فصل 06

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فصل 06

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6

Most evenings at Sept-Tours, dinner was a slapdash affair. All of us ate when—and what—we liked. But tonight was our last at the château, and Baldwin had commanded the entire family’s presence to give thanks that all of the other creatures were gone and to bid Sarah, Matthew, and me adieu.

I had been given the dubious honor of making the arrangements. If Baldwin expected to cow me, he was going to be disappointed. Having provided meals for the inhabitants of Sept-Tours in 1590, I could surely manage it in modern times. I’d sent out invitations to every vampire, witch, and warmblood still in residence and hoped for the best.

At the moment I was regretting my request that everyone dress formally for dinner. I looped Philippe’s pearls around my neck to accompany the golden arrow that I’d taken to wearing, but they skimmed the tops of my thighs and were too long to suit trousers. I returned the pearls to the velvet lined jewelry box that arrived from Ysabeau, along with a sparkling pair of earrings that brushed my jawline and caught the light. I stabbed the posts through the holes in my ears.

“I’ve never known you to fuss so much over your jewelry.” Matthew came out of the bathroom and studied my reflection in the mirror as he slid a pair of gold cuff links through the buttonholes at his wrists. They were emblazoned with the New College crest, a gesture of fealty to me and to one of his many alma maters.

“Matthew! You’ve shaved.” It had been some time since I’d seen him without his Elizabethan beard and mustache. Though Matthew’s appearance would be striking no matter the era or its fashions, this was the clean-cut, elegant man I’d fallen in love with last year.

“Since we’re going back to Oxford, I thought I might as well look the part of the university don,”

he said, his fingers moving over his smooth chin. “It’s a relief, actually. Beards really do itch like the devil.”

“I love having my handsome professor back, in place of my dangerous prince,” I said softly.

Matthew shrugged a charcoal-colored jacket made of fine wool over his shoulders and pulled at his pearl gray cuffs, looking adorably self-conscious. His smile was shy but became more appreciative when I stood up.

“You look beautiful,” he said with an admiring whistle. “With or without the pearls.”

“Victoire is a miracle worker,” I said. Victoire, my vampire seamstress and Alain’s wife, had made me a midnight blue pair of trousers and a matching silk blouse with an open neckline that skimmed the edges of my shoulders and fell in soft pleats around my hips. The full shirt hid my swelling midriff without making me look like I was wearing a maternity smock.

“You are especially irresistible in blue,” Matthew said.

“What a sweet talker you are.” I smoothed his lapels and adjusted his collar. It was completely unnecessary—the jacket fit perfectly, and not a stitch was out of place—but the gestures satisfied my proprietary feelings. I lifted onto my toes to kiss him.

Matthew returned my embrace with enthusiasm, threading his fingers through the coppery strands that fell down my back. My answering sigh was soft and satisfied.

“Oh, I like that sound.” Matthew deepened the kiss, and when I made a low, throaty hum, he grinned. “I like that one even more.”

“After a kiss like that, a woman should be excused if she’s late to dinner,” I said, my hands sliding between the waistband of his trousers and his neatly tucked shirt.

“Temptress.” Matthew nipped softly at my lip before pulling away.

I took a final look in the mirror. Given Matthew’s recent attentions, it was a good thing Victoire hadn’t curled and twisted my hair into a more elaborate arrangement, since I’d never have been able to set it to rights again. Happily, I was able to tighten the low ponytail and brush a few hairs back into place.

Finally I wove a disguising spell around me. The effect was like pulling sheer curtains over a sunny window. The spell dulled my coloring and softened my features. I had resorted to wearing it in London and had kept doing so when we returned to the present. No one would look at me twice now—except Matthew, who was scowling at the transformation.

“After we get to Oxford, I want you to stop wearing your disguising spell.” Matthew crossed his arms. “I hate that thing.”

“I can’t go around the university shimmering.”

“And I can’t go around killing people, even though I have blood rage,” Matthew said. “We all have our crosses to bear.”

“I thought you didn’t want anyone to know how much stronger my power is.” At this point I was worried that even casual observers would be drawn to me because of it. In another time, when there were more weavers about, I might not have been so conspicuous.

“I still don’t want Baldwin to know, or the rest of the de Clermonts. But please tell Sarah as soon as possible,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to hide your magic at home.”

“It’s annoying to weave a disguising spell in the morning and then take it off at night only to weave it again the next day. It’s easier to just keep it on.” That way I’d never be caught off guard by unexpected visitors or eruptions of undisciplined power.

“Our children are going to know who their mother truly is. They are not going to be brought up in the dark as you were.” Matthew’s tone brooked no argument.

“And is that sauce good for the gander as well as the goose?” I shot back. “Will the twins know their father has blood rage, or will you keep them in the dark like Marcus?”

“It’s not the same. Your magic is a gift. Blood rage is a curse.”

“It’s exactly the same, and you know it.” I took his hands in mine. “We’ve grown used to hiding what we’re ashamed of, you and I. It has to end now, before the children are born. Marcus knows about Benjamin and the blood rage. And after this latest crisis with the Congregation is resolved, we are going to sit down—as a family—and discuss the scion business.” Marcus was right: If forming a scion meant we wouldn’t have to obey Baldwin, it was worth considering.

“Forming a scion comes with responsibilities and obligations. You would be expected to behave like a vampire and function as my consort, helping me control the rest of the family.” Matthew shook his head. “You aren’t suited to that life, and I won’t ask it of you.”

“You’re not asking,” I replied. “I’m offering. And Ysabeau will teach me what I need to know.”

“Ysabeau will be the first to try to dissuade you. The pressure she was under as Philippe’s mate was inconceivable,” Matthew said. “When my father called Ysabeau his general, only the humans laughed.

Every vampire knew he was telling the gospel truth. Ysabeau forced, flattered, and cajoled us into doing Philippe’s bidding. He could run the whole world because Ysabeau managed his family with an iron fist.

Her decisions were absolute and her retribution swift. No one crossed her.”

“That sounds challenging but not impossible,” I replied mildly.

“It’s a full-time job, Diana.” Matthew’s irritation continued to climb. “Are you ready to give up being Professor Bishop in order to be Mrs. Clairmont?”

“Maybe it’s escaped your attention, but I already have.”

Matthew blinked.

“I haven’t advised a student, stood in front of a classroom, read an academic journal, or published an article in more than a year,” I continued.

“That’s temporary,” Matthew said sharply.

“Really?” My eyebrows shot up. “You’re ready to sacrifice your fellowship at All Souls in order to be Mr. Mom? Or are we going to hire a nanny to take care of our doubtless exceptionally challenging children while I go back to work?”

Matthew’s silence was telling. This issue had clearly never occurred to him. He’d simply assumed I would somehow juggle teaching and child care with no trouble at all. Typical, I thought, before plunging on.

“Except for a brief moment when you ran back to Oxford last year thinking you could play knight in shining armor and this moment of nerves, which I forgive you for, we’ve faced our troubles together.

What makes you think that would change?” I demanded.

“These aren’t your troubles,” Matthew replied.

“When I took you on, they became my troubles. We already share responsibility for our own children—why not yours as well?”

Matthew stared at me in silence for so long that I became concerned he’d been struck dumb.

“Never again,” he finally murmured with a shake of his head. “After today I will never make this mistake again.”

“The word ‘never’ is not in our family vocabulary, Matthew.” My anger with him boiled over and I dug my fingers into his shoulders. “Ysabeau says ‘impossible’ isn’t French? Well, ‘never’ is not Bishop Clairmont. Don’t ever use it again. As for mistakes, how dare you—”

Matthew stole my next words with a kiss. I pounded on his shoulders until my strength—and my interest in beating him to a pulp—subsided. He pulled away with a wry smile.

“You must try to allow me to finish my thoughts. Never”—he caught my fist before it made contact with his shoulder—“never again will I make the mistake of underestimating you.”

Matthew took advantage of my astonishment to kiss me more thoroughly than before.

“No wonder Philippe always looked so exhausted,” he said ruefully when he was through. “It’s very fatiguing pretending you’re in charge when your wife actually rules the roost.”

“Hmph,” I said, finding his analysis of the dynamics of our relationship somewhat suspect.

“While I have your attention, let me make myself clear: I want you to tell Sarah about being a weaver and what happened in London.” Matthew’s tone was stern. “After that, there will be no more disguising spells at home. Understood?”

“Promise.” I hoped he didn’t notice my crossed fingers. Alain was waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs, wearing his usual look of circumspection and a dark suit.

“Is everything ready?” I asked him.

“Of course,” he murmured, handing me the final menu.

My eyes darted over it. “Perfect. The place cards are arranged? The wine was brought up and decanted? And you found the silver cups?”

Alain’s mouth twitched. “All of your instructions were followed to the letter, Madame de Clermont.”

“There you are. I was beginning to think you two were going to leave me to the lions.”

Gallowglass’s efforts to dress for dinner had yielded only combed hair and something leather in place of his worn denims, though I supposed cowboy boots qualified as formalwear of a sort. He was, alas, still wearing a T-shirt. This particular garment instructed us to KEEP CALM AND HARLEY ON. It also revealed a staggering number of tattoos.

“Sorry about the shirt, Auntie. It is black,” Gallowglass apologized, tracking my glances. “Matthew sent over one of his shirts, but it split down the back when I did up the buttons.”

“You look very dashing.” I searched the hall for signs of our other guests. I found Corra instead, perched on the statue of a nymph like an oddly shaped hat. She’d spent the whole day flying around Sept-Tours and Saint-Lucien in exchange for promises of good behavior tomorrow while we were traveling.

“What were you two doing up there all this time?” Sarah emerged from the salon and gave Matthew a suspicious once-over. Like Gallowglass, Sarah took a limited view of formalwear. She was wearing a long lavender shirt that extended past her hips and a pair of ankle-length beige trousers. “We thought we were going to have to send up a search party.”

“Diana couldn’t find her shoes,” Matthew said smoothly. He slid an apologetic glance toward Victoire, who was standing by with a tray of drinks. She had, of course, left my shoes next to the bed. “That doesn’t sound like Victoire.” Sarah’s eyes narrowed.

Corra squawked and chattered her teeth in agreement, blowing her breath through her nose so that a rain of sparks fell down onto the stone floors. Thankfully, there was no rug.

“Honestly, Diana, couldn’t you have brought home something from Elizabethan England that wasn’t so much trouble?” Sarah looked at Corra with a sour expression.

“Like what? A snow globe?” I asked.

“First I was subjected to witchwater falling from the tower. Now there is a dragon in my hallway.

This is what comes of having witches in the family.” Ysabeau appeared in a pale silk suit that perfectly matched the color of the Champagne in the glass she took from Victoire. “There are days when I cannot help thinking the Congregation is right to keep us apart.”

“Drink, Madame de Clermont?” Victoire turned to me, rescuing me from the need to respond.

“Thank you,” I replied. Her tray held not only wine but also glasses filled with ice cubes containing blue borage flowers and mint leaves, topped up with sparkling water.

“Hello, sister.” Verin sauntered out of the salon behind Ysabeau wearing knee-high black boots and an exceedingly short, sleeveless black dress that left more than a few inches of her pearly white legs exposed, as well as the tip of the scabbard strapped to her thigh.

Wondering why Verin thought she needed to dine armed, I reached up with nervous fingers and drew the golden arrowhead from where it had fallen inside the neck of my blouse. It felt like a talisman, and it reminded me of Philippe. Ysabeau’s cold eyes latched on to it.

“I thought that arrowhead was lost forever,” she said quietly.

“Philippe gave it to me on my wedding day.” I started to lift the chain from my neck, thinking it must belong to her.

“No. Philippe wanted you to have it, and it was his to bestow.” Ysabeau gently closed my fingers around the worn metal. “You must keep this safe, my child. It is very old and not easily replaced.”

“Is dinner ready?” Baldwin boomed, arriving at my side with the suddenness of an earthquake and his usual disregard for a warmblood’s nervous system.

“It is,” Alain whispered in my ear.

“It is,” I said brightly, plastering a smile on my face.

Baldwin offered me his arm.

“Let’s go in, Matthieu,” Ysabeau murmured, taking her son by the hand.

“Diana?” Baldwin prompted, his arm still extended.

I stared up at him with loathing, ignored his proffered arm, and marched toward the door behind Matthew and Ysabeau.

“This is an order, not a request. Defy me and I will turn you and Matthew over to the Congregation without a second thought.” Baldwin’s voice was menacing.

For a few moments, I considered resisting and to hell with the consequences. If I did, Baldwin would win. Think, I reminded myself. And stay alive. Then I rested my hand atop his rather taking his elbow like a modern woman. Baldwin’s eyes widened slightly.

“Why so surprised, brother?” I demanded. “You’ve been positively feudal since the moment you arrived. If you’re determined to play the role of king, we should do it properly.”

“Very well, sister.” Baldwin’s fist tightened under my fingers. It was a reminder of his authority, as well as his power.

Baldwin and I entered the dining room as though it were the audience chamber at Greenwich and we were the king and queen of England. Fernando’s mouth twitched at the sight, and Baldwin glowered at him in response.

“Does that little cup have blood in it?” Sarah, seemingly oblivious to the tension, bent over and sniffed at Gallowglass’s plate.

“I did not know we still had these,” Ysabeau said, holding up one of the engraved silver beakers.

She gave me a smile as Marcus settled her into the spot to his left while Matthew rounded the table and did the honors for Phoebe, who sat opposite. “I had Alain and Marthe search for them. Philippe used them at our wedding feast.” I fingered the golden arrowhead. Courtly Ernst pulled out my chair. “Please. Everybody sit.”

“The table is beautifully arranged, Diana,” Phoebe said appreciatively. But she wasn’t looking at the crystal, the precious porcelain, or the fine silver. Instead Phoebe was taking careful note of the arrangement of creatures around the gleaming expanse of rosewood.

Mary Sidney had once told me that the order of table precedence at a banquet was no less complex than the arrangement of troops before a battle. I had observed the rules I’d learned in Elizabethan England as strictly as possible while minimizing the risk of outright war.

“Thank you, Phoebe, but it was all Marthe and Victoire’s doing. They picked out the china,” I said, deliberately misunderstanding her.

Verin and Fernando stared at the plates before them and exchanged a look. Marthe adored the eye popping Bleu Celeste pattern Ysabeau had commissioned in the eighteenth century, and Victoire’s first choice had been an ostentatious gilded service decorated with swans. I couldn’t imagine eating off either and had selected dignified black-and-white neoclassical place settings with the de Clermont ouroboros surrounding a crowned letter C.

“I believe we are in danger of being civilized,” Verin muttered. “And by warmbloods, too.”

“Not a moment too soon,” Fernando said, picking up his napkin and spreading it on his lap.

“A toast,” Matthew said, raising his glass. “To lost loved ones. May their spirits be with us tonight and always.”

There were murmurs of agreement and echoes of his first line as glasses were lifted. Sarah dashed a tear from her eye, and Gallowglass took her hand and gave it a gentle kiss.

“Another toast to the health of my sister Diana and to Marcus’s fiancée—the newest members of my family.” Baldwin raised his glass once more.

“Diana and Phoebe,” Marcus said, joining in.

Glasses were lifted around the table, although I thought for a moment that Matthew might direct the contents of his at Baldwin. Sarah took a hesitant sip of her sparkling wine and made a face.

“Let’s eat,” she said, putting the glass down hastily. “Emily hated it when the food got cold, and I don’t imagine Marthe will be any more forgiving.”

Dinner proceeded seamlessly. There was cold soup for the warmbloods and tiny silver beakers of blood for the vampires. The trout served for the fish course had been swimming along in the nearby river without a care in the world only a few hours before. Roast chicken came next out of deference to Sarah, who couldn’t abide the taste of game birds. Some at the table then had venison, though I abstained. At the end of the meal, Marthe and Alain put footed compotes draped with fruit on the table, along with bowls of nuts and platters of cheese.

“What an excellent meal,” Ernst said, sitting back in his chair and patting his lean stomach.

There was a gratifying amount of agreement around the room. Despite the rocky start, we’d enjoyed a perfectly pleasant evening as a family. I relaxed into my chair.

“Since we’re all here, we have some news to share,” Marcus said, smiling across the table at Phoebe. “As you know, Phoebe has agreed to marry me.”

“Have you set a date?” Ysabeau asked.

“Not yet. We’ve decided to do things the old-fashioned way, you see,” Marcus replied.

All the de Clermonts in the room turned to Matthew, their faces frozen.

“I’m not sure old-fashioned is an option,” Sarah commented drily, “given the fact the two of you are already sharing a room.”

“Vampires have different traditions, Sarah,” Phoebe explained. “Marcus asked if I would like to be with him for the rest of his life. I said yes.”

“Oh,” Sarah said with a puzzled frown.

“You can’t mean . . .” I trailed off, my eyes on Matthew.

“I’ve decided to become a vampire.” Phoebe’s eyes shone with happiness as she looked at her once-and-forever husband. “Marcus insists that I get used to that before we marry, so yes, our engagement may be a bit longer than we’d like.”

Phoebe sounded as though she were contemplating minor plastic surgery or a change of hairstyle, rather than a complete biological transformation.

“I don’t want her to have any regrets,” Marcus said softly, his face split into a wide grin.

“Phoebe will not become a vampire. I forbid it.” Matthew’s voice was quiet, but it seemed to echo in the crowded room.

“You don’t get a vote. This is our decision—Phoebe’s and mine,” Marcus said. Then he threw down the gauntlet. “And of course Baldwin’s. He is head of the family.”

Baldwin tented his fingers in front of his face as though considering the question, while Matthew looked at his son in disbelief. Marcus returned his father’s stare with a challenging one of his own.

“All I’ve ever wanted is a traditional marriage, like Grandfather and Ysabeau enjoyed,” Marcus said. “When it comes to love, you’re the family revolutionary, Matthew. Not me.”

“Even if Phoebe were to become a vampire, it could never be traditional. Because of the blood rage, she should never take blood from your heart vein,” Matthew said.

“I’m sure Grandfather took Ysabeau’s blood.” Marcus looked to his grandmother. “Isn’t that right?”

“Do you want to take that risk, knowing what we know now about blood-borne diseases?” Matthew said. “If you truly love her, Marcus, don’t change her.”

Matthew’s phone rang, and he reluctantly looked at the display. “It’s Miriam,” he said, frowning.

“She wouldn’t call at this hour unless something important had come up in the lab,” Marcus said.

Matthew switched on the phone’s speaker so the warmbloods could hear as well as the vampires and answered the call. “Miriam?”

“No, Father. It’s your son. Benjamin.”

The voice on the other end of the line was both alien and familiar, as the voices in nightmares often were. Ysabeau rose to her feet, her face the color of snow.

“Where is Miriam?” Matthew demanded.

“I don’t know,” Benjamin replied, his tone lazy. “Perhaps with someone named Jason. He’s called a few times. Or someone named Amira. She called twice. Miriam is your bitch, Father. Perhaps if you snap your fingers, she will come running.”

Marcus opened his mouth, and Baldwin hissed a warning that made his nephew’s jaws snap shut.

“I’m told there was trouble at Sept-Tours. Something about a witch,” Benjamin said.

Matthew refused to take the bait.

“The witch had discovered a de Clermont secret, I understand, but died before she could reveal it.

Such a shame.” Benjamin made a sound of mocking sympathy. “Was she anything like the one you were holding in thrall in Prague? A fascinating creature.”

Matthew swung his head around, automatically checking that I was safe.

“You always said I was the black sheep of the family, but we’re more alike than you want to admit,” Benjamin continued. “I’ve even come to share your appreciation for the company of witches.”

I felt the change in the air as the rage surged through Matthew’s veins. My skin prickled, and a dull throbbing started in my left thumb.

“Nothing you do interests me,” Matthew said coldly.

“Not even if it involves the Book of Life?” Benjamin waited for a few moments. “I know you’re looking for it. Does it have some relevance to your research? Difficult subject, genetics.”

“What do you want?” Matthew asked.

“Your attention.” Benjamin laughed.

Matthew fell silent once more.

“You’re not often at a loss for words, Matthew,” Benjamin said. “Happily, it’s your turn to listen. At last I’ve found a way to destroy you and the rest of the de Clermonts. Neither the Book of Life nor your pathetic vision of science can help you now.”

“I’m going to enjoy making a liar out of you,” Matthew promised.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Benjamin’s voice dropped, as though he were imparting a great secret. “You see, I know what the witches discovered all those years ago. Do you?”

Matthew’s eyes locked on mine.

“I’ll be in touch,” Benjamin said. The line went dead.

“Call the lab,” I said urgently, thinking only of Miriam.

Matthew’s fingers raced to make the call.

“It’s about time you phoned, Matthew. Exactly what am I supposed to be looking for in your DNA?

Marcus said to look for reproductive markers. What is that supposed to mean?” Miriam sounded sharp, annoyed, and utterly like herself. “Your in-box is overflowing, and I’m due a vacation, by the way.”

“Are you safe?” Matthew’s voice was hoarse.

“Yes. Why?”

“Do you know where your phone is?” Matthew asked.

“No. I left it somewhere today. A shop, probably. I’m sure whoever has it will call me.”

“He called me instead.” Matthew swore. “Benjamin has your phone, Miriam.”

The line went silent.

“Your Benjamin?” Miriam asked, horrified. “I thought he was dead.”

“Alas, he’s not,” Fernando said with real regret.

“Fernando?” His name came out of Miriam’s mouth with a whoosh of relief.

“Sim, Miriam. Tudo bem contigo?” Fernando asked gently.

“Thank God you’re there. Yes, yes, I’m fine.” Miriam’s voice shook, but she made a valiant effort to control it. “When was the last time anyone heard from Benjamin?”

“More than a century ago,” Baldwin said. “And yet Matthew has been home for only a few weeks, and Benjamin has already found a way to contact him.”

“That means Benjamin has been watching and waiting for him,” Miriam whispered. “Oh, God.”

“Was there anything about our research on your phone, Miriam?” Matthew asked. “Stored e-mails?

Data?”

“No. You know I delete my e-mails after I read them.” She paused. “My address book. Benjamin has your phone numbers now.”

“We’ll get new ones,” Matthew said briskly. “Don’t go home. Stay with Amira at the Old Lodge. I don’t want either of you alone. Benjamin mentioned Amira by name.” Matthew hesitated. “Jason, too.”

Miriam sucked in her breath. “Bertrand’s son?”

“It’s all right, Miriam,” Matthew said, trying to be soothing. I was glad she couldn’t see the expression in his eyes. “Benjamin noticed he’d called you a few times, that’s all.”

“Jason’s picture is in my photos. Now Benjamin will be able to recognize him!” Miriam said, clearly rattled. “Jason is all that I have left of my mate, Matthew. If anything were to happen to him—”

“I’ll make sure Jason is aware of the danger.” Matthew looked to Gallowglass, who immediately picked up his phone.

“Jace?” Gallowglass murmured as he left the room, shutting the door softly behind him.

“Why has Benjamin reappeared now?” Miriam asked numbly.

“I don’t know.” Matthew looked in my direction. “He knew about Emily’s death and mentioned our genetics research and the Book of Life.”

I could sense some crucial piece in a larger puzzle fall into place.

“Benjamin was in Prague in 1591,” I said slowly. “That must be where Benjamin heard about the Book of Life. Emperor Rudolf had it.”

Matthew gave me a warning look. When he spoke, his tone had turned brisk. “Don’t worry, Miriam. We’ll figure out what Benjamin’s after, I promise.” Matthew urged Miriam to be careful and told her he’d call her once we reached Oxford. After he hung up, the silence was deafening.

Gallowglass slipped back into the room. “Jace hasn’t seen anything out of the ordinary, but he promised to be on guard. So. What do we do now?” “We?” Baldwin said, brows arched.

“Benjamin is my responsibility,” Matthew said grimly.

“Yes, he is,” Baldwin agreed. “It’s high time you acknowledged that and dealt with the chaos you’ve caused, instead of hiding behind Ysabeau’s skirts and indulging in these intellectual fantasies about curing blood rage and discovering the secret of life.”

“You may have waited too long, Matthew,” Verin added. “It would have been easy to destroy Benjamin in Jerusalem after he was first reborn, but it won’t be now. Benjamin couldn’t have remained hidden for so long without having children and allies around him.”

“Matthew will manage somehow. He is the family assassin, isn’t he?” Baldwin said mockingly.

“I’ll help,” Marcus said to Matthew.

“You aren’t going anywhere, Marcus. You’ll stay here, at my side, and welcome the Congregation’s delegation. So will Gallowglass and Verin. We need a show of family solidarity.” Baldwin studied Phoebe closely. She returned his look with an indignant one of her own.

“I’ve considered your wish to become a vampire, Phoebe,” Baldwin reported when his inspection of her was complete, “and I’m prepared to support it, irrespective of Matthew’s feelings. Marcus’s desire for a traditional mate will demonstrate that the de Clermonts still honor the old ways. You will stay here, too.”

“If Marcus wishes me to do so, I would be delighted to remain here in Ysabeau’s house. Would that be all right, Ysabeau?” Phoebe used courtesy as both a weapon and a crutch, as only the British could.

“Of course,” Ysabeau said, sitting down at last. She gathered her composure and smiled weakly at her grandson’s fiancée. “You are always welcome, Phoebe.”

“Thank you, Ysabeau,” Phoebe replied, giving Baldwin a pointed look.

Baldwin turned his attention to me. “All that’s left to decide is what to do with Diana.”

“My wife—like my son—is my concern,” said Matthew.

“You cannot return to Oxford now.” Baldwin ignored his brother’s interruption. “Benjamin might still be there.”

“We’ll go to Amsterdam,” Matthew said promptly.

“Also out of the question,” Baldwin said. “The house is indefensible. If you cannot ensure her safety, Matthew, Diana will stay with my daughter Miyako.”

“Diana would hate Hachi?ji,” Gallowglass stated with conviction.

“Not to mention Miyako,” Verin murmured.

“Then Matthew had better do his duty.” Baldwin stood. “Quickly.” Matthew’s brother left the room so fast he seemed to vanish. Verin and Ernst quickly said their good-nights and followed. Once they’d gone, Ysabeau suggested we adjourn to the salon. There was an ancient stereo there and enough Brahms to muffle the lengthiest of conversations.

“What will you do, Matthew?” Ysabeau still looked shattered. “You cannot let Diana go to Japan.

Miyako would eat her alive.”

“We’re going to the Bishop house in Madison,” I said. It was hard to know who was most surprised by this revelation we were going to New York: Ysabeau, Matthew, or Sarah.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Matthew said cautiously.

“Em discovered something important here at Sept-Tours—something she’d rather die than reveal.”

I marveled at how calm I sounded.

“What makes you think so?” Matthew asked.

“Sarah said Em had been poking through things in the Round Tower, where all the de Clermont family records are kept. If she knew about the witch’s baby in Jerusalem, she would have wanted to know more,” I replied.

“Ysabeau told both of us about the baby,” Sarah said, looking at Ysabeau for confirmation. “Then we told Marcus. I still don’t see why this means we should go to Madison.”

“Because whatever it was that Emily discovered drove her to summon up spirits,” I said. “Sarah thinks Emily was trying to reach Mom. Maybe Mom knew something, too. If that’s true, we might be able to find out more about it in Madison.”

“That’s a lot of thinks, mights, and maybes, Auntie,” Gallowglass said with a frown.

I looked at my husband, who had not responded to my suggestion but was instead staring absently into his wineglass. “What do you think, Matthew?”

“We can go to Madison,” he said. “For now.”

“I’ll go with you,” Fernando murmured. “Keep Sarah company.” She smiled at him gratefully.

“There’s more going on here than meets the eye—and it involves Knox and Gerbert. Knox came to Sept-Tours because of a letter he’d found in Prague that mentioned Ashmole 782.” Matthew looked somber. “It can’t be a coincidence that Knox’s discovery of that letter coincides with Emily’s death and Benjamin’s reappearance.”

“You were in Prague. The Book of Life was in Prague. Benjamin was in Prague. Knox found something in Prague,” Fernando said slowly. “You’re right, Matthew. That’s more than a coincidence.

It’s a pattern.”

“There’s something else—something we haven’t told you about the Book of Life,” Matthew said.

“It’s written on parchment made from the skins of daemons, vampires, and witches.”

Marcus’s eyes widened. “That means it contains genetic information.”

“That’s our suspicion,” Matthew said. “We can’t let it fall into Knox’s hands—or, God forbid, Benjamin’s.”

“Finding the Book of Life and its missing pages still has to be our top priority,” I agreed.

“Not only could it tell us about creature origins and evolution, it may help us understand blood rage,” Marcus said. “But we might not be able to gather any useful genetic information from it.”

“The Bishop house returned the page with the chemical wedding to Diana shortly after we came back,” Matthew said. The house was known among the area’s witches for its magical misbehavior and often took cherished items for safekeeping, only to restore them to their owners at a later date. “If we can get to a lab, we could test it.”

“Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to talk your way into state-of-the-art genetics laboratories.” Marcus shook his head. “And Baldwin is right. You can’t go to Oxford.”

“Maybe Chris could find you something at Yale. He’s a biochemist, too. Would his lab have the right equipment?” My understanding of laboratory practices petered out around 1715.

“I’m not analyzing a page from the Book of Life in a college laboratory,” Matthew said. “Working with ancient DNA is exacting. I’ll look for a private laboratory. There must be something I can hire out.”

“Ancient DNA is fragile. And we’ll need more than a single page to work with if we want reliable results,” Marcus warned.

“Another reason to get Ashmole 782 out of the Bodleian,” I said. “It’s safe where it is, Diana,”

Matthew assured me.

“For the moment,” I replied.

“Aren’t there two more loose pages out there in the world?” Marcus said. “We could look for them first.”

“Maybe I can help,” Phoebe offered.”

“Thanks, Phoebe.” I’d seen Marcus’s mate in research mode in the Round Tower. I’d be happy to have her skills at my disposal.

“And Benjamin?” Ysabeau asked. “Do you know what he meant when he said he had come to share your appreciation for witches, Matthew?”

Matthew shook his head.

My witch’s sixth sense told me that finding out the answer to Ysabeau’s question might well be the key to everything. Sol in Leo

She who is born when the sun is in Leo shall be naturally subtle and witty, and desirous of learning.

Whatsoever she heareth or seeth if it seems to comprise any difficulty of matter immediately will she desire to know it.

The magic sciences will do her great stead. She shall be familiar to and well beloved by princes.

Her first child shall be a female, and the second a male.

During her life she shall sustain many troubles and perils. —Anonymous English Commonplace Book, c. 1590, Gonçalves MS 4890, f. 12r

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