فصل 05

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فصل 05

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5

After two days with Baldwin in residence at Sept-Tours, I not only understood why Matthew had built a tower onto the house, I wished he’d located it in another province—if not another country.

Baldwin made it clear that no matter who legally owned the château, Sept-Tours was his home. He presided over every meal. Alain saw him first thing each morning to receive his orders and periodically throughout the day to report on his progress. The mayor of Saint-Lucien came to call and sat in the salon with him, taking about local affairs. Baldwin examined Marthe’s provisioning of the household and grudgingly acknowledged it to be outstanding. He also entered rooms without knocking, took Marcus and Matthew to task for slights real and imagined, and needled Ysabeau about everything from the salon decor to the dust in the great hall.

Nathaniel, Sophie, and Margaret were the first lucky creatures to leave the château. They said a tearful good-bye to Marcus and Phoebe and promised to be in touch once they were settled in Australia.

Baldwin had urged them to go to Australia and put on a show of solidarity with Nathaniel’s mother, who was not only a daemon but also a member of the Congregation. Nathaniel had protested at first, arguing that they would be fine back in North Carolina, but cooler heads—Phoebe’s in particular—had prevailed.

When questioned later as to why she’d backed Baldwin in this matter, Phoebe explained that Marcus was worried about Margaret’s safety and she would not permit Marcus to take on the responsibility for the baby’s well-being. Therefore Nathaniel was going to do what Baldwin thought best. Phoebe’s expression warned me that if I had a different opinion on the matter, I could keep it to myself.

Even after this initial wave of departures, Sept-Tours felt crowded with Baldwin, Matthew, and Marcus in it—not to mention Verin, Ysabeau, and Gallowglass. Fernando was less obtrusive, spending much of his time with Sarah or Hamish. We all found hideaways where we could retreat for some much needed peace and quiet. So it was something of a surprise when Ysabeau burst into Matthew’s study with an announcement about Marcus’s present whereabouts.

“Marcus is in the Round Tower with Sarah,” Ysabeau said, two spots of color brightening her usually pale complexion. “Phoebe and Hamish are with them. They’ve found the old family pedigrees.”

I couldn’t imagine why this news had Matthew flinging down his pen and leaping from his chair.

When Ysabeau caught my curious look, she gave me a sad smile in return.

“Marcus is about to find out some of his father’s secrets,” Ysabeau explained.

That got me moving, too.

I had never set foot in the Round Tower, which stood opposite Matthew’s and was separated from it by the main part of the château. As soon as we reached it, I comprehended why no one had included it on my château tour.

A round metal grate was sunk into the center of the tower floor. A familiar, damp smell of age, death, and despair emanated from the deep hole it covered.

“An oubliette,” I said, temporarily frozen by the sight. Matthew heard me and clattered back down the stairs.

“Philippe built it for a prison. He seldom used it.” Matthew’s forehead creased with worry.

“Go,” I said, waving him and the bad memories away. “We’ll be right behind you.”

The oubliette on the Round Tower’s ground floor was a place of forgetting, but the tower’s second floor was a place of remembering. It was stuffed with boxes, papers, documents, and artifacts. This must be the de Clermont family archives.

“No wonder Emily spent so much time up here.” Sarah was bent over a long, partially unrolled scroll on a battered worktable, Phoebe at her side. Half a dozen more scrolls lay on the table, waiting to be studied. “She was a genealogy nut.”

“Hi!” Marcus waved happily from a high catwalk that circled the room and supported still more boxes and stacks. The dire revelations that Ysabeau feared apparently hadn’t happened yet. “Hamish was just about to come and get you.”

Marcus vaulted over the catwalk railing and landed softly next to Phoebe. With no ladder or staircase in sight, there was no way to get to that level of storage except to climb using the rough stones for handholds and no way to get down except to jump. Vampire security at its finest.

“What are you looking for?” Matthew said with just the right touch of curiosity. Marcus would never suspect that he had been tipped off.

“A way to get Baldwin off our backs, of course,” Marcus said. He handed a worn notebook to Hamish. “There you go. Godfrey’s notes on vampire law.”

Hamish turned the pages, clearly searching for some useful piece of legal information. Godfrey had been the youngest of Philippe’s three male children, known for his formidable, devious intellect. A sense of foreboding began to take root.

“And have you found it?” Matthew said, glancing at the scroll.

“Come and see.” Marcus beckoned us toward the table.

“You’ll love this, Diana,” Sarah said, adjusting her reading glasses. “Marcus said it’s a de Clermont family tree. It looks really old.”

“It is.” The genealogy was medieval, with brightly colored likenesses of Philippe and Ysabeau standing in separate square boxes at the top of the page. Their hands were clasped across the space that divided them. Ribbons of color connected them to the roundels below. Each bubble contained a name.

Some were familiar to me—Hugh, Baldwin, Godfrey, Matthew, Verin, Freyja, Stasia. Many were not.

“Twelfth century. French. In the style of the workshop at Saint-Sever,” Phoebe said, confirming my sense of the age of the work.

“It all started when I complained to Gallowglass about Baldwin’s interference. He told me that Philippe was nearly as bad and that when Hugh got fed up, he struck out on his own with Fernando,”

Marcus explained. “Gallowglass called their family a scion and said sometimes they were the only way to keep the peace.”

The look of suppressed fury on Matthew’s face suggested that peace was the last thing Gallowglass was going to enjoy once his uncle found him.

“I remembered reading something about scions back when Grandfather hoped I would turn to law and take on Godfrey’s old duties,” Marcus said.

“Found it,” Hamish said, his finger tapping against the page.

‘Any male with full-blooded children of his own can establish a scion, provided he has the approval of his sire or the head of his clan. The new scion will be considered a branch of the original family, but in all other ways the new scion’s sire shall exercise his will and power freely.’

“That sounds straightforward enough, but since Godfrey was involved, there must be more to it.”

“Forming a scion—a distinct branch of the de Clermont family under your authority—will solve all of our problems!” Marcus said.

“Not all clan leaders welcome scions, Marcus,” Matthew warned.

“Once a rebel, always a rebel,” Marcus said with a shrug. “You knew that when you made me.”

“And Phoebe?” Matthew’s brows lifted. “Does your fiancée share your revolutionary sentiments?

She might not like the idea of being cast out of Sept-Tours without a penny after all of your assets are seized by your uncle.”

“What do you mean?” Marcus said, uneasy.

“Hamish can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the next section of Godfrey’s book lays out the penalties associated with establishing a scion without your sire’s permission,” Matthew replied.

“You’re my sire,” Marcus said, his chin set in stubborn lines.

“Only in the biological sense: I provided you with my blood so you could be reborn a vampire.”

Matthew rammed his hands through his hair, a sign that his own frustration was mounting. “And you know how I detest the term ‘sire’ used in that context. I consider myself your father—not your blood donor.”

“I’m asking you to be more than that,” Marcus said. “Baldwin is wrong about the covenant and wrong about the Congregation. If you establish a scion, we could chart our own path, make our own decisions.”

“Is there some problem with you establishing your own scion, Matt?” Hamish asked. “Now that Diana’s pregnant, I would think you’d be eager to get out from under Baldwin’s thumb.”

“It’s not as simple as you think,” Matthew told him. “And Baldwin may have reservations.”

“What’s this, Phoebe?” Sarah’s finger pointed to a rough patch in the parchment under Matthew’s name. She was more interested in the genealogy than the legal complexities.

Phoebe took a closer look. “It’s an erasure of some sort. There used to be another roundel there. I can almost make out the name. Beia—oh, it must be Benjamin. They’ve used common medieval abbreviations and substituted an i for a j.”

“They scratched out the circle but forgot to get rid of the little red line that connects him to Matthew. Based on that, this Benjamin is one of Matthew’s children,” Sarah said.

The mention of Benjamin’s name made my blood run cold. Matthew did have a son of that name.

He was a terrifying creature, one whose madness was of unfathomable depth.

Phoebe unrolled another scroll. This genealogy looked ancient, too, though not quite as old as the one we’d all been studying. She frowned.

“This looks to be from a century later.” Phoebe put the parchment on the table. “There’s no erasure on this one and no mention of a Benjamin either. He just disappears without a trace.”

“Who’s Benjamin?” asked Marcus, though I couldn’t imagine why. Surely he must know the identities of Matthew’s other children.

“Benjamin does not exist.” Ysabeau’s expression was guarded, and she had chosen her words carefully. My brain tried to process the implications of Marcus’s question and Ysabeau’s odd response. If Matthew’s son didn’t know about Benjamin . . .

“Is that why his name is erased?” Phoebe asked. “Did someone make a mistake?”

“Yes, he was a mistake,” Matthew said, his voice hollow.

“And Benjamin does exist,” I said, meeting Matthew’s gray-green eyes. They were shuttered and remote. “I met him in sixteenth-century Prague.”

“Is he alive now?” Hamish asked.

“I don’t know. I thought he was dead shortly after I made him in the twelfth century,” Matthew replied. “Hundreds of years later, Philippe heard of someone who fit Benjamin’s description, but he dropped out of sight again before we could be sure. There were rumors of Benjamin in the nineteenth century, but I never saw any proof.”

“I don’t understand,” Marcus said. “Even if he’s dead, Benjamin should still appear in the genealogy.”

“I disavowed him. So did Philippe.” Matthew closed his eyes rather than meet our curious looks.

“Just as a creature can be made part of your family with a blood vow, he can be formally cast out to fend for himself without family or the protection of vampire law. You know how important a pedigree is among vampires, Marcus. Not having an acknowledged bloodline is as serious a stain among vampires as being spellbound is for witches.”

It was becoming clearer to me why Baldwin might not want me included in the de Clermont family tree as one of Philippe’s children.

“So Benjamin is dead,” Hamish said. “Legally at least.”

“And the dead sometimes rise up to haunt us,” Ysabeau murmured, earning a dark look from her son.

“I can’t imagine what Benjamin did to make you turn away from your own blood, Matthew.”

Marcus still sounded confused. “I was a holy terror in my early years, and you didn’t abandon me.”

“Benjamin was one of the German crusaders who marched with Count Emicho’s army toward the Holy Land. When they were beaten in Hungary, he joined up with my brother Godfrey’s forces,”

Matthew began. “Benjamin’s mother was the daughter of a prominent merchant in the Levant, and he had learned some Hebrew and even Arabic because of the family’s business operations. He was a valuable ally—at first.”

“So Benjamin was Godfrey’s son?” Sarah asked.

“No,” Matthew replied. “He was mine. Benjamin began to trade in de Clermont family secrets. He swore he would expose the existence of creatures—not just vampires but witches and daemons—to the humans in Jerusalem, along with the information that I was afflicted with blood rage. Making him a vampire was the only way I could ensure his silence.”

“Blood rage?” Marcus looked at his father incredulously. “That’s impossible. It turns you into a cold-blooded killer, without reason or compassion. There hasn’t been a case of it for nearly two millennia. You told me so yourself.”

“I lied.” Matthew’s voice cracked at the admission.

“You can’t have blood rage, Matt,” Hamish said. “There was a mention of it in the family papers.

Its symptoms include blind fury, the inability to reason, and an overwhelming instinct to kill. You’ve never shown any sign of the disease.”

“I’ve learned to control it,” Matthew said. “Most of the time.”

“Thank God for that. If the Congregation were to find out, there would be a price on your head.

According to what I’ve read here, other creatures would have carte blanche to destroy you,” Hamish observed.

“Not just me.” Matthew’s glance flickered over my rounding abdomen. “My children, too.”

Sarah’s expression was stricken. “The babies . . .”

“And Marcus?” Phoebe’s knuckles showed white on the edge of the table though her voice was calm. “Marcus is only a carrier,” Matthew tried to reassure her. “The symptoms manifest immediately, and he’s never shown any signs of them.”

“And how did Marcus contract blood rage? Someone he fed from?” Phoebe asked.

“It’s genetic. I thought once that it was a virus, but it was in my blood and I passed it on to Marcus the moment I made him.” Matthew looked his son squarely in the eye. “When I made you, I genuinely believed that I was cured. It had been almost a century since I’d had an episode. It was the Age of Reason. In our pride we believed that all sorts of past evils had been eradicated, from smallpox to superstition. Then you went to New Orleans.”

“My own children.” Marcus looked wild, and then understanding dawned. “You and Juliette Durand came to the city, and they started turning up dead. You killed them because of their blood rage.”

“Your father had no choice,” Ysabeau said. “The Congregation knew there was trouble in New Orleans. Philippe ordered Matthew to deal with it before the vampires found out the cause. Had Matthew refused, you all would have died.”

“The other vampires on the Congregation were convinced that the old scourge of blood rage had returned,” Matthew said. “They wanted to raze the city and burn it out of existence, but I argued that the madness was a result of youth and inexperience, not blood rage. I was supposed to kill them all. I was supposed to kill you, too, Marcus.”

Marcus looked surprised. Ysabeau did not.

“Philippe was furious with me, but I destroyed only those who were symptomatic. I killed them quickly, without pain or fear,” Matthew said, his voice dead. I hated the secrets he kept and the lies he told to cover them up, but my heart hurt for him nonetheless. “I explained away the rest of my grandchildren’s excesses however I could—poverty, inebriation, greed. Then I took responsibility for what happened in New Orleans, resigned my seat on the Congregation, and swore that you would make no more children until you were older and wiser.”

“You told me I was a failure—a disgrace to the family.” Marcus was hoarse with suppressed emotion.

“I had to make you stop. I didn’t know what else to do.” Matthew confessed his sins without asking for forgiveness.

“Who else knows your secret, Matthew?” Sarah asked.

“Verin, Baldwin, Stasia, and Freyja. Fernando and Gallowglass. Miriam. Marthe. Alain.” Matthew extended his fingers one by one as the names tumbled from his mouth. “So did Hugh, Godfrey, Hancock, Louisa, and Louis.”

Marcus looked at his father bitterly. “I want to know everything. From the beginning.”

“Matthew cannot tell you the beginning of this tale,” Ysabeau said softly. “Only I can.”

“No, Maman,” Matthew said, shaking his head. “That’s not necessary.”

“Of course it is,” Ysabeau said. “I brought the disease into the family. I am a carrier, like Marcus.”

“You?” Sarah looked stunned.

“The disease was in my sire. He believed it was a great blessing for a lamia to carry his blood, for it made you truly terrifying and nearly impossible to kill.” The contempt and loathing with which Ysabeau said the word “sire” made me understand why Matthew disliked the term.

“There was constant warfare between vampires then, and any possible advantage was seized. But I was a disappointment,” Ysabeau continued. “My maker’s blood did not work in me as he had hoped, though the blood rage was strong in his other children. As a punishment—”

Ysabeau stopped and drew a shaky breath.

“As a punishment,” she repeated slowly, “I was locked in a cage to provide my brothers and sisters with a source of entertainment, as well as a creature on whom they could practice killing. My sire did not expect me to survive.”

Ysabeau touched her fingers to her lips, unable for a moment to go on.

“I lived for a very long time in that tiny, barred prison—filthy, starving, wounded inside and out, unable to die though I longed for it. But the more I fought and the longer I survived, the more interesting I became. My sire—my father—took me against my will, as did my brothers. Everything that was done to me stemmed from a morbid curiosity to see what might finally tame me. But I was fast—and smart.

My sire began to think I might be useful to him after all.”

“That’s not the story Philippe told,” Marcus said numbly. “Grandfather said he rescued you from a fortress—that your maker had kidnapped you and made you a vampire against your will because you were so beautiful he couldn’t bear to let anyone else have you. Philippe said your sire made you to serve as his wife.”

“All of that was the truth—just not the whole truth.” Ysabeau met Marcus’s eyes squarely.

“Philippe did find me in a fortress and rescued me from that terrible place. But I was no beauty then, no matter what romantic stories your grandfather told later. I’d shorn my head with a broken shell that a bird had dropped on the window ledge, so that they couldn’t use my hair to hold me down. I still have the scars, though they are hidden now. One of my legs was broken. An arm, too, I think,” Ysabeau said vaguely. “Marthe will remember.”

No wonder Ysabeau and Marthe had treated me so tenderly after La Pierre. One had been tortured, and the other had put her back together again after the ordeal. But Ysabeau’s tale was not yet finished.

“When Philippe and his soldiers came, they were the answer to my prayers,” Ysabeau said. “They killed my sire straightaway. Philippe’s men demanded all of my sire’s children be put to death so that the evil poison in our blood would not spread. One morning they came and took my brothers and sisters away. Philippe kept me behind. He would not let them touch me. Your grandfather lied and said that I had not been infected with my maker’s disease—that someone else had made me and I had killed only to survive. There was no one left to dispute it.”

Ysabeau looked at her grandson. “It is why Philippe forgave Matthew for not killing you, Marcus, though he had ordered him to do so. Philippe knew what it was to love someone too much to see him perish unjustly.”

But Ysabeau’s words did not lift the shadows from Marcus’s eyes. “We kept my secret—Philippe and Marthe and I—for centuries. I made many children before we came to France, and I thought that blood rage was a horror we had left behind. My children all lived long lives and never showed a trace of the illness. Then came Matthew . . .” Ysabeau trailed off. A drop of red formed along her lower lid. She blinked away the blood tear before it could fall.

“By the time I made Matthew, my sire was nothing more than a dark legend among vampires. He was held up as an example of what would happen to us if we gave in to our desires for blood and power.

Any vampire even suspected of having blood rage was immediately put down, as was his sire and any offspring,” Ysabeau said dispassionately. “But I could not kill my child, and I would not let anyone else do so either. It was not Matthew’s fault that he was sick.”

“It was no one’s fault, Maman,” Matthew said. “It’s a genetic disease—one that we still don’t understand. Because of Philippe’s initial ruthlessness, and all the family has done to hide the truth, the Congregation doesn’t know that the sickness is in my veins.”

“They may not know for sure,” Ysabeau warned, “but some of the Congregation suspect it. There were vampires who believed that your sister’s illness was not madness, as we claimed, but blood rage.”

“Gerbert,” I whispered.

Ysabeau nodded. “Domenico, too.”

“Don’t borrow trouble,” Matthew said, trying to comfort her. “I’ve sat at the council table while the disease was discussed, and no one had the slightest inkling I was afflicted with it. So long as they believe blood rage is all but extinct, our secret is safe.”

“I’m afraid I have bad news, then. The Congregation believes blood rage is back,” Marcus said.

“What do you mean?” Matthew asked.

“The vampire murders,” Marcus explained.

I’d seen the press clippings Matthew had collected back in his Oxford laboratory last year. The mysterious killings were widespread and had taken place over a number of months. Investigators had been stymied, and the murders had captured human attention. “The killings seemed to stop this winter, but the Congregation is still dealing with the sensational headlines,” Marcus continued. “The perpetrator was never caught, so the Congregation is braced for the killings to resume at any moment. Gerbert told me so in April, when I made my initial request that the covenant be repealed.”

“No wonder Baldwin is reluctant to acknowledge me as his sister,” I said. “With all the attention Philippe’s blood vow would bring to the de Clermont family, someone might start asking questions. You might all become murder suspects.”

“The Congregation’s official pedigree contains no mention of Benjamin. What Phoebe and Marcus have discovered are only family copies,” Ysabeau said. “Philippe said there was no need to share Matthew’s . . . indiscretion. When Benjamin was made, the Congregation’s pedigrees were in Constantinople. We were in far away Outremer, struggling to hold our territory in the Holy Land. Who would know if we left him out?”

“But surely other vampires in the Crusader colonies knew about Benjamin?” Hamish asked.

“Very few of those vampires survive. Even fewer would dare to question Philippe’s official story,”

Matthew said. Hamish looked skeptical.

“Hamish is right to worry. When Matthew’s marriage to Diana becomes common knowledge—not to mention Philippe’s blood vow and the existence of the twins—some who have remained silent about my past may not be willing to do so any longer,” Ysabeau said.

This time it was Sarah who repeated the name we were all thinking. “Gerbert.”

Ysabeau nodded. “Someone will remember Louisa’s escapades. And then another vampire may recall what happened among Marcus’s children in New Orleans. Gerbert might remind the Congregation that once, long ago, Matthew showed signs of madness, though he seemed to grow out of them. The de Clermonts will be vulnerable as they have never been before.”

“And one or both of the twins might have the disease,” Hamish said. “A six-month-old killer is a terrifying prospect. No creature would blame the Congregation for taking action.”

“Perhaps a witch’s blood will somehow prevent the disease from taking root,” Ysabeau said.

“Wait.” Marcus’s face was still as he concentrated. “When exactly was Benjamin made?”

“In the early twelfth century,” Matthew replied, frowning. “After the First Crusade.”

“And when did the witch in Jerusalem give birth to a vampire baby?”

“What vampire baby?” Matthew’s voice echoed through the room like a gunshot.

“The one that Ysabeau told us about in January,” Sarah said. “It turns out you and Diana aren’t the only special creatures in the world. This has all happened before.”

“I’ve always thought it was nothing more than a rumor spread to turn creatures against one another,” Ysabeau said, her voice shaking. “But Philippe believed the tale. And now Diana has come home pregnant. . . .”

“Tell me, Maman,” Matthew said. “Everything.”

“A vampire raped a witch in Jerusalem. She conceived his child,” Ysabeau said, the words coming out in a rush. “We never knew who the vampire was. The witch refused to identify him.”

Only weavers could carry a vampire’s child—not ordinary witches. Goody Alsop had told me as much in London.

“When?” Matthew’s tone was hushed.

“After the First Crusade.” Ysabeau looked thoughtful. “Just before the Congregation was formed and the covenant was signed.”

“Just after I made Benjamin,” Matthew said.

“Perhaps Benjamin inherited more than blood rage from you,” Hamish said.

“And the child?” Matthew asked.

“Died of starvation,” Ysabeau whispered. “The babe refused his mother’s breast.”

Matthew shot to his feet.

“Many newborns will not take their mother’s milk,” Ysabeau protested.

“Did the baby drink blood?” Matthew demanded. “The mother claimed she did.” Ysabeau winced when Matthew’s fist struck the table. “But Philippe was not sure. By the time he held the child, she was on the brink of death and would not take any nourishment at all.”

“Philippe should have told me about this when he met Diana.” Matthew pointed an accusatory finger at Ysabeau. “Failing that, you should have told me when I first brought her home.”

“And if we all did what we should, we would wake to find ourselves in paradise,” Ysabeau said, her temper rising.

“Stop it. Both of you. You can’t hate your father or Ysabeau for something you’ve done yourself, Matthew,” Sarah observed quietly. “Besides, we have enough problems in the present without worrying about what happened in the past.”

Sarah’s words immediately lowered the tension in the room.

“What are we going to do?” Marcus asked his father.

Matthew seemed surprised by the question.

“We’re a family,” Marcus said, “whether the Congregation recognizes us or not, just as you and Diana are husband and wife no matter what those idiots in Venice think.”

“We’ll let Baldwin have his way—for now,” Matthew replied after thinking for a moment. “I’ll take Sarah and Diana to Oxford. If what you say is true, and another vampire—possibly Benjamin— fathered a child on a witch, we need to know how and why some witches and some vampires can reproduce.”

“I’ll let Miriam know,” Marcus said. “She’ll be glad to have you back in the lab again. While you’re there, you can try to figure out how blood rage works.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing all these years?” Matthew asked softly.

“Your research,” I said, thinking of Matthew’s study of creature evolution and genetics. “You haven’t been looking solely for creature origins. You’ve been trying to figure out how blood rage is contracted and how to cure it.”

“No matter what else Miriam and I are doing in the lab, we’re always hoping to make some discovery that will lead to a cure,” Matthew admitted.

“What can I do?” Hamish asked, capturing Matthew’s attention.

“You’ll have to leave Sept-Tours, too. I need you to study the covenant—whatever you can find out about early Congregation debates, anything that might shed light on what happened in Jerusalem between the end of the First Crusade and the date the covenant became law.” Matthew looked about the Round Tower. “It’s too bad you can’t work here.”

“I’ll help with that research if you’d like,” said Phoebe.

“Surely you’ll go back to London,” Hamish said.

“I will stay here, with Marcus,” Phoebe said, her chin rising. “I’m not a witch or a daemon. There’s no Congregation rule that bars me from remaining at Sept-Tours.”

“These restrictions are only temporary,” Matthew said. “Once the members of the Congregation satisfy themselves that all is as it should be at Sept-Tours, Gerbert will take Ysabeau to his house in the Cantal. After that drama Baldwin will soon grow bored and return to New York. Then we can all meet back here. Hopefully by then we’ll know more and can make a better plan.”

Marcus nodded, though he didn’t look pleased. “Of course, if you formed a scion . . .”

“Impossible,” Matthew said.

“‘Impossible’ n’est pas français,” Ysabeau said, her tone as tart as vinegar. “And it certainly was not a word in your father’s vocabulary.”

“The only thing that sounds out of the question to me is remaining within Baldwin’s clan and under his direct control,” Marcus said, nodding at his grandmother.

“After all the secrets that have been exposed today, you still think my name and blood are something you should be proud to possess?” Matthew asked Marcus.

“Rather you than Baldwin,” Marcus said, meeting his father’s gaze.

“I don’t know how you can bear to have me in your presence,” Matthew said softly, turning away, “never mind forgive me.”

“I haven’t forgiven you,” Marcus said evenly. “Find the cure for blood rage. Fight to have the covenant repealed, and refuse to support a Congregation that upholds such unjust laws. Form a scion, so that we can live without Baldwin breathing down our necks.”

“And then?” Matthew said, a sardonic lift to his eyebrow.

“Then not only will I forgive you, I’ll be the first to offer you my allegiance,” Marcus said, “not only as my father but as my sire.”

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