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The Game of Hope
Excerpt

I saw a man approaching. Cloaked and hooded, he moved with grace in the flickering candlelight.
My heart soared. Father!
He put out one hand, gloved in white leather. Hope was aglow all around him.
But then—as always—his hood fell back, and there was only a bloody stump where his head should have been.
I screamed, gasping for air, my heart pounding.

Mouse and Ém tried to calm me, but I only wept all the harder.
What did my father want?
Why was he haunting me?
Maîtresse rushed into our room in rumpled nightclothes, a shawl thrown haphazardly over her shoulders. “Such screaming, angel! You’ll terrify the Little Geniuses,” she said, putting down her candle. The shadows made her face look like that of a ghoul.
“I’m sorry,” I sobbed, slipping the miniature enamel portrait of my father from under my pillow. Father: so handsome, so elegant, to have died like that, the crowd cheering as his head fell into a basket of wood shavings.
“It’s that same night-fright she always has,” Mouse told her aunt, her voice tremulous.
“That scary dream of her father,” my cousin Ém said.
I looked into Maîtresse’s eyes. She was mistress of our boarding school, quite strict and demanding, yet we all loved her. “With his—” I winced, making a slashing motion across my neck.
“Come here, my sweets,” Maîtresse said, opening her arms.
Dragging their blankets, Ém and Mouse huddled in close. I could feel Mouse trembling. We called ourselves the Fearsome Threesome, but in the dead of night, Fearful Threesome might have been more apt.
“Repeat after me,” Maîtresse said, pulling the blankets snugly around us. She smelled deliciously of vanilla. “We are safe now.”
“We are safe now,” we whispered in unison.
Safe now, safe now, safe now.
But were we? It had been four years since the tyrant Robespierre had been executed, bringing an end to the Terror—but what if it were to happen again? Practically every girl in our school was of the nobility. What was to keep us from being hunted down, having our heads cut off?

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