The sky was dark outside Diana's windows before Matthew could leave her side. Restless at first, she had at last fal en into deep sleep. He noted the subtle changes of scent as her shock subsided, a cold fierceness sweeping over him every time he thought of Peter Knox and Gil ian Chamberlain.

Matthew couldn't remember when he'd felt so protective of another being. He felt other emotions as wel , that he was reluctant to acknowledge or name.

She's a witch, he reminded himself as he watched her sleep. She's not for you.

The more he said it, the less it seemed to matter.

At last he gently extracted himself and crept from the room, leaving the door open a crack in case she stirred.

Alone in the hal , the vampire let surface the cold anger that had been seething inside for hours. The intensity of it almost choked him. He drew the leather cord from the neck of his sweater and touched the worn, smooth surfaces of Lazarus's silver coffin. The sound of Diana's breathing was al that kept him from leaping through the night to hunt down two witches.

The clocks of Oxford struck eight, their familiar, weary tol ing reminding Matthew of the cal he'd missed. He pul ed his phone out of his pocket and checked the messages, quickly thumbing through the automatic notifications from the security systems at the labs and the Old Lodge. There were several messages from Marcus.

Matthew frowned and punched the number to retrieve them. Marcus was not prone to alarm. What could be so urgent?

"Matthew." The familiar voice held none of its usual playful charm . "I have Diana's DNA test results. They're . . .

surprising. Call me."

The recorded voice was stil speaking when the vampire's finger punched another single key on the phone.

He raked his hair with his free hand while he waited for Marcus to pick up. It took only one ring.

"Matthew." There was no warmth in Marcus's response, only relief. It had been hours since he'd left the messages.

Marcus had even checked Matthew's favorite Oxford haunt, the Pitt Rivers Museum, where the vampire could often be found dividing his attention between the skeleton of an iguanodon and a likeness of Darwin. Miriam had final y banished him from the lab, irritated by his constant questions about where Matthew might be and with whom.

"He's with her, of course," Miriam had said in the late afternoon, her voice ful of disapproval. "Where else? And if you're not going to do any work, go home and wait for his cal there. You're in my way."

"What did the tests show?" Matthew's voice was low, but his rage was audible.

"What's happened?" Marcus asked quickly.

A picture lying faceup on the floor of the bathroom caught Matthew's attention. Diana had been clutching it that afternoon. His eyes narrowed to slits as he took in the image. "Where are you?" he rasped.

"Home," Marcus answered uneasily.

Matthew picked the photo off the floor and traced its scent to where a piece of paper had slid half under the couch. He read the single word of the message, took a sharp breath. "Bring the reports and my passport to New Col ege. Diana's rooms are in the garden quadrangle at the top of staircase seven."

Twenty minutes later Matthew opened the door, his hair standing on end and a ferocious look on his face. The younger vampire had to school himself not to take a step backward.

Marcus held out a manila folder with a maroon passport folded around it, every move deliberate, and patiently waited. He wasn't about to enter the witch's rooms without Matthew's permission, not when the vampire was in this state.

Permission was slow in coming, but at last Matthew took the folder and stepped aside to let Marcus enter.

While Matthew scrutinized Diana's test results, Marcus studied him. His keen nose took in the old wood and wel - worn textiles, along with the smel of the witch's fear and the vampire's barely control ed emotions. His own hackles rose at the volatile combination, and a reflexive growl caught in his throat.

Over the years Marcus had come to appreciate Matthew's finer qualities-his compassion, his conscience, his patience with those he loved. He also knew his faults, anger chief among them. Typical y, Matthew's rage was so destructive that once the poison was out of his system, he disappeared for months or even years to come to terms with what he'd done.

And Marcus had never seen his father so coldly furious as he was now. Matthew Clairmont had entered Marcus's life in 1777 and changed it-forever. He had appeared in the Bennett farmhouse at the side of an improvised sling that carried the wounded Marquis de Lafayette from the kil ing fields at the Battle of Brandywine. Matthew towered over the other men, barking orders at everyone regardless of rank.

No one disputed his commands-not even Lafayette, who joked with his friend despite his injuries. The marquis's good humor couldn't stave off a tongue-lashing from Matthew, however. When Lafayette protested that he could manage while soldiers with more serious injuries were tended to, Clairmont released a vol ey of French so laced with expletives and ultimatums that his own men looked at him with awe and the marquis subsided into silence.

Marcus had listened, wide-eyed, when the French soldier railed at the head of the army's medical corps, the esteemed Dr. Shippen, rejecting his treatment plan as "barbaric." Clairmont demanded that the doctor's second in command, John Cochran, treat Lafayette instead. Two days later Clairmont and Shippen could be heard arguing the finer points of anatomy and physiology in fluent Latin- to the delight of the medical staff and General Washington.

Matthew had kil ed more than his share of British soldiers before the Continental Army was defeated at Brandywine.

Men brought into the hospital spun impossible tales of his fearlessness in battle. Some claimed he walked straight into enemy lines, unfazed by bul ets and bayonets. When the guns stopped, Clairmont insisted that Marcus remain with the marquis as his nurse.

In the autumn, once Lafayette was able to ride again, the two of them disappeared into the forests of Pennsylvania and New York. They returned with an army of Oneida warriors. The Oneida cal ed Lafayette "Kayewla" for his skil with the horse. Matthew they referred to as "atlutanu'n," the warrior chief, because of his ability to lead men into battle.

Matthew remained with the army long after Lafayette returned to France. Marcus continued to serve, too, as a lowly surgeon's assistant. Day after day he tried to stanch the wounds of soldiers injured by musket, cannon, and sword. Clairmont always sought him out whenever one of his own men was injured. Marcus, he said, had a gift for healing.

Shortly after the Continental Army arrived in Yorktown in 1781, Marcus caught a fever. His gift for healing meant nothing then. He lay cold and shivering, tended to only when someone had the time. After four days of suffering, Marcus knew he was dying. When Clairmont came to visit some of his own stricken men, accompanied once again by Lafayette, he saw Marcus on a broken cot in the corner and smel ed the scent of death.

The French officer sat at the young man's side as night turned toward day and shared his story. Marcus thought he was dreaming. A man who drank blood and found it impossible to die? After hearing that, Marcus became convinced that he was already dead and being tormented by one of the devils his father had warned him would prey on his sinful nature.

The vampire explained that Marcus could survive the fever, but there would be a price. First he would have to be reborn. Then he would have to hunt, and kil , and drink blood-even human blood. For a time his need for it would make working among the injured and sick impossible.

Matthew promised to send Marcus to university while he got used to his new life.

Sometime before dawn, when the pain became excruciating, Marcus decided he wanted to live more than he feared the new life the vampire had laid out for him.

Matthew carried him, limp and burning with fever, out of the hospital and into the woods, where the Oneida waited to lead them into the mountains. Matthew drained him of his blood in a remote hol ow, where no one could hear his screams. Even now Marcus remembered the powerful thirst that had fol owed. He'd been mad with it, desperate to swal ow anything cold and liquid.

Final y Matthew had slashed his own wrist with his teeth and let Marcus drink. The vampire's powerful blood brought him back to startling life.

The Oneida waited impassively at the mouth of the cave and prevented him from wreaking havoc on the nearby farms when his hunger for blood surfaced. They had recognized what Matthew was the moment he appeared in their vil age. He was like Dagwanoenyent, the witch who lived in the whirlwind and could not die. Why the gods had decided to give the French warrior these gifts was a mystery to the Oneida, but the gods were known for their puzzling decisions. Al they could do was make sure their children knew Dagwanoenyent's legend, careful y instructing them how to kil such a creature by burning him, grinding his bones into powder, and dispersing it to the four winds so that he could not be reborn.

Thwarted, Marcus had behaved like the child he was, howling with frustration and shaking with need. When Matthew hunted down a deer to feed the young man who had been reborn as his son, Marcus quickly sucked it dry. It sated his hunger but didn't dul the thrumming in his veins as Matthew's ancient blood suffused his body.

After a week of bringing fresh kil s back to their den, Matthew decided Marcus was ready to hunt for himself.

Father and son tracked deer and bear through deep forests and along moonlit mountain ridges. Matthew trained him to smel the air, to watch in the shadows for the smal est hint of movement, and to feel changes in the wind that would bring fresh scents their way. And he taught the healer how to kil .

In those early days, Marcus wanted richer blood. He needed it, too, to quench his deep thirst and feed his ravenous body. But Matthew waited until Marcus could track a deer quickly, bring it down, and drain its blood without making a mess before he let him hunt humans.

Women were off-limits. Too confusing for newly reborn vampires, Matthew explained, as the lines between sex and death, courtship and hunting, were too finely drawn.

First father and son fed on sick British soldiers. Some begged Marcus to spare their life, and Matthew taught him how to feed on warmbloods without kil ing them. Then they hunted criminals, who cried for mercy and didn't deserve it.

In every case Matthew made Marcus explain why he'd picked a particular man as his prey. Marcus's ethics developed, in the halting, deliberate way that they must when a vampire comes to terms with what he needs to do in order to survive.

Matthew was widely known for his finely developed sense of right and wrong. Al his mistakes in judgment could be traced back to decisions made in anger. Marcus had been told that his father was not as prone to that dangerous emotion as he'd been in the past. Perhaps so, but tonight in Oxford, Matthew's face wore the same murderous expression it had at Brandywine-and there was no battlefield to vent his rage.

"You've made a mistake." Matthew's eyes were wild when he finished poring over the witch's DNA tests.

Marcus shook his head. "I analyzed her blood twice.

Miriam confirmed my findings with the DNA from the swab.

I admit the results are surprising."

Matthew drew in a shaky breath. "They're preposterous."

"Diana possesses nearly every genetic marker we've ever seen in a witch." His mouth tightened into a grim line as he flipped to the final pages. "But these sequences have us concerned."

Matthew leafed quickly through the data. There were more than two dozen sequences of DNA, some short and some long, with Miriam's tiny red question marks next to them.

"Christ," he said, tossing them back at his son. "We already have enough to worry about. That bastard Peter Knox has threatened her. He wants the manuscript. Diana tried to recal it, but Ashmole 782 has gone back into the library and won't come out again. Happily, Knox is convinced-for now-that she first obtained it by deliberately breaking its spel ."

"She didn't?"

"No. Diana doesn't have the knowledge or control to do anything that intricate. Her power is completely undisciplined. She put a hole in my rug." Matthew looked sour, and his son struggled not to smile. His father did love his antiques.

"Then we'l keep Knox away and give Diana a chance to come to terms with her abilities. That doesn't sound too difficult."

"Knox is not my only concern. Diana received these in the mail today." Matthew picked up the photograph and its accompanying slip of paper and handed them to his son.

When he continued, his voice had a dangerous, flat tone.

"Her parents. I remember hearing about two American witches kil ed in Nigeria, but it was so long ago. I never connected them to Diana."

"Holy God," Marcus said softly. Staring at the picture, he tried to imagine what it would be like to receive a photo of his own father ripped to pieces and tossed into the dirt to die.

"There's more. From what I can piece together, Diana has long believed that her parents were kil ed by humans.

That's the chief reason she's tried to keep magic from her life."

"That won't work, wil it?" muttered Marcus, thinking of the witch's DNA.

"No," Matthew agreed, grim-faced. "While I was in Scotland, another American witch, Gil ian Chamberlain, informed her that it wasn't humans at al -but fel ow witches -who murdered her parents."

Deborah Harkness Books | Fantasy Books | All Souls Trilogy Series Books