She started walking toward the house. “Diana said you’ve got a bit of trouble.”
“Nothing we can’t handle,” Matthew said with a scowl.
“He always says that. Sometimes he’s even right.” Sarah beckoned to Vivian. “Come inside.
Diana’s got iced tea made.”
“Everything is fine, Ms. Harrison,” Matthew said, stalking alongside the witch.
Diana appeared behind Sarah. She looked at Matthew in fury, her hands on her hips.
“Fine?” she demanded. “Peter Knox murdered Em. There’s a tree growing out of the fireplace. I’m pregnant with your children. We’ve been evicted from Sept-Tours. And the Congregation could show up at any minute and force us to separate. Does that sound fine to you, Vivian?”
“The Peter Knox who had a crush on Diana’s mother? Isn’t he a member of the Congregation?”
“Not anymore,” Matthew replied.
“I think we’d better go inside after all.” Vivian shook her finger at Sarah. “You told me Em had a heart attack.”
“She did,” Sarah said defensively. Vivian’s lips curled in disgust. “It’s the truth! Matthew’s son said that was the cause of death.”
“You’re awfully good at telling the truth and lying at the same time, Sarah.” Vivian’s tone softened.
“Emily was a big part of our community. So are you. We need to know what really happened in France.”
“Knowing whether it’s Knox’s fault or not won’t change anything. Emily will still be dead.”
Sarah’s eyes brimmed with tears. She dashed them away. “And I don’t want the coven involved. It’s too dangerous.”
“We’re your friends. We’re already involved.” Vivian rubbed her hands together. “Sunday is Lughnasadh.”
“Lughnasadh?” Sarah said suspiciously. “The Madison coven hasn’t celebrated Lughnasadh for decades.”
“We don’t normally have a big celebration, it’s true, but this year Hannah O’Neil is pulling out all the stops to welcome you back home. And to give us all a chance to say good-bye to Em.”
“But Matthew—Fernando.” Sarah dropped her voice. “The covenant.”
Vivian shouted with laughter. “Diana’s pregnant. It’s a little late to worry about breaking the rules.
Besides, the coven knows all about Matthew. Fernando, too.”
“They do?” Sarah said, startled.
“They do,” Diana said firmly. “Smitty has bonded with Matthew over hand tools, and you know what a gossip he can be.” The indulgent smile she gave Matthew took some of the sting out of her words.
“We’re known as a progressive coven. If we’re lucky, maybe Diana will trust us with whatever is wrapped up inside her disguising spell. See you Sunday.” With a smile at Matthew and a wave to Fernando, Vivian got into her car and pulled away.
“Vivian Harrison is a bulldozer,” Sarah grumbled.
“Observant, too,” Matthew said thoughtfully.
“She is.” Sarah studied Diana. “Vivian’s right. You are wearing a disguising spell—a good one.
Who cast it for you?”
“Nobody. I—” Unable to lie, and still unwilling to tell her aunt the truth, Diana snapped her mouth shut. Matthew scowled.
“Fine. Don’t tell me.” Sarah stomped back to the keeping room. “And I’m not going to that potluck. The whole coven is on some vegetarian kick. There will be nothing to eat but zucchini and Hannah’s famously inedible Key lime pudding pie.”
“The widow is feeling more herself,” Fernando whispered, giving Diana a thumbs-up as he followed Sarah into the house. “Returning to Madison was a good idea.”
“You promised you’d tell Sarah you’re a weaver when we were settled here at the Bishop house,”
Matthew said when he and Diana were alone. “Why haven’t you?”
“I’m not the only one keeping secrets. And I’m not just talking about the blood-vow business or even the fact that vampires kill other vampires with blood rage. You should have told me that Hugh and Fernando were a couple. And you definitely should have told me that Philippe had been using your illness as a weapon all these years.”
“Does Sarah know that Corra is your familiar, not a souvenir? And what about meeting your father in London?” Matthew crossed his arms.
“It wasn’t the right moment,” Diana said with a sniff.
“Ah, yes, the elusive right moment.” Matthew snorted. “It never comes, Diana. Sometimes we just have to throw caution to the wind and trust the people we love.”
“I do trust Sarah.” Diana bit her lip. She didn’t have to finish. Matthew knew that the real problem was she didn’t trust herself or her magic. Not completely.
“Take a walk with me,” he said, holding out his hand. “We can talk about this later.”
“It’s too hot,” Diana protested, though she still put her hand in his.
“I’ll cool you off,” he promised with a smile.
Diana looked at him with interest. Matthew’s smile broadened.
His wife—his heart, his mate, his life—stepped down off the porch and into his arms. Diana’s eyes were the blue and gold of a summer sky, and Matthew wanted nothing more than to fall headlong into their bright depths, not to lose himself but to be found.
“No wonder we don’t celebrate Lughnasadh,” Sarah muttered, pushing open the front door. “All those awful songs about the end of summer and the coming of winter—not to mention Mary Bassett’s tambourine accompaniment.”
“The music wasn’t that bad,” I protested. Matthew’s grimace indicated that Sarah had a right to complain.
“Do you have more of that temperamental wine, Fernando?” Sarah flicked on the hall lights. “I need a drink. My head is pounding.”
“Tempranillo.” Fernando tossed the picnic blankets on the hall bench. “Tempranillo. Remember: It’s Spanish.”
“French, Spanish, whatever—I need some,” she said, sounding desperate.
I stood aside so Abby and Caleb could get in the door. John was conked out in Caleb’s arms, but Grace was wide awake. She squirmed to get down.
“Let her go, Abby. She can’t hurt anything,” Sarah said, heading for the kitchen.
Abby put Grace down, and the child toddled straight toward the stairs. Abby laughed.
“She has the most amazing instincts when it comes to trouble. No stairs, Grace.” She swooped in and swung Grace up in the air before depositing her back on the floor and pointing her in the direction of the family room.
“Why don’t you put John in the keeping room?” I suggested. John had abandoned his Spider-Man mask and was wearing a T-shirt with the superhero on it instead.
“Thanks, Diana.” Caleb whistled. “I see what you mean about the tree, Matthew. So it just sprang up out of the hearth?”
“We think some fire and a bit of blood might have been involved,” Matthew explained, shaking out one of the blankets and following Caleb. The two had been chatting all evening about everything from academic politics to Matthew’s hospital work at the John Radcliffe to the fate of the polar bears.
Matthew arranged a blanket on the floor for John, while Caleb ran his fingers over the bark on the Blasted Tree.
This is what Matthew needs, I realized. Home. Family. Pack. Without other people to take care of, he retreated to that dark place where his past deeds haunted him. And he was especially prone to brooding now, given Benjamin’s recent reappearance.
I needed this, too. Living in the sixteenth century, in households rather than simply in houses, I had grown accustomed to being surrounded by other people. My fear of being discovered had receded, and in its place had grown a wish to belong.
As a result I’d found the coven potluck surprisingly enjoyable. The Madison witches had occupied an intimidating place in my imagination, but tonight the assembled witches were pleasant and, except for my high-school nemeses Cassie and Lydia, welcoming. They were also surprisingly powerless when compared to the witches I’d known in London. One or two of them had some elemental magic at their disposal, but none were as formidable as the firewitches or waterwitches of the past. And the Madison witches who could work the craft couldn’t hold a candle to Sarah.
“Wine, Abby?” Fernando offered her a glass.
“Sure.” Abby giggled. “I’m surprised you made it out of the potluck alive, Fernando. I was positive that someone was going to work a bit of love magic on you.”
“Fernando shouldn’t have encouraged them,” I said with mock severity. “There was no need to both bow and kiss Betty Eastey’s hand.”
“Her poor husband is going to hear nothing but ‘Fernando this’ and ‘Fernando that’ for days,” Abby said with another giggle.
“The ladies will be very disappointed when they discover they are trying to saddle the wrong horse,” Fernando replied. “Your friends told me the most charming stories, Diana. Did you know that vampires are really quite cuddly, once we find our true love?”
“Matthew hasn’t exactly been transformed into a teddy bear,” I said drily.
“Ah, but you didn’t know him before.” Fernando’s smile was wicked.
“Fernando!” Sarah called from the kitchen. “Come help me light this stupid fire. I can’t get it to catch.”
Why she felt it was necessary to light a fire in this kind of heat was beyond me, but Sarah said Em had always lit a fire on Lughnasadh, and that was that.
“Duty calls,” Fernando murmured, giving Abby a little bow. Like Betty Eastey, she blushed.
“We’ll go with you.” Caleb took Grace by the hand. “Come on, sprout.”
Matthew watched the Pratts troop off to the kitchen, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
“That will be us soon,” I said, slipping my arms around him.
“That’s just what I was thinking.” Matthew kissed me. “Are you ready to tell your aunt about being a weaver?”
“As soon as the Pratts leave.” Every morning I promised to tell Sarah about all that I’d learned from the London coven, but with every passing day it got harder to share my news.
“You don’t have to tell her everything all at once,” Matthew said, running his hands over my shoulders. “Just tell her you’re a weaver so you can stop wearing this shroud.”
We joined the others in the kitchen. Sarah’s fire was now crackling merrily in the stillroom, adding to the warmth of the summer evening. We sat around the table, comparing notes on the party and gossiping about the latest coven happenings. Then the talk turned to baseball. Caleb was a Red Sox fan, just like my dad.
“What is it about Harvard men and the Red Sox?” I got up to make some tea.
A flicker of white caught my eye. I smiled and put the kettle on the stove, thinking it was one of the house’s missing ghosts. Sarah would be so happy if one of them were ready to apparate again.
That was no ghost.
Grace tottered in front of the stillroom fireplace on unsteady, two-year-old legs. “Pretty,” she cooed.
Startled by my cry, Grace turned her head. That was enough to upset her balance, and she tipped toward the fire.
I’d never reach her in time—not with a kitchen island and twenty-five feet between us. I reached into the pocket of my shorts and pulled out my weaver’s cords. They snaked through my fingers and twisted around my wrists just as Grace’s scream pierced the air.
I acted on pure instinct and rooted my feet into the floor. Water was all around us, trickling through deep arteries that crisscrossed the Bishop land. It was within me, too, and in an effort to focus its raw, elemental power I isolated the filaments of blue, green, and silver that highlighted everything in the kitchen and the stillroom that was tied to water.
In a quicksilver flash, I directed a bolt of water at the fireplace. A spout of steam erupted, coals hissed, and Grace hit the slurry of ash and water on the hearth with a thud.
“Grace!” Abby ran past me, followed by Caleb.
Matthew drew me into his arms. I was soaked to the skin and shivering. He rubbed my back, trying to restore some warmth.
“Thank God you have so much power over water, Diana,” Abby said, holding a tearful Grace.
“Is she okay?” I asked. “She reached out to steady herself, but she was awfully close to the flames.”
“Her hand is a little pink,” Caleb said, examining her small fingers. “What do you think, Matthew?”
Matthew took Grace’s hand.
“Pretty,” she said, her lower lip trembling.
“I know,” Matthew murmured. “Fire is very pretty. Very hot, too.” He blew on her fingers, and she laughed. Fernando handed him a damp cloth and an ice cube.
“’Gain,” she commanded, thrusting her hand in Matthew’s face.
“Nothing seems to be damaged, and there are no blisters,” Matthew said after obeying the tiny tyrant’s command to blow on her fingers once more. He wrapped the cloth carefully around her hand and held the ice cube to it. “She should be fine.”
“I didn’t know you could wield waterbolts.” Sarah looked at me sharply. “Are you okay? You look different—shiny.”
“I’m fine.” I pulled away from Matthew, trying to draw the tattered remains of my disguising spell around me. I searched the floor surrounding the kitchen island, looking for my dropped weaver’s cords in case some surreptitious patching was required.