Paris, the Reign of Terror
Gabrielle stood on the swaying tumbrel, the breeze tickling the nape of her neck. Her head felt oddly light, deprived as it was of her thick, heavy mane of unruly brown hair. The loose, uneven strands brushed the skin on her neck like long, pointed fingernails. Would she feel the blade of the guillotine, or would death come fast and sweet as promised?
She clenched her hands on the cart's rough rail and tried to think of something else—something other than blood and death and the swish the blade made when it fell in the Place Louis XV, now the laughably named Place de la Révolution. This wasn't a revolution. This was murder.
Her stomach roiled and she closed her eyes and tried to think of happier times.
Mrs. Cress would love this short hairstyle. Of course, she'd bemoan the artless way in which the hair had been hacked off by the prison guard, but Mrs. Cress could fix that. Give Cressy a pair of shears and she'd have Gabrielle's hair cleverly styled in mere moments. Gabrielle would miss her brash speech and her unfailing loyalty. She'd miss Diana too. Diana had been a good friend, someone she could count on in a crisis. If only Diana were here now, she'd turn her famous imperious stare on these raucous revolutionaries and have Gabrielle free in a moment. She smiled, and then she sighed.
She could admit it. She would miss Ramsey. Pathetic to even think of the lying, deceitful scoundrel. He was the reason she stood here, squeezed ever tighter as guards herded more and more of the condemned onto the already packed cart.
She shouldn't have trusted him. She shouldn't have believed him.
She wished he were beside her. She'd like to see him mount the scaffold, face Sanson and his assistant, who worked with that awful blood-red rose clamped between his teeth. She liked to imagine Ramsey would grovel and beg and fall to his knees as the crowd jeered. The assistant would drag him, kicking and screaming, to Madame Guillotine, tie him down, and whoosh! The blade would sing. Ramsey would be no more.
The tumbrel jolted as the horses began a slow plod toward the Rue Royale, now the Rue Nationale. Gabrielle shook her head to clear it, feeling those loose strands of hair on her neck again. She was as bad as the peasants waiting to taunt her and the other condemned as they left the security of the prison. For now, she had blood lust too.
Only she was the one who would die.