“Not even Baldwin would ask Matthew to kill his own flesh and blood,” Sarah said.
“Yes,” I said sadly. “He would.”
“Then it sounds as though Matthew is doing what he has to do,” she said firmly. “You need to do your job, too.”
“I am,” I said, sounding defensive. “My job is to find the missing pages from and then put it back together so that we can use it as leverage—with Baldwin, with Benjamin, even the Congregation.”
“You have to take care of the twins, too,” Sarah pointed out. “Mooning around up here on your own isn’t going to do you—or them—any good.”
“Don’t you dare play the baby card with me,” I said, coldly furious. “I’m trying very hard not to hate my own children—not to mention Jack—right now.” It wasn’t fair, nor was it logical, but I was blaming them for our separation, even though I had been the one to insist upon it.
“I hated you for a while.” Sarah’s tone was matter-of-fact. “If not for you, Rebecca would still be alive. Or so I told myself.”
Her words came as no surprise. Children always know what grown-ups are thinking. Em had never made me feel that it was my fault that my parents were dead. Of course, she’d known what they were planning—and why. But Sarah was a different story.
“Then I got over it,” Sarah continued quietly. “You will, too. One day you’ll see the twins and you’ll realize that Matthew is right there, staring out at you from an eight-year-old’s eyes.”
“My life doesn’t make sense without Matthew,” I said. “Losing him isn’t the same as losing a sister.”
“He can’t be your whole world, Diana.”
“He already is,” I whispered. “And if he succeeds in breaking free of the de Clermonts, he’s going to need me to be at his side like Ysabeau was for Philippe. I’ll never be able to fill her shoes.”
“Bullshit.” Sarah jammed her hands onto her hips. “And if you think Matthew wants you to be like his mother, you’re crazy.”
“You have a lot to learn about vampires.” Somehow the line didn’t sound as convincing when a witch delivered it.
“Oh. Now I see the problem.” Sarah’s eyes narrowed. “Em said you’d come back to us different—whole. But you’re still trying to be something you’re not.” She pointed an accusatory finger at me.
“You’ve gone all vampire again.”
“Stop it, Sarah.”
“If Matthew had wanted a vampire bride, he could have his pick. Hell, he could have turned you into a vampire last October in Madison,” she said. “You’d willingly given him most of your blood.”
“Matthew wouldn’t change me,” I said.
“I know. He promised me as much the morning before you left.” Sarah looked daggers at me.
“Matthew doesn’t mind that you’re a witch. Why do you?” When I didn’t reply, she grabbed my hand.
“Where are we going?” I asked as my aunt dragged me down the stairs.
“Out.” Sarah stopped in front of the gaggle of vampires standing in the front hall. “Diana needs to remember who she is. You’re coming, too, Gallowglass.”
“Ooo-kaaay,” Gallowglass said uneasily, drawing out the two syllables. “Are we going far?”
“How the hell do I know?” Sarah retorted. “This is my first time in London. We’re going to Diana’s old house—the one she and Matthew shared in 1590.”
“My house is gone—it burned down in the Great Fire,” I said, trying to escape.
“We’re going anyway.”
“Oh, Christ.” Gallowglass threw a set of car keys at Leonard. “Get the car, Lenny. We’re going for a Sunday drive.”
Leonard grinned. “Right.”
“Who is that?” Sarah said, watching as the gangly vampire bolted toward the back of the house.
“He belongs to Andrew,” I explained.
“In other words he belongs to you,” she said with a nod. My jaw dropped. “Oh, yes. I know all about vampires and their crazy ways.” Apparently, Fernando didn’t have the same reluctance as Matthew and Ysabeau did to tell vampire tales.
Leonard pulled up to the front door with a squeal of tires. He was out of the car and had the rear door opened in a blink. “Where to, madame?”
I did a double take. It was the first time Leonard hadn’t stumbled over my name.
“Diana’s house, Lenny,” Sarah answered. “Her real house, not this overdecorated dust-bunny sanctuary.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s not there anymore, miss,” Leonard said, as though the Great Fire of London had been his fault. Knowing Leonard, this was entirely possible.
“Don’t vampires have any imagination?” Sarah asked tartly. “Take me where the house used to be.”
“Oh.” Leonard looked at Gallowglass, wide-eyed.
Gallowglass shrugged. “You heard the lady,” my nephew said.
We rocketed across London, heading east. When we passed Temple Bar and moved onto Fleet Street, Leonard turned south toward the river.
“This isn’t the way,” I said.
“One-way streets, madame,” he said. “Things have changed a bit since you were last here.” He made a sharp left in front of the Blackfriars Station. I put my hand on the door handle to get out and heard a click as the childproof locks engaged.
“Stay in the car, Auntie,” Gallowglass said.
Leonard jerked the steering wheel to the left once more, and we jostled over pavement and rough road surfaces.
“Blackfriars Lane,” I said reading the sign that zipped past. I jiggled the door handle. “Let me out.”
The car stopped abruptly across the entrance to a loading dock.
“Your house, madame,” Leonard said, sounding like a tour guide and waving at the red-and-cream brick office building that loomed above us. He released the door locks. “It’s safe to walk about. Please mind the uneven pavement. Don’t want to have to explain to Father H how you broke your leg, do I?”
I stepped out onto the stone sidewalk. It was firmer footing than the usual mud and muck of Water Lane, as we’d called the street in 1590. Automatically I headed in the general direction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. I felt a hand on my elbow, holding me back.
“You know how Uncle feels about you wandering around town unaccompanied.” Gallowglass bowed, and for a moment I saw him in doublet and hose. “At your service, Madame Roydon.”
“Where exactly are we?” Sarah asked, scanning the nearby alleys. “This doesn’t look like a residential area.”
“The Blackfriars. Once upon a time, hundreds of people lived here.” It took me only a few steps to reach a narrow cobbled street that used to lead to the inner precincts of the old Blackfriars Priory. I frowned and pointed. “Wasn’t the Cardinal’s Hat in there?” It was one of Kit Marlowe’s watering holes.
“Good memory, Auntie. They call it Playhouse Yard now.”
Our house had backed up to that part of the former monastery. Gallowglass and Sarah followed me into the cul-de-sac. Once it had been filled to bursting with merchants, craftsmen, housewives, apprentices, and children—not to mention carts, dogs, and chickens. Today it was deserted.
“Slow down,” Sarah said peevishly, struggling to keep up.
It didn’t matter how much the old neighborhood had changed. My heart had provided the necessary directions, and my feet followed, swift and sure. In 1591 I would have been surrounded by the ramshackle tenement and entertainment complex that had sprung up within the former priory. Now there were office buildings, a small residence serving well-heeled business executives, more office buildings, and the headquarters of London’s apothecaries. I crossed Playhouse Yard and slipped between two buildings.
“Where is she going now?” Sarah asked Gallowglass, her irritation mounting.
“Unless I miss my guess, Auntie’s looking for the back way to Baynard’s Castle.”
At the foot of a narrow thoroughfare called Church Entry, I stopped to get my bearings. If only I could orient myself properly, I could find my way to Mary’s house. Where had the Fields’ printing shop been? I shut my eyes to avoid the distraction of the incongruous modern buildings.
“Just there,” I pointed. “That’s where the Fields’ shop was. The apothecary lived a few houses along the lane. This way led down to the docks.” I kept turning, my arms, tracing the line of buildings I saw in my mind. “The door to Monsieur Vallin’s silver shop stood here. You could see our back garden from this spot. And here was the old gate that I took to get to Baynard’s Castle.” I stood for a moment, soaking in the familiar feeling of my former home and wishing I could open my eyes and find myself in the Countess of Pembroke’s solar. Mary would have understood my current predicament perfectly and been generous with her expertise on matters dynastic and political.
“Holy shit,” Sarah gasped.
My eyes flew open. A transparent wooden door was a few yards away, set into a crumbling, equally transparent stone wall. Mesmerized, I tried to take a step toward it but was prevented from doing so by the blue and amber threads that swirled tightly around my legs.
“Don’t move!” Sarah sounded panicked.
“Why?” I could see her through a scrim of Elizabethan shop fronts.
“You’ve cast a counterclock. It rewinds images from past times, like a movie,” Sarah said, peering at me through the windows of Master Prior’s pastry shop.
“Magic,” Gallowglass moaned. “Just what we need.”
An elderly woman in a neat navy blue cardigan and a pale blue shirtwaist dress who was very much of the here and now came out of the nearby apartment building.
“You’ll find this part of London can be a bit tricky, magically speaking,” she called out in that authoritative, cheerful tone that only British women of a certain age and social status could produce.
“You’ll want to take some precautions if you plan on doing any more spell casting.”
As the woman approached, I was struck by a sense of déjà vu. She reminded me of one of the witches I’d known in 1591—an earthwitch called Marjorie Cooper, who had helped me to weave my first spell.
“I’m Linda Crosby.” She smiled, and the resemblance to Marjorie became more pronounced.
“Welcome home, Diana Bishop. We’ve been expecting you.”
I stared at her, dumfounded.
“I’m Diana’s aunt,” Sarah said, wading into the silence. “Sarah Bishop.”
“Pleasure,” Linda said warmly, shaking Sarah’s hand. Both witches stared down at my feet. During our brief introductions, time’s blue and amber bindings had loosened somewhat, fading away one by one as they were absorbed back into the fabric of the Blackfriars. Monsieur Vallin’s front door was still all too evident, however.
“I’d give it a few more minutes. You are a timewalker, after all,” Linda said, perching on one of the curved benches that surrounded a circular brick planter. It occupied the same spot as had the wellhead in the Cardinal’s Hat yard.
“Are you one of Hubbard’s family?” Sarah asked, reaching into her pocket. Out came her forbidden cigarettes. She offered one to Linda.
“I’m a witch,” Linda said, taking the cigarette. “And I live in the City of London. So, yes—I am a member of Father Hubbard’s family. Proudly so.”
Gallowglass lit the witches’ cigarettes and then his own. The three puffed away like chimneys, careful to direct the smoke so it didn’t waft toward me.
“I haven’t met Hubbard yet,” Sarah confessed. “Most of the vampires I know don’t think much of him.”
“Really?” Linda asked with interest. “How very odd. Father Hubbard is a beloved figure here. He protects everybody’s interests, be they daemon, vampire, or witch. So many creatures have wanted to move into his territory that it’s led to a housing crisis. He can’t buy property fast enough to satisfy the demand.”
“He’s still a wanker,” Gallowglass muttered.
“Language!” Linda said, shocked.
“How many witches are there in the city?” Sarah asked.
“Three dozen,” Linda responded. “We limit the numbers, of course, or it would be madness in the Square Mile.”
“The Madison coven is the same size,” Sarah said approvingly. “Makes it easier to hold the meetings, that’s for sure.”
“We gather once a month in Father Hubbard’s crypt. He lives in what’s left of the Greyfriars Priory, just over there.” Linda aimed her cigarette at a point north of Playhouse Yard. “These days most of the creatures in the City proper are vampires—financiers and hedge-fund managers and such. They don’t like to hire out their meeting rooms to witches. No offense, sir.”
“None taken,” Gallowglass said mildly.
“The Greyfriars? Has Lady Agnes moved on?” I asked, surprised. The ghost’s antics had been the talk of the town when I lived here.
“Oh, no. Lady Agnes is still there. With Father Hubbard’s help, we were able to broker an agreement between her and Queen Isabella. They seem to be on friendly terms now—which is more than I can say for the ghost of Elizabeth Barton. Ever since that novel about Cromwell came out, she’s been impossible.” Linda eyed my belly speculatively. “At our Mabon tea this year, Elizabeth Barton said you’re having twins.”