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20

Matthew sat in the broken-down easy chair opposite the bed where Diana was sleeping, plowing through another inconclusive set of test results so that he and Chris could reevaluate their research strategy at tomorrow’s meeting. Given the late hour, he was taken by surprise when his phone’s screen lit up.

Moving carefully so as not to wake his wife, Matthew padded silently out of the room and down the stairs to the kitchen, where he could speak without being overheard.

“You need to come,” Gallowglass said, his voice gruff and low. “Now.”

Matthew’s flesh prickled, and his eyes rose to the ceiling as though he could see through the plaster and floorboards into the bedroom. His first instinct was always to protect her, even though it was clear that the danger was elsewhere.

“Leave Auntie at home,” Gallowglass said flatly, as though he could witness Matthew’s actions.

“Miriam’s on her way.” The phone went dead.

Matthew stared down at the display for a moment, its bright colors bringing a note of false cheer to the early-morning hours before they faded to black.

The front door creaked open.

Matthew was at the top of the stairs by the time Miriam walked through it. He studied her closely.

There was not a drop of blood on her, thank God. Even so, Miriam’s eyes were wide and her face bore a haunted expression. Very little frightened his longtime friend and colleague, but she was clearly terrified. Matthew swore.

“What’s wrong?” Diana descended from the third floor, her coppery hair seeming to capture all the available light in the house. “Is it Jack?”

Matthew nodded. Gallowglass wouldn’t have called otherwise.

“I’ll only be a minute,” Diana said, reversing her direction to get dressed.

“No, Diana,” Miriam said quietly.

Diana froze, her hand on the banister. She twisted her body around and met Miriam’s eyes.

“Is he d-dead?” she whispered numbly. Matthew was at her side in the space of a human heartbeat.

“No, mon coeur. He’s not dead.” Matthew knew this was Diana’s worst nightmare: that someone she loved would be taken from her before the two of them could say a proper farewell. But whatever was talking place in the house on Wooster Square might somehow be worse.

“Stay with Miriam.” Matthew pressed a kiss against her stiff lips. “I’ll be home soon.”

“He’s been doing so well,” Diana said. Jack had been in New Haven for a week, and his blood rage had diminished in both frequency and intensity. Matthew’s strict boundaries and consistent expectations had already made a difference.

“We knew there would be setbacks,” Matthew said, tucking a silky strand of hair behind Diana’s ear. “I know you won’t sleep, but try to rest at least.” He was worried she’d do nothing but pace and stare out the window until he returned with news.

“You can read these while you wait.” Miriam drew a thick stack of articles out of her bag. She was making an effort to sound brisk and matter-of-fact, her bittersweet scent of galbanum and pomegranate stronger now. “This is everything you asked for, and I added some other articles you might be interested in: all of Matthew’s studies on wolves, as well as some classic pieces on wolf parenting and pack behavior. It’s basically Dr. Spock for the modern vampire parent.”

Matthew turned to Diana in amazement. Once again, his wife had surprised him. Her cheeks reddened, and she took the articles from Miriam.

“I need to understand how this vampire family stuff works. Go. Tell Jack I love him.” Diana’s voice broke. “If you can.”

Matthew squeezed her hand without replying. He would make no promises on that score. Jack had to understand that his access to Diana depended on his behavior—and Matthew’s approval.

“Prepare yourself,” Miriam murmured when he passed her. “And I don’t care if Benjamin is your son. If you don’t kill him after seeing this, I will.”

In spite of the late hour, Gallowglass’s house was not the only one in the neighborhood that was still illuminated. New Haven was a college town, after all. Most of Wooster Square’s night owls sought a strange companionship, working in full view with curtains and blinds open. What distinguished the vampire’s house was that the drapes were tightly closed and only cracks of golden light around the edges of the windows betrayed the fact that someone was still awake.

Inside the house pools of lamplight cast a warm glow over a few personal belongings. Otherwise it was sparsely decorated with Danish Modern furniture made from blond wood accented with occasional antiques and splashes of bold color. One of Gallowglass’s most treasured possessions—a tattered eighteenth-century Red Ensign that he and Davy Hancock had stripped from their beloved cargo ship the Earl of Pembroke before it was refitted and renamed Endeavour—was balled up on the floor.

Matthew sniffed. The house was filled with the bitter, acrid scent that Diana had likened to a coal fire, and faint strains of Bach filled the air. The St. Matthew Passion—the same music that Benjamin played in his laboratory to torture his captive witch. Matthew’s stomach twisted into a heavy knot.

He rounded the corner of the living room. What he saw brought him to an immediate stop. Stark murals in shades of black and gray covered every inch of the canvas-hued walls. Jack stood atop a makeshift scaffold constructed from pieces of furniture, wielding a soft artist’s pencil. The floor was littered with pencil stubs and the paper peelings that Jack had torn away to reveal fresh charcoal.

Matthew’s eyes swept the walls from floor to ceiling. Detailed landscapes, studies of animals and plants that were almost microscopic in their precision, and sensitive portraits were linked together with breathtaking swaths of line and form that defied painterly logic. The overall effect was beautiful yet disturbing, as if Sir Anthony van Dyck had painted Picasso’s Guernica. “Christ.” Matthew’s right hand automatically made the sign of the cross.

“Jack ran out of paper two hours ago,” Gallowglass said grimly, pointing to the easels in the front window. Each now bore a single sheet, but the drifts of paper surrounding their tripod supports suggested that these were merely a selection from a larger series of drawings.

“Matthew.” Chris came from the kitchen, sipping a cup of black coffee, the aroma of the roasted beans blending with Jack’s bitter scent.

“This is no place for a warmblood, Chris,” Matthew said, keeping a wary eye on Jack.

“I promised Miriam I’d stay.” Chris settled into a worn plantation chair and placed his coffee mug on the wide arms. When he moved, the woven seat underneath him creaked like a ship under sail. “So Jack’s another one of your grandchildren?”

“Not now, Chris. Where’s Andrew?” Matthew said, continuing to observe Jack at work.

“He’s upstairs getting more pencils.” Chris had a sip of coffee, his dark eyes taking in the details of what Jack was sketching now: a naked woman, her head thrown back in agony. “I wish like hell he would go back to drawing daffodils.”

Matthew wiped his hand across his mouth, hoping to remove the sourness that rose up from his stomach. Thank God that Diana hadn’t come with him. Jack would never be able to look her in the eyes again if he knew she’d seen this.

Moments later Hubbard returned to the living room. He put a box of fresh supplies on the stepladder where Jack balanced. Utterly absorbed in his work, Jack didn’t react to Hubbard’s presence any more than he had to Matthew’s arrival.

“You should have called me sooner.” Matthew kept his voice deliberately calm. In spite of his efforts, Jack turned glassy, unseeing eyes toward him as his blood rage responded to the tension in the air.

“Jack’s done this before,” Hubbard said. “He’s drawn on his bedroom walls and on the walls in the church undercroft. But he’s never made so many images so quickly. And never . . . him.” He looked up. Benjamin’s eyes, nose, and mouth dominated one wall, looking down on Jack with an expression that was equal parts avarice and malice. His features were unmistakable in their cruelty, and somehow more ominous for not being contained within the outlines of a human face.

Jack had moved a few feet along from Benjamin’s portrait and was now working on the last empty stretch of wall. The pictures around the room followed a rough sequence of events leading from Jack’s time in London before Hubbard had made him a vampire all the way to the present day. The easels in the window were the starting point for Jack’s troubling image cycle.

Matthew examined them. Each held what artists called a study—a single element of a larger scene that helped them to understand particular problems of composition or perspective. The first was a drawing of a man’s hand, skin cracked and coarsened through poverty and manual labor. The image of a cruel mouth with missing teeth occupied another easel. The third showed the crisscrossing laces on a man’s breeches, along with a finger hooked and ready to pull them free. The last was of a knife, pressing against a boy’s prominent hip bone until the tip slid into the skin.

Matthew put the solitary images together in his mind—hand, ear, breeches, knife—while the St.

Matthew Passion thundered in the background. He swore at the abusive scene that instantly sprang to mind.

“One of Jack’s earliest memories,” Hubbard said.

Matthew was reminded of his first encounter with Jack, when he would have taken the boy’s ear if not for Diana’s intervention. He had been yet another creature to offer Jack violence instead of compassion.

“If not for his art and music, Jack would have destroyed himself. We have often thanked God for Philippe’s gift.” Andrew gestured toward the cello propped up in the corner.

Matthew had recognized the instrument’s distinctive scroll the moment he clapped eyes on it. He and Signor Montagnana, the instrument’s Venetian maker, had dubbed the cello “the Duchess of Marlborough” for its generous, yet still elegant, curves. Matthew had learned to play on Duchess back when lutes fell out of favor and were replaced by violins, violas, and cellos. Duchess had mysteriously disappeared while he was in New Orleans disciplining Marcus’s brood of children. When Matthew returned, he had asked Philippe what had happened to the instrument. His father had shrugged and muttered something about Napoleon and the English that had made no sense at all.

“Does Jack always listen to Bach when he draws?” Matthew murmured.

“He prefers Beethoven. Jack started listening to Bach after . . . you know.” Hubbard’s mouth twisted.

“Perhaps his drawings can help us find Benjamin,” Gallowglass said.

Matthew’s eyes darted over the many faces and places that might provide vital clues.

“Chris already took pictures,” Gallowglass assured him.

“And a video,” Chris added, “once he got to . . . er, him.” Chris, too, avoided saying Benjamin’s name and simply waved to where Jack was still sketching and crooning something under his breath.

Matthew held his hand up for silence.

“‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men / Couldn’t put Jack back together again.’” He shuddered and dropped what little remained of his pencil. Andrew handed him a replacement, and Jack began another detailed study of a male hand, this one reaching out in a gesture of entreaty.

“Thanks be to God. He’s nearing the end of his frenzy.” Some of the tension in Hubbard’s shoulders dissipated. “Soon Jack will be back in his right mind.”

Wanting to take advantage of the moment, Matthew moved silently to the cello. He gripped it by the neck and picked the bow off the floor where Jack had carelessly dropped it.

Matthew sat on the edge of a wooden chair, holding his ear near the instrument while he plucked and worked the bow over the strings, still able to hear the cello’s round tones over the Bach that blared from the speakers on a nearby bookcase.

“Shut that noise off,” he told Gallowglass, making a final adjustment to the tuning pegs before he began to play. For a few measures, the cello’s music clashed with the choir and orchestra. Then Bach’s great choral work fell silent. Into the void, Matthew poured music that was an intermediary step between the histrionic strains of the Passion and something that he hoped would help Jack regain his emotional bearing.

Matthew had chosen the piece carefully: the Lacrimosa from Johann Christian Bach’s Requiem.

Even so, Jack startled at the change in musical accompaniment, his hand stilling against the wall. As the music washed through him, his breathing became slower and more regular. When he resumed sketching, it was to draw the outlines of Westminster Abbey instead of another creature in pain.

While he played, Matthew bent his head in supplication. Had a choir been present, as the composer intended, they would have been singing the Latin mass for the dead. Since he was alone, Matthew made the cello’s mournful tones imitate the absent human voices.

Lacrimosa dies illa, Matthew’s cello sang.

“Tearful will be that day,

On which from the ash arises

The guilty man who is to be judged.”

Spare him therefore, God, Matthew prayed as he played the next line of music, putting his faith and anguish into every stroke of the bow.

When he reached the end of the Lacrimosa, Matthew took up the strains of Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 1 in F Major. Beethoven had written the piece for piano as well as for cello, but Matthew hoped Jack was familiar enough with the music to fill in the missing notes.

The strokes of Jack’s charcoal pencil slowed further, becoming gentler with each passing measure.

Matthew recognized the torch of the Statue of Liberty, the steeple of the Center Church in New Haven.

Jack’s temporary madness might be slowing to a close as he moved toward the present day, but Matthew knew he was not free of it yet.

One image was missing.

To help nudge Jack along, Matthew turned to one of his favorite pieces of music: Fauré’s inspiring, hopeful Requiem. Long before he’d met Diana, one of his great joys had been to go to New College and listen to the choir perform the piece. It was not until the strains of the last section, In Paradisum, that the image Matthew had been waiting for took shape under Jack’s hand. By that point Jack was sketching in time to the stately music, his body swaying to the cello’s peaceful song.

“May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus,

Once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.”

Matthew knew these verses by heart, for they accompanied the corpse from church to grave—a place of peace that was too often denied to a creature like him. Matthew had sung these same words over Philippe’s body, wept through them when Hugh had died, punished himself with them when Eleanor and Cecilia had perished, and repeated them for fifteen centuries as he mourned Blanca and Lucas, his warmblooded wife and child.

Tonight, however, the familiar words led Jack—and Matthew with him—to a place of second chances. Matthew watched, riveted, as Jack brought Diana’s familiar, lovely face to life against the wall’s creamy surface. Her eyes were wide and full of joy, her lips parted in astonishment and lifting into the beginning of a smile. Matthew had missed the precious moments when Diana first recognized Jack. He witnessed them now.

Seeing her portrait confirmed what Matthew already suspected: that it was Diana who had the power to bring Jack’s life full circle. Matthew might make Jack feel safe the way a father should, but it was Diana who made him feel loved.

Matthew continued to move the bow against the strings, his fingers pressing and plucking to draw the music out. At last Jack stopped, the pencil dropping from his nerveless hands and clattering to the floor.

“You are one hell of an artist, Jack,” Chris said, leaning forward in his seat to better view Diana’s image.

Jack’s shoulders slumped in exhaustion, and he looked around for Chris. Though they were hazy with exhaustion, there was no sign of blood rage in his eyes. They were once again brown and green.

“Matthew.” Jack jumped off the top of the scaffold, soaring through the air and landing with the silence of a cat. “Good morning, Jack.” Matthew put the cello aside.

“The music—was it you?” Jack asked with a confused frown.

“I thought you might benefit from something less Baroque,” Matthew said, rising to his feet. “The seventeenth century can be a bit florid for vampires. It’s best taken in small doses.” His glance flickered to the wall, and Jack drew a shaking hand across his forehead as he realized what he’d done.

“I’m sorry,” he said, stricken. “I’ll paint over it, Gallowglass. Today. I promise.”

“No!” Matthew, Gallowglass, Hubbard, and Chris said in unison.

“But the walls,” Jack protested. “I’ve ruined them.”

“No more so than da Vinci or Michelangelo did,” Gallowglass said mildly. “Or Matthew, come to think of it, with his doodles on the emperor’s palace in Prague.” Humor illuminated Jack’s eyes for a moment before the light dimmed once more.

“A running deer is one thing. But nobody could possibly want to see these pictures—not even me,”

Jack said, staring at a particularly gruesome drawing of a decaying corpse floating faceup in the river.

“Art and music must come from the heart,” Matthew said, gripping his great-grandson by the shoulder. “Even the darkest places need to be brought into the light of day, or else they’ll grow until they swallow a man whole.”

Jack’s expression was bleak. “What if they already have?”

“You wouldn’t have tried to save that woman if you were dark through and through.” Matthew pointed to a desolate figure looking up at an outstretched hand. The hand matched Jack’s, right down to the scar at the base of the thumb.

“But I didn’t save her. She was too frightened to let me help her. Afraid of me!” Jack tried to jerk away, his elbow cracking with the strain, but Matthew refused to let him go.

“It was her darkness that stopped her—her fear—not yours,” Matthew insisted.

“I don’t believe you,” Jack said, stubbornly holding on to the notion that his blood rage made him guilty, no matter what. Matthew got a small taste of what Philippe and Ysabeau had endured with his own steadfast refusals to accept absolution.

“That’s because you’ve got two wolves fighting inside you. We all do.” Chris joined Matthew.

“What do you mean?” Jack asked, his expression wary.

“It’s an old Cherokee legend—one that my grandmother, Nana Bets, learned from her grandmother.”

“You don’t look like a Cherokee,” Jack said, eyes narrowing.

“You’d be surprised by what’s in my blood. I’m mostly French and African, with a little bit of English, Scottish, Spanish, and Native American thrown into the mix. I’m a lot like you, really.

Phenotype can be misleading,” Chris said with a smile. Jack looked confused, and Matthew made a mental note to buy him a basic biology textbook.

“Uh-huh,” Jack said skeptically, and Chris laughed. “And the wolves?”

“According to my grandmother’s people, two wolves live inside every creature: one evil and the other good. They spend all their time trying to destroy each other.”

It was, Matthew thought, as good a description of blood rage as he was ever likely to hear from someone not afflicted with the disease.

“My bad wolf is winning.” Jack looked sad.

“He doesn’t have to,” Chris promised. “Nana Bets said the wolf who wins is the wolf you feed. The evil wolf feeds on anger, guilt, sorrow, lies, and regret. The good wolf needs a diet of love and honesty, spiced up with big spoonfuls of compassion and faith. So if you want the good wolf to win, you’re going to have to starve the other one.”

“What if I can’t stop feeding the bad wolf?” Jack looked worried. “What if I fail?”

“You won’t fail,” Matthew said firmly.

“We won’t let you,” Chris said, nodding in agreement. “There are five of us in this room. Your big bad wolf doesn’t stand a chance.”

“Five?” Jack whispered, looking around at Matthew and Gallowglass, Hubbard and Chris. “You’re all going to help me?”

“Every last one of us,” Chris promised, taking Jack’s hand. When Chris jerked his head at him, Matthew obediently rested his own hand on top.

“All for one and all that jazz.” Chris turned to Gallowglass. “What are you waiting for? Get over here and join us.”

“Bah. The Musketeers were all tossers,” Gallowglass said, scowling as he stalked toward them. In spite of his dismissive words, Matthew’s nephew laid his huge paw atop theirs. “Don’t be telling Baldwin about this, young Jack, or I’ll give your evil wolf a double helping of dinner.”

“What about you, Andrew?” Chris called across the room.

“I believe the saying is ‘Un pour tous, tous pour un,’ not ‘All for one and all that jazz.’”

Matthew winced. The words were right enough, but Hubbard’s Cockney accent made them practically unintelligible. Philippe should have delivered a French tutor along with the cello.

Hubbard’s gaunt hand was the last to join the pile. Matthew saw his thumb move top to bottom, then right to left, as the priest bestowed his blessing on their strange pact. They were an unlikely band, Matthew thought: three creatures related by blood, a fourth bound by loyalty, and a fifth who had joined them for no apparent reason other than that he was a good man.

He hoped that, together, they would be enough to help Jack heal.

In the aftermath of his furious activity, Jack had wanted to talk. He sat with Matthew and Hubbard in the living room, surrounded by his past, and shifted the burden of some of his harrowing experiences onto Matthew’s shoulders. On the subject of Benjamin, however, he was mute. Matthew wasn’t surprised.

How could words convey the horror Jack had endured at Benjamin’s hands?

“Come on, Jackie,” Gallowglass interrupted, holding up Lobero’s leash. “Mop needs a walk.”

“I’d like a bit of fresh air, too.” Andrew unfolded from a strange red chair that looked like a piece of modern sculpture but that Matthew had discovered was surprisingly comfortable. As the front door closed, Chris sauntered into the living room with a fresh cup of coffee. Mathew didn’t know how the man survived with so much caffeine in his veins.

“I talked to your son tonight—your other son, Marcus.” Chris took up his usual seat in the plantation chair. “Nice guy. Smart, too. You must be proud of him.”

“I am,” Matthew said warily. “Why did Marcus call?”

“We called him.“ Chris sipped at his coffee. “Miriam thought he should see the video. Once he had, Marcus agreed we should take some more blood from Jack. We took two samples.”

“You what?” Matthew was aghast.

“Hubbard gave me permission. He is Jack’s next of kin,” Chris replied calmly.

“You think I’m worried about informed consent?” Matthew was barely able to keep his temper in check. “Drawing blood from a vampire in the grip of blood rage—you could have been killed.”

“It was a perfect opportunity to monitor the changes that take place in a vampire’s body chemistry at the onset of blood rage,” Chris said. “We’ll need that information if we want to have a shot at coming up with a medicine that might lessen the symptoms.”

Matthew frowned. “Lessen the symptoms? We’re looking for a cure.”

Chris reached down and picked up a folder. He offered it to Matthew. “The latest findings.”

Both Hubbard and Jack had been swabbed and given blood samples. They’d been rushed through processing, and their genome report was due any day. Matthew took the folder with nerveless fingers, afraid of what he might find inside it.

“I’m sorry, Matthew,” Chris said with heartfelt regret.

Matthew’s eyes raced over the results, flipping the pages.

“Marcus identified them. No one else would have. We weren’t looking in the right place,” Chris said.

Matthew couldn’t absorb what he was seeing. It changed . . . everything.

“Jack has more of the triggers in his noncoding DNA than you do.” Chris paused. “I have to ask, Matthew. Are you sure you can trust Jack around Diana?”

Before Matthew could respond, the front door opened. There was none of the usual chatter that accompanied Jack’s appearance, or Gallowglass’s cheerful whistling, or Andrew’s pious sermonizing.

The only sound was Lobero’s low whine.

Matthew’s nostrils flared, and he leaped to his feet, the test results scattering around him. Then he was gone, moving to the doorway in a flash.

“What the hell?” Chris said behind him.

“We met someone while we were out walking,” Gallowglass said, leading a reluctant Lobero into the house.

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