City of Fallen Angels – Chapter 9: FROM FIRE UNTO FIRE

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Chapter 9: FROM FIRE UNTO FIRE

Clary reached the door and burst out into the rain-drenched evening air. It was coming down in sheets now, and she was instantly soaked. Choking on rainwater and tears, she darted past Erics familiar-looking yellow van, rain sheeting off its roof into the gutter, and was about to race across the street against the light when a hand caught her arm and spun her around.

It was Jace. He was as soaked as she was, the rain sticking his fair hair to his head and plastering his shirt to his body like black paint. “Clary, didnt you hear me calling you?”

“Let go of me. ” Her voice shook.

“No. Not until you talk to me. ” He looked around, up and down the street, which was deserted, the rain exploding off the black pavement like fast-blooming flowers. “Come on. ”

Still holding her by the arm, he half-dragged her around the van and into a narrow alley that bordered the Alto Bar. High windows above them let through the blurred sound of the music that was still being played inside. The alley was brick-walled, clearly a dumping ground for old bits of no longer usable musical equipment. Broken amps and old mikes littered the ground, along with shattered beer glasses and cigarette butts.

Clary jerked her arm out of Jaces grasp and turned to face him. “If youre planning to apologize, dont bother. ” She pushed her wet, heavy hair back from her face. “I dont want to hear it. ”

“I was going to tell you that I was trying to help out Simon,” he said, rainwater running off his eyelashes and down his cheeks like tears. “Ive been at his place for the past-”

“And you couldnt tell me? Couldnt text me a single line letting me know where you were? Oh, wait. You couldnt, because you still have my goddamned phone. Give it to me. ”

Silently he reached into his jeans pocket and handed it to her. It looked undamaged. She jammed it into her messenger bag before the rain could ruin it. Jace watched her as she did it, looking as if shed hit him in the face. It only made her angrier. What right did he have to be hurt?

“I think,” he said slowly, “that I thought that the closest thing to being with you was being with Simon. Watching out for him. I had some stupid idea that youd realize I was doing it for you and forgive me-”

All of Clarys rage rose to the surface, a hot, unstoppable tide. “I dont even know what you think Im supposed to forgive you for,” she shouted. “Am I supposed to forgive you for not loving me anymore? Because if thats what you want, Jace Lightwood, you can go right ahead and-” She took a step back, blindly, and nearly tripped over an abandoned speaker. Her bag slid to the ground as she put her hand out to right herself, but Jace was already there. He moved forward to catch her, and kept moving, until her back hit the alley wall, and his arms were around her, and he was kissing her frantically.

She knew she ought to push him away; her mind told her it was the sensible thing to do, but no other part of her cared about what was sensible. Not when Jace was kissing her like he thought he might go to hell for doing it, but it would be worth it.

She dug her fingers into his shoulders, into the damp fabric of his T-shirt, feeling the resistance of the muscles underneath, and kissed him back with all the desperation of the past few days, all the not knowing where he was or what he was thinking, all the feeling like a part of her heart had been ripped out of her chest and she could never get enough air. “Tell me,” she said between kisses, their wet faces sliding against each other. “Tell me whats wrong-Oh,” she gasped as he drew away from her, only far enough to reach his hands down and put them around her waist. He lifted her up so she stood on top of a broken speaker, making them almost the same height. Then he put his hands on either side of her head and leaned forward, so their bodies almost touched-but not quite. It was nerve-wracking. She could feel the feverish heat that came off him; her hands were still on his shoulders, but it wasnt enough. She wanted him wrapped around her, holding her tight. “W-why,” she breathed, “cant you talk to me? Why cant you look at me?”

He ducked his head down to look into her face. His eyes, surrounding by lashes darkened with rainwater, were impossibly gold.

“Because I love you. ”

She couldnt stand it anymore. She took her hands off his shoulders, hooked her fingers through his belt loops, and pulled him against her. He let her do it with no resistance, his hands flattening against the wall, folding his body against hers until they were pressed together everywhere-chests, hips, legs-like puzzle pieces. His hands slid down to her waist and he kissed her, long and lingering, making her shudder.

She pulled away. “That doesnt make any sense. ”

“Neither does this,” he said, “but I dont care. Im sick of trying to pretend I can live without you. Dont you understand that? Cant you see its killing me?”

She stared at him. She could see he meant what he said, could see it in the eyes she knew as well as her own, in the bruised shadows under those eyes, the pulse pounding in his throat. Her desire for answers battled the more primal part of her brain, and lost. “Kiss me then,” she whispered, and he pressed his mouth against hers, their hearts slamming together through the thin layers of wet fabric that divided them. And she was drowning in it, in the sensation of him kissing her; of rain everywhere, running off her eyelashes; of letting his hands slide freely over the wet, crumpled fabric of her dress, made thin and clinging by the rain. It was almost like having his hands on her bare skin, her chest, her hips, her stomach; when he reached the hem of her dress, he gripped her legs, pressing her harder back against the wall while she wrapped them around his waist.

He made a noise of surprise, low in his throat, and dug his fingers into the thin fabric of her tights. Not unexpectedly, they ripped, and his wet fingers were suddenly on the bare skin of her legs. Not to be outdone, she slid her hands under the hem of his soaked shirt, and let her fingers explore what was underneath: the tight, hot skin over his ribs, the ridges of his abdomen, the scars on his back, the angle of his hipbones above the waistband of his jeans. This was uncharted territory for her, but it seemed to be driving him crazy: he was moaning softly against her mouth, kissing her harder and harder, as if it would never be enough, not quite enough-

And a horrific clanging noise exploded in Clarys ears, shattering her out of her dream of kissing and rain. With a gasp she pushed Jace away, hard enough that he let go of her and she tumbled off the speaker to land unsteadily on her feet, hastily straightening her dress. Her heart was slamming against her rib cage like a battering ram, and she felt dizzy.

“Dammit. ” Isabelle, standing in the mouth of the alley, her wet black hair like a cloak around her shoulders, kicked a trash can out of her way and glowered. “Oh, for goodness sake,” she said. “I cant believe you two. Why? Whats wrong with bedrooms? And privacy?”

Clary looked at Jace. He was utterly drenched, water running off him in sheets, his fair hair, plastered to his head, nearly silver in the faint glow of the distant streetlights. Just looking at him made Clary want to touch him again, Isabelle or no Isabelle, with a longing that was nearly painful. He was staring at Izzy with the look of someone who had been slapped out of a dream-bewilderment, anger, dawning realization.

“I was just looking for Simon,” Isabelle said defensively, seeing Jaces expression. “He ran offstage, and Ive no idea where he went. ” The music had stopped, Clary realized, at some point; she hadnt noticed when. “Anyway, hes obviously not here. Go back to what you were doing. Whats the point in wasting a perfectly good brick wall when you have someone to throw against it, thats what I always say. ” And she stalked off, back toward the bar.

Clary looked at Jace. At any other time they would have laughed together at Isabelles moodiness, but there was no humor in his expression, and she knew immediately that whatever they had had between them-whatever had blossomed out of his momentary lack of control-it was gone now. She could taste blood in her mouth and wasnt sure if she had bitten her own lip or he had.

“Jace-” She took a step toward him.

“Dont,” he said, his voice very rough. “I cant. ”

And then he was gone, running as fast as only he could run, a blur that vanished into the distance before she could even take a breath to call him back.

“Simon!”

The angry voice exploded in Simons ears. He would have released Maureen then-or so he told himself-but he didnt get the chance. Strong hands grabbed him by the arms, hauling him off her. He was dragged to his feet by a white-faced Kyle, still tousled and sweaty from the set theyd just finished. “What the hell, Simon. What the hell-”

“I didnt mean to,” Simon gasped. His voice sounded blurry to his own ears; his fangs were still out, and he hadnt learned to talk around the goddamn things yet. Past Kyle, on the floor, he could see Maureen lying in a crumpled heap, horribly still. “It just happened-”

“I told you. I told you. ” Kyles voice rose, and he pushed Simon, hard. Simon stumbled back, his forehead burning, as an invisible hand seemed to lift Kyle and fling him hard against the wall behind him. He hit it and slid to the ground, landing in a wolflike crouch, on his hands and knees. He staggered to his feet, staring. “Jesus Christ. Simon-”

But Simon had dropped to his knees beside Maureen, his hands on her, frantically feeling at her throat for a pulse. When it fluttered under his fingertips, faint but steady, he nearly wept with relief.

“Get away from her. ” Kyle, sounding strained, moved to stand over Simon. “Just get up and move away. ”

Simon got up reluctantly and faced Kyle over Maureens limp form. Light was lancing through the gap in the curtains that led to the stage; he could hear the other band members out there, chattering to one another, starting the teardown. Any minute theyd be coming back here.

“What you just did,” Kyle said. “Did you-push me? Because I didnt see you move. ”

“I didnt mean to,” Simon said again, wretchedly. It seemed to be all he said these days.

Kyle shook his head, his hair flying. “Get out of here. Go wait by the van. Ill deal with her. ” He bent down and lifted Maureen in his arms. She looked tiny against the bulk of him, like a doll. He fixed Simon with a glare. “Go. And I hope you feel really goddamn terrible. ”

Simon went. He moved to the fire door and shoved it open. No alarm went off; the alarm had been busted for months. The door swung shut behind him, and he leaned up against the back wall of the club as every part of his body began to tremble.

The club backed onto a narrow street lined with warehouses. Across the way was a vacant lot blocked off with a sagging chain-link fence. Ugly scrub grass grew up through the cracks in the pavement. Rain was sheeting down, soaking the garbage that littered the street, floating old beer cans on the runoff-filled gutters.

Simon thought it was the most beautiful thing hed ever seen. The whole night seemed to have exploded with prismatic light. The fence was a linked chain of brilliant silver wires, each raindrop a platinum tear.

I hope you feel really goddamn terrible, Kyle had said. But this was much worse. He felt fantastic, alive in a way he never had before. Human blood was clearly somehow the perfect, the ideal food for vampires. Waves of energy were running through him like electric current. The pain in his head, his stomach, was gone. He could have run ten thousand miles.

It was awful.

“Hey, you. Are you all right?” The voice that spoke was cultured, amused; Simon turned and saw a woman in a long black trench coat, a bright yellow umbrella open over her head. With his brand-new prismatic vision, it looked like a glimmering sunflower. The woman herself was beautiful-though everything looked beautiful to him right now-with gleaming black hair and a red-lipsticked mouth. He dimly recalled seeing her sitting at one of the tables during the bands performance.

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He must have looked pretty shell-shocked, if total strangers were coming up to inquire about his well-being.

“You look like maybe you got banged on the head there,” she said, indicating his forehead. “Thats a nasty bruise. Are you sure I cant call anyone for you?”

He reached up hastily to move his hair across his forehead, hiding the Mark. “Im fine. Its nothing. ”

“Okay. If you say so. ” She sounded a little doubtful. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a card, and handed it to him. It had a name on it, Satrina Kendall. Underneath the name was a title, BAND PROMOTER, in small capitals, and a phone number and address. “Thats me,” she said. “I liked what you guys did in there. If youre interested in making it a little more big-time, give me a call. ”

And with that, she turned and sashayed away, leaving Simon staring after her. Surely, he thought, there was no way this night could get any more bizarre.

Shaking his head-a move that sent water drops flying in all directions-he squelched around the corner to where the van was parked. The door of the bar was open, and people were streaming out. Everything still looked unnaturally bright, Simon thought, but his prismatic vision was beginning to fade slightly. The scene in front of him looked ordinary-the bar emptying out, the side doors open, and the van with its back doors open, already being loaded up with gear by Matt, Kirk, and a variety of their friends. As Simon drew closer, he saw that Isabelle was leaning against the side of the van, one leg drawn up, the heel of her boot braced against the vans blistered side. She could have been helping with the teardown, of course-Isabelle was stronger than anyone else in the band, with the possible exception of Kyle-but she clearly couldnt be bothered. Simon would hardly have expected anything else.

She looked up as he came closer. The rain had slowed, but she had clearly been out in it for some time; her hair was a heavy, wet curtain down her back. “Hey there,” she said, pushing off from the side of the van and coming toward him. “Where have you been? You just ran offstage-”

“Yeah,” he said. “I wasnt feeling well. Sorry. ”

“As long as youre better now. ” She wrapped her arms around him and smiled up into his face. He felt a wave of relief that he didnt feel any urge to bite her. Then another wave of guilt as he remembered why.

“You havent seen Jace anywhere, have you?” he asked.

She rolled her eyes. “I ran across him and Clary making out,” she said. “Although theyre gone now-home, I hope. Those two epitomize get a room. ”

“I didnt think Clary was coming,” Simon said, though it wasnt that odd; he supposed the cake appointment had been canceled or something. He didnt even have the energy to be annoyed about what a terrible bodyguard Jace had turned out to be. It wasnt as if hed ever thought Jace took his personal safety all that seriously. He just hoped Jace and Clary had worked it out, whatever it was.

“Whatever. ” Isabelle grinned. “Since its just us, do you want to go somewhere and-”

A voice-a very familiar voice-spoke out of the shadows just beyond the reach of the nearest streetlight. “Simon?”

Oh, no, not now. Not right now.

He turned slowly. Isabelles arm was still loosely clasped around his waist, though he knew that wouldnt last much longer. Not if the person speaking was who he thought it was.

It was.

Maia had moved into the light, and was standing looking at him, an expression of disbelief on her face. Her normally curly hair was pasted to her head with rain, her amber eyes very wide, her jeans and denim jacket soaked. She was clutching a rolled-up piece of paper in her left hand.

Simon was vaguely aware that off to the side the band members had slowed down their movements and were openly gawking. Isabelles arm slid off his waist. “Simon?” she said. “Whats going on?”

“You told me you were going to be busy,” Maia said, looking at Simon. “Then someone shoved this under the station door this morning. ” She thrust the rolled-up paper forward; it was instantly recognizable as one of the flyers for the bands performance tonight.

Isabelle was looking from Simon to Maia, recognition slowly dawning on her face. “Wait a second,” she said. “Are you two dating?”

Maia set her chin. “Are you?”

“Yes,” Isabelle said. “For quite a few weeks now. ”

Maias eyes narrowed. “Us, too. Weve been dating since September. ”

“I cant believe it,” Isabelle said. She genuinely looked as if she couldnt. “Simon?” She turned to him, her hands on her hips. “Do you have an explanation?”

The band, who had finally shoved all the equipment into the van-the drums packing out the back bench seat and the guitars and basses in the cargo section-were hanging out the back of the car, openly staring. Eric put his hands around his mouth to make a megaphone. “Ladies, ladies,” he intoned. “There is no need to fight. There is enough Simon to go around. ”

Isabelle whipped around and shot a glare at Eric so terrifying that he fell instantly silent. The back doors of the van slammed shut, and it took off down the road. Traitors, Simon thought, though to be fair, they probably assumed he would catch a ride home in Kyles car, which was parked around the corner. Assuming he lived long enough.

“I cant believe you, Simon,” Maia said. She was standing with her hands on her hips as well, in a pose identical to Isabelles. “What were you thinking? How could you lie like that?”

“I didnt lie,” Simon protested. “We never said we were exclusive!” He turned to Isabelle. “Neither did we! And I know you were dating other people-”

“Not people you know,” Isabelle said, blisteringly. “Not your friends. How would you feel if you found out I was dating Eric?”

“Stunned, frankly,” said Simon. “He really isnt your type. ”

“Thats not the point, Simon. ” Maia had moved closer to Isabelle, and the two of them faced him down together, an immovable wall of female rage. The bar had finished emptying out, and aside from the three of them, the street was deserted. He wondered about his chances if he made a break for it, and decided they werent good. Werewolves were fast, and Isabelle was a trained vampire hunter.

“Im really sorry,” Simon said. The buzz from the blood hed drunk was beginning to wear off, thankfully. He felt less dizzy with overwhelming sensation, but more panicked. To make things worse, his mind kept returning to Maureen, and what hed done to her, and whether she was all right. Please let her be all right. “I should have told you guys. Its just-I really like you both, and I didnt want to hurt either of your feelings. ”

The moment it was out of his mouth, he realized how stupid he sounded. Just another jerkish guy making excuses for his jerk behavior. Simon had never thought of himself like that. He was a nice guy, the kind of guy who got overlooked, passed up for the sexy bad boy or the tortured artist type. For the self-involved kind of guy who would think nothing of dating two girls at once while maybe not exactly lying about what he was doing, but not telling the truth about it either.

“Wow,” he said, mostly to himself. “I am a huge asshole. ”

“Thats probably the first true thing youve said since I got here,” said Maia.

“Amen,” said Isabelle. “Though if you ask me, its too little, too late-”

The side door of the bar opened, and someone came out. It was Kyle. Simon felt a wave of relief. Kyle looked serious, but not as serious as Simon thought he would look if something awful had happened to Maureen.

He started down the steps toward them. The rain was barely a drizzle now. Maia and Isabelle had their backs to him; they were glaring at Simon with the laser focus of rage. “I hope you dont expect either of us to speak to you again,” Isabelle said. “And Im going to have a talk with Clary-a very, very serious talk about her choice of friends. ”

“Kyle,” Simon said, unable to keep the relief out of his voice as Kyle came into earshot. “Uh, Maureen-is she-”

He had no idea how to ask what he wanted to ask without letting Maia and Isabelle know what had happened, but as it turned out, it didnt matter, because he never managed to get the rest of the words out. Maia and Isabelle turned; Isabelle looked annoyed and Maia surprised, clearly wondering who Kyle was.

As soon as Maia really saw Kyle, her face changed; her eyes went wide, the blood draining from her face. And Kyle, in his turn, was staring at her with the look of someone who has woken up from a nightmare only to discover that it is real and continuing. His mouth moved, shaping words, but no sound came out.

“Whoa,” Isabelle said, looking from one of them to the other. “Do you two-know each other?”

Maias lips parted. She was still staring at Kyle. Simon had time only to think that she had never looked at him with anything like that intensity, when she whispered “Jordan”-and lunged for Kyle, her claws out and sharp, and sank them into his throat.

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