The vampire sat in the shadows on the curved expanse of the bridge that spanned New Col ege Lane and connected two parts of Hertford Col ege, his back resting against the worn stone of one of the col ege's newer buildings and his feet propped up on the bridge's roof.
The witch appeared, moving surprisingly surely across the uneven stones of the sidewalk outside the Bodleian.
She passed underneath him, her pace quickening. Her nervousness made her look younger than she was and accentuated her vulnerability.
So that's the formidable historian, he thought wryly, mental y going over her vita. Even after looking at her picture, Matthew expected Bishop to be older, given her professional accomplishments.
Diana Bishop's back was straight and her shoulders square, in spite of her apparent agitation. Perhaps she would not be as easy to intimidate as he had hoped. Her behavior in the library had suggested as much. She'd met his eyes without a trace of the fear that Matthew had grown to rely upon from those who weren't vampires-and many of those who were.
When Bishop rounded the corner, Matthew crept along the rooflines until he reached the New Col ege wal . He slipped silently down into its boundaries. The vampire knew the col ege's layout and had anticipated where her rooms would be. He was already tucked into a doorway opposite her staircase when she began her climb.
Matthew's eyes fol owed her around the apartment as she moved from room to room, turning on the lights. She pushed the kitchen window open, left it ajar, disappeared.
That will save me from me breaking the window or picking her lock, he thought.
Matthew darted across the open space and scaled her building, his feet and hands finding sure holds in the old mortar with the help of a copper downspout and some robust vines. From his new vantage point, he could detect the witch's distinctive scent and a rustle of turning pages.
He craned his neck to peer into the window.
Bishop was reading. In repose her face looked different, he reflected. It was as if her skin fit the underlying bones properly. Her head bobbed slowly, and she slid against the cushions with a soft sigh of exhaustion. Soon the sound of regular breathing told Matthew she was asleep.
He swung out from the wal and kicked his feet up and through the witch's kitchen window. It had been a very long time since the vampire had climbed into a woman's rooms.
Even then the occasions were rare and usual y linked to moments when he was in the grip of infatuation. This time there was a far different reason. Nonetheless, if someone caught him, he'd have a hel of a time explaining what it was.
Matthew had to know if Ashmole 782 was stil in Bishop's possession. He hadn't been able to search her desk at the library, but a quick glance had suggested that it wasn't among the manuscripts she'd been consulting today. Stil , there was no chance that a witch-a Bishop-would have let the volume slip through her fingers. With inaudible steps he traveled through the smal set of rooms. The manuscript wasn't in the witch's bathroom or her bedroom. He crept quietly past the couch where she lay sleeping.
The witch's eyelids were twitching as if she were watching a movie only she could see. One of her hands was drawn into a fist, and every now and then her legs danced. Bishop's face was serene, however, unperturbed by whatever the rest of her body thought it was doing.
Something wasn't right. He'd sensed it from the first moment he saw Bishop in the library. Matthew crossed his arms and studied her, but he stil couldn't figure out what it was. This witch didn't give off the usual scents-henbane, sulfur, and sage. She's hiding something, the vampire thought, something more than the lost manuscript.
Matthew turned away, seeking out the table she was using as a desk. It was easy to spot, littered with books and papers. That was the likeliest place for her to have put the smuggled volume. As he took a step toward it, he smel ed electricity and froze.
Light was seeping from Diana Bishop's body-al around the edges, escaping from her pores. The light was a blue so pale it was almost white, and at first it formed a cloudlike shroud that clung to her for a few seconds. For a moment she seemed to shimmer. Matthew shook his head in disbelief. It was impossible. It had been centuries since he'd seen such a luminous outpouring from a witch.
But other, more urgent matters beckoned, and Matthew resumed the hunt for the manuscript, hurriedly searching through the items on her desk. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. The witch's scent was everywhere, distracting him. Matthew's eyes returned to the couch.
Bishop was stirring and shifting again, her knees creeping toward her chest. Once more, luminosity pulsed to the surface, shimmered for a moment, retreated.
Matthew frowned, puzzled at the discrepancy between what he'd overheard last night and what he was witnessing with his own eyes. Two witches had been gossiping about Ashmole 782 and the witch who'd cal ed it. One had suggested that the American historian didn't use her magical power. But Matthew had seen it in the Bodleian- and now watched it wash through her with evident intensity.
He suspected she used magic in her scholarship, too.
Many of the men she wrote about had been friends of his- Cornelius Drebbel, Andreas Libavius, Isaac Newton. She'd captured their quirks and obsessions perfectly. Without magic how could a modern woman understand men who had lived so long ago? Fleetingly, Matthew wondered if Bishop would be able to understand him with the same uncanny accuracy.
The clocks struck three, startling him. His throat felt parched. He realized he'd been standing for several hours, motionless, watching the witch dream while her power rose and fel in waves. He briefly considered slaking his thirst with this witch's blood. A taste of it might reveal the location of the missing volume and indicate what secrets the witch was keeping. But he restrained himself. It was only his desire to find Ashmole 782 that made him linger with the enigmatic Diana Bishop.
If the manuscript wasn't in the witch's rooms, then it was stil in the library.
He padded to the kitchen, slid out the window, and melted into the night.