Stil trying to shake the ice from my shoulders left by Matthew's stare, I opened the door to my rooms. Inside, the answering machine greeted me with a flashing red "13."
There were nine additional voice-mail messages on my mobile. Al of them were from Sarah and reflected an escalating concern about what her sixth sense told her was happening in Oxford.
Unable to face my al -too-prescient aunts, I turned down the volume on the answering machine, turned off the ringers on both phones, and climbed wearily into bed.
Next morning, when I passed through the porter's lodge for a run, Fred waved a stack of message slips at me.
"I'l pick them up later," I cal ed, and he flashed his thumb in acknowledgment.
My feet pounded on familiar dirt paths through the fields and marshes north of the city, the exercise helping to keep at bay both my guilt over not cal ing my aunts and the memory of Matthew's cold face.
Back in col ege I col ected the messages and threw them into the trash. Then I staved off the inevitable cal home with cherished weekend rituals: boiling an egg, brewing tea, gathering laundry, piling up the drifts of papers that littered every surface. After I'd wasted most of the morning, there was nothing left to do but cal New York. It was early there, but there was no chance that anyone was stil in bed.
"What do you think you're up to, Diana?" Sarah demanded in lieu of hel o.
"Good morning, Sarah." I sank into the armchair by the defunct fireplace and crossed my feet on a nearby bookshelf. This was going to take awhile.
"It is not a good morning," Sarah said tartly. "We've been beside ourselves. What's going on?"
Em picked up the extension.
"Hi, Em," I said, recrossing my legs. This was going to take a long while.
"Is that vampire bothering you?" Em asked anxiously.
"We know you've been spending time with vampires and daemons," my aunt broke in impatiently. "Have you lost your mind, or is something seriously wrong?"
"I haven't lost my mind, and nothing's wrong." The last bit was a lie, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
"Do you real y think you're going to fool us? You cannot lie to a fel ow witch!" Sarah exclaimed. "Out with it, Diana."
So much for that plan.
"Let her speak, Sarah," Em said. "We trust Diana to make the right decisions, remember?"
The ensuing silence led me to believe that this had been a matter of some controversy.
Sarah drew in her breath, but Em cut her off. "Where were you last night?"
"Yoga." There was no way of squirming out of this inquisition, but it was to my advantage to keep al responses brief and to the point.
"Yoga?" Sarah asked, incredulous. "Why are you doing yoga with those creatures? You know it's dangerous to mix with daemons and vampires."
"The class was led by a witch!" I became indignant, seeing Amira's serene, lovely face before me.
"This yoga class, was it his idea?" Em asked.
"Yes. It was at Clairmont's house."
Sarah made a disgusted sound.
"Told you it was him," Em muttered to my aunt. She directed her next words to me. "I see a vampire standing between you and . . . something. I'm not sure what, exactly."
"And I keep tel ing you, Emily Mather, that's nonsense.
Vampires don't protect witches." Sarah's voice was crisp with certainty.
"This one does," I said.
"What?" Em asked and Sarah shouted.
"He has been for days." I bit my lip, unsure how to tel the story, then plunged in. "Something happened at the library. I cal ed up a manuscript, and it was bewitched."
There was silence.
"A bewitched book." Sarah's voice was keen with interest. "Was it a grimoire?" She was an expert on grimoires, and her most cherished possession was the ancient volume of spel s that had been passed down in the Bishop family.
"I don't think so," I said. "Al that was visible were alchemical il ustrations."
"What else?" My aunt knew that the visible was only the beginning when it came to bewitched books.
"Someone's put a spel on the manuscript's text. There were faint lines of writing-layers upon layers of them- moving underneath the surface of the pages."
In New York, Sarah put down her coffee mug with a sharp sound. "Was this before or after Matthew Clairmont appeared?"
"Before," I whispered.
"You didn't think this was worth mentioning when you told us you'd met a vampire?" Sarah did nothing to disguise her anger. "By the goddess, Diana, you can be so reckless.
How was this book bewitched? And don't tel me you don't know."
"It smel ed funny. It felt . . . wrong. At first I couldn't lift the book's cover. I put my palm on it." I turned my hand over on my lap, recal ing the sense of instant recognition between me and the manuscript, half expecting to see the shimmer that Matthew had mentioned.
"And?" Sarah asked.
"It tingled against my hand, then sighed and . . . relaxed. I could feel it, through the leather and the wooden boards."
"How did you manage to unravel this spel ? Did you say any words? What were you thinking?" Sarah's curiosity was now thoroughly roused.
"There was no witchcraft involved, Sarah. I needed to look at the book for my research, and I laid my palm flat on it, that's al ." I took a deep breath. "Once it was open, I took some notes, closed it, and returned the manuscript."
"You returned it?" There was a loud clatter as Sarah's phone hit the floor. I winced and held the receiver away from my head, but her colorful language was stil audible.
"Diana?" Em said faintly. "Are you there?"
"I'm here," I said sharply.
"Diana Bishop, you know better." Sarah's voice was reproachful. "How could you send back a magical object you didn't ful y understand?"
My aunt had taught me how to recognize enchanted and bewitched objects-and what to do with them. You were to avoid touching or moving them until you knew how their magic worked. Spel s could be delicate, and many had protective mechanisms built into them.
"What was I supposed to do, Sarah?" I could hear my defensiveness. "Refuse to leave the library until you could examine it? It was a Friday night. I wanted to go home."
"What happened when you returned it?" Sarah said tightly.
"The air might have been a little funny," I admitted. "And the library might have given the impression it shrank for just a moment."
"You sent the manuscript back and the spel reactivated,"
Sarah said. She swore again. "Few witches are adept enough to set up a spel that automatical y resets when it's broken. You're not dealing with an amateur."
"That's the energy that drew them to Oxford," I said, suddenly understanding. "It wasn't my opening the manuscript. It was the resetting of the spel . The creatures aren't just at yoga, Sarah. I'm surrounded by vampires and daemons in the Bodleian. Clairmont came to the library on Monday night, hoping to catch a glimpse of the manuscript after he heard two witches talking about it. By Tuesday the library was crawling with them."
"Here we go again," Sarah said with a sigh. "Before the month's out, daemons wil be showing up in Madison looking for you."
"There must be witches you can rely on for help." Em was making an effort to keep her voice level, but I could hear the concern in it.
"There are witches," I said haltingly, "but they're not helpful. A wizard in a brown tweed coat tried to force his way into my head. He would have succeeded, too, if not for Matthew."
"The vampire put himself between you and another witch?" Em was horrified. "That's not done. You never interfere in business between witches if you're not one of us."
"You should be grateful!" I might not want to be lectured by Clairmont or have breakfast with him again, but the vampire deserved some credit. "If he hadn't been there, I don't know what would have happened. No witch has ever been so . . . invasive with me before."
"Maybe you should get out of Oxford for a while," Em suggested.
"I'm not going to leave because there's a witch with no manners in town."
Em and Sarah whispered to each other, their hands over the receivers.
"I don't like this one bit," my aunt final y said in a tone that suggested that the world was fal ing apart. "Bewitched books? Daemons fol owing you? Vampires taking you to yoga? Witches threatening a Bishop? Witches are supposed to avoid notice, Diana. Even the humans are going to know something's going on."
"If you stay in Oxford, you'l have to be more inconspicuous," Em agreed. "There's nothing wrong with coming home for a while and letting the situation cool off, if that becomes impossible. You don't have the manuscript anymore. Maybe they'l lose interest."
None of us believed that was likely.
"I'm not running away."
"You wouldn't be," Em protested.
"I would." And I wasn't going to display a shred of cowardice so long as Matthew Clairmont was around.
"He can't be with you every minute of every day, honey,"
Em said sadly, hearing my unspoken thoughts.
"I should think not," Sarah said darkly.
"I don't need Matthew Clairmont's help. I can take care of myself," I retorted.
"Diana, that vampire isn't protecting you out of the goodness of his heart," Em said. "You represent something he wants. You have to figure out what it is."
"Maybe he is interested in alchemy. Maybe he's just bored."
"Vampires do not get bored," Sarah said crisply, "not when there's a witch's blood around."
There was nothing to be done about my aunt's prejudices. I was tempted to tel her about yoga class, where for over an hour I'd been gloriously free from fear of other creatures. But there was no point.
"Enough." I was firm. "Matthew Clairmont won't get any closer, and you needn't worry about me fiddling with more bewitched manuscripts. But I'm not leaving Oxford, and that's final."
"Al right," Sarah said. "But there's not much we can do from here if things go wrong."
"I know, Sarah."
"And the next time you get handed something magical- whether you expected it or not-behave like the witch you are, not some sil y human. Don't ignore it or tel yourself you're imagining things." Wil ful ignorance and dismissing the supernatural were at the top of Sarah's list of human pet peeves. "Treat it with respect, and if you don't know what to do, ask for help."
"Promise," I said quickly, wanting to get off the phone.
But Sarah wasn't through yet.
"I never thought I'd see the day when a Bishop relied on a vampire for protection, rather than her own power," she said. "My mother must be turning in her grave. This is what comes from avoiding who you are, Diana. You've got a mess on your hands, and it's al because you thought you could ignore your heritage. It doesn't work that way."
Sarah's bitterness soured the atmosphere in my room long after I'd hung up the phone.
The next morning I stretched my way through some yoga poses for half an hour and then made a pot of tea. Its vanil a and floral aromas were comforting, and it had just enough caffeine to keep me from dozing in the afternoon without keeping me awake at night. After the leaves steeped, I wrapped the white porcelain pot in a towel to hold in the heat and carried it to the chair by the fireplace reserved for my deep thinking.
Calmed by the tea's familiar scent, I pul ed my knees up to my chin and reviewed my week. No matter where I started, I found myself returning to my last conversation with Matthew Clairmont. Had my efforts to prevent magic from seeping into my life and work meant nothing?
Whenever I was stuck with my research, I imagined a white table, gleaming and empty, and the evidence as a jigsaw puzzle that needed to be pieced together. It took the pressure off and felt like a game.
Now I tumbled everything from the past week onto that table-Ashmole 782, Matthew Clairmont, Agatha Wilson's wandering attention, the tweedy wizard, my tendency to walk with my eyes closed, the creatures in the Bodleian, how I'd fetched Notes and Queries from the shelf, Amira's yoga class. I swirled the bright pieces around, putting some together and trying to form a picture, but there were too many gaps, and no clear image emerged.
Sometimes picking up a random piece of evidence helped me figure out what was most important. Putting my imaginary fingers on the table, I drew out a shape, expecting to see Ashmole 782.
Matthew Clairmont's dark eyes looked back at me.
Why was this vampire so important?
The pieces of my puzzle started to move of their own volition, swirling in patterns that were too fast to fol ow. I slapped my imaginary hands on the table, and the pieces stopped their dance. My palms tingled with recognition.
This didn't seem like a game anymore. It seemed like magic. And if it was, then I'd been using it in my schoolwork, in my col ege courses, and now in my scholarship. But there was no room in my life for magic, and my mind closed resolutely against the possibility that I'd been violating my own rules without knowing it.
The next day I arrived in the library's cloakroom at my normal time, went up the stairs, rounded the corner near the col ection desk, and braced myself to see him.
Clairmont wasn't there.
"Do you need something?" Miriam said in an irritable voice, scraping her chair against the floor as she stood.
"Where is Professor Clairmont?"
"He's hunting," Miriam said, eyes snapping with dislike, "in Scotland."
Hunting. I swal owed hard. "Oh. When wil he be back?"
"I honestly don't know, Dr. Bishop." Miriam crossed her arms and put out a tiny foot.
"I was hoping he'd take me to yoga at the Old Lodge tonight," I said faintly, trying to come up with a reasonable excuse for stopping.
Miriam turned and picked up a bal of black fluff. She tossed it at me, and I grabbed it as it flew by my hip. "You left that in his car on Friday."
"Thank you." My sweater smel ed of carnations and cinnamon.
"You should be more careful with your things," Miriam muttered. "You're a witch, Dr. Bishop. Take care of yourself and stop putting Matthew in this impossible situation."
I turned on my heel without comment and went to pick up my manuscripts from Sean.
"Everything al right?" he asked, eyeing Miriam with a frown.
"Perfectly." I gave him my usual seat number and, when he stil looked concerned, a warm smile.
How dare Miriam speak to me like that? I fumed while settling into my workspace.
My fingers itched as if hundreds of insects were crawling under the skin. Tiny sparks of blue-green were arcing between my fingertips, leaving traces of energy as they erupted from the edges of my body. I clenched my hands and quickly sat on top of them.
This was not good. Like al members of the university, I'd sworn an oath not to bring fire or flame into Bodley's Library. The last time my fingers had behaved like this, I was thirteen and the fire department had to be cal ed to extinguish the blaze in the kitchen.
When the burning sensation abated, I looked around careful y and sighed with relief. I was alone in the Selden End. No one had witnessed my fireworks display. Pul ing my hands from underneath my thighs, I scrutinized them for further signs of supernatural activity. The blue was already diminishing to a silvery gray as the power retreated from my fingertips.
I opened the first box only after ascertaining I wouldn't set fire to it and pretended that nothing unusual had happened.
Stil , I hesitated to touch my computer for fear that my fingers would fuse to the plastic keys.
Not surprisingly, it was difficult to concentrate, and that same manuscript was stil before me at lunchtime. Maybe some tea would calm me down.
At the beginning of term, one would expect to see a handful of human readers in Duke Humfrey's medieval wing. Today there was only one: an elderly human woman examining an il uminated manuscript with a magnifying glass. She was squashed between an unfamiliar daemon and one of the female vampires from last week. Gil ian Chamberlain was there, too, glowering at me along with four other witches as if I'd let down our entire species.
Hurrying past, I stopped at Miriam's desk. "I presume you have instructions to fol ow me to lunch. Are you coming?"
She put down her pencil with exaggerated care. "After you."
Miriam was in front of me by the time I reached the back staircase. She pointed to the steps on the other side. "Go down that way."
"Why? What difference does it make?"
"Suit yourself." She shrugged.
One flight down I glanced through the smal window stuck into the swinging door that led to the Upper Reading Room, and I gasped.
The room was ful to bursting with creatures. They had segregated themselves. One long table held nothing but daemons, conspicuous because not a single book-open or closed-sat in front of them. Vampires sat at another table, their bodies perfectly stil and their eyes never blinking. The witches appeared studious, but their frowns were signs of irritation rather than concentration, since the daemons and vampires had staked out the tables closest to the staircase.
"No wonder we're not supposed to mix. No human could ignore this," Miriam observed.
"What have I done now?" I asked in a whisper.
"Nothing. Matthew's not here," she said matter-of-factly.
"Why are they so afraid of Matthew?"