"This isn't real y good-bye," she told me from across the hal .

My third eye opened, and in the winking of the sunlight on the banister I saw myself enveloped in one of Sophie's fierce hugs.

"No," I said, surprised and comforted by the vision.

Sophie nodded as if she, too, had seen the glimpse of the future. "See, I told you. Maybe the baby wil be here when you get back. Remember, you'l be her godmother."

While waiting for Sophie and Nathaniel to say their good- byes, Matthew and Miriam had positioned al the pumpkins down the driveway. With a flick of her wrist and a few mumbled words, Sarah lit them. Dusk was stil hours away, but Sophie could at least get a sense of what they would look like on Hal oween night. She clapped her hands and tore down the steps to fling herself into the arms of Matthew and then Miriam. Her final hug was reserved for Marcus, who exchanged a few quiet words with her before tucking her into the low-slung passenger seat.

"Thanks for the car," Sophie said, admiring the burled wood on the dashboard. "Nathaniel used to drive fast, but he drives like an old lady now on account of the baby."

"No speeding," Matthew said firmly, sounding like a father. "Cal us when you get home."

We waved them off. When they were out of sight Sarah extinguished the pumpkins. Matthew put his arms around me as the remaining family drifted back inside.

"I'm ready for you, Diana," Hamish said, coming out onto the porch. He'd already put on his jacket, prepared to leave for New York before returning to London.

I signed the two copies of the wil , and they were witnessed by Em and Sarah. Hamish rol ed up one copy and slid it into a metal cylinder. He threaded the ends of the tube with black-and-silver ribbons and sealed it with wax bearing Matthew's mark.

Matthew waited by the black rental car while Hamish said a courteous farewel to Miriam, then kissed Em and Sarah, inviting them to stay with him on their way to Sept-Tours.

"Cal me if you need anything," he told Sarah, taking her hand and giving it a single squeeze. "You have my numbers." He turned to me.

"Good-bye, Hamish." I returned his kisses, first on one cheek, then the other. "Thank you for al you did to put Matthew's mind at ease."

"Just doing my job," Hamish said with forced cheerfulness. His voice dropped. "Remember what I told you. There wil be no way to cal for help if you need it."

"I won't need it," I said.

A few minutes later, the car's engine turned over and Hamish, too, was gone, red tail ights blinking in the gathering darkness.

The house didn't like its new emptiness and responded by banging furniture around and moaning softly whenever anyone left or entered a room.

"I'l miss them," Em confessed while making dinner. The house sighed sympathetical y.

"Go," Sarah said to me, taking the knife out of Em's hand. "Take Matthew to Sept-Tours and be back here in time to make the salad."

After much discussion we'd final y decided to timewalk to the night I'd found his copy of Origin.

But getting Matthew to Sept-Tours was more of a chal enge than I'd expected. My arms were so ful of stuff to help me steer-one of his pens and two books from his study-that Matthew had to hold on to my waist. Then we got stuck.

Invisible hands seemed to hold my foot up, refusing to let me lower it into Sept-Tours. The farther back in time we went, the thicker the strands were around my feet. And time clung to Matthew in sturdy, twining vines.

At last we made it to Matthew's study. The room was just as we'd left it, with the fire lit and an unlabeled bottle of wine waiting on the table.

I dropped the books and the pen on the sofa, shaking with fatigue.

"What's wrong?" Matthew asked.

"It was as if too many pasts were coming together, and it was impossible to wade through them. I was afraid you might let go."

"Nothing felt different to me," Matthew said. "It took a bit longer than before, but I expected that, given the time and distance."

He poured us both some wine, and we discussed the pros and cons of going downstairs. Final y, our desire to see Ysabeau and Marthe won out. Matthew remembered I'd been wearing my blue sweater. Its high neckline would hide my bandage, so I went upstairs to change.

When I came back down, his face broke into a slow, appreciative smile. "Just as beautiful now as then," he said, kissing me deeply. "Maybe more so."

"Be careful," I warned him with a laugh. "You hadn't decided you loved me yet."

"Oh, I'd decided," he said, kissing me again. "I just hadn't told you."

The women were sitting right where we expected them to be, Marthe with her murder mystery and Ysabeau with her newspapers. The conversation might not have been exactly the same, but it didn't seem to matter. The most difficult part of the evening was watching Matthew dance with his mother. The bittersweet expression on his face as he twirled her was new, and he definitely hadn't caught her up in a fierce bear hug when their dance was over. When he invited me to dance, I gave his hand an extra squeeze of sympathy.

"Thank you for this," he whispered in my ear as he whirled me around. He planted a soft kiss on my neck. That definitely hadn't happened the first time.

Matthew brought the evening to a close just as he had before, by announcing that he was taking me to bed. This time we said good night knowing that it was good-bye. Our return trip was much the same, but less frightening for its familiarity. I didn't panic or lose my concentration when time resisted our passage, focusing intently on the familiar rituals of making dinner in the Bishop house. We were back in plenty of time to make the salad.

During dinner Sarah and Em regaled the vampires with tales of my adventures growing up. When my aunts ran out of stories, Matthew teased Marcus about his disastrous real-estate deals in the nineteenth century, the enormous investments he'd made in new technologies in the twentieth century that had never panned out, and his perpetual weakness for redheaded women.

"I knew I liked you." Sarah smoothed down her own unruly red mop and poured him more whiskey.

Hal oween dawned clear and bright. Snow was always a possibility in this neck of the woods, but this year the weather looked encouraging. Matthew and Marcus took a longer walk than usual, and I lingered over tea and coffee with Sarah and Em.

When the phone rang, we al jumped. Sarah answered it, and we could tel from her half of the conversation that the cal was unexpected.

She hung up and joined us at the table in the family room, which was once again big enough to seat al of us. "That was Faye. She and Janet are at the Hunters'. In their RV.

They want to know if we'l join them on their fal trip. They're driving to Arizona, then up to Seattle."

"The goddess has been busy," Em said with a smile. The two of them had been trying for days to decide how they would extricate themselves from Madison without setting off a flurry of gossip. "I guess that settles it. We'l hit the road, then go meet Ysabeau."

We carried bags of food and other supplies to Sarah's beat-up old car. When it was ful y loaded and you could barely see out the rearview mirror, they started issuing orders.

"The candy's on the counter," Em instructed. "And my costume is hanging on the back of the stil room door. It wil fit you fine. Don't forget the stockings. The kids love the stockings."

"I won't forget them," I assured her, "or the hat, though it's perfectly ridiculous."

"Of course you'l wear the hat!" Sarah said indignantly.

"It's tradition. Make sure the fire is out before you leave.

Tabitha is fed at four o'clock sharp. If she isn't, she'l start barfing."

"We've got this covered. You left a list," I said, patting her on the shoulder.

"Can you cal us at the Hunters', let us know Miriam and Marcus have left?" Em asked.

"Here. Take this," Matthew said, handing them his phone with a lopsided smile. "You cal Marcus yourself. There won't be reception where we're going."

"Are you sure?" Em asked doubtful y. We al thought of Matthew's phone as an extra limb, and it was strange to see it out of his hand.

"Absolutely. Most of the data has been erased, but I've left some contact numbers on it for you. If you need anything -anything at al -cal someone. If you feel worried or if something strange happens, get in touch with Ysabeau or Hamish. They'l arrange for you to be picked up, no matter where you are."

"They have helicopters," I murmured to Em, slipping my arm through hers.

Marcus's phone rang. "Nathaniel," he said, looking at the screen. Then he stepped away to finish his cal in a new gesture of privacy, one that was identical to what his father always did.

With a sad smile, Matthew watched his son. "Those two wil get themselves into al kinds of trouble, but at least Marcus won't feel so alone."

"They're fine," Marcus said, turning back to us and disconnecting the phone. He smiled and ran his fingers through his hair in another gesture reminiscent of Matthew.

"I should let Hamish know, so I'l say my good-byes and cal him."

Em held on to Marcus for a long time, her eyes spil ing over. "Cal us, too," she told him fiercely. "We'l want to know that you're both al right."

"Be safe." Sarah's eyes scrunched tight as she gathered him in her arms. "Don't doubt yourself."

Miriam's farewel to my aunts was more composed, my own far less so.

"We're very proud of you," Em said, cupping my face in her hands, tears now streaming down her face. "Your parents would be, too. Take care of each other."

"We wil ," I assured her, dashing the tears away.

Sarah took my hands in hers. "Listen to your teachers- whoever they are. Don't say no without hearing them out first." I nodded. "You've got more natural talent than any witch I've ever seen-maybe more than any witch who's lived for many, many years," Sarah continued. "I'm glad you're not going to waste it. Magic is a gift, Diana, just like love." She turned to Matthew. "I'm trusting you with something precious. Don't disappoint me."

"I won't, Sarah," Matthew promised.

She accepted our kisses, then bolted down the steps to the waiting car.

"Good-byes are hard for Sarah," Em explained. "We'l talk to you tomorrow, Marcus." She climbed into the front seat, waving over her shoulder. The car spluttered to life, bumped its way across the ruts in the driveway, and turned toward town.

When we went back into the house, Miriam and Marcus were waiting in the front hal , bags at their feet.

"We thought you two should have some time alone,"

Miriam said, handing her duffel bag to Marcus, "and I hate long good-byes." She looked around. "Wel ," she said briskly, heading down the porch stairs, "see you when you get back."

After shaking his head at Miriam's retreating figure, Matthew went into the dining room and returned with an envelope. "Take it," he said to Marcus, his voice gruff.

"I never wanted to be grand master," Marcus said.

"You think I did? This was my father's dream. Philippe made me promise the brotherhood wouldn't fal into Baldwin's hands. I'm asking you to do the same."

"I promise." Marcus took the envelope. "I wish you didn't have to go."

"I'm sorry, Marcus." I swal owed the lump in my throat and rested my warm fingers lightly on his cold flesh.

"For what?" His smile was bright and true. "For making my father happy?"

"For putting you in this position and leaving behind such a mess."

"I'm not afraid of war, if that's what you mean. It's fol owing along in Matthew's wake that worries me." Marcus cracked the seal. With that deceptively insignificant snap of wax, he became the grand master of the Knights of Lazarus.

"Je suis a votre commande, seigneur," Matthew murmured, his head bowed. Baldwin had spoken the same words at La Guardia. They sounded so different when they were sincere.

"Then I command you to return and take back the Knights of Lazarus," Marcus said roughly, "before I make a complete hash of things. I'm not French, and I'm certainly no knight."

"You have more than a drop of French blood in you, and you're the only person I trust to do the job. Besides, you can rely on your famous American charm. And it is possible you might like being grand master in the end."

Marcus snorted and punched the number eight on his phone. "It's done," he said briefly to the person on the other end. There was a short exchange of words. "Thank you."

"Nathaniel has accepted his position," Matthew murmured, the corners of his mouth twitching. "His French is surprisingly good."

Marcus scowled at his father, walked away to say a few more words to the daemon, and returned.

Between father and son there was a long look, the clasp of hand to elbow, the press of a hand on the back-a pattern of leave-taking based on hundreds of similar farewel s. For me there was a gentle kiss, a murmured "Be wel ," and then Marcus, too, was gone.

I reached for Matthew's hand.

We were alone.

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