فصل 28

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فصل 28

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28

It was several hours past midnight, and any hope I had of sleep was gone. The fog had lifted slightly, and the brightness of the full moon pierced through the gray wisps that still clung to the trunks of trees and the low places in the park where the deer slept. One or two members of the herd were still out, picking over the grass in search of the last remaining fodder. A hard frost was coming; I could sense it. I was attuned to the rhythms of the earth and sky in ways that I had not been before I lived in a time when the day was organized around the height of the sun instead of the dial of a clock, and the season of the year determined everything from what you ate to the physic that you took.

I was in our bedchamber again, the one where Matthew and I had spent our first night in the sixteenth century. Only a few things had changed: the electricity that powered the lamps, the Victorian bellpull that hung by the fire to call the servants to tend the fire or bring tea (though why this was necessary in a vampire household, I could not fathom), the closet that had been carved out of an adjoining room.

Our return to the Old Lodge after meeting Timothy Weston had been unexpectedly tense.

Gallowglass had flatly refused to take me to Oxford after we located the final page of the Book of Life, though it was not yet the supper hour and Duke Humfrey’s was open until seven o’clock during term time. When Leonard offered to drive, Gallowglass threatened to kill him in disturbingly detailed and graphic terms. Fernando and Gallowglass had departed, ostensibly to talk, and Gallowglass had returned with a rapidly healing split lip, a slightly bruised eye, and a mumbled apology to Leonard.

“You aren’t going,” Fernando said when I headed for the door. “I’ll take you tomorrow, but not tonight. Gallowglass is right: You look like death.”

“Stop coddling me,” I said through gritted teeth, my hands still shooting out intermittent sparks.

“I’ll coddle you until your mate returns,” Fernando said. “The only person on this earth who could make me take you to Oxford is Matthew. Feel free to call him.” He held out his phone.

That had been the end of the discussion. I’d accepted Fernando’s ultimatum with poor grace, though my head was pounding and I’d worked more magic in the past week than I had my whole life previous.

“So long as you have these three pages, no other creature can possess the book,” Amira said, trying to comfort me. But it seemed like a poor consolation when the book was so close.

Not even the sight of the three pages, lined up on the long table in the great hall, had improved my mood. I’d been anticipating and dreading this moment since we left Madison, but now that it was here, it felt strangely anticlimactic.

Phoebe had arranged the images carefully, making sure they didn’t touch. We’d learned the hard way that they seemed to have a magnetic affinity. When I’d arrived home and bundled them together in preparation for going to the Bodleian, a soft keening had come from the pages, followed by a chattering that everybody heard—even Phoebe.

“You can’t just march into the Bodleian with these three pages and stuff them back into an enchanted book,” Sarah said. “It’s crazy. There are bound to be witches in the room. They’ll come running.”

“And who knows how the Book of Life will respond?” Ysabeau poked at the illustration of the tree with her finger. “What if it shrieks? Ghosts might be released. Or Diana might set off a rain of fire.”

After her experiences in London, Ysabeau had been doing some reading. She was now prepared to discuss a wide variety of topics, including spectral apparitions and the number of occult phenomena that had been observed in the British Isles over the past two years.

“You’re going to have to steal it,” Sarah said.

“I’m a tenured professor at Yale, Sarah! I can’t! My life as a scholar—”

“Is probably over,” Sarah said, finishing my sentence.

“Come now, Sarah,” Fernando chided. “That is a bit extreme, even for you. Surely there is a way for Diana to check out Ashmole 782 and return it at some future date.”

I tried to explain that you didn’t borrow books from the Bodleian, but to no avail. With Ysabeau and Sarah in charge of logistics and Fernando and Gallowglass in charge of security, I was relegated to a position where I could only advise, counsel, and warn. They were more high-handed than Matthew.

And so here I was at four o’clock in the morning, staring out the window and waiting for the sun to rise.

“What should I do?” I murmured, my forehead pressed against the cold, diamond-shaped panes.

As soon as I asked the question, my skin flared with awareness, as though I’d stuck a finger into an electrical socket. A shimmering figure dressed in white came from the forest, accompanied by a white deer. The otherworldly animal walked sedately at the woman’s side, unafraid of the huntress who held a bow and a quiver of arrows in her hand. The goddess.

She stopped and looked up at my window. “Why so sad, daughter?” her silvery voice whispered.

“Have you lost what you most desire?”

I had learned not to answer her questions. She smiled at my reluctance.

“Dare to join me under this full moon. Perhaps you will find it once more.” The goddess rested her fingers on the deer’s antlers and waited.

I slipped outside undetected. My feet crunched across the gravel paths of the knot gardens, then left dark impressions in the frost-touched grass. Soon, I stood in front of the goddess.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“To help you.” The goddess’s eyes were silver and black in the moonlight. “You will have to give something up if you want to possess the Book of Life—something precious to you.”

“I’ve given enough.” My voice trembled. “My parents, then my first child, then my aunt. Not even my life is my own anymore. It belongs to you.”

“And I do not abandon those who serve me.” The goddess withdrew an arrow from her quiver. It was long and silver, with owl-feather fletches. She offered it to me. “Take it.”

“No.” I shook my head. “Not without knowing the price.”

“No one refuses me.” The goddess put the arrow shaft into her bow, aimed. It was then I noticed that her weapon lacked its pointed tip. Her hand drew back, the silver string pulled taut.

There was no time to react before the goddess released the shaft. It shot straight toward my breast. I felt a searing pain, a yank of the chain around my neck, and a tingling feeling of warmth between my left shoulder blade and my spine. The golden links that had held Philippe’s arrowhead slithered down my body and landed at my feet. I felt the fabric that covered my chest for the telltale wetness of blood, but there was nothing except a small hole to indicate where the shaft had passed through.

“You cannot outrun my arrow. No creature can. It is part of you now, waiting until you have need of it,” she said. “Even those born to strength should carry weapons.”

I searched the ground around my feet, looking for Philippe’s jewel. When I straightened, I could feel its point pressing into my ribs. I stared at the goddess in astonishment.

“My arrow never misses its target,” the goddess said. “Do not hesitate. And aim true.”

“They’ve been moved where?” This could not be happening. Not when we were so close to finding answers.

“The Radcliffe Science Library.” Sean was apologetic, but his patience was wearing thin. “It’s not the end of the world, Diana.”

“But . . . that is . . .” I trailed off, the completed call slip for Ashmole 782 dangling from my fingers.

“Don’t you read your e-mails? We’ve been sending out notices about the move for months,” Sean said. “I’m happy to take the request and put it in the system, since you’ve been away and apparently out of reach of the Internet. But none of the Ashmole manuscripts are here, and you can’t call them up to this reading room unless you have a bona fide intellectual reason that’s related to the manuscripts and maps that are still here.”

Of all the exigencies we had planned for this morning—and they were many and varied—the Bodleian Library’s decision to move rare books and manuscripts from Duke Humfrey’s to the Radcliffe Science Library had not been among them. We’d left Sarah and Amira at home with Leonard in case we needed magical backup. Gallowglass and Fernando were both outside, loafing around the statue of Mary Herbert’s son William and being photographed by female visitors. Ysabeau had gained entrance to the library after enticing the head of development with a gift to rival the annual budget of Liechtenstein. She was now on a private tour of the facility. Phoebe, who had attended Christ Church and was therefore the only member of my book posse in possession of a library card, had accompanied me into Duke Humfrey’s and was now waiting patiently in a seat overlooking Exeter College’s gardens.

“How aggravating.” No matter how many rare books and precious manuscripts they’d relocated, I was absolutely sure Ashmole 782 was still here. My father had not bound the Book of Life to its call number after all, but to the library. In 1850 the Radcliffe Science Library didn’t exist.

I looked at my watch. It was only ten-thirty. A swarm of children on a school trip were released into the quadrangle, their high-pitched voices echoing against the stone walls. How long would it take me to manufacture an excuse that would satisfy Sean? Phoebe and I needed to regroup. I tried to reach the spot on my lower back where the tip of the goddess’s arrow was lodged. The shaft kept my posture ramrod straight, and if I slouched the slightest bit, I felt a warning prickle.

“And don’t think it’s going to be easy to come up with a good rationale for looking at your manuscript here,” Sean warned, reading my mind. Humans never failed to activate their usually dormant sixth senses at the most inopportune moments. “Your friend has been sending requests of all sorts for weeks, and no matter how many times he asks to see manuscripts here, the requests keep getting redirected to Parks Road.”

“Tweed jacket? Corduroy pants?” If Peter Knox was in Duke Humfrey’s, I was going to throttle him.

“No. The guy who sits by the card catalogs.” Sean jerked his thumb in the direction of the Selden End.

I backed carefully out of Sean’s office across from the old call desk and felt the numbing sensation of a vampire’s stare. Gerbert?

“Mistress Roydon.”

Not Gerbert.

Benjamin’s arm was draped over Phoebe’s shoulders, and there were spots of red on the collar of her white blouse. For the first time since I’d met her, Phoebe looked terrified.

“Herr Fuchs.” I spoke slightly louder than usual. Hopefully, Ysabeau or Gallowglass would hear his name over the din that the children were causing. I forced my feet to move toward him at an even pace.

“What a surprise to see you here—and looking so . . . fertile.” Benjamin’s eyes drifted slowly over my breasts to where the twins lay curled in my belly. One of them was kicking furiously, as though to make a break for freedom. Corra, too, twisted and snarled inside me.

No fire or flame. The oath I’d taken when I got my first reader’s card floated through my mind.

“I expected Matthew. Instead I get his mate. And my brother’s, too.” Benjamin’s nose went to the pulse under Phoebe’s ear. His teeth grazed her flesh. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. “What a good boy Marcus is, always standing by his father. I wonder if he’ll stand by you, pet, once I’ve made you mine.”

“Let her go, Benjamin.” Once the words were out of my mouth, the logical part of my brain registered their pointlessness. There was no chance that Benjamin was going to let Phoebe go.

“Don’t worry. You won’t be left out.” His fingers stroked the place on Phoebe’s neck where her pulse hammered. “I’ve got big plans for you, too, Mistress Roydon. You’re a good breeder. I can see that.”

Where was Ysabeau?

The arrow burned against my spine, inviting me to use its power. But how could I target Benjamin without running the risk of harming Phoebe? He had placed Phoebe slightly in front of him, like a shield.

“This one dreams of being a vampire.” Benjamin’s mouth lowered, brushed against Phoebe’s neck.

She whimpered. “I could make those dreams come true. With any luck I could send you back to Marcus with blood so strong you could bring him to his knees.”

Philippe’s voice rang in my mind: Think—and stay alive. That was the job he had given me. But my thoughts ran in disorganized circles. Snatches of spells and half-remembered warnings from Goody Alsop chased Benjamin’s threats. I needed to concentrate.

Phoebe’s eyes begged me to do something.

“Use your pitiful power, witch. I may not know what’s in the Book of Life—yet—but I’ve learned that witches are no match for vampires.”

I hesitated. Benjamin smiled. I stood at the crossroads between the life I’d always thought I wanted—scholarly, intellectual, free from the complicated messiness of magic—and the life I now had.

If I worked magic here, in the Bodleian Library, there would be no turning back.

“Something wrong?” he drawled.

My back continued to burn, the pain spreading into my shoulder. I lifted my hands and separated them as though they held a bow, then aimed my left index finger at Benjamin to create a line of sight.

My hand was no longer colorless. A blaze of purple, thick and vivid, ran all the way down to the palm. I groaned inwardly. Of course my magic would decide to change now. Think. What was the magical significance of purple?

I felt the sensation of a rough string scraping against my cheek. I twisted my lips and directed a puff of air toward it. No distractions. Think. Stay alive.

When my focus returned to my hands, there was a bow in them—a real, tangible, bow made of wood ornamented with silver and gold. I felt a strange tingle from the wood, one I recognized. Rowan.

And there was an arrow between my fingers, too: silver-shafted and tipped with Philippe’s golden arrowhead. Would it find its target as the goddess had promised? Benjamin twisted Phoebe so that she was directly in front of him.

“Take your best shot, witch. You’ll kill Marcus’s warmblood, but I’ll still have everything I came for.”

The image of Juliette’s fiery death came to mind. I closed my eyes.

I hesitated, unable to shoot. The bow and arrow dissolved between my fingers. I’d done exactly what the goddess had instructed me not to do.

I heard the pages of the books lying open on nearby desks ruffle in a sudden breeze. The hair on the back of my neck rose. Witchwind.

There must be another witch in the library. I opened my eyes to see who it was.

It was a vampire.

Ysabeau stood before Benjamin, one hand wrapped around his throat and the other pushing Phoebe in my direction.

“Ysabeau.” Benjamin looked at her sourly.

“Expecting someone else? Matthew, perhaps?” Blood welled from a small puncture wound on him that was filled with Ysabeau’s finger. That pressure was enough to keep Benjamin where he was. Nausea swept over me in a wave. “He is otherwise engaged. Phoebe, dearest, you must take Diana down to Gallowglass and Fernando. At once.” Without looking away from her prey, Ysabeau pointed in my direction with her free hand.

“Let’s go,” Phoebe murmured, pulling at my arm.

Ysabeau removed her finger from Benjamin’s neck with an audible pop. His hand clamped over the spot.

“We’re not finished, Ysabeau. Tell Matthew I’ll be in touch. Soon.”

“Oh, I will.” Ysabeau gave him a terrifyingly toothy smile. She took two steps backward, took my other elbow, and jerked me around to face the exit.

“Diana?” Benjamin called.

I stopped but didn’t turn around.

“I hope your children are both girls.”

“Nobody speaks until we’re in the car.” Gallowglass let out a piercing whistle. “Disguising spell, Auntie.”

I could feel that it had slipped out of shape but couldn’t muster the energy to do much about it. The nausea I’d felt upstairs was getting worse.

Leonard squealed up to the gates of Hertford College.

“I hesitated. Just like with Juliette.” Then it had almost cost Matthew his life. Today it was Phoebe who had nearly paid for my fear.

“Mind your head,” Gallowglass said, inserting me into the passenger seat.

“Thank God we used Matthew’s bloody great car,” Leonard muttered to Fernando as he slid in the front. “Back home?”

“Yes,” I said.

“No,” Ysabeau said at the same moment, appearing on the other side of the car. “To the airport. We are going to Sept-Tours. Call Baldwin, Gallowglass.”

“I am not going to Sept-Tours,” I said. Live under Baldwin’s thumb? Never.

“What about Sarah?” Fernando asked from the front seat.

“Tell Amira to drive Sarah to London and meet us there.” Ysabeau tapped Leonard on the shoulder.

“If you do not put your foot on the gas pedal immediately, I cannot be held accountable for my actions.”

“We’re all in. Go!” Gallowglass closed the door of the cargo space just as Leonard squealed into reverse, narrowly missing a distinguished don on a bicycle. “Bloody hell. I’ve not got the temperament for crime,” Gallowglass said, huffing slightly. “Show us the book, Auntie.”

“Diana does not have the book.” Ysabeau’s words caused Fernando to stop mid-conversation and look back at us.

“Then what is the rush?” Gallowglass demanded.

“We met Matthew’s son.” Phoebe sat forward and began to speak loudly in the direction of Fernando’s cell phone. “Benjamin knows that Diana is pregnant, Sarah. You are not safe, nor is Amira.

Leave. At once.”

“Benjamin?” Sarah’s voice was unmistakably horrified.

A large hand jerked Phoebe back. It twisted her head to the side.

“He bit you.” Gallowglass’s face whitened. He grabbed me and inspected every inch of my face and neck. “Christ. Why didn’t you call for help?”

Thanks to Leonard’s complete disregard for traffic restrictions or speed limits, we were nearly to the A40.

“He had Phoebe.” I shrank into the seat, trying to stabilize my roiling stomach by clamping both arms over the twins.

“Where was Granny?” Gallowglass asked.

“Granny was listening to a horrible woman in a magenta blouse tell me about the library’s building works while sixty children screamed in the quadrangle.” Ysabeau glared at Gallowglass. “Where were you?”

“Both of you stop it. We were all exactly where we planned to be.” As usual, Phoebe’s voice was the only reasonable one. “And we all got out alive. Let’s not lose sight of the big picture.”

Leonard sped onto the M40, headed for Heathrow.

I held a cold hand to my forehead. “I’m so sorry, Phoebe.” I pressed my lips together as the car swayed. “I couldn’t think.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Phoebe said briskly. “May I please speak to Miriam?”

“Miriam?” Fernando asked.

“Yes. I know that I am not infected with blood rage, because I didn’t ingest any of Benjamin’s blood. But he did bite me, and she may wish to have a sample of my blood to see if his saliva has affected me.”

We all stared at her, openmouthed.

“Later,” Gallowglass said curtly. “We’ll worry about science and that godforsaken manuscript later.”

The countryside rushed by in a blur. I rested my forehead against the glass and wished with all my heart that Matthew was with me, that the day had ended differently, that Benjamin didn’t know I was pregnant with twins.

His final words—and the prospect of the future they painted—taunted me as we drew closer to the airport.

I hope your children are both girls.

“Diana!” Ysabeau’s voice interrupted my troubled sleep. “Matthew or Baldwin. Choose.” Her tone was fierce. “One of them has to be told.”

“Not Matthew.” I winced and sat straighter. That damned arrow was still jabbing my shoulder.

“He’ll come running, and there’s no reason for it. Phoebe is right. We’re all alive.”

Ysabeau swore like a sailor and pulled out her red phone. Before anyone could stop her, she was speaking to Baldwin in rapid French. I caught only half of it, but based on her awed response, Phoebe obviously understood more.

“Oh, Christ.” Gallowglass shook his shaggy head.

“Baldwin wishes to speak with you.” Ysabeau extended the phone in my direction.

“I understand you’ve seen Benjamin.” Baldwin was as cool and composed as Phoebe. “I did.”

“He threatened the twins?”

“He did.”

“I’m your brother, Diana, not your enemy,” Baldwin said. “Ysabeau was right to call me.”

“If you say so,” I said. “Sieur.”

“Do you know where Matthew is?” he demanded.

“No.” I didn’t know—not exactly. “Do you?”

“I presume he is off somewhere burying Jack Blackfriars.”

The silence that followed Baldwin’s words was lengthy.

“You are an utter bastard, Baldwin de Clermont.” My voice shook.

“Jack was a necessary casualty of a dangerous and deadly war—one that you started, by the way.”

Baldwin sighed. “Come home, sister. That’s an order. Lick your wounds and wait for him. It’s what we’ve all learned to do when Matthew goes off to assuage his guilty conscience.”

He hung up on me before I could manage a reply.

“I. Hate. Him.” I spit out each word.

“So do I,” Ysabeau said, taking back her phone.

“Baldwin is jealous of Matthew, that’s all,” Phoebe said. This time her reasonableness was irritating, and I felt the power rush through my body.

“I don’t feel right.” My anxiety spiked. “Is something wrong? Is someone following us?”

Gallowglass forced my head around. “You look hectic. How far are we from London?”

“London?” Leonard exclaimed. “You said Heathrow.” He wrenched the wheel to head in a different direction off the roundabout.

My stomach proceeded on our previous route. I retched, trying hold down the vomit. But it wasn’t possible.

“Diana?” Ysabeau said, holding back my hair and wiping at my mouth with her silk scarf. “What is it?”

“I must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me,” I said, suppressing another urge to vomit.

“I’ve felt funny for the last few days.”

“Funny how?” Gallowglass’s voice was urgent. “Do you have a headache, Diana? Are you having trouble breathing? Does your shoulder pain you?”

I nodded, the bile rising.

“You said she was anxious, Phoebe?”

“Of course Diana was anxious,” Ysabeau retorted. She dumped the contents of her purse onto the seat and held it under my chin. I couldn’t imagine throwing up into a Chanel bag, but at this point anything was possible. “She was preparing to do battle with Benjamin!”

“Anxiety is a symptom of some condition I can’t pronounce. Diana had leaflets about it in New Haven. You hold on, Auntie!” Gallowglass sounded frantic.

I wondered dimly why he sounded so alarmed before I vomited again, right into Ysabeau’s purse. “Hamish? We need a doctor. A vampire doctor. Something’s wrong with Diana.” Sol in Scorpio

When the sun is in the sign of Scorpio, expect death, feare, and poison.

During this dangerous time, beware of serpents and all other venomous creatures.

Scorpio rules over conception and childbirth, and children born under this sign are blessed with many gifts.

—Anonymous English Commonplace Book, c. 1590, Gonçalves MS 4890, f. 13v

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