“The Congregation was established to enforce the covenant, to keep us safe from human attention and interference,” I said, sticking to my guns nonetheless. “In exchange we all stay out of human politics and religion.”
“Think what you want, but forced segregation—or the covenant if you want to be fancy about it—is often about concerns for racial purity.” Chris propped his legs on the coffee table. “Your covenant probably came into being because witches were having vampire babies. Making humans more
‘comfortable’ was just a convenient excuse.”
Fernando and Matthew exchanged glances.
“I assumed that Diana’s ability to conceive was unique—that this was the goddess at work, not part of some broader pattern.” Vivian was aghast. “Scores of long-lived creatures with supernatural powers would be terrifying.”
“Not if you want to engineer a super race. Then such a creature would be quite a genetic coup,”
Chris observed. “Do we happen to know of any megalomaniacs with an interest in vampire genetics?
Oh, wait. We know two of them.”
“I prefer to leave such things to God, Christopher.” A dark vein pulsed in Matthew’s forehead. “I have no interest in eugenics.”
“I forgot. You’re obsessed with species evolution—in other words, history and chemistry. Those are Diana’s research interests. What a coincidence.” Chris’s eyes narrowed. “Based on what I’ve overheard, I have two questions, Professor Clairmont. Is it just vampires who are dying out, or are witches and daemons going extinct, too? And which of these so-called species cares the most about racial purity?”
Chris really was a genius. With every insightful question he was delving deeper into the mysteries bound up in the Book of Life, the de Clermont family’s secrets, and the mysteries in my own—and Matthew’s—blood.
“Chris is right,” Matthew said with suspicious speed. “We can’t risk the Congregation discovering Diana’s pregnancy. If you have no objection, mon coeur, I think we should go to Fernando’s house in Seville without delay. Sarah can come with us, of course. Then the coven’s reputation won’t be brought into disrepute.”
“I said you can’t let the Wicked Witch find out about Diana, not that she should run away,” Chris said, disgusted. “Have you forgotten Benjamin?”
“Let’s fight this war on one front at a time, Christopher.” Matthew’s expression must have matched his tone, because Chris immediately subsided.
“Okay. I’ll go to Seville.” I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want the Madison witches to suffer either.
“No, it’s not okay,” Sarah said, her voice rising. “The Congregation wants answers? Well, I want answers, too. You tell Sidonie von Borcke that I have been consorting with vampires since last October, ever since Satu Järvinen kidnapped and tortured my niece while Peter Knox stood by and did nothing. If that means I’ve violated the covenant, that’s too damn bad. Without the de Clermonts, Diana would be dead—or worse.”
“Those are serious allegations,” Vivian said. “You’re sure you want to make them?”
“Yes,” Sarah said stubbornly. “Knox has already been banished from the Congregation. I want Satu’s ass kicked off, too.”
“They’re looking for Knox’s replacement now,” Vivian reported. “It’s rumored that Janet Gowdie is going to come out of retirement to fill the chair.”
“Janet Gowdie is ninety if she’s a day,” Sarah said. “She can’t possibly be up to the job.”
“Knox insists that it be a witch known for her spell-casting abilities, as he was. No one—not even Janet Gowdie—ever bested him when it came to performing spells,” Vivian said.
“Yet,” said Sarah succinctly.
“There’s something else, Sarah—and it might make you pause before you go after the witches of the Congregation.” Vivian hesitated. “Sidonie has asked for a report on Diana. She says it’s standard procedure to check on witches who haven’t developed their magical talents to see if anything manifested later in life.”
“If it’s my power the Congregation is interested in, then Sidonie’s request really has nothing to do with Sarah and me consorting with vampires,” I said.
“Sidonie claims that she has a childhood assessment of Diana that indicated she was not expected to manifest any of the normal powers traditionally associated with witches,” Vivian went on, looking miserable. “Peter Knox conducted it. Rebecca and Stephen agreed to his findings and signed off on it.”
“Tell the Congregation that Rebecca and Stephen’s assessment of their daughter’s magical abilities was absolutely correct, down to the last detail.” Sarah’s eyes glittered with anger. “My niece has no normal powers.”
“Well done, Sarah,” Matthew said, his admiration of her careful truth evident. “That answer was worthy of my brother Godfrey.”
“Thank you, Matthew,” Sarah said with a little nod.
“Knox knows something—or suspects something—about me. He has since I was a child.” I expected Matthew to argue. He didn’t. “I thought we’d discovered what my parents were hiding: that I’m a weaver, like Dad. But now that I know about Mom’s interest in higher magics, I wonder if that doesn’t have to have something to do with Knox’s interest as well.”
“He’s a dedicated practitioner of higher magics,” Vivian mused. “And if you were able to devise new dark spells? I imagine that Knox would be willing to do almost anything to get his hands on them.”
The house moaned, and the sound of a guitar filled the room with a recognizable melody. Of all the songs on my mother’s favorite album, “Landslide” was the one that most tugged at my heart. Whenever I heard it, I remembered her holding me on her lap and humming.
“Mom loved this song,” I said. “She knew that change was coming, and she was afraid of it, just like the woman in the song. But we can’t afford fear anymore.”
“What are you saying, Diana?” Vivian asked.
“The change my mom was expecting? It’s here,” I said simply.
“And even more change is on the way,” Chris said. “You’re not going to be able to keep the existence of creatures secret from humans for much longer. You’re one autopsy, one genetic-counseling session, one home genetic-testing kit away from being outed.”
“Nonsense,” Matthew declared.
“Gospel. You have two choices. Do you want to be in control of the situation when it happens, Matthew, or do you want to get smacked upside the head with it?” Chris waited. “Based on our limited acquaintance, I’m guessing you’d prefer option A.”
Matthew ran his fingers over his scalp and glared at Chris.
“I thought so.” Chris tipped back his chair. “So. Given your predicament, what can Yale University do for you, Professor Clairmont?”
“No.” Matthew shook his head. “You are not using research students and postgraduates to analyze creature DNA.”
“It’s scary as hell, I know,” Chris continued in a gentler tone. “We’d all rather hide somewhere safe and let someone else make the tough decisions. But somebody is going to have to stand up and fight for what’s right. Fernando tells me you’re a pretty impressive warrior.”
Matthew stared at Chris, unblinking.
“I’ll stand with you, if that helps,” Chris added, “provided you meet me halfway.”
Matthew was not only an impressive warrior but an experienced one. He knew when he was beaten.
“You win, Chris,” he said quietly.
“Good. Let’s get started, then. I want to see the creature genetic maps. Then I want to sequence and reassemble the three creature genomes so they can be compared to the human genome.” Chris ticked off one item after another. “I want to be sure that you’ve correctly identified the gene responsible for blood rage. And I want the gene that makes it possible for Diana to conceive your child isolated. I don’t believe you’ve even started to look for that yet.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with?” Matthew’s brows rose.
“As a matter of fact, there is.” Chris’s chair thudded to the ground. “Tell Miriam Shephard I want her ass in Kline Biology Tower on Monday morning. It’s on Science Hill. You can’t miss it. My lab is on the fifth floor. I’d like her to explain how my conclusions in Science were wrong before she joins us for our first team meeting at eleven.”
“I’ll pass that message along.” Matthew and Fernando glanced at each other, and Fernando shrugged as if to say, His funeral. “Just a reminder, Chris. The research you’ve outlined thus far will take years to complete. We won’t be at Yale for very long. Diana and I will have to be back in Europe by October, if we want the twins born there. Diana shouldn’t travel long distances after that.”
“All the more reason to have as many people as possible working on the project.” Chris stood up and put out his hand. “Deal?”
After a long pause, Matthew took it.
“Smart decision,” Chris said, giving it a shake. “I hope you brought your checkbook, Clairmont.
The Yale Center for Genome Analysis and the DNA Analysis Facility both charge steep fees, but they’re fast and accurate.” He looked at his watch. “My bag is already in the car. How long before you two can hit the road?”
“We’ll be a few hours behind you,” Matthew said.
Chris kissed Sarah on the cheek and gave me a hug. Then his finger rose in a gesture of warning.
“Eleven A.M. on Monday, Matthew. Don’t be late.”
On that note he left.
“What have I done?” Matthew muttered when the front door slammed shut. He looked a bit shell-shocked.
“It will be fine, Matthew,” Sarah said with surprising optimism. “I have a good feeling about all this.”
A few hours later, we climbed into the car. I waved to Sarah and Fernando from the passenger seat, blinking back the tears. Sarah was smiling, but her arms were wrapped so tightly around herself that the knuckles were white. Fernando exchanged a few words with Matthew and clasped him briefly, elbow to elbow, in the familiar de Clermont fashion.
Matthew slid behind the wheel. “All set?”
I nodded. His finger pressed the switch, and the engine turned over.
Keyboard and drums flooded out of the sound system, accompanied by piercing guitars. Matthew fumbled with the controls, trying to turn the music down. When that failed, he tried to turn it off. But no matter what he did, Fleetwood Mac warned us not to stop thinking about tomorrow. Finally he flung up his hands in defeat.
“The house is sending us off in style, I see.” He shook his head and put the car in drive.
“Don’t worry. It won’t be able to keep the song going once we leave the property.”
We drove down the long driveway toward the road, the bumps all but imperceptible thanks to the Range Rover’s shock absorbers.
I twisted in the seat when Matthew flicked on the turn signal to leave the Bishop farm, but the last words of the song made me face forward again.
“Don’t look back,” I whispered.
When the sun is in Virgo, send children to school. This sign signifieth a change of place.
“More tea, Professor Bishop?”
“Hmm?” I looked up at the preppy young man with the expectant expression. “Oh. Yes. Of course.
“Right away.” He whisked the white porcelain teapot from the table.
I looked toward the door, but there was still no sign of Matthew. He was at Human Resources getting his identification badge while I waited for him in the rarefied atmosphere of the nearby New Haven Lawn Club. The hushed confines of the main building dampened the distinctive plonk of tennis balls and the screaming children enjoying the pool during the last week of summer vacation. Three brides-to-be and their mothers had been escorted through the room where I was sitting to view the facilities they would enjoy should they be married here.
This might be New Haven, but it was not my New Haven.
“Here you are, Professor.” My attentive waiter was back, accompanied by the fresh scent of mint leaves. “Peppermint tea.”
Living in New Haven with Matthew was going to require some adjustment. My little row house on the tree-lined, pedestrians-only stretch of Court Street was far more spartan than any of the residences we’d occupied over the last year, whether in the present or the past. It was furnished simply with flea-market finds, cheap pine furniture left over from my graduate-student days, and shelf upon shelf of books and journals. My bed didn’t have a footboard or a headboard, never mind a canopy. But the mattress was wide and welcoming, and at the end of our long drive from Madison the two of us had collapsed into it with groans of relief.
We’d spent most of the weekend stocking the house with essentials like any normal New Haven couple: wine from the store on Whitney Avenue for Matthew, groceries for me, and enough electronics to outfit a computer lab. Matthew was horrified that I owned only a laptop. We left the computer store on Broadway with two of everything—one for him and one for me. Afterward we strolled the paths of the residential colleges while the carillon played in Harkness Tower. College and town were just beginning to swell with returning students who shouted greetings across the quad and shared complaints about reading lists and class schedules.