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I, the rose with nails for petals

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“She’s very beautiful, isn’t she? Louisa?” Diana said, remembering Matthew’s sister in her crimson dress, the embroidered blossoms delicate, the work of hours. Not the work of Louisa’s hands, which were slender and white, like a swan and just as fierce.

“She is herself,” Matthew said, idly stroking Diana’s hair. It was unbraided, unnetted, rinsed with rosemary and he had restrained himself all day from touching her.

“Do you always call her Louisa? Loulou? No, that’s for a man, for a lover,” Diana mused. She heard Matthew catch his breath, wondered what had caused it. Remembered a time when his face had been lit by something other than candlelight and the sun, when he had been a geneticist and not a prince. He was happy here and she was not, but she wasn’t miserable.

Ravageuse, Rava, I call her that. And before you ask, she deserves it,” Matthew said.

“She was laced so tightly, so properly. She’s so beautiful and she wants so much, doesn’t she?” Diana said. Matthew bent and kissed her temple, brushed a cool finger along the curve of her cheek.

“She wants everything. She’s gotten it too much,” Matthew replied. “She’s not a scholar, not a scientist. She’s a queen, without a kingdom. The most dangerous kind.”

“Mm. I should have asked Marthe about her, before we left Sept-Tours.”

Oui, ma caille. It is always a good idea to ask Marthe. Especially about Louisa,” Matthew said, kissing her a second time. He needed her now, so she turned her face to his and let herself cast a spell.