City of Ashes – Chapter 2: THE HUNTER’S MOON

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Chapter 2: THE HUNTER’S MOON

MAIA HAD NEVER TRUSTED BEAUTIFUL BOYS, WHICH WAS why she hated Jace Wayland the first time she ever laid eyes on him.

Her older brother, Daniel, had been born with her mother’s honey-colored skin and huge dark eyes, and he’d turned out to be the sort of person who lit the wings of butterflies on fire to watch them burn and die as they flew. He’d tormented her as well, in small and petty ways at first, pinching her where the bruises wouldn’t show, switching the shampoo in her bottle for bleach. She’d gone to her parents but they hadn’t believed her. No one had, looking at Daniel; they’d confused beauty with innocence and harmlessness. When he broke her arm in ninth grade, she ran away from home, but her parents brought her back. In tenth grade, Daniel was knocked down in the street by a hit-and-run driver and killed instantly. Standing next to her parents at the graveside, Maia had been ashamed by her own overwhelming sense of relief. God, she thought, would surely punish her for being glad that her brother was dead.

The next year, He did. She met Jordan. Long dark hair, slim hips in worn jeans, indie-boy rocker shirts and lashes like a girl’s. She never thought he’d go for her—his type usually preferred skinny, pale girls in hipster glasses—but he seemed to like her rounded shape. He told her she was beautiful in between kisses. The first few months were like a dream; the last few months like a nightmare. He became possessive, controlling. When he was angry with her, he’d snarl and whip the back of his hand across her cheek, leaving a mark like too much blusher. When she tried to break up with him, he pushed her, knocked her down in her own front yard before she ran inside and slammed the door.

Later, she let him see her kissing another boy, just to get the point across that it was over. She didn’t even remember that boy’s name anymore. What she did remember was walking home that night, the rain misting her hair in fine droplets, mud splattering up the legs of her jeans as she took a shortcut through the park near her house. She remembered the dark shape exploding out from behind the metal merry-go-round, the huge wet wolf body knocking her into the mud, the savage pain as its jaws clamped down on her throat. She’d screamed and thrashed, tasting her own hot blood in her mouth, her brain screaming: This is impossible. Impossible. There weren’t wolves in New Jersey, not in her ordinary suburban neighborhood, not in the twenty-first century.

Her cries brought lights on in the nearby houses, one after another of the windows lighting up like struck matches. The wolf let her go, its jaws trailing ribbons of blood and torn flesh.

Twenty-four stitches later, she was back in her pink bedroom, her mother hovering anxiously. The emergency room doctor had said the bite looked like a large dog’s, but Maia knew better. Before the wolf had turned to race away, she’d heard a hot, familiar whispered voice in her ear, “You’re mine now. You’ll always be mine. ”

She never saw Jordan again—he and his parents packed up their apartment and moved, and none of his friends knew where he’d gone, or would admit they did. She was only half-surprised the next full moon when the pains started: tearing pains that ripped up and down her legs, forcing her to the ground, bending her spine the way a magician might bend a spoon. When her teeth burst out of her gums and rattled to the floor like spilled Chiclets, she fainted. Or thought she did. She woke up miles away from her house, naked and covered in blood, the scar on her throat pulsing like a heartbeat. That night she hopped the train to Manhattan. It wasn’t a hard decision. It was bad enough being biracial in her conservative suburban neighborhood. God knew what they’d do to a werewolf.

It hadn’t been that hard to find a pack to fall in with. There were several of them in Manhattan alone. She wound up with the downtown pack, the ones who slept in the old police station in Chinatown.

Pack leaders were mutable. There’d been Kito first, then Véronique, then Gabriel, and now Luke. She’d liked Gabriel all right, but Luke was better. He had a trustworthy look and kind blue eyes and wasn’t too handsome, so she didn’t dislike him on the spot. She was comfortable enough here with the pack, sleeping in the old police station, playing cards and eating Chinese food on nights when the moon wasn’t full, hunting through the park when it was, and the next day drinking off the hangover of the Change at the Hunter’s Moon, one of the city’s better underground werewolf bars. There was ale by the yard, and nobody ever carded you to see if you were under twenty-one. Being a lycanthrope made you grow up fast, and as long as you sprouted hair and fangs once a month, you were good to drink at the Moon, no matter how old you were in mundane years.

These days she hardly thought of her family at all, but when the blond boy in the long black coat stalked his way into the bar, Maia stiffened all over. He didn’t look like Daniel, not exactly—Daniel had had dark hair that curled close to the nape of his neck and honey skin, and this boy was all white and gold. But they had the same lean bodies, the same way of walking, like a panther on the lookout for prey, and the same total confidence in their own attraction. Her hand tightened convulsively around the stem of her glass and she had to remind herself: He’s dead. Daniel’s dead.

A rush of murmurs swept through the bar on the heels of the boy’s arrival, like the froth of a wave spreading out from the stern of a boat. The boy acted as if he didn’t notice anything, hooking a bar stool toward himself with a booted foot and settling onto it with his elbows on the bar. Maia heard him order a shot of single malt in the quiet that followed the murmurs. He downed half the drink with a neat flip of his wrist. The liquor was the same dark gold color as his hair. When he lifted his hand to set the glass back down on the bar, Maia saw the thick coiling black Marks on his wrists and the backs of his hands.

Bat, the guy sitting next to her—she’d dated him once, but they were friends now—muttered something under his breath that sounded like “Nephilim. ”

So that’s it. The boy wasn’t a werewolf at all. He was a Shadowhunter, a member of the arcane world’s secret police force. They upheld the Law, backed by the Covenant, and you couldn’t become one of them: You had to be born into it. Blood made them what they were. There were a lot of rumors about them, most unflattering: They were haughty, proud, cruel; they looked down on and despised Downworlders. There were few things a lycanthrope liked less than a Shadowhunter—except maybe a vampire.

People also said that the Shadowhunters killed demons. Maia remembered when she’d first heard that demons existed and had been told about what they did. It had given her a headache. Vampires and werewolves were just people with a disease, that much she understood, but expecting her to believe in all that heaven and hell crap, demons and angels, and still nobody could tell her for sure if there was a God or not, or where you went after you died? It wasn’t fair. She believed in demons now—she’d seen enough of what they did that she wasn’t able to deny it—but she wished she didn’t have to.

“I take it,” the boy said, leaning his elbows onto the bar, “that you don’t serve Silver Bullet here. Too many bad associations?” His eyes gleamed, narrow and shining like the moon at a quarter full.

The bartender, Freaky Pete, just looked at the boy and shook his head in disgust. If the boy hadn’t been a Shadowhunter, Maia guessed, Pete would have tossed him out of the Moon, but instead he just walked to the other end of the bar and busied himself polishing glasses.

“Actually,” said Bat, who was unable to stay out of anything, “we don’t serve it because it’s really crappy beer. ”

The boy turned his narrow, shining gaze on Bat, and smiled delightedly. Most people didn’t smile delightedly when Bat looked at them funny: Bat was six-and-a-half feet tall, with a thick scar that disfigured half his face where silver powder had burned his skin. Bat wasn’t one of the overnighters, the pack who lived in the police station, sleeping in the old cells. He had his own apartment, even a job. He’d been a pretty good boyfriend, right up until he dumped Maia for a redheaded witch named Eve who lived in Yonkers and ran a palmistry shop out of her garage.

“And what are you drinking?” the boy inquired, leaning so close to Bat that it was like an insult. “A little hair of the dog that bit—well, everyone?”

“You really think you’re pretty funny. ” By this point the rest of the pack was leaning in to hear them, ready to back up Bat if he decided to knock this obnoxious brat into the middle of next week. “Don’t you?”

“Bat,” Maia said. She wondered if she were the only pack member in the bar who doubted Bat’s ability to knock the boy into next week. It wasn’t that she doubted Bat. It was something about the boy’s eyes. “Don’t. ”

Bat ignored her. “Don’t you?”

“Who am I to deny the obvious?” The boy’s eyes slid over Maia as if she were invisible and went back to Bat. “I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what happened to your face? It looks like—” And here he leaned forward and said something to Bat so quietly that Maia didn’t hear it. The next thing she knew, Bat was swinging a blow at the boy that should have shattered his jaw, only the boy was no longer there. He was standing a good five feet away, laughing, as Bat’s fist connected with his abandoned glass and sent it soaring across the bar to strike the opposite wall in a shower of shattering glass.

Freaky Pete was around the side of the bar, his big fist knotted in Bat’s shirt, before Maia could blink an eye. “That’s enough,” he said. “Bat, why don’t you take a walk and cool down. ”

Bat twisted in Pete’s grasp. “Take a walk? Did you hear—”

“I heard. ” Pete’s voice was low. “He’s a Shadowhunter. Walk it off, cub. ”

Bat swore and pulled away from the bartender. He stalked toward the exit, his shoulders stiff with rage. The door banged shut behind him.

The boy had stopped smiling and was looking at Freaky Pete with a sort of dark resentment, as if the bartender had taken away a toy he’d intended to play with. “That wasn’t necessary,” he said. “I can handle myself. ”

Pete regarded the Shadowhunter. “It’s my bar I’m worried about,” he said finally. “You might want to take your business elsewhere, Shadowhunter, if you don’t want any trouble. ”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want trouble. ” The boy sat back down on his stool. “Besides, I didn’t get to finish my drink. ”

Maia glanced behind her, where the wall of the bar was soaked with alcohol. “Looks like you finished it to me. ”

For a second the boy just looked blank; then a curious spark of amusement lit in his golden eyes. He looked so much like Daniel in that moment that Maia wanted to back away.

Pete slid another glass of amber liquid across the bar before the boy could reply to her. “Here you go,” he said. His eyes drifted to Maia. She thought she saw some admonishment in them.

“Pete—” she began. She didn’t get to finish. The door to the bar flew open. Bat was standing there in the doorway. It took a moment for Maia to realize that the front of his shirt and his sleeves were soaked with blood.

She slid off her stool and ran to him. “Bat! Are you hurt?”

His face was gray, his silvery scar standing out on his cheek like a piece of twisted wire. “An attack,” he said. “There’s a body in the alley. A dead kid. Blood—everywhere. ” He shook his head, looked down at himself. “Not my blood. I’m fine. ”

“A body? But who—”

Bat’s reply was swallowed in the commotion. Seats were abandoned as the pack rushed to the door. Pete came out from behind his counter and pushed his way through the mob. Only the Shadowhunter boy stayed where he was, his head bent over his drink.

Through gaps in the crowd around the door, Maia caught a glimpse of the gray paving of the alley, splashed with blood. It was still wet and had run between the cracks in the paving like the tendrils of a red plant. “His throat cut?” Pete was saying to Bat, whose color had come back. “How—”

“There was someone in the alley. Someone kneeling over him,” Bat said. His voice was tight. “Not like a person—like a shadow. They ran off when they saw me. He was still alive. A little. I bent down over him, but—” Bat shrugged. It was a casual movement, but the cords in his neck were standing out like thick roots wrapping a tree trunk. “He died without saying anything. ”

“Vampires,” said a buxom female lycanthrope—her name was Amabel, Maia thought—who was standing by the door. “The Night Children. It can’t have been anything else. ”

Bat looked at her, then turned and stalked across the room toward the bar. He grabbed the Shadowhunter by the back of the jacket—or reached out as if he meant to, but the boy was already on his feet, turning fluidly. “What’s your problem, werewolf?”

Bat’s hand was still outstretched. “Are you deaf, Nephilim?” he snarled. “There’s a dead boy in the alley. One of ours. ”

“Do you mean a lycanthrope or some other sort of Downworlder?” The boy arched his light eyebrows. “You all blend together to me. ”

There was a low growl—from Freaky Pete, Maia noted with some surprise. He had come back into the bar and was surrounded by the rest of the pack, their eyes fixed on the Shadowhunter. “He was only a cub,” said Pete. “His name was Joseph. ”

The name didn’t ring any bells for Maia, but she saw the tight set of Pete’s jaw and felt a flutter in her stomach. The pack was on the warpath now and if the Shadowhunter had any sense, he’d be backpedaling like crazy. He wasn’t, though. He was just standing there looking at them with those gold eyes and that funny smile on his face. “A lycanthrope boy?” he said.

“He was one of the pack,” said Pete. “He was only fifteen. ”

“And what exactly do you expect me to do about it?” said the boy.

Pete was staring incredulously. “You’re Nephilim,” he said. “The Clave owes us protection in these circumstances. ”

The boy looked around the bar, slowly and with such a look of insolence that a flush spread over Pete’s face.

“I don’t see anything you need protecting from here,” said the boy. “Except some bad décor and a possible mold problem. But you can usually clear that up with bleach. ”

“There’s a dead body outside this bar’s front door,” said Bat, enunciating carefully. “Don’t you think—”

“I think it’s a little too late for him to need protection,” said the boy, “if he’s already dead. ”

Pete was still staring. His ears had grown pointed, and when he spoke, his voice was muffled by his thickening canine teeth. “You want to be careful, Nephilim,” he said. “You want to be very careful. ”

The boy looked at him with opaque eyes. “Do I?”

“So you’re going to do nothing?” Bat said. “Is that it?”

“I’m going to finish my drink,” said the boy, eyeing his half-empty glass, still on the counter, “if you’ll let me. ”

“So that’s the attitude of the Clave, a week after the Accords?” said Pete with disgust. “The death of Downworlders is nothing to you?”

The boy smiled, and Maia’s spine prickled. He looked exactly like Daniel just before Daniel reached out and yanked the wings off a ladybug. “How like Downworlders,” he said, “expecting the Clave to clean your mess up for you. As if we could be bothered just because some stupid cub decided to splatter-paint himself all over your alley—”

And he used a word, a word for weres that they never used themselves, a filthily unpleasant word that implied an improper relationship between wolves and human women.

Before anyone else could move, Bat flung himself at the Shadowhunter—but the boy was gone. Bat stumbled and whirled around, staring. The pack gasped.

Maia’s mouth dropped open. The Shadowhunter boy was standing on the bar, feet planted wide apart. He really did look like an avenging angel getting ready to dispatch divine justice from on high, as the Shadowhunters were meant to do. Then he reached out a hand and curled his fingers toward himself, quickly, a gesture familiar to her from the playground as Come and get me—and the pack rushed at him.

Bat and Amabel swarmed up onto the bar; the boy spun, so quickly that his reflection in the mirror behind the bar seemed to blur. Maia saw him kick out, and then the two were groaning on the floor in a flurry of smashed glass. She could hear the boy laughing even as someone else reached up and pulled him down; he sank into the crowd with an ease that spoke of willingness, and then she couldn’t see him at all, just a welter of flailing arms and legs. Still, she thought she could hear him laughing, even as metal flashed—the edge of a knife—and she heard herself suck in her breath.

“That’s enough. ”

It was Luke’s voice, quiet, steady as a heartbeat. It was strange how you always knew your pack leader’s voice. Maia turned and saw him standing just at the entrance to the bar, one hand against the wall. He looked not just tired, but ravaged, as if something were tearing him down from the inside; still, his voice was calm as he said again, “That’s enough. Leave the boy alone. ”

The pack melted away from the Shadowhunter, leaving just Bat still standing there, defiant, one hand still gripping the back of the Shadowhunter’s shirt, the other holding a short-bladed knife. The boy himself was bloody-faced but hardly looked like someone who needed saving; he was grinning a grin as dangerous-looking as the broken glass that littered the floor. “He’s not a boy,” Bat said. “He’s a Shadowhunter. ”

“They’re welcome enough here,” said Luke, his tone neutral. “They are our allies. ”

“He said it didn’t matter,” said Bat angrily. “About Joseph—”

“I know,” Luke said quietly. His eyes shifted to the blond boy. “Did you come in here just to pick a fight, Jace Wayland?”

The boy—Jace—smiled, stretching his split lip so that a thin trickle of blood ran down his chin. “Luke. ”

Bat, startled to hear their pack leader’s first name come out of the Shadowhunter’s mouth, let go of the back of Jace’s shirt. “I didn’t know—”

“There’s nothing to know,” said Luke, the tiredness in his eyes creeping into his voice.

Freaky Pete spoke, his voice a bass rumble. “He said the Clave wouldn’t care about the death of a single lycanthrope, even a child. And it’s a week after the Accords, Luke. ”

“Jace doesn’t speak for the Clave,” said Luke, “and there’s nothing he could have done even if he’d wanted to. Isn’t that right?”

He looked at Jace, who was very pale. “How do you—”

“I know what happened,” said Luke. “With Maryse. ”

Jace stiffened, and for a moment Maia saw through the Daniel-like savage amusement to what was underneath, and it was dark and agonized and reminded her more of her own eyes in the mirror than of her brother’s. “Who told you? Clary?”

“Not Clary. ” Maia had never heard Luke speak that name before, but he said it with a tone that implied that this was someone special to him, and to the Shadowhunter boy as well. “I’m the pack leader, Jace. I hear things. Now come on. Let’s go to Pete’s office and talk. ”

Jace hesitated for a moment before shrugging. “Fine,” he said, “but you owe me for the Scotch I didn’t drink. ”

“That was my last guess,” Clary said with a defeated sigh, sinking down onto the steps outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art and staring disconsolately down Fifth Avenue.

“It was a good one. ” Simon sat down beside her, long legs sprawled out in front of him. “I mean, he’s a guy who likes weapons and killing, so why not the biggest collection of weapons in the whole city? And I’m always up for a visit to Arms and Armor, anyway. Gives me ideas for my campaign. ”

She looked at him in surprise. “You still gaming with Eric and Kirk and Matt?”

“Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I thought gaming might have lost some of its appeal for you since…” Since our real lives started to resemble one of your campaigns. Complete with good guys, bad guys, really nasty magic, and important enchanted objects you had to find if you wanted to win the game.

Except in a game, the good guys always won, defeated the bad guys and came home with the treasure. Whereas in real life, they’d lost the treasure, and sometimes Clary still wasn’t clear on who the bad and good guys actually were.

She looked at Simon and felt a wave of sadness. If he did give up gaming, it would be her fault, just like everything that had happened to him in the past weeks had been her fault. She remembered his white face at the sink that morning, just before he’d kissed her.

“Simon—” she began.

“Right now I’m playing a half-troll cleric who wants revenge on the Orcs who killed his family,” he said cheerfully. “It’s awesome. ”

She laughed just as her cell phone rang. She dug it out of her pocket and flipped it open; it was Luke. “We didn’t find him,” she said, before he could say hello.

“No. But I did. ”

She sat up straight. “You’re kidding. Is he there? Can I talk to him?” She caught sight of Simon looking at her sharply and dropped her voice. “Is he all right?”

“Mostly. ”

“What do you mean, mostly?”

“He picked a fight with a werewolf pack. He’s got some cuts and bruises. ”

Clary half-closed her eyes. Why, oh why, had Jace picked a fight with a pack of wolves? What had possessed him? Then again, it was Jace. He’d pick a fight with a Mack truck if the urge took him.

“I think you should come down here,” Luke said. “Someone has to reason with him and I’m not having much luck. ”

“Where are you?” Clary asked.

He told her. A bar called the Hunter’s Moon on Hester Street. She wondered if it was glamoured. Flipping her phone shut, she turned to Simon, who was staring at her with raised eyebrows.

“The prodigal returns?”

“Sort of. ” She scrambled to her feet and stretched her tired legs, mentally calculating how long it would take them to get to Chinatown on the train and whether it was worth shelling out the pocket money Luke had given her for a cab. Probably not, she decided—if they got stuck in traffic, it would take longer than the subway.

“… come with you?” Simon finished, standing up. He was on the step below her, which made them almost the same height. “What do you think?”

She opened her mouth, then closed it again quickly. “Er…”

He sounded resigned. “You haven’t heard a word I said these past two minutes, have you?”

“No,” she admitted. “I was thinking about Jace. It sounded like he was in bad shape. Sorry. ”

His brown eyes darkened. “I take it you’re rushing off to bind up his wounds?”

“Luke asked me to come down,” she said. “I was hoping you’d come with me. ”

Simon kicked at the step above his with a booted foot. “I will, but—why? Can’t Luke return Jace to the Institute without your help?”

“Probably. But he thinks Jace might be willing to talk to me about what’s going on first. ”

“I thought maybe we could do something tonight,” Simon said. “Something fun. See a movie. Get dinner downtown. ”

She looked at him. In the distance, she could hear water splashing into a museum fountain. She thought of the kitchen at his house, his damp hands in her hair, but it all seemed very far away, even though she could picture it—the way you might remember the photograph of an incident without really remembering the incident itself any longer.

“He’s my brother,” she said. “I have to go. ”

Simon looked as if he were too weary to even sigh. “Then I’ll go with you. ”

The back office of Hunter’s Moon was down a narrow corridor strewn with sawdust. Here and there the sawdust was churned up by footsteps and spotted with a dark liquid that didn’t look like beer. The whole place smelled smoky and gamy, a little like—Clary had to admit it, though she wouldn’t have said so to Luke—wet dog.

“He’s not in a very good mood,” said Luke, pausing in front of a closed door. “I shut him up in Freaky Pete’s office after he nearly killed half my pack with his bare hands. He wouldn’t talk to me, so”—Luke shrugged—“I thought of you. ” He looked from Clary’s baffled face to Simon’s. “What?”

“I can’t believe he came here,” Clary said.

“I can’t believe you know someone named Freaky Pete,” said Simon.

“I know a lot of people,” said Luke. “Not that Freaky Pete is strictly people, but I’m hardly one to talk. ” He swung the office door wide. Inside was a plain room, windowless, the walls hung with sports pennants. There was a paper-strewn desk weighted down with a small TV set, and behind it, in a chair whose leather was so cracked it looked like veined marble, was Jace.

The moment the door opened, Jace seized up a yellow pencil lying on the desk and threw it. It sailed through the air and struck the wall just next to Luke’s head, where it stuck, vibrating. Luke’s eyes widened.

Jace smiled faintly. “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was you. ”

Clary felt her heart contract. She hadn’t seen Jace in days, and he looked different somehow—not just the bloody face and bruises, which were clearly new, but the skin on his face seemed tighter, the bones more prominent.

Luke indicated Simon and Clary with a wave of his hand. “I brought some people to see you. ”

Jace’s eyes moved to them. They were as blank as if they had been painted on. “Unfortunately,” he said, “I only had the one pencil. ”

“Jace—” Luke started.

“I don’t want him in here. ” Jace jerked his chin toward Simon.

“That’s hardly fair. ” Clary was indignant. Had he forgotten that Simon had saved Alec’s life, possibly all their lives?

“Out, mundane,” said Jace, pointing to the door.

Simon waved a hand. “It’s fine. I’ll wait in the hallway. ” He left, refraining from banging the door shut behind him, though Clary could tell he wanted to.

She turned back to Jace. “Do you have to be so—” she began, but stopped when she saw his face. It looked stripped down, oddly vulnerable.

“Unpleasant?” he finished for her. “Only on days when my adoptive mother tosses me out of the house with instructions never to darken her door again. Usually, I’m remarkably good-natured. Try me on any day that doesn’t end in y. ”

Luke frowned. “Maryse and Robert Lightwood are not my favorite people, but I can’t believe Maryse would do that. ”

Jace looked surprised. “You know them? The Lightwoods?”

“They were in the Circle with me,” said Luke. “I was surprised when I heard they were heading the Institute here. It seems they made a deal with the Clave, after the Uprising, to ensure some kind of lenient treatment for themselves, while Hodge—well, we know what happened to him. ” He was silent a moment. “Did Maryse say why she was exiling you, so to speak?”

“She doesn’t believe that I thought I was Michael Wayland’s son. She accused me of being in it with Valentine all along—saying I helped him get away with the Mortal Cup. ”

“Then why would you still be here?” Clary asked. “Why wouldn’t you have fled with him?”

“She wouldn’t say, but I suspect she thinks I stayed to be a spy. A viper in their bosoms. Not that she used the word ‘bosoms,’ but the thought was there. ”

“A spy for Valentine?” Luke sounded dismayed.

“She thinks Valentine assumed that because of their affection for me, she and Robert would believe whatever I said. So Maryse has decided that the solution to that is not to have any affection for me. ”

“Affection doesn’t work like that. ” Luke shook his head. “You can’t turn it off, like a tap. Especially if you’re a parent. ”

“They’re not really my parents. ”

“There’s more to parentage than blood. They’ve been your parents for seven years in all the ways that matter. Maryse is just hurt. ”

“Hurt?” Jace sounded incredulous. “She’s hurt?”

“She loved Valentine, remember,” said Luke. “As we all did. He hurt her badly. She doesn’t want his son to do the same. She worries you’ve lied to them. That the person she thought you were all these years was a ruse, a trick. You have to reassure her. ”

Jace’s expression was a perfect mixture of stubbornness and astonishment. “Maryse is an adult! She shouldn’t need reassurance from me. ”

“Oh, come on, Jace,” Clary said. “You can’t wait for perfect behavior from everyone. Adults screw up too. Go back to the Institute and talk to her rationally. Be a man. ”

“I don’t want to be a man,” said Jace. “I want to be an angst-ridden teenager who can’t confront his own inner demons and takes it out verbally on other people instead. ”

“Well,” said Luke, “you’re doing a fantastic job. ”

“Jace,” Clary said hastily, before they could start fighting in earnest, “you have to go back to the Institute. Think about Alec and Izzy, think what this will do to them. ”

“Maryse will make something up to calm them down. Maybe she’ll say I ran off. ”

“That won’t work,” said Clary. “Isabelle sounded frantic on the phone. ”

“Isabelle always sounds frantic,” said Jace, but he looked pleased. He leaned back in the chair. The bruises along his jaw and cheekbone stood out like dark, shapeless Marks against his skin. “I won’t go back to a place where I’m not trusted. I’m not ten years old anymore. I can take care of myself. ”

Luke looked as if he weren’t sure about that. “Where will you go? How will you live?”

Jace’s eyes glittered. “I’m seventeen. Practically an adult. Any adult Shadowhunter is entitled to—”

“Any adult. But you’re not one. You can’t draw a salary from the Clave because you’re too young, and in fact the Lightwoods are bound by the Law to care for you. If they won’t, someone else would be appointed or—”

“Or what?” Jace sprang up from the chair. “I’ll go to an orphanage in Idris? Be dumped on some family I’ve never met? I can get a job in the mundane world for a year, live like one of them—”

“No, you can’t,” Clary said. “I ought to know, Jace, I was one of them. You’re too young for any job you’d want and besides, the skills you have—well, most professional killers are older than you. And they’re criminals. ”

“I’m not a killer. ”

“If you lived in the mundane world,” said Luke, “that’s all you’d be. ”

Jace stiffened, his mouth tightening, and Clary knew Luke’s words had hit him where it hurt. “You don’t get it,” he said, a sudden desperation in his voice. “I can’t go back. Maryse wants me to say I hate Valentine. And I can’t do that. ”

Jace raised his chin, his jaw set, his eyes on Luke as if he half-expected the older man to respond with derision or even horror. After all, Luke had more reason to hate Valentine than almost anyone else in the world.

“I know,” said Luke. “I loved him once too. ”

Jace exhaled, almost a sound of relief, and Clary thought suddenly, This is why he came here, to this place. Not just to start a fight, but to get to Luke. Because Luke would understand. Not everything Jace did was insane and suicidal, she reminded herself. It just seemed that way.

“You shouldn’t have to claim you hate your father,” said Luke. “Not even to reassure Maryse. She ought to understand. ”

Clary looked at Jace closely, trying to read his face. It was like a book written in a foreign language she’d studied all too briefly. “Did she really say she never wanted you to come back?” Clary asked. “Or did you just assume that was what she meant, so you left?”

“She told me it would probably be better if I found somewhere else to be for a while,” Jace said. “She didn’t say where. ”

“Did you give her a chance to?” Luke said. “Look, Jace. You’re absolutely welcome to stay with me as long as you need to. I want you to know that. ”

Clary’s stomach flipped. The thought of Jace in the same house she lived in, always nearby, filled her with a mixture of exultation and horror.

“Thanks,” said Jace. His voice was even, but his eyes had gone instantly, helplessly, to Clary, and she could see in them the same awful mixture of emotions she felt herself. Luke, she thought. Sometimes I wish you weren’t quite so generous. Or so blind.

“But,” Luke went on, “I think you should at least go back to the Institute long enough to talk to Maryse and find out what’s really going on. It sounds like there’s more to this than she’s telling you. More, maybe, than you were willing to hear. ”

Jace tore his gaze from Clary’s. “All right. ” His voice was rough. “But on one condition. I don’t want to go by myself. ”

“I’ll go with you,” Clary said quickly.

“I know. ” Jace’s voice was low. “And I want you to. But I want Luke to come too. ”

Luke looked startled. “Jace—I’ve lived here fifteen years and I’ve never gone to the Institute. Not once. I doubt Maryse is any fonder of me—”

“Please,” Jace said, and though his voice was flat and he spoke quietly, Clary could almost feel, like a palpable thing, the pride he’d had to fight down to say that single word.

“All right. ” Luke nodded, the nod of a pack leader used to doing what he had to do, whether he wanted to or not. “Then I’ll come with you. ”

Simon leaned against the wall in the corridor outside Pete’s office and tried not to feel sorry for himself.

The day had started off well. Fairly well, anyway. First there’d been that bad episode with the Dracula film on television making him feel sick and faint, bringing up all the emotions, the longings, he’d been trying to push down and forget about. Then somehow the sickness had knocked the edge off his nerves and he’d found himself kissing Clary the way he’d wanted to for so many years. People always said that things never turned out the way you imagined they would. People were wrong.

And she’d kissed him back…

But now she was in there with Jace, and Simon had a knotting, twisting feeling in his stomach, like he’d swallowed a bowl full of worms. It was a sick feeling he’d grown used to lately. It hadn’t always been like this, even after he’d realized how he felt about Clary. He’d never pressed her, never pushed his feelings on her. He’d always been sure that one day she would wake up out of her dreams of animated princes and kung fu heroes and realize what was staring them both in the face: They belonged together. And if she hadn’t seemed interested in Simon, at least she hadn’t seemed interested in anyone else either.

Until Jace. He remembered sitting on the porch steps of Luke’s house, watching Clary as she explained to him who Jace was, what he did, while Jace examined his nails and looked superior. Simon had barely heard her. He’d been too busy noticing how she looked at the blond boy with the strange tattoos and the angular, pretty face. Too pretty, Simon had thought, but Clary clearly hadn’t thought so: She’d looked at him as though he were one of her animated heroes come to life. He had never seen her look at anyone that way before, and had always thought that if she ever did, it would be him. But it wasn’t, and that hurt more than he’d ever imagined anything could hurt.

Finding out that Jace was Clary’s brother was like being marched up in front of a firing squad and then being handed a reprieve at the last minute. Suddenly the world seemed full of possibilities again.

Now he wasn’t so sure.

“Hey, there. ” Someone was coming along the corridor, a not-very-tall someone picking their way gingerly among the blood spatters. “Are you waiting to see Luke? Is he in there?”

“Not exactly. ” Simon moved away from the door. “I mean, sort of. He’s in there with a friend of mine. ”

The person, who had just reached him, stopped and stared. Simon could see that she was a girl, about sixteen years old, with smooth light brown skin. Her brown-gold hair was braided close to her head in dozens of small braids, and her face was nearly the exact shape of a heart. She had a compact, curvy body, wide hips flaring out from a smaller waist. “That guy from the bar? The Shadowhunter?”

Simon shrugged.

“Well, I hate to tell you this,” she said, “but your friend is an asshole. ”

“He’s not my friend,” said Simon. “And I couldn’t agree with you more, actually. ”

“But I thought you said—”

“I’m waiting for his sister,” said Simon. “She’s my best friend. ”

“And she’s in there with him right now?” The girl jerked her thumb toward the door. She wore rings on each of her fingers, primitive-looking bands hammered out of bronze and gold. Her jeans were worn but clean and when she turned her head, he saw the scar that ran along her neck, just above the collar of her T-shirt. “Well,” she said grudgingly, “I know about asshole brothers. I guess it’s not her fault. ”

“It’s not,” said Simon. “But she’s maybe the only person he might listen to. ”

“He didn’t strike me as the listening type,” said the girl, and caught his sidelong look with a look of her own. Amusement flickered across her face. “You’re looking at my scar. It’s where I was bitten. ”

“Bitten? You mean you’re a—”

“A werewolf,” said the girl. “Like everyone else here. Except you, and the asshole. And the asshole’s sister. ”

“But you weren’t always a werewolf. I mean, you weren’t born one. ”

“Most of us aren’t,” said the girl. “That’s what makes us different than your Shadowhunter buddies. ”

“What?”

She smiled fleetingly. “We were human once. ”

Simon said nothing to that. After a moment the girl held her hand out. “I’m Maia. ”

“Simon. ” He shook her hand. It was dry and soft. She looked up at him through golden-brown eyelashes, the color of buttered toast. “How do you know Jace is an asshole?” he said. “Or maybe I should say, how did you find out?”

She took her hand back. “He tore up the bar. Punched out my friend Bat. Even knocked a couple of the pack unconscious. ”

“Are they all right?” Simon was alarmed. Jace hadn’t seemed perturbed, but knowing him, Simon had no doubt he could kill several people in a single morning and go out for waffles afterward. “Did they get to a doctor?”

“A warlock,” said the girl. “We don’t have much to do with mundane doctors, our kind. ”

“Downworlders?”

Her eyebrows went up. “Someone taught you all the lingo, didn’t they?”

Simon was nettled. “How do you know I’m not one of them? Or you? A Shadowhunter or a Downworlder, or—”

She shook her head until her braids bounced. “It just shines out of you,” she said, a little bitterly, “your humanity. ”

The intensity in her voice almost made him shiver. “I could knock on the door,” he suggested, feeling suddenly lame. “If you want to talk to Luke. ”

She shrugged. “Just tell him Magnus is here, checking out the scene in the alley. ” He must have looked startled, because she said, “Magnus Bane. He’s a warlock. ”

I know, Simon wanted to say, but didn’t. The whole conversation had been weird enough already. “Okay. ”

Maia turned as if to go, but paused partway down the hall, one hand on the doorjamb. “You think she’ll be able to talk sense into him?” she asked. “His sister?”

“If he listens to anyone, it would be her. ”

“That’s sweet,” said Maia. “That he loves his sister like that. ”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “It’s precious.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20