"Granny had ghosts, too," she said calmly.

The ghosts, combined with two unfriendly vampires and an overly expressive house, were too much for Nathaniel.

"We aren't staying longer than we have to, Sophie. You came to give something to Diana. Let's get it over with and be on our way," Nathaniel said. Miriam chose that minute to step out of the shadows by the dining room, her arms crossed over her chest. Nathaniel took a step backward.

"First vampires. Now daemons. What next?" Sarah muttered. She turned to Sophie. "So you're about five months along?"

"The baby quickened last week," Sophie replied, both hands resting on her bel y. "That's when Agatha told us where we could find Diana. She didn't know about my family. I've been having dreams about you for months. And I don't know what Agatha saw that made her so scared."

"What dreams?" Matthew said, his voice quick.

"Let's have Sophie sit down before we subject her to an inquisition." Sarah quietly took charge. "Em, can you bring us some of those cookies? Milk, too?"

Em headed toward the kitchen, where we could hear the distant clatter of glasses.

"They could be my dreams, or they could be hers."

Sophie gazed at her bel y as Sarah led her and Nathaniel deeper into the house. She looked back over her shoulder at Matthew. "She's a witch, you see. That's probably what worried Nathaniel's mom."

Al eyes dropped to the bump under Sophie's blue sweater.

"The dining room," Sarah said in a tone that brooked no nonsense. "Everybody in the dining room."

Matthew held me back. "There's something too convenient about their showing up right now. No mention of timewalking in front of them."

"They're harmless." Every instinct confirmed it.

"Nobody's harmless, and that certainly goes for Agatha Wilson's son." Tabitha, who was sitting next to Matthew, mewled in agreement.

"Are you two joining us, or do I have to drag you into this room?" Sarah cal ed.

"We're on our way," Matthew said smoothly.

Sarah was at the head of the table. She pointed at the empty chairs to her right. "Sit."

We were facing Sophie and Nathaniel, who sat with an empty seat between them and Marcus. Matthew's son split his attention between his father and the daemons. I sat between Matthew and Miriam, both of whom never took their eyes from Nathaniel. When Em entered, she had a tray laden with wine, milk, bowls of berries and nuts, and an enormous plate of cookies.

"God, cookies make me wish like hel I was stil warmblooded," Marcus said reverently, picking up one of the golden disks studded with chocolate and holding it to his nose. "They smel so good, but they taste terrible."

"Have these instead," Em said, sliding him a bowl of walnuts. "They're covered in vanil a and sugar. They're not cookies, but they're close." She passed him a bottle of wine and a corkscrew, too. "Open that and pour some for your father."

"Thanks, Em," Marcus said around a mouthful of sticky walnuts, already pul ing the cork free from the bottle. "You're the best."

Sarah watched intently as Sophie drank thirstily from the glass of milk and ate a cookie. When the daemon reached for her second, my aunt turned to Nathaniel. "Now, where's your car?" Given al that had happened, it was an odd opening question.

"We came on foot." Nathaniel hadn't touched anything Em put in front of him.

"From where?" Marcus asked incredulously, handing Matthew a glass of wine. He'd seen enough of the surrounding countryside to know that there was nothing within walking distance.

"We rode with a friend from Durham to Washington,"

Sophie explained. "Then we caught a train from D.C. to New York. I didn't like the city much."

"We caught the train to Albany, then went on to Syracuse.

The bus took us to Cazenovia." Nathaniel put a warning hand on Sophie's arm.

"He doesn't want me to tel you that we caught a ride from a stranger," Sophie confided with a smile. "The lady knew where the house was. Her kids love coming here on Hal oween because you're real witches." Sophie took another sip of milk. "Not that we needed the directions.

There's a lot of energy in this house. We couldn't have missed it."

"Is there a reason you took such an indirect route?"

Matthew asked Nathaniel.

"Somebody fol owed us as far as New York, but Sophie and I got back on the train for Washington and they lost interest," Nathaniel bristled.

"Then we got off the train in New Jersey and went back to the city. The man in the station said tourists get confused al the time about which way the train is going. They didn't even charge us, did they, Nathaniel?" Sophie looked pleased at the warm reception they'd received from Amtrak.

Matthew continued with his interrogation of Nathaniel.

"Where are you staying?"

"They're staying here." Em's voice had a sharp edge.

"They don't have a car, and the house made room for them.

Besides, Sophie needs to talk to Diana."

"I'd like that. Agatha said you'd be able to help.

Something about a book for the baby," Sophie said softly.

Marcus's eyes darted to the page from Ashmole 782, the edge of which was peeking from underneath the chart laying out the Knights of Lazarus's chain of command. He hastily drew the papers into a pile, moving an innocuous- looking set of DNA results to the top.

"What book, Sophie?" I asked.

"We didn't tel Agatha my people were witches. I didn't even tel Nathaniel-not until he came home to meet my dad. We'd been together for almost four years, and my dad was sick and losing control over his magic. I didn't want Nathaniel spooked. Anyway, when we got married, we thought it was best not to cause a fuss. Agatha was on the Congregation by then and was always talking about the segregation rules and what happened when folks broke them." Sophie shook her head. "It never made any sense to me."

"The book?" I repeated, gently trying to steer the conversation.

"Oh." Sophie's forehead creased with concentration, and she fel silent.

"My mother is thril ed about the baby. She said it's going to be the best-dressed child the world has ever seen."

Nathaniel smiled tenderly at his wife. "Then the dreams started. Sophie felt trouble was coming. She has strong premonitions for a daemon, just like my mother. In September she started seeing Diana's face and hearing her name. Sophie said people want something from you."

Matthew's fingers touched the smal of my back where Satu's scar dipped down.

"Show them her face jug, Nathaniel. It's just a picture. I wanted to bring it, but he said we couldn't carry a gal on jug from Durham to New York."

Her husband obediently took out his phone and pul ed up a picture on the screen. Nathaniel handed the phone to Sarah, who gasped.

"I'm a potter, like my mama and her mother. Granny used witchfire in her kiln, but I just do it the ordinary way. Al the faces from my dreams go on my jugs. Not al of them are scary. Yours wasn't."

Sarah passed the phone to Matthew. "It's beautiful, Sophie," he said sincerely.

I had to agree. Its tal , rounded shape was pale gray, and two handles curved away from its narrow spout. On the front was a face-my face, though distorted by the jug's proportions. My chin jutted out from the surface, as did my nose, my ears, and the sweep of my brow bones. Thick squiggles of clay stood in for hair. My eyes were closed, and my mouth smiled serenely, as if I were keeping a secret.

"This is for you, too." Sophie drew a smal , lumpy object out of the pocket of her cardigan. It was wrapped in oilcloth secured with string. "When the baby quickened, I knew for sure it belonged to you. The baby knows, too. Maybe that's what made Agatha so worried. And of course we have to figure out what to do, since the baby is a witch. Nathaniel's mom thought you might have some ideas."

We watched in silence while Sophie picked at the knots.

"Sorry," she muttered. "My dad tied it up. He was in the navy."

"Can I help you?" Marcus asked, reaching for the lump.

"No, I've got it." Sophie smiled at him sweetly and went back to her work. "It has to be wrapped up or it turns black.

And it's not supposed to be black. It's supposed to be white."

Our col ective curiosity was now thoroughly aroused, and there wasn't a sound in the house except for the lapping of Tabitha's tongue as she groomed her paws. The string fel away, fol owed by the oilcloth.

"There," Sophie whispered. "I may not be a witch, but I'm the last of the Normans. We've been keeping this for you."

It was a smal figurine no more than four inches tal and made from old silver that glowed with the softly burnished light seen in museum showcases. Sophie turned the figurine so that it faced me.

Deborah Harkness Books | Fantasy Books | All Souls Trilogy Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com