They were all waiting. Since Matthew wasn’t present, our friends and family were looking to me for guidance. The burden of responsibility settled on my shoulders. It was uncomfortable, just as Matthew had predicted.
“When did the Congregation set you free, Ysabeau?” I asked, my mouth still dry in spite of the tea.
“Gerbert and I came to an agreement shortly after you arrived in Scotland,” she replied breezily, though her smile told me there was more to the story.
“Does Marcus know you’re here, Phoebe?” Something told me he had no idea.
“My resignation from Sotheby’s takes effect on Monday. He knew I had to clear out my desk.”
Phoebe’s words were carefully chosen, but the underlying response to my question was clearly no.
Marcus was still under the impression that his fiancée was in a heavily fortified castle in France, not an airy town house in London.
“Resignation?” I was surprised.
“If I want to go back to work at Sotheby’s, I’ll have centuries to do so.” Phoebe looked around her.
“Though properly cataloging the de Clermont family’s possessions could take me several lifetimes.”
“Then you are still set on becoming a vampire?” I asked.
Phoebe nodded. I should sit down with her and try to talk her out of it. Matthew would have her blood on his hands if anything went wrong. And something always went wrong in this family.
“Who’s gonna make her a vamp?” Leonard whispered to Gallowglass. “Father H?”
“I think Father Hubbard has enough children. Don’t you, Leonard?” Come to think of it, I needed to know that number as soon as possible—and how many were witches and daemons.
“I suppose so, Mistress . . . er, Mrs. . . . er—”
“The proper form of address for Sieur Matthew’s mate is ‘Madame . ’ From now on, you will use that title when speaking to Diana,” Ysabeau said briskly. “It simplifies matters.”
Marthe and Gallowglass turned in Ysabeau’s direction, their faces registering surprise.
“Sieur Matthew,” I repeated softly. Until now Matthew had been “Milord” to his family. But Philippe had been called “Sieur” in 1590. “Everyone here calls me either ‘sire’ or ‘Father,’” Philippe had told me when I asked how he should be addressed. At the time I’d thought the title was nothing more than an antiquated French honorific. Now I knew better. To call Matthew “Sieur”—the vampire sire—marked him head of a vampire clan.
As far was Ysabeau was concerned, Matthew’s new scion was a fait accompli.
“Madame what?” Leonard asked, confused.
“Just Madame,” Ysabeau replied serenely. “You may call me Madame Ysabeau. When Phoebe marries Milord Marcus, she will be Madame de Clermont. Until then you may call her Miss Phoebe.”
“Oh.” Leonard’s look of intense concentration indicated he was chewing on these morsels of vampire etiquette.
Silence fell again. Ysabeau stood.
“Marthe put you in the Forest Room, Diana. It is next to Matthew’s bedchamber,” she said. “If you are finished with the tea, I will take you upstairs. You should rest for a few hours before you tell us what you require.”
“Thank you, Ysabeau.” I put the cup and saucer on the small round table at my elbow. I wasn’t finished with my tea, but its heat had quickly dissipated through the fragile porcelain. As for what I required, where to start?
Together Ysabeau and I crossed the foyer, climbed the graceful staircase up to the first floor, and kept going.
“You will have your privacy on the second floor,” Ysabeau explained. “There are only two bedrooms on that level, as well as Matthew’s study and a small sitting room. Now that the house is yours, you may arrange things as you like, of course.”
“Where are the rest of you sleeping?” I asked as Ysabeau turned onto the second-floor landing.
“Phoebe and I have rooms on the floor above you. Marthe prefers to sleep on the lower ground floor, in the housekeeper’s rooms. If you feel crowded, Phoebe and I can move into Marcus’s house. It is near St. James’s Palace, and once belonged to Matthew.”
“I can’t imagine that will be necessary,” I said, thinking of the size of the house.
“We’ll see. Your bedchamber.” Ysabeau pushed open a wide, paneled door with a gleaming brass knob. I gasped.
Everything in the room was in shades of green, silver, pale gray, and white. The walls were papered with hand-painted depictions of branches and leaves against a pale gray background. Silver accents gave the effect of moonlight, the mirrored moon in the center of the ceiling’s plasterwork appearing to be the source of the light. A ghostly female face looked down from the mirror with a serene smile. Four depictions of Nyx, the personification of night, anchored the four quadrants of the room’s ceiling, her veil billowing out in a smoky black drapery that was painted so realistically it looked like actual fabric.
Silver stars were entangled in the veiling, catching the light from the windows and the mirror’s reflection.
“It is extraordinary, I agree,” Ysabeau said, pleased by my reaction. “Matthew wanted to create the effect of being outside in the forest, under a moonlit sky. Once this bedchamber was decorated, he said it was too beautiful to use and moved to the room next door.”
Ysabeau went to the windows and drew the curtains open. The bright light revealed an ancient four-poster, canopied bed set into a recess in the wall, which slightly minimized its considerable size.
The bed hangings were silk and bore the same design as the wallpaper. Another large-scale mirror topped the fireplace, trapping images of trees on the wallpaper and sending them back into the room.
The shining surface reflected the room’s furniture, too: the small dressing table between the large windows, the chaise by the fire, the gleaming flowers and leaves inlaid into the low walnut chest of drawers. The room’s decoration and furnishings must have cost Matthew a fortune.
My eyes fell on a vast canvas of a sorceress sitting on the ground and sketching magical symbols. It hung on the wall opposite the bed, between the tall windows. A veiled woman had interrupted the sorceress’s work, her outstretched hand suggesting that she wanted the witch’s help. It was an odd choice of subject for a vampire’s house.
“Whose room was this, Ysabeau?” The adjoining rooms suggested that Matthew had planned on sharing the house with someone.
“I think Matthew made it for you—only he did not realize it at the time.” Ysabeau twitched open another pair of curtains.
“Has another woman slept here?” There was no way I could rest in a room that Juliette Durand had once occupied.
“Matthew took his lovers elsewhere,” Ysabeau answered, equally blunt. When she saw my expression, she softened her tone. “He has many houses. Most of them mean nothing to him. Some do.
This is one of them. He would not have given you a gift he didn’t value himself.”
“I never believed that being separated from him would be so hard.” My voice was muted.
“Being the consort in a vampire family is never easy,” Ysabeau said with a sad smile. “And sometimes being apart is the only way to stay together. Matthew had no choice but to leave you this time.”
“Did Philippe ever banish you from his side?” I studied my composed mother-in-law with open curiosity.
“Of course. Mostly Philippe sent me away when I was an unwelcome distraction. On other occasions to keep me from being implicated if disaster struck—and in his family it struck more often than not.” She smiled. “My husband always commanded me to go when he knew I would not be able to resist meddling and was worried for my safety.”
“So Matthew learned how to be overprotective from Philippe?” I asked, thinking of all the times he had stepped into harm’s way to keep me from it.
“Matthew had mastered the art of fussing over the woman he loved long before he became a vampire,” Ysabeau replied softly. “You know that.”
“And did you always obey Philippe’s orders?”
“No more than you obey Matthew.” Ysabeau’s voice dropped conspiratorially. “And you will quickly discover that you are never so free to make your own decisions as when Matthew is off being patriarchal with someone else. Like me, you might even come to look forward to these moments apart.”
“I doubt it.” I pressed a fist into the small of my back in an effort to work out the kinks. It was something Matthew usually did. “I should explain what happened in New Haven.”
“You must never explain Matthew’s actions to anyone,” Ysabeau said sharply. “Vampires don’t tell tales for a reason. Knowledge is power in our world.”
“You’re Matthew’s mother. Surely I’m not supposed to keep secrets from you.” I sifted through the events of the past few days. “Matthew discovered the identity of one of Benjamin’s children—and met a great-grandson he didn’t know he had.” Of all the strange twists and turns our lives had taken, meeting up with Jack and his father had to be the most significant, not least because we were now in Father Hubbard’s city. “His name is Jack Blackfriars, and he lived in our household in 1591.”
“So my son knows at last about Andrew Hubbard,” Ysabeau said, her face devoid of emotion.
“You knew?” I cried.
“Philippe was concerned about Jack’s blood rage. He wanted me to meet the boy, in case I saw any worrying behavior.” Ysabeau’s smile would have terrified me—once. “And do you still think I deserve your complete honesty, daughter?”
Matthew had warned me that I wasn’t equipped to lead a pack of vampires.
“You are a sire’s consort, Diana. You must learn to tell others only what they need to know, and nothing more,” she instructed.
Here was my first lesson learned, but there were sure to be more.
“Will you teach me what I need to know, Ysabeau?”
“Yes.” Her one-word response was more trustworthy than any lengthy vow. “But you must be careful, Diana. Even though you are Matthew’s mate and his consort, you are a de Clermont and must remain so until this matter is settled. Your status in Philippe’s family will protect Matthew.”
“Matthew said the Congregation will try to kill him—and Jack, too—once they find out,” I whispered.
“They will try. We will not let them. But for now you must rest.” Ysabeau pulled back the bed’s silk coverlet and plumped the pillows.
I circled the enormous bed, wrapping my hand around one of the posts that supported the canopy.
The carving under my fingers felt familiar. I’ve slept in this bed before, I realized . This was not another woman’s bed. It was mine. It had been in our house in the Blackfriars in 1590 and had somehow survived all these centuries to end up in a chamber that Matthew had dedicated to moonlight and enchantment.
I slept for nearly twenty-four hours, and it might have been longer but for a loud car alarm that pulled me out of my dreams and plunged me into an unfamiliar, green-tinged darkness. It was only then that other sounds penetrated my consciousness: the bustle of traffic on the street outside my windows, a door closing somewhere in the house, a quickly hushed conversation in the hallway.
Hoping that a pounding flow of hot water would ease my stiff muscles and clear my head, I explored the warren of small rooms beyond the white door. I found not only a shower but also my suitcase resting on a folding stand designed for much grander pieces of luggage. From it I pulled out the two pages from Ashmole 782 and my laptop. The rest of my packing had left a great deal to be desired.
Except for some underwear, several tank tops, yoga tights that no longer fit me, a pair of mismatched shoes, and black maternity pants, there was nothing else in the bag. Happily, Matthew’s closet held plenty of pressed shirts. I slid one made of gray broadcloth over my arms and shoulders and avoided the closed door that surely led to his bedroom.
I padded downstairs in bare feet, my computer and the large envelope with the pages from in my arms. The grand first-floor rooms were empty—an echoing ballroom with enough crystal and gold paint to renovate Versailles, a smaller music room with a piano and other instruments, a formal salon that looked to have been decorated by Ysabeau, an equally formal dining room with an endless stretch of mahogany table and seating for twenty-four, a library full of eighteenth-century books, and a games room with green-felted card tables that looked as if it had been plucked from a Jane Austen novel.
Longing for a homier atmosphere, I descended to the ground floor. No one was in the sitting room, so I poked around in office spaces, parlors, and morning rooms until I found a more intimate dining room than the one upstairs. It was located at the rear of the house, its bowed window looking out over a small private garden. The walls were painted to resemble brick, lending the space a warm, inviting air.
Another mahogany table—this one round rather than rectangular—was encircled by only eight chairs.
On its surface was an assortment of carefully arranged old books.
Phoebe entered the room and put a tray bearing tea and toast on a small sideboard. “Marthe told me you would be up at any moment. She said that this was what you would need first thing and that if you were still hungry, you could go down to the kitchen for eggs and sausage. We don’t eat up here as a rule.
By the time the food makes it up the stairs, it’s stone cold.”
“What is all this?” I gestured at the table. “The books you requested from Hamish,” Phoebe explained, straightening a volume that was slightly off kilter. “We’re still waiting for a few items. You’re a historian, so I put them in chronological order. I hope that’s all right.”