The day before Hal oween, a fluttery feeling developed in my stomach.
Stil in bed, I reached for Matthew.
He closed the book he was reading and drew me near. "I know. You were nervous before you opened your eyes."
The house was already bustling with activity. Sarah's printer was churning out page after page in the office below. The television was on, and the dryer whined faintly in the distance as it protested under another load of laundry.
One sniff told me that Sarah and Em were wel into the day's coffee consumption, and down the hal there was the whir of a hair dryer.
"Are we the last ones up?" I made an effort to calm my stomach.
"I think so," he said with a smile, though there was a shadow of concern in his eyes.
Downstairs, Sarah was making eggs to order while Em pul ed trays of muffins out of the oven. Nathaniel was methodical y plucking one after another from the tin and popping them whole into his mouth.
"Where's Hamish?" Matthew asked.
"In my office, using the printer." Sarah gave him a long look and returned to her pan.
Marcus left his Scrabble game and came to the kitchen to take a walk with his father. He grabbed a handful of nuts as he left, sniffing the muffins with a groan of frustrated desire.
"What's going on?" I asked quietly.
"Hamish is being a lawyer," Sophie replied, spreading a thick layer of butter on top of a muffin. "He says there are papers to sign."
Hamish cal ed us into the dining room in the late morning.
We straggled in carrying wineglasses and mugs. He looked as though he hadn't slept. Neat stacks of paper were arranged across the table's expanse, along with sticks of black wax and two seals belonging to the Knights of Lazarus-one smal , one large. My heart hit my stomach and bounced back into my throat.
"Should we sit?" Em asked. She'd brought in a fresh pot of coffee and topped off Hamish's mug.
"Thank you, Em," Hamish said grateful y. Two empty chairs sat officiously at the head of the table. He gestured Matthew and me into them and picked up the first stack of papers. "Yesterday afternoon we went over a number of practical issues related to the situation in which we now find ourselves."
My heart sped up, and I eyed the seals again.
"A little less lawyerly, Hamish, if you please," Matthew said, his hand tightening on my back. Hamish glowered at him and continued.
"Diana and Matthew wil timewalk, as planned, on Hal oween. Ignore everything else Matthew told you to do."
Hamish took an obvious pleasure in delivering this part of his message. "We've agreed that it would be best if everyone . . . disappeared for a little while. As of this moment, your old lives are on hold."
Hamish put a document in front of me. "This is a power of attorney, Diana. It authorizes me-or whoever occupies the position of seneschal-to act legal y on your behalf."
The power of attorney gave the abstract idea of timewalking a new sense of finality. Matthew fished a pen from his pocket.
"Here," he said, placing the pen before me.
The pen's nib wasn't used to the angle and pressure of my hand, and it scratched while I put my signature on the line. When I was finished, Matthew took it and dropped a warm black blob on the bottom, then reached for his personal seal and pressed it into the wax.
Hamish picked up the next stack. "These letters are for you to sign, too. One informs your conference organizers that you cannot speak in November. The other requests a medical leave for next year. Your physician-one Dr.
Marcus Whitmore-has written in support. In the event you haven't returned by April, I'l send your request to Yale."
I read the letters careful y and signed with a shaking hand, relinquishing my life in the twenty-first century.
Hamish braced his hands against the edge of the table.
Clearly he was building up to something. "There is no tel ing when Matthew and Diana wil be back with us." He didn't use the word "if," but it hovered in the room nonetheless.
"Whenever any member of the firm or of the de Clermont family is preparing to take a long journey or drop out of sight for a while, it's my job to make sure their affairs are in order. Diana, you have no wil ."
"No." My mind was entirely blank. "But I don't have any assets-not even a car."
Hamish straightened. "That's not entirely true, is it, Matthew?"
"Give it to me," Matthew said reluctantly. Hamish handed him a thick document. "This was drawn up when I was last in Oxford."
"Before La Pierre," I said, not touching the pages.
Matthew nodded. "Essential y, it's our marriage agreement. It irrevocably settles a third of my personal assets on you. Even if you were to leave me, these assets would be yours."
It was dated before he'd come home-before we were mated for life by vampire custom.
"I'l never leave you, and I don't want this."
"You don't even know what this is," Matthew said, putting the pages in front of me.
There was too much to absorb. Staggering sums of money, a town house on an exclusive square in London, a flat in Paris, a vil a outside Rome, the Old Lodge, a house in Jerusalem, stil more houses in cities like Venice and Sevil e, jets, cars-my mind whirled.
"I have a secure job." I pushed the papers away. "This is completely unnecessary."
"It's yours nonetheless," Matthew said gruffly.
Hamish let me gather my composure before he dropped his next bombshel . "If Sarah were to die, you would inherit this house, too, on the condition that it would be Emily's home for as long as she wanted it. And you're Matthew's sole heir. So you do have assets-and I need to know your wishes."
"I'm not going to talk about this." The memories of Satu and Juliette were stil fresh, and death felt al too close. I stood, ready to bolt, but Matthew grabbed my hand and held fast.
"You need to do this, mon coeur. We cannot leave it for Marcus and Sarah to sort out."
I sat back down and thought quietly about what to do with the inconceivable fortune and ramshackle farmhouse that might one day be mine.
"My estate should be divided equal y among our children," I said final y. "And that includes all of Matthew's children-vampire and biological, those he made himself and any that we might have together. They're to have the Bishop house, too, when Em's through with it."
"I'l see to it," Hamish assured me.
The only remaining documents on the table were hidden inside three envelopes. Two bore Matthew's seal. The other had black-and-silver ribbon wrapped around it, a lump of sealing wax covering the knot. Hanging from the ribbon was a thick black disk as big as a dessert plate that bore the impression of the great seal of the Knights of Lazarus.
"Final y we have the brotherhood to sort out. When Matthew's father founded the Knights of Lazarus, they were known for helping to protect those who could not protect themselves. Though most creatures have forgotten about us, we stil exist. And we must continue to do so even after Matthew is gone. Tomorrow, before Marcus leaves the house, Matthew wil official y give up his position in the order and appoint his son grand master."
Hamish handed Matthew the two envelopes bearing his personal seal. He then handed the envelope with the larger seal to Nathaniel. Miriam's eyes widened.
"As soon as Marcus accepts his new position, which he wil do immediately, " Hamish said, giving Marcus a stern look, "he wil phone Nathaniel, who has agreed to join the firm as one of the eight provincial masters. Once Nathaniel breaks the seal on this commission, he'l be a Knight of Lazarus."
"You can't keep making daemons like Hamish and Nathaniel members of the brotherhood! How is Nathaniel going to fight?" Miriam sounded aghast.
"With these," Nathaniel said, wiggling his fingers in the air. "I know computers, and I can do my part." His voice took on a fierce edge, and he gave Sophie an equal y ferocious look. "No one is going to do to my wife or daughter what they've done to Diana."
There was stunned silence.
"That's not al ." Hamish pul ed up a chair and sat down, knitting his fingers together before him. "Miriam believes that there wil be a war. I disagree. This war has already started."
Every eye on the room was directed at Hamish. It was clear why people wanted him to play a role in government- and why Matthew had made him his second in command.
He was a born leader.
"In this room we understand why such a war might be fought. It's about Diana and the appal ing lengths the Congregation wil go to in an effort to understand the power she's inherited. It's about the discovery of Ashmole 782 and our fear that the book's secrets might be lost forever if it fal s into the witches' hands. And it's about our common belief that no one has the right to tel two creatures that they cannot love each other-no matter what their species."
Hamish surveyed the room to make sure no one's attention had wandered before he continued.
"It won't be long before the humans are aware of this conflict. They'l be forced to acknowledge that daemons, vampires, and witches are among them. When that happens, we'l need to be Sophie's conventicle in fact, not just in name. There wil be casualties, hysteria, and confusion. And it wil be up to us-the conventicle and the Knights of Lazarus-to help them make sense of it al and to see to it that the loss of life and destruction are minimal."
"Ysabeau is waiting for you at Sept-Tours." Matthew's voice was quiet and steady. "The castle grounds may be the only territorial boundary other vampires won't dare to cross. Sarah and Emily wil try to keep the witches in check.
The Bishop name should help. And the Knights of Lazarus wil protect Sophie and her baby."
"So we'l scatter," Sarah said, nodding at Matthew. "Then reconvene at the de Clermont house. And when we do, we'l figure out how to proceed. Together."
"Under Marcus's leadership." Matthew raised his half-ful wineglass. "To Marcus, Nathaniel, and Hamish. Honor and long life."
"It's been a long time since I've heard that," Miriam said softly.
Marcus and Nathaniel both shied away from the attention and seemed uncomfortable with their new responsibilities.
Hamish merely appeared weary.
After toasting the three men-al of whom looked far too young to have to worry about a long life-Em shepherded us into the kitchen for lunch. She laid out a feast on the island, and we mil ed around the family room, avoiding the moment when we would have to begin our good-byes.
Final y it was time for Sophie and Nathaniel to depart.
Marcus put the couple's few belongings in the trunk of his little blue sports car. Marcus and Nathaniel stood, their two blond heads close in conversation, while Sophie said good-bye to Sarah and Em. When she was finished, she turned to me. I'd been banished to the keeping room to make sure that no one inadvertently touched me.