With blood rage they could turn deadly in an instant.
Jack dragged his attention from Gallowglass, and his shoulders lowered a fraction.
“Then what happened?” Matthew prompted.
“I killed. Again and again. The more I killed, the more I wanted to kill. The blood did more than feed me—it fed the blood rage, too.”
“It was clever of you to understand that so quickly,” Matthew said approvingly.
“Sometimes I came to my senses long enough to realize that what I was doing was wrong. I tried to save the warmbloods then, but I couldn’t stop drinking,” Jack confessed. “I managed to turn two of my prey into vampires. Benjamin was pleased with me then.”
“Only two?” A shadow flitted across Matthew’s features.
“Benjamin wanted me to save more, but it took too much control. No matter what I did, most of them died.” Jack’s inky eyes filled with blood tears, the pupils taking on a red sheen.
“Where did these deaths occur?” Matthew sounded only mildly curious, but my sixth sense told me the question was crucial to understanding what had happened to Jack.
“Everywhere. I had to keep moving. There was so much blood. I had to get away from the police, and the newspapers. . . .” Jack shuddered.
VAMPIRE ON THE LOOSE IN LONDON . I remembered the vivid headline and all the clippings of the
“vampire murders” that Matthew had collected from around the world. I bowed my head, not wanting Jack to realize I knew that he was the murderer whom European authorities were seeking.
“But it’s the ones that lived who suffered the most,” Jack continued, his voice deadening further with every word. “My grandsire took my children from me and said he would make sure they were raised properly.”
“Benjamin used you.” Matthew looked deep into his eyes, trying to make a connection. Jack shook his head.
“When I made those children, I broke my vow to Father Hubbard. He said the world didn’t need more vampires—there were plenty already—and if I was lonely, I could take care of creatures whose families didn’t want them anymore. All Father Hubbard asked was that I not make children, but I failed him again and again. After that, I couldn’t go back to London—not with so much blood on my hands.
And I couldn’t stay with my grandsire. When I told Benjamin I wanted to leave, he went into a terrible rage and killed one of my children in retaliation. His sons held me down and forced me to watch.” Jack bit back a harsh sound. “And my daughter. My daughter. They—”
He retched. He clamped a hand over his mouth, but it was too late to keep the blood from escaping as he vomited. It streamed over his chin, soaking into his dark shirt. Lobero leaped up, barking sharply and pawing at his back.
Unable to stay away a moment longer, I rushed to Jack’s side.
“Diana!” Gallowglass cried. “You must not—”
“Don’t tell me what to do. Get me a towel!” I snapped.
Jack fell to his hands and knees, his landing softened by Matthew’s strong arms. I knelt beside him as he continued to purge his stomach of its contents. Gallowglass handed me a towel. I used it to mop Jack’s face and hands, which were covered with blood. The towel was soon sodden and icy cold from my frantic efforts to stanch the flow, the contact with so much vampire blood making my hands numb and clumsy.
“The force of the vomiting must have broken some blood vessels in his stomach and throat,”
Matthew said. “Andrew, can you get a pitcher of water? Put plenty of ice in it.”
Hubbard went to the kitchen and was back in moments.
“Here,” he said, thrusting the pitcher at Matthew.
“Raise his head, Diana,” Matthew instructed. “Keep hold of him, Andrew. His body is screaming for blood, and he’ll fight against taking water.”
“What can I do?” Gallowglass said, his voice gruff.
“Wipe off Lobero’s paws before he tracks blood all over the house. Jack won’t need any reminders of what’s happened.” Matthew gripped Jack’s chin. “Jack!”
Jack’s glassy black eyes swiveled toward Matthew.
“Drink this,” Matthew commanded, raising Jack’s chin a few inches. Jack spluttered and snapped in an attempt to throw him off. But Hubbard kept Jack immobilized long enough to empty the pitcher.
Jack hiccupped, and Hubbard loosened his hold.
“Well done, Jackie,” Gallowglass said.
I smoothed Jack’s hair away from his forehead as he bent forward again, clutching at his visibly heaving stomach.
“I got blood on you,” he whispered. My shirt was streaked with it.
“So you did,” I said. “It’s not the first time a vampire’s bled on me, Jack.”
“Try to rest now,” Matthew told him. “You’re exhausted.”
“I don’t want to sleep.” Jack swallowed hard as the gorge rose again in his throat.
“Shh.” I rubbed his neck. “I can promise there will be no nightmares.”
“How can you be sure?” Jack asked.
“Magic.” I traced the pattern of the fifth knot on his forehead and lowered my voice to a whisper.
“Mirror shimmers, monsters shake, banish nightmares until he wakes.”
Jack’s eyes slowly closed. After a few minutes, he was curled on his side, sleeping peacefully.
I wove another spell—one that was meant just for him. It required no words, for no one would ever use it but me. The threads surrounding Jack were a furious snarl of red, black, and yellow. I pulled on the healing green threads that surrounded me, as well as the white threads that helped break curses and establish new beginnings. I twisted them together and tied them around Jack’s wrist, fixing the braid with a secure, six-crossed knot.
“There’s a guest room upstairs,” I said. “We’ll put Jack to bed there. Corra and Lobero will let us know if he stirs.”
“Would that be all right?” Matthew asked Hubbard.
“When it comes to Jack, you don’t need my permission,” Hubbard replied.
“Yes I do. You’re his father,” Matthew said.
“I’m only his sire,” Hubbard said softly. “You’re Jack’s father, Matthew. You always have been.”
Matthew carried Jack up to the third floor, cradling his body as if he were a baby. Lobero and Corra accompanied us, both beasts aware of the job they had to do. While Matthew stripped off Jack’s blood-soaked shirt, I rummaged in our bedroom closet for something he could wear instead. Jack was easily six feet tall, but he had a much rangier frame than Matthew. I found an oversize Yale men’s crew team shirt that I sometimes slept in, hoping it would do. Matthew slipped Jack’s seemingly boneless arms into it and pulled it over his lolling head. My spell had knocked him out cold.
Together we settled him on the bed, neither of us speaking unless it was absolutely necessary. I drew the sheet up around Jack’s shoulders while Lobero watched my every move from the floor. Corra perched on the lamp, attentive and unblinking, her weight bending the shade to an alarming degree.
I touched Jack’s sandy hair and the dark mark on his neck, then pressed my hand over his heart.
Even though he was asleep, I could feel the parts of him warring for control: mind, body, soul. Though Hubbard had ensured that Jack would be twenty-one forever, he had a weariness that made him seem like a man three times that age.
Jack had been through so much. Too much, thanks to Benjamin. I wanted that madman obliterated from the face of the earth. The fingers on my left hand splayed wide, my wrist stinging where the knot circled my pulse. Magic was nothing more than desire made real, and the power in my veins responded to my unspoken wishes for revenge.
“Jack was our responsibility, and we weren’t there for him.” My voice was low and fierce. “And Annie . . .”
“We’re here for Jack now.” Matthew’s eyes held the same sorrow and anger that I knew were in my own. “There’s nothing we can do for Annie, except pray that her soul found rest.”
I nodded, controlling my emotions with difficulty.
“Take a shower, ma lionne. Hubbard’s touch and Jack’s blood . . .” Matthew couldn’t abide it when my skin carried the scent of another creature. “I’ll stay with him while you do. Then you and I will go downstairs and talk to . . . my grandson.” His final words were slow and deliberate, as though he were getting his tongue used to them.
I squeezed his hand, kissed Jack lightly on the forehead, and reluctantly headed into the bathroom in a futile effort to wash myself clean of the evening’s events.
Thirty minutes later we found Gallowglass and Hubbard sitting opposite each other at the simple pine dining table. They glared. They stared. They growled. I was glad Jack wasn’t awake to witness it.
Matthew dropped my hand and walked the few steps to the kitchen. He pulled out a bottle of sparkling water for me and three bottles of wine. After distributing them he went back for a corkscrew and four glasses.
“You may be my cousin, but I still don’t like you, Hubbard.” Gallowglass’s growl subsided into an inhuman sound that was far more disturbing.
“It’s mutual.” Hubbard hoisted his black briefcase onto the table and left it within easy reach.
Matthew worked the corkscrew into his bottle, watching his nephew and Hubbard jockey for position without comment. He poured himself a glass of wine and drank it down in two gulps.
“You’re not fit to be a parent,” Gallowglass said, eyes narrowing.
“Who is?” Hubbard shot back.
“Enough.” Matthew didn’t raise his voice, but there was a timbre in it that lifted the hairs on my neck and instantly silenced Gallowglass and Hubbard. “Has the blood rage always affected Jack this way, Andrew, or has it worsened since he met Benjamin?”
Hubbard sat back in his chair with a sardonic smile. “That’s where you want to start, is it?”
“How about you start by explaining why you made Jack a vampire when you knew it could give him blood rage!” My anger had burned straight through any courtesy I might once have extended to him.
“I gave him a choice, Diana,” Hubbard retorted, “not to mention a chance.”
“Jack was dying of plague!” I cried. “He wasn’t capable of making a clear decision. You were the grown-up. Jack was a child.”
“Jack was full on twenty years—a man, not the boy you left with Lord Northumberland. And he’d been through hell waiting in vain for your return!” Hubbard said.
Afraid we might wake Jack, I lowered my voice. “I left you with plenty of money to keep both Jack and Annie out of harm’s way. Neither of them should have wanted for anything.”
“You think a warm bed and food in his belly could mend Jack’s broken heart?” Hubbard’s otherworldly eyes were cold. “He looked for you every day for twelve years. That’s twelve years of going to the docks to meet the ships from Europe in hopes that you would be aboard; twelve years interviewing every foreigner he could find in London to inquire if you had been seen in Amsterdam, or Lubeck, or Prague; and twelve years walking up to anyone he suspected of being a witch to show that person a picture he’d drawn of the famous sorceress Diana Roydon. It’s a miracle the plague took his life and not the queen’s justices!”
“You had a choice, too,” Hubbard reminded me. “So if you want to cast blame for Jack’s becoming a vampire, blame yourself or blame Matthew. He was your responsibility. You made him mine.”
“That wasn’t our bargain, and you know it!” The words slipped out of my mouth before I could stop them. I froze, a look of horror on my face. This was another secret I’d kept from Matthew, one that I’d thought was safely behind me.
Gallowglass’s breath hissed in surprise. Matthew’s icy gaze splintered against my skin. Then the room fell utterly silent.
“I need to speak to my wife and my grandson, Gallowglass. Alone,” Matthew said. The emphasis he placed on “my wife” and “my grandson” was subtle but unmistakable.
Gallowglass stood, his face set in lines of disapproval. “I’ll be upstairs with Jack.”
Matthew shook his head. “Go home and wait for Miriam. I’ll call when Andrew and Jack are ready to join you.”
“Jack will stay here,” I said, my voice rising again, “with us. Where he belongs.”
The forbidding look Matthew directed my way silenced me immediately, even though the twenty-first century was no place for a Renaissance prince and a year ago I would have protested his high-handedness. Now I knew that my husband was hanging on to his control by a very slender thread.
“I’m not staying under the same roof as a de Clermont. Especially not him,” Hubbard said, pointing in Gallowglass’s direction.
“You forget, Andrew,” Matthew said, “you are a de Clermont. So is Jack.”
“I was never a de Clermont,” Hubbard said viciously.
“Once you drank Benjamin’s blood, you were never anything else.” Matthew’s voice was clipped.
“In this family you do what I say.”
“Family?” Hubbard scoffed. “You were part of Philippe’s pack, and now you answer to Baldwin.
You don’t have a family of your own.”
“Apparently I do.” Matthew’s mouth twisted with regret. “Time to go, Gallowglass.”
“Very well, Matthew. I’ll let you send me off—this time—but I’ll not go far. And if my instincts tell me there’s trouble, I’m coming back and to hell with vampire custom and law.” Gallowglass got up and kissed me on the cheek. “Holler if you need me, Auntie.”