"No matter what Matthew has said, I'm not angry with you.
No harm was done."
"Thank you," she breathed. "I have been trying to tel him -it was only a feeling that we had, something half remembered from very long ago. Diana was the goddess of fertility then. Your scent reminds me of those times, and of the priestesses who helped women conceive."
Matthew's eyes touched me through the darkness.
"You'l tel Marthe, too?"
"I wil , Diana." She paused. "Matthew has shared your test results and Marcus's theories with me. It is a sign of how much they have startled him, that he told your tale. I do not know whether to weep with joy or sorrow at the news."
"It's early days, Ysabeau-maybe both?"
She laughed softly. "It wil not be the first time my children have driven me to tears. But I wouldn't give up the sorrow if it meant giving up the joy as wel ."
"Is everything al right at home?" The words escaped before I thought them through, and Matthew's eyes softened.
"Home?" The significance of the word was not lost on Ysabeau either. "Yes, we are al wel here. It is very . . . quiet since you both left."
My eyes fil ed with tears. Despite Ysabeau's sharp edges, there was something so maternal about her.
"Witches are noisier than vampires, I'm afraid."
"Yes. And happiness is always louder than sadness.
There hasn't been enough happiness in this house." Her voice grew brisk. "Matthew has said everything to me that he needs to say. We must hope the worst of his anger has been spent. You wil take care of each other." Ysabeau's last sentence was a statement of fact. It was what the women in her family-my family-did for those they loved.
"Always." I looked at my vampire, his white skin gleaming in the dark, and pushed the red button to disconnect the line. The fields on either side of the driveway were frost- covered, the ice crystals catching the faint traces of moonlight coming through the clouds.
"Did you suspect, too? Is that why you won't make love to me?" I asked Matthew.
"I told you my reasons. Making love should be about intimacy, not just physical need." He sounded frustrated at having to repeat himself.
"If you don't want to have children with me, I will understand," I said firmly, though part of me quietly protested.
His hands were rough on my arms. "Christ, Diana, how can you think that I wouldn't want our children? But it might be dangerous-for you, for them."
"There's always risk with pregnancy. Not even you control nature."
"We have no idea what our children would be. What if they shared my need for blood?"
"Al babies are vampires, Matthew. They're al nourished with their mother's blood."
"It's not the same, and you know it. I gave up al hope of children long ago." Our eyes met, searching for reassurance that nothing between us had changed. "But it's too soon for me to imagine losing you."
And I couldn't bear losing our children.
Matthew's unspoken words were as clear to me as an owl hooting overhead. The pain of Lucas's loss would never leave him. It cut deeper than the deaths of Blanca or Eleanor. When he lost Lucas, he lost part of himself that could never be recovered.
"So you've decided. No children. You're sure." I rested my hands on his chest, waiting for the next beat of his heart.
"I'm not sure of anything," Matthew said. "We haven't had time to discuss it."
"Then we'l take every precaution. I'l drink Marthe's tea."
"You'l do a damn sight more than that," he said grimly.
"That stuff is better than nothing, but it's a far cry from modern medicine. Even so, no human form of contraception may be effective when it comes to witches and vampires."
"I'l take the pil s anyway," I assured him.
"And what about you?" he asked, his fingers on my chin to keep me from avoiding his eyes. "Do you want to carry my children?"
"I never imagined myself a mother." A shadow flickered across his face. "But when I think of your children, it feels as though it was meant to be."
He dropped my chin. We stood silently in the darkness, his arms around my waist and my head on his chest. The air felt heavy, and I recognized it as the weight of responsibility. Matthew was responsible for his family, his past, the Knights of Lazarus-and now for me.
"You're worried that you couldn't protect them," I said, suddenly understanding.
"I can't even protect you," he said harshly, fingers playing over the crescent moon burned into my back.
"We don't have to decide just yet. With or without children, we already have a family to keep together." The heaviness in the air shifted, some of it settling on my shoulders. Al my life I'd lived for myself alone, pushing away the obligations of family and tradition. Even now part of me wanted to return to the safety of independence and leave these new burdens behind.
His eyes traveled up the drive to the house. "What happened after I left?"
"Oh, what you'd expect. Miriam told us about Bertrand and Jerusalem-and let slip about Gil ian. Marcus told us who broke in to my rooms. And then there's the fact that we might have started some kind of war."
"Dieu, why can't they keep their mouths shut?" He ran his fingers through his hair, his regret at concealing al this from me clear in his eyes. "At first I was sure this was about the manuscript. Then I supposed it was al about you. Now I'l be damned if I can figure out what it's about. Some old, powerful secret is unraveling, and we're caught up in it."
"Is Miriam right to wonder how many other creatures are tangled in it, too?" I stared at the moon as if she might answer my question. Matthew did instead.
"It's doubtful we're the first creatures to love those we should not, and we surely won't be the last." He took my arm. "Let's go inside. We have some explaining to do."
On our way up the drive, Matthew observed that explanations, like medicines, go down easier when accompanied by liquid refreshment. We entered the house through the back door to pick up the necessary supplies.
While I arranged a tray, Matthew's eyes rested on me.
"What?" I looked up. "Did I forget something?"
A smile played at the corners of his mouth. "No, ma lionne. I'm just trying to figure out how I acquired such a fierce wife. Even putting cups on a tray, you look formidable."
"I'm not formidable," I said, tightening my ponytail self- consciously.
"Yes, you are." Matthew smiled. "Miriam wouldn't be in such a state otherwise."
When we reached the door between the dining room and the family room, we listened for sounds of a battle within, but there was nothing except quiet murmurs and low conversation. The house unlocked the door and opened it for us.
"We thought you might be thirsty," I said, putting the tray on the table.
A multitude of eyes turned in our direction-vampires, witches, ghosts. My grandmother had a whole flock of Bishops at her back, al of them rustling and shifting as they tried to adjust to having vampires in the dining room.
"Whiskey, Sarah?" Matthew asked, picking up a tumbler from the tray.
She gave him a long look. "Miriam says that by accepting your relationship we invite war. My father fought in World War I ."
"So did mine," Matthew said, pouring the whiskey. So had he, no doubt, but he was silent on that point.
"He always said whiskey made it possible to close your eyes at night without hating yourself for everything you'd been ordered to do that day."
"It's no guarantee, but it helps." Matthew held out the glass.
Sarah took it. "Would you kil your own son if you thought he was a threat to Diana?"
He nodded. "Without hesitation."
"That's what he said." Sarah nodded at Marcus. "Get him a drink, too. It can't be easy, knowing your own father could kil you."
Matthew got Marcus his whiskey and poured Miriam a glass of wine. I made Em a cup of milky coffee. She'd been crying and looked more fragile than usual.
"I just don't know if I can handle this, Diana," she whispered when she took the mug. "Marcus explained what Gil ian and Peter Knox had planned. But when I think of Barbara Chamberlain and what she must be feeling now that her daughter is dead-" Em shuddered to a stop.
"Gil ian Chamberlain was an ambitious woman, Emily,"
said Matthew. "Al she ever wanted was a seat at the Congregation's table."
"But you didn't have to kil her," Em insisted.
"Gil ian believed absolutely that witches and vampires should remain apart. The Congregation has never been satisfied that they ful y understood Stephen Proctor's power and asked her to watch Diana. She wouldn't have rested until both Ashmole 782 and Diana were in the Congregation's control."
"But it was just a picture." Em wiped at her eyes.
"It was a threat. The Congregation had to understand that I was not going to stand by and let them take Diana."
"Satu took her anyway," Em pointed out, her voice unusual y sharp.
"That's enough, Em." I reached over and covered her hand with mine.
"What about this issue of children?" Sarah asked, gesturing with her glass. "Surely you two won't do something so risky?"
"That's enough," I repeated, standing and banging my hand on the table. Everyone but Matthew and my grandmother jumped in surprise. "If we are at war, we're not fighting for a bewitched alchemical manuscript, or for my safety, or for our right to marry and have children. This is about the future of al of us." I saw that future for just a moment, its bright potential spooling away in a thousand different directions. "If our children don't take the next evolutionary steps, it wil be someone else's children. And whiskey isn't going to make it possible for me to close my eyes and forget that. No one else wil go through this kind of hel because they love someone they're not supposed to love. I won't al ow it."
My grandmother gave me a slow, sweet smile. There's my girl. Spoken like a Bishop.
"We don't expect anyone else to fight with us. But understand this: our army has one general. Matthew. If you don't like it, don't enlist."
In the front hal , the old case clock began to strike midnight.
The witching hour. My grandmother nodded.
Sarah looked at Em. "Wel , honey? Are we going to stand with Diana and join Matthew's army or let the devil take the hindmost?"
"I don't understand what you al mean by war. Wil there be battles? Wil vampires and witches come here?" Em asked Matthew in a shaky voice.
"The Congregation believes Diana holds answers to their questions. They won't stop looking for her."
"But Matthew and I don't have to stay," I said. "We can be gone by morning."
"My mother always said my life wouldn't be worth living once it was tangled up with the Bishops," Em said with a wan smile.
"Thank you, Em," Sarah said simply, although her face spoke volumes.
The clock tol ed a final time. Its gears whirred into place, ready to strike the next hour when it came.
"Miriam?" Matthew asked. "Are you staying here or are you going back to Oxford?"
"My place is with the de Clermonts."
"Diana is a de Clermont now." His tone was icy.
"I understand, Matthew." Miriam directed a level gaze at me. "It won't happen again."
"How strange," Marcus murmured, his eyes sweeping the room. "First it was a shared secret. Now three witches and three vampires have pledged loyalty to one another. If we had a trio of daemons, we'd be a shadow Congregation."
"We're unlikely to run into three daemons in downtown Madison," Matthew said drily. "And whatever happens, what we've talked about tonight remains among the six of us- understood? Diana's DNA is no one else's business."
There were nods al around the table as Matthew's motley army fel into line behind him, ready to face an enemy we didn't know and couldn't name.
We said our good-nights and went upstairs. Matthew kept his arm around me, guiding me through the doorframe and into the bedroom when I found it impossible to navigate the turn on my own. I slid between the icy sheets, teeth chattering. When his cool body pressed against mine, the chattering ceased.
I slept heavily, waking only once. Matthew's eyes glittered in the darkness, and he pul ed me back so that we lay like spoons.
"Sleep," he said, kissing me behind the ear. "I'm here."
His cold hand curved over my bel y, already protecting children yet to be born.