Home > Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(6)

Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(6)
Author: Deborah Harkness

To everyone’s shock, Marcus had gone along with all of Ysabeau’s intricate plans. He was the family’s revolutionary. I had expected him to protest, but he did not say a word.

“Two days ago everybody was completely confident about Phoebe’s change,” I said. “Why are you so worried about her now?”

“We are not concerned for Phoebe,” Ysabeau replied, “but Marcus. He has never been good at waiting, or obeying rules set down by others. He is too quick to follow his heart. It always gets him into trouble.”

Someone flung the kitchen door open, entering the house in a smudge of blue and white. I seldom saw vampires moving at unregulated speed, and it was startling when the inchoate blur resolved into a white T-shirt, faded jeans, blue eyes, and thick head of blond hair.

“I should be with her!” Marcus shouted. “I’ve spent most of my life wanting to feel like I belonged, wanting a family of my own. Now I have one, and I turned my back on her.”

Matthew followed Marcus like a shadow chasing the sun. Alain Le Merle, Philippe’s former squire, brought up the rear.

“Traditionally, as you know—” Matthew began.

“Since when have I cared about tradition!” Marcus exclaimed. The tension in the room rose another notch. As head of his family, Matthew expected obedience and respect from his son, not an argument.

“Everything all right?” In my life as a professor, I’d learned the usefulness of rhetorical questions that gave everyone a chance to stop and reflect. My question cleared the air, if for no other reason than that it was patently obvious that everything was not all right.

“We didn’t expect to find you still awake, mon coeur,” Matthew said, coming to my side and giving me a kiss. He smelled of fresh air, pine, and hay, as if he’d been running through open fields and thick woods. “Marcus is concerned about Phoebe’s well-being, that’s all.”

“Concerned?” Marcus’s eyebrows lowered into a scowl. “I’m out of my mind with worry. I can’t see her. I can’t help her—”

“You need to trust Miriam.” Matthew’s tone was mild, but a muscle ticked in his jaw.

“I should never have agreed to all of this medieval protocol.” Marcus’s agitation rose. “Now we’re separated, and she’s got no one to rely on except for Freyja—”

“You specifically asked for Freyja to be there,” Matthew observed calmly. “You might have had anyone from the family serve as Phoebe’s supporter during the change. She was your choice.”

“God, Matthew. Do you have to be so fucking reasonable all the time?” Marcus turned his back on his father.

“It’s infuriating, isn’t it?” I said sympathetically, putting a hand at my husband’s waist to keep him near me.

“Yes, Diana, it certainly is,” Marcus replied, stalking to the refrigerator and flinging open the heavy door. “And I’ve had to put up with it for far longer than you have. Jesus, Marthe. What have you been up to all day? There’s not a drop of blood in the house.”

It was impossible to say who was the most shocked by this criticism of the revered Marthe, who took care of every family member’s needs before we were even aware of them. It was clear who was the most furious, however: Alain. Marthe was his sire.

Matthew and Alain exchanged a look. Alain inclined his head an inch in recognition that Matthew’s need to discipline his son outweighed his own right to defend his mother. Gently, Matthew disentangled my hand.

In the next moment, Matthew was across the room and had Marcus pinned to the kitchen wall. The move would have been enough to break an ordinary creature’s ribs.

“That’s enough, Marcus. I expected Phoebe’s situation to bring back memories of your own rebirth,” Matthew said, holding his son in a firm grip, “but you need to exercise some restraint. Nothing will be gained by your flying around the countryside and storming into Freyja’s house.”

Matthew captured his son’s eyes, waited, and released them only when Marcus broke their mutual gaze. Marcus slid several inches down the wall, drew a shuddering breath, and finally seemed to recognize where he was and what he’d done.

“Sorry, Diana.” Marcus looked at me briefly in apology, and then went to Marthe. “God, Marthe. I didn’t mean—”

“Yes, you did.” Marthe cuffed him on the ear—and not gently, either. “The blood is in the pantry, where it always is. Get it yourself.”

“Try not to worry, Marcus. No one could look after Phoebe better than Freyja.” Ysabeau put a reassuring hand on her grandson’s shoulder.

“I could.” Marcus shook off his grandmother’s hand and disappeared into the pantry.

Marthe cast her eyes heavenward as if seeking deliverance from vampires in love. Ysabeau held up a warning finger, which silenced any further comment from Matthew. As the only person present who was not fully inculcated into the de Clermont pack rules, however, I ignored my mother-in-law’s command.

“Actually, Marcus, I don’t think that’s true,” I called into the next room, pouring myself some more tea.

“What?” Marcus reappeared in a flash, holding a silver julep cup that I knew held neither bourbon, sugar, water, nor mint. His expression was indignant. “Of course I’m the best person to look after her. I love her. Phoebe’s my mate. I know what she needs better than anyone.”

“Better than Phoebe?” I asked.

“Sometimes.” Marcus’s chin was now jutting at a belligerent angle.

“Bullshit.” I sounded like Sarah—blunt and impatient—and attributed it to the early hour rather than to any genetic predisposition to forthrightness among Bishop women. “You vampires are all the same—thinking you know what we poor warmbloods really want—especially the females. In fact, this is what Phoebe wanted: to be made a vampire the old-fashioned way. It’s your job to make sure her decision is honored and that the plan works.”

“Phoebe didn’t understand what she was agreeing to. Not entirely,” Marcus said, unwilling to concede the point. “She could get bloodsick. She could have trouble making her first kill. I would be able to help her, support her.”

Bloodsick? I nearly choked on my tea. What on earth was that?

“I’ve never seen anyone so well prepared to become a manjasang as Phoebe,” Ysabeau reassured Marcus.

“But there are no guarantees.” Marcus couldn’t let his worries go.

“Not in this life, my child.” Ysabeau’s expression was pained as she remembered when life still held the promise of a happy ending.

“It’s late. We’ll talk more after sunrise. You won’t sleep, Marcus, but try to rest.” Matthew touched his son’s shoulder as he passed by.

“I might take a run instead. Try to wear myself out that way. Nobody but the farmers will be awake at this hour.” Marcus looked at the brightening light beckoning through the windows.

“You shouldn’t attract any notice,” Matthew confirmed. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No need,” Marcus replied. “I’ll get changed and head out. Maybe take the route toward Saint-Priest-sous-Aixe. There are some good climbs along the way.”

“Should we expect you for breakfast?” Matthew’s tone was a touch too casual. “The children are early risers. They’ll want a chance to order their older brother around.”

“Don’t worry, Matthew.” A ghost of a smile touched Marcus’s lips. “Your legs are longer than mine. I’m not going to run away again. I just need to clear my head.”

* * *

WE LEFT THE DOOR of our room ajar in case Philip or Becca woke, and got back into bed. I crawled between the sheets, grateful on this warm May morning that my husband was a vampire, and tucked myself into his coolness. I knew when Marcus set out for his run because Matthew’s shoulders settled fully into the mattress. Until then, he had been slightly braced, ready to get up and go to his son’s aid.

“Do you want to go after him?” I asked. Matthew’s legs really were longer than Marcus’s, and he was fast. There was plenty of time for him to catch up to his son.

   
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