D iana, it's time to wake up. My mother's voice was low but insistent.
Too exhausted to respond, I pul ed the brightly colored patchwork quilt over my head, hoping that she wouldn't be able to find me. My body curled into a tight bal , and I wondered why everything hurt so much.
Wake up, sleepyhead. My father's blunt fingers gripped the fabric. A jolt of joy momentarily pushed the pain aside.
He pretended he was a bear and growled. Squealing with happiness, I tightened my own hands and giggled, but when he pul ed at the coverings, the cold air swept around me.
Something was wrong. I opened one eye, expecting to see the bright posters and stuffed animals that lined my room in Cambridge. But my bedroom didn't have wet, gray wal s.
My father was smiling down at me with twinkling eyes. As usual, his hair was curled up at the ends and needed combing, and his col ar was askew. I loved him anyway and tried to fling my arms around his neck, but they refused to work properly. He pul ed me gently toward him instead, his insubstantial form clinging to me like a shield.
Fancy seeing you here, Miss Bishop. It was what he always said when I sneaked into his study at home or crept downstairs late at night for one more bedtime story.
"I'm so tired." Even though his shirt was transparent, it somehow retained the smel of stale cigarette smoke and the chocolate caramels that he kept in his pockets.
I know, my father said, his eyes no longer twinkling. But you can't sleep anymore.
You have to wake up. My mother's hands were on me now, trying to extricate me from my father's lap.
"Tel me the rest of the story first," I begged, "and skip the bad parts."
It doesn't work that way. My mother shook her head, and my father sadly handed me into her arms.
"But I don't feel wel ." My child's voice wheedled for special treatment.
My mother's sigh rustled against the stone wal s. I can't skip the bad parts. You have to face them. Can you do that, little witch?
After considering what would be required, I nodded.
Where were we? my mother asked, sitting down next to the ghostly monk in the center of the oubliette. He looked shocked and moved a few inches away. My father stifled a smile with the back of his hand, looking at my mother the same way I looked at Matthew.
I remember, she said . Diana was locked in a dark room, all alone. She sat hour after hour and wondered how she would ever get out. Then she heard a knocking at the window. It was the prince. "I'm trapped inside by witches!"
Diana cried. The prince tried to break the window, but it was made of magic glass and he couldn't even crack it.
Then the prince raced to the door and tried to open it, but it was held fast by an enchanted lock. He rattled the door in the frame, but the wood was too thick and it didn't budge.
"Wasn't the prince strong?" I asked, slightly annoyed that he wasn't up to the task.
Very strong, said her mother solemnly, but he was no wizard. So Diana looked around for something else for the prince to try. She spied a tiny hole in the roof. It was just big enough for a witch like her to squeeze through. Diana told the prince to fly up and lift her out. But the prince couldn't fly.
"Because he wasn't a wizard," I repeated. The monk crossed himself every time magic or a wizard was mentioned.
That's right, my mother said. But Diana remembered that once upon a time she had flown. She looked down and found the edge of a silver ribbon. It was wound tightly around her, but when she tugged on the end, the ribbon came loose. Diana tossed it high above her head. Then there was nothing left for her body to do except follow it up to the sky. When she got close to the hole in the roof, she put her arms together, stretched them straight, and went through into the night air. "I knew you could do it," said the prince.
"And they lived happily ever after," I said firmly.
My mother's smile was bittersweet. Yes, Diana. She gave my father a long look, the kind that children don't understand until they're older.
I sighed happily, and it didn't matter so much that my back was on fire or that this was a strange place with people you could see right through.
It's time, my mother said to my father. He nodded.
Above me, heavy wood met ancient stone with a deafening crash.
"Diana?" It was Matthew. He sounded frantic. His anxiety sent a simultaneous rush of relief and adrenaline through my body.
"Matthew!" My cal came out as a dul croak.
"I'm coming down." Matthew's response, echoing down al that stone, hurt my head. It was throbbing and there was something sticky on my cheek. I rubbed some of the stickiness on to my finger, but it was too dark to see what it was.
"No," said a deeper, rougher voice. "You can get down there, but I won't be able to get you out. And we need to do this fast, Matthew. They'l be back for her."
I looked up to see who was speaking, but al that was visible was a pale white ring.
"Diana, listen to me." Matthew boomed a little less now.
"You need to fly. Can you do that?"
My mother nodded encouragingly. It's time to wake up and be a witch. There's no need for secrets anymore.
"I think so." I tried to get to my feet. My right ankle gave way underneath me, and I fel hard onto my knee. "Are you sure Satu's gone?"
"There's no one here but me and my brother, Baldwin. Fly up and we'l get you away." The other man muttered something, and Matthew replied angrily.
I didn't know who Baldwin was, and I had met enough strangers today. Not even Matthew felt entirely safe, after what Satu had said. I looked for somewhere to hide.
You can't hide from Matthew, my mother said, casting a rueful smile at my father. He'll always find you, no matter what. You can trust him. He's the one we've been waiting for.
My father's arms crept around her, and I remembered the feeling of Matthew's arms. Someone who held me like that couldn't be deceiving me.
"Diana, please try." Matthew couldn't keep the pleading out of his voice.
In order to fly, I needed a silver ribbon. But there wasn't one wrapped around me. Uncertain of how to proceed, I searched for my parents in the gloom. They were paler than before.
Don't you want to fly? my mother asked.
Magic is in the heart, Diana, my father said. Don't forget.
I shut my eyes and imagined a ribbon into place. With the end securely in my fingers, I threw it toward the white ring that flickered in the darkness. The ribbon unfurled and soared through the hole, taking my body with it.
My mother was smiling, and my father looked as proud as he had when he took the training wheels off my first bicycle. Matthew peered down, along with another face that must belong to his brother. With them were a clutch of ghosts who looked amazed that anyone, after al these years, was making it out alive.
"Thank God," Matthew breathed, stretching his long, white fingers toward me. "Take my hand."
The moment he had me in his grip, my body lost its weightlessness.
"My arm!" I cried out as the muscles pul ed and the gash on my forearm gaped.
Matthew grabbed at my shoulder, assisted by another, unfamiliar hand. They lifted me out of the oubliette, and I was crushed for a moment against Matthew's chest.
Grabbing handfuls of his sweater, I clung to him.
"I knew you could do it," he murmured like the prince in my mother's story, his voice ful of relief.
"We don't have time for this." Matthew's brother was already running down the corridor toward the door.
Matthew gripped my shoulders and took rapid stock of my injuries. His nostrils flared at the scent of dried blood.
"Can you walk?" he asked softly.
"Pick her up and get her out of here, or you'l have more to worry about than a little blood!" the other vampire shouted.
Matthew swept me up like a sack of flour and started to run, his arm tight across my lower back. I bit my lip and closed my eyes so the floor rushing underneath me wouldn't remind me of flying with Satu. A change in the air told me we were free. As my lungs fil ed, I began to shake.
Matthew ran even faster, carrying me toward a helicopter that was improbably parked outside the castle wal s on a dirt road. He ducked his body protectively over mine and jumped into the helicopter's open door. His brother fol owed, the lights from the cockpit controls glinting green against his bright copper hair.
My foot brushed against Baldwin's thigh as he sat down, and he gave me a look of hatred mingled with curiosity. His face was familiar from the visions I'd seen in Matthew's study: first in light caught in the suit of armor, then again when touching the seals of the Knights of Lazarus. "I thought you were dead." I shrank toward Matthew.
Baldwin's eyes widened. "Go!" he shouted to the pilot, and we lifted into the sky.
Being airborne brought back fresh memories of Satu, and my shaking increased.
"She's gone into shock," Matthew said. "Can this thing move faster, Baldwin?"
"Knock her out," Baldwin said impatiently.
"I don't have a sedative with me."
"Yes you do." His brother's eyes glittered. "Do you want me to do it?"
Matthew looked down at me and tried to smile. My shaking subsided a little, but every time the helicopter dipped and swayed in the wind, it returned, along with my memories of Satu.
"By the gods, Matthew, she's terrified," Baldwin said angrily. "Just do it."
Matthew bit into his lip until a drop of blood beaded up on the smooth skin. He dipped his head to kiss me.
"No." I squirmed to avoid his mouth. "I know what you're doing. Satu told me. You're using your blood to keep me quiet."
"You're in shock, Diana. It's al I have. Let me help you."
His face was anguished. Reaching up, I caught the drop of blood on my fingertip.
"No. I'l do it." There would be no more gossip among witches about my being in Matthew's control. I sucked the salty liquid from my numb fingertip. Lips and tongue tingled before the nerves in my mouth went dead.
The next thing I knew, there was cold air on my cheeks, perfumed with Marthe's herbs. We were in the garden at Sept-Tours. Matthew's arms were hard underneath my aching back, and he'd tucked my head into his neck. I stirred, looked around.
"We're home," he whispered, striding toward the lights of the chateau.
"Ysabeau and Marthe," I said, struggling to lift my head, "are they al right?"
"Perfectly al right," Matthew replied, cuddling me closer.
We passed into the kitchen corridor, which was ablaze with light. It hurt my eyes, and I turned away from it until the pain subsided. One of my eyes seemed smal er than the other, and I narrowed the larger one so they matched. A group of vampires came into view, standing down the corridor from Matthew and me. Baldwin looked curious, Ysabeau furious, Marthe grim and worried. Ysabeau took a step, and Matthew snarled.
"Matthew," she began in a patient voice, her eyes fixed on me with a look of maternal concern, "you need to cal her family. Where is your phone?"
His arms tightened. My head felt too heavy for my neck. It was easier to lean it against Matthew's shoulder.
"It's in his pocket, I suppose, but he's not going to drop the witch to get it. Nor wil he let you get close enough to fish it out." Baldwin handed Ysabeau his phone. "Use this."
Baldwin's gaze traveled over my battered body with such close attention that it felt as if ice packs were being applied and removed, one by one. "She certainly looks like she's been through a battle." His voice expressed reluctant admiration.