Where is she?" Matthew slammed the keys to the Range Rover onto the table.
"We wil find her, Matthew." Ysabeau was trying to be calm for her son's sake, but it had been nearly ten hours since they'd found a half-eaten apple next to a patch of rue in the garden. The two had been combing the countryside ever since, working in methodical slices of territory that Matthew divided up on a map.
After al the searching, they'd found no sign of Diana and had been unable to pick up her trail. She had simply vanished.
"It has to be a witch who took her." Matthew ran his fingers through his hair. "I told her she'd be safe as long as she stayed inside the chateau. I never thought the witches would dare to come here."
His mother's mouth tightened. The fact that witches had kidnapped Diana did not surprise her.
Matthew started handing out orders like a general on a battlefield. "We'l go out again. I'l drive to Brioude. Go past Aubusson, Ysabeau, and into Limousin. Marthe, wait here in case she comes back or someone cal s with news."
There would be no phone cal s, Ysabeau knew. If Diana had access to a phone, she would have used it before now.
And though Matthew's preferred battle strategy was to chop through obstacles until he reached his goal, it was not always the best way to proceed.
"We should wait, Matthew."
"Wait?" Matthew snarled. "For what?"
"For Baldwin. He was in London and left an hour ago."
"Ysabeau, how could you tel him?" His older brother, Matthew had learned through experience, liked to destroy things. It was what he did best. Over the years he'd done it physical y, mental y, and then financial y, once he'd discovered that destroying people's livelihoods was almost as thril ing as flattening a vil age.
"When she was not in the stables or in the woods, I felt it was time. Baldwin is better at this than you are, Matthew.
He can track anything."
"Yes, Baldwin's always been good at pursuing his prey.
Now finding my wife is only my first task. Then I'l have to make sure she's not his next target." Matthew picked up his keys. "You wait for Baldwin. I'l go out alone."
"Once he knows that Diana belongs to you, he wil not harm her. Baldwin is the head of this family. So long as this is a family matter, he has to know."
Ysabeau's words struck him as odd. She knew how much he distrusted his older brother. Matthew shrugged their strangeness aside. "They came into your home, Maman. It was an insult to you. If you want Baldwin involved, it's your right."
"I cal ed Baldwin for Diana's sake-not mine. She must not be left in the hands of witches, Matthew, even if she is a witch herself."
Marthe's nose went into the air, alert to a new scent.
"Baldwin," Ysabeau said unnecessarily, her green eyes glittering.
A heavy door slammed overhead, and angry footsteps fol owed. Matthew stiffened, and Marthe rol ed her eyes.
"Down here," Ysabeau said softly. Even in a crisis, she didn't raise her voice. They were vampires, after al , with no need for histrionics.
Baldwin Montclair, as he was known in the financial markets, strode down the hal of the ground floor. His copper-colored hair gleamed in the electric light, and his muscles twitched with the quick reflexes of a born athlete.
Trained to wield a sword from childhood, he had been imposing before becoming a vampire, and after his rebirth few dared to cross him. The middle son in Philippe de Clermont's brood of three male children, Baldwin had been made a vampire in Roman times and had been Philippe's favorite. They were cut from the same cloth-fond of war, women, and wine, in that order. Despite these amiable characteristics, those who faced him in combat seldom lived to recount the experience.
Now he directed his anger at Matthew. They'd taken a dislike to each other the first time they'd met, their personalities at such odds that even Philippe had given up hope of their ever being friends. His nostrils flared as he tried to detect his brother's underlying scent of cinnamon and cloves.
"Where the hel are you, Matthew?" His deep voice echoed against the glass and stone.
Matthew stepped into his brother's path. "Here, Baldwin."
Baldwin had him by the throat before the words were out of his mouth. Their heads close together, one dark and one bright, they rocketed to the far end of the hal . Matthew's body smashed into a wooden door, splintering it with the impact.
"How could you take up with a witch, knowing what they did to Father?"
"She wasn't even born when he was captured."
Matthew's voice was tight given the pressure on his vocal chords, but he showed no fear.
"She's a witch," Baldwin spit. "They're al responsible.
They knew how the Nazis were torturing him and did nothing to stop it."
"Baldwin." Ysabeau's sharp tone caught his attention.
"Philippe left strict instructions that no revenge was to be taken if he came to harm." Though she had told Baldwin this repeatedly, it never lessened his anger.
"The witches helped those animals capture Philippe.
Once the Nazis had him, they experimented on him to determine how much damage a vampire's body could take without dying. The witches' spel s made it impossible for us to find him and free him."
"They failed to destroy Philippe's body, but they destroyed his soul." Matthew sounded hol ow. "Christ, Baldwin. They could do the same to Diana."
If the witches hurt her physical y, Matthew knew she might recover. But she would never be the same if the witches broke her spirit. He closed his eyes against the painful thought that Diana might not return the same stubborn, wil ful creature.
"So what?" Baldwin tossed his brother onto the floor in disgust and pounced on him.
A copper kettle the size of a timpani drum crashed into the wal . Both brothers leaped to their feet.
Marthe stood with gnarled hands on ample hips, glaring at them.
"She is his wife," she told Baldwin curtly.
"You mated with her?" Baldwin was incredulous.
"Diana is part of this family now," Ysabeau answered.
"Marthe and I have accepted her. You must as wel ."
"Never," he said flatly. "No witch wil ever be a de Clermont, or welcome in this house. Mating is a powerful instinct, but it doesn't survive death. If the witches don't kil this Bishop woman, I wil ."
Matthew lunged at his brother's throat. There was a sound of flesh tearing. Baldwin reeled back and howled, his hand on his neck.
"You bit me!"
"Threaten my wife again and I'l do more than that."
Matthew's sides were heaving and his eyes were wild.
"Enough!" Ysabeau startled them into silence. "I have already lost my husband, a daughter, and two of my sons. I wil not have you at each other's throats. I wil not let witches take someone from my home without my permission." Her last words were uttered in a low hiss. "And I wil not stand here and argue while my son's wife is in the hands of my enemies."
"In 1944 you insisted that chal enging the witches wouldn't solve anything. Now look at you," Baldwin snapped, glaring at his brother.
"This is different," Matthew said tightly.
"Oh, it's different, I grant you that. You're risking the Congregation's interference in our family's affairs just so you can bed one of them."
"The decision to engage in open hostilities with the witches was not yours to make then. It was your father's- and he expressly forbade prolonging a world war." Ysabeau stopped behind Baldwin and waited until he turned to face her. "You must let this go. The power to punish such atrocities was placed in the hands of human authorities."
Baldwin looked at her sourly. "You took matters into your own hands, as I recal , Ysabeau. How many Nazis did you dine on before you were satisfied?" It was an unforgivable thing to say, but he had been pushed past his normal limits.
"As for Diana," Ysabeau continued smoothly, though her eyes sparked in warning, "if your father were alive, Lucius Sigeric Benoit Christophe Baldwin de Clermont, he would be out looking for her-witch or not. He would be ashamed of you, in here settling old scores with your brother." Every one of the names Philippe had given him over the years sounded like a slap, and Baldwin's head jerked back when they struck.
He exhaled slowly through his nose. "Thank you for the advice, Ysabeau, and the history lesson. Now, happily, it is my decision. Matthew wil not indulge himself with this girl.
End of discussion." He felt better after exercising his authority and turned to stalk out of Sept-Tours.
"Then you leave me no choice." Matthew's response stopped him in his tracks.
"Choice?" Baldwin snorted. "You'l do what I tel you to do."
"I may not be head of the family, but this is no longer a family matter." Matthew had, at last, figured out the point of Ysabeau's earlier remark.
"Fine." Baldwin shrugged. "Go on this foolish crusade, if you must. Find your witch. Take Marthe-she seems to be as enamored of her as you are. If the two of you want to pester the witches and bring the Congregation down on your heads, that's your business. To protect the family, I'l disown you."
He was on his way out the door again when his younger brother laid down his trump.
"I absolve the de Clermonts of any responsibility for sheltering Diana Bishop. The Knights of Lazarus wil now see to her safety, as we have done for others in the past."
Ysabeau turned away to hide her expression of pride.
"You can't be serious," Baldwin hissed. "If you ral y the brotherhood, it wil be tantamount to a declaration of war."
"If that's your decision, you know the consequences. I could kil you for your disobedience, but I don't have time.
Your lands and possessions are forfeit. Leave this house, and surrender your seal of office. A new French master wil be appointed within the week. You are beyond the protection of the order and have seven days to find yourself a new place to live."
"Try to take Sept-Tours from me," Baldwin growled, "and you'l regret it."
"Sept-Tours isn't yours. It belongs to the Knights of Lazarus. Ysabeau lives here with the brotherhood's blessing. I'l give you one more chance to be included in that arrangement." Matthew's voice took on an indisputable tone of command. "Baldwin de Clermont, I cal upon you to fulfil your sworn oath and enter the field of battle, where you wil obey my commands until I release you."
He hadn't spoken or written the words for ages, but Matthew remembered each one perfectly. The Knights of Lazarus were in his blood, just as Diana was. Long-unused muscles flexed deep within him, and talents that had grown rusty began to sharpen.
"The Knights don't come to their master's aid because of a love affair gone wrong, Matthew. We fought at the Battle of Acre. We helped the Albigensian heretics resist the northerners. We survived the demise of the Templars and the English advances at Crecy and Agincourt. The Knights of Lazarus were on the ships that beat back the Ottoman Empire at Lepanto, and when we refused to fight any further, the Thirty Years' War came to an end. The brotherhood's purpose is to ensure that vampires survive in a world dominated by humans."
"We started out protecting those who could not protect themselves, Baldwin. Our heroic reputation was simply an unexpected by-product of that mission."
"Father should never have passed the order on to you when he died. You're a soldier-and an idealist-not a commander. You don't have the stomach to make the difficult decisions." Baldwin's scorn for his brother was clear from his words, but his eyes were worried.
"Diana came to me seeking protection from her own people. I wil see to it that she gets it-just as the Knights protected the citizens of Jerusalem, and Germany, and Occitania when they were under threat."
"No one wil believe that this isn't personal, any more than they would have believed it in 1944. Then you said no."
"I was wrong."
Baldwin looked shocked.