Tessa stood blinking in the sudden illumination. The room was huge, big enough for a table that could have seated twenty people. An immense gasolier hung down from the ceiling, filling the room with a yellowish glow. Over a sideboard loaded with expensive-looking china, a gilt-framed mirror ran the length of the room. A low glass bowl of white flowers decorated the table’s center. Everything was tasteful, and very ordinary. There was nothing unusual about the room, nothing that might hint at the nature of the house’s occupants.
Though the entire long dining table was draped with white linen, only one end was set, with places for five people. Only two people were already sitting—Will and a fair-haired girl about Tessa’s age in a shimmering low-necked gown. They appeared to be studiously ignoring each other; Will looked up in apparent relief when Charlotte and Tessa came in. “Will,” Charlotte said. “You remember Miss Gray?”
“My recollection of her,” said Will, “is most vivid indeed.” He was no longer wearing the odd black clothes he’d been wearing the day before, but an ordinary pair of trousers and a gray jacket with a black velvet collar. The gray made his eyes look bluer than ever. He grinned at Tessa, who felt herself flush and looked quickly away.
“And Jessamine—Jessie, do look up. Jessie, this is Miss Theresa Gray; Miss Gray, this is Miss Jessamine Lovelace.”
“So pleased to make your acquaintance,” Jessamine murmured. Tessa couldn’t help staring at her. She was almost ridiculously pretty, what one of Tessa’s novels would have called an English rose—all silvery fair hair, soft brown eyes, and creamy complexion. She wore a very bright blue dress, and rings on almost every one of her fingers. If she had the same black skin markings that Will and Charlotte did, they weren’t visible.
Will cast Jessamine a look of plain loathing, and turned to Charlotte. “Where’s your benighted husband, then?”
Charlotte, taking a seat, gestured for Tessa to sit opposite her, in the chair beside Will. “Henry is in his workroom. I’ve sent Thomas to fetch him. He’ll be up in a moment.”
Charlotte’s look was warning, but “Jem is unwell” was all she said. “He’s having one of his days.”
“He’s always having one of his days.” Jessamine sounded disgusted.
Tessa was about to inquire as to who Jem might be, when Sophie entered, followed by a plump woman of middle age whose gray hair was escaping from a bun at the back of her head. The two of them began to serve food from the sideboard. There was roast pork, potatoes, savory soup, and fluffy dinner rolls with creamy yellow butter. Tessa felt suddenly light-headed; she had forgotten how hungry she was. She bit into a roll, only to check herself when she saw Jessamine staring.
“You know,” Jessamine said airily, “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a warlock eat before. I suppose you needn’t ever bant, do you? You can just use magic to make yourself slender.”
“We don’t know for certain that she’s a warlock, Jessie,” said Will.
Jessamine ignored him. “Is it dreadful, being so evil? Are you worried you’ll go to Hell?” She leaned closer to Tessa. “What do you think the Devil’s like?”
Tessa set her fork down. “Would you like to meet him? I could summon him up in a trice if you like. Being a warlock, and all.”
Will let out a whoop of laughter. Jessamine’s eyes narrowed. “There’s no call to be rude,” she began—then broke off as Charlotte sat bolt upright with an astonished shriek.
A man was standing in the dining room’s arched doorway—a familiar-looking tall man, with a shock of ginger hair and hazel eyes. He wore a torn tweed Norfolk jacket over a shockingly bright striped waistcoat; his trousers were covered in what looked peculiarly like coal dust. But none of that was what had made Charlotte scream; it was the fact that his left arm appeared to be on fire. Little flames licked up his arm from a point above his elbow, releasing tendrils of black smoke.
“Charlotte, darling,” Henry said to his wife, who was staring at him in gape-mouthed horror. Jessamine, beside her, was wide eyed. “Sorry I’m late. You know, I think I might nearly have the Sensor working—”
Will interrupted. “Henry,” he said, “you’re on fire. You do know that, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes,” Henry said eagerly. The flames were now nearly to his shoulder. “I’ve been working like a man possessed all day. Charlotte, did you hear what I said about the Sensor?”
Charlotte dropped her hand from her mouth. “Henry!” she shrieked. “Your arm!”
Henry glanced down at his arm, and his mouth dropped open. “Bloody hell” was all he had time to say before Will, exhibiting a startling presence of mind, stood up, seized the vase of flowers off the table, and hurled the contents over Henry. The flames went out, with a faint protesting sizzle, leaving Henry standing soaking wet in the doorway, one sleeve of his jacket blackened and a dozen damp white flowers strewn at his feet.
Henry beamed and patted the burned sleeve of his jacket with a look of satisfaction. “You know what this means?”
Will set the vase down. “That you set yourself on fire and didn’t even notice?”
“That the flame-retardant mixture I developed last week works!” Henry said proudly. “This material must have been burning for a good ten minutes, and it isn’t even half burned through!” He squinted down at his arm. “Perhaps I ought to set the other sleeve on fire and see how long—”
“Henry,” said Charlotte, who appeared to have recovered from her shock, “if you set yourself on fire deliberately, I will institute divorce proceedings. Now sit down and eat your supper. And say hello to our guest.”
Henry sat, glanced across the table at Tessa—and blinked in surprise. “I know you,” he said. “You bit me!” He sounded pleased about it, as if recollecting a pleasant memory they’d both shared.
Charlotte shot a despairing look at her husband.
“Have you asked Miss Gray about the Pandemonium Club yet?” Will asked.
The Pandemonium Club. “I know the words. They were written on the side of Mrs. Dark’s carriage,” Tessa said.
“It’s an organization,” Charlotte said. “A rather old organization of mundanes who have interested themselves in the magical arts. At their meetings they do spells and try to summon up demons and spirits.” She sighed.