Page 25

 Sarah Rees Brennan

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“Well, what do you think you’re doing, then? Spying?”
“I told you, it’s the unfortunate hotness of evil. Hotness that burns like the flames of cute, cute hell.” Rusty placed his hand on his heart. “But like I said, don’t worry. I will overcome temptation, no matter how temptacious.”
Kami sat beside him. The material of the sofa was so slippery she thought she might slide right off. “Rusty, this is serious. We’re a team: we have to tell each other information like this. We have to trust each other. And ‘temptacious’ is not a word.”
“Okay,” said Rusty. “Let me handle this. Trust me, Kami.”
Kami glanced over at him in surprise. He rarely used her real name.
He even more rarely looked both serious and alert, but he looked both now, leaning against the cushions and tilted in her direction, his dark hair ruffled against the pale silk cover of the couch. “I know what other people think about me,” Rusty told her. “ ‘That Rusty,’ they say. ‘Charming and handsome,’ they say first, of course—they’re not blind. Then they add, ‘All the ambition and drive of a chocolate sundae.’ ”
“Rusty, no,” Kami said.
Rusty put out a hand, palm raised, to stop her. “They’re right. That’s what I am. Why not? Most things come easy to me, most things come lightly. That’s what I come from and how I was made. Russell Montgomery the Third,” he added, and grinned at her. “I was exactly the son my parents wanted: no trouble, no demands. Why demand anything when it was all going to come to me anyway? I had this nursery suite in London, it was pretty great. I miss the scheduled naptimes to this day. And then one day I heard this noise through all the doors, this baby screaming her fool head off, and it was Angela.”
Rusty used the hand he’d lifted to stop Kami from speaking and made a small gesture; Kami wasn’t sure what it meant.
“I had been introduced to Angela before, obviously. They brought the baby to me from the hospital, and there was a christening where she wore this big lace meringue dress and looked alarmingly like a two-month-old bride. We were somewhat acquainted, but honestly I was more interested in my toy trucks and my naptime beanbag. Only she just kept yelling, and it was interesting because I thought it was so dumb. I knew she didn’t want anything, because that wasn’t how we were brought up—the nanny would have made sure she had all she wanted, though she wasn’t paid to fuss. I didn’t really get why Angela was doing it, so I went through doors and up stairs until I found her. She was just lying in her crib, because babies are unimaginative like that. And I know people think Angela is pretty now, but none of those people ever saw her as a baby. She was god-awfully hideous. I swear she looked like a bad-tempered mutant tomato, and she was making a sound like a cat being fed into a printer.
“I just couldn’t figure it out, you know? Why she was so angry, when everything was fine. I sort of wanted to go away and pretend it wasn’t happening. But she was unhappy, I could tell that much. She wasn’t ever going to be like me, a content sort of person. She was always going to be raging at the world, and there was only me who would even think about paying attention. So I picked her up and took her back to my rooms and showed her the naptime beanbag, and it was me and Angela from then on. And then Mum and Dad decided to set us up in a house surrounded by all this peaceful pastoral evil, and there was you. You care about a lot of stuff like Angela does, and you don’t even have the basic common decency to pretend you don’t. Only you aren’t angry about how much you care, because you always had someone around to give you all the dumb stuff babies cry for, and your house was— I want to be like that someday, be someone like your dad who can help make something like your house. When I went away to college, it was all fine, everything’s always fine for me, but nothing was important. So I sort of slid out, bringing Claud with me, which was a mistake, but I didn’t know you were going to have the bad taste to date one of my friends. I would never have invited him to stay if I’d known he was going to grow that goatee. It had a whole other personality. Tiny Even More Self-Important Claud.”
“Is there a point to this meander down embarrassing memory lane?” Kami asked.
“Actually,” Rusty said, “yes. I was worried about you, when it came to Claud. I’m worried about Angela with this whole business with Holly. I’m worried about you again, with the voice in your head turning out to be this surly guy. I actually wanted to punch someone. I never actually want to punch people.
“So my point is, things aren’t easy, with Angela and you. I don’t take you two lightly. This is the great exception of my life. I don’t want you to interfere on this. I want you to trust me to deal with Amber: she needs someone to talk to, and I think that might come in handy. I also think that she is not going to talk to someone who actually called their newspaper The Nosy Parker.”
Looking around at the Montgomerys’ sitting room, Kami could picture the showcase loneliness of the Montgomerys’ nursery. Rusty could not have been more than four when he carried Angela back to his room, recognizing despite the fact that nobody had given it to him that what Angela needed was love. “My newspaper’s name is awesome, and that was a very touching speech, Rusty,” she told him. “But actually, you haven’t been as convincingly louche and laissez-faire as you appear to believe. I knew all this already. On any day of our lives, I would have trusted you with my life. And I’ll trust you now.” She sat up straight despite the slippery sofa, and looked him directly in the eye, so he would know she meant it.
But the sleepy look of boundless good humor was already restored to Rusty’s face, and his hooded lids were hiding whatever expression was in his eyes. “Don’t pretend, Cambridge,” he said. “You know my beautiful speech has made you see me in a whole new and even more attractive light. You totally think I’m secretly deep now. And you are right. It is true. I have deeps.” He slid even lower on the sofa, his eyes falling almost completely closed. “Maybe,” he added, his voice almost too casual, “this revelation will lead you to make the sensible decision, and go for me.”
“And wouldn’t that be a magical thirty-six hours,” Kami said. “Before you died of exhaustion.”
Rusty did something unspeakable with his eyebrows. “Why, Cambridge, I am scandalized!”
“Shut up!” Kami told him. “You know what I meant. Shut up your entire face.”
He was still laughing when she left on a mission to find out about Sorry-in-the-Vale in the 1480s. Matthew Cooper’s secrets might have lasted six hundred years, but they could not last a moment longer. The winter solstice was only weeks away.
Chapter Eighteen
What I’ve Tasted of Desire
Kami had never liked Aurimere. There was something about the way she had been insulted and assaulted there a bunch of times that had really put her off. But she was growing a little fond of the records room. There was the table full of hidden sorcerous accounts, the wall of gold-clouded windows, and the fact that Ash always came in to keep her company. They had spent the better part of a fortnight in here now, searching for any sign of Matthew Cooper.
The first day she came to the records room after she and Ash had cleared up what happened in the Water Rising had been ferociously awkward. But Kami had persevered, and Ash was lonely enough that he responded to any gesture. Kami thought that was why he had decided to like her in the first place. It was embarrassing and a bit sad to reflect upon how little actual allure Kami had when it came to guys. That Kami Glass, people must say as she went by. About as sexy as a teapot.
Her first piece of luck came when she flipped open a book with the unpromising title Illustrious Personages of Gloucestershire and discovered that the Lynburns considered themselves so illustrious they had inscribed a family tree on the flyleaf.
This one was the oldest of the family trees she had seen. It started with the names of James Lynburn, born 1440, and his wife, Annis, also born a Lynburn. They had had two daughters. One was Elinor Lynburn.
“Hold on to everything,” Kami said.
Ash looked up warily from his books.
“I have Elinor Lynburn,” she said, tapping the brown writing sprawled on the yellow paper. “She had a sister called Anne. And hold on to everything even harder, because in 1484 Anne Lynburn married Matthew Cooper. And in 1485, Anne Lynburn and Matthew Cooper both died.”
“So Matthew was a sorcerer?” Ash closed his own book and leaned forward. “He must have been, to marry a Lynburn. We only ever, ever marry sorcerers. And they both died in the battle when Henry VII’s soldiers came to Sorry-in-the-Vale.”
“But that’s just it,” Kami said. “I’ve been researching, and there’s no evidence Henry VII’s soldiers ever did come to Sorry-in-the-Vale. Nothing confiscated, no lands burned, no record of other deaths. Just that Elinor Lynburn put the bells in the river, that Matthew Cooper died and had a statue erected to him for his courage, and now we know that Anne Lynburn died as well. Nothing but those two deaths, and the lingering story that the Lynburns did something to save the town. It’s a mystery, Ash. And I can’t help but think it’s a clue as well: a clue to how we can protect the town again.”
Ash frowned. “They must have done something.”
“Must have,” Kami said. “And it must have been something big. What did Elinor and Anne Lynburn do, and how was it different from anything any Lynburn has done before or since? How was Matthew involved?”
Ash nodded slowly, conceding her point.
“The Glass family was given our house because we were Matthew’s relatives,” Kami said. “There haven’t been any records to suggest any of my ancestors were sorcerers. Instead, there’s been a long history of the Glass family being some sort of special servants to the Lynburns.” She wrinkled her nose to express her feelings on that subject.
“The house was a return for special loyalty,” Ash said.
“It’s not like the Lynburns didn’t expect loyalty and service from everyone,” Kami said. “Why give us a house, why keep us especially under the eye of Aurimere? You can watch my house from the Aurimere bell tower, for God’s sake. They had a reason to do it. I don’t think Matthew Cooper was just any sorcerer. I don’t think he was a sorcerer at all.”
Ash looked thunderstruck. “What could he have done for the town if he wasn’t?”
Kami asked, “What am I? Think. Anne Lynburn was a lady of the manor, she wouldn’t have been fighting even if there had been fighting, but she and Matthew died at the same time.”
Light dawned on Ash. He said quietly, “A sorcerer dies with their source.”
“A sorcerer and a source can accomplish great things. Anne and Matthew did. They saved Sorry-in-the-Vale. But they died for it, and the Lynburns decided that sorcerers should stop using sources. They kept the Glass family close because they knew we had the potential to become sources, and they didn’t want us to. Maybe they kept us close because they thought that the time might come when the town would be in enough danger that a Lynburn would have to take a source again.”
They both startled when Lillian’s voice rang out: “And are you saying that time has come?”
Kami closed her book and smoothed a hand protectively down the cracked calfskin cover. “I’m trying to find out what the past has to teach us.”
Lillian was wearing a tan jacket, and her hair was swept up. She was obviously on her way out on another trip to the woods with her new sorcerers.
None of Kami’s group was invited on these trips, not even Jared and Ash.
Lillian hesitated for a fraction of a second, but with her it was unusual enough to be notable. “Don’t fill my son’s head with any wild ideas.”