A Discovery of Witches

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Authors: Deborah Harkness
before turning his eyes to me. He was dressed in familiar academic garb—brown tweed jacket with suede elbow patches, corduroy pants in a slightly jarring tone of green, and a cotton shirt with a button-down collar and ink stains on the pocket—and I was ready to dismiss him as just another Oxford scholar before my skin tingled to tell me that he was a witch. Still, he was a stranger, and I returned my attention to my manuscript.
    A gentle sensation of pressure on the back of my skull made it impossible to keep reading, however. The pressure flitted to my ears, growing in intensity as it wrapped around my forehead, and my stomach clenched in panic. This was no longer a silent greeting, but a threat. Why, though, would he be threatening me?
    The wizard strolled toward my desk with apparent casualness. As he approached, a voice whispered in my now-throbbing head. It was too faint to distinguish the words. I was sure it was coming from this male witch, but who on earth was he?
    My breath became shallow. Get the hell out of my head, I said fiercely if silently, touching my forehead.
    Clairmont moved so quickly I didn’t see him round the desks. In an instant he was standing with one hand on the back of my chair and the other resting on the surface in front of me. His broad shoulders were curved around me like the wings of a falcon shielding his prey.
    “Are you all right?” he asked.
    “I’m fine,” I replied with a shaking voice, utterly confused as to why a vampire would need to protect me from another witch.
    In the gallery above us, a reader craned her neck to see what all the fuss was about. She stood, her brow creased. Two witches and a vampire were impossible for a human to ignore.
    “Leave me alone. The humans have noticed us,” I said between clenched teeth.
    Clairmont straightened to his full height but kept his back to the witch and his body angled between us like an avenging angel.
    “Ah, my mistake,” the witch murmured from behind Clairmont. “I thought this seat was available. Excuse me.” Soft steps retreated into the distance, and the pressure on my head gradually subsided.
    A slight breeze stirred as the vampire’s cold hand reached toward my shoulder, stopped, and returned to the back of the chair. Clairmont leaned over. “You look quite pale,” he said in his soft, low voice. “Would you like me to take you home?”
    “No.” I shook my head, hoping he would go sit down and let me gather my composure. In the gallery the human reader kept a wary eye on us.
    “Dr. Bishop, I really think you should let me take you home.”
    “No!” My voice was louder than I intended. It dropped to a whisper. “I am not being driven out of this library—not by you, not by anyone.”
    Clairmont’s face was disconcertingly close. He took a slow breath in, and once again there was a powerful aroma of cinnamon and cloves. Something in my eyes convinced him I was serious, and he drew away. His mouth flattened into a severe line, and he returned to his seat.
    We spent the remainder of the afternoon in a state of détente. I tried to read beyond the second folio of my first manuscript, and Clairmont leafed through scraps of paper and closely written notebooks with the attention of a judge deciding on a capital case.
    By three o’clock my nerves were so frayed that I could no longer concentrate. The day was lost.
    I gathered my scattered belongings and returned the manuscript to its box.
    Clairmont looked up. “Going home, Dr. Bishop?” His tone was mild, but his eyes glittered.
    “Yes,” I snapped.
    The vampire’s face went carefully blank.
    Every creature in the library watched me on my way out—the threatening wizard, Gillian, the vampire monk, even the daemon. The afternoon attendant at the collection desk was a stranger to me, because I never left at this time of day. Mr. Johnson pushed his chair back slightly, saw it was me, and looked at his watch in surprise.
    In the quadrangle I pushed the glass

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