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“I found it.” Phoebe put a printed e-mail before me on the Georgian writing desk’s tooled-leather surface. The fact that she hadn’t first knocked politely on the door to the sitting room told me that something exciting had happened.
“Already?” I regarded her in amazement.
“I told my former supervisor that I was looking for an item for the de Clermont family—a picture of a tree drawn by Athanasius Kircher.” Phoebe glanced around the room, her connoisseur’s eye caught by the black-and-gold chinoiserie chest on a stand, the faux bamboo carvings on a chair, the colorful silk cushions splashed across the chaise longue by the window. She peered at the walls, muttering the name Jean Pillement and words like “impossible” and “priceless” and “museum.”
“But the illustrations in the Book of Life weren’t drawn by Kircher.” Frowning, I picked up the e mail. “And it’s not a picture. It’s a page torn out of a manuscript.”
“Attribution and provenance are crucial to a good sale,” Phoebe explained. “The temptation to link the picture to Kircher would have been irresistible. And if the edges of the parchment were cleaned up and the text was invisible, it would have commanded a higher price as a stand-alone drawing or painting.”
I scanned the message. It began with a tart reference to Phoebe’s resignation and future marital state. But it was the next lines that caught my attention:
I do find record of the sale and purchase of “an allegory of the Tree of Life believed to have once been displayed in the museum of Athanasius Kircher, SJ, in Rome.” Could this be the image the de Clermonts are seeking?
“Who bought it?” I whispered, hardly daring to breathe.
“Sylvia wouldn’t tell me,” Phoebe said, pointing to the final lines of the e-mail. “The sale was recent, and the details are confidential. She revealed the purchase price: sixteen hundred and fifty pounds.”
“That’s all?” I exclaimed. Most of the books Phoebe had purchased for me cost far more than that.
“The possible Kircher provenance wasn’t firm enough to convince potential buyers to spend more,”
“Is there really no way to discover the buyer’s identity?” I began to imagine how I might use magic to find the out more.
“Sotheby’s can’t afford to tell their clients’ secrets.” Phoebe shook her head. “Imagine how Ysabeau would react if her privacy was violated.”
“Did you call me, Phoebe?” My mother-in-law was standing in the arched doorway before the seed of my plan could put out its first shoots.
“Phoebe’s discovered that a recent sale at Sotheby’s describes a picture very like the one I’m looking for,” I explained to Ysabeau. “They won’t tell us who bought it.”
“I know where the sales records are kept,” Phoebe said. “When I go to Sotheby’s to hand in my keys, I could take a look.”
“No, Phoebe. It’s too risky. If you can tell me exactly where they are, I may be able to figure out a way to get access to them.” Some combination of my magic and Hubbard’s gang of thieves and lost boys could manage it. But my mother-in-law had her own ideas.
“Ysabeau de Clermont calling for Lord Sutton.” The clear voice echoed against the room’s high ceilings.
Phoebe looked shocked. “You can’t just call the director of Sotheby’s and expect him to do your bidding.”
Apparently Ysabeau could—and did.
“Charles. It’s been too long.” Ysabeau draped herself over a chair and let her pearls fall through her fingers. “You’ve been so busy, I’ve had to rely on Matthew for news. And the refinancing he helped you arrange—did it achieve what you had hoped?”
Ysabeau made soft, encouraging sounds of interest and expressions of appreciation at his cleverness. If I had to describe her behavior, I would be tempted to call it kittenish—provided the kitten were a baby Bengal tiger.
“Oh, I am so glad, Charles. Matthew felt sure it would work.” Ysabeau ran a delicate finger over her lips. “I was wondering if you could help with a little situation. Marcus is getting married, you see— to one of your employees. They met when Marcus picked up those miniatures you were so kind as to procure for me in January.”
Lord Sutton’s precise reply was inaudible, but the warm hum of contentment in his voice was unmistakable.
“The art of matchmaking.” Ysabeau’s laugh was crystalline. “How witty you are, Charles. Marcus has his heart set on buying Phoebe a special gift, something he remembers seeing long ago—a picture of a family tree.”
My eyes widened. “Psst!” I waved. “It’s not a family tree. It’s—”
Ysabeau’s hand made a dismissive gesture as the murmurs on the other end of the line turned eager.
“I believe Sylvia was able to track the item down to a recent sale. But of course she is too discreet to tell me who bought it.” Ysabeau nodded through the apologetic response for a few moments. Then the kitten pounced. “You will contact the owner for me, Charles. I cannot bear to see my grandson disappointed at such a happy time.”
Lord Sutton was reduced to utter silence.
“The de Clermonts are fortunate to have such a long and happy relationship with Sotheby’s.
Matthew’s tower would have collapsed under the weight of his books if not for meeting Samuel Baker.”
“Good Lord.” Phoebe’s jaw dropped.
“And you managed to clear out most of Matthew’s house in Amsterdam. I never liked that fellow or his pictures. You know the one I mean. What was his name? The one whose paintings all look unfinished?”
“Frans Hals,” Phoebe whispered, eyes round.
“Frans Hals.” Ysabeau nodded approvingly at her future daughter-in-law. “Now you and I must convince him to let go of the portrait of that gloomy minister he has hanging over the fireplace in the upstairs parlor.”
Phoebe squeaked. I suspected that a trip to Amsterdam would be included in one of her upcoming cataloging adventures.
Lord Sutton made some assurances, but Ysabeau was having none of it.
“I trust you completely, Charles,” she interrupted—though it was clear to everyone, Lord Sutton in particular, that she did not. “We can discuss this over coffee tomorrow.”
It was Lord Sutton’s turn to squeak. A rapid stream of explanations and justifications followed.
“You don’t need to come to France. I’m in London. Quite close to your offices on Bond Street, as a matter of fact.” Ysabeau tapped her cheek with her finger. “Eleven o’clock? Good. Give my regards to Henrietta. Until tomorrow.”
She hung up. “What?” she demanded, looking at Phoebe and me in turn.
“You just manhandled Lord Sutton!” Phoebe exclaimed. “I thought you said diplomacy was required.”
“Diplomacy, yes. Elaborate schemes, no. Simple is often best.” Ysabeau smiled her tiger smile.
“Charles owes Matthew a great deal. In time, Phoebe, you will have many creatures in your debt, too.
Then you will see how easy it is to achieve your desires.” Ysabeau eyed me sharply. “You look pale, Diana. Aren’t you happy that you will soon have all three missing pages from the Book of Life?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then what is the problem?” Ysabeau’s eyebrow lifted.
The problem? Once I had the three missing pages, there would be nothing standing between me and the need to steal a manuscript from the Bodleian Library. I was about to become a book thief.
“Nothing,” I said faintly.
Back at the desk in the aptly named Chinese Room, I looked again at Kircher’s engravings, trying not to think what might happen should Phoebe and Ysabeau find the last missing page. Unable to concentrate on my efforts to locate every engraving of a tree in Kircher’s substantial body of work, I rose and went to the window. The street below was quiet, with only the occasional parent leading a child down the sidewalk or a tourist holding a map.
Matthew could always jostle me out of my worries with a snatch of song, or a joke, or (even better) a kiss. Needing to feel closer to him, I prowled down the vacant second-floor hallway until I reached his study. My hand hovered over the knob. After a moment of indecision, I twisted it and went inside.
The aroma of cinnamon and cloves washed over me. Matthew could not have been here in the past twelve months, yet his absence had made me more sensitive to his scent.
Whichever decorator had designed my opulent bedchamber and the confection of a sitting room where I’d spent the morning had not been allowed in here. This room was masculine and unfussy, its walls lined with bookshelves and windows. Splendid globes—one celestial, the other terrestrial—sat in wooden stands, ready to be consulted should a question of astronomy or geography present itself. Natural curiosities were scattered here and there on small tables. I trod a clockwise path around the room as though weaving a spell to bring Matthew back, stopping occasionally to examine a book or to give the celestial globe a spin. The oddest chair I’d ever seen required a longer pause. Its high, deeply curved back had a leather-covered book stand mounted on it, and the seat was shaped rather like a saddle. The only way to occupy the chair would be to sit astride it, as Gallowglass did whenever he turned a chair at the dining-room table. Someone’s sitting astride the seat and facing the book stand would put the contraption at the perfect height for holding a book or some writing equipment. I tried out the theory by swinging my leg over the padded seat. It was surprisingly comfortable, and I imagined Matthew sitting here, reading for hours in the ample light from the windows.
I dismounted the chair and turned. What I saw hanging over the fireplace made me gasp: a life-size double portrait of Philippe and Ysabeau.
Matthew’s mother and father wore splendid clothes from the middle of the eighteenth century, that happy period of fashion when women’s gowns did not yet resemble birdcages and men had abandoned the long curls and high heels of the previous century. My fingers itched to touch the surface of the painting, convinced that they would be met with silks and lace rather than canvas.
What was most striking about the portrait was not the vividness of their features (though it would be impossible not to recognize Ysabeau) but the way the artist had captured the relationship between Philippe and his wife.
Philippe de Clermont faced the viewer in a splendid cream-and-blue silk suit, his broad shoulders square to the canvas and his right hand extended toward Ysabeau as if he were about to introduce her. A smile played at his lips, the hint of softness accentuating the stern lines of his face and the long sword that hung from his belt. Philippe’s eyes, however, did not meet mine as his position suggested they should. Instead they were directed in a sidelong glance at Ysabeau. Nothing, it seemed, could drag his attention away from the woman he loved. Ysabeau was painted in three-quarter profile, one hand resting lightly in her husband’s fingers and the other holding up the folds of her cream-and-gold silk dress as though she were stepping forward to be closer to Philippe. Instead of looking up at her husband, however, Ysabeau stared boldly at the viewer, her lips parted as if surprised to be interrupted in such a private moment.
I heard footsteps behind me and felt the tingling touch of a witch’s glance.
“Is that Matthew’s father?” Sarah asked, standing at my shoulder and looking up at the grand canvas.
“Yes. It’s an amazing likeness,” I said with a nod.
“I figured as much, given how perfectly the artist captured Ysabeau.” Sarah’s attention turned to me. “You don’t look well, Diana.”
“That’s not surprising, is it?” I said. “Matthew is out there somewhere, trying to stitch together a family. It may get him killed, and I asked him do it.”
“Not even you could make Matthew do something he didn’t want to do,” Sarah said bluntly.
“You don’t know what happened in New Haven, Sarah. Matthew discovered he had a grandson he didn’t know about—Benjamin’s son—and a great-grandson, too.”
“Fernando told me all about Andrew Hubbard, and Jack, and the blood rage,” Sarah replied. “He told me that Baldwin ordered Matthew to kill the boy, too—but you wouldn’t let him do it.”
I looked up at Philippe, wishing that I understood why he had appointed Matthew the official de Clermont family executioner. “Jack was like a child to us, Sarah. And if Matthew killed Jack, what would stop him from killing the twins if they, too, turn out to have blood rage?”
“Not even Baldwin would ask Matthew to kill his own flesh and blood,” Sarah said.
“Yes,” I said sadly. “He would.”
“Then it sounds as though Matthew is doing what he has to do,” she said firmly. “You need to do your job, too.”
“I am,” I said, sounding defensive. “My job is to find the missing pages from the Book of Life and then put it back together so that we can use it as leverage—with Baldwin, with Benjamin, even the Congregation.”
“You have to take care of the twins, too,” Sarah pointed out. “Mooning around up here on your own isn’t going to do you—or them—any good.”
“Don’t you dare play the baby card with me,” I said, coldly furious. “I’m trying very hard not to hate my own children—not to mention Jack—right now.” It wasn’t fair, nor was it logical, but I was blaming them for our separation, even though I had been the one to insist upon it.
“I hated you for a while.” Sarah’s tone was matter-of-fact. “If not for you, Rebecca would still be alive. Or so I told myself.”
Her words came as no surprise. Children always know what grown-ups are thinking. Em had never made me feel that it was my fault that my parents were dead. Of course, she’d known what they were planning—and why. But Sarah was a different story.
“Then I got over it,” Sarah continued quietly. “You will, too. One day you’ll see the twins and you’ll realize that Matthew is right there, staring out at you from an eight-year-old’s eyes.”
“My life doesn’t make sense without Matthew,” I said. “Losing him isn’t the same as losing a sister.”
“He can’t be your whole world, Diana.”
“He already is,” I whispered. “And if he succeeds in breaking free of the de Clermonts, he’s going to need me to be at his side like Ysabeau was for Philippe. I’ll never be able to fill her shoes.”
“Bullshit.” Sarah jammed her hands onto her hips. “And if you think Matthew wants you to be like his mother, you’re crazy.”
“You have a lot to learn about vampires.” Somehow the line didn’t sound as convincing when a witch delivered it.
“Oh. Now I see the problem.” Sarah’s eyes narrowed. “Em said you’d come back to us different— whole. But you’re still trying to be something you’re not.” She pointed an accusatory finger at me.
“You’ve gone all vampire again.”
“Stop it, Sarah.”
“If Matthew had wanted a vampire bride, he could have his pick. Hell, he could have turned you into a vampire last October in Madison,” she said. “You’d willingly given him most of your blood.”
“Matthew wouldn’t change me,” I said.
“I know. He promised me as much the morning before you left.” Sarah looked daggers at me.
“Matthew doesn’t mind that you’re a witch. Why do you?” When I didn’t reply, she grabbed my hand.
“Where are we going?” I asked as my aunt dragged me down the stairs.
“Out.” Sarah stopped in front of the gaggle of vampires standing in the front hall. “Diana needs to remember who she is. You’re coming, too, Gallowglass.”
“Ooo-kaaay,” Gallowglass said uneasily, drawing out the two syllables. “Are we going far?”
“How the hell do I know?” Sarah retorted. “This is my first time in London. We’re going to Diana’s old house—the one she and Matthew shared in 1590.”
“My house is gone—it burned down in the Great Fire,” I said, trying to escape.
“We’re going anyway.”
“Oh, Christ.” Gallowglass threw a set of car keys at Leonard. “Get the car, Lenny. We’re going for a Sunday drive.”
Leonard grinned. “Right.”
“Who is that?” Sarah said, watching as the gangly vampire bolted toward the back of the house.
“He belongs to Andrew,” I explained.
“In other words he belongs to you,” she said with a nod. My jaw dropped. “Oh, yes. I know all about vampires and their crazy ways.” Apparently, Fernando didn’t have the same reluctance as Matthew and Ysabeau did to tell vampire tales.
Leonard pulled up to the front door with a squeal of tires. He was out of the car and had the rear door opened in a blink. “Where to, madame?”
I did a double take. It was the first time Leonard hadn’t stumbled over my name. “Diana’s house, Lenny,” Sarah answered. “Her real house, not this overdecorated dust-bunny sanctuary.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s not there anymore, miss,” Leonard said, as though the Great Fire of London had been his fault. Knowing Leonard, this was entirely possible.
“Don’t vampires have any imagination?” Sarah asked tartly. “Take me where the house used to be.”
“Oh.” Leonard looked at Gallowglass, wide-eyed.
Gallowglass shrugged. “You heard the lady,” my nephew said.
We rocketed across London, heading east. When we passed Temple Bar and moved onto Fleet Street, Leonard turned south toward the river.
“This isn’t the way,” I said.
“One-way streets, madame,” he said. “Things have changed a bit since you were last here.” He made a sharp left in front of the Blackfriars Station. I put my hand on the door handle to get out and heard a click as the childproof locks engaged.
“Stay in the car, Auntie,” Gallowglass said.
Leonard jerked the steering wheel to the left once more, and we jostled over pavement and rough road surfaces.
“Blackfriars Lane,” I said reading the sign that zipped past. I jiggled the door handle. “Let me out.”
The car stopped abruptly across the entrance to a loading dock.
“Your house, madame,” Leonard said, sounding like a tour guide and waving at the red-and-cream brick office building that loomed above us. He released the door locks. “It’s safe to walk about. Please mind the uneven pavement. Don’t want to have to explain to Father H how you broke your leg, do I?”
I stepped out onto the stone sidewalk. It was firmer footing than the usual mud and muck of Water Lane, as we’d called the street in 1590. Automatically I headed in the general direction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. I felt a hand on my elbow, holding me back.
“You know how Uncle feels about you wandering around town unaccompanied.” Gallowglass bowed, and for a moment I saw him in doublet and hose. “At your service, Madame Roydon.”
“Where exactly are we?” Sarah asked, scanning the nearby alleys. “This doesn’t look like a residential area.”
“The Blackfriars. Once upon a time, hundreds of people lived here.” It took me only a few steps to reach a narrow cobbled street that used to lead to the inner precincts of the old Blackfriars Priory. I frowned and pointed. “Wasn’t the Cardinal’s Hat in there?” It was one of Kit Marlowe’s watering holes.
“Good memory, Auntie. They call it Playhouse Yard now.”
Our house had backed up to that part of the former monastery. Gallowglass and Sarah followed me into the cul-de-sac. Once it had been filled to bursting with merchants, craftsmen, housewives, apprentices, and children—not to mention carts, dogs, and chickens. Today it was deserted.
“Slow down,” Sarah said peevishly, struggling to keep up.
It didn’t matter how much the old neighborhood had changed. My heart had provided the necessary directions, and my feet followed, swift and sure. In 1591 I would have been surrounded by the ramshackle tenement and entertainment complex that had sprung up within the former priory. Now there were office buildings, a small residence serving well-heeled business executives, more office buildings, and the headquarters of London’s apothecaries. I crossed Playhouse Yard and slipped between two buildings.
“Where is she going now?” Sarah asked Gallowglass, her irritation mounting.
“Unless I miss my guess, Auntie’s looking for the back way to Baynard’s Castle.”
At the foot of a narrow thoroughfare called Church Entry, I stopped to get my bearings. If only I could orient myself properly, I could find my way to Mary’s house. Where had the Fields’ printing shop been? I shut my eyes to avoid the distraction of the incongruous modern buildings.
“Just there,” I pointed. “That’s where the Fields’ shop was. The apothecary lived a few houses along the lane. This way led down to the docks.” I kept turning, my arms, tracing the line of buildings I saw in my mind. “The door to Monsieur Vallin’s silver shop stood here. You could see our back garden from this spot. And here was the old gate that I took to get to Baynard’s Castle.” I stood for a moment, soaking in the familiar feeling of my former home and wishing I could open my eyes and find myself in the Countess of Pembroke’s solar. Mary would have understood my current predicament perfectly and been generous with her expertise on matters dynastic and political.
“Holy shit,” Sarah gasped.
My eyes flew open. A transparent wooden door was a few yards away, set into a crumbling, equally transparent stone wall. Mesmerized, I tried to take a step toward it but was prevented from doing so by the blue and amber threads that swirled tightly around my legs.
“Don’t move!” Sarah sounded panicked.
“Why?” I could see her through a scrim of Elizabethan shop fronts.
“You’ve cast a counterclock. It rewinds images from past times, like a movie,” Sarah said, peering at me through the windows of Master Prior’s pastry shop.
“Magic,” Gallowglass moaned. “Just what we need.”
An elderly woman in a neat navy blue cardigan and a pale blue shirtwaist dress who was very much of the here and now came out of the nearby apartment building.
“You’ll find this part of London can be a bit tricky, magically speaking,” she called out in that authoritative, cheerful tone that only British women of a certain age and social status could produce.
“You’ll want to take some precautions if you plan on doing any more spell casting.”
As the woman approached, I was struck by a sense of déjà vu. She reminded me of one of the witches I’d known in 1591—an earthwitch called Marjorie Cooper, who had helped me to weave my first spell.
“I’m Linda Crosby.” She smiled, and the resemblance to Marjorie became more pronounced.
“Welcome home, Diana Bishop. We’ve been expecting you.”
I stared at her, dumfounded.
“I’m Diana’s aunt,” Sarah said, wading into the silence. “Sarah Bishop.”
“Pleasure,” Linda said warmly, shaking Sarah’s hand. Both witches stared down at my feet. During our brief introductions, time’s blue and amber bindings had loosened somewhat, fading away one by one as they were absorbed back into the fabric of the Blackfriars. Monsieur Vallin’s front door was still all too evident, however.
“I’d give it a few more minutes. You are a timewalker, after all,” Linda said, perching on one of the curved benches that surrounded a circular brick planter. It occupied the same spot as had the wellhead in the Cardinal’s Hat yard.
“Are you one of Hubbard’s family?” Sarah asked, reaching into her pocket. Out came her forbidden cigarettes. She offered one to Linda.
“I’m a witch,” Linda said, taking the cigarette. “And I live in the City of London. So, yes—I am a member of Father Hubbard’s family. Proudly so.”
Gallowglass lit the witches’ cigarettes and then his own. The three puffed away like chimneys, careful to direct the smoke so it didn’t waft toward me.
“I haven’t met Hubbard yet,” Sarah confessed. “Most of the vampires I know don’t think much of him.”
“Really?” Linda asked with interest. “How very odd. Father Hubbard is a beloved figure here. He protects everybody’s interests, be they daemon, vampire, or witch. So many creatures have wanted to move into his territory that it’s led to a housing crisis. He can’t buy property fast enough to satisfy the demand.”
“He’s still a wanker,” Gallowglass muttered.
“Language!” Linda said, shocked.
“How many witches are there in the city?” Sarah asked.
“Three dozen,” Linda responded. “We limit the numbers, of course, or it would be madness in the Square Mile.”
“The Madison coven is the same size,” Sarah said approvingly. “Makes it easier to hold the meetings, that’s for sure.”
“We gather once a month in Father Hubbard’s crypt. He lives in what’s left of the Greyfriars Priory, just over there.” Linda aimed her cigarette at a point north of Playhouse Yard. “These days most of the creatures in the City proper are vampires—financiers and hedge-fund managers and such. They don’t like to hire out their meeting rooms to witches. No offense, sir.”
“None taken,” Gallowglass said mildly.
“The Greyfriars? Has Lady Agnes moved on?” I asked, surprised. The ghost’s antics had been the talk of the town when I lived here.
“Oh, no. Lady Agnes is still there. With Father Hubbard’s help, we were able to broker an agreement between her and Queen Isabella. They seem to be on friendly terms now—which is more than I can say for the ghost of Elizabeth Barton. Ever since that novel about Cromwell came out, she’s been impossible.” Linda eyed my belly speculatively. “At our Mabon tea this year, Elizabeth Barton said you’re having twins.”
“I am.” Even the ghosts of London knew my business.
“It’s so difficult to tell which of Elizabeth’s prophecies are to be taken seriously when every one of them is accompanied by shrieking. It’s all so . . . vulgar.” Linda pursed her lips in disapproval, and Sarah nodded sympathetically.
“Um, I hate to break this up, but I think my spell for the counterclock thingy expired.” Not only could I see my own ankle (provided I lifted my leg up—otherwise the babies were in the way), but Monsieur Vallin’s door had utterly vanished.
“Expired?” Linda laughed. “You make it sound as though your magic has a sell-by date.”
“I certainly didn’t tell it to stop,” I grumbled. Then again, I had never told it to start either.
“It stopped because you didn’t wind it up tight enough,” Sarah said. “If you don’t give a counterclock a good crank, it runs down.”
“And we do recommend that you not stand on top of the counterclock once you cast it,” Linda said, sounding a bit like my middle-school gym teacher. “You want to address the spell without blinking, then step away from it at the last minute.”
“My mistake,” I murmured. “Can I move now?”
Linda surveyed Playhouse Yard with a crinkled brow. “Yes, I do believe it’s perfectly safe now,”
I groaned and rubbed at my back. Standing still for so long had made it ache, and my feet felt like they were going to explode. I propped one of them upon the bench where Sarah and Linda were sitting and bent to loosen the ties on my sneakers.
“What’s that?” I said, peering through the bench’s slats. I reached down and retrieved a scroll of paper tied up with a red ribbon. The fingers on my right hand tingled when I touched it, and the pentacle at my wrist swirled with color.
“It’s tradition for people to leave requests for magic in the yard. There’s always been a concentration of power associated with this spot.” Linda’s voice softened. “A great witch lived here once, you see. Legend says she’ll return one day, to remind us of all we once were and could be again.
We haven’t forgotten her and trust that she will not forget us.”
The Blackfriars was haunted by my past self. Part of me had died when we left London. It was the part that had once been able to juggle being Matthew’s wife, Annie and Jack’s mother, Mary Sidney’s alchemical assistant, and a weaver-in-training. And another part of me had joined it in the grave when I walked away from Matthew on the mountain outside New Haven. I buried my head in my hands.
“I’ve made a mess of things,” I whispered.
“No, you dove into the deep end and got in over your head,” Sarah replied. “This is what Em and I worried about when you and Matthew first got involved. You both moved so fast, and we knew that neither of you had thought about what this relationship was going to require.”
“We knew we would face plenty of opposition.”
“Oh, you two had the star-crossed-lovers part down—and I understand how romantic it can be to feel it’s just the two of you against the world.” Sarah chuckled. “Em and I were star-crossed lovers, after all. In upstate New York in the 1970s, nothing was more star-crossed than two women falling in love.”
Her tone grew serious. “But the sun always rises the next morning. Fairy tales don’t tell you much about what happens to star-crossed lovers in the bright light of day, but somehow you have to figure out how to be happy.”
“We were happy here,” I said quietly. “Weren’t we, Gallowglass?”
“Aye, Auntie, you were—even with Matthew’s spymaster breathing down his neck and the whole country on the lookout for witches.” Gallowglass shook his head. “How you managed it, I’ve never understood.”
“You managed it because neither of you were trying to be something you weren’t. Matthew wasn’t trying to be civilized, and you weren’t trying to be human,” Sarah said. “You weren’t trying to be Rebecca’s perfect daughter, or Matthew’s perfect wife, or a tenured professor at Yale either.”
She took my hands in hers, scroll and all, and turned them so the palms faced up. My weaver’s cords stood out bright against the pale flesh.
“You’re a witch, Diana. A weaver. Don’t deny your power. Use it.” Sarah looked pointedly at my left hand. “All of it.”
My phone pinged in the pocket of my jacket. I scrambled for it, hoping against hope it was a kind of message from Matthew. He’d promised to let me know how he was doing. The display indicated there was a text waiting from him. I opened it eagerly.
The message contained no words that the Congregation could use against us, only a picture of Jack.
He was sitting on a porch, his face split into a wide grin as he listened to someone—a man, though his back was to the camera and I could see nothing more than the black hair curling around his collar—tell a story as only a southerner could. Marcus stood behind Jack, one hand draped casually over his shoulder.
Like Jack, he was grinning.
They looked like two ordinary young men enjoying a laugh over the weekend. Jack fit perfectly into Marcus’s family, as though he belonged.
“Who’s that with Marcus?” Sarah said, looking over my shoulder.
“Jack.” I touched his face. “I’m not sure who the other man is.”
“That’s Ransome.” Gallowglass sniffed. “Marcus’s eldest, and he puts Lucifer to shame. Not the best role model for young Jack, but I reckon Matthew knows best.”
“Look at the lad,” Linda said fondly, standing so she could get a look at the picture, too. “I’ve never seen Jack look so happy—except when he was telling stories about Diana, of course.”
St. Paul’s bells rang the hour. I pushed the button on my phone, dimming the display. I would look at the picture again later, in private.
“See, honey. Matthew is doing just fine,” Sarah said, her voice soothing.
But without seeing his eyes, gauging the set of his shoulders, hearing the tone of his voice, I couldn’t be sure.
“Matthew’s doing his job,” I reminded myself, standing up. “I need to get back to mine.”
“Does that mean you’re ready to do whatever it takes to keep your family together like you did in 1591—even if higher magics are involved?” Sarah’s eyebrow shot up in open query.
“Yes.” I sounded more convinced than I felt.
“Higher magics? How deliciously dark.” Linda beamed. “Can I help?”
“No,” I said quickly.
“Possibly,” Sarah said at the same time.
“Well, if you need us, give a ring. Leonard knows how to reach me,” Linda said. “The London coven is at your disposal. And if you were to come to one of our meetings, it would be quite a boost to morale.”
“We’ll see,” I said vaguely, not wanting to make a promise I couldn’t keep. “The situation is complicated, and I wouldn’t want to get anyone into trouble.”
“Vampires are always trouble,” Linda said with a primly disapproving look, “holding grudges and going off half-cocked on some vendetta or other. It’s really very trying. Still, we are all one big family, as Father Hubbard reminds us.”
“One big family.” I looked at our old neighborhood. “Maybe Father Hubbard was on the right track all along.”
“Well, we think so. Do consider coming to our next meeting. Doris makes a divine Battenberg cake.”
Sarah and Linda swapped telephone numbers just in case, and Gallowglass went to Apothecaries’ Hall and let out an earsplitting whistle to call Leonard around with the car. I took the opportunity to snap a picture of Playhouse Yard and sent it to Matthew without a comment or a caption.
Magic was nothing more desire made real, after all.
The October breeze came off the Thames and carried my unspoken wishes into the sky, where they wove a spell to bring Matthew back to me.
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