فصل 08کتاب: تمام ارواح / مجموعه: کشف ساحره ها / فصل 8
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Honestly, that car is such a cliché.” The hair clung to my fingers, crackling and snapping as I tried to push it from my face.
Clairmont was lounging against the side of his Jaguar looking un-rumpled and at ease. Even his yoga clothes, characteristically gray and black, looked bandbox fresh, though considerably less tailored than what he wore to the library.
Contemplating the sleek black car and the elegant vampire, I felt unaccountably cross. It had not been a good day. The conveyor belt broke in the library, and it took forever for them to fetch my manuscripts. My keynote address remained elusive, and I was beginning to look at the calendar with alarm, imagining a roomful of colleagues peppering me with difficult questions. It was nearly October, and the conference was in November.
“You think a subcompact would be better subterfuge?” he asked, holding out his hand for my yoga mat.
“Not really, no.” Standing in the fall twilight, he positively screamed vampire, yet the rising tide of undergraduates and dons passed him without a second glance. If they couldn’t sense what he was—see what he was, standing in the open air—the car was immaterial. The irritation built under my skin.
“Have I done something wrong?” His gray-green eyes were wide and guileless. He opened the car door, taking a deep breath as I slid past.
My temper flared. “Are you smelling me?” After yesterday I suspected that my body was giving him all kinds of information I didn’t want him to have.
“Don’t tempt me,” he murmured, shutting me inside. The hair on my neck rose slightly as the implication of his words sank in. He popped open the trunk and put my mat inside.
Night air filled the car as the vampire climbed in without any visible effort or moment of limb-bent awkwardness. His face creased into the semblance of a sympathetic frown. “Bad day?”
I gave him a withering glance. Clairmont knew exactly how my day had been. He and Miriam had been in Duke Humfrey’s again, keeping the other creatures out of my immediate environment. When we left to change for yoga, Miriam had remained to make sure we weren’t followed by a train of daemons—or worse.
Clairmont started the car and headed down the Woodstock Road without further attempts at small talk. There was nothing on it but houses.
“Where are we going?” I asked suspiciously.
“To yoga,” he replied calmly. “Based on your mood, I’d say you need it.”
“And where is yoga?” I demanded. We were headed out to the countryside in the direction of Blenheim.
“Have you changed your mind?” Matthew’s voice was touched with exasperation. “Should I take you back to the studio on the High Street?”
I shuddered at the memory of last night’s uninspiring class. “No.”
“Then relax. I’m not kidnapping you. It can be pleasant to let someone else take charge. Besides, it’s a surprise.”
“Hmph,” I said. He switched on the stereo system, and classical music poured from the speakers.
“Stop thinking and listen,” he commanded. “It’s impossible to be tense around Mozart.”
Hardly recognizing myself, I settled in the seat with a sigh and shut my eyes. The Jaguar’s motion was so subtle and the sounds from outside so muffled that I felt suspended above the ground, held up by invisible, musical hands.
The car slowed, and we pulled up to a set of high iron gates that even I, though practiced, couldn’t have scaled. The walls on either side were warm red brick, with irregular forms and intricate woven patterns. I sat up a little straighter.
“You can’t see it from here,” Clairmont said, laughing. He rolled down his window and punched a series of numbers into a polished keypad. A tone sounded, and the gates swung open.
Gravel crunched under the tires as we passed through another set of gates even older than the first. There was no scrolled ironwork here, just an archway spanning brick walls that were much lower than the ones facing the Woodstock Road. The archway had a tiny room on top, with windows on all sides like a lantern. To the left of the gate was a splendid brick gatehouse, with twisted chimneys and leaded windows. A small brass plaque with weathered edges read THE OLD LODGE.
“Beautiful,” I breathed.
“I thought you’d like it.” The vampire looked pleased.
Through the growing darkness, we passed into a park. A small herd of deer skittered off at the sound of the car, jumping into the protective shadows as the Jaguar’s headlights swept the grounds. We climbed a slight hill and rounded a curve in the drive. The car slowed to a crawl as we reached the top of the rise and the headlights dipped over into blackness.
“There,” Clairmont said, pointing with his left hand.
A two-story Tudor manor house was arranged around a central courtyard. Its bricks glowed in the illumination of powerful spotlights that shone up through the branches of gnarled oak trees to light the face of the building.
I was so dumbfounded that I swore. Clairmont looked at me in shock, then chuckled.
He pulled the car in to the circular drive in front and parked behind a late-model Audi sports car. A dozen more cars were already parked there, and headlights continued to sweep down over the hill.
“Are you sure I’m going to be all right?” I’d been doing yoga for more than a decade, but that didn’t mean I was any good at it. It had never occurred to me to ask whether this might be the kind of class where people balanced on one forearm with their feet suspended in midair.
“It’s a mixed class,” he assured me.
“Okay.” My anxiety went up a notch in spite of his easy answer.
Clairmont took our yoga mats out of the trunk. Moving slowly as the last of the arrivals headed for the wide entry, he finally reached my door and put out his hand. This is new, I noted before putting my hand in his. I was still not entirely comfortable when our bodies came into contact. He was shockingly cold, and the contrast between our body temperatures took me aback.
The vampire held my hand lightly and tugged on it gently to help me out of the car. Before releasing me, he gave a soft encouraging squeeze. Surprised, I glanced at him and caught him doing the same thing. Both of us looked away in confusion.
We entered the house through another arched gate and a central courtyard. The manor was in an astonishing state of preservation. No later architects had been allowed to cut out symmetrical Georgian windows or affix fussy Victorian conservatories to it. We might have been stepping back in time.
“Unbelievable,” I murmured.
Clairmont grinned and steered me through a big wooden door propped open with an iron doorstop. I gasped. The outside was remarkable, but the inside was stunning. Miles of linenfold paneling extended in every direction, all burnished and glowing. Someone had lit a fire in the room’s enormous fireplace. A single trestle table and some benches looked about as old as the house, and electric lights were the only evidence that we were in the twenty-first century.
Rows of shoes sat in front of the benches, and mounds of sweaters and coats covered their dark oak surfaces. Clairmont laid his keys on the table and removed his shoes. I kicked off my own and followed him.
“Remember I said this was a mixed class?” the vampire asked when we reached a door set into the paneling. I looked up, nodded. “It is. But there’s only one way to get into this room—you have to be one of us.”
He pulled open the door. Dozens of curious eyes nudged, tingled, and froze in my direction. The room was full of daemons, witches, and vampires. They sat on brightly colored mats—some with crossed legs, others kneeling—waiting for class to begin. Some of the daemons had headphones jammed into their ears. The witches were gossiping in a steady hum. The vampires sat quietly, their faces displaying little emotion.
My jaw dropped.
“Sorry,” Clairmont said. “I was afraid you wouldn’t come if I told you—and it really is the best class in Oxford.”
A tall witch who had short, jet-black hair and skin the color of coffee with cream walked toward us, and the rest of the room turned away, resuming their silent meditations. Clairmont, who’d tensed slightly when we entered, visibly relaxed as the witch approached us.
“Matthew.” Her husky voice was brushed with an Indian accent. “Welcome.”
“Amira.” He nodded in greeting. “This is the woman I told you about, Diana Bishop.”
The witch looked at me closely, her eyes taking in every detail of my face. She smiled. “Diana. Nice to meet you. Are you new to yoga?”
“No.” My heart pounded with a fresh wave of anxiety. “But this is my first time here.”
Her smile widened. “Welcome to the Old Lodge.”
I wondered if anyone here knew about Ashmole 782, but there wasn’t a single familiar face and the atmosphere in the room was open and easy, with none of the usual tension between creatures.
A warm, firm hand closed around my wrist, and my heart slowed immediately. I looked at Amira in astonishment. How had she done that?
She let loose my wrist, and my pulse remained steady. “I think that you and Diana will be most comfortable here,” she told Clairmont. “Get settled and we’ll begin.”
We unrolled our mats in the back of the room, close to the door. There was no one to my immediate right, but across a small expanse of open floor two daemons sat in lotus position with their eyes closed. My shoulder tingled. I started, wondering who was looking at me. The feeling quickly disappeared.
Sorry, a guilty voice said quite distinctly within my skull.
The voice came from the front of the room, from the same direction as the tingle. Amira frowned slightly at someone in the first row before bringing the class to attention.
Out of sheer habit, my body folded obediently into a cross-legged position when she began to speak, and after a few seconds Clairmont followed suit.
“It’s time to close your eyes.” Amira picked up a tiny remote control, and the soft strains of a meditative chant came out of the walls and ceiling. It sounded medieval, and one of the vampires sighed happily.
My eyes wandered, distracted by the ornate plasterwork of what must once have been the house’s great hall.
“Close your eyes,” Amira suggested again gently. “It can be hard to let go of our worries, our preoccupations, our egos. That’s why we’re here tonight.”
The words were familiar—I’d heard variations on this theme before, in other yoga classes—but they took on new meaning in this room.
“We’re here tonight to learn to manage our energy. We spend our time striving and straining to be something that we’re not. Let those desires go. Honor who you are.”
Amira took us through some gentle stretches and got us onto our knees to warm up our spines before we pushed back into downward dog. We held the posture for a few breaths before walking our hands to our feet and standing up.
“Root your feet into the earth,” she instructed, “and take mountain pose.”
I concentrated on my feet and felt an unexpected jolt from the floor. My eyes widened.
We followed Amira as she began her vinyasas. We swung our arms up toward the ceiling before diving down to place our hands next to our feet. We rose halfway, spines parallel to the floor, before folding over and shooting our legs back into a pushup position. Dozens of daemons, vampires, and witches dipped and swooped their bodies into graceful, upward curves. We continued to fold and lift, sweeping our arms overhead once more before touching palms lightly together. Then Amira freed us to move at our own pace. She pushed a button on the stereo’s remote, and a slow, melodic cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” filled the room.
The music was oddly appropriate, and I repeated the familiar movements in time to it, breathing into my tight muscles and letting the flow of the class push all thoughts from my head. After we’d started the series of poses for a third time, the energy in the room shifted.
Three witches were floating about a foot off the wooden floorboards.
“Stay grounded,” Amira said in a neutral voice.
Two quietly returned to the floor. The third had to swan-dive to get back down, and even then his hands reached the floor before his feet.
Both the daemons and the vampires were having trouble with the pacing. Some of the daemons were moving so slowly that I wondered if they were stuck. The vampires were having the opposite problem, their powerful muscles coiling and then springing with sudden intensity.
“Gently,” Amira murmured. “There’s no need to push, no need to strain.”
Gradually the room’s energy settled again. Amira moved us through a series of standing poses. Here the vampires were clearly at their best, able to sustain them for minutes without effort. Soon I was no longer concerned with who was in the room with me or whether I could keep up with the class. There was only the moment and the movement.
By the time we took to the floor for back bends and inversions, everyone in the room was dripping wet—except for the vampires, who didn’t even look dewy. Some performed death-defying arm balances and handstands, but I wasn’t among them. Clairmont was, however. At one point he looked to be attached to the ground by nothing more than his ear, his entire body in perfect alignment above him.
The hardest part of any practice for me was the final corpse pose—savasana. I found it nearly impossible to lie flat on my back without moving. The fact that everyone else seemed to find it relaxing only added to my anxiety. I lay as quietly as possible, eyes closed, trying not to twitch. A swoosh of feet moved between me and the vampire.
“Diana,” Amira whispered, “this pose is not for you. Roll over onto your side.”
My eyes popped open. I stared into the witch’s wide black eyes, mortified that she had somehow uncovered my secret.
“Curl into a ball.” Mystified, I did what she said. My body instantly relaxed. She patted me lightly on the shoulder. “Keep your eyes open, too.”
I had turned toward Clairmont. Amira lowered the lights, but the glow of his luminous skin allowed me to see his features clearly.
In profile he looked like a medieval knight lying atop a tomb in Westminster Abbey: long legs, long torso, long arms, and a remarkably strong face. There was something ancient about his looks, even though he appeared to be only a few years older than I was. I mentally traced the line of his forehead with an imaginary finger, from where it started at his uneven hairline up slightly over his prominent brow bone with its thick, black brows. My imaginary finger crested the tip of his nose and the bowing of his lips.
I counted as he breathed. At two hundred his chest lifted. He didn’t exhale for a long, long time afterward.
Finally Amira told the class it was time to rejoin the world outside. Matthew turned toward me and opened his eyes. His face softened, and my own did the same. There was movement all around us, but the socially correct had no pull on me. I stayed where I was, staring into a vampire’s eyes. Matthew waited, utterly still, watching me watch him. When I sat up, the room spun at the sudden movement of blood through my body.
At last the room stopped its dizzying revolutions. Amira closed the practice with chant and rang some tiny silver bells that were attached to her fingers. Class was over.
There were gentle murmurs throughout the room as vampire greeted vampire and witch greeted witch. The daemons were more ebullient, arranging for midnight meetings at clubs around Oxford, asking where the best jazz could be found. They were following the energy, I realized with a smile, thinking back to Agatha’s description of what tugged at a daemon’s soul. Two investment bankers from London—both vampires—were talking about a spate of unsolved London murders. I thought of Westminster and felt a flicker of unease. Matthew scowled at them, and they began arranging lunch tomorrow instead.
Everyone had to file by us as they left. The witches nodded at us curiously. Even the daemons made eye contact, grinning and exchanging meaningful glances. The vampires studiously avoided me, but every one of them said hello to Clairmont.
Finally only Amira, Matthew, and I remained. She gathered up her mat and padded toward us. “Good practice, Diana,” she said.
“Thank you, Amira. This was a class I’ll never forget.”
“You’re welcome anytime. With or without Matthew,” she added, tapping him lightly on the shoulder. “You should have warned her.”
“I was afraid Diana wouldn’t come. And I thought she’d like it, if she gave it a chance.” He looked at me shyly.
“Turn out the lights, will you, when you leave?” Amira called over her shoulder, already halfway out of the room.
My eyes traveled around the perfect jewel of a great hall. “This was certainly a surprise,” I said drily, not yet ready to let him off the hook.
He came up behind me, swift and soundless. “A pleasant one, I hope. You did like the class?”
I nodded slowly and turned to reply. He was disconcertingly close, and the difference in our heights meant that I had to lift my eyes so as not to be staring straight into his sternum. “I did.”
Matthew’s face split into his heart-stopping smile. “I’m glad.” It was difficult to pull free from the undertow of his eyes. To break their spell, I bent down and began rolling up my mat. Matthew turned off the lights and grabbed his own gear. We slid our shoes on in the gallery, where the fire had burned down to embers.
He picked up his keys. “Can I interest you in some tea before we head back to Oxford?”
“We’ll go to the gatehouse,” Matthew said matter-of-factly.
“There’s a café there?”
“No, but there’s a kitchen. A place to sit down, too. I can make tea,” he teased.
“Matthew,” I said, shocked, “is this your house?”
By that time we were standing in the doorway, looking out into the courtyard. I saw the keystone over the house’s gate: 1536.
“I built it,” he said, watching me closely.
Matthew Clairmont was at least five hundred years old.
“The spoils of the Reformation,” he continued. “Henry gave me the land, on the condition that I tear down the abbey that was here and start over. I saved what I could, but it was difficult to get away with much. The king was in a foul mood that year. There’s an angel here and there, and some stonework I couldn’t bear to destroy. Other than that, it’s all new construction.”
“I’ve never heard anyone describe a house built in the early sixteenth century as ‘new construction’ before.” I tried to see the house not only through Matthew’s eyes but as a part of him. This was the house he had wanted to live in nearly five hundred years ago. In seeing it I knew him better. It was quiet and still, just as he was. More than that, it was solid and true. There was nothing unnecessary—no extra ornamentation, no distractions.
“It’s beautiful,” I said simply.
“It’s too big to live in now,” he replied, “not to mention too fragile. Every time I open a window, something seems to fall off it, despite careful maintenance. I let Amira live in some of the rooms and open the house to her students a few times a week.”
“You live in the gatehouse?” I asked as we walked across the open expanse of cobbles and brick to the car.
“Part of the time. I live in Oxford during the week but come here on the weekends. It’s quieter.”
I thought that it must be challenging for a vampire to live surrounded by noisy undergraduates whose conversations he couldn’t help overhearing.
We got back into the car and drove the short distance to the gatehouse. As the manor’s onetime public face, it had slightly more frills and embellishments than the main house. I studied the twisted chimneys and the elaborate patterns in the brick.
Matthew groaned. “I know. The chimneys were a mistake. The stonemason was dying to try his hand at them. His cousin worked for Wolsey at Hampton Court, and the man simply wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
He flipped a light switch near the door, and the gatehouse’s main room was bathed in a golden glow. It had serviceable flagstone floors and a big stone fireplace suitable for roasting an ox.
“Are you cold?” Matthew asked as he went to the part of the space that had been turned into a sleek, modern kitchen. It was dominated by a refrigerator rather than a stove. I tried not to think about what he might keep in it.
“A little bit.” I drew my sweater closer. It was still relatively warm in Oxford, but my drying perspiration made the night air feel chilly.
“Light the fire, then,” Matthew suggested. It was already laid, and I set it alight with a long match drawn from an antique pewter tankard.
Matthew put the kettle on, and I walked around the room, taking in the elements of his taste. It ran heavily toward brown leather and dark polished wood, which stood out handsomely against the flagstones. An old carpet in warm shades of red, blue, and ocher provided jolts of color. Over the mantel there was an enormous portrait of a dark-haired, late-seventeenth-century beauty in a yellow gown. It had certainly been painted by Sir Peter Lely.
Matthew noticed my interest. “My sister Louisa,” he said, coming around the counter with a fully outfitted tea tray. He looked up at the canvas, his face touched with sadness. “Dieu, she was beautiful.”
“What happened to her?”
“She went to Barbados, intent on making herself queen of the Indies. We tried to tell her that her taste for young gentlemen was not likely to go unnoticed on a small island, but she wouldn’t listen. Louisa loved plantation life. She invested in sugar—and slaves.” A shadow flitted across his face. “During one of the island’s rebellions, her fellow plantation owners, who had figured out what she was, decided to get rid of her. They sliced off Louisa’s head and cut her body into pieces. Then they burned her and blamed it on the slaves.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, knowing that words were inadequate in the face of such a loss.
He mustered a small smile. “The death was only as terrible as the woman who suffered it. I loved my sister, but she didn’t make that easy. She absorbed every vice of every age she lived through. If there was excess to be had, Louisa found it.” Matthew shook himself free from his sister’s cold, beautiful face with difficulty. “Will you pour?” he asked. He put the tray on a low, polished oak table in front of the fireplace between two overstuffed leather sofas.
I agreed, happy to lighten the mood even though I had enough questions to fill more than one evening of conversation. Louisa’s huge black eyes watched me, and I made sure not to spill a drop of liquid on the shining wooden surface of the table just in case it had once been hers. Matthew had remembered the big jug of milk and the sugar, and I doctored my tea until it was precisely the right color before sinking back into the cushions with a sigh.
Matthew held his mug politely without once lifting it to his lips.
“You don’t have to for my sake, you know,” I said, glancing at the cup.
“I know.” He shrugged. “It’s a habit, and comforting to go through the motions.”
“When did you start practicing yoga?” I asked, changing the subject.
“The same time that Louisa went to Barbados. I went to the other Indies—the East Indies—and found myself in Goa during the monsoons. There wasn’t a lot to do but drink too much and learn about India. The yogis were different then, more spiritual than most teachers today. I met Amira a few years ago when I was speaking at a conference in Mumbai. As soon as I heard her lead a class, it was clear to me that she had the gifts of the old yogis, and she didn’t share the concerns some witches have about fraternizing with vampires.” There was a touch of bitterness in his voice.
“You invited her to come to England?”
“I explained what might be possible here, and she agreed to give it a try. It’s been almost ten years now, and the class is full to capacity every week. Of course, Amira teaches private classes, too, mainly to humans.”
“I’m not used to seeing witches, vampires, and daemons sharing anything—never mind a yoga class,” I confessed. The taboos against mixing with other creatures were strong. “If you’d told me it was possible, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
“Amira is an optimist, and she loves a challenge. It wasn’t easy at first. The vampires refused to be in the same room with the daemons during the early days, and of course no one trusted the witches when they started showing up.” His voice betrayed his own ingrained prejudices. “Now most in the room accept we’re more similar than different and treat one another with courtesy.”
“We may look similar,” I said, taking a gulp of tea and drawing my knees toward my chest, “but we certainly don’t feel similar.”
“What do you mean?” Matthew said, looking at me attentively.
“The way we know that someone is one of us—a creature,” I replied, confused. “The nudges, the tingles, the cold.”
Matthew shook his head. “No, I don’t know. I’m not a witch.”
“You can’t feel it when I look at you?” I asked.
“No. Can you?” His eyes were guileless and caused the familiar reaction on my skin.
“Tell me what it feels like.” He leaned forward. Everything seemed perfectly ordinary, but I felt that a trap was being set.
“It feels . . . cold,” I said slowly, unsure how much to divulge, “like ice growing under my skin.”
“That sounds unpleasant.” His forehead creased slightly.
“It’s not,” I replied truthfully. “Just a little strange. The daemons are the worst—when they stare at me, it’s like being kissed.” I made a face.
Matthew laughed and put his tea down on the table. He rested his elbows on his knees and kept his body angled toward mine. “So you do use some of your witch’s power.”
The trap snapped shut.
I looked at the floor, furious, my cheeks flushing. “I wish I’d never opened Ashmole 782 or taken that damn journal off the shelf! That was only the fifth time I’ve used magic this year, and the washing machine shouldn’t count, because if I hadn’t used a spell the water would have caused a flood and wrecked the apartment downstairs.”
Both his hands came up in a gesture of surrender. “Diana, I don’t care if you use magic or not. But I’m surprised at how much you do.”
“I don’t use magic or power or witchcraft or whatever you want to call it. It’s not who I am.” Two red patches burned on my cheeks.
“It is who you are. It’s in your blood. It’s in your bones. You were born a witch, just as you were born to have blond hair and blue eyes.”
I’d never been able to explain to anyone my reasons for avoiding magic. Sarah and Em had never understood. Matthew wouldn’t either. My tea grew cold, and my body remained in a tight ball as I struggled to avoid his scrutiny.
“I don’t want it,” I finally said through gritted teeth, “and never asked for it.”
“What’s wrong with it? You were glad of Amira’s power of empathy tonight. That’s a large part of her magic. It’s no better or worse to have the talents of a witch than it is to have the talent to make music or to write poetry—it’s just different.”
“I don’t want to be different,” I said fiercely. “I want a simple, ordinary life . . . like humans enjoy.” One that doesn’t involve death and danger and the fear of being discovered, I thought, my mouth closed tight against the words. “You must wish you were normal.”
“I can tell you as a scientist, Diana, that there’s no such thing as ‘normal. ’” His voice was losing its careful softness. “‘Normal’ is a bedtime story—a fable—that humans tell themselves to feel better when faced with overwhelming evidence that most of what’s happening around them is not ‘normal’ at all.”
Nothing he said would shake my conviction that it was dangerous to be a creature in a world dominated by humans.
“Diana, look at me.”
Against my instincts I did.
“You’re trying to push your magic aside, just as you believe your scientists did hundreds of years ago. The problem is,” he continued quietly, “it didn’t work. Not even the humans among them could push the magic out of their world entirely. You said so yourself. It kept returning.”
“This is different,” I whispered. “This is my life. I can control my life.”
“It isn’t different.” His voice was calm and sure. “You can try to keep the magic away, but it won’t work, any more than it worked for Robert Hooke or Isaac Newton. They both knew there was no such thing as a world without magic. Hooke was brilliant, with his ability to think through scientific problems in three dimensions and construct instruments and experiments. But he never reached his full potential because he was so fearful of the mysteries of nature. Newton? He had the most fearless intellect I’ve ever known. Newton wasn’t afraid of what couldn’t be seen and easily explained—he embraced it all. As a historian you know that it was alchemy and his belief in invisible, powerful forces of growth and change that led him to the theory of gravity.”
“Then I’m Robert Hooke in this story,” I said. “I don’t need to be a legend like Newton.” Like my mother.
“Hooke’s fears made him bitter and envious,” Matthew warned. “He spent his life looking over his shoulder and designing other people’s experiments. It’s no way to live.”
“I’m not having magic involved in my work,” I said stubbornly.
“You’re no Hooke, Diana,” Matthew said roughly. “He was only a human, and he ruined his life trying to resist the lure of magic. You’re a witch. If you do the same, it will destroy you.”
Fear began to worm its way into my thoughts, pulling me away from Matthew Clairmont. He was alluring, and he made it seem as if you could be a creature without any worries or repercussions. But he was a vampire and couldn’t be trusted. And he was wrong about the magic. He had to be. If not, then my whole life had been a fruitless struggle against an imaginary enemy.
And it was my own fault I was afraid. I’d let magic into my life—against my own rules—and a vampire had crept in with it. Dozens of creatures had followed. Remembering the way that magic had contributed to the loss of my parents, I felt the beginnings of panic in shallow breath and prickling skin.
“Living without magic is the only way I know to survive, Matthew.” I breathed slowly so that the feelings wouldn’t take root, but it was difficult with the ghosts of my mother and father in the room.
“You’re living a lie—and an unconvincing one at that. You think you pass as a human.” Matthew’s tone was matter-of-fact, almost clinical. “You don’t fool anyone except yourself. I’ve seen them watching you. They know you’re different.”
“Every time you look at Sean, you reduce him to speechlessness.”
“He had a crush on me when I was a graduate student,” I said dismissively.
“Sean still has a crush on you—that’s not the point. Is Mr. Johnson one of your admirers, too? He’s nearly as bad as Sean, trembling at your slightest change of mood and worrying because you might have to sit in a different seat. And it’s not just the humans. You frightened Dom Berno nearly to death when you turned and glared at him.”
“That monk in the library?” My tone was disbelieving. “You frightened him, not me!”
“I’ve known Dom Berno since 1718,” Matthew said drily. “He knows me far too well to fear me. We met at the Duke of Chandos’s house party, where he was singing the role of Damon in Handel’s Acis and Galatea. I assure you, it was your power and not mine that startled him.”
“This is a human world, Matthew, not a fairy tale. Humans outnumber and fear us. And there’s nothing more powerful than human fear—not magic, not vampire strength. Nothing.”
“Fear and denial are what humans do best, Diana, but it’s not a way that’s open to a witch.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“Yes you are,” he said softly, rising to his feet. “And I think it’s time I took you home.”
“Look,” I said, my need for information about the manuscript pushing all other thoughts aside, “we’re both interested in Ashmole 782. A vampire and a witch can’t be friends, but we should be able to work together.”
“I’m not so sure,” Matthew said impassively.
The ride back to Oxford was quiet. Humans had it all wrong when it came to vampires, I reflected. To make them frightening, humans imagined vampires as bloodthirsty. But it was Matthew’s remoteness, combined with his flashes of anger and abrupt mood swings, that scared me.
When we arrived at the New College lodge, Matthew retrieved my mat from the trunk.
“Have a good weekend,” he said without emotion.
“Good night, Matthew. Thank you for taking me to yoga.” My voice was as devoid of expression as his, and I resolutely refused to look back, even though his cold eyes watched me walk away.
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