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That night, sleep was impossible. I sat on the sofa, then on the bed, the phone at my side. Not even a pot of tea and a raft of e-mail took my mind off the day’s events. The notion that witches might have murdered my parents was beyond my comprehension. Pushing back those thoughts, I instead puzzled over the spell on Ashmole 782 and Knox’s interest in it.
Still awake at dawn, I showered and changed. The idea of breakfast was uncharacteristically unappetizing. Rather than eat, I perched by the door until the Bodleian opened, then walked the short distance to the library and took my regular seat. My phone was in my pocket, set to vibrate, even though I hated it when other people’s phones started buzzing and hopping in the quiet.
At half past ten, Peter Knox strolled in and sat at the opposite end of the room. On the premise of returning a manuscript, I walked back to the call desk to make sure that Miriam was still in the library. She was—and she was angry.
“Tell me that witch didn’t take a seat down there.”
“He did. He keeps staring at my back while I work.”
“I wish I were larger,” Miriam said with a frown.
“Somehow I think it would take more than size to deter that creature.” I gave her a lopsided smile.
When Matthew came into the Selden End, without warning or sound, no icy patches announced his arrival. Instead there were touches of snowflakes all along my hair, shoulders, and back, as if he were checking quickly to make sure I was all in one piece.
My fingers gripped the table in front of me. For a few moments, I didn’t dare turn in case it was simply Miriam. When I saw it was indeed Matthew, my heart gave a single loud thump.
But the vampire was no longer looking in my direction. He was staring at Peter Knox, his face ferocious.
“Matthew,” I called softly, rising to my feet.
He dragged his eyes from the witch and strode to my side. When I frowned uncertainly at his fierce expression, he gave me a reassuring smile. “I understand there’s been some excitement.” He was so close that the coolness of his body felt as refreshing as a breeze on a summer day.
“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” I said evenly, conscious of Peter Knox.
“Can our conversation wait—just until the end of the day?” he asked. Matthew’s fingers strayed up to touch a bump on his sternum that was visible under the soft fibers of his sweater. I wondered what he was wearing, close to his heart. “We could go to yoga.”
Though I’d had no sleep, a drive to Woodstock in a moving vehicle with very good sound insulation, followed by an hour and a half of meditative movement, sounded perfect.
“That would be wonderful,” I said sincerely.
“Would you like me to work here, with you?” he asked, leaning toward me. His scent was so powerful it was dizzying.
“That’s not necessary,” I said firmly.
“Let me know if you change your mind. Otherwise I’ll see you outside Hertford at six.” Matthew held my eyes a few moments longer. Then he sent a look of loathing in Peter Knox’s direction and returned to his seat.
When I passed his desk on the way to lunch, Matthew coughed. Miriam slammed her pencil down in irritation and joined me. Knox would not be following me to Blackwell’s. Matthew would see to that.
The afternoon dragged on interminably, and it was almost impossible to stay awake. By five o’clock, I was more than ready to leave the library. Knox remained in the Selden End, along with a motley assortment of humans. Matthew walked me downstairs, and my spirits lightened as I raced back to college, changed, and picked up my yoga mat. When his car pulled up to Hertford’s metal railings, I was waiting for him.
“You’re early,” he observed with a smile, taking my mat and putting it into the trunk. Matthew breathed in sharply as he helped me into the car, and I wondered what messages my body had passed on to him.
“We need to talk.”
“There’s no rush. Let’s get out of Oxford first.” He closed the car door behind me and climbed into the driver’s seat.
The traffic on the Woodstock Road was heavier due to the influx of students and dons. Matthew maneuvered deftly around the slow spots.
“How was Scotland?” I asked as we cleared the city limits, not caring what he talked about so long as he talked.
Matthew glanced at me and returned his eyes to the road. “Fine.”
“Miriam said you were hunting.”
He exhaled softly, his fingers rising to the bump under his sweater. “She shouldn’t have.”
“Because some things shouldn’t be discussed in mixed company,” he said with a touch of impatience. “Do witches tell creatures who aren’t witches that they’ve just returned from four days of casting spells and boiling bats?”
“Witches don’t boil bats!” I said indignantly.
“The point remains.”
“Were you alone?” I asked.
Matthew waited a long time before answering. “No.”
“I wasn’t alone in Oxford either,” I began. “The creatures—”
“Miriam told me.” His hands tightened on the wheel. “If I’d known that the witch bothering you was Peter Knox, I’d never have left Oxford.”
“You were right,” I blurted, needing to make my own confession before tackling the subject of Knox. “I’ve never kept the magic out of my life. I’ve been using it in my work, without realizing it. It’s in everything. I’ve been fooling myself for years.” The words tumbled from my mouth. Matthew remained focused on the traffic. “I’m frightened.”
His cold hand touched my knee. “I know.”
“What am I going to do?” I whispered.
“We’ll figure it out,” he said calmly, turning in to the Old Lodge’s gates. He scrutinized my face as we crested the rise and pulled in to the circular drive. “You’re tired. Can you manage yoga?”
Matthew got out of the car and opened the door for me. This time he didn’t help me out. Instead he fished around in the trunk, pulled out our mats, and shouldered both of them himself. Other members of the class filtered by, casting curious looks in our direction.
He waited until we were the only ones on the drive. Matthew looked down at me, wrestling with himself over something. I frowned, my head tilted back to meet his eyes. I’d just confessed to engaging in magic without realizing it. What was so awful that he couldn’t tell me?
“I was in Scotland with an old friend, Hamish Osborne,” he finally said.
“The man the newspapers want to run for Parliament so he can be chancellor of the exchequer?” I said in amazement.
“Hamish will not be running for Parliament,” Matthew said drily, adjusting the strap of his yoga bag with a twitch.
“So he is gay!” I said, thinking back to a recent late-night news program. Matthew gave me a withering glance. “Yes. More important, he’s a daemon.” I didn’t know much about the world of creatures, but participating in human politics or religion was also forbidden.
“Oh. Finance is an odd career choice for a daemon.” I thought for a moment. “It explains why he’s so good at figuring out what to do with all that money, though.”
“He is good at figuring things out.” The silence stretched on, and Matthew made no move for the door. “I needed to get away and hunt.”
I gave him a confused look.
“You left your sweater in my car,” he said, as if that were an explanation.
“Miriam gave it back to me already.”
“I know. I couldn’t hold on to it. Do you understand why?”
When I shook my head, he sighed and then swore in French.
“My car was full of your scent, Diana. I needed to leave Oxford.”
“I still don’t understand,” I admitted.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” He raked his hand through his hair and looked down the drive.
My heart was beating irregularly, and the reduced blood flow slowed my mental processes. Finally, though, I understood.
“You’re not afraid you would hurt me?” I had a healthy fear of vampires, but Matthew seemed different.
“I can’t be sure.” His eyes were wary, and his voice held a warning.
“So you didn’t go because of what happened Friday night.” My breath released in sudden relief.
“No,” he said gently, “it had nothing to do with that.”
“Are you two coming in, or are you going to practice out here on the drive?” Amira called from the doorway.
We went in to class, occasionally glancing at each other when one of us thought the other wasn’t looking. Our first honest exchange of information had altered things. We were both trying to figure out what was going to happen next.
After class ended, when Matthew swung his sweater over his head, something shining and silver caught my eye. The object was tied around his neck on a thin leather cord. It was what he kept touching through his sweater, over and over, like a talisman.
“What’s that?” I pointed.
“A reminder,” Matthew said shortly.
“The destructive power of anger.”
Peter Knox had warned me to be careful around Matthew.
“Is it a pilgrim’s badge?” The shape reminded me of one in the British Museum. It looked ancient.
He nodded and pulled the badge out by the cord. It swung freely, glinting as the light struck it. “It’s an ampulla from Bethany.” It was shaped like a coffin and just big enough to hold a few drops of holy water.
“Lazarus,” I said faintly, eyeing the coffin. Bethany was where Christ had resurrected Lazarus from the dead. And though raised a pagan, I knew why Christians went on pilgrimage. They did it to atone for their sins.
Matthew slid the ampulla back into his sweater, concealing it from the eyes of the creatures who were still filing out of the room.
We said good-bye to Amira and stood outside the Old Lodge in the crisp autumn air. It was dark, despite the floodlights that bathed the bricks of the house.
“Do you feel better?” Matthew asked, breaking into my thoughts. I nodded. “Then tell me what’s happened.”
“It’s the manuscript. Knox wants it. Agatha Wilson—the creature I met in Blackwell’s—said the daemons want it. You want it, too. But Ashmole 782 is under a spell.”
“I know,” he said again.
A white owl swooped down in front of us, its wings beating the air. I flinched and lifted my arms to protect myself, convinced it was going to strike me with its beak and talons. But then the owl lost interest and soared up into the oak trees along the drive.
My heart was pounding, and a sudden rush of panic swept up from my feet. Without any warning, Matthew pulled open the back door of the Jaguar and pushed me into the seat. “Keep your head down and breathe,” he said, crouching on the gravel with his fingers resting on my knees. The bile rose—there was nothing in my stomach but water—and crawled up my throat, choking me. I covered my mouth with my hand and retched convulsively. He reached over and tucked a wayward piece of hair behind my ear, his fingers cool and soothing.
“You’re safe,” he said.
“I’m so sorry.” My shaking hand passed across my mouth as the nausea subsided. “The panic started last night after I saw Knox.”
“Do you want to walk a bit?”
“No,” I said hastily. The park seemed overly large and very black, and my legs felt like they were made of rubber bands.
Matthew inspected me with his keen eyes. “I’m taking you home. The rest of this conversation can wait.”
He pulled me up from the backseat and held my hand loosely until he had me settled in the front of the car. I closed my eyes while he climbed in. We sat for a moment in silence, and then Matthew turned the key in the ignition. The Jaguar quickly sprang to life.
“Does this happen often?” he asked, his voice neutral.
“No, thank God,” I said. “It happened a lot when I was a child, but it’s much better now. It’s just an excess of adrenaline.” Matthew’s glance settled on my hands as I pushed my hair from my face.
“I know,” he said yet again, disengaging the parking brake and pulling out onto the drive.
“Can you smell it?”
He nodded. “It’s been building up in you since you told me you were using magic. Is this why you exercise so much—the running, the rowing, the yoga?”
“I don’t like taking drugs. They make me feel fuzzy.”
“The exercise is probably more effective anyway.”
“It hasn’t done the trick this time,” I murmured, thinking of my recently electrified hands.
Matthew pulled out of the Old Lodge’s grounds and onto the road. He concentrated on his driving while the car’s smooth movements rocked me gently.
“Why did you call me?” Matthew asked abruptly, interrupting my reveries.
“Because of Knox and Ashmole 782,” I said, flickers of panic returning at his sudden shift in mood.
“I know that. What I’m asking is why you called me. Surely you have friends—witches, humans—who could help you.”
“Not really. None of my human friends know I’m a witch. It would take days just to explain what’s really happening in this world—if they stuck around long enough for me to finish, that is. I don’t have friends who are witches, and I can’t drag my aunts into this. It’s not their fault I did something stupid and sent the manuscript back when I didn’t understand it.” I bit my lip. “Should I not have called you?”
“I don’t know, Diana. On Friday you said witches and vampires couldn’t be friends.”
“On Friday I told you lots of things.”
Matthew was quiet, giving his full attention to the curves in the road.
“I don’t know what to think anymore.” I paused, considering my next words carefully. “But there is one thing I know for sure. I’d rather share the library with you than with Knox.”
“Vampires are never completely trustworthy—not when they’re around warmbloods.” Matthew’s eyes focused on me for a single, cold moment.
“Warmbloods?” I asked with a frown.
“Humans, witches, daemons—everyone who’s not a vampire.”
“I’ll risk your bite before I let Knox slither into my brain to fish for information.”
“Has he tried to do that?” Matthew’s voice was quiet, but there was a promise of violence in it.
“It was nothing,” I said hastily. “He was just warning me about you.”
“So he should. Nobody can be what he’s not, no matter how hard he tries. You mustn’t romanticize vampires. Knox may not have your best interests at heart, but he was right about me.”
“Other people don’t pick my friends—certainly not bigots like Knox.” My fingers began to prickle as my anger mounted, and I shoved them under my thighs.
“Is that what we are, then? Friends?” Matthew asked.
“I think so. Friends tell each other the truth, even when it’s difficult.” Disconcerted by the seriousness of the conversation, I toyed with the ties on my sweater.
“Vampires aren’t particularly good at friendship.” He sounded angry again.
“Look, if you want me to leave you alone—”
“Of course not,” Matthew interrupted. “It’s just that vampire relationships are . . . complicated. We can be protective—possessive, even. You might not like it.”
“A little protectiveness sounds pretty good to me about now.”
My answer brought a look of raw vulnerability to Matthew’s eyes. “I’ll remind you of that when you start complaining,” he said, the rawness quickly replaced with wry amusement.
He pulled off Holywell Street into the arched gates of the lodge. Fred glanced at the car and grinned before looking discreetly away. I waited for Matthew to open the door, checking the car carefully to make sure that nothing of mine was left there—not even a hair elastic—so as not to drive him back to Scotland.
“But there’s more to all this than Knox and the manuscript,” I said urgently when he handed me the mat. From his behavior you would think there weren’t creatures closing in on me from every direction.
“It can wait, Diana. And don’t worry. Peter Knox won’t get within fifty feet of you again.” His voice was grim, and he touched the ampulla under his sweater.
We needed time together—not in the library, but alone.
“Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow?” I asked him, my voice low. “We could talk about what happened then.”
Matthew froze, confusion flitting over his face along with something I couldn’t name. His fingers flexed slightly around the pilgrim’s badge before he released it.
“I’d like that,” he said slowly.
“Good.” I smiled. “How’s half past seven?”
He nodded and gave me a shy grin. I managed to walk two steps before realizing there was one matter that needed to be resolved before tomorrow night.
“What do you eat?” I whispered, my face flushing.
“I’m omnivorous,” Matthew said, his face brightening further into a smile that made my heart skip a beat.
“Half past seven, then.” I turned away, laughing and shaking my head at his unhelpful answer. “Oh, one more thing,” I said, turning back. “Let Miriam do her own work. I really can take care of myself.”
“So she tells me,” Matthew said, walking around to the driver’s side of the car. “I’ll consider it. But you’ll find me in Duke Humfrey’s tomorrow, as usual.” He got into the car, and when I showed no sign of moving, he rolled down his window.
“I’m not leaving until you’re out of my sight,” he said, looking at me in disapproval.
“Vampires,” I muttered, shaking my head at his old-fashioned ways.
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