A Discovery of Witches

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Authors: Deborah Harkness
time and space, nothing but a weightless body on a moving river. My swift little boat darted along, and I swung in perfect unison with the boat and its oars. I closed my eyes and smiled, the events of the day fading in significance.
    The sky darkened behind my closed lids, and the booming sound of traffic overhead indicated that I’d passed underneath the Donnington Bridge. Coming through into the sunlight on the other side, I opened my eyes—and felt the cold touch of a vampire’s gaze on my sternum.
    A figure stood on the bridge, his long coat flapping around his knees. Though I couldn’t see his face clearly, the vampire’s considerable height and bulk suggested that it was Matthew Clairmont. Again.
    I swore and nearly dropped one oar. The City of Oxford dock was nearby. The notion of pulling an illegal maneuver and crossing the river so that I could smack the vampire upside his beautiful head with whatever piece of boat equipment was handy was very tempting. While formulating my plan, I spotted a slight woman standing on the dock wearing paint-stained overalls. She was smoking a cigarette and talking into a mobile phone.
    This was not a typical sight for the City of Oxford boathouse.
    She looked up, her eyes nudging my skin. A daemon. She twisted her mouth into a wolfish smile and said something into the phone.
    This was just too weird. First Clairmont and now a host of creatures appearing whenever he did? Abandoning my plan, I poured my unease into my rowing.
    I managed to get down the river, but the serenity of the outing had evaporated. Turning the boat in front of the Isis Tavern, I spotted Clairmont standing beside one of the pub’s tables. He’d managed to get there from the Donnington Bridge—on foot—in less time than I’d done it in a racing scull.
    Pulling hard on both oars, I lifted them two feet off the water like the wings of an enormous bird and glided straight into the tavern’s rickety wooden dock. By the time I’d climbed out, Clairmont had crossed the twenty-odd feet of grass lying between us. His weight pushed the floating platform down slightly in the water, and the boat wiggled in adjustment.
    “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I demanded, stepping clear of the blade and across the rough planks to where the vampire now stood. My breath was ragged from exertion, my cheeks flushed. “Are you and your friends stalking me?”
    Clairmont frowned. “They aren’t my friends, Dr. Bishop.”
    “No? I haven’t seen so many vampires, witches, and daemons in one place since my aunts dragged me to a pagan summer festival when I was thirteen. If they’re not your friends, why are they always hanging around you?” I wiped the back of my hand across my forehead and pushed the damp hair away from my face.
    “Good God,” the vampire murmured incredulously. “The rumors are true.”
    “What rumors?” I said impatiently.
    “You think these . . . things want to spend time with me?” Clairmont’s voice dripped with contempt and something that sounded like surprise. “Unbelievable.”
    I worked my fleece pullover up above my shoulders and yanked it off. Clairmont’s eyes flickered to my collarbones, over my bare arms, and down to my fingertips. I felt uncharacteristically naked in my familiar rowing clothes.
    “Yes,” I snapped. “I’ve lived in Oxford. I visit every year. The only thing that’s been different this time is you. Since you showed up last night, I’ve been pushed out of my seat in the library, stared at by strange vampires and daemons, and threatened by unfamiliar witches.”
    Clairmont’s arms rose slightly, as if he were going to take me by the shoulders and shake me. Though I was by no means short at just under five-seven, he was so tall that my neck had to bend sharply so I could make eye contact. Acutely aware of his size and strength relative to my own, I stepped back and crossed my arms, calling upon my professional persona to steel my

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