Home > Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)(18)

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)(18)
Author: Deborah Harkness

"All the more reason for you to give Diana your protection," Matthew said tightly.

"Why should I?" Philippe's cold countenance dared him to say it.

"Because I love her. And because you tell me that's what the Order of Lazarus is for: protecting those who cannot protect themselves."

"I protect other manjasang, not witches!"

"Maybe you should take a more expansive view," Matthew said stubbornly. "Manjasang can normally take care of themselves."

"You know very well that I cannot protect this woman, Matthew. All of Europe is feuding over matters of faith, and warmbloods are seeking scapegoats for their present troubles. Inevitably they turn to the creatures around them. Yet you knowingly brought this woman-a woman you claim is your mate and a witch by blood-into this madness. No." Philippe shook his head vehemently. "You may think you can brazen it out, but I will not put the family at risk by provoking the Congregation and ignoring the terms of the covenant."

"Philippe, you must-"

"Don't use that word with me." A finger jabbed in Matthew's direction. "Set your affairs in order and return whence you came. Ask me for help there-or better yet, ask the witch's aunts. Don't bring your troubles into the past where they don't belong."

But there was no Philippe for Matthew to lean on in the twenty-first century. He was gone-dead and buried.

"I have never asked you for anything, Philippe. Until now." The air in the room dropped several dangerous degrees.

"You should have foreseen my response, Matthaios, but as usual you were not thinking. What if your mother were here? What if bad weather hadn't struck Trier? You know she despises witches." Philippe stared at his son. "It would take a small army to keep her from tearing this woman limb from limb, and I don't have one to spare at the moment."

First it had been Ysabeau who'd wished me out of her son's life. Baldwin had made no effort to hide his disdain. Matthew's friend Hamish was wary of me, and Kit openly disliked me. Now it was Philippe's turn. I stood and waited for Matthew's father to look at me. When he did, I met his eyes squarely. His flickered with surprise.

"Matthew couldn't anticipate this, Monsieur de Clermont. He trusted you to stand with him, though his faith was misplaced in this case." I took a steadying breath. "I would be grateful if you would let me stay at SeptTours tonight. Matthew hasn't slept for weeks, and he is more likely to do so in a familiar place. Tomorrow I will return to England-without Matthew, if necessary."

One of my new curls tumbled onto my left temple. I reached up to push it away and found my wrist in Philippe de Clermont's grip. By the time I had registered my new position, Matthew was next to his father, palms on his shoulders.

"Where did you get that?" Philippe was gazing at the ring on the third finger of my left hand. Ysabeau's ring. Philippe's eyes turned feral, sought out mine. His fingers tightened on my wrist until the bones started to give way. "She would never have given my ring to another, not while we both lived."

"She lives, Philippe." Matthew's words were fast and rough, meant to convey information rather than reassurance.

"But if Ysabeau is alive, then . . ." Philippe trailed off into silence. For a moment he looked dumbfounded before understanding crept over his features. "So I am not immortal after all. And you cannot seek me out when and where these troubles began."

"No." Matthew forced the syllable past his lips.

"Yet you left your mother to face your enemies?" Philippe's expression was savage.

"Marthe is with her. Baldwin and Alain will make certain that she comes to no harm." Matthew's words now came in a soothing stream, but his father still held my fingers. They were growing numb.

"And Ysabeau gave my ring to a witch? How extraordinary. It looks well on her, though," Philippe said absently, turning my hand toward the firelight.

"Maman thought it would," said Matthew softly.

"When-" Philippe took a deliberate breath and shook his head. "No. Don't tell me. No creature should know his own death."

My mother had foreseen her gruesome end and my father's, too. Cold, exhausted, and haunted by my own memories, I started to tremble. Matthew's father seemed oblivious to it, staring down at our hands, but his son was not.

"Let her go, Philippe," Matthew commanded.

Philippe looked into my eyes and sighed with disappointment. Despite the ring, I was not his beloved Ysabeau. He withdrew his hand, and I stepped back, well beyond Philippe's long reach.

"Now that you have heard her tale, will you give Diana your protection?" Matthew searched his father's face.

"Is that what you want, madame?"

I nodded, my fingers curling around the carved arm of the nearby chair.

"Then yes, the Knights of Lazarus will ensure her well-being."

"Thank you, Father." Matthew's hands tightened on Philippe's shoulder, and then he headed back in my direction. "Diana is tired. We will see you in the morning."

"Absolutely not." Philippe's voice cracked across the room. "Your witch is under my roof and in my care. She will not be sharing a bed with you."

Matthew took my hand in his. "Diana is far from home, Philippe. She's not familiar with this part of the castle."

"She will not be staying in your rooms, Matthew."

"Why not?" I asked, frowning at Matthew and his father in turn.

"Because the two of you are not mated, no matter what pretty lies Matthew told you. And thank the gods for that. Perhaps we can avert disaster after all."

"Not mated?" I asked numbly.

"Exchanging promises and accepting a manjasang bond do not make an inviolable agreement, madame."

"He's my husband in every way that matters," I said, color flooding into my cheeks. After I told Matthew I loved him, he had assured me that we were mated.

"You're not properly married either-at least not in a way to stand up to scrutiny," Philippe continued, "and there will be plenty of that if you keep up this pretense. Matthew always did spend more time in Paris brooding over his metaphysics than studying the law. In this case, my son, your instinct should have told you what was necessary even if your intellect did not."

"We swore oaths to each other before we left. Matthew gave me Ysabeau's ring." We'd been through a kind of ceremony during those last minutes in Madison. My mind raced over the sequence of events to find the loophole.

"What constitutes a manjasang mating is the same thing that silences all objections to a marriage when priests, lawyers, enemies, and rivals come calling: physical consummation." Philippe's nostrils flared. "And you are not yet joined in that way. Your scents are not only odd but entirely distinct- like two separate creatures instead of one. Any manjasang would know you are not fully mated. Gerbert and Domenico certainly knew it as soon as Diana was in their presence. So did Baldwin."

"We are married and mated. There is no need for any proof other than my assurances. As for the rest, it is none of your affair, Philippe," Matthew said, putting his body firmly between me and his father.

"Oh, Matthaios, we are long past that." Philippe sounded tired. "Diana is an unmarried, fatherless woman, and I see no brothers in the room to stand for her. She is entirely my affair."

"We are married in the eyes of God."

"And yet you waited to take her. What are you waiting for, Matthew? A sign? She wants you. I can tell by the way she looks at you. For most men that's enough." Philippe's eyes pinned his son and me in turn. Reminded of Matthew's strange reluctance on this score, worry and doubt spread through me like poison.

"We've not known each other long. Even so, I know I will be with her-and only her-for my whole life. She is my mate. You know what the ring says, Philippe: 'a ma vie de coer entier.'"

"Giving a woman your whole life is meaningless without giving her your whole heart as well. You should pay more attention to the conclusion of that love token, not just the beginning."

"She has my heart," Matthew said.

"Not all of it. If she did, every member of the Congregation would be dead, the covenant would be broken forever, and you would be where you belong and not in this room," Philippe said bluntly. "I don't know what constitutes marriage in this future of yours, but in the present moment it is something worth dying for."

"Shedding blood in Diana's name is not the answer to our current difficulties." Despite centuries of experience with his father, Matthew stubbornly refused to admit to what I already knew: There was no way to win an argument with Philippe de Clermont.

"Does a witch's blood not count?" Both men turned to me in surprise. "You've killed a witch, Matthew. And I've killed a vampire-a manjasang-rather than lose you. Since we are sharing secrets tonight, your father may as well know the truth." Gillian Chamberlain and Juliette Durand were two casualties in the escalating hostilities caused by our relationship.

"And you think there is time for courtship? For a man who considers himself learned, Matthew, your stupidity is breathtaking," Philippe said, disgusted. Matthew took his father's insult without flinching, then played his trump card.

"Ysabeau accepted Diana as her daughter," he said.

But Philippe would not be so easily swayed.

"Neither your God nor your mother has ever succeeded in making you face the consequences of your actions. Apparently that hasn't changed." Philippe braced his hands on the desk and called for Alain. "Since you are not mated, no permanent damage has been done. This matter can be set to rights before anyone finds out and the family is ruined. I will send to Lyon for a witch to help Diana better understand her power. You can inquire after her book while I do, Matthew. Then you are both going home, where you will forget about this indiscretion and move on with your separate lives."

"Diana and I are going to my rooms. Together. Or so help me-"

"Before you finish delivering that threat, be very sure that you have sufficient might to back it up," Philippe replied dispassionately. "The girl sleeps alone and near me."

A draft told me the door had opened. It carried with it a distinct whiff of wax and cracked pepper. Alain's cold eyes darted around, taking in Matthew's anger and the unrelenting look on Philippe's face.

"You have been outmaneuvered, Matthaios," Philippe said to his son. "I don't know what you've been doing with yourself, but it has made you soft. Come now. Concede the field, kiss your witch, and say your good-nights. Alain, take this woman to Louisa's room. She is in Vienna-or Venice. I cannot keep up with that girl and her endless wanderings.

"As for you," Philippe continued, casting amber eyes over his son, "you will go downstairs and wait for me in the hall until I am finished writing to Gallowglass and Raleigh. It has been some time since you were home, and your friends want to know whether Elizabeth Tudor has two heads and three br**sts as is widely claimed."

Unwilling to relinquish his territory completely, Matthew put his fingers under my chin, looked deep into my eyes, and kissed me rather more thoroughly than his father apparently expected.

"That will be all, Diana," Philippe said, sharply dismissive, when Matthew was finished.

"Come, madame," Alain said, gesturing toward the door.

Awake and alone in another woman's bed, I listened to the crying wind, turning over all that had happened. There was too much subterfuge to sort through, as well as the hurt and sense of betrayal. I knew that Matthew loved me. But he must have known that others would contest our vows.

As the hours passed, I gave up all hope of sleeping. I went to the window and faced the dawn, trying to figure out how our plans had unraveled so much in such a short period of time and wondering what part Philippe de Clermont-and Matthew's secrets-had played in their undoing.

Chapter Nine

When my door swung open the next morning, Matthew was propped against the stone wall opposite. Judging from his state, he hadn't gotten any sleep either. He sprang to his feet, much to the amusement of the two young servingwomen who stood giggling behind me. They weren't used to seeing him this way, all mussed and tousled. A scowl darkened his face.

"Good morning." I stepped forward, cranberry skirts swinging. Like my bed, my servants, and practically everything else I touched, the outfit belonged to Louisa de Clermont. Her scent of roses and civet had been suffocatingly thick last night, emanating from the embroidered hangings that surrounded the bed. I took a deep breath of cold, clear air and sought out the notes of clove and cinnamon that were essentially and indisputably Matthew. Some of the fatigue left my bones as soon as I detected them, and, comforted by their familiarity, I burrowed into the sleeveless, black wool robe that the maids had lowered over my shoulders. It reminded me of my academic regalia and provided an additional layer of warmth.

Matthew's expression lifted as he drew me close and kissed me with admirable dedication to detail. The maids continued to giggle and make what he took to be encouraging remarks. A sudden gust around my ankles indicated that another witness had arrived. Our lips parted.

"You are too old to moon about in antechambers, Matthaios," his father commented, sticking his tawny head out of the next room. "The twelfth century was not good for you, and we allowed you to read entirely too much poetry. Compose yourself before the men see you, please, and bring Diana downstairs. She smells like a beehive at midsummer, and it will take time for the household to grow accustomed to her scent. We don't want any unfortunate bloodshed."

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