“I am.” Even the ghosts of London knew my business.

“It’s so difficult to tell which of Elizabeth’s prophecies are to be taken seriously when every one of them is accompanied by shrieking. It’s all so . . . vulgar.” Linda pursed her lips in disapproval, and Sarah nodded sympathetically.

“Um, I hate to break this up, but I think my spell for the counterclock thingy expired.” Not only could I see my own ankle (provided I lifted my leg up—otherwise the babies were in the way), but Monsieur Vallin’s door had utterly vanished.

“Expired?” Linda laughed. “You make it sound as though your magic has a sell-by date.”

“I certainly didn’t tell it to stop,” I grumbled. Then again, I had never told it to start either.

“It stopped because you didn’t wind it up tight enough,” Sarah said. “If you don’t give a counterclock a good crank, it runs down.”

“And we do recommend that you not stand on top of the counterclock once you cast it,” Linda said, sounding a bit like my middle-school gym teacher. “You want to address the spell without blinking, then step away from it at the last minute.”

“My mistake,” I murmured. “Can I move now?”

Linda surveyed Playhouse Yard with a crinkled brow. “Yes, I do believe it’s perfectly safe now,”

she proclaimed.

I groaned and rubbed at my back. Standing still for so long had made it ache, and my feet felt like they were going to explode. I propped one of them upon the bench where Sarah and Linda were sitting and bent to loosen the ties on my sneakers.

“What’s that?” I said, peering through the bench’s slats. I reached down and retrieved a scroll of paper tied up with a red ribbon. The fingers on my right hand tingled when I touched it, and the pentacle at my wrist swirled with color.

“It’s tradition for people to leave requests for magic in the yard. There’s always been a concentration of power associated with this spot.” Linda’s voice softened. “A great witch lived here once, you see. Legend says she’ll return one day, to remind us of all we once were and could be again.

We haven’t forgotten her and trust that she will not forget us.”

The Blackfriars was haunted by my past self. Part of me had died when we left London. It was the part that had once been able to juggle being Matthew’s wife, Annie and Jack’s mother, Mary Sidney’s alchemical assistant, and a weaver-in-training. And another part of me had joined it in the grave when I walked away from Matthew on the mountain outside New Haven. I buried my head in my hands.

“I’ve made a mess of things,” I whispered.

“No, you dove into the deep end and got in over your head,” Sarah replied. “This is what Em and I worried about when you and Matthew first got involved. You both moved so fast, and we knew that neither of you had thought about what this relationship was going to require.”

“We knew we would face plenty of opposition.”

“Oh, you two had the star-crossed-lovers part down—and I understand how romantic it can be to feel it’s just the two of you against the world.” Sarah chuckled. “Em and I were star-crossed lovers, after all. In upstate New York in the 1970s, nothing was more star-crossed than two women falling in love.”

Her tone grew serious. “But the sun always rises the next morning. Fairy tales don’t tell you much about what happens to star-crossed lovers in the bright light of day, but somehow you have to figure out how to be happy.”

“We were happy here,” I said quietly. “Weren’t we, Gallowglass?”

“Aye, Auntie, you were—even with Matthew’s spymaster breathing down his neck and the whole country on the lookout for witches.” Gallowglass shook his head. “How you managed it, I’ve never understood.”

“You managed it because neither of you were trying to be something you weren’t. Matthew wasn’t trying to be civilized, and you weren’t trying to be human,” Sarah said. “You weren’t trying to be Rebecca’s perfect daughter, or Matthew’s perfect wife, or a tenured professor at Yale either.”

She took my hands in hers, scroll and all, and turned them so the palms faced up. My weaver’s cords stood out bright against the pale flesh.

“You’re a witch, Diana. A weaver. Don’t deny your power. Use it.” Sarah looked pointedly at my left hand. “All of it.”

My phone pinged in the pocket of my jacket. I scrambled for it, hoping against hope it was a kind of message from Matthew. He’d promised to let me know how he was doing. The display indicated there was a text waiting from him. I opened it eagerly.

The message contained no words that the Congregation could use against us, only a picture of Jack.

He was sitting on a porch, his face split into a wide grin as he listened to someone—a man, though his back was to the camera and I could see nothing more than the black hair curling around his collar—tell a story as only a southerner could. Marcus stood behind Jack, one hand draped casually over his shoulder.

Like Jack, he was grinning.

They looked like two ordinary young men enjoying a laugh over the weekend. Jack fit perfectly into Marcus’s family, as though he belonged.

“Who’s that with Marcus?” Sarah said, looking over my shoulder.

“Jack.” I touched his face. “I’m not sure who the other man is.”

“That’s Ransome.” Gallowglass sniffed. “Marcus’s eldest, and he puts Lucifer to shame. Not the best role model for young Jack, but I reckon Matthew knows best.”

“Look at the lad,” Linda said fondly, standing so she could get a look at the picture, too. “I’ve never seen Jack look so happy—except when he was telling stories about Diana, of course.”

St. Paul’s bells rang the hour. I pushed the button on my phone, dimming the display. I would look at the picture again later, in private.

“See, honey. Matthew is doing just fine,” Sarah said, her voice soothing.

But without seeing his eyes, gauging the set of his shoulders, hearing the tone of his voice, I couldn’t be sure.

“Matthew’s doing his job,” I reminded myself, standing up. “I need to get back to mine.”

“Does that mean you’re ready to do whatever it takes to keep your family together like you did in 1591—even if higher magics are involved?” Sarah’s eyebrow shot up in open query.

“Yes.” I sounded more convinced than I felt.

“Higher magics? How deliciously dark.” Linda beamed. “Can I help?”

“No,” I said quickly.

“Possibly,” Sarah said at the same time.

“Well, if you need us, give a ring. Leonard knows how to reach me,” Linda said. “The London coven is at your disposal. And if you were to come to one of our meetings, it would be quite a boost to morale.”

“We’ll see,” I said vaguely, not wanting to make a promise I couldn’t keep. “The situation is complicated, and I wouldn’t want to get anyone into trouble.”

“Vampires are always trouble,” Linda said with a primly disapproving look, “holding grudges and going off half-cocked on some vendetta or other. It’s really very trying. Still, we are all one big family, as Father Hubbard reminds us.”

“One big family.” I looked at our old neighborhood. “Maybe Father Hubbard was on the right track all along.”

“Well, we think so. Do consider coming to our next meeting. Doris makes a divine Battenberg cake.”

Sarah and Linda swapped telephone numbers just in case, and Gallowglass went to Apothecaries’

Hall and let out an earsplitting whistle to call Leonard around with the car. I took the opportunity to snap a picture of Playhouse Yard and sent it to Matthew without a comment or a caption.

Magic was nothing more desire made real, after all.

The October breeze came off the Thames and carried my unspoken wishes into the sky, where they wove a spell to bring Matthew back to me.

26

A slice of Battenberg cake with a moist pink-and-yellow checkerboard interior and canary-colored icing sat before me at our secluded table at the Wolseley, along with still more contraband black tea. I lifted the lid on the teapot and drank in its malty aroma, sighing happily. I’d been craving tea and cake ever since our unexpected meeting with Linda Crosby at the Blackfriars.

Hamish, who was a breakfast regular there, had commandeered a large table at the bustling Piccadilly restaurant for the entire morning and proceeded to treat the space—and the staff—as though they were his office. Thus far he’d taken a dozen phone calls, made several lunch engagements (three of them for the same day next week, I noted with alarm), and read every London daily in its entirety. He had also, bless him, wheedled my cake out of the pastry chef hours before it was normally served, citing my condition as justification. The speed with which the request was met was either an additional indication of Hamish’s importance or a sign that the young man who wielded the whisks and rolling pins understood the special relationship between pregnant women and sugar.

“This is taking forever,” Sarah grumbled. She’d bolted down a soft-boiled egg with toast batons, consumed an ocean of black coffee, and had been dividing her attention between her wristwatch and the door ever since.

“When it comes to extortion, Granny doesn’t like to rush.” Gallowglass smiled affably at the ladies at a nearby table, who were casting admiring glances at his muscular, tattooed arms.

“If they don’t arrive soon, I’ll be walking back to Westminster under my own steam thanks to all the caffeine.” Hamish waved down the manager. “Another cappuccino, Adam. Better make it a decaf.”

“Of course, sir. More toast and jam?”

“Please,” Hamish said, handing Adam the empty toast rack. “Strawberry. You know I can’t resist the strawberry.”

“And why is it again that we couldn’t wait for Granny and Phoebe at the house?” Gallowglass shifted nervously on his tiny seat. The chair was not designed for a man of his size, but rather for MPs, socialites, morning-television personalities, and other such insubstantial persons.

“Diana’s neighbors are wealthy and paranoid. There hasn’t been any activity at the house for nearly a year. Suddenly there are people around at all hours and Allens of Mayfair is making daily deliveries.”

Hamish made room on the table for his fresh cappuccino. “We don’t want them thinking you’re an international drug cartel and calling the police. West End Central station is full of witches, especially the CID. And don’t forget: You’re not under Hubbard’s protection outside the City limits.”

“Hmph. You’re not worried about the coppers. You just didn’t want to miss anything.” Gallowglass wagged a finger at him. “I’m onto you, Hamish.”

“Here’s Fernando,” Sarah said in a tone suggesting that deliverance had come at last.

Fernando tried to hold open the door for Ysabeau, but Adam beat him to it. My mother-in-law looked like a youthful film star, and every male head in the room turned as she entered with Phoebe in her wake. Fernando hung back, his dark suit the perfect backdrop for Ysabeau’s off-white and taupe ensemble.

“No wonder Ysabeau prefers to stay at home,” I said. She stood out like a beacon on a foggy day.

“Philippe always said it was easier to withstand a siege than to cross a room at Ysabeau’s side. He had to fend off her admirers with more than a stick, I can tell you.” Gallowglass rose as his grandmother approached. “Hello, Granny. Did they give in to your demands?”

Ysabeau offered her cheek to be kissed. “Of course.”

“In part,” Phoebe said hastily.

“Was there trouble?” Gallowglass asked Fernando.

“None worth mentioning.” Fernando pulled out a chair. Ysabeau slid onto it gracefully, crossing her slim ankles.

“Charles was most accommodating when you consider how many company policies I expected him to violate,” she said, refusing the menu Adam offered her with a little moue of distaste. “Champagne, please.”

“The hideous painting you took off his hands will more than compensate for it,” Fernando said, installing Phoebe into her place at the table. “Whatever made you buy it, Ysabeau?”

“It is not hideous, though abstract expressionism is an acquired taste,” she admitted. “The painting is raw, mysterious—sensual. I will give it to the Louvre and force Parisians to expand their minds. Mark my words: This time next year, Clyfford Still will be at the top of every museum’s wish list.”

“Expect a call from Coutts,” Phoebe murmured to Hamish. “She wouldn’t haggle.”

“There is no need to worry. Both Sotheby’s and Coutts know I am good for it.” Ysabeau extracted a slip of paper from her sleek leather bag and extended it to me. “Voilà.”

“T. J. Weston, Esquire.” I looked up from the slip. “This is who bought the page from Ashmole 782?”

“Possibly.” Phoebe’s reply was terse. “The file contained nothing but a sales slip—he paid cash—and six pieces of misdirected correspondence. Not a single address we have for Weston is valid.”

“It shouldn’t be that hard to locate him. How many T. J. Westons can there be?” I wondered.

“More than three hundred,” Phoebe replied. “I checked the national directory. And don’t assume that T. J. Weston is a man. We don’t know the buyer’s sex or nationality. One of the addresses is in Denmark.”

Source: www.StudyNovels.com