It's just us and the ghosts now." My stomach rumbled.
"What's your favorite food?" he asked.
"Pizza," I said promptly.
"You should have it while you can. Order some, and we'l pick it up."
We hadn't been beyond the immediate environs of the Bishop house since our arrival, and it felt strange to be driving around the greater Madison area in a Range Rover next to a vampire. We took the back way to Hamilton, passing south over the hil s into town before swinging north again to get the pizza. During the drive I pointed out where I'd gone swimming as a child and where my first real boyfriend had lived. The town was covered with Hal oween decorations-black cats, witches on brooms, even trees decorated in orange and black eggs. In this part of the world, it wasn't just witches who took the celebration seriously.
When we arrived at the pizza place, Matthew climbed out with me, seemingly unconcerned that witches or humans might see us. I stretched up to kiss him, and he returned it with a laugh that was almost lighthearted.
The col ege student who rang us up looked at Matthew with obvious admiration when she handed him the pie.
"Good thing she isn't a witch," I said when we got back into the car. "She would have turned me into a newt and flown off with you on her broomstick."
Fortified with pizza-pepperoni and mushroom-I tackled the mess left in the kitchen and the family room.
Matthew brought out handfuls of paper from the dining room and burned them in the kitchen fireplace.
"What do we do with these?" he asked, holding up my mother's letter, the mysterious three-line epigram, and the page from Ashmole 782.
"Leave them in the keeping room," I told him. "The house wil take care of them."
I continued to putter, doing laundry and straightening up Sarah's office. It was not until I went up to put our clothes away that I noticed both computers were missing. I went pounding downstairs in a panic.
"Matthew! The computers are gone!"
"Hamish has them," he said, catching me in his arms and smoothing my hair against the back of my head. "It's al right. No one's been in the house."
My shoulders sagged, heart stil hammering at the idea of being surprised by another Domenico or Juliette.
He made tea, then rubbed my feet while I drank it. Al the while he talked about nothing important-houses in Hamilton that had reminded him of some other place and time, his first sniff of a tomato, what he thought when he'd seen me row in Oxford-until I relaxed into the warmth and comfort.
Matthew was always different when no one else was around, but the contrast was especial y marked now that our families had left. Since arriving at the Bishop house, he'd gradual y taken on the responsibility for eight other lives. He'd watched over al of them, regardless of who they were or how they were related to him, with the same ferocious intensity. Now he had only one creature to manage.
"We haven't had much time to just talk," I reflected, thinking of the whirlwind of days since we'd met. "Not just the two of us."
"The past weeks have been almost biblical in their tests. I think the only thing we've escaped is a plague of locusts."
He paused. "But if the universe does want to test us the old- fashioned way, this counts as the end of our trial. It wil be forty days this evening."
So little time, for so much to have happened.
I put my empty mug on the table and reached for his hands. "Where are we going, Matthew?"
"Can you wait a little longer, mon coeur?" He looked out the window. "I want this day to last. And it wil be dark soon enough."
"You like playing house with me." A piece of hair had fal en onto his forehead, and I brushed it back.
"I love playing house with you," he said, capturing my hand.
We talked quietly for another half hour, before Matthew glanced outdoors again. "Go upstairs and take a bath. Use every drop of water in the tank and take a long, hot shower, too. You may crave pizza every now and then in the days to come. But that wil be nothing compared to your longing for hot water. In a few weeks, you wil cheerful y commit murder for a shower."
Matthew brought up my Hal oween costume while I bathed: a calf-length black dress with a high neck, sharp- toed boots, and a pointy hat.
"What, may I ask, are these?" He brandished a pair of stockings with red and white horizontal stripes.
"Those are the stockings Em mentioned." I groaned.
"She'l know if I don't wear them."
"If I stil had my phone, I would take a picture of you in these hideous things and blackmail you for eternity."
"Is there anything that would ensure your silence?" I sank lower into the tub.
"I'm sure there is," Matthew said, tossing the stockings behind him.
We were playful at first. As at dinner last night, and again at breakfast, we careful y avoided mentioning that this might be our last chance to be together. I was stil a novice, but Em told me even the most experienced timewalkers respected the unpredictability of moving between past and future and recognized how easy it would be to wander indefinitely within the spiderweb of time.
Matthew sensed my changing mood and answered it first with greater gentleness, then with a fierce possessiveness that demanded I think of nothing but him.
Despite our obvious need for comfort and reassurance, we didn't consummate our marriage.
"When we're safe," he'd murmured, kissing me along my col arbone. "When there's more time."
Somewhere along the way, my smal pox blister burst.
Matthew examined it and pronounced that it was doing nicely-an odd description for an angry open wound the size of a dime. He removed the bandage from my neck, revealing the barest trace of Miriam's sutures, and the one from my arm as wel .
"You're a fast healer," he said approvingly, kissing the inside of my elbow where he'd drunk from my veins. His lips felt warm against my skin.
"How odd. My skin is cold there." I touched my neck.
Matthew drew his thumb across the spot where my carotid artery passed close to the surface. I shivered at his touch. The number of nerve endings there had seemingly tripled.
"Extra sensitivity," Matthew said, "as if you're part vampire." He bent and put his lips against my pulse.
"Oh," I gasped, taken aback at the intensity of feeling.
Mindful of the time, I buttoned myself into the black dress.
With a braid down my back, I might have stepped out of a photograph from the turn of the nineteenth century.
"Too bad we're not timewalking to World War I," Matthew said, pul ing at the sleeves of the dress. "You'd make a convincing schoolmistress circa 1912 in that getup."
"Not with these on." I sat on the bed and started pul ing on the candy-striped stockings.
Matthew roared with laughter and begged me to put the hat on immediately.
"I'l set fire to myself," I protested. "Wait until the jack-o'- lanterns are lit."
We went outside with matches, thinking we could light the pumpkins the human way. A breeze had kicked up, though, which made it difficult to strike the matches and impossible to keep the candles il uminated.
"Damn it," I swore. "Sophie's work shouldn't go to waste."
"Can you use a spel ?" Matthew said, already prepared to have another go at the matchbox.
"If not, then I have no business even pretending to be a witch on Hal oween." The mere thought of explaining my failure to Sophie made me concentrate on the task at hand, and the wick burst into life. I lit the other eleven pumpkins that were scattered down the drive, each more amazing or terrifying than the last.
At six o'clock there was a fierce pounding on the door and muffled cries of "Trick or treat!" Matthew had never experienced an American Hal oween, and he eagerly greeted our first visitors.
Whoever was outside received one of his heart-stopping smiles before Matthew grinned and beckoned me forward.
A tiny witch and a slightly larger vampire were holding hands on the front porch.
"Trick or treat," they intoned, holding out their open pil owcases.
"I'm a vampire," the boy said, baring his fangs at Matthew. He pointed to his sister. "She's a witch."
"I can see that," Matthew said gravely, taking in the black cape and white makeup. "I'm a vampire, too."
The boy examined him critical y. "Your mother should have worked harder on your costume. You don't look like a vampire at al . Where's your cape?" The miniature vampire swept his arms up, a fold of his own satin cape in each fist, revealing its bat-shaped wings. "See, you need your cape to fly. Otherwise you can't turn into a bat."
"Ah. That is a problem. My cape is at home, and now I can't fly back and get it. Perhaps I can borrow yours."
Matthew dumped a handful of candy into each pil owcase, the eyes of both children growing large at his generosity. I peeked around the door to wave at their parents.
"You can tel she's a witch," the girl piped up, nodding approvingly at my red-and-white-striped stockings and black boots. At their parents' urging, they shouted thank- yous as they trotted down the walk and climbed into the waiting car.
Over the next three hours, we greeted a steady stream of fairy princesses, pirates, ghosts, skeletons, mermaids, and space aliens, along with stil more witches and vampires. I gently told Matthew that one piece of candy per goblin was de rigueur and that if he didn't stop distributing handfuls of goodies now, we would run out long before the trick-or- treating stopped at nine o'clock.
It was hard to criticize, however, given his obvious delight. His responses to the children who came to the door revealed a whol y new side of him. Crouching down so that he was less intimidating, he asked questions about their costumes and told every young boy purporting to be a vampire that he was the most frightening creature he'd ever beheld.
But it was his encounter with one fairy princess wearing an oversize set of wings and a gauze skirt that tugged hardest at my heart. Overwhelmed and exhausted by the occasion, she burst into tears when Matthew asked which piece of candy she wanted. Her brother, a strapping young pirate aged six, dropped her hand in horror.