Marthe said something in Occitan, and Matthew's brother nodded.

"Òc, " he said, eyeing me in appraisal.

"Not this time, Baldwin," Matthew rumbled.

"The number, Matthew," Ysabeau said crisply, diverting her son's attention. He rattled it off, and his mother pushed the corresponding buttons, the faint electronic tones audible.

"I'm fine," I croaked when Sarah picked up the phone.

"Put me down, Matthew."

"No, this is Ysabeau de Clermont. Diana is with us."

There was more silence while Ysabeau's icicle touches swept over me. "She is hurt, but her injuries are not life- threatening. Nevertheless, Matthew should bring her home.

To you."

"No. She'l fol ow me. Satu mustn't harm Sarah and Em," I said, struggling to break free.

"Matthew," Baldwin growled, "let Marthe see to her or keep her quiet."

"Stay out of this, Baldwin," Matthew snapped. His cool lips touched my cheeks, and my pulse slowed. His voice dropped to a murmur. "We won't do anything you don't want to do."

"We can protect her from vampires." Ysabeau sounded farther and farther away. "But not from other witches. She needs to be with those who can." The conversation faded, and a curtain of gray fog descended.

This time I came to consciousness upstairs in Matthew's tower. Every candle was lit, and the fire was roaring in the hearth. The room felt almost warm, but adrenaline and shock made me shiver. Matthew was sitting on his heels on the floor with me propped between his knees, examining my right forearm. My blood-soaked pul over had a long slit where Satu had cut me. A fresh red stain was seeping into the darker spots.

Marthe and Ysabeau stood in the doorway like a watchful pair of hawks.

"I can take care of my wife, Maman, " Matthew said.

"Of course, Matthew," Ysabeau murmured in her patented subservient tone.

Matthew tore the last inch of the sleeve to ful y expose my flesh, and he swore. "Get my bag, Marthe."

"No," she said firmly. "She is filthy, Matthew."

"Let her take a bath," Ysabeau joined in, lending Marthe her support. "Diana is freezing, and you cannot even see her injuries. This is not helping, my child."

"No bath," he said decidedly.

"Why ever not?" Ysabeau asked impatiently. She gestured at the stairs, and Marthe departed.

"The water would be ful of her blood," he said tightly.

"Baldwin would smel it."

"This is not Jerusalem, Matthew," Ysabeau said. "He has never set foot in this tower, not since it was built."

"What happened in Jerusalem?" I reached for the spot where Matthew's silver coffin usual y hung.

"My love, I need to look at your back."

"Okay," I whispered dul y. My mind drifted, seeking an apple tree and my mother's voice.

"Lie on your stomach for me."

The cold stone floors of the castle where Satu had pinned me down were al too palpable under my chest and legs. "No, Matthew. You think I'm keeping secrets, but I don't know anything about my magic. Satu said-"

Matthew swore again. "There's no witch here, and your magic is immaterial to me." His cold hand gripped mine, as sure and firm as his gaze. "Just lean forward over my hand.

I'l hold you."

Seated on his thigh, I bent from the waist, resting my chest on our clasped hands. The position stretched the skin on my back painful y, but it was better than the alternative.

Underneath me, Matthew stiffened.

"Your fleece is stuck to your skin. I can't see much with it in the way. We're going to have to put you in the bath for a bit before it can be removed. Can you fil the tub, Ysabeau?"

His mother disappeared, her absence fol owed by the sound of running water.

"Not too hot," he cal ed softly after her.

"What happened in Jerusalem?" I asked again.

"Later," he said, lifting me gently upright.

"The time for secrets has passed, Matthew. Tel her, and be quick about it." Ysabeau spoke sharply from the bathroom door. "She is your wife and has a right to know."

"It must be something awful, or you wouldn't have worn Lazarus's coffin." I pressed lightly on the empty spot above his heart.

With a desperate look, Matthew began his story. It came out of him in quick, staccato bursts. "I kil ed a woman in Jerusalem. She got between Baldwin and me. There was a great deal of blood. I loved her, and she-"

He'd kil ed someone else, not a witch, but a human. My finger stil ed his lips. "That's enough for now. It was a long time ago." I felt calm but was shaking again, unable to bear any more revelations.

Matthew brought my left hand to his lips and kissed me hard on the knuckles. His eyes told me what he couldn't say aloud. Final y he released both my hand and my eyes and spoke. "If you're worried about Baldwin, we'l do it another way. We can soak the fleece off with compresses, or you could shower."

The mere thought of water fal ing on my back or the application of pressure convinced me to risk Baldwin's possible thirst. "The bath would be better."

Matthew lowered me into the lukewarm water, ful y clothed right down to my running shoes. Propped in the tub, my back drawn away from the porcelain and the water wicking slowly up my fleece pul over, I began the slow process of letting go, my legs twitching and dancing under the water. Each muscle and nerve had to be told to relax, and some refused to obey.

While I soaked, Matthew tended to my face, his fingers pressing my cheekbone. He frowned in concern and cal ed softly for Marthe. She appeared with a huge black medical bag. Matthew took out a tiny flashlight and checked my eyes, his lips pressed tightly together.

"My face hit the floor." I winced. "Is it broken?"

"I don't think so, mon coeur, just badly bruised."

Marthe ripped open a package, and a whiff of rubbing alcohol reached my nose. When Matthew held the pad on the sticky part of my cheek, I gripped the sides of the tub, my eyes smarting with tears. The pad came away scarlet.

"I cut it on the edge of a stone." My voice was matter-of- fact in an attempt to quiet the memories of Satu that the pain brought back.

Matthew's cool fingers traced the stinging wound to where it disappeared under my hairline. "It's superficial.

You don't need stitches." He reached for a jar of ointment and smoothed some onto my skin. It smel ed of mint and herbs from the garden. "Are you al ergic to any medications?" he asked when he was through.

I shook my head.

He again cal ed to Marthe, who trotted in with her arms ful of towels. He rattled off a list of drugs, and Marthe nodded, jiggling a set of keys she pul ed out of her pocket.

Only one drug was familiar.

"Morphine?" I asked, my pulse beginning to race.

"It wil al eviate the pain. The other drugs wil combat swel ing and infection."

The bath had lul ed some of my anxiety and lessened my shock, but the pain was getting worse. The prospect of banishing it was enticing, and I reluctantly agreed to the drug in exchange for getting out of the bath. Sitting in the rusty water was making me queasy.

Before climbing out, though, Matthew insisted on looking at my right foot. He hoisted it up and out of the water, resting the sole of my shoe against his shoulder. Even that slight pressure had me gasping.

"Ysabeau. Can you come here, please?"

Like Marthe, Ysabeau was waiting patiently in the bedroom in case her son needed help. When she came in, Matthew had her stand behind me while he snapped the water-soaked shoelaces with ease and began to pry the shoe from my foot. Ysabeau held my shoulders, keeping me from thrashing my way out of the tub.

I cried during Matthew's examination-even after he stopped trying to pul the shoe off and began to rip it apart by tearing as precisely as a dressmaker cutting into fine cloth. He tore my sock off, too, and ripped along the seam of my leggings, then peeled the fabric away to reveal the ankle. It had a ring around it as though it had been closed in a manacle that had burned through the skin, leaving it black and blistered in places with odd white patches.

Matthew looked up, his eyes angry. "How was this done?"

"Satu hung me upside down. She wanted to see if I could fly." I turned away uncertainly, unable to understand why so many people were furious with me over things that weren't my fault.

Ysabeau gently took my foot. Matthew knelt beside the tub, his black hair slicked back from his forehead and his clothing ruined from water and blood. He turned my face toward him, looking at me with a mixture of fierce protectiveness and pride.

"You were born in August, yes? Under the sign of Leo?"

He sounded entirely French, most of the Oxbridge accent gone.

I nodded.

"Then I wil have to cal you my lioness now, because only she could have fought as you did. But even la lionne needs her protectors." His eyes flickered toward my right arm. My gripping the tub had made the bleeding resume. "Your ankle is sprained, but it's not serious. I'l bind it later. Now let's see to your back and your arm."

Matthew scooped me out of the tub and set me down, instructing me to keep the weight off my right foot. Marthe and Ysabeau steadied me while he cut off my leggings and underclothes. The three vampires' premodern matter-of- factness about bodies left me strangely unconcerned at standing half naked in front of them. Matthew lifted the front hem of my soggy pul over, revealing a dark purple bruise that spread across my abdomen.

"Christ," he said, his fingers pushing into the stained flesh above my pubic bone. "How the hel did she do that?"

"Satu lost her temper." My teeth chattered at the memory of flying through the air and the sharp pain in my gut.

Matthew tucked the towel around my waist.

"Let's get the pul over off," he said grimly. He went behind me, and there was a sting of cold metal against my back.

"What are you doing?" I twisted my head, desperate to see. Satu had kept me on my stomach for hours, and it was intolerable to have anyone-even Matthew-behind me.

The trembling in my body intensified.

"Stop, Matthew," Ysabeau said urgently. "She cannot bear it."

A pair of scissors clattered to the floor.

"It's al right." Matthew nestled his body against mine like a protective shel . He crossed his arms over my chest, completely enfolding me. "I'l do it from the front."

Once the shaking subsided, he came around and resumed cutting the fabric away from my body. The cold air on my back told me that there wasn't much of it left in any case. He sliced through my bra, then got the front panel of the pul over off.

Deborah Harkness Books | Fantasy Books | All Souls Trilogy Series Books