Marthe muttered in agreement and rol ed her eyes at the ignorance of youth.
"Witches use them to work spel s," Ysabeau continued.
"Binding spel s, love magic-they depend on such things."
"You told me you weren't a witch, Ysabeau," I said, astonished.
"I have known many witches over the years. Not one of them would leave a strand of her hair or scrap of her nails for fear that another witch would find them."
"My mother never told me." I wondered what other secrets my mother had kept.
"Sometimes it is best for a mother to reveal things slowly to her children." Ysabeau's glance flicked from me to her son.
"Who broke in?" I remembered Ysabeau's list of possibilities.
"Vampires tried to get into the lab, but we're less sure about your rooms. Marcus thinks it was vampires and witches working together, but I think it was just witches."
"Is this why you were so angry? Because those creatures violated my territory?"
We were back to monosyl ables. I waited for the rest of the answer.
"I might overlook a trespasser on my land or in my lab, Diana, but I cannot stand by while someone does it to you.
It feels like a threat, and I simply . . . can't. Keeping you safe is instinctive now." Matthew ran his white fingers through his hair, and a patch stuck out over his ear.
"I'm not a vampire, and I don't know the rules. You have to explain how this works," I said, smoothing his hair into place. "So it was the break-in at New Col ege that convinced you to be with me?"
Matthew's hands moved in a flash to rest on either side of my face. "I needed no encouragement to be with you.
You say you've loved me since you resisted hitting me with an oar at the river." His eyes were unguarded. "I've loved you longer than that-since the moment you used magic to take a book from its shelf at the Bodleian. You looked so relieved, and then so terribly guilty."
Ysabeau stood, uncomfortable with her son's open affection. "We wil leave you."
Marthe started rustling at the table, preparing to depart for the kitchens, where she would doubtless begin whipping up a ten-course feast.
"No, Maman. You should hear the rest."
"So you are not merely outlaws." Ysabeau's voice was heavy. She sank back onto her chair.
"There's always been animosity between creatures- vampires and witches especial y. But Diana and I have brought those tensions into the open. It's just an excuse, though. The Congregation isn't real y bothered by our decision to break the covenant."
"Stop speaking in riddles, Matthew," Ysabeau said sharply. "I'm out of patience with them."
Matthew looked at me regretful y before he responded.
"The Congregation has become interested in Ashmole 782 and the mystery of how Diana acquired it. Witches have been watching the manuscript for at least as long as I have.
They never foresaw that you would be the one to reclaim it.
And no one imagined that I would reach you first."
Old fears wriggled to the surface, tel ing me there was something wrong deep inside me.
"If not for Mabon," Matthew continued, "powerful witches would have been in the Bodleian, witches who knew the manuscript's importance. But they were busy with the festival and let their guard down. They left the task to that young witch, and she let you-and the manuscript-slip through her fingers."
"Poor Gil ian," I whispered. Peter Knox must be furious with her.
Matthew's mouth tightened.
"But the Congregation has been watching you, too-for reasons that go wel beyond the book and have to do with your power."
"How long?" I wasn't able to finish my sentence.
"Probably your whole life."
"Since my parents died." Unsettling memories from childhood floated back to me, of feeling the tingles of a witch's attention while on the swings at school and a vampire's cold stare at a friend's birthday party. "They've been watching me since my parents died."
Ysabeau opened her mouth to speak, saw her son's face, and thought better of it.
"If they have you, they'l have the book, too, or so they think. You're connected to Ashmole 782 in some powerful way I don't yet understand. I don't believe they do either."
"Not even Peter Knox?"
"Marcus asked around. He's good at wheedling information out of people. As far as we can tel , Knox is stil mystified."
"I don't want Marcus to put himself at risk-not for me. He needs to stay out of this, Matthew."
"Marcus knows how to take care of himself."
"I have things to tel you, too." I'd lose my nerve entirely if given a chance to reconsider.
Matthew took both my hands, and his nostrils flared slightly. "You're tired," he said, "and hungry. Maybe we should wait until after lunch."
"You can smel when I'm hungry?" I asked incredulously.
"That's not fair."
Matthew's head tipped back, and he laughed. He kept my hands in his, pul ing them behind me so that my arms were shaped like wings.
"This from a witch, who could, if she felt like it, read my thoughts as if they were written on ticker tape. Diana, my darling, I know when you change your mind. I know when you're thinking bad thoughts, like how much fun it would be to jump the paddock fence. And I most definitely know when you're hungry," he said, kissing me to make his point clear.
"Speaking of my being a witch," I said, slightly breathless when he was finished, "we've confirmed witchwater on the list of genetic possibilities."
"What?" Matthew looked at me with concern. "When did that happen?"
"The moment you pul ed away from Sept-Tours. I wouldn't let myself cry while you were here. Once you were gone, I cried-a lot."
"You've cried before," he said thoughtful y, bringing my hands forward again. He turned them over and examined my palms and fingers. "The water came out of your hands?"
"It came out of everywhere." I said. His eyebrows rose in alarm. "My hands, my hair, my eyes, my feet-even my mouth. It was like there was no me left, or if there was, I was nothing but water. I thought I'd never taste anything except salt again."
"Were you alone?" Matthew's voice turned sharp.
"No, no, of course not," I said hurriedly. "Marthe and your mother were there. They just couldn't get near me. There was a lot of water, Matthew. Wind, too."
"What made it stop?" he asked.
Matthew gave his mother a long look.
"She sang to me."
The vampire's heavy lids dropped, shielding his eyes.
"Once she sang al the time. Thank you, Maman. "
I waited for him to tel me that she used to sing to him and that Ysabeau hadn't been the same since Philippe died.
But he told me none of those things. Instead he wrapped me up in a fierce hug, and I tried not to mind that he wouldn't trust me with these parts of himself.
As the day unfolded, Matthew's happiness at being home was infectious. We moved from lunch to his study. On the floor in front of the fireplace, he discovered most of the places that I was ticklish. Throughout, he never let me behind the wal s he'd so careful y constructed to keep creatures away from his secrets.
Once I reached out with invisible fingers to locate a chink in Matthew's defenses. He looked up at me in surprise.
"Did you say something?" he asked.
"No," I said, drawing hastily away.
We enjoyed a quiet dinner with Ysabeau, who fol owed along in Matthew's lighthearted wake. But she watched him closely, a look of sadness on her face.
Putting on my sorry excuse for pajamas after dinner, I worried about the desk drawer and whether my scent would be on the velvet that cushioned the seals, and I steeled myself to say good night before Matthew retreated, alone, to his study.
He appeared shortly afterward wearing a pair of loose, striped pajama bottoms and a faded black T-shirt, with no shoes on his long, slender feet. "Do you want the left side or the right?" he asked casual y, waiting by the bedpost with his arms crossed.
I wasn't a vampire, but I could turn my head fast enough when it was warranted.
"If it doesn't matter to you, I'd prefer the left," he said gravely. "It wil be easier for me to relax if I'm between you and the door."
"I . . . I don't care," I stammered.
"Then get in and slide over." Matthew took the bedding out of my hand, and I did as he asked. He slid under the sheets behind me with a groan of satisfaction.
"This is the most comfortable bed in the house. My mother doesn't believe we need to bother with good mattresses since we spend so little time sleeping. Her beds are purgatorial."
"Are you going to sleep with me?" I squeaked, trying and failing to sound as nonchalant as he did.
Matthew put his right arm out and hooked me into it until my head was resting on his shoulder. "I thought I might," he said. "I won't actual y sleep, though."
Snuggled against him, I placed my palm flat on his heart so that I would know every time it beat. "What wil you do?"
"Watch you, of course." His eyes were bright. "And when I get tired of doing that- if I get tired of doing that"-he dropped a kiss on each eyelid-"I'l read. Wil the candles bother you?"
"No," I responded. "I'm a sound sleeper. Nothing wakes me up."
"I like a chal enge," he said softly. "If I'm bored, I'l figure out something that wil wake you up."
"Do you bore easily?" I teased, reaching up and threading my fingers through the hair at the base of his skul .
"You'l have to wait and see," he said with a wicked grin.
His arms were cool and soothing, and the feeling of safety in his presence was more restful than any lul aby.
"Wil this ever stop?" I asked quietly.
"The Congregation?" Matthew's voice was worried. "I don't know."
"No." My head rose in surprise. "I don't care about that."
"What do you mean, then?"
I kissed him on his quizzical mouth. "This feeling when I'm with you-as if I'm ful y alive for the first time."
Matthew smiled, his expression uncharacteristical y sweet and shy. "I hope not."
Sighing with contentment, I lowered my head onto his chest and fel into dreamless sleep.