City of Heavenly Fire / Page 8

Page 8


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“I don’t know. The Institutes aren’t safe.”
 
“Neither are you,” said Jordan. “That’s why you have me.”
 
Maia looked at Jordan. There was something odd in the look, something Simon couldn’t quite identify. There had been something off between Maia and Jordan for some time now, a distance from Maia, a question in her eyes when she looked at her boyfriend. Simon had been waiting for Jordan to say something to him, but Jordan hadn’t. Simon wondered if Jordan had noticed Maia’s distance—it was obvious—or if he was stubbornly in denial.
 
“Would you still be a Daylighter?” Maia asked, turning her attention to Simon. “If you could change it?”
 
“I don’t know.” Simon had asked himself the same question, then pushed it away—there was no point obsessing over things you couldn’t change. Being a Daylighter meant that you had gold in your veins. Other vampires wanted it, for if they drank your blood, they too could walk in the sun. But just as many wanted you destroyed, for it was the belief of most vampires that Daylighters were an abomination to be rooted out. He remembered Raphael’s words to him on the roof of a Manhattan hotel. You had better pray, Daylighter, that you do not lose that Mark before the war comes. For if you do, there will be a line of enemies waiting their turn to kill you. And I will be at the head of it.
 
And yet. “I would miss the sun,” he said. “It keeps me human, I think.”
 
The light from the fire sparked off Jordan’s eyes as he looked at Simon. “Being human’s overrated,” he said with a smile.
 
Maia swung her feet off his legs abruptly. Jordan looked over at her, worried, just as the doorbell rang.
 
Simon was on his feet in a flash. “Takeout,” he announced. “I’ll go get it. Besides,” he added over his shoulder as he headed down the hall to the front door. “No one’s tried to kill me in two weeks. Maybe they got bored and gave up.”
 
He heard the murmur of voices behind him but didn’t listen; they were talking to each other. He reached for the knob and swung the door open, already fumbling for his wallet.
 
And there was a throb against his chest. He glanced down to see Isabelle’s pendant flash bright scarlet, and threw himself backward, just missing a hand thrust out to grab him. He yelled out loud—there was a looming figure dressed in red gear in the doorway, a Shadowhunter man with ugly splashes of runes on both cheeks, a hawk-like nose, and a broad, pale forehead. He snarled at Simon and advanced.
 
“Simon, get down!” Jordan shouted, and Simon threw himself flat and rolled to the side just as a crossbow bolt exploded along the hallway. The Dark Shadowhunter spun sideways with almost unbelievable speed; the bolt embedded itself in the door. Simon heard Jordan curse in frustration, and then Maia in wolf form sprang past him, leaping at the Endarkened.
 
There was a satisfying howl of pain as her teeth sank into his throat. Blood sprayed out, filling the air with a salty red mist; Simon inhaled it, tasting the bitter tang of demon-tainted blood as he rose to his feet. He stepped forward just as the Endarkened seized hold of Maia and threw her down the hall, a thrashing, howling ball of teeth and claws.
 
Jordan shouted. Simon was making a noise low in his own throat, a sort of vampire hiss, and he could feel his fang teeth snap out. The Endarkened stepped forward, pouring blood but still steady. Simon felt a pang of fear low in his gut. He had seen them fight at the Burren, Sebastian’s soldiers, and he knew that they were stronger, faster, and harder to kill than Shadowhunters. He hadn’t really thought about how much harder to kill they were than vampires.
 
“Get out of the way!” Jordan grabbed Simon by the shoulders and half-threw him after Maia, who had scrambled to her feet. There was blood on her ruff, and her wolf eyes were dark with rage. “Get out, Simon. Let us deal with this. Get out!”
 
Simon stood his ground. “I’m not going—he’s here for me—”
 
“I know that!” Jordan shouted. “I’m your Praetor Lupus guard! Now let me do my job!”
 
Jordan swung around, bringing up his crossbow again. This time the bolt sank into the Dark Shadowhunter’s shoulder. He staggered back and let loose a string of curses in a language Simon didn’t know. German, he thought. The Berlin Institute had been hit—
 
Maia sprang past Simon, and she and Jordan closed in on the Dark Shadowhunter. Jordan glanced back once at Simon, his hazel eyes fierce and wild. Simon nodded and darted back into the living room. He slammed open the window—it gave with a fierce shriek of swollen wood and an explosion of old paint chips—and climbed out onto the fire escape, where Jordan’s wolfsbane plants, withered by winter air, crowded the metal ledge.
 
Every part of him screamed that he shouldn’t be leaving, but he had promised Isabelle, promised he would let Jordan do his work as bodyguard, promised he wouldn’t make himself a target. He clasped one hand around Izzy’s pendant, warm under his fingers as if it had lain recently against her throat, and headed down the metal steps. They were clanging and slippery with snow; he almost fell several times before he reached the last rung and dropped to the shadowy pavement below.
 
And was immediately surrounded by vampires. Simon had time to recognize only two of them as part of the Hotel Dumort clan—delicate dark-haired Lily and blond Zeke, both grinning like fiends—before something was thrown over his head. Fabric pulled tight around his throat, and he choked, not because he needed air but because of the pain of having his throat compressed.
 
“Maureen sends her regards,” said Zeke into his ear.
 
Simon opened his mouth to scream, but darkness claimed him before he could make a sound.
 
   
 
 
 
“I didn’t realize you were quite so famous,” said Clary as she and Jace made their way down the narrow pavement that ran alongside Oldway Canal. It was turning to evening—darkness had only just fallen—and the streets were full of people hurrying to and fro, wrapped in thick cloaks, their faces cold and closed-off.
 
Stars were beginning to come out, a soft prickle of light across the eastern sky. They illuminated Jace’s eyes as he looked over at Clary curiously. “Everyone knows Valentine’s son.”
 
“I know, but—when Emma saw you, she acted like you were her celebrity crush. Like you were on the cover of Shadowhunters Weekly every month.”
 
“You know, when they asked me to pose, they said it would be tasteful. . . .”
 
“As long as you were holding a strategically placed seraph blade, I don’t see the problem,” Clary said, and Jace laughed, a cut-off sound that indicated that she had surprised the amusement out of him. It was her favorite laugh of his. Jace was always so controlled; it was still a delight to be one of the few people who could get under his carefully constructed armor and surprise him.
 
“You liked her, didn’t you?” Jace said.
 
Thrown, Clary said, “Liked who?” They were passing through a square she recalled—cobblestoned, with a well in the center, covered now with a stone circle, probably to keep the water from freezing.
 
“That girl. Emma.”
 
“There was something about her,” Clary acknowledged. “The way she stood up for Helen’s brother, maybe. Julian. She’d do anything for him. She really loves the Blackthorns, and she’s lost everyone else. . . .”
 
“She reminded you of you.”
 
“I don’t think so,” Clary said. “I think maybe she reminded me of you.”
 
“Because I’m tiny, blonde, and look good in pigtails?”
 
Clary bumped him with her shoulder. They had reached the top of a street lined with stores. The stores were closed now, though witchlight glowed through the barred windows. Clary had the sense of being in a dream or fairy tale, a sense that Alicante never failed to give her—the vast sky overhead, the ancient buildings carved with scenes out of legends, and over everything the clear demon towers that gave Alicante its common name: the City of Glass. “Because,” she said as they passed a store with loaves of bread stacked in the window, “she lost her blood family. But she has the Blackthorns. She doesn’t have anyone else, no aunts or uncles, no one to take her in, but the Blackthorns will. So she’ll have to learn what you did: that family isn’t blood. It’s the people who love you. The people who have your back. Like the Lightwoods did for you.”
 
Jace had stopped walking. Clary turned around to look at him. The crowd of pedestrians parted around them. He was standing in front of the entrance to a narrow alley by a shop. The wind that blew up the street ruffled his blond hair and his unzipped jacket; she could see the pulse in his throat. “Come here,” he said, and his voice was rough.
 
Clary took a step toward him, a little warily. Had she said something that had upset him? Though, Jace was rarely angry at her, and when he was, he was straightforward about it. He reached out, took her hand gently, and led her after him as he ducked around the corner of the building and into the shadows of a narrow passage that wound toward a canal in the distance.
 
There was no one else in the passageway with them, and its narrow entrance blocked the view from the street. Jace’s face was all angles in the dimness: sharp cheekbones, soft mouth, the golden eyes of a lion.
 
“I love you,” he said. “I don’t say it often enough. I love you.”
 
She leaned back against the wall. The stone was cold. Under other circumstances it might have been uncomfortable, but she didn’t care at the moment. She pulled him toward her carefully until their bodies were lined up, not quite touching, but so close that she could feel the heat radiating off him. Of course he didn’t need to zip his jacket, not with the fire burning through his veins. The scent of black pepper and soap and cold air clung around him as she pressed her face into his shoulder and breathed him in.
 
“Clary,” he said. His voice was a whisper and a warning. She could hear the roughness of longing in it, longing for the physical reassurance of closeness, of any touch at all. Carefully he reached around her to place the palms of his hands against the stone wall, caging her into the space made by his arms. She felt his breath in her hair, the light brush of his body against hers. Every inch of her seemed supersensitized; everywhere he touched she felt as if tiny needles of pleasure-pain were being dragged across her skin.
 
“Please don’t tell me you pulled me into an alley and you’re touching me and you don’t plan on kissing me, because I don’t think I could take it,” she said in a low voice.
 
He closed his eyes. She could see his dark lashes feathering against his cheeks, remembered the feel of mapping the shape of his face under her fingers, of the full weight of his body on hers, the way his skin felt against her skin.
 
“I don’t,” he said, and she could hear the dark roughness under the usual smooth glide of his voice. Honey over needles. They were close enough together that when he breathed in, she felt the expansion of his chest. “We can’t.”
 
She put her hand against his chest; his heart was beating like trapped wings. “Take me home, then,” she whispered, and she leaned up to brush her lips against the corner of his mouth. Or at least she meant it as a brush, a butterfly touch of lips on lips, but he leaned down toward her, and his movement changed the angle swiftly; she pressed up against him harder than she’d meant to, her lips sliding to center against his. She felt him breathe out in surprise against her mouth, and then they were kissing, really kissing, exquisitely slow and hot and intense.
 
Take me home. But this was home, Jace’s arms surrounding her, the cold wind of Alicante in their clothes, her fingers digging into the back of his neck, the place where his hair curled softly against the skin. His palms were still flat against the stone behind her, but he moved his body against hers, gently pressing her up against the wall; she could hear the harsh undertone of his breathing. He wouldn’t touch her with his hands, but she could touch him, and she let her hands go freely, over the swell of his arms, down to his chest, tracing the ridges of muscle, pressing outward to grip his sides until his T-shirt was rucking up under her fingers. Her fingertips touched bare skin, and then she was sliding her hands up under his shirt, and she hadn’t touched him like this in so long, had nearly forgotten how his skin was soft where it wasn’t scarred, how the muscles in his back jumped under her touch. He gasped into her mouth; he tasted like tea and chocolate and salt.
 
She had taken control of the kiss. Now she felt him tense as he took it back, biting at her lower lip until she shuddered, nipping at the corner of her mouth, kissing along her jawbone to suck at the pulse point at her throat, swallowing her racing heartbeat. His skin burned under her hands, burned—
 
He broke away, reeling back almost drunkenly, hitting the opposite wall. His eyes were wide, and for a dizzy moment Clary thought she could see flames in them, like twin fires in the darkness. Then the light went out of them and he was only gasping as if he had been running, pressing the heels of his palms against his face.
 
“Jace,” she said.
 
He dropped his hands. “Look at the wall behind you,” he said in a flat voice.
 
She turned—and stared. Behind her, where he had been leaning, were twin scorch marks in the stone, in the exact shape of his hands.
 
   
 
 
 
The Seelie Queen lay upon her bed and looked up at the stone ceiling of her bedchamber. It was wreathed with dangling trellises of roses, thorns still intact, each one perfect and blood-red. Every night they withered and died, and every morning they were replaced, as fresh as the day before.
 
Faeries slept little, and rarely dreamed, but the Queen liked her bed to be comfortable. It was a wide couch of stone, with a feather mattress laid on top, and covered with thick swathes of velvet and slippery satin.
 
“Have you ever,” said the boy in the bed beside her, “pricked yourself on one of the thorns, Your Majesty?”
 
She turned to look at Jonathan Morgenstern sprawled among the covers. Though he had asked her to call him Sebastian, which she respected—no faerie would allow another to address them by their true name either. He was on his stomach, head pillowed on his crossed arms, and even in the dim light the old whip weals across his back were visible.
 
The Queen had always been fascinated by Shadowhunters—they were part angel, as were the Fair Folk; certainly there should be a kinship between them—but had never thought she would find one whose personality she could stand for more than five minutes, until Sebastian. They were all so dreadfully self-righteous. Not Sebastian. He was most unusual for a human, and for a Shadowhunter especially.
 
“Not so often as you cut yourself on your wit, I think, my dearest,” she said. “You know I do not wish to be called ‘Your Majesty’ but only ‘Lady,’ or ‘my lady,’ if you must.”
 
“You do not seem to mind it when I call you ‘beautiful one,’ or ‘my beautiful lady.’ ” His tone was not repentant.
 
“Hmm,” she said, raking her slim fingers through the mass of his silvery hair. He had lovely coloring for a mortal: hair like a blade, eyes like onyx. She recalled his sister, so very different, not nearly so elegant. “Was your sleep refreshing? Are you weary?”
 
He rolled over onto his back and grinned up at her. “Not quite spent, I think.”
 
She leaned to kiss him, and he reached up to twine his fingers in her red hair. He looked at a curl of it, scarlet against the scarred skin of his knuckles, and touched the curl to his cheek. Before she could speak another word, a knock came at the door of her bedchamber.
 
The Queen called out, “What is it? If it is not a matter of importance, be off with you, or I shall have you fed to the nixies in the river.”
 
The door opened, and one of the younger Court ladies came in—Kaelie Whitewillow. A pixie. She curtsied and said, “My lady, Meliorn is here, and would speak with you.”
 
Sebastian quirked a pale eyebrow. “A Queen’s work is never done.”
 
The Queen sighed and rolled from the bed. “Bring him in,” she said, “and bring me one of my dressing gowns as well, for the air is chill.”
 
Kaelie nodded and left the room. A moment later Meliorn entered, and bowed his head. If Sebastian thought it odd that the Queen greeted her courtiers standing naked in the middle of her bedchamber, he did not evince it by any quirk of expression. A mortal woman would have been embarrassed, might have tried to cover herself, but the Queen was the Queen, eternal and proud, and she knew she was as glorious out of clothes as she was in them. “Meliorn,” she said. “You have news from the Nephilim?”
 
He straightened. Meliorn wore, as he usually did, white armor in a design of overlapping scales. His eyes were green and his hair was very long and black. “My lady,” he said, and glanced behind her at Sebastian, who was sitting up on the bed, the coverlet tangled around his waist. “I have much news. Our new forces of Dark Ones have been situated at the fortress of Edom. They await further orders.”
 
“And the Nephilim?” the Queen asked as Kaelie came back into the room carrying a dressing gown woven of the petals of lilies. She held it up, and the Queen slipped into it, wrapping the silken whiteness about herself.
 
“The children who escaped the Los Angeles Institute have given enough information that they know that Sebastian is behind the attacks,” said Meliorn rather sourly.
 
“They would have guessed it anyway,” said Sebastian. “They do have a regrettable habit of blaming me for everything.”
 
“The question is, were our people identified?” the Queen demanded.
 
“They were not,” said Meliorn with satisfaction. “The children assumed all the attackers to be Endarkened.”
 
“That is impressive, considering the presence of faerie blood in that Blackthorn boy,” said Sebastian. “One might have thought they’d be attuned to it. What are you planning on doing with him, anyway?”
 
“He has faerie blood; he is ours,” said Meliorn. “Gwyn has claimed him to join the Wild Hunt; he will be dispatched there.” He turned to the Queen. “We have need of more soldiers,” he said. “The Institutes are emptying: The Nephilim are fleeing to Idris.”
 
“What of the New York Institute?” Sebastian demanded sharply. “What of my brother and sister?”
 
“Clary Fray and Jace Lightwood have been sent to Idris,” said Meliorn. “We cannot attempt to retrieve them quite yet without showing our hand.”
 
Sebastian touched the bracelet on his wrist. It was a habit of his the Queen had noted, something he did when he was angry and trying not to show it. The metal was written on in an old language of humans: If I cannot reach Heaven, I will raise Hell. “I want them,” he said.
 
“And you shall have them,” said the Queen. “I have not forgotten that was part of our bargain. But you must be patient.”
 
Sebastian smiled, though it did not reach his eyes. “We mortals can be overhasty.”
 
“You are no ordinary mortal,” said the Queen, and turned back to Meliorn. “My knight,” she said. “What do you advise your Queen?”
 
“We need more soldiers,” Meliorn said. “We must take another Institute. More weapons would be a boon as well.”
 
“I thought you said all the Shadowhunters were in Idris?” Sebastian said.
 
“Not quite yet,” said Meliorn. “Some cities have taken longer than expected to evacuate all the Nephilim—the Shadowhunters of London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Istanbul, and Taipei remain. We must have at least one more Institute.”
 
Sebastian smiled. It was the sort of smile that transformed his lovely face, not into something lovelier but into a cruel mask, all teeth, like a manticore’s grin. “Then I shall have London,” he said. “If that does not go against your wishes, my Queen.”
 
She could not help but smile. It had been so many centuries since a mortal lover had made her smile. She bent to kiss him, and felt his hands slide over the petals of her gown. “Take London, my love, and turn it all to blood,” she said. “My gift to you.”
 
   
 
 
 
“You’re all right?” Jace asked, for what felt to Clary like the hundredth time. She was standing on the front step of Amatis’s house, partly illuminated by the lights from the windows. Jace was just below her, his hands jammed into his pockets, as if he were afraid to let them free.
 
He had stared at the burn marks he’d made on the wall of the shop for a long time, before tugging his shirt down and practically yanking Clary out into the crowded street, as if she shouldn’t be alone with him. He’d been taciturn the rest of the way home, his mouth set in a tense line.
 
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “Look, you burned the wall, not me.” She did an exaggerated twirl, as if she were showing off a new outfit. “See?”
 
There were shadows in his eyes. “If I hurt you—”
 
“You didn’t,” she said. “I’m not that fragile.”
 
“I thought I was getting better at controlling it, that working with Jordan was helping.” Frustration curled through his voice.
 
“You are; it is. Look, you were able to concentrate the fire in your hands; that’s progress. I was touching you, kissing you, and I’m not hurt.” She put her hand against his cheek. “We work through this together, remember? No shutting me out. No epic sulks.”
 
“I was figuring I could sulk for Idris in the next Olympics,” Jace said, but his voice was already softening, the edge of hard self-loathing filed away, wryness and amusement taking its place.
 
“You and Alec could go for pair sulking,” said Clary with a smile. “You’d get the gold.”
 
He turned his head and kissed the palm of her hand. His hair brushed the tops of her fingers. Everything around them seemed still and quiet; Clary could almost believe they were the only people in Alicante. “I keep wondering,” he said against her skin, “what the guy who owns that store is going to think when he comes to work in the morning and sees two handprints burned into his wall.”
 
“ ‘I hope I have insurance for this’?”
 
Jace laughed, a small puff of air against her hand.
 
“Speaking of which,” said Clary, “the next Council meeting is tomorrow, right?”
 
Jace nodded. “War council,” he said. “Only select members of the Clave.” He wiggled his fingers irritably. Clary felt his annoyance—Jace was an excellent strategist and one of the Clave’s best fighters, and would have greatly resented being left out of any meeting that was about battles. Especially, she thought, if there was going to be discussion about using the heavenly fire as a weapon.
 
“Then maybe you can help me out with something. I need an armaments shop. I want to buy a sword. A really good one.”
 
Jace looked surprised, then amused. “What for?”
 
“Oh, you know. Killing.” Clary made a hand gesture she hoped conveyed her murderous intentions toward all things evil. “I mean, I’ve been a Shadowhunter for a while now. I should have a proper weapon, right?”
 
A slow grin spread over his face. “The best blade shop is Diana’s on Flintlock Street,” he said, eyes alight. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon.”
 
“It’s a date,” Clary said. “A weapons date.”
 
“So much better than dinner and a movie,” he said, and disappeared into the shadows.
 

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