Your parents were scared to death, the police were cal ed out-it was quite a scene. Four hours later they found you sitting in the kitchen high chair eating a slice of birthday cake. You must have been hungry and gone back to your own birthday party. After that, whenever you disappeared, we figured you were sometime else and you'd turn up. And you disappeared a lot."
My alarm at the thought of a toddler traveling through time gave way to the realization that I had the power to answer any historical question. I brightened considerably.
Matthew had already figured this out and was waiting patiently for me to catch up. "No matter what your father wanted, you aren't going back to 1859," he said firmly, turning the chair around so I faced him. "Time is not something you're going to meddle with. Understood?"
Even after assuring him that I would stay in the present, no one left me alone for an instant. The three of them silently passed me from one to the other in choreography worthy of Broadway. Em fol owed me upstairs to make sure there were towels, though I knew perfectly wel where the linen closet was. When I came out of the bathroom, Matthew was lying on the bed fiddling with his phone. He stayed upstairs when I went down to make a cup of tea, knowing that Sarah and Em would be waiting for me in the family room.
Marthe's tin was in my hands, and I felt guilty for missing yesterday and breaking my promise to her. Determined to have some tea today, I fil ed the kettle and opened the black metal box. The smel of rue triggered a sharp recol ection of being swept into the air by Satu. Gripping the lid more tightly, I focused on the other scents and happier memories of Sept-Tours. I missed its gray stone wal s, the gardens, Marthe, Rakasa-even Ysabeau.
"Where did you get that, Diana?" Sarah came in the kitchen and pointed at the tin.
"Marthe and I made it."
"That's his mother's housekeeper? The one who made the medicine for your back?"
"Marthe is Ysabeau's housekeeper, yes." I put a slight emphasis on their proper names. "Vampires have names, just like witches. You need to learn them."
Sarah sniffed. "I would have thought you'd go to the doctor for a prescription, not depend on old herbal lore."
"Dr. Fowler wil fit you in if you want something more reliable." Em had come in, too. "Not even Sarah is much of an advocate of herbal contraception."
I hid my confusion by plopping a tea bag into the mug, keeping my mind blank and my face hidden. "This is fine.
There's no need to see Dr. Fowler."
"True. Not if you're sleeping with a vampire. They can't reproduce-not in any way that contraception is going to prevent. Al you have to watch out for is teeth on your neck."
"I know, Sarah."
But I didn't. Why had Marthe taught me so careful y how to make a completely unnecessary tea? Matthew had been clear that he couldn't father children as warmbloods did.
Despite my promise to Marthe, I dumped the half-steeped cup down the sink and threw the bag in the trash. The tin went on the top shelf in the cupboard, where it would be safely out of sight.
By late afternoon, in spite of many conversations about the note, the letter, and the picture, we were no closer to understanding the mystery of Ashmole 782 and my father's connection to it. My aunts started to make dinner, which meant that Em roasted a chicken while Sarah drank a glass of bourbon and criticized the quantity of vegetables being prepared. Matthew prowled around the kitchen island, uncharacteristical y restless.
"Come on," he said, grabbing my hand. "You need some exercise."
It was he who needed fresh air, not I, but the prospect of going outdoors was enticing. A search in the mudroom closet revealed an old pair of my running shoes. They were worn, but they fit better than Sarah's boots.
We made it as far as the first apple trees before Matthew swung me around and pressed me between his body and one of the old, gnarled trunks. The low canopy of branches shielded us from the house's sight.
Despite my being trapped, there was no answering rush of witchwind. There were plenty of other feelings, though.
"Christ, that house is crowded," Matthew said, pausing just long enough to get the words out before refastening his lips on mine.
We'd had too little time alone since he'd returned from Oxford. It seemed a lifetime ago, but it was only days. One of his hands slid into the waistband of my jeans, his fingers cool against my bare flesh. I shivered with pleasure, and he drew me closer, his other hand locating the rounded curves of my breast. We pressed the length of our bodies against each other, but he kept looking for new ways to connect.
Final y there was only one possibility left. For a moment it seemed Matthew intended to consummate our marriage the old-fashioned way-standing up, outdoors, in a blinding rush of physical need. His control returned, however, and he pul ed away.
"Not like this," he rasped, his eyes black.
"I don't care." I pul ed him back against me.
"I do." There was a soft, ragged expulsion of air as Matthew breathed a vampire's sigh. "When we make love for the first time, I want you to myself-not surrounded by other people. And I'l want you for more than the few snatched moments we'd have now, believe me."
"I want you, too," I said, "and I'm not known for my patience."
His lips drew up into a smile, and he made a soft sound of agreement.
Matthew's thumb stroked the hol ow in my throat, and my blood leaped. He put his lips where his thumb had been, pressing them softly against the outward sign of the vitality that pulsed beneath the surface. He traced a vein up the side of my neck toward my ear.
"I'm enjoying learning where you like to be touched. Like here." Matthew kissed behind my ear. "And here." His lips moved to my eyelids, and I made a soft sound of pleasure.
"And here." He ran his thumb over my lower lip.
"Matthew," I whispered, my eyes pleading.
"What, mon coeur?" He watched, fascinated, as his touch drew fresh blood to the surface.
I didn't answer but pul ed him to me, unconcerned with the cold, the growing darkness, and the rough bark beneath my sore back. We remained there until Sarah cal ed from the porch.
"You didn't get very far, did you?" Her snort carried clear across the field. "That hardly qualifies as exercise."
Feeling like a schoolgirl caught necking in the driveway, I pul ed my sweatshirt into the proper position and headed back to the house. Matthew chuckled and fol owed.
"You look pleased with yourself," Sarah said when he stepped into the kitchen. Standing under the bright lights, he was every inch a vampire-and a self-satisfied one, at that. But his eyes were no longer restless, and for that I was grateful.
"Leave him alone." Em's voice was uncharacteristical y sharp. She handed me the salad and pointed me to the table in the family room where we usual y ate. "We saw a fair amount of that apple tree ourselves while Diana was growing up."
"Hmph," Sarah said. She picked up three wineglasses and waved them in Matthew's direction. "Got any more of that wine, Casanova?"
"I'm French, Sarah, not Italian. And I'm a vampire. I always have wine," Matthew said with a wicked smile.
"There's no danger of running out either. Marcus wil bring more. He's not French-or Italian either, alas-but his education compensated for it."
We sat around the table, and the three witches proceeded to demolish Em's roast chicken and potatoes.
Tabitha sat next to Matthew, her tail swishing flirtatiously across his feet every few minutes. He kept the wine flowing into Sarah's glass, and I sipped at my own. Em asked repeatedly if he wanted to taste anything, but Matthew declined.
"I'm not hungry, Emily, but thank you."
"Is there anything at al that you would eat?" Em wasn't used to people refusing her food.
"Nuts," I said firmly. "If you have to buy him food, get him nuts."
Em hesitated. "What about raw meat?"
Matthew grabbed my hand and squeezed it before I could reply. "If you want to feed me, uncooked meat would be just fine. I like broth, too-plain, no vegetables."
"Is that what your son and col eague eat, too, or are these just your favorite foods?"
Matthew's impatience with my earlier questions about his lifestyle and dining habits made sense to me now.
"It's pretty standard vampire fare when we're among warmbloods." Matthew released my hand and poured himself more wine.
"You must hang out at bars a lot, what with the wine and nuts," Sarah observed.
Em put her fork down and stared at her.
"What?" Sarah demanded.
"Sarah Bishop, if you embarrass us in front of Matthew's son, I'l never forgive you."
My resulting fit of giggles quickly turned into ful -blown laughter. Sarah was the first to join in, fol owed by Em.
Matthew sat and smiled as if he'd been dropped into a lunatic asylum but was too polite to mention it.
When the laughter subsided, he turned to Sarah. "I was wondering if I could borrow your stil room to analyze the pigments used in the picture of the chemical wedding.
Maybe they can tel us where and when it was made."
"You're not going to remove anything from that picture."
The historian in me rose up in horror at the thought.
"It won't come to any harm," Matthew said mildly. "I do know how to analyze tiny pieces of evidence."
"No! We should leave it alone until we know what we're dealing with."
"Don't be so prim, Diana. Besides, it's a bit late for that when it was you who sent the book back." Sarah stood, her eyes brightening. "Let's see if the cookbook can help."
"Wel , wel ," Em said under her breath. "You're one of the family now, Matthew."
Sarah disappeared into the stil room and returned holding a leather-bound book the size of a family Bible.
Within its covers was al the learning and lore of the Bishops, handed down from witch to witch for nearly four hundred years. The first name in the book was Rebecca, accompanied by the date 1617 in an ornate, round hand.
Other names were sprawled down the first page in two columns, each one in a slightly different ink with a different date attached to it. The names continued onto the back of the sheet as wel , with Susannahs, Elizabeths, Margarets, Rebeccas, and Sarahs dominating the list. My aunt never showed anybody this book-not even other witches. You had to be family to see her "cookbook."
"What is that, Sarah?" Matthew's nostrils flared at the scent of old paper, herbs, and smoke that was released as Sarah splayed its covers open.
"The Bishop grimoire." She pointed to the first name. "It first belonged to Rebecca Davies, Bridget Bishop's grandmother, then to her mother, Rebecca Playfer. Bridget handed the book down to her first daughter, born out of wedlock in England around 1650. Bridget was stil in her teens at the time, and she named her daughter after her mother and grandmother. Unable to care for the girl, Bridget gave her up to a family in London. " Sarah made a soft sound of disgust. "The rumors of her immorality haunted her for the rest of her life. Later her daughter Rebecca joined her and worked in her mother's tavern.
Bridget was on her second husband then, and had another daughter named Christian."
"And you're descended from Christian Bishop?" Matthew asked.
Sarah shook her head. "Christian Oliver, you mean- Bridget's daughter from her second marriage. Edward Bishop was Bridget's third husband. No, our ancestor is Rebecca. After Bridget was executed, Rebecca legal y changed her name to Bishop. Rebecca was a widow, with no husband to argue with. It was an act of defiance."
Matthew gave me a long look. Defiance, it seemed to say, was clearly a genetic trait.
"Nobody remembers al of Bridget Bishop's many names anymore-she was married three times," Sarah continued.
"Al anyone remembers is the name she bore when she was found guilty of witchcraft and executed. Since that time the women of the family have preserved the Bishop name, regardless of marriage or of who their father was."
"I read about Bridget's death shortly after," Matthew said softly. "It was a dark time for creatures. Even though the new science seemed to strip al the mystery from the world, humans were stil convinced that unseen forces were al around them. They were right, of course."
"Wel , the tension between what science promised and what their common sense told them was true resulted in the deaths of hundreds of witches." Sarah started flipping through the grimoire's pages.
"What are you looking for?" I asked, frowning. "Was one of the Bishops a manuscript conservator? If not, you won't find much help in that spel book."
"You don't know what is in this spel book, miss," Sarah said serenely. "You've never shown one bit of interest in it."
My lips pressed into a thin line. "Nobody is damaging that manuscript."
"Ah, here it is." Sarah pointed triumphantly at the grimoire. "One of Margaret Bishop's spel s from the 1780s.
She was a powerful witch. 'My method for perceiving obscurities in paper or fabric.' That's where we'l start." She stood up, her finger marking the place.