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Elza and Napoleon

A reader asks, "Will we see Napoleon again in the next book? I love your Napoleon so much and the scenes with Elza were so vivid."

Yes, we will see Napoleon again! Just for you, the first scene with Elza and Napoleon in the second book (fingers crossed that it sells!), four years after she knew him in Milan. Some minor spoilers.



Napoleon was seated at a huge desk with a green blotter, wearing the dark blue uniform coat of the chasseurs with a white waistcoat. His hair fell forward over his eyes as though he had been working and had not noticed. At the window, thin curtains of white silk embroidered with bees swayed in the wind.

"Come in, Madame," he said. "You may go, Duroc."

I took a deep breath.

Napoleon stood up, his face transformed by a brilliant smile. "Good afternoon, Madame. I understand that you have done my wife a very great service."

"It was nothing, sire," I said with a courtesy, trying to guess what in the world Josephine had told him I had done, since she could not possibly have told him the truth.

"It does not seem nothing to me to save her from Fouché's blackmail when he has you by the throat," Napoleon observed, perching on the edge of his desk.

I must have gaped, for he waved a hand. "Yes, I know you are loyal to her and do not wish to say that you had some silly letters she had written to Hippolyte Charles years ago. That is all in the past. I have forgiven my Josephine long since and there are no secrets between us."

"I am relieved to hear that, sire," I said. He did not know. She had told him it was about the Charles affair. And I would say nothing.

"It puts you in a very bad position to say the least."

"It does," I said evenly. "Fouché has me, as you said, by the throat. At best I expect to be deported to my former husband's family in Holland, where I will spend the rest of my life locked in an asylum."

"At best."

"As you say, sire."

He put his head to the side, considering. "Josephine said you had never been a close friend. Why did you do this for her?"

"For her, or for you?"

At that he broke into a broad smile. "I see what you have made of yourself, then."

"You gave me money," I said, "And let me go, saying you were curious what I would become. Four years have passed, sire. This is what I have become."

He nodded. "You asked me what the price of a general was."

"And you said, the same as a companion."

His dark eyes were alight with amusement. "And so you are, Madame. Your wits are too sharp for me to allow you to remain Fouché's agent." He forestalled my reply with a gesture. "No, don't bother to say you aren't. I have already had my conversation with him this morning. A private conversation. I have in the past relieved him of being Minister of Police, but clearly that was insufficient, if he then turned to blackmailing the Empress upon his reinstatement."

"Sire…."

He rested his chin on his hand, his head to the side. "So here is my proposition for you, Madame. You do not wish to return to Holland. You wish to be a French citizen, safe forever behind our laws. You wish for the powerful friends to make it so, and you do not want to work for Fouché. And yet you make an ideal agent, clever, loyal, equally capable in the ballroom or the battlefield. A pretty woman who is not afraid to kill." One eyebrow rose. "Perhaps a clairvoyant, if the rumors are to be believed."

A blush rose on my face.

"You are rash, yes. Daring to a fault, which is not an uncommon flaw among my paladins. And you are a little too fond of sleeping with generals."

In my confusion I dropped my reticule. Three apples and a bun rolled out, stopping just short of his feet.

Napoleon bent down and picked up the bun. "And prepared," he said, his eyes lively.

"It was for…."

"I am not mocking you, Madame. Or if so only a little!"

"I see that, sire," I said, and smiled back. "Believe me, I am grateful if you are offering to intervene with Fouché for me, but I do not know what good there can be for you in it."

"I have already spoken with Fouché, as I said, Madame. You have nothing more to fear from him. I give you my word on that. I will not have it said that service to me or to Josephine is rewarded so badly."

I had not thought it was possible to be more relieved. "Thank you, sire."

He got up from the desk and stood opposite me, exactly of a height. "I want you to be my agent."

"Your agent, sire?"

"I sometimes employ special agents of my own, outside of the parameters of the Minister of Police, agents who are loyal to me alone with no Fouché as intermediary. They report directly to me, or to whomever I deputize as necessary. I must be able to trust them absolutely." His eyes searched mine. "Your personal oath, Madame. Irrevocable. You may think on it."

"I do not need to think," I said, my eyes squarely on his. "I have known for a long time. I, Elzelina Johanna Van Aylde Versfelt Ringeling, do swear to you, Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, my undying loyalty and service, that I may in all things serve you and France, waking and sleeping, in danger and luxury, in omission and commission, as a true Companion in all things, until death or you release me." I knelt and took his hand in mine, my lips to his finger where a ring should go.

He gripped my hand and raised me up, and there was nothing but a knowing half smile in his eyes. "Welcome to my service, Elzelina. I shall act as your liege in all things, and shall in no way disappoint your expectations while life and breath last." His eyes fluttered shut for a moment.

Did he remember? I did not know. I remembered the humid garden, the sound of the water playing in the bathhouse in Babylon, the fever in his flesh when he had taken my hand. I barely remembered myself. And yet it was there, like celestial music barely heard.

"I am yours, sire," I said.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
mari4212
Dec. 31st, 2012 12:55 am (UTC)
That sent a shiver down my spine, and not just because my house is perpetually cold in winter. This time she makes her oath before the end of everything. I'm going to love reading this next book.
jo_graham
Dec. 31st, 2012 11:09 am (UTC)
Long before the end this time! She has made her oaths, and the next four books are about how she fulfills them and why this isn't a crushing tragedy like Hand of Isis. They've all learned something, and yes, they can choose to do better! Though on a more mundane level, the next books are about what Elza does in the Emperor's service.
linneasr
Jan. 6th, 2013 04:23 pm (UTC)
Ohhh.... Now I am soo hungry for this next volume. Is there a moment when All Is Revealed, and those who remember talk to each other about their memories? And, by the way, I did post a small review at Barnes & Noble, and I apologize that it was posted only after Christmas.
jo_graham
Jan. 7th, 2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the lovely review at B&N! I appreciate it so much!

There's not one moment where all is revealed -- it's more gradual. But one thing that does happen in the second book is that Elza meets others who have memories and who acknowledge them and don't think it's crazy, and she and Michel have a long overdue conversation about them.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )