There was a powerful taste of cloves in my mouth, and I'd been mummified in my own duvet. When I stirred in my wrappings, the bed's old springs gave slightly.
"Shh." Matthew's lips were at my ear, and his body formed a shel against my back. We lay there like spoons in a drawer, tight against each other.
"What time is it?" My voice was hoarse.
Matthew pul ed away slightly and looked at his watch. "It's after one."
"How long have I been asleep?"
"Since around six last night."
My mind shattered into words and images: the alchemical manuscript, Peter Knox's threat, my fingers turning blue with electricity, the photograph of my parents, my mother's hand frozen in a never-ending reach.
"You gave me drugs." I pushed against the duvet, trying to work my hands free. "I don't like taking drugs, Matthew."
"Next time you go into shock, I'l let you suffer needlessly."
He gave a single twitch to the bed covering that was more effective than al my previous wrestling with it.
Matthew's sharp tone shook the shards of memory, and new images rose to the surface. Gil ian Chamberlain's twisted face warned me about keeping secrets, and the piece of paper commanded me to remember. For a few moments, I was seven again, trying to understand how my bright, vital parents could be gone from my life.
In my rooms I reached toward Matthew, while in my mind's eye my mother's hand reached for my father across a chalk-inscribed circle. The lingering childhood desolation of their death col ided with a new, adult empathy for my of their death col ided with a new, adult empathy for my mother's desperate attempt to touch my father. Abruptly pul ing from Matthew's arms, I lifted my knees to my chest in a tight, protective bal .
Matthew wanted to help-I could see that-but he was unsure of me, and the shadow of my own conflicted emotions fel over his face.
Knox's voice sounded again in my mind, ful of poison.
Remember who you are.
"Remember?" the note asked.
Without warning, I turned back toward the vampire, closing the distance between me and him in a rush. My parents were gone, but Matthew was here. Tucking my head under his chin, I listened for several minutes for the next pump of blood through his system. The leisurely rhythms of his vampire heart soon put me to sleep.
My own heart was pounding when I awoke again in the dark, kicking at the loosened duvet and swimming to a seated position. Behind me, Matthew turned on the lamp, its shade stil angled away from the bed.
"What is it?" he asked.
"The magic found me. The witches did, too. I'l be kil ed for my magic, like my parents were kil ed." The words rushed from my mouth, panic speeding their passage, and I stumbled to my feet.
"No." Matthew rose and stood between me and the door.
"We're going to face this, Diana, whatever it is. Otherwise you'l never stop running."
Part of me knew that what he said was true. The rest wanted to flee into the darkness. But how could I, with a vampire standing in the way?
The air began to stir around me as if trying to drive off the feeling of being trapped. Chil y wisps edged up the legs of my trousers. The air crept up my body, lifting the hair around my face in a gentle breeze. Matthew swore and stepped toward me, his arm outstretched. The breeze increased into gusts of wind that ruffled the bedclothes and the curtains.
"It's al right." His voice was pitched deliberately to be heard above the whirlwind and to calm me at the same time.
But it wasn't enough.
The force of the wind kept rising, and with it my arms rose, too, shaping the air into a column that enclosed me as protectively as the duvet. On the other side of the disturbance, Matthew stood, one hand stil extended, eyes fixed on mine. When I opened my mouth to warn him to stay away, nothing came out but frigid air.
"It's al right," he said again, not breaking his gaze. "I won't move."
I hadn't realized that was the problem until he said the words.
"I promise," he said firmly.
The wind faltered. The cyclone surrounding me became a whirlwind, then a breeze, then disappeared entirely. I gasped and dropped to my knees.
"What is happening to me?" Every day I ran and rowed and did yoga, and my body did what I told it to. Now it was doing unimaginable things. I looked down to make sure my hands weren't sparkling with electricity and my feet weren't stil being buffeted by winds.
"That was a witchwind," Matthew explained, not moving.
"Do you know what that is?"
I'd heard of a witch in Albany who could summon storms, but no one had ever cal ed it a "witchwind."
"Not real y," I confessed, stil sneaking glances at my hands and feet.
"Some witches have inherited the ability to control the element of air. You're one of them," he said.
"That wasn't control."
"It was your first time." Matthew was matter-of-fact. He gestured around the smal bedroom: the intact curtains and sheets, al the clothing strewn on the chest of drawers and floor exactly where they'd been left that morning. "We're both stil standing, and the room doesn't look like a tornado went through it. That's control-for now."
"But I didn't ask for it. Do these things just happen to witches-electrical fires and winds they didn't summon?" I pushed the hair out of my eyes and swayed, exhausted.
Too much had happened in the past twenty-four hours.
Matthew's body inclined toward me as if to catch me should I fal .
"Witchwinds and blue fingers are rare these days.
There's magic inside you, Diana, and it wants to get out, whether you ask for it or not."
"I felt trapped."
"I shouldn't have cornered you last night." Matthew looked ashamed. "Sometimes I don't know what to do with you.
You're like a perpetual-motion machine. Al I wanted was for you to stand stil for a moment and listen."
It must be even harder to cope with my incessant need to move if you were a vampire who seldom needed to breathe. Once again the space between Matthew and me was suddenly too large. I started to rise.
"Am I forgiven?" he asked sincerely. I nodded. "May I?"
he asked, gesturing at his feet. I nodded again.
He took three fast steps in the time it took me to stand up. My body pitched into him just as it had in the Bodleian the first night I saw him, standing aristocratic and serene in Duke Humfrey's Reading Room. This time, however, I didn't pul away so quickly. Instead I rested against him wil ingly, his skin soothingly cool rather than frightening and cold.
We stood silent for a few moments, holding each other.
My heart quieted, and his arms remained loose, although his shuddering breath suggested that this was not easy.
"I'm sorry, too." My body softened into him, his sweater scratchy on my cheek. "I'l try to keep my energy under control."
"There's nothing to be sorry about. And you shouldn't try so hard to be something you're not. Would you drink tea if I made you some?" he asked, his lips moving against the top of my head.
Outside, the night was unal eviated by any hint of sunrise.
"What time is it now?"
Matthew's hand swiveled between my shoulder blades so that he could see the face of his watch. "Just after three."
I groaned. "I'm so tired, but tea sounds wonderful."
"I'l make it, then." He gently loosened my arms from around his waist. "Be right back."
Not wanting to let him out of my sight, I drifted along. He rummaged through the tins and bags of available teas.
"I told you I liked tea," I said apologetical y as he found yet another brown bag in the cupboard, tucked behind a coffee press I seldom used.
"Do you have a preference?" He gestured at the crowded shelf.
"The one in the black bag with the gold label, please."
Green tea seemed the most soothing option.
He busied himself with the kettle and pot. He poured hot water over the fragrant leaves and thrust a chipped old mug in my direction once it was ready. The aromas of green tea, vanil a, and citrus were so very different from Matthew, but comforting nevertheless.
He made himself a mug, too, his nostrils flaring in appreciation. "That actual y doesn't smel too bad," he acknowledged, taking a smal sip. It was the only time I'd seen him drink anything other than wine.
"Where shal we sit?" I asked, cradling the warm mug in my hands.
Matthew inclined his head toward the living room. "In there. We need to talk."
He sat in one corner of the comfortable old sofa, and I arranged myself opposite. The steam from the tea rose around my face, a gentle reminder of the witchwind.
"I need to understand why Knox thinks you've broken the spel on Ashmole 782," Matthew said when we were settled.
I replayed the conversation in the warden's rooms. "He said that spel s become volatile around the anniversaries of their casting. Other witches-ones who know witchcraft- have tried to break it, and they've failed. He figured I was just in the right place at the right time."
"A talented witch bound Ashmole 782, and I suspect this spel is nearly impossible to break. No one who's tried to get the manuscript before met its conditions, no matter how much witchcraft they knew or what time of year they tried."
He stared into the depths of his tea. "You did. The question is how, and why."
"The idea that I could fulfil the conditions of a spel cast before I was born is harder to believe than that it was just an anniversary aberration. And if I fulfil ed the conditions once, why not again?" Matthew opened his mouth, and I shook my head. "No, it's not because of you."
"Knox knows witchcraft, and spel s are complicated. I suppose it's possible that time pul s them out of shape every now and again." He looked unconvinced.
"I wish I could see the pattern in al this." My white table rose into view, with pieces of the puzzle laid on it. Though I moved a few pieces around-Knox, the manuscript, my parents-they refused to form an image. Matthew's voice broke through my reveries.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing," I said, too quickly.
"You're using magic," he said, putting his tea down. "I can smel it. See it, too. You're shimmering."
"It's what I do when I can't solve a puzzle-like now." My head was bowed to hide how difficult it was to talk about this. "I see a white table and imagine al the different pieces. They have shapes and colors, and they move around until they form a pattern. When the pattern forms, they stop moving to show I'm on the right track."
Matthew waited a long time before he responded. "How often do you play this game?"
"Al the time," I said reluctantly. "While you were in Scotland, I realized that it was yet more magic, like knowing who's looking at me without turning my head."
"There is a pattern, you know," he said. "You use your magic when you're not thinking."
"What do you mean?" The puzzle pieces started dancing on the white table.
"When you're moving, you don't think-not with the rational part of your mind, at least. You're somewhere else entirely when you row, or run, or do yoga. Without your mind keeping your gifts in check, out they come."
"But I was thinking before," I said, "and the witchwind came anyway."
"Ah, but then you were feeling a powerful emotion," he explained, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. "That always keeps the intel ect at bay. It's the same thing that happened when your fingers turned blue with Miriam and then with me. This white table of yours is an exception to the general rule."
"Moods and movement are enough to trigger these forces? Who would want to be a witch if something so simple can make al hel break loose?"
"A great many people, I would imagine." Matthew glanced away. "I want to ask you to do something for me,"
he said. The sofa creaked as he faced me once more.
"And I want you to think about it before you answer. Wil you do that?"
"Of course." I nodded.
"I want to take you home."
"I'm not going back to America." It had taken me five seconds to do exactly what he'd asked me not to.
Matthew shook his head. "Not your home. My home. You need to get out of Oxford."
"I already told you I'd go to Woodstock."
"The Old Lodge is my house, Diana," Matthew explained patiently. "I want to take you to my home-to France."
"France?" I pushed the hair out of my face to get a clearer view of him.
"The witches are intent on getting Ashmole 782 and keeping it from the other creatures. Their theory that you broke the spel and the prominence of your family are al that's kept them at arm's length. When Knox and the others find out that you used no witchcraft to obtain the manuscript -that the spel was set to open for you-they'l want to know how and why."
My eyes closed against the sudden, sharp image of my father and mother. "And they won't ask nicely."
"Probably not." Matthew took a deep breath, and the vein in his forehead throbbed. "I saw the photo, Diana. I want you away from Peter Knox and the library. I want you under my roof for a while."
"Gil ian said it was witches." When my eyes met his, I was struck by how tiny the pupils were. Usual y they were black and enormous, but something was different about Matthew tonight. His skin was less ghostly, and there was a touch more color in his normal y pale lips. "Was she right?"
"I can't know for sure, Diana. The Nigerian Hausa believe that the source of a witch's power is contained in stones in the stomach. Someone went looking for them in your father," he said regretful y. "Another witch is the most likely scenario."
There was a soft click, and the light on the answering machine began to blink. I groaned.
"That's the fifth time your aunts have cal ed," Matthew observed.
No matter how low the volume, the vampire was going to be able to hear the message. I walked to the table near him and picked up the receiver.
"I'm here, I'm here," I began, talking over my aunt's agitated voice.
"We thought you were dead," Sarah said. The realization that she and I were the last remaining Bishops struck me forceful y. I could picture her sitting in the kitchen, phone to her ear and hair wild around her face. She was getting older, and despite her feistiness, the fact that I was far away and in danger had rocked her.
"I'm not dead. I'm in my rooms, and Matthew is with me." I smiled at him weakly. He didn't smile back.
"What's going on?" Em asked from another extension.
After my parents died, Em's hair had turned silver in the space of a few months. At the time she was stil a young woman-not yet thirty-but Em had always seemed more fragile after that, as if she might blow away in the next puff of wind. Like my aunt, she was clearly upset at what her sixth sense told her was happening in Oxford.
"I tried to recal the manuscript, that's al ," I said lightly, making an effort not to worry them further. Matthew stared at me disapprovingly, and I turned away. It didn't help. His glacial eyes bored into my shoulder instead. "But this time it didn't come up from the stacks."
"You think we're cal ing because of that book?"
Long, cold fingers grasped the phone and drew it away from my ear.
"Ms. Bishop, this is Matthew Clairmont," he said crisply.
When I reached to take the receiver from him, Matthew gripped my wrist and shook his head, once, in warning.
"Diana's been threatened. By other witches. One of them is Peter Knox."