City of lost souls – Chapter 16: Brothers and Sisters

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Chapter 16: Brothers and Sisters

When Clary and Sebastian returned to the apartment, the living room was empty, but there were dishes in the sink where there hadnt been before.

“I thought you said Jace was asleep,” she said to Sebastian, a note of accusation in her voice.

Sebastian shrugged. “He was when I said it. ” There was light mockery in his voice but no serious unkindness. They had walked back from Magdalenas together mostly in silence, but not a bad sort of silence. Clary had let her mind wander, only jerked back to reality on occasion by the realization that it was Sebastian she was walking beside. “Im pretty sure I know where he is. ”

“In his room?” Clary started for the stairs.

“No. ” He moved in front of her. “Come on. Ill show you. ”

He headed up the stairs at a rapid pace and into the master bedroom, Clary on his heels. As she watched in puzzlement, he tapped the side of the wardrobe. It slid away, revealing a set of stairs behind it. Sebastian cast a smirk over his shoulder at her as she came up behind him. “Youre kidding,” she said. “Secret stairs?”

“Dont tell me thats the strangest thing youve seen today. ” He took the stairs two at a time, and Clary, though bone-weary, followed him. The stairs curved around and opened out into a wide room with a polished wooden floor and high walls. All manner of weapons hung from the walls, just as they did in the training room in the Institute-kindjals and chakhrams, maces and swords and daggers, crossbows and brass knuckles, throwing stars and axes and samurai swords.

Training circles were neatly painted on the floor. In the center of them stood Jace, his back to the door. He was shirtless and barefoot, in black warm-up pants, a knife in each of his hands. An image flashed in her head: Sebastians bare back, scarred with unmistakeable whip stripes. Jaces was smooth, pale gold skin over muscle, marked only with the typical scars of a Shadowhunter-and the scratches her own nails had made last night. She felt herself flush, but her mind was still on the question: why would Valentine have whipped one boy but not the other?

“Jace,” she said.

He turned. He was clean. The silvery fluid was gone, and his gold hair was almost bronze-dark, pasted damply to his head. His skin glistened with sweat. The expression on his face was guarded. “Where were you?”

Sebastian went to the wall and began to examine the weapons there, running his bare hand along the blades. “I thought Clary might want to see Paris. ”

“You could have left me a note,” said Jace. “It isnt as if our situation is the safest, Jonathan. Id rather not have to worry about Clary-”

“I followed him,” Clary said.

Jace turned and looked at her, and for a moment she caught a glimpse, in his eyes, of the boy in Idris who had shouted at her for spoiling all his careful plans to keep her safe. But this Jace was different. His hands didnt shake when he looked at her, and the pulse in his throat stayed steady. “You did what?”

“I followed Sebastian,” she said. “I was awake and I wanted to see where he was going. ” She put her hands into her jeans pockets and looked at him defiantly. His eyes took her in, from her wind-mussed hair to her boots, and she felt the blood rise up in her face. Sweat shone along his collarbones, and the ridges of his stomach muscles. His workout pants were folded over at the waist, showing the V of his hip bones. She remembered what it had felt like to have his arms around her, to be pressed close enough against him that she could feel every detail of his bones and muscles against her body-

She felt a wave of embarrassment so acute, it was dizzying. What made it worse was that Jace didnt seem in the least bit awkward, or as if the previous night had affected him as much as it had her. He seemed only. . . annoyed. Annoyed, and sweaty, and hot.

“Yeah, well,” he said, “the next time you decide to sneak out of our magically warded apartment through a door that shouldnt really exist, leave a note. ”

She raised her eyebrows. “Are you being sarcastic?”

He threw one of his knives into the air and caught it. “Possibly. ”

“I took Clary to see Magdalena,” Sebastian said. He had taken a throwing star down from the wall and was examining it. “We brought the adamas. ”

Jace had tossed the second knife into the air; he missed catching it this time, and it stuck point-down into the floor. “You did?”

“I did,” Sebastian said. “And I told Clary the plan. I told her that we were planning to lure Greater Demons here so we could destroy them. ”

“But not how you planned to accomplish that,” Clary said. “You never told me that part. ”

“I thought it would be better to tell you with Jace here,” said Sebastian. He snapped his wrist forward suddenly, and the throwing star flew toward Jace, who blocked it with a swift flick of his knife. It clattered to the ground. Sebastian whistled. “Fast,” he commented.

Clary whirled on her brother. “You could have hurt him-”

“Anything that injures him injures me,” said Sebastian. “I was showing you how much I trust him. Now I want you to trust us. ” His black eyes bored into her. “Adamas,” he said. “The stuff I brought to the Iron Sister today. Do you know whats made out of it?”

“Of course. Seraph blades. The demon towers of Alicante. Steles. . . ”

“And the Mortal Cup. ”

Clary shook her head. “The Mortal Cup is gold. Ive seen it. ”

“Adamas dipped in gold. The Mortal Sword, too, has a hilt of the stuff. They say its the material the palaces of Heaven are built from. And it isnt easy to get hold of. Only the Iron Sisters can work the stuff, and only theyre supposed to have access to it. ”

“So why did you give some to Magdalena?”

“So she could make a second Cup,” said Jace.

“A second Mortal Cup?” Clary looked from one of them to the other, incredulous. “But you cant just do that. Just make another Mortal Cup. If you could, the Clave wouldnt have panicked so much when the original Mortal Cup went missing. Valentine wouldnt have needed it so badly-”

“Its a cup,” said Jace. “However crafted, it will always be a cup until the Angel voluntarily pours his blood into it. Thats what makes it what it is. ”

“And you think you can get Raziel to voluntarily pour his blood into a second cup for you?” Clary couldnt keep the razor edge of disbelief from her voice. “Good luck. ”

“Its a trick, Clary,” said Sebastian. “You know how everything has an alliance? Seraphic or demonic? What the demons believe is that we want the demonic equivalent of Raziel. A demon great in power who will mix his blood with ours and create a new race of Shadowhunters. Ones not bound by the Law, or the Covenant, or the rules of the Clave. ”

“You told them you want to make. . . backward Shadowhunters?”

“Something like that. ” Sebastian laughed, raking fingers through his fair hair. “Jace, do you want to help me explain?”

“Valentine was a zealot,” said Jace. “He was wrong about a lot of things. He was wrong to consider killing Shadowhunters. He was wrong about Downworlders. But he wasnt wrong about the Clave or the Council. Every Inquisitor weve had has been corrupt. The Laws handed down by the Angel are arbitrary and nonsensical, and their punishments are worse. The Law is hard, but it is the Law. How many times have you heard that? How many times have we had to duck and avoid the Clave and its Laws even when we were trying to save them? Who put me in prison?-the Inquisitor. Who put Simon in prison? The Clave. Who would have let him burn?”

Clarys heart had started to pound. Jaces voice, so familiar, saying these words, made her bones feel weak. He was right and also wrong. As Valentine had been. But she wanted to believe him in a way she hadnt wanted to believe Valentine.

“Fine,” she said. “I understand the Clave is corrupt. But I dont see what that has to do with making deals with demons. ”

“Our mandate is to destroy demons,” said Sebastian. “But the Clave has been pouring all its energy into other tasks. The wards have been weakening, and more and more demons have been spilling into earth, but the Clave turns a blind eye. We have opened a gate in the far north, on Wrangel Island, and we will lure demons through it with the promise of this Cup. Only, when they pour their blood into it, they will be destroyed. I have made deals like this with several Greater Demons. When Jace and I have killed them, the Clave will see we are a power to be reckoned with. They will have to listen to us. ”

Clary stared. “Killing Greater Demons isnt that easy. ”

“I did it earlier today,” said Sebastian. “Which is incidentally why neither of us is going to get in trouble for killing all those bodyguard demons. I killed their master. ”

Clary looked from Jace to Sebastian and back again. Jaces eyes were cool, interested; Sebastians gaze was more intense. It was as if he were trying to see into her head. “Well,” she said slowly. “Thats a lot to take in. And I dont like the idea of you putting yourselves in that kind of danger. But Im glad you trusted me enough to tell me. ”

“I told you,” Jace said. “I told you shed understand. ”

“I never said she wouldnt. ” Sebastian didnt take his eyes off Clarys face.

She swallowed hard. “I didnt sleep much last night,” she said. “I need to rest. ”

“Too bad,” said Sebastian. “I was going to ask if you wanted to climb the Eiffel Tower. ” His eyes were dark, unreadable; she couldnt tell if he was joking or not. Before she could say anything in reply, Jaces hand slid into hers.

“Ill go with you,” he said. “I didnt sleep that well myself. ” He nodded at Sebastian. “See you for dinner. ”

Sebastian made no reply. They were nearly to the steps when Sebastian called out: “Clary. ”

She turned around, drawing her hand out of Jaces. “What?”

“My scarf. ” He held out his hand for it.

“Oh. Right. ” Taking a few steps toward him, she tugged with nervous fingers at the knotted cloth around her throat. After a moment of watching her, Sebastian made an impatient noise and stalked across the room toward her, his long legs covering the space between them quickly. She stiffened as he put his hand to her throat and deftly undid the knot with a few motions, then unwrapped the scarf. She thought for a moment that he lingered before unwrapping it fully, his fingers brushing her throat-

She remembered him kissing her on the hill by the burned remains of the Fairchild manor, and how she had felt as if she were falling, into a dark and abandoned place, lost and terrified. She backed up hastily, and the scarf fell away from her neck as she turned. “Thanks for lending it to me,” she said, and darted back to follow Jace down the stairs, not looking behind to see her brother watch her go, holding the scarf, a quizzical expression on his face.

Simon stood among the dead leaves and looked up the path; once more the human impulse to take a deep breath came on him. He was in Central Park, near the Shakespeare Garden. The trees had lost the last of their autumn luster, the gold and green and red turning to brown and black. Most of the branches were bare.

He touched the ring on his finger again. Clary?

Again there was no reply. His muscles felt as tense as strung wires. It had been too long since he had been able to raise her using the ring. He told himself over and over that she could be sleeping, but nothing could untie the terrible knot of tension in his stomach. The ring was his only connection to her, and right now it felt like nothing more than a hunk of dead metal.

He dropped his hands to his sides and moved forward, up the path, past the statues and the benches inscribed with verses from Shakespeares plays. The path turned a curving right, and suddenly he could see her, sitting up ahead on a bench, looking away from him, her dark hair in a long braid down her back. She was very still, waiting. Waiting for him.

Simon straightened his back and walked toward her, even though every step felt as if it were weighted with lead.

She heard him as he approached and turned around, her pale face going even paler as he sat down beside her. “Simon,” she said on an exhale of breath. “I wasnt sure youd come. ”

“Hi, Rebecca,” he said.

She held out her hand, and he took it, silently thanking the forethought that had made him put on gloves that morning, so that if he touched her she wouldnt feel the chill of his skin. It hadnt been that long since hed seen her last-maybe four months-but already she seemed like the photograph of someone hed known a long time ago, even though everything about her was familiar-her dark hair; her brown eyes, the same shape and color as his own; the spatter of freckles across her nose. She wore jeans, a bright yellow parka, and a green scarf with big yellow cotton flowers. Clary called Beckys style “hippie-chic”; about half her clothes came from vintage stores, and the other half she sewed herself.

As he squeezed her hand, her dark eyes filled with tears. “Si,” she said, and put her arms around him and hugged him. He let her, patting her arms, her back, clumsily. When she pulled back, wiping at her eyes, she frowned. “God, your face is cold,” she said. “You should wear a scarf. ” She looked at him accusingly. “Anyway, where have you been?”

“I told you,” he said. “I was staying with a friend. ”

She gave a short bark of laughter. “Okay, Simon, that so doesnt cut it,” she said. “What the hell is going on?”

“Becks. . . ”

“I called home about Thanksgiving,” Rebecca said, staring straight ahead at the trees. “You know, what train I should take, that sort of thing. And you know what Mom said? She said not to come home, there wasnt going to be any Thanksgiving. So I called you. You didnt pick up. I called Mom to find out where you were. She hung up on me. Just-hung up on me. So I came home. Thats when I saw the religious weirdness all over the door. I freaked out on Mom, and she told me you were dead. Dead. My own brother. She said you were dead and a monster took your place. ”

“What did you do?”

“I got the hell out of there,” said Rebecca. Simon could tell she was trying to sound tough, but there was a thin, frightened edge to her voice. “It was pretty clear Mom had lost it. ”

“Oh,” Simon said. Rebecca and his mother had always shared a fraught relationship. Rebecca liked to refer to his mother as “nuts” or “the crazy lady. ” But it was the first time hed had the sense she really meant it.

“Damn right, oh,” Rebecca snapped. “I was frantic. I texted you every five minutes. Finally I get that crap text from you about staying with a friend. Now you want to meet me here. What the hell, Simon? How long has this been going on?”

“How long has what been going on?”

“What do you think? Mom being totally mental. ” Rebeccas small fingers picked at her scarf. “We have to do something. Talk to someone. Doctors. Get her on meds or something. I didnt know what to do. Not without you. Youre my brother. ”

“I cant,” Simon said. “I mean, I cant help you. ”

Her voice softened. “I know it sucks and youre just in high school, but, Simon, we have to make these decisions together. ”

“I mean I cant help you get her on meds,” he said. “Or take her to the doctor. Because shes right. I am a monster. ”

Rebeccas mouth dropped open. “Has she brainwashed you?”

“No-”

Her voice wobbled. “You know, I thought maybe shed hurt you-the way she was talking-but then I thought, No, shed never do that, no matter what. But if she did-if she laid a finger on you, Simon, so help me-”

Simon couldnt take it anymore. He stripped off his glove and held his hand out to his sister. His sister, whod held his hand on the beach when he was too small to toddle into the ocean unassisted. Whod mopped blood off him after soccer practice, and tears off him after their father had died and their mother was a zombie lying in her room staring at the ceiling. Whod read to him in his race-car-shaped bed when he still wore footie pajamas. I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. Who once accidentally shrunk all his clothes in the wash so they were doll-size, when she was trying to be domestic. Who packed his lunch when their mother didnt have time. Rebecca, he thought. The last tie he had to cut.

“Take my hand,” he said.

She took it, and winced. “Youre so cold. Have you been sick?”

“You could say that. ” He looked at her, willing her to sense something wrong with him, really wrong, but she only looked back at him with trusting brown eyes. He bit back a flare of impatience. It wasnt her fault. She didnt know. “Take my pulse,” he said.

“I dont know how to take someones pulse, Simon. Im an art history major. ”

He reached over and moved her fingers up to his wrist. “Press down. Do you feel anything?”

For a moment she was still, her bangs swinging over her forehead. “No. Am I supposed to?”

“Becky-” He pulled his wrist back in frustration. There was nothing else for it. There was only one way. “Look at me,” he said, and when her eyes swung up to his face, he let his fangs snap out.

She screamed.

She screamed, and fell off the bench onto the hard-packed dirt and leaves. Several passersby looked at them curiously, but it was New York, and they didnt stop or stare, just kept moving.

Simon felt wretched. This was what hed wanted, but it was different actually looking at her crouching there, so pale that her freckles stood out like ink blots, her hand over her mouth. Just like it had been with his mother. He remembered telling Clary there was no worse feeling than not trusting the people you loved; hed been wrong. Having the people you loved be afraid of you was worse. “Rebecca,” he said, and his voice broke. “Becky-”

She shook her head, her hand still over her mouth. She was sitting in the dirt, her scarf trailing in the leaves. Under other circumstances it might have been funny.

Simon got down off the bench and knelt down next to her. His fangs were gone, but she was looking at him as if they were still there. Very hesitantly he reached out and touched her on the shoulder. “Becks,” he said. “I would never hurt you. I would never hurt Mom, either. I just wanted to see you one last time to tell you Im going away and you wont need to see me again. Ill leave you both alone. You can have Thanksgiving. I wont show up. I wont try to stay in touch. I wont-”

“Simon. ” She grabbed his arm, and then she was pulling him toward her, like a fish on a line. He half-fell against her, and she hugged him, her arms around him, and the last time shed hugged him like this was the day of their fathers funeral, when hed cried in that way one cried when it didnt seem like it was ever going to stop. “I dont want to never see you again. ”

“Oh,” Simon said. He sat back in the dirt, so surprised that his mind had gone blank. Rebecca put her arms around him again, and he let himself lean against her, even though she was slighter than he was. She had held him up when theyd been children, and she could do it again. “I thought you wouldnt. ”

“Why?” she said.

“Im a vampire,” he said. It was weird, hearing it like that, out loud.

“So there are vampires?”

“And werewolves. And other, weirder stuff. This just-happened. I mean, I got attacked. I didnt choose it, but it doesnt matter. This is me now. ”

“Do you. . . ” Rebecca hesitated, and Simon sensed that this was the big question, the one that really mattered. “Bite people?”

He thought about Isabelle, then pushed the mental image hastily away. And I bit a thirteen-year-old girl. And a dude. Its not as weird as it sounds. No. Some things were not his sisters business. “I drink blood out of bottles. Animal blood. I dont hurt people. ”

“Okay. ” She took a deep breath. “Okay. ”

“Is it? Okay, I mean?”

“Yeah. I love you,” she said. She rubbed his back awkwardly. He felt something damp on his hand and looked down. She was crying. One of her tears had splashed onto his fingers. Another one followed, and he closed his hand around it. He was shivering, but not from cold; still, she pulled off her scarf and wrapped it around them both. “Well figure it out,” she said. “Youre my little brother, you dumb idiot. I love you no matter what. ”

They sat together, shoulder to shoulder, looking off into the shadowy spaces between the trees.

It was bright in Jaces bedroom, midday sunlight pouring through the open windows. The moment Clary walked in, the heels of her boots clicking on the hardwood floor, Jace closed the door and locked it behind her. There was a clatter as he dropped the knives onto his bedside table. She began to turn, to ask him if he was all right, when he caught her around the waist and pulled her against him.

The boots gave her extra height, but he still had to bend down to kiss her. His hands, on her waist, lifted her up and against him-a second later his mouth was on hers and she forgot all issues of height and awkwardness. He tasted like salt and fire. She tried to shut out everything but sensation-the familiar smell of his skin and sweat, the chill of his damp hair against her cheek, the shape of his shoulders and back under her hands, the way her body fit to his.

He pulled her sweater over her head. Her T-shirt was short-sleeved, and she felt the heat coming off him against her skin. His lips parted hers, and she felt herself coming apart as his hand slid down to the top button on her jeans.

It took all the self-control she had to catch at his wrist with her hand, and hold it still. “Jace,” she said. “Dont. ”

He drew away, enough for her to see his face. His eyes were glassy, unfocused. His heart pounded against hers. “Why?”

She squeezed her eyes shut. “Last night-if we hadnt-if I hadnt fainted, then I dont know what would have happened, and we were in the middle of a room full of people. Do you really think I want my first time with you-or any time with you-to be in front of a bunch of strangers?”

“That wasnt our fault,” he said, pushing his fingers softly through her hair. The scarred palm of his hand scratched her cheek lightly. “That silver stuff was faerie drugs, I told you. We were high. But Im sober now, and youre sober now. . . ”

“And Sebastians upstairs, and Im exhausted, and. . . ” And this would be a terrible, terrible idea that both of us would regret. “And I dont feel like it,” she lied.

“You dont feel like it?” Disbelief colored his voice.

“Im sorry if no ones ever said that to you before, Jace, but, no. I dont feel like it. ” She looked pointedly down at his hand, still at the waistband of her jeans. “And now I feel like it even less. ”

He raised both eyebrows, but instead of saying anything he simply let go of her.

“Jace. . . ”

“Im going to go take a cold shower,” he said, backing away from her. His face was blank, unreadable. When the bathroom door slammed shut behind him, she walked over to the bed-neatly made up, no residual silver on the coverlet-and sank down, putting her head in her hands. It wasnt as if she and Jace never fought; shed always thought they argued about as much as normal couples did, usually good-naturedly, and theyd never been angry with each other in any significant way. But there was something about the coldness at the back of this Jaces eyes that shook her, something far off and unreachable that made it harder than ever to push away the question always at the back of her mind: Is any of the real Jace still in there? Is there anything left to save?

* * *

Now this is the Law of the Jungle,

as old and as true as the sky,

And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,

but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk,

the Law runneth forward and back;

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,

and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Jordan stared blindly at the poem tacked to the wall of his bedroom. It was an old print that hed found in a used-book store, the words surrounded by an elaborate border of leaves. The poem was by Rudyard Kipling, and it so neatly encapsulated the rules by which werewolves lived, the Law that bound their actions, that he wondered if Kipling hadnt been a Downworlder himself, or at least known about the Accords. Jordan had felt compelled to buy the print and stick it up on his wall, though hed never been one for poetry.

Hed been pacing his apartment for the last hour, sometimes taking his phone out to see if Maia had texted, in between bouts of opening the refrigerator and staring into it to see if anything worth eating had appeared. It hadnt, but he didnt want to go out to get food in case she came to the apartment while he was out. He also took a shower, cleaned up the kitchen, tried to watch TV and failed, and started the process of organizing all his DVDs by color.

He was restless. Restless in the way he sometimes got before the full moon, knowing the Change was coming, feeling the pull of the tides in his blood. But the moon was waning, not waxing, and it wasnt the Change making him feel like crawling out of his skin. It was Maia. It was being without her, after almost two solid days in her company, never more than a few feet away from her.

Shed gone without him to the police station, saying that now wasnt the time to upset the pack with a nonmember, even though Luke was healing. There was no need for Jordan to come, shed argued, since all she had to do was ask Luke if it was all right for Simon and Magnus to visit the farm tomorrow, and then shed call up to the farm and warn any of the pack who might be staying up there to clear off the property. She was right, Jordan knew. There was no reason for him to go with her, but the moment she was gone, the restlessness kicked up inside him. Was she leaving because she was sick of being with him? Had she rethought and decided shed been right about him before? And what was going on between them? Were they dating? Maybe you should have asked her before you slept together, genius, he told himself, and realized he was standing in front of the refrigerator again. Its contents hadnt changed-bottles of blood, a defrosting pound of ground beef, and a dented apple.

The key turned in the front door lock, and he jumped away from the refrigerator, spinning around. He looked down at himself. He was barefoot, in jeans and an old T-shirt. Why hadnt he taken the time while shed been away to shave, look better, put on some cologne or something? He ran his hands quickly through his hair as Maia came into the living room, dropping his spare set of keys onto the coffee table. She had changed clothes, into a soft pink sweater and jeans. Her cheeks were pink from the cold, her lips red and her eyes bright. He wanted to kiss her so badly it hurt.

Instead he swallowed. “So-how did it go?”

“Fine. Magnus can use the farm. I already texted him. ” She strolled over to him and leaned her elbows on the counter. “I also told Luke what Raphael said about Maureen. I hope thats okay. ”

Jordan was puzzled. “Whyd you think he needed to know?”

She seemed to deflate. “Oh, God. Dont tell me I was supposed to keep it a secret. ”

“No-I was just wondering-”

“Well, if there really is a rogue vampire cutting her way through Lower Manhattan, the pack should know. Its their territory. Besides, I wanted his advice about whether we should tell Simon or not. ”

“What about my advice?” He was playing at sounding hurt, but there was a little part of him that meant it. Theyd discussed it before, whether Jordan should tell his assignment that Maureen was out there and killing, or whether it would just be another burden to add to everything Simon was dealing with now. Jordan had come down on the side of not telling him-what could he do about it, anyway?-but Maia hadnt been so sure.

She jumped up on top of the counter and swung around to face him. Even sitting down, she was taller than him this way, her brown eyes sparkling down into his. “I wanted grown-up advice. ”

He grabbed hold of her swinging legs and ran his hands up the seams of her jeans. “Im eighteen-not grown-up enough for you?”

She put her hands on his shoulders and flexed them, as if testing his muscles. “Well, youve definitely grown. . . ”

He pulled her down from the counter, catching her around the waist and kissing her. Fire sizzled up and down his veins as she kissed him back, her body melting against his. He slid his hands up into her hair, knocking her knitted cap off and letting her curls spring free. He kissed her neck as she pulled his shirt up over his head and ran her hands all over him-shoulders, back, arms, purring in her throat like a cat. He felt like a helium balloon-high from kissing her, and light with relief. So she wasnt done with him after all.

“Jordy,” she said. “Wait. ”

She almost never called him that, unless it was serious. His heartbeat, already wild, speeded up further. “Whats wrong?”

“Its just-if every time we see each other, we fall into bed-and I know I started it, Im not blaming you or anything-Its just that maybe we should talk. ”

He stared at her, at her big dark eyes, the fluttery pulse in her throat, the flush on her cheeks. With an effort he spoke evenly. “Okay. What do you want to talk about?”

She just looked at him. After a moment she shook her head and said, “Nothing. ” She locked her hands behind his head and pulled him close, kissing him hard, fitting her body against his. “Nothing at all. ”

Clary didnt know how long it was before Jace came out of the bathroom, toweling off his wet hair. She looked up at him from where she was still sitting on the edge of the bed. He was sliding a blue cotton T-shirt on over smooth golden skin marked with white scars.

She darted her eyes away as he came across the room and sat down next to her on the bed, smelling strongly of soap.

“Im sorry,” he said.

Now she did look at him, in surprise. She had wondered if he were capable of being sorry, in his current state. His expression was grave, a little curious, but not insincere.

“Wow,” she said. “That cold shower must have been brutal. ”

His lips quirked up at the side, but his expression grew serious again almost immediately. He put his hand under her chin. “I shouldnt have pushed you. Its just-ten weeks ago, just holding each other would have been unthinkable. ”

“I know. ”

He cupped her face in his hands, his long fingers cool against her cheeks, tilting her face up. He was looking down at her, and everything about him was so familiar-the pale gold irises of his eyes, the scar on his cheek, the full lower lip, the slight chip in his tooth that saved his looks from being so perfect that they were annoying-and yet somehow it was like coming back to a house she had lived in as a child, and knowing that though the exterior might look the same, a different family lived there now. “I never cared,” he said. “I wanted you anyway. I always wanted you. Nothing mattered to me but you. Not ever. ”

Clary swallowed. Her stomach fluttered, not just with the usual butterflies she felt around Jace but with real uneasiness.

“But Jace. Thats not true. You cared about your family. And-I always thought you were proud of being Nephilim. One of the angels. ”

“Proud?” he said. “To be half angel, half human-youre always conscious of your own inadequacy. Youre not an angel. Youre not beloved of Heaven. Raziel doesnt care about us. We cant even pray to him. We pray to nothing. We pray for nothing. Remember when I told you I thought I had demon blood, because it explained why I felt the way I did about you? It was a relief in a way, thinking that. Ive never been an angel, never even close. Well,” he added. “Maybe the fallen kind. ”

“Fallen angels are demons. ”

“I dont want to be Nephilim,” said Jace. “I want to be something else. Stronger, faster, better than human. But different. Not subservient to the Laws of an angel who couldnt care less about us. Free. ” He ran his hand through a curl of her hair. “Im happy now, Clary. Doesnt that make a difference?”

“I thought we were happy together,” Clary said.

“Ive always been happy with you,” he said. “But I never thought I deserved it. ”

“And now you do?”

“And now that feelings gone,” he said. “All I know is that I love you. And for the first time, thats good enough. ”

She closed her eyes. A moment later he was kissing her again, very softly this time, his mouth tracing the shape of hers. She felt herself go pliant under his hands. She sensed it as his breathing quickened and her own pulse jumped. His hands stroked down through her hair, over her back, to her waist. His touch was comforting-the feel of his heartbeat against hers like familiar music-and if the key was slightly different, with her eyes closed, she couldnt tell. Their blood was the same, under the skin, she thought, as the Seelie Queen had said; her heart raced when his did, had nearly stopped when his had. If she had to do it all again, she thought, under the pitiless gaze of Raziel, she would have done the same thing.

This time he drew back, letting his fingers linger on her cheek, her lips. “I want what you want,” he said. “Whenever you want it. ”

Clary felt a shudder go down her spine. The words were simple, but there was a dangerous and seductive invitation to the fall of his voice: Whatever you want, whenever you want it. His hand smoothed down her hair, to her back, lingering at her waist. She swallowed. There was only so much that she was going to be able to hold back.

“Read to me,” she said suddenly.

He blinked down at her. “What?”

She was looking past him, at the books on his nightstand. “Its a lot to process,” she said. “What Sebastian said, what happened last night, everything. I need to sleep, but Im too keyed up. When I was young and I couldnt sleep, my mother used to read to me to relax me. ”

“And I remind you of your mother now? I have got to look into a manlier cologne. ”

“No, its just-I thought it would be nice. ”

He scooted back against the pillows, reaching for the stack of books by the bed. “Anything particular you want to hear?” With a flourish he picked up the book on top of the stack. It looked old, leather-bound, the title stamped in gold on the front. A Tale of Two Cities. “Dickens is always promising. . . ”

“Ive read that before. For school,” Clary recalled. She scooted up on the pillows beside Jace. “But I dont remember any of it, so I wouldnt mind hearing it again. ”

“Excellent. Ive been told I have a lovely, melodic reading voice. ” He flipped the book open to the front page, where the title was printed in ornate script. Across from it was a long dedication, the ink faded now and barely legible, though Clary could make out the signature: With hope at last, William Herondale.

“Some ancestor of yours,” Clary said, brushing her finger against the page.

“Yes. Odd that Valentine had it. My father must have given it to him. ” Jace opened to a random page and began to read:

“He unshaded his face after a little while, and spoke steadily. Dont be afraid to hear me. Dont shrink from anything I say. I am like one who died young. All my life might have been.

“No, Mr. Carton. I am sure that the best part of it might still be; I am sure that you might be much, much worthier of yourself. ”

“Oh, I do remember this story now,” Clary said. “Love triangle. She picks the boring guy. ”

Jace chuckled softly. “Boring to you. Who can say what got Victorian ladies hot beneath the petticoats?”

“Its true, you know. ”

“What, about the petticoats?”

“No. That you have a lovely reading voice. ” Clary turned her face against his shoulder. It was times like this, more than when he was kissing her, that hurt-times when he could have been her Jace. As long as she kept her eyes closed.

“All that, and abs of steel,” Jace said, turning another page. “What more could you ask for?”

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