home and as soon as we entered the foyer I apologized to Gavin and expressed as copiously as I could that the afternoon's exercise had very much wearied me and that I thought I would lie down for an hour or so before dinner. I started up the stairs without waiting for a reply then quickly realized that I hadn't spoken too far from the truth. I stumbled after a step or two and the world appeared to be swimming before my eyes. I nearly fainted as I grasped for the railing to steady myself then abruptly sat down to clear my head.
"Vivienne? Vivienne?" Gavin seized my hand, "What's wrong?"
"I…I don't know…I just feel a little dizzy and weak." My stomach was roiling, too, but I fought to keep that to myself.
"Here," Gavin swept me up from where I sat and started to carry me up the stairs. "Philippe, get your mother. Tell her Vivienne is unwell and send her to her room," he called over his shoulder as we neared the second floor. I barely realized what was happening and before I knew it Gavin was gently arranging me on my bed.
He sat beside me and took my hand in his and softly stroked the inside of my arm from wrist to elbow. It was very soothing and though I was determined to stay focused my eyes closed and I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. Several minutes passed and still my mother did not come.
"What is taking so long?!" Gavin stood up with a little burst of anger and cursed. He quickly checked himself, kissed my temple and whispered, "I'll be right back."
I heard him taking the steps from my room two at a time and then nothing but silence. Before finding my mother Gavin found Philippe in his room stretched out on his bed and dozing seemingly without a care in the world.
"Where is your mother? Did you tell her about Vivienne?"
"Oh," Philippe pushed himself up on his elbows, "I couldn't find her. Maybe she is walking the gardens with Claire and my father."
"They're not here; I couldn't find them," Philippe said completely unconcerned.
Gavin leapt towards him and seized him by the throat lifting Philippe off his bed. He shook him like a ragdoll and demanded again, "You mean you didn't bother to find her?!"
Philippe was too full of fear to answer but his silence intensified Gavin's anger and with demonic determination he brought Philippe's neck to his lips.
"Gavin!" Claire's voice boomed from the doorway.
He loosened his grasp and Philippe fell back onto his bed; the wounds Gavin created weeping down his neck. Suddenly Jean was in the doorway and Claire, forced to react, seized his hand and pulled him into the room while thrusting the door closed behind him. Jean started to question what had happened but lost his voice as he viewed the horrific scene and stumbled backwards.
"Damn it Gavin! What have you done?" Claire turned Jean away as he stood awestruck in the paralysis of his fear and disbelief.
Gavin buried his face in his hands and in a handful of words told Claire what had happened to bring about the fateful state of affairs. Claire shoved Jean to the bed and turning to Gavin struck him full across the face.
"You idiot!" she screamed. "How could you be so careless after all our planning?!"
"I'm sorry," Gavin was near to weeping with regret.
"In her room."
"I'll see to her," she whirled to leave. "Fix this!" she waved her hand over her head as if to indicate everything and left closing the door behind her.
Jean was still sitting dumbfounded on the bed. Gavin took a nearby glass and smashed it on the nightstand. He drew one of the sharp edges across his wrist and pressed the open wound to Jean's lips. For a brief moment he revolted at the act but Gavin held him fast and Jean quietly sighed and submitted to Gavin's will.
"Close your eyes."
Then he leant in close and Gavin whispered a new version of events into Jean's ear. He put his hands one on each side of Jean's head and looking him full in the eye, "You will remember what I told you."
"I will remember," Jean assured.
"Go to your room and ready yourself for dinner."
Jean stood up and left to follow Gavin's instructions.
Philippe was beginning to stir and as soon as Jean was gone Gavin turned his attention back to him. He stood up and paced the floor once or twice. Gavin knew Claire expected him to handle Philippe the same way but Gavin was undecided as his emotions warred within him.
"You know what I am, Philippe, you know what we are, Claire and I?"
"You know what I could do to you and yet you casually, deliberately ignored my request." Gavin said matter-of-factly as he watched the uneasy expression reflecting in Philippe's eyes. "I've thought about it you know; I could kill you at any moment…any moment," he said in emphasis. "I know you Philippe; I know how you've hurt her."
Philippe visibly trembled.
"But it doesn't suit my purpose. Don't think that I will hesitate the next time you act against me, though, or that I won't make you suffer while I'm at it; understood?"
"Yes," Philippe mumbled nervously.
"I'm glad we understand one another."
Gavin swiped a finger across the cut on his wrist and smoothed over the wounds on Philippe's neck, "Clean yourself up and get dressed for dinner."
I had nearly fallen asleep by the time Claire reached my room; "Vivienne?" she came and sat on the edge of my bed then swept the hair from my eyes. "Oh, darling," she soothed, "you are not feeling well, are you?" she took my hand and brushed a kiss across my knuckles.
My stomach was turning again, "I want my mother," I mumbled.
"Of course you do. She will come as soon as she can, Vivienne, but until then, can you tell me what's wrong?"
I started to shake my head no, but one of the servants came into the room distracting us both. She was carrying a glass of wine that she handed to Claire.
"Thank you," she said and nodded a dismissal to the servant. "Try a sip."
"No…no thank you. I just want to rest, really." I insisted.
"Here, I'll put a little water in it so it's not so strong."
I rolled away from her as Claire moved toward my pitcher. She picked it up and put it back down without pouring so much as a drop into the wine. With her back to me she instead made a tiny gnash on her fingertip and squeezed a number of drops from the lesion she created into the glass. When she was done she came back and helped me to sitting.
"Just a sip, Vivienne, I promise you it will do you good," and smiling she held the glass to my lips.
I didn't even realize what I was doing and began gulping the wine down. It reminded me of something…of…of Gavin's kiss. I smiled and felt the wine, icy cold, sliding across my tongue and down my throat then strangely the ice turned to fire inside me and I fretfully raised my eyes from the glass and met Claire's.
She was still smiling at first then abruptly her expression changed to deep concern. I couldn't stop myself as I leaned over the edge of the bed and retched onto the floor at her feet. I watched with incredulity as the wine I had just consumed splattered all over the floor and onto the hem of her dress.
"Non, non," she cradled me to her chest, "oh, non, how could this be?"
I pulled back and looked at her questioningly.
"I know what is wrong with you, Vivienne…you're…you're pregnant."
Her words didn't register.
She said it again, "You are pregnant! Did you know you were pregnant? How can you possibly be pregnant? Who…who…your father said you were….who…who did this to you?"
"I'm pregnant?!" I couldn't hide the joy the news brought me and suddenly all the weariness I felt was lifted from my shoulders.
"You seem awfully happy to learn this; this wasn't a mistake then?" Claire looked me over suspiciously.
I smiled, "No, we are in love and we are going to be married and, oh, I can't wait to tell him at dinner tonight."
Claire was utterly confused, "Gavin cannot have children," she blurted out.
"Gavin?! It is not Gavin's baby! I could never have…!" I exclaimed without thought.
"Dear God what are you saying?" Claire stood up and demanded an explanation.
There was nothing for it; I had to tell her, everything, everything right from the beginning. Claire sat back down on the edge of my bed and listened while I made my confession. She was mostly quiet and patient, though at times she stood up and paced the floor, listening, but deep in her own thoughts as well. When I was done she was clearly angry and disappointed to hear all that I had told her.
But then she surprisingly took my hands and helped me from my bed. She warmly embraced me and kissed my cheeks, "I will help you Vivienne. I do not want to, but…but what else can I do. I need some time to think…I have much to think about. All our plans…" she sighed. "I will send someone to take care of this for you," she motioned to the wine and hurried from the room.
I put my hands over my belly and smiled with delight. Next to Gabriel nothing had ever made me happier. The thought of having a baby, his baby, our baby…I hoped it would be a girl and we would give her a life completely different from the one I had lived. I would care for her the way my mother had never cared for me. She would never know what it was like to have brother's like Jean and Philippe and her father would always be there to love and comfort her. We would be so happy together! Just the three of us and then we will give you a brother or sister.
A servant came in and interrupted my reverie. She quickly cleaned up the mess I had made and opened a window to let some air in. As she was leaving Gavin came to the doorway, "Is Claire here?"
He startled me and I whirled about, "Non, she left a little while ago. I thought she…I thought she may have gone to see you."
"Hmm, non, she did not, and she is not in our room. You seem to be feeling better, may I come in?"
I wanted very much to say no but I was too nervous to speak and simply nodded instead.
"I have been so worried," he began then came and took each of my hands in his. "Vivienne," his voice tugging at my insides, "none of this has gone at all the way I wanted it to." He looked to the bed, "Let's sit for a moment; there is so much I would like to say."
He drew me toward the bed and after he settled himself motioned me to sit. I took a seat and stared straight ahead toward the opposite end of the room reluctant to engage him in whatever conversation he thought we needed to have.
"Please, Vivienne, please look at me."
I glanced up and he looked so pitiful and helpless that I relented and turned towards him.
"Thank you. I'm sorry for this afternoon; I am sorry for what Philippe did. You were not completely unaware, though, were you? You must have known or suspected at the very least, what your father intended."
"I know you don't want to marry me. I know you do not love me; in fact, I know you are in love with someone else."
My eyes flooded with tears.
"I know you are carrying his child, too."
He clearly saw the shock on my features.
"I don't care that you are going to have another man's baby…actually I am very happy for you. It makes me more determined than ever to marry you. I cannot father a child, Vivienne, but I can be a father…I can be a father to your child."
The tears started streaming down my cheeks, "Non, I will not marry you." I said softly, defiantly.
"You will, Vivienne, of course you will."
"Non," I insisted.
"And we will move to America and we will raise the baby together. I never wanted this!" he said strongly, "I never wanted any of this," he motioned to himself but I had no idea what he was suggesting by doing so. "All I want is a normal life; a life with you and whatever we can make of it."
"Non," I said again, more vehemently this time.
"Yes, Vivienne, yes. I did not want to force this on you. When I came here I told myself that I wouldn't force you; that you would fall in love with me and we would marry and live happily ever after. Your father assured me that you were untouched; that there was no one, there could be no possibility of you falling for anyone else. I…we…Claire and I made him promises that cannot be broken. You will marry me and I will make you happy, Vivienne and I must do whatever I can to insure that. I'm sorry," he whispered.
Then Gavin leaned forward and before I could react his lips were against my neck, his teeth piercing my flesh and there was a desperate pull on my insides. It felt like my life was rushing out of me to join with his and we were being tangled together so that we were no longer two separate beings but one. My blood, my breath, my thoughts were all being bound up and tied to Gavin. Then suddenly he pulled back and fiercely opened a vein on his arm and held it to mouth.
"Take it!" he demanded, "Take it now."
My mind revolted but my body would not obey my command and Gavin began flowing and ebbing into me. I felt his life searching for mine and weaving us more and more inextricably together.
"Enough," he wrenched his arm away, "you mustn't take too much! It's too soon…too soon," he sighed. I thought he mumbled "after the baby," but couldn't be sure. Then he pulled me to his chest and kissed the top of my head. I was crying, and sobbing, for so many reasons, none of which I could put into words. "Ssh, ssh…It will be alright now. We are together now, always together. I love you Vivienne. Do you love me?"
"Yes, Gavin, I love you," I looked up and smiled through my tears. He tilted my chin and kissed me so passionately it took my breath away.