فصل 21

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فصل 21

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Chapter Twenty One

“Was I right to call you, Goody Alsop?” Susanna twisted her hands in her apron and looked at me anxiously. “I nearly sent her home,” she said weakly. “If I had . . .”

“But you didn’t, Susanna.” Goody Alsop was so old and thin that her skin clung to the bones of her hands and wrists. The witch’s voice was strangely hearty for someone so frail, however, and intelligence snapped in her eyes. The woman might be an octogenarian, but no one would dare call her infirm.

Now that Goody Alsop had arrived, the main room in the Norman apartments was full to bursting. With some reluctance Susanna allowed Matthew and Pierre to stand just inside the door, provided they didn’t touch anything. Jeffrey and John divided their attention between the vampires and the chick, now safely nestled inside John’s cap by the fire. Its feathers were beginning to fluff in the warm air, and it had, mercifully, stopped peeping. I sat on a stool by the fire next to Goody Alsop, who occupied the room’s only chair.

“Let me have a look at you, Diana.” When Goody Alsop reached her fingers toward my face, just as Widow Beaton and Champier had, I flinched. The witch stopped and frowned. “What is it, child?”

“A witch in France tried to read my skin. It felt like knives,” I explained in a whisper.

“It will not be entirely comfortable—what examination is?—but it should not hurt.” Her fingers explored my features. Her hands were cool and dry, the veins standing out against mottled skin and crawling over bent joints. I felt a slight digging sensation, but it was nothing like the pain I’d experienced at Champier’s hands.

“Ah,” she breathed when she reached the smooth skin of my forehead. My witch’s eye, which had lapsed into its typical frustrating inactivity the moment Susanna and Annie found me with the chick, opened fully. Goody Alsop was a witch worth knowing.

Looking into Goody Alsop’s third eye, I was plunged into a world of color. Try as I might, the brightly woven threads refused to resolve into something recognizable, though I felt once more the tantalizing prospect that they could be put to some use. Goody Alsop’s touch tingled as she probed my body and mind with her second sight, energy pulsing around her in a purple-tinged orange. In my limited experience, no one had ever manifested that particular combination of colors. She tutted here and there, made an approving sound or two.

“She’s a strange one, isn’t she?” Jeffrey whispered, peering over Goody Alsop’s shoulder.

“Jeffrey!” Susanna gasped, embarrassed at her son’s behavior. “Mistress Roydon, if you please.”

“Very well. Mistress Roydon’s a strange one,” said Jeffrey, unrepentant. He shifted his hands to his knees and bent closer.

“What do you see, young Jeffrey?” Goody Alsop asked.

“She—Mistress Roydon—is all the colors of a rainbow. Her witch’s eye is blue, even though the rest of her is green and silver, like the goddess. And why is there a rim of red and black there?” Jeffrey pointed to my forehead.

“That’s a wearh’s mark,” Goody Alsop said, smoothing it with her fingers. “It tells us she belongs to Master Roydon’s family. Whenever you see this, Jeffrey—and it is quite rare—you must heed it as a warning. The wearh who made it will not take it kindly if you meddle with the warmblood he has claimed.”

“Does it hurt?” the child wondered.

“Jeffrey!” Susanna cried again. “You know better than to pester Goody Alsop with questions.”

“We face a dark future if children stop asking questions, Susanna,” Goody Alsop remarked.

“A wearh’s blood can heal, but it doesn’t harm,” I told the boy before Goody Alsop could answer. There was no need for another witch to grow up fearing what he didn’t understand. My eyes shifted to Matthew, whose claim on me went far deeper than his father’s blood oath. Matthew was willing to let Goody Alsop’s examination continue—for now—but his eyes never left the woman. I mustered a smile, and his mouth tightened a fraction in response.

“Oh.” Jeffrey sounded mildly interested at this piece of intelligence. “Can you make the glaem again, Mistress Roydon?” To their chagrin, the boys had missed that manifestation of magical energy.

Goody Alsop rested a gnarled finger in the indentation over Jeffrey’s lip, effectively silencing the boy. “I need to talk to Annie now. After we’re through, Master Roydon’s man is going to take all three of you to the river. When you get back, you can ask me whatever you’d like.”

Matthew inclined his head toward the door, and Pierre rounded up his two young charges and, after a wary look at the old woman, took them downstairs to wait. Like Jeffrey, Pierre needed to overcome his fear of other creatures.

“Where is the girl?” Goody Alsop asked, turning her head.

Annie crept forward. “Here, Goody.”

“Tell us true, Annie,” Goody Alsop said in a firm tone. “What have you promised Andrew Hubbard?”

“N-nothing,” Annie stammered, her eyes shifting to mine.

“Don’t lie, Annie. ’Tis a sin,” Goody Alsop chided. “Out with it.”

“I’m to send word if Master Roydon plans to leave London again. And Father Hubbard sends one of his men when the mistress and master are still abed to question me about what goes on in the house.” Annie’s words tumbled out. When through, she clapped her hands over her mouth as though she couldn’t believe she’d revealed so much.

“We must abide by the letter of Annie’s agreement with Hubbard, if not its spirit.” Goody Alsop thought for a moment. “If Mistress Roydon leaves the city for any reason, Annie will send word to me first. Wait an hour before you let Hubbard know, Annie. And if you speak a word to anyone of what happens here, I’ll clap a binding spell on your tongue that thirteen witches won’t be able to break.” Annie looked justifiably terrified at the prospect. “Go and join the boys, but open all the doors and windows before you leave. I will send for you when it is time to return.”

Annie’s expression while she opened the shutters and doors was full of apology and dread, and I gave her an encouraging nod. The poor child was in no position to stand up to Hubbard and had done what she had to in order to survive. With one more frightened look at Matthew, whose attitude toward her was distinctly chilly, she left.

At last, the house quiet and drafts swirling around my ankles and shoulders, Matthew spoke. He was still propped up against the door, his black clothes absorbing what little light there was in the room.

“Can you help us, Goody Alsop?” His courteous tone bore no resemblance to his high-handed treatment of Widow Beaton.

“I believe so, Master Roydon,” Goody Alsop replied.

“Please take your ease,” Susanna said, gesturing Matthew toward a nearby stool. There was, alas, little chance of a man of Matthew’s size being comfortable on a small three-legged stool, but he straddled it without complaint. “My husband is sleeping in the next room. He mustn’t overhear the wearh, or our conversation.”

Goody Alsop plucked at the gray wool and pearly linen that covered her neck and drew her fingers away, pulling something insubstantial with them. The witch stretched out her hand and flicked her wrist, releasing a shadowy figure into the room. Her exact replica walked off into Susanna’s bedchamber.

“What was that?” I asked, hardly daring to breathe.

“My fetch. She will watch over Master Norman and make sure we are not disturbed.” Goody Alsop’s lips moved, and the drafts stopped. “Now that the doors and windows are sealed, we will not be overheard either. You can rest easy on that score, Susanna.”

Here were two spells that might prove useful in a spy’s household. I opened my mouth to ask Goody Alsop how she’d managed them, but before I could utter a word, she held up her hand and chuckled.

“You are very curious for a grown woman. I fear you’ll try Susanna’s patience even more than Jeffrey does.” She sat back and regarded me with a pleased expression. “I have waited a long time for you, Diana.”

“Me?” I said doubtfully.

“Without question. It has been many years since the first auguries foretold your arrival, and with the passing of time some among us gave up hope. But when our sisters told us of the portents in the north, I knew to expect you.” Goody Alsop was referring to Berwick and the strange occurrences in Scotland. I sat forward, ready to question her further, but Matthew shook his head slightly. He still wasn’t sure the witch could be trusted. Goody Alsop saw my husband’s silent request and chuckled again.

“So I was right, then,” Susanna said, relieved.

“Yes, child. Diana is indeed a weaver.” Goody Alsop’s words reverberated in the room, potent as any spell.

“What’s that?” I whispered.

“There is much we don’t understand about our present situation, Goody Alsop.” Matthew took my hand. “Perhaps you should treat us both like Jeffrey and explain it as you would to a child.”

“Diana is a maker of spells,” Goody Alsop said. “We weavers are rare creatures. That is why the goddess sent you to me.”

“No, Goody Alsop. You’re mistaken,” I protested with a shake of my head. “I’m terrible with spells. My Aunt Sarah has great skill, but not even she has been able to teach me the craft of the witch.”

“Of course you cannot perform the spells of other witches. You must devise your own.” Goody Alsop’s pronouncement went against everything I’d been taught. I looked at her in amazement.

“Witches learn spells. We don’t invent them.” Spells were passed from generation to generation, within families and among coven members. We jealously guarded that knowledge, recording words and procedures in grimoires along with the names of the witches who mastered their accompanying magic. More experienced witches trained the younger members of the coven to follow in their footsteps, mindful of the nuances of each spell and every witch’s past experience with it.

“Weavers do,” Goody Alsop replied.

“I’ve never heard of a weaver,” Matthew said carefully.

“Few have. We are a secret, Master Roydon, one that few witches discover, let alone wearhs. You are familiar with secrets and how to keep them, I think.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief.

“I’ve lived many years, Goody Alsop. I find it hard to believe that witches could keep the existence of weavers from other creatures all that time.” He scowled. “Is this another of Hubbard’s games?”

“I am too old for games, Monsieur de Clermont. Oh, yes, I know who you really are and what position you occupy in our world,” Goody Alsop said when Matthew looked surprised. “Perhaps you cannot hide the truth from witches as well as you think.”

“Perhaps not,” Matthew purred in warning. His growling further amused the old woman.

“That trick might frighten children like Jeffrey and John and moontouched daemons like your friend Christopher, but it does not scare me.” Her voice turned serious. “Weavers hide because once we were sought out and murdered, just like your father’s knights. Not everyone approved of our power. As you well know, it can be easier to survive when your enemies think you are already dead.”

“But who would do such a thing, and why?” I hoped that the answer wouldn’t lead us back to the long-standing enmity between vampires and witches.

“It wasn’t the wearhs or the daemons who hunted us down, but other witches,” Goody Alsop said calmly. “They fear us because we are different. Fear breeds contempt, then hate. It is a familiar story. Once witches destroyed whole families lest the babes grew to be weavers, too. The few weavers who survived sent their own children into hiding. A parent’s love for a child is powerful, as you will both soon discover.”

“You know about the baby,” I said, my hands moving protectively over my belly.

“Yes.” Goody Alsop nodded gravely. “You are already making a powerful weaving, Diana. You will not be able to keep it hidden from other witches for long.”

“A child?” Susanna’s eyes were huge. “Conceived between a witch and a wearh?”

“Not just any witch. Only weavers can work such magic. There is a reason the goddess chose you for this task, Susanna, just as there is a reason she called me. You are a midwife, and all your skills will be needed in the days ahead.”

“I have no experience that will help Mistress Roydon,” Susanna protested.

“You have been assisting women in childbirth for years,” Goody Alsop observed.

“Warmblooded women, Goody, with warmblooded babes!” Susanna said indignantly. “Not creatures like—”

“Wearhs have arms and legs, just like the rest of us,” Goody Alsop interrupted. “I cannot imagine this child will be any different.”

“Just because it has ten fingers and ten toes does not mean it has a soul,” Susanna said, eyeing Matthew with suspicion.

“I’m surprised at you, Susanna. Master Roydon’s soul is as clear to me as your own. Have you been listening to your husband again, and his prattle about the evil in wearhs and daemons?”

Susanna’s mouth tightened. “What if I have, Goody?”

“Then you are a fool. Witches see the truth plainly—even if their husbands are full of nonsense.”

“It is not such an easy matter as you make it out to be,” Susanna muttered.

“Nor does it need to be so difficult. The long-awaited weaver is among us, and we must make plans.”

“Thank you, Goody Alsop,” Matthew said. He was relieved that someone agreed with him at last. “You are right. Diana must learn what she needs to know quickly. She cannot have the child here.”

“That isn’t entirely your decision, Master Roydon. If the child is meant to be born in London, then that is where it will be born.”

“Diana doesn’t belong here,” Matthew said, adding quickly, “in London.”

“Bless us, that is clear enough. But as she is a time spinner, merely moving her to another place will not help. Diana would be no less conspicuous in Canterbury or York.”

“So you know another of our secrets.” Matthew gave the old woman a cold stare. “As you know so much, you must have also divined that Diana will not be returning to her own time alone. The child and I will be going with her. You will teach her what she needs in order to do it.” Matthew was taking charge, which meant that things were about to take their usual turn for the worse.

“Your wife’s education is my business now, Master Roydon—unless you think you know more about what it means to be a weaver than I do,” Goody Alsop said mildly.

“He knows that this is a matter between witches,” I told Goody Alsop, putting a restraining hand on his arm. “Matthew won’t interfere.”

“Everything about my wife is my business, Goody Alsop,” said Matthew. He turned to me. “And this is not a matter solely between witches. Not if the witches here might turn against my mate and my child.”

“So it was a witch and not a wearh who injured you,” Goody Alsop said softly. “I felt the pain and knew that a witch was part of it but hoped that was because the witch was healing the damage done to you rather than causing it. What has the world come to that one witch would do such a thing to another?”

Matthew fixed his attention on Goody Alsop. “Maybe the witch also realized that Diana was a weaver.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that Satu might have known. Given what Goody Alsop had told me about my fellow witches’ attitude toward weavers, the idea that Peter Knox and his cronies in the Congregation might suspect me of harboring such a secret sent my blood racing. Matthew sought my hand, taking it between both of his.

“It is possible, but I cannot say for certain,” Goody Alsop told us regretfully. “Nevertheless we must do what we can in the time the goddess provides to prepare Diana for her future.”

“Stop,” I said, slapping my palm on the table. Ysabeau’s ring chimed against the hard wood. “You’re all talking as though this weaving business makes sense. But I can’t even light a candle. My talents are magical. I have wind, water—even fire—in my blood.”

“If I can see your husband’s soul, Diana, you will not be surprised that I have also seen your power. But you are not a firewitch or a waterwitch, no matter what you believe. You cannot command these elements. If you were foolish enough to attempt it, you would be destroyed.”

“But I nearly drowned in my own tears,” I said stubbornly. “And to save Matthew I killed a wearh with an arrow of witchfire. My aunt recognized the smell.”

“A firewitch has no need of arrows. The fire leaves her and arrives at its target in an instant.” Goody Alsop shook her head. “These were but simple weavings, my child, fashioned from grief and love. The goddess has given you her blessing to borrow the powers you need but not to command any of them absolutely.”

“Borrow them.” I thought over the frustrating events of the past months and the glimmers of magic that would never behave as they were supposed to do. “So that’s why these abilities come and go. They were never really mine.”

“No witch could hold so much power within her without upsetting the balance of the worlds. A weaver selects carefully from the magic around her and uses it to shape something new.”

“But there must be thousands of spells in existence—not to mention charms and potions. Nothing I make could possibly be original.” I drew my hand across my forehead, and the spot where Philippe had made his blood oath seemed cold to the touch.

“All spells came from somewhere, Diana: a moment of need, a longing, a challenge that could not be met any other way. And they came from someone, too.”

“The first witch,” I whispered. Some creatures believed that Ashmole 782 was the first grimoire, a book that contained the original enchantments and charms devised by our people. Here was another connection between me and the mysterious manuscript. I looked at Matthew.

“The first weaver,” Goody Alsop corrected gently, “as well as those who followed. Weavers are not simply witches, Diana. Susanna is a great witch, with more knowledge about the magic of the earth and its lore than any of her sisters in London. For all her gifts, though, she cannot weave a new spell. You can.”

“I can’t even imagine how to begin,” I said.

“You hatched that chick,” Goody Alsop said, pointing to the sleepy yellow ball of fluff.

“But I was trying to crack an egg!” I protested. Now that I understood marksmanship, I was aware this was a problem. My magic, like my arrows, had missed its target.

“Obviously not. If you were trying simply to crack an egg, we would be enjoying some of Susanna’s excellent custard. You had something else in mind.” The chick concurred, emitting a particularly loud and clear peep.

She was right. I had indeed had other things on my mind: our child, whether we could nurture him properly, how we might keep him safe.

Goody Alsop nodded. “I thought so.”

“I spoke no words, performed no ritual, concocted nothing.” I was clinging to what Sarah had taught me about the craft. “All I did was ask some questions. They weren’t even particularly good questions.”

“Magic begins with desire. The words come much, much later,” Goody Alsop explained. “Even then a weaver cannot always reduce a spell to a few lines for another witch to use. Some weavings resist, no matter how hard we try. They are for our use alone. It is why we are feared.”

“‘It begins with absence and desire,’” I murmured. Past and present clashed again as I repeated the first line of the verse that had accompanied the single page of Ashmole 782 someone once sent to my parents. On this occasion, when the corners lit up and illuminated the dust motes in shades of blue and gold, I didn’t look away. Neither did Goody Alsop. Matthew’s and Susanna’s eyes followed ours, but neither saw anything out of the ordinary.

“Exactly. See there, how time feels your absence and wants you back to weave yourself into your former life.” She beamed, clapping her hands together as though I’d made her a particularly fine crayon drawing of a house and she planned to display it on her refrigerator door. “Of course, time is not ready for you now. If it were, the blue would be much brighter.”

“You make it sound as though it’s possible to combine magic and the craft, but they’re separate,” I said, still confused. “Witchcraft uses spells, and magic is an inherited power over an element, like air or fire.”

“Who taught you such nonsense?” Goody Alsop snorted, and Susanna looked appalled. “Magic and witchcraft are but two paths that cross in the wood. A weaver is able to stand at the crossroads with one foot placed on each path. She can occupy the place between, where the powers are the greatest.”

Time protested this revelation with a loud cry.

“‘A child between, a witch apart,’” I murmured in wonder. The ghost of Bridget Bishop had warned me of the dangers associated with such a vulnerable position. “Before we came here, the ghost of one of my ancestors— Bridget Bishop—told me that was my fate. She must have known I was a weaver.”

“So did your parents,” Goody Alsop said. “I can see the last remaining threads of their binding. Your father was a weaver, too. He knew you would follow his path.”

“Her father?” Matthew asked.

“Weavers are seldom men, Goody Alsop,” Susanna cautioned.

“Diana’s father was a weaver of great talent but no training. His spell was pieced together rather than properly woven. Still, it was made with love and served its purpose for a time, rather like the chain that binds you to your wearh, Diana.” The chain was my secret weapon, providing the comforting sensation that I was anchored to Matthew in my darkest moments.

“Bridget told me something else that same night: ‘There is no path forward that does not have him in it.’ She must have known about Matthew, too,” I confessed.

“You never told me about this conversation, mon coeur,” Matthew said, sounding more curious than annoyed.

“Crossroads and paths and vague prophecies didn’t seem important then. With everything that happened afterward, I forgot.” I looked at Goody Alsop. “Besides, how could I have been making spells without knowing it?”

“Weavers are surrounded by mystery,” Goody Alsop told me. “We haven’t the time to seek answers to all your questions now but must focus instead on teaching you to manage the magic as it moves through you.”

“My powers have been misbehaving,” I admitted, thinking of the shriveled quinces and Mary’s ruined shoes. “I never know what’s going to happen next.”

“That’s not unusual for a weaver first coming into her power. But your brightness can be seen and felt, even by humans.” Goody Alsop sat back in her chair and studied me. “If witches see your glaem like young Annie did, they might use the knowledge for their own purposes. We will not let you or the child fall into Hubbard’s clutches. I trust you can manage the Congregation?” she said, looking at Matthew. Goody Alsop construed Matthew’s silence as consent.

“Very well, then. Come to me on Mondays and Thursdays, Diana. Mistress Norman will see to you on Tuesdays. I shall send for Marjorie Cooper on Wednesdays and Elizabeth Jackson and Catherine Streeter on Fridays. Diana will need their help to reconcile the fire and water in her blood, or she will never produce more than a vapor.”

“Perhaps it is not wise to make all those witches privy to this particular secret, Goody,” Matthew said.

“Master Roydon is right. There are already too many whispers about the witch. John Chandler has been spreading news of her to ingratiate himself with Father Hubbard. Surely we can teach her ourselves,” said Susanna.

“And when did you become a firewitch?” Goody Alsop retorted. “The child’s blood is full of flame. My talents are dominated by witchwind, and yours are grounded in the earth’s power. We are not sufficient to the task.”

“Our gathering will draw too much attention if we proceed with your plan. We are but thirteen witches, yet you propose to involve five of us in this business. Let some other gathering take on the problem of Mistress Roydon—the one in Moorgate, perhaps, or Aldgate.”

“The Aldgate gathering has grown too large, Susanna. It cannot govern its own affairs, never mind take on the education of a weaver. Besides, it is too far for me to travel, and the bad air by the city ditch worsens my rheumatism. We will train her in this parish, as the goddess intended.”

“I cannot—” Susanna began.

“I am your elder, Susanna. If you wish to protest further, you will need to seek a ruling from the Rede.” The air thickened uncomfortably.

“Very well, Goody. I will send my request to Queenhithe.” Susanna seemed startled by her own announcement.

“Who is Queen Hithe?” I asked Matthew, my voice low.

“Queenhithe is a place, not a person,” he murmured. “But what is this about a reed?”

“I have no idea,” I confessed.

“Stop whispering,” Goody Alsop said, shaking her head in annoyance. “With the charm on the windows and the doors, your muttering stirs the air and hurts my ears.”

Once the air quieted, Goody Alsop continued. “Susanna has challenged my authority in this matter. As I am the leader of the Garlickhythe gathering—and the Vintry’s ward elder as well—Mistress Norman must present her case to the other ward elders in London. They will decide on our course of action, as they do whenever there are disagreements between witches. There are twenty-six elders, and together we are known as the Rede.”

“So this is just politics?” I said.

“Politics and prudence. Without a way to settle our own disputes, Father Hubbard would have his wearh fingers in even more of our affairs,” said Goody Alsop. “I am sorry if I offend you, Master Roydon.”

“No offense taken, Goody Alsop. But if you take this matter to your elders, Diana’s identity will be known across London.” Matthew stood. “I can’t allow that.”

“Every witch in the city has already heard about your wife. News travels quickly here, no small thanks to your friend Christopher Marlowe,” Goody Alsop said, craning her neck to meet his eyes. “Sit down, Master Roydon. My old bones no longer bend that way.” To my surprise, Matthew sat.

“The witches of London still do not know you are a weaver, Diana, and that is the important thing,” Goody Alsop continued. “The Rede will have to be told, of course. When other witches hear that you’ve been called before the elders, they will assume you are being disciplined for your relationship with Master Roydon, or that you are being bound in some fashion to keep him from gaining access to your blood and power.”

“Whatever they decide, will you still be my teacher?” I was used to being the object of other witches’ scorn and knew better than to hope that the witches of London would approve of my relationship with Matthew. It mattered little to me whether Marjorie Cooper, Elizabeth Jackson, and Catherine Streeter (whoever they were) participated in Goody Alsop’s educational regimen. But Goody Alsop was different. This was one witch whose friendship and help I wanted to have.

“I am the last of our kind in London and one of only three known weavers in this part of the world. The Scottish weaver Agnes Sampson lies in a prison in Edinburgh. No one has seen or heard from the Irish weaver for years. The Rede has no choice but to let me guide you,” Goody Alsop assured me.

“When will the witches meet?” I asked.

“As soon as it can be arranged,” Goody Alsop promised.

“We will be ready for them,” Matthew assured her.

“There are some things that your wife must do for herself, Master Roydon. Carrying the babe and seeing the Rede are among them,” Goody Alsop replied. “Trust is not an easy business for a wearh, I know, but you must try for her sake.”

“I trust my wife. You felt what witches have done to her, so you will not be surprised that I don’t trust any of your kind with her,” Matthew said.

“You must try,” Goody Alsop repeated. “You cannot offend the Rede. If you do, Hubbard will have to intervene. The Rede will not suffer that additional insult and will insist on the Congregation’s involvement. No matter our other disagreements, no one in this room wants the Congregation’s attention focused on London, Master Roydon.”

Matthew took Goody Alsop’s measure. Finally he nodded. “Very well, Goody.”

I was a weaver.

Soon I would be a mother.

A child between, a witch apart, whispered the ghostly voice of Bridget Bishop.

Matthew’s sharp inhalation told me that he had detected some change in my scent. “Diana is tired and needs to go home.”

“She is not tired but fearful. The time for that has passed, Diana. You must face who you truly are,” Goody Alsop said with mild regret.

But my anxiety continued to rise even after we were safely back in the Hart and Crown. Once there, Matthew took off his quilted jacket. He wrapped it around my shoulders, trying to ward off the chilly air. The fabric retained his smell of cloves and cinnamon, along with traces of smoke from Susanna’s fire and the damp air of London.

“I’m a weaver.” Perhaps if I kept saying it, this fact would begin to make sense. “But I don’t know what that means or who I am anymore.”

“You are Diana Bishop—a historian, a witch.” He took me by the shoulders. “No matter what else you have been before or might one day be, this is who you are. And you are my life.”

“Your wife,” I corrected him.

“My life,” he repeated. “You are not just my heart but its beating. Before I was only a shadow, like Goody Alsop’s fetch.” His accent was stronger, his voice rough with emotion.

“I should be relieved to have the truth at last,” I said through chattering teeth as I climbed into bed. The cold seemed to have taken root in the marrow of my bones. “All my life I wondered why I was different. Now I know, but it doesn’t help.”

“One day it will,” Matthew promised, joining me under the coverlet. He folded his arms around me. We twined our legs like the roots of a tree, each clinging to the other for support as we worked our bodies closer. Deep within me the chain that I had somehow forged out of love and longing for someone I had yet to meet flexed between us and became fluid. It was thick and unbreakable, filled with a life-giving sap that flowed continuously from witch to vampire and back to witch. Soon I no longer felt between but blissfully, completely centered. I took a deep breath, then another. When I tried to draw away, Matthew refused.

“I’m not ready to let you go yet,” he said, pulling me closer.

“You must have work to do—for the Congregation, Philippe, Elizabeth. I’m fine, Matthew,” I insisted, though I wanted to stay exactly where I was for as long as possible.

“Vampires reckon time differently than warmbloods do,” he said, still unwilling to release me.

“How long is a vampire minute, then?” I asked, snuggling under his chin.

“It’s hard to say,” Matthew murmured. “Some length of time between an ordinary minute and forever.”

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