The Chapel was one of the Abbe de Coulmier's favourite haunts. Its blackened quietness and smoky intimacy never failed to soothe him, the dying shafts of sunlight trickling through the glorious stain-glassed windows, casting delicate shades of red and blue onto the stone floor. The air was heavy with incense, a small tendril of smoke curling into the air before disappearing, leaving behind a violet haze. The sky outside had succumbed to the sapphire-tinged clouds as they tumbled ahead, suffocating the sun in their insistent journey. Charenton was relatively quiet now- the inmates were eating, the staff doing odd jobs, and the building was at peace.

Coulmier required tranquillity for his daily prayers. Normally they were interrupted by a wail or cry, or more pleasantly so by Madeline. His dreams of her had become more frequent now, more vivid, the sensations they caused lingering on his body for far longer than usual. He would wake up with a bitter disappointment, his heart hammering in his chest, porcelain skin highlighted with a flush, and most infuriatingly, a nagging frustration that pumped through his blood and teased him that such occurrences were never likely to happen.

He knelt before the altar, emerald eyes closed, slender fingers clasped loosely in prayer, a rosary dangling delicately over them. His lips moved as whispered prayers escaped them, thumbs rolling the wooden beads. The tiny cross quivered delicately in mid-air, the body of Christ moulded to it, Jesus' eyes lifted in a rictus of agony, mouth dangling open, scarlet rivulets streaming down his forehead, the side of his sunken face, ribs protruding with each ragged breath that He had taken. A sound drifted in from outside, a tinkling, delicate laugh, most definitely a girl. The Abbe de Coulmier didn't need to open his eyes to tell that it was Madeline. Setting down the rosary, and feeling the familiar tug at his heart, he folded his arms on the altar, resting his head upon them, and let his most vivid waking dreams embrace him.



*"The Doctor's chosen preference could only be described as immature, his penchant for those of an indecently underripe age the constant talk of his town. The villagers would always look for his new conquest, complete with her sunken chest and unbearably slender arms, and watch as he would indulge her with the finest gifts to compensate for the skills that he lacked in the bedroom. His technique was far from honed, for he was an obscenely late developer, not losing his inhibitions until at least of forty Winters. Still it seemed his fixation remained at adolescence, and each one of his childbrides was subjected to the most abominable of tortures…"*

A knock on his door interrupted the Marquis' thoughts.

"Psst- it's me. Can I come in?"

*Speak of the Devil,* mused de Sade, before rising to his feet and awaiting the girls' visit. He dusted off his clothes, momentarily rearranging his wig before standing boldly at his desk. If he was honest, he did not feel attracted to the girl in the slightest, for she possessed a naivety that bothered him. She lacked the sauciness and cheekiness that Madeline had, a trait that made him long for her with all his heart. And other important organs. He had missed her recently, and he knew that he was slowly losing her to the other person he loved as equally as much as her lovely self. And that pained him far more than any of the weapons of his imagination.

"Come in darling. I'm eager for some news." In truth, although the idea of the Abbe and Madeline together inflamed him beyond belief, he hoped that nothing would be there, for he could corrupt both of them, introduce them into the sensual world, as opposed to two eager amateurs fumbling nervously in the dark as both exhausting themselves in a frustratingly short space of time. He sighed heavily, sipping at his wine. Their time would come.

The sound of the thick iron key turning in the door distracted Donatien's attentions, and he was grateful for the diversion. He smiled his catlike smile as Victoria entered the room, her body clearly exhausted but her eyes alive with scandal. She shut the door behind her, but in her haste it didn't quite close. The Marquis observed this with a careful eye.

"I can't stay long, Marquis, but I do have something to tell you," she proclaimed breathlessly, chest rising and falling tantalisingly with her anxiety, "when I was in the laundry room, Charlotte said something to Madeline about lying with the Abbe, about inviting her back to his bed. Whether it's true or not is another matter, but still…it's an idea."

De Sade smiled somewhat falsely, his heart aching. "I've become a sentimental old fool, my peach. Things like this have started to affect my heart. Something has started to lighten my blackened soul!" he proclaimed, flinging his arms up into the air. There was a slight madness about his actions that frightened the young girl. His façade was beginning to crumble, it seemed. She backed away, flashing a weak, watery smile. "I-I hope you can put the ideas to use, for this spying business is harder than it looks. Good day, Marquis."

Outside the door, Madeline LeClerc moved too quickly for either of them to realise that she had been listening.



Her mouth was soft against his, supple and succulent, her pale and slender fingers twisting in his ebony hair and she pulled him down to her. Groans reverberated from his throat, half of longing and half of despair as he surrendered to her, losing himself in a storm of tangled limbs and frantic hands, smooth flesh and sighs and moans. Her body was writhing and curvaceous beneath him, his hands roaming over her, discovering places that he had only dreamed of. She was willing, losing herself too, eager to forget the repression that had been forced on them, the silken skin of her thighs tightening about him, long, shapely legs wrapped about him, urging him to do what he- nor she- had ever ventured to do before. The fingers of one of his hands raked through her gloriously long hair, pulling her head back slightly so he could mouth and suckle at her throat, his other hand interlocking with hers before reaching down to guide himself inside her, all sounds trapped in his throat at the wonder of it all. Their ids, finally unleashed, as they revelled in the intimacy, the passion, the spontaneity, sweat-bejewelled limbs entwining as all inhibition disappeared.

As always, the Abbe's dream was interrupted, his heart racing like a kettle drum, perspiration beading his forehead, his pre-loosened shirt allowing cooler air to circulate around his, and a pulse between his thighs that drove him to distraction. The rap on the quarter door was quiet, but underlying it was a certain sense of urgency. Coulmier rose to his feet, wiping at his forehead with a clammy hand, straightening his cassock and hoping that he walk from the altar to the door would lessen his arousal. His footsteps echoed on the stone walls, the saints seeming to have closed their eyes in reverence of the priest's privacy. Even a follower of Christ deserved their dreams.

The Abbe de Coulmier opened the heavy chapel door, his heart still leaping with delight when he saw Madeline standing there, blue eyes alight with fire. Despite his potent mental awakening, the Abbe still felt concern freeze the boiling blood in his veins. Subconsciously, he grasped the girls' hand, leading her into the chapel.

"Maddie? Is something the matter?" His voice trembled slightly, although Coulmier was grateful for the occasion that could mask the fact that it was due to his fantasies still making him light-headed with lust. Madeline darted into the room, not removing her hand from the Abbe's. Her voice was clipped, and shaking.

"Victoria's been telling the Marquis that there's rumours going around," she stopped suddenly, seeing the urgent curiosity in the young priest's eyes, "about *us*. Saying that there's a…romantic thing."

Madeline bowed her head shyly away upon her final revelation, but one eye kept open for Coulmier's reaction. She watched as his handsome faced contorted in surprise.

"About us? This kind of talk could destroy us both, Madeline." Despite his ever vivid fantasies, it seemed that Coulmier still had a sense of logical work ethic about him. Madeline finally pulled her hand from his, much to Abbe's disappointment.

"I know. I just didn't want you to be the last to know. You know how quickly gossip flies around Charenton. Although we've nothing to feel guilty about…" her voiced trailed off, tinged with what might interpreted as sadness. The Abbe watched her every movement, her eyes lowered, full lips slightly parted, tendrils of dark hair curling delicately at her shoulder. He felt his breath quicken momentarily, before swallowing loudly and composing himself. There was a long silence before Madeline spoke again.

"I think Royer-Collard is responsible."

The Abbe stared at Madeline in bemusement, shards of confusion glittering in his eyes.

"Madeline…what on Earth? What in the name of God makes you think that?"

"Well," she began to answer, "he's never liked either of us from day one, and he's looking over the whole of Charenton, not just the inmates. And Victoria mentioned spying…so…" Madeline stopped, voice full of uncertainty, waiting for the Abbe's comment regarding her suggestion. The silence was tangible, before Coulmier decided to speak.

"I'm at loss, Madeline. Both of our reputations are at stake, and people here can't seem to differentiate between reality and fantasy." He stopped speaking as soon as he felt Madeline's hand caress his own yet again. Struck dumb with wonderment, he gazed back at her with a mixture of emotions. "I…"

"Sssh," Madeline soothed, detecting Abbe's potent fright, "we've nothing to be persecuted for."

Deep in his heart, the Abbe longed for a reason to be condemned.