Herr Maisel escorted me the short distance from the Jewish Town to the Old Town. Its spacious square was thronged with people. The twin towers of Our Lady of Tyn rose to our left, while the stolid outlines of the Town Hall crouched to our right.
"If we didn't have to meet Herr Roydon, we would stop and see the clock strike the hours," Herr Maisel said apologetically. "You must ask him to take you past it on your way to the bridge. Every visitor to Prague should see it."
At the Ungelt, where the foreign merchants traded under the watchful eyes of the customs officer, the merchants looked at Maisel with open hostility.
"Here is your wife, Herr Roydon. I made sure she noticed all the best shops on her way to meet you. She will have no problem finding the finest craftsmen in Prague to see to her needs and those of your household." Maisel beamed at Matthew.
"Thank you, Herr Maisel. I am grateful for your assistance and will be sure to let His Majesty know of your kindness."
"It is my job, Herr Roydon, to see to the prosperity of His Majesty's people. And it was a pleasure, too, of course," he said. "I took the liberty of hiring horses for your journey back. They are waiting for you near the town clock." Maisel touched the side of his nose and winked conspiratorially.
"You think of everything, Herr Maisel," Matthew murmured.
"Someone has to, Herr Roydon," responded Maisel.
Back at the Three Ravens, I was still taking my cloak off when an eightyear-old boy and a flying mop practically knocked me off my feet. The mop was attached to a lively pink tongue and a cold black nose.
"What is this?" Matthew bellowed, steadying me so that I could locate the mop's handle.
"His name is Lobero. Gallowglass says he will grow into a great beast and that he might as well have a saddle fitted for him as a leash. Annie loves him, too. She says he will sleep with her, but I think we should share. What do you think?" Jack said, dancing with excitement.
"The wee mop came with a note," Gallowglass said. He pushed himself away from the doorframe and strolled over to Matthew to deliver it.
"Need I ask who sent the creature?" Matthew said, snatching at the paper.
"Oh, I don't think so," Gallowglass said. His eyes narrowed. "Did something happen while you were out, Auntie? You look done in."
"Just tired," I said with a breezy wave of my hand. The mop had teeth as well as a tongue, and he bit down on my fingers as they passed by his asyet-undiscovered mouth. "Ouch!"
"This has to stop." Matthew crushed the note in his fingers and flung it to the floor. The mop pounced on it with a delighted bark.
"What did the note say?" I was pretty sure I knew who had sent the puppy.
"'Ich bin Lobero. Ich will euch aus den Schatten der Nacht zu schutzen,'" Matthew said flatly.
I made an impatient sound. "Why does he keep writing to me in German? Rudolf knows I have a hard time understanding it."
"His Majesty delights in knowing I will have to translate his professions of love."
"Oh." I paused. "What did this note say?"
"'I am Lobero. I will protect you from the shadow of night.'" "And what does 'Lobero' mean?" Once, many moons ago, Ysabeau had taught me that names were important.
"It means 'Wolf Hunter' in Spanish, Auntie." Gallowglass picked up the mop. "This bit of fluff is a Hungarian guard dog. Lobero will grow so big he'll be able to take down a bear. They're fiercely protective-and nocturnal."
"A bear! When we bring him back to London, I will tie a ribbon around his neck and take him to the bearbaitings so that he can learn how to fight," Jack said with the gruesome delight of a child. "Lobero is a brave name, don't you think? Master Shakespeare will want to use it in his next play." Jack wriggled his fingers in the puppy's direction, and Gallowglass obligingly deposited the squirming mass of white fur in the boy's arms. "Annie! I will feed Lobero next!" Jack pelted up the stairs, holding the dog in a death grip.
"Shall I take them away for a few hours?" Gallowglass asked after getting a good look at Matthew's stormy face.
"Is Baldwin's house empty?"
"There are no tenants in it, if that's what you mean."
"Take everybody." Matthew lifted my cloak from my shoulders.
Jack chattered like a magpie throughout supper, picking fights with Annie and managing to send a fair bit of food Lobero's way through a variety of occult methods. Between the children and the dog, it was almost possible to ignore the fact that Matthew was reconsidering his plans for the evening. On the one hand, he was a pack animal and something in him enjoyed having so many lives to take care of. On the other hand, he was a predator and I had an uneasy feeling that I was tonight's prey. The predator won. Not even Tereza and Karolina were allowed to stay.
"Why did you send them all away?" We were still by the fire in the house's main, first-floor room, where the comforting smells of dinner still filled the air.
"What happened this afternoon?" he asked.
"Answer my question first."
"Don't push me. Not tonight," Matthew warned.
"You think my day has been easy?" The air between us was crackling with blue and black threads. It looked ominous and felt worse.
"No." Matthew slid his chair back. "But you're keeping something from me, Diana. What happened with the witch?"
I stared at him.
"You can wait until hell freezes over, Matthew, because I'm not your servant. I asked you a question." The threads went purple, beginning to twist and distort.
"I sent them away so that they wouldn't witness this conversation. Now, what happened?" The smell of cloves was choking.
"I met the golem. And his maker, a Jewish weaver named Abraham. He has the power of animation, too."
"I've told you I don't like it when you play with life and death." Matthew poured himself more wine.
"You play with them all the time, and I accept that as part of who you are. You're going to have to accept it's part of me, too."
"And this Abraham. Who is he?" Matthew demanded.
"God, Matthew. You cannot be jealous because I met another weaver."
"Jealous? I am long past that warmblooded emotion." He took a mouthful of wine.
"Why was this afternoon different from every other day we spend apart while you're out working for the Congregation and your father?"
"It's different because I can smell every single person you've been in contact with today. It's bad enough that you always carry the scent of Annie and Jack. Gallowglass and Pierre try not to touch you, but they can't help it-they're around you too much. Then we add the scents of the Maharal, and Herr Maisel, and at least two other men. The only scent I can bear to have mixed with yours is my own, but I cannot keep you in a cage, and so I endure it the best I can." Matthew put down his cup and shot to his feet in an attempt to put some distance between us.
"That sounds like jealousy to me."
"It's not. I could manage jealousy," he said, furious. "What I am feeling now-this terrible gnawing sense of loss and rage because I cannot get a clear impression of you in the chaos of our life-I cannot seem to control." His pupils were large and getting larger.
"That's because you are a vampire. You're possessive. It's who you are," I said flatly, approaching him in spite of his anger. "And I am a witch. You promised to accept me as I am-light and dark, woman and witch, my own person as well as your wife." What if he had changed his mind? What if he wasn't willing to have this kind of unpredictability in his life?
"I do accept you." Matthew reached out a gentle finger and touched my cheek.
"No, Matthew. You tolerate me, because you think that one day I'll manage my magic into submission. Rabbi Loew warned me that tolerance can be withdrawn, and then you're out in the cold. My magic isn't something to manage. It's me. And I'm not going to hide myself from you. That's not what love is."
"All right. No more hiding."
"Good." I sighed with relief, but it was short-lived.
Matthew had me out of the chair and up against the wall in one clean move, his thigh pressed between mine. He pulled a curl free so that it trailed down my neck and onto my breast. Without releasing me, he bent his head and pressed his lips to the edge of my bodice. I shivered. It had been some time since he'd kissed me there, and our sex life had been practically nonexistent since the miscarriage. Matthew's lips brushed along my jaw and over the veins of my neck.
I grabbed his hair and pulled his head away. "Don't. Not unless you plan on finishing what you start. I've had enough bundling and regretful kisses to last a lifetime."
With a few blindingly fast vampire moves, Matthew had loosened the fastenings on his britches, rucked my skirts around my waist, and plunged inside me. It wasn't the first time I'd been taken against the wall by someone trying to forget his troubles for a few precious moments. On several occasions I'd even been the aggressor.
"This is about you and me-nothing else. Not the children. Not the damn book. Not the emperor and his gifts. Tonight the only scents in this house will be ours."
Matthew's hands gripped my buttocks, and his fingers were all that was saving me from being bruised as his thrusts carried my body toward the wall. I wrapped my hands in the collar of his shirt and pulled his face toward mine, ravenous for the taste of him. But Matthew was no more willing to let me control the kiss than he was our lovemaking. His lips were hard and demanding, and when I persisted in my attempts to get the upper hand, he gave me a warning nip on the lower lip.
"Oh, God," I said breathlessly as his steady rhythm set my nerves rushing toward a release. "Oh-"
"Tonight I won't even share you with Him." Matthew kissed the rest of my exclamation away. One hand retained its grip on my buttock, the other dipped between my legs.
"Who has your heart, Diana?" Matthew asked, a stroke of his thumb threatening to take me over the edge of sanity. He moved, moved again. Waited for my answer. "Say it," he growled.
"You know the answer," I said. "You have my heart."
"Only me," he said, moving once more so that the coiled tension finally found release.
"Only . . . forever . . . you," I gasped, my legs shaking around his hips. I slid my feet to the floor.
Matthew was breathing heavily, his forehead pressed to mine. His eyes showed a flash of regret as he lowered my skirts. He kissed me gently, almost chastely.
Our lovemaking, no matter how intense, had not satisfied whatever was driving Matthew to keep pursuing me in spite of the fact that I was indisputably his. I was beginning to worry that nothing could.
My frustration burbled over, taking shape in a concussive wave of air that carried him away from me and into the opposite wall. Matthew's eyes went black at his change of position.
"And how was that for you, my heart?" I asked softly. His face registered surprise. I snapped my fingers, releasing the air's hold on him. His muscles flexed as he regained his mobility. He opened his mouth to speak. "Don't you dare apologize," I said fiercely. "If you'd touched me in a way I didn't like, I would have said no."
Matthew's mouth tightened.
"I can't help thinking about your friend Giordano Bruno: 'Desire urges me on, as fear bridles me.' I'm not afraid of your power, or your strength, or anything else about you," I said. "What are you afraid of, Matthew?"
Regretful lips brushed over mine. That, and a whisper of breeze against my skirts, told me he had fled rather than answer.