Jack’s eyes went black.
Hubbard pitched forward to intervene, and Matthew froze him in place with a look.
In the space of five heartbeats, Jack’s eyes returned to normal. When they were brown and green once more, Matthew gave him an approving smile.
“Your instinct to protect Diana is entirely appropriate,” Matthew told him. “Believing you have to shield her from me is not.”
“I’m sorry, Matthew,” Jack whispered. “It won’t happen again.”
“I accept your apology. Sadly, it will happen again. Learning to control your illness isn’t going to be easy—or quick.” Matthew’s tone turned brisk. “Kiss Diana good night, Jack, and get settled at Gallowglass’s house. It’s a former church around the corner. You’ll feel right at home.”
“Hear that, Father H?” Jack grinned. “Wonder if it has bats in its belfry, like yours.”
“I no longer have a bat problem,” Hubbard said sourly.
“Father H still lives in a church in the city,” Jack explained, suddenly animated. “It’s not the same one you visited. That old heap burned down. Most of this one did, too, come to think of it.”
I laughed. Jack had always loved telling stories and had a talent for it, too.
“Now just the tower remains. Father H did it up so nicely you hardly notice it’s just a pile of rubbish.” Jack grinned at Hubbard and gave me a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, his mood swinging from blood rage to happiness in a remarkably short period of time. He sped down the stairs. “Come on, Lobero. Let’s go wrestle with Gallowglass.”
“Midnight,” Matthew called after him. “Be ready. And be nice to Miriam, Jack. If you don’t, she’ll make you wish you’d never been reborn.”
“Don’t worry, I’m used to dealing with difficult females!” Jack replied. Lobero barked with excitement and orbited Jack’s legs to encourage him outside.
“Keep the picture, Mistress Roydon. If both Matthew and Benjamin covet it, then I wish to be as far away from it as possible,” Andrew said.
“How generous, Andrew.” Matthew’s hand shot out and closed around Hubbard’s throat. “Stay in New Haven until I give you leave to go.”
Their eyes clashed, slate and gray-green. Andrew was the first to look away.
“Come on, Father H!” Jack bellowed. “I want to see Gallowglass’s church, and Lobero needs a walk.”
“Midnight, Andrew.” Matthew’s words were perfectly cordial, but there was a warning in them.
The door closed, and the sound of Lobero’s barking faded. When it had faded completely, I turned on Matthew.
“How could you—”
The sight of Matthew, his head buried in his hands, brought me to an abrupt stop. My anger, which had been blazing, slowly fizzled. He looked up, his face ravaged with guilt and sorrow.
“Jack . . . Benjamin . . .” Matthew shuddered. “God help me, what have I done?”
Matthew sat in the broken-down easy chair opposite the bed where Diana was sleeping, plowing through another inconclusive set of test results so that he and Chris could reevaluate their research strategy at tomorrow’s meeting. Given the late hour, he was taken by surprise when his phone’s screen lit up.
Moving carefully so as not to wake his wife, Matthew padded silently out of the room and down the stairs to the kitchen, where he could speak without being overheard.
“You need to come,” Gallowglass said, his voice gruff and low. “Now.”
Matthew’s flesh prickled, and his eyes rose to the ceiling as though he could see through the plaster and floorboards into the bedroom. His first instinct was always to protect her, even though it was clear that the danger was elsewhere.
“Leave Auntie at home,” Gallowglass said flatly, as though he could witness Matthew’s actions.
“Miriam’s on her way.” The phone went dead.
Matthew stared down at the display for a moment, its bright colors bringing a note of false cheer to the early-morning hours before they faded to black.
The front door creaked open.
Matthew was at the top of the stairs by the time Miriam walked through it. He studied her closely.
There was not a drop of blood on her, thank God. Even so, Miriam’s eyes were wide and her face bore a haunted expression. Very little frightened his longtime friend and colleague, but she was clearly terrified. Matthew swore.
“What’s wrong?” Diana descended from the third floor, her coppery hair seeming to capture all the available light in the house. “Is it Jack?”
Matthew nodded. Gallowglass wouldn’t have called otherwise.
“I’ll only be a minute,” Diana said, reversing her direction to get dressed.
“No, Diana,” Miriam said quietly.
Diana froze, her hand on the banister. She twisted her body around and met Miriam’s eyes.
“Is he d-dead?” she whispered numbly. Matthew was at her side in the space of a human heartbeat.
“No, mon coeur. He’s not dead.” Matthew knew this was Diana’s worst nightmare: that someone she loved would be taken from her before the two of them could say a proper farewell. But whatever was talking place in the house on Wooster Square might somehow be worse.
“Stay with Miriam.” Matthew pressed a kiss against her stiff lips. “I’ll be home soon.”
“He’s been doing so well,” Diana said. Jack had been in New Haven for a week, and his blood rage had diminished in both frequency and intensity. Matthew’s strict boundaries and consistent expectations had already made a difference.
“We knew there would be setbacks,” Matthew said, tucking a silky strand of hair behind Diana’s ear. “I know you won’t sleep, but try to rest at least.” He was worried she’d do nothing but pace and stare out the window until he returned with news.
“You can read these while you wait.” Miriam drew a thick stack of articles out of her bag. She was making an effort to sound brisk and matter-of-fact, her bittersweet scent of galbanum and pomegranate stronger now. “This is everything you asked for, and I added some other articles you might be interested in: all of Matthew’s studies on wolves, as well as some classic pieces on wolf parenting and pack behavior. It’s basically Dr. Spock for the modern vampire parent.”
Matthew turned to Diana in amazement. Once again, his wife had surprised him. Her cheeks reddened, and she took the articles from Miriam.
“I need to understand how this vampire family stuff works. Go. Tell Jack I love him.” Diana’s voice broke. “If you can.”
Matthew squeezed her hand without replying. He would make no promises on that score. Jack had to understand that his access to Diana depended on his behavior—and Matthew’s approval.
“Prepare yourself,” Miriam murmured when he passed her. “And I don’t care if Benjamin is your son. If you don’t kill him after seeing this, I will.”
In spite of the late hour, Gallowglass’s house was not the only one in the neighborhood that was still illuminated. New Haven was a college town, after all. Most of Wooster Square’s night owls sought a strange companionship, working in full view with curtains and blinds open. What distinguished the vampire’s house was that the drapes were tightly closed and only cracks of golden light around the edges of the windows betrayed the fact that someone was still awake.
Inside the house pools of lamplight cast a warm glow over a few personal belongings. Otherwise it was sparsely decorated with Danish Modern furniture made from blond wood accented with occasional antiques and splashes of bold color. One of Gallowglass’s most treasured possessions—a tattered eighteenth-century Red Ensign that he and Davy Hancock had stripped from their beloved cargo ship the
Earl of Pembroke before it was refitted and renamed Endeavour— was balled up on the floor.
Matthew sniffed. The house was filled with the bitter, acrid scent that Diana had likened to a coal fire, and faint strains of Bach filled the air. The St. Matthew Passion — the same music that Benjamin played in his laboratory to torture his captive witch. Matthew’s stomach twisted into a heavy knot.
He rounded the corner of the living room. What he saw brought him to an immediate stop. Stark murals in shades of black and gray covered every inch of the canvas-hued walls. Jack stood atop a makeshift scaffold constructed from pieces of furniture, wielding a soft artist’s pencil. The floor was littered with pencil stubs and the paper peelings that Jack had torn away to reveal fresh charcoal.
Matthew’s eyes swept the walls from floor to ceiling. Detailed landscapes, studies of animals and plants that were almost microscopic in their precision, and sensitive portraits were linked together with breathtaking swaths of line and form that defied painterly logic. The overall effect was beautiful yet disturbing, as if Sir Anthony van Dyck had painted Picasso’s Guernica.
“Christ.” Matthew’s right hand automatically made the sign of the cross.
“Jack ran out of paper two hours ago,” Gallowglass said grimly, pointing to the easels in the front window. Each now bore a single sheet, but the drifts of paper surrounding their tripod supports suggested that these were merely a selection from a larger series of drawings.
“Matthew.” Chris came from the kitchen, sipping a cup of black coffee, the aroma of the roasted beans blending with Jack’s bitter scent.
“This is no place for a warmblood, Chris,” Matthew said, keeping a wary eye on Jack.
“I promised Miriam I’d stay.” Chris settled into a worn plantation chair and placed his coffee mug on the wide arms. When he moved, the woven seat underneath him creaked like a ship under sail. “So Jack’s another one of your grandchildren?”
“Not now, Chris. Where’s Andrew?” Matthew said, continuing to observe Jack at work .
“He’s upstairs getting more pencils.” Chris had a sip of coffee, his dark eyes taking in the details of what Jack was sketching now: a na**d woman, her head thrown back in agony. “I wish like hell he would go back to drawing daffodils.”
Matthew wiped his hand across his mouth, hoping to remove the sourness that rose up from his stomach. Thank God that Diana hadn’t come with him. Jack would never be able to look her in the eyes again if he knew she’d seen this.
Moments later Hubbard returned to the living room. He put a box of fresh supplies on the stepladder where Jack balanced. Utterly absorbed in his work, Jack didn’t react to Hubbard’s presence any more than he had to Matthew’s arrival.
“You should have called me sooner.” Matthew kept his voice deliberately calm. In spite of his efforts, Jack turned glassy, unseeing eyes toward him as his blood rage responded to the tension in the air.
“Jack’s done this before,” Hubbard said. “He’s drawn on his bedroom walls and on the walls in the church undercroft. But he’s never made so many images so quickly. And never . . . him.” He looked up.
Benjamin’s eyes, nose, and mouth dominated one wall, looking down on Jack with an expression that was equal parts avarice and malice. His features were unmistakable in their cruelty, and somehow more ominous for not being contained within the outlines of a human face.
Jack had moved a few feet along from Benjamin’s portrait and was now working on the last empty stretch of wall. The pictures around the room followed a rough sequence of events leading from Jack’s time in London before Hubbard had made him a vampire all the way to the present day. The easels in the window were the starting point for Jack’s troubling image cycle.
Matthew examined them. Each held what artists called a study—a single element of a larger scene that helped them to understand particular problems of composition or perspective. The first was a drawing of a man’s hand, skin cracked and coarsened through poverty and manual labor. The image of a cruel mouth with missing teeth occupied another easel. The third showed the crisscrossing laces on a man’s breeches, along with a finger hooked and ready to pull them free. The last was of a knife, pressing against a boy’s prominent hip bone until the tip slid into the skin.
Matthew put the solitary images together in his mind—hand, ear, breeches, knife—while the St.
Matthew Passion thundered in the background. He swore at the abusive scene that instantly sprang to mind.
“One of Jack’s earliest memories,” Hubbard said.
Matthew was reminded of his first encounter with Jack, when he would have taken the boy’s ear if not for Diana’s intervention. He had been yet another creature to offer Jack violence instead of compassion.
“If not for his art and music, Jack would have destroyed himself. We have often thanked God for Philippe’s gift.” Andrew gestured toward the cello propped up in the corner.
Matthew had recognized the instrument’s distinctive scroll the moment he clapped eyes on it. He and Signor Montagnana, the instrument’s Venetian maker, had dubbed the cello “the Duchess of Marlborough” for its generous, yet still elegant, curves. Matthew had learned to play on Duchess back when lutes fell out of favor and were replaced by violins, violas, and cellos. Duchess had mysteriously disappeared while he was in New Orleans disciplining Marcus’s brood of children. When Matthew returned, he had asked Philippe what had happened to the instrument. His father had shrugged and muttered something about Napoleon and the English that had made no sense at all.
“Does Jack always listen to Bach when he draws?” Matthew murmured.
“He prefers Beethoven. Jack started listening to Bach after . . . you know.” Hubbard’s mouth twisted.