"You wil drink this for Marthe, one cup a day. Yes?"
"Of course." It seemed the least I could do for my sole remaining al y in the house-not to mention the person who fed me.
After my tea I went upstairs to Matthew's study and switched on my computer. Al that riding had made my forearms ache, so I moved the computer and manuscript to his desk, hoping that it might be more comfortable to work there rather than at my table by the window. Unfortunately, the leather chair was made for someone Matthew's height, not mine, and my feet swung freely.
Sitting in Matthew's chair made him seem closer, however, so I remained there while waiting for my computer to boot up. My eyes fel on a dark object tucked into the tal est shelf. It blended into the wood and the books' leather bindings, which hid it from casual view. From Matthew's desk, however, you could see its outlines.
It wasn't a book but an ancient block of wood, octagonal in shape. Tiny arched windows were carved into each side.
The thing was black, cracked, and misshapen with age.
With a pang of sadness, I realized it was a child's toy.
Matthew had made it for Lucas before Matthew became a vampire, while he was building the first church. He'd tucked it into the corner of a shelf where no one would notice it-except him. He couldn't fail to see it, every time he sat at his desk.
With Matthew at my side, it was al too easy to think we were the only two in the world. Not even Domenico's warnings or Ysabeau's tests had shaken my sense that our growing closeness was a matter solely between him and me.
But this little wooden tower, made with love an unimaginably long time ago, brought my il usions to an end.
There were children to consider, both living and dead.
There were families involved, including my own, with long and complicated genealogies and deeply ingrained prejudices, including my own. And Sarah and Em stil didn't know that I was in love with a vampire. It was time to share that news.
Ysabeau was in the salon, arranging flowers in a tal vase on top of a priceless Louis XIV escritoire with impeccable provenance-and a single owner.
"Ysabeau?" My voice sounded hesitant. "Is there a phone I could use?"
"He wil cal you when he wants to talk to you." She took great care placing a twig with turning leaves stil attached to it among the white and gold flowers.
"I'm not cal ing Matthew, Ysabeau. I need to speak to my aunt."
"The witch who cal ed the other night?" she asked. "What is her name?"
"Sarah," I said with a frown.
"And she lives with a woman-another witch, yes?"
Ysabeau kept putting white roses into the vase.
"Yes. Emily. Is that a problem?"
"No," Ysabeau said, eyeing me over the blooms. "They are both witches. That's al that matters."
"That and they love each other."
"Sarah is a good name," Ysabeau continued, as if I hadn't spoken. "You know the legend, of course."
I shook my head. Ysabeau's changes in conversation were almost as dizzying as her son's mood swings.
"The mother of Isaac was cal ed Sarai-'quarrelsome'- but when she became pregnant, God changed it to Sarah, which means 'princess.'"
"In my aunt's case, Sarai is much more appropriate." I waited for Ysabeau to tel me where the phone was.
"Emily is also a good name, a strong, Roman name."
Ysabeau clipped a rose stem between her sharp fingernails.
"What does Emily mean, Ysabeau?" Happily I was running out of family members.
"It means 'industrious.' Of course, the most interesting name belonged to your mother. Rebecca means 'captivated,' or 'bound,'" Ysabeau said, a frown of concentration on her face as she studied the vase from one side and then the other. "An interesting name for a witch."
"And what does your name mean?" I said impatiently.
"I was not always Ysabeau, but it was the name Philippe liked for me. It means 'God's promise.'" Ysabeau hesitated, searching my face, and made a decision. "My ful name is Genevieve Melisande Helene Ysabeau Aude de Clermont."
"It's beautiful." My patience returned as I speculated about the history behind the names.
Ysabeau gave me a smal smile. "Names are important."
"Does Matthew have other names?" I took a white rose from the basket and handed it to her. She murmured her thanks.
"Of course. We give al of our children many names when they are reborn to us. But Matthew was the name he came to us with, and he wanted to keep it. Christianity was very new then, and Philippe thought it might be useful if our son were named after an evangelist."
"What are his other names?"
"His ful name is Matthew Gabriel Philippe Bertrand Sebastien de Clermont. He was also a very good Sebastien, and a passable Gabriel. He hates Bertrand and wil not answer to Philippe."
"What is it about Philippe that bothers him?"
"It was his father's favorite name." Ysabeau's hands stil ed for a moment. "You must know he is dead. The Nazis caught him fighting for the Resistance."
In the vision I'd had of Ysabeau, she'd said Matthew's father was captured by witches.
"Nazis, Ysabeau, or witches?" I asked quietly, fearing the worst.
"Did Matthew tel you?" Ysabeau looked shocked.
"No. I saw you in one of my visions yesterday. You were crying."
"Witches and Nazis both kil ed Philippe," she said after a long pause. "The pain is recent, and sharp, but it wil fade in time. For years after he was gone I hunted only in Argentina and Germany. It kept me sane."
"Ysabeau, I'm so sorry." The words were inadequate, but they were heartfelt. Matthew's mother must have heard my sincerity, and she gave me a hesitant smile.
"It is not your fault. You were not there."
"What names would you give me if you had to choose?" I asked softly, handing another stem to Ysabeau.
"Matthew is right. You are only Diana," she said, pronouncing it in the French style as she always did, with the emphasis on the first syl able. "There are no other names for you. It is who you are." Ysabeau pointed her white finger at the door to the library. "The phone is inside."
Seated at the desk in the library, I switched on the lamp and dialed New York, hoping that both Sarah and Em were home.
"Diana." Sarah sounded relieved. "Em said it was you."
"I'm sorry I couldn't cal back last night. A lot happened." I picked up a pencil and began to twirl it through my fingers.
"Would you like to talk about it?" Sarah asked. I almost dropped the phone. My aunt demanded we talk about things-she never requested.
"Is Em there? I'd rather tel the story once."
Em picked up the extension, her voice warm and comforting. "Hi, Diana. Where are you?"
"With Matthew's mother near Lyon."
"Matthew's mother?" Em was curious about genealogy.
Not just her own, which was long and complicated, but everyone else's, too.
"Ysabeau de Clermont." I did my best to pronounce it as Ysabeau did, with its long vowels and swal owed consonants. "She's something, Em. Sometimes I think she's the reason humans are so afraid of vampires.
Ysabeau's straight out of a fairy tale."
There was a pause. "Do you mean you're with Melisande de Clermont?" Em's voice was intense. "I didn't even think of the de Clermonts when you told me about Matthew. You're sure her name is Ysabeau?"
I frowned. "Actual y, her name is Genevieve. I think there's a Melisande in there, too. She just prefers Ysabeau."
"Be careful, Diana," Em warned. "Melisande de Clermont is notorious. She hates witches, and she ate her way through most of Berlin after World War I ."
"She has good reason to hate witches," I said, rubbing my temples. "I'm surprised she let me into her house." If the situation was reversed, and vampires were involved in my parents' death, I wouldn't be so forgiving.
"What about the water?" Sarah interjected. "I'm more worried about the vision Em had of a tempest."
"Oh. I started raining last night after Matthew left." The soggy memory made me shiver.
"Witchwater," Sarah breathed, now understanding. "What brought it on?"
"I don't know, Sarah. I felt . . . empty. When Matthew pul ed out of the driveway, the tears I'd been fighting since Domenico showed up al just poured out of me."
"Domenico who?" Emily flipped through her mental roster of legendary creatures again.
"Michele-a Venetian vampire." My voice fil ed with anger. "And if he bothers me again, I'm going to rip his head off, vampire or not."
"He's dangerous!" Em cried. "That creature doesn't play by the rules."
"I've been told that many times over, and you can rest easy knowing I'm under guard twenty-four hours a day.
"We'l worry until you're no longer hanging around with vampires," Sarah observed.
"You'l be worrying for a good long time, then," I said stubbornly. "I love Matthew, Sarah."
"That's impossible, Diana. Vampires and witches-"
"Domenico told me about the covenant," I interjected. "I'm not asking anyone else to break it, and I understand that this might mean you can't or won't have anything to do with me. For me there's no choice."
"But the Congregation wil do what they must to end this relationship," Em said urgently.
"I've been told that, too. They'l have to kil me to do it."
Until this moment I hadn't said the words out loud, but I'd been thinking them since last night. "Matthew's harder to get rid of, but I'm a pretty easy target."
"You can't just walk into danger that way." Em was fighting back tears.
"Her mother did," Sarah said quietly.
"What about my mother?" My voice broke at the mention of her, along with my composure.
"Rebecca walked straight into Stephen's arms even though people said it was a bad idea for two witches with their talents to be together. And she refused to listen when people told her to stay out of Nigeria."
"Al the more reason that Diana should listen now," Em said. "You've only known him for a few weeks. Come back home and see if you can forget about him."
"Forget about him?" It was ridiculous. "This isn't a crush.
I've never felt this way about anyone."
"Leave her alone, Em. We've had enough of that kind of talk in this family. I didn't forget about you, and she's not going to forget about him." Sarah let out her breath with a sigh that carried al the way to the Auvergne. "This may not be the life I would have chosen for you, but we al have to decide for ourselves. Your mother did. I did-and your grandmother did not have an easy time with it, by the way.
Now it's your turn. But no Bishop ever turns her back on another Bishop."
Tears stung my eyes. "Thank you, Sarah."
"Besides," Sarah continued, working herself into a state, "if the Congregation is made up of things like Domenico Michele, then they can al go to hel ."
"What does Matthew say about this?" Em asked. "I'm surprised he would leave you once you two had decided to break with a thousand years of tradition."
"Matthew hasn't told me how he feels yet." I methodical y unbent a paper clip.
There was dead silence on the line.
Final y Sarah spoke. "What is he waiting for?"
I laughed out loud. "You've done nothing but warn me to stay away from Matthew. Now you're upset because he refuses to put me in greater danger than I'm already in?"
"You want to be with him. That should be enough."
"This isn't some kind of magical arranged marriage, Sarah. I get to make my decision. So does he." The tiny clock with the porcelain face that was sitting on the desk indicated it had been twenty-four hours since he left.
"If you're determined to stay there, with those creatures, then be careful," Sarah warned as we said good-bye. "And if you need to come home, come home."
After I hung up, the clock struck the half hour. It was already dark in Oxford.
To hel with waiting. I lifted the receiver again and dialed his number.
"Diana?" He was clearly anxious.
I laughed. "Did you know it was me, or was it cal er ID?"
"You're al right." The anxiety was replaced with relief.
"Yes, your mother is keeping me vastly entertained."
"I was afraid of that. What lies has she been tel ing you?"
The more trying parts of the day could wait. "Only the truth," I said. "That her son is some diabolical combination of Lancelot and Superman."
"That sounds like Ysabeau," he said with a hint of laughter. "What a relief to know that she hasn't been irreversibly changed by sleeping under the same roof as a witch."
Distance no doubt helped me evade him with my half- truths. Distance couldn't diminish my vivid picture of him sitting in his Morris chair at Al Souls, however. The room would be glowing from the lamps, and his skin would look like polished pearl. I imagined him reading, the deep crease of concentration between his brows.
"What are you drinking?" It was the only detail my imagination couldn't supply.
"Since when have you cared about wine?" He sounded genuinely surprised.
"Since I found out how much there was to know." Since I found out that you cared about wine, you idiot.
"Something Spanish tonight-Vega Sicilia."
"Do you mean which vintage?" Matthew teased. "It's 1964."
"A relative baby, then?" I teased back, relieved at the change in his mood.
"An infant," he agreed. I didn't need a sixth sense to know that he was smiling.
"How did everything go today?"
"Fine. We've increased our security, though nothing was missing. Someone tried to hack in to the computers, but Miriam assures me there's no way anyone could break in to her system."
"Are you coming back soon?" The words escaped before I could stop them, and the ensuing silence stretched longer than was comfortable. I told myself it was the connection.
"I don't know," he said cool y. "I'l be back when I can."
"Do you want to talk to your mother? I could find her for you." His sudden aloofness hurt, and it was a struggle to keep my voice even.
"No, you can tel her the labs are fine. The house, too."
We said good-bye. My chest was tight, and it was difficult to inhale. When I managed to stand and turn around, Matthew's mother was waiting in the doorway.
"That was Matthew. Nothing at the lab or the house was damaged. I'm tired, Ysabeau, and not very hungry. I think I'l go to bed." It was nearly eight, a perfectly respectable time to turn in.
"Of course." Ysabeau stepped out of my way with glittering eyes. "Sleep wel , Diana."