City of lost souls – Chapter 4 : And Immortality

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Chapter 4 : And Immortality

“And youre totally sure it was Jace?” Isabelle asked, for what seemed to Clary like the forty-seventh time.

Clary bit down on her already sore lip and counted to ten. “Its me, Isabelle,” she said. “You honestly think I wouldnt recognize Jace?” She looked up at Alec standing over them, his blue scarf fluttering like a pennant in the wind. “Could you mistake someone else for Magnus?”

“No. Not ever,” he said without missing a beat. His blue eyes were troubled, dark with worry. “I just-I mean, of course were asking. It doesnt make any sense. ”

“He could be a hostage,” said Simon, leaning back against a boulder. The autumn sunlight turned his eyes the color of coffee grounds. “Like, Sebastian is threatening him that if Jace doesnt go along with his plans, Sebastian will hurt someone he cares about. ”

All eyes went to Clary, but she shook her head in frustration. “You didnt see them together. Nobody acts like that when theyre a hostage. He seemed totally happy to be there. ”

“Then hes possessed,” Alec said. “Like he was by Lilith. ”

“That was what I thought at first. But when he was possessed by Lilith, he was like a robot. He just kept saying the same things over and over. But this was Jace. He was making jokes like Jace does. Smiling like him. ”

“Maybe he has Stockholm syndrome,” Simon suggested. “You know, when you get brainwashed and start sympathizing with your captor. ”

“It takes months to develop Stockholm syndrome,” Alec objected. “How did he look? Hurt, or sick in any way? Can you describe them both?”

It wasnt the first time hed asked. The wind blew dry leaves around their feet as Clary told them again how Jace had looked-vibrant and healthy. Sebastian, too. They had seemed completely calm. Jaces clothes had been clean, stylish, ordinary. Sebastian had been wearing a long black wool trench coat that had looked expensive.

“Like an evil Burberry ad,” Simon said when she was done.

Isabelle shot him a look. “Maybe Jace has a plan,” she said. “Maybe hes tricking Sebastian. Trying to get into his good graces, figure out what his plans are. ”

“Youd think that if he were doing that, hed have figured out a way to tell us about it,” Alec said. “Not to leave us panicking. Thats too cruel. ”

“Unless he couldnt risk sending a message. Hed believe we would trust him. We do trust him. ” Isabelles voice rose, and she shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. The trees lining the gravel path they stood on rattled their bare branches.

“Maybe we should tell the Clave,” Clary said, hearing her own voice as if from a distance. “This is-I dont see how we can handle this on our own. ”

“We cant tell the Clave. ” Isabelles voice was hard.

“Why not?”

“If they think hes cooperating with Sebastian, the mandate will be to kill him on sight,” Alec said. “Thats the Law. ”

“Even if Isabelles right? Even if hes just playing along with Sebastian?” Simon said, a note of doubt in his voice. “Trying to get on his side to get information?”

“Theres no way to prove it. And if we claimed it was what hes doing, and that got back to Sebastian, hed probably kill Jace,” said Alec. “If Jace is possessed, the Clave will kill him themselves. We cant tell them anything. ” His voice was hard. Clary looked at him in surprise; Alec was normally the most rule-abiding of them all.

“This is Sebastian were talking about,” said Izzy. “Theres no one the Clave hates more, except Valentine, and hes dead. But practically everyone knows someone who died in the Mortal War, and Sebastians the one who took the wards down. ”

Clary scuffed at the gravel underfoot with her sneaker. The whole situation seemed like a dream, like she might wake up at any moment. “Then, what next?”

“We talk to Magnus. See if he has any insight. ” Alec tugged on the corner of his scarf. “He wont go to the Council. Not if I ask him not to. ”

“Hed better not,” said Isabelle indignantly. “Otherwise, worst boyfriend ever. ”

“I said he wouldnt-”

“Is there any point now?” Simon said. “In seeing the Seelie Queen? Now that we know Jace is possessed, or maybe hiding out on purpose-”

“You dont miss an appointment with the Seelie Queen,” Isabelle said firmly. “Not if you value your skin the way it is. ”

“But shell just take away the rings from Clary and we wont learn anything,” Simon argued. “We know more now. We have different questions for her now. She wont answer them, though. Shell just answer the old ones. Thats how faeries work. They dont do favors. Its not like shes going to let us go talk to Magnus and then come back. ”

“It doesnt matter. ” Clary rubbed her hands across her face. They came away dry. At some point her tears had stopped coming, thank God. She hadnt wanted to face the Queen looking like shed just been bawling her eyes out. “I never got the rings. ”

Isabelle blinked. “What?”

“After I saw Jace and Sebastian, I was too shaken to get them. I just raced out of the Institute and Portaled here. ”

“Well, we cant see the Queen, then,” said Alec. “If you didnt do what she asked you to, shell be furious. ”

“Shell be more than furious,” said Isabelle. “You saw what she did to Alec last time we went to the Court. And that was just a glamour. Shell probably turn Clary into a lobster or something. ”

“She knew,” Clary said. “She said, When you find him again, he may well not be quite as you left him. ” The Seelie Queens voice drifted through Clarys head. She shivered. She could understand why Simon hated faeries so much. They always knew exactly the right words that would lodge like a splinter in your brain, painful and impossible to ignore or remove. “Shes just playing around with us. She wants those rings, but I dont think theres any chance shell really help us. ”

“Okay,” Isabelle said doubtfully. “But if she knew that much, she might know more. And who else is going to be able to help us, since we cant go to the Clave?”

“Magnus,” Clary said. “Hes been trying to decode Liliths spell all this time. Maybe if I tell him what I saw, itll help. ”

Simon rolled his eyes. “Its a good thing we know the person whos dating Magnus,” he said. “Otherwise, I get the feeling wed all just lie around all the time wondering what the hell to do next. Or try to raise the money to hire Magnus by selling lemonade. ”

Alec looked merely irritated by this comment. “The only way you could raise enough money to hire Magnus by selling lemonade is if you put meth in it. ”

“Its an expression. We are all aware that your boyfriend is expensive. I just wish we didnt have to go running to him with every problem. ”

“So does he,” said Alec. “Magnus has another job today, but Ill talk to him tonight and we can all meet at his loft tomorrow morning. ”

Clary nodded. She couldnt even imagine getting up the next morning. She knew the sooner they talked to Magnus the better, but she felt drained and exhausted, as if shed left pints of her blood on the library floor in the Institute.

Isabelle had moved closer to Simon. “I guess that leaves us the rest of the afternoon,” she said. “Should we go to Takis? Theyll serve you blood. ”

Simon glanced over at Clary, clearly worried. “Do you want to come?”

“No, its okay. Ill grab a cab back to Williamsburg. I should spend some time with my mom. All of this stuff with Sebastian has her falling apart already, and now. . . ”

Isabelles black hair flew in the wind as she whipped her head back and forth. “You cant tell her what you saw. Lukes on the Council. He cant keep it from them, and you cant ask her to keep it from him. ”

“I know. ” Clary looked at the three anxious gazes fixed on her. How had this happened? she thought. She, who had never kept secrets from Jocelyn-not real ones, anyway-was about to go home and hide something enormous from both her mother and Luke. Something she could talk about only with people like Alec and Isabelle Lightwood and Magnus Bane, people that six months ago she hadnt known existed. It was strange how your world could shift on its axis and everything you trusted could invert itself in what seemed like no time at all.

At least she still had Simon. Constant, permanent Simon. She kissed him on the cheek, waved her good-bye to the others, and turned away, aware that all three of them were watching her worriedly as she strode away across the park, the last of the dead fall leaves crunching under her sneakers as if they were tiny bones.

Alec had lied. It wasnt Magnus who had something to do that afternoon. It was himself.

He knew what he was doing was a mistake, but he couldnt help himself: it was like a drug, this needing to know more. And now, here he was, underground, holding his witchlight and wondering just what the hell he was doing.

Like all New York subway stations, this one smelled of rust and water, metal and decay. But unlike any other station Alec had ever been in, it was eerily quiet. Aside from the marks of water damage, the walls and platform were clean. Vaulted ceilings, punctuated by the occasional chandelier, rose above him, the arches patterned in green tile. The nameplate tiles on the wall read CITY HALL in block lettering.

The City Hall subway station had been out of use since 1945, though the city still kept it in order as a landmark; the 6 train ran through it on occasion to make a turnaround, but no one ever stood on this platform. Alec had crawled through a hatch in City Hall Park surrounded by dogwood trees to reach this place, dropping down a distance that would probably have broken a mundanes legs. Now he stood, breathing in the dusty air, his heart rate quickening.

This was where the letter the vampire subjugate had handed him in Magnuss entryway had directed him to go. At first he had determined he would never use the information. But he had not been able to bring himself to throw it away. He had balled it up and shoved it into his jeans pocket, and all through the day, even in Central Park, it had eaten at the back of his mind.

It was like the whole situation with Magnus. He couldnt seem to help worrying at it the way one might worry at a diseased tooth, knowing you were making the situation worse but not being able to stop. Magnus had done nothing wrong. It wasnt his fault he was hundreds of years old, and that he had been in love before. But it corroded Alecs peace of mind just the same. And now, knowing both more and less about Jaces situation than he had yesterday-it was too much. He needed to talk to someone, go somewhere, do something.

So here he was. And here she was, he was sure of it. He moved slowly down the platform. The ceiling vaulted overhead, a central skylight letting in light from the park above, four lines of tiles radiating out from it like a spiders legs. At the end of a platform was a short staircase, which led up into gloom. Alec could detect the presence of a glamour: any mundane looking up would see a concrete wall, but he saw an open doorway. Silently, he headed up the steps.

He found himself in a gloomy, low-ceilinged room. An amethyst-glass skylight let in a little light. In a shadowy corner of the room sat an elegant velvet sofa with an arched, gilded back, and on the sofa sat Camille.

She was as beautiful as Alec remembered, though she had not been at her best the last time he had seen her, filthy and chained to a pipe in a building under construction. She wore a neat black suit now with high-heeled red shoes, and her hair spilled down her shoulders in waves and curls. She had a book open on her lap-La Place de letoile by Patrick Modiano. He knew enough French to translate the title. “The Place of the Star. ”

She looked at Alec as if she had expected to see him.

“Hello, Camille,” he said.

She blinked slowly. “Alexander Lightwood,” she said. “I recognized your footsteps on the stairs. ”

She put the back of her hand against her cheek and smiled at him. There was something distant about her smile. It had all the warmth of dust. “I dont suppose you have a message from Magnus for me. ”

Alec said nothing.

“Of course not,” she said. “Silly me. As if he knows where you are. ”

“How did you know it was me?” he said. “On the stairway. ”

“Youre a Lightwood,” she said. “Your family never gives up. I knew you wouldnt let well enough alone after what I said to you that night. The message today was just to prod your memory. ”

“I didnt need to be reminded of what you promised me. Or were you lying?”

“I would have said anything to get free that night,” she said. “But I wasnt lying. ” She leaned forward, her eyes bright and dark at the same time. “You are Nephilim, of the Clave and Council. There is a price on my head for murdering Shadowhunters. But I already know you have not come here to bring me to them. You want answers. ”

“I want to know where Jace is,” he said.

“You want to know that,” she said. “But you know theres no reason Id have the answer, and I dont. Id give it to you if I did. I know he was taken by Liliths son, and I have no reason to have any loyalty to her. She is gone. I know there have been patrols out looking for me, to discover whatever I might know. I can tell you now, I know nothing. I would tell you where your friend is if I knew. I have no reason to further antagonize the Nephilim. ” She ran a hand through her thick blond hair. “But thats not why youre here. Admit it, Alexander. ”

Alec felt his breath quicken. He had thought of this moment, lying awake at night beside Magnus, listening to the warlock breathing, hearing his own breaths, numbering them out. Each breath a breath closer to aging and dying. Each night spinning him closer to the end of everything.

“You said you knew a way to make me immortal,” said Alec. “You said you knew a way Magnus and I could be together forever. ”

“I did, didnt I? How interesting. ”

“I want you to tell it to me now. ”

“And I will,” she said, setting down her book. “For a price. ”

“No price,” said Alec. “I freed you. Now youll tell me what I want to know. Or Ill give you to the Clave. Theyll chain you on the roof of the Institute and wait for sunrise. ”

Her eyes went hard and flat. “I do not care for threats. ”

“Then give me what I want. ”

She stood up, brushing her hands down the front of her jacket, smoothing the wrinkles. “Come and take it from me, Shadowhunter. ”

It was as if all the frustration, panic, and despair of the past weeks exploded out of Alec. He leaped for Camille, just as she started for him, her fang teeth snapping outward.

Alec barely had time to draw his seraph blade from his belt before she was on him. He had fought vampires before; their swiftness and force was stunning. It was like fighting the leading edge of a tornado. He threw himself to the side, rolled onto his feet, and kicked a fallen ladder in her direction; it stopped her briefly enough for him to lift the blade and whisper, “Nuriel. ”

The light of the seraph blade shot up like a star, and Camille hesitated-then flung herself at him again. She attacked, ripping her long nails along his cheek and shoulder. He felt the warmth and wetness of blood. Spinning, he slashed at her, but she rose into the air, darting just out of reach, laughing and taunting him.

He ran for the stairs leading down to the platform. She rushed after him; he dodged aside, spun, and pushed off the wall into the air, leaping toward her just as she dived. They collided in midair, her screaming and slashing at him, him keeping a firm hold on her arm, even as they crashed to the ground, almost getting the wind knocked out of him. Keeping her earthbound was the key to winning the fight, and he silently thanked Jace, who had made him practice flips over and over in the training room until he could use almost any surface to get himself airborne for at least a moment or two.

He slashed with the seraph blade as they rolled across the floor, and she deflected his blows easily, moving so fast she was a blur. She kicked at him with her high heels, stabbing his legs with their points. He winced and swore, and she responded with an impressive torrent of filth that involved his sex life with Magnus, her sex life with Magnus, and there might have been more had they not reached the center of the room, where the skylight above beamed a circle of sunshine onto the floor. Seizing her wrist, Alec forced Camilles hand down, into the light.

She screamed as enormous white blisters appeared on her skin. Alec could feel the heat from her bubbling hand. Fingers laced with hers, he jerked her hand upright, back into the shadows. She snarled and snapped at him. He elbowed her in the mouth, splitting her lip. Vampire blood-shimmering bright red, brighter than human blood-dripped from the corner of her mouth.

“Have you had enough?” he snarled. “Do you want more?” He began to force her hand back toward the sunlight. It had already begun to heal, the red, blistered skin fading to pink.

“No!” She gasped, coughed, and began to tremble, her whole body spasming. After a moment he realized she was laughing-laughing up at him through the blood. “That made me feel alive, little Nephilim. A good fight like that-I should thank you. ”

“Thank me by giving me the answer to my question,” Alec said, panting. “Or Ill ash you. Im sick of your games. ”

Her lips stretched into a smile. Her cuts had healed already, though her face was still bloody. “There is no way to make you immortal. Not without black magic or turning you into a vampire, and you have rejected both options. ”

“But you said-you said there was another way we could be together-”

“Oh, there is. ” Her eyes danced. “You may not be able to give yourself immortality, little Nephilim, at least not on any terms that would be acceptable to you. But you can take Magnuss away. ”

Clary sat in her bedroom at Lukes, a pen clutched in her hand, a piece of paper spread out on the desk in front of her. The sun had gone down, and the desk light was on, blazing down on the rune she had just begun.

It had started to come to her on the L train home as shed stared unseeingly out the window. It was nothing that had ever existed before, and she had rushed home from the station while the image was still fresh in her mind, brushing away her mothers inquiries, closing herself in her room, putting pen to paper-

A knock came on the door. Quickly Clary slid the paper she was drawing on under a blank sheet as her mother came into the room.

“I know, I know,” Jocelyn said, holding up a hand against Clarys protest. “You want to be left alone. But Luke made dinner, and you should eat. ”

Clary gave her mother a look. “So should you. ” Jocelyn, like her daughter, was given to loss of appetite under stress, and her face looked hollow. She should have been preparing for her honeymoon now, getting ready to pack her bags for somewhere beautiful and far away. Instead the wedding was postponed indefinitely, and Clary could hear her crying through the walls at night. Clary knew that kind of crying, born out of anger and guilt, a crying that said This is all my fault.

“Ill eat if you will,” Jocelyn said, forcing a smile. “Luke made pasta. ”

Clary turned her chair around, deliberately angling her body to block her mothers view of her desk. “Mom,” she said. “There was something I wanted to ask you. ”

“What is it?”

Clary bit the end of her pen, a bad habit shed had since she started to draw. “When I was in the Silent City with Jace, the Brothers told me that theres a ceremony performed on Shadowhunters at birth, a ceremony that protects them. That the Iron Sisters and the Silent Brothers have to perform it. And I was wondering. . . ”

“If the ceremony was ever performed on you?”

Clary nodded.

Jocelyn exhaled and pushed her hands through her hair. “It was,” she said. “I arranged it through Magnus. A Silent Brother was present, someone sworn to secrecy, and a female warlock who took the place of the Iron Sister. I almost didnt want to do it. I didnt want to think you could be in danger from the supernatural after Id hidden you so carefully. But Magnus talked me into it, and he was right. ”

Clary looked at her curiously. “Who was the female warlock?”

“Jocelyn!” It was Luke calling from the kitchen. “The waters boiling over!”

Jocelyn dropped a quick kiss on Clarys head. “Sorry. Culinary emergency. See you in five?”

Clary nodded as her mother hurried from the room, then turned back to her desk. The rune she had been creating was still there, teasing the edge of her mind. She began to draw again, completing the design she had started. As she finished, she sat back and stared at what shed made. It looked a little like the Opening rune but wasnt. It was a pattern as simple as a cross and as new to the world as a just-born baby. It held a sleeping threat, a sense that it had been born out of her rage and guilt and impotent anger.

It was a powerful rune. But though she knew exactly what it meant and how it could be used, she couldnt think of a single way in which it could possibly be helpful in the current situation. It was like having your car break down on a lonely road, rooting desperately around in the trunk, and triumphantly pulling out an electrical extension cord instead of jumper cables.

She felt as if her own power was laughing at her. With a curse, she dropped her pen onto the desk and put her face in her hands.

The inside of the old hospital had been carefully whitewashed, lending an eerie glow to each of the surfaces. Most of the windows were boarded up, but even in the dim light Maias enhanced sight could pick out details-the sifted dusting of plaster along the bare hallway floors, the marks where construction lights had been put in, bits of wiring glued to the walls by clumps of paint, mice scrabbling in the darkened corners.

A voice spoke from behind her. “Ive searched the east wing. Nothing. What about you?”

Maia turned. Jordan stood behind her, wearing dark jeans and a black sweater half-zipped over a green T-shirt. She shook her head. “Nothing in the west wing either. Some pretty rickety staircases. Nice architectural detailing, if that sort of thing interests you. ”

He shook his head. “Lets get out of here, then. This place gives me the creeps. ”

Maia agreed, relieved not to be the one who had to say it. She fell into step beside Jordan as they made their way down a set of stairs whose banister was so flaked with crumbling plaster that it resembled snow. She wasnt sure why exactly shed agreed to patrol with him, but she couldnt deny that they made a decent team.

Jordan was easy to be with. Despite what had happened between them just before Jace had disappeared, he was respectful, keeping his distance without making her feel awkward. The moonlight was bright on both of them as they came out of the hospital and into the open space in front of it. It was a great white marble building whose boarded-over windows looked like blank eyes. A crooked tree, shedding its last leaves, hunched before the front doors.

“Well, that was a waste of time,” said Jordan. Maia looked over at him. He was staring at the old naval hospital, which was how she preferred it. She liked looking at Jordan when he wasnt looking at her. That way she could watch the angle of his jawline, the way his dark hair curled against the back of his neck, the curve of his collarbone under the V of his T-shirt, without feeling like he expected anything from her for looking.

Hed been a pretty hipster boy when shed met him, all angles and eyelashes, but he was older-looking now, with scarred knuckles and muscles that moved smoothly under his close-fitting green T-shirt. He still had the olive tone to his skin that echoed his Italian heritage, and the hazel eyes she remembered, though they had the gold-ringed pupils of lycanthropy now. The same pupils she saw when she looked in the mirror every morning. The pupils she had because of him.

“Maia?” He was looking at her quizzically. “What do you think?”

“Oh. ” She blinked. “I, ah-No, I dont think there was much point in searching the hospital. I mean, to be honest, I cant see why they sent us down here at all. The Brooklyn Navy Yard? Why would Jace be here? Its not like he had a thing for boats. ”

Jordans expression went from quizzical to something much darker. “When bodies wind up in the East River, a lot of times they wash up here. The navy yard. ”

“You think were looking for a body?”

“I dont know. ” With a shrug he turned and started walking. His boots rustled in the dry, choppy grass. “Maybe at this point Im just searching because it feels wrong to give up. ”

His pace was slow, unhurried; they walked shoulder to shoulder, nearly touching. Maia kept her eyes fixed on the Manhattan skyline across the river, a wash of brilliant white light reflecting in the water. As they neared the shallow Wallabout Bay, the arch of the Brooklyn Bridge came into view, and the lit-up rectangle of the South Street Seaport across the water. She could smell the polluted miasma of the water, the dirt and diesel of the navy yard, the scent of small animals moving in the grass.

“I dont think Jace is dead,” she said finally. “I think he doesnt want to be found. ”

At that, Jordan did look at her. “Are you saying we shouldnt be looking?”

“No. ” She hesitated. They had come out by the river, near a low wall; she trailed her hand along the top of it as they walked. There was a narrow strip of asphalt between them and the water. “When I ran away to New York, I didnt want to be found. But I would have liked the idea that someone was looking for me as hard as everyones looking for Jace Lightwood. ”

“Did you like Jace?” Jordans voice was neutral.

“Like him? Well, not like that. ”

Jordan laughed. “I didnt mean like that. Although, he seems to be generally considered stunningly attractive. ”

“Are you going to pull that straight-guy thing where you pretend that you cant tell whether other guys are attractive or not? Jace, the hairy guy at the deli on Ninth, they all look the same to you?”

“Well, the hairy guy has that mole, so I think Jace comes out slightly ahead. If you like that whole chiseled, blond, Abercrombie-and-Fitch-wishes-they-could-afford-me thing. ” He looked at her through his eyelashes.

“I always liked dark-haired boys,” she said in a low voice.

He looked at the river. “Like Simon. ”

“Well-yeah. ” Maia hadnt thought about Simon that way in a while. “I guess so. ”

“And you like musicians. ” He reached up and pulled a leaf off a low-hanging branch overhead. “I mean, Im a singer, and Bat was a DJ, and Simon-”

“I like music. ” Maia pushed her hair back from her face.

“What else do you like?” Jordan tore at the leaf in his fingers. He paused and hoisted himself up to sit on the low wall, swinging around to face her. “I mean, is there anything you like so much you think you might want to do it for, like, a living?”

She looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Do you remember when I got these?” He unzipped his sweater and shrugged it off. The shirt he wore underneath was short-sleeved. Wrapped around each of his biceps were the Sanskrit words of the Shanti Mantras. She remembered them well. Their friend Valerie had inked them, after hours, for free, in her tattoo shop in Red Bank. Maia took a step toward him. With him sitting and her standing, they were nearly eye to eye. She reached out and hesitantly ran her fingers around the letters inked on his left arm. His eyes fluttered shut at her touch.

“Lead us from the unreal to the real,” she read aloud. “Lead us from darkness to light. Lead us from death to immortality. ” His skin felt smooth under her fingertips. “From the Upanishads. ”

“They were your idea. You were the one who was always reading. You were the one who knew everything. . . . ” He opened his eyes and looked at her. His eyes were shades lighter than the water behind him. “Maia, whatever you want to do, Ill help you. Ive saved up a lot of my salary from the Praetor. I could give it to you. . . . It could cover your tuition to Stanford. Well, most of it. If you still wanted to go. ”

“I dont know,” she said, her mind whirling. “When I joined the pack, I thought you couldnt be a werewolf and anything else. I thought it was just about living in the pack, not really having an identity. I felt safer that way. But Luke, he has a life. He owns a bookstore. And you, youre in the Praetor. I guess. . . you can be more than one thing. ”

“You always have been. ” His voice was low, throaty. “You know, what you said earlier-that when you ran away you would have liked to think someone was looking for you. ” He took a deep breath. “I was looking for you. I never stopped. ”

She met his hazel eyes. He didnt move, but his hands, gripping his knees, were white-knuckled. Maia leaned forward, close enough to see the faint stubble along his jaw, to smell the scent of him, wolf-smell and toothpaste and boy. She placed her hands over his. “Well,” she said. “You found me. ”

Their faces were only inches away from each other. She felt his breath against her lips before he kissed her, and she leaned into it, her eyes closing. His mouth was as soft as she remembered, his lips brushing hers gently, sending shivers all through her. She raised her arms to wind them around his neck, to slide her fingers under his curling dark hair, to lightly touch the bare skin at the nape of his neck, the edge of the worn collar of his shirt.

He pulled her closer. He was shaking. She felt the heat of his strong body against hers as his hands slid down her back. “Maia,” he whispered. He started to lift the hem of her sweater, his fingers gripping the small of her back. His lips moved against hers. “I love you. I never stopped loving you. ”

Youre mine. Youll always be mine.

Her heart hammering, she jerked away from him, pulling her sweater down. “Jordan-stop. ”

He looked at her, his expression dazed and worried. “Im sorry. Was that not any good? I havent kissed anyone but you, not since. . . ” He trailed off.

She shook her head. “No, its just-I cant. ”

“All right,” he said. He looked very vulnerable, sitting there, dismay written all over his face. “We dont have to do anything-”

She groped for words. “Its just too much. ”

“It was only a kiss. ”

“You said you loved me. ” Her voice shook. “You offered to give me your savings. I cant take that from you. ”

“Which?” he said, hurt sparking in his voice. “My money, or the love part?”

“Either. I just cant, okay? Not with you, not right now. ” She started to back away. He was staring after her, his lips parted. “Dont follow me, please,” she said, and turned to hurry back the way they had come.

“And youre totally sure it was Jace?” Isabelle asked, for what seemed to Clary like the forty-seventh time.

Clary bit down on her already sore lip and counted to ten. “Its me, Isabelle,” she said. “You honestly think I wouldnt recognize Jace?” She looked up at Alec standing over them, his blue scarf fluttering like a pennant in the wind. “Could you mistake someone else for Magnus?”

“No. Not ever,” he said without missing a beat. His blue eyes were troubled, dark with worry. “I just-I mean, of course were asking. It doesnt make any sense. ”

“He could be a hostage,” said Simon, leaning back against a boulder. The autumn sunlight turned his eyes the color of coffee grounds. “Like, Sebastian is threatening him that if Jace doesnt go along with his plans, Sebastian will hurt someone he cares about. ”

All eyes went to Clary, but she shook her head in frustration. “You didnt see them together. Nobody acts like that when theyre a hostage. He seemed totally happy to be there. ”

“Then hes possessed,” Alec said. “Like he was by Lilith. ”

“That was what I thought at first. But when he was possessed by Lilith, he was like a robot. He just kept saying the same things over and over. But this was Jace. He was making jokes like Jace does. Smiling like him. ”

“Maybe he has Stockholm syndrome,” Simon suggested. “You know, when you get brainwashed and start sympathizing with your captor. ”

“It takes months to develop Stockholm syndrome,” Alec objected. “How did he look? Hurt, or sick in any way? Can you describe them both?”

It wasnt the first time hed asked. The wind blew dry leaves around their feet as Clary told them again how Jace had looked-vibrant and healthy. Sebastian, too. They had seemed completely calm. Jaces clothes had been clean, stylish, ordinary. Sebastian had been wearing a long black wool trench coat that had looked expensive.

“Like an evil Burberry ad,” Simon said when she was done.

Isabelle shot him a look. “Maybe Jace has a plan,” she said. “Maybe hes tricking Sebastian. Trying to get into his good graces, figure out what his plans are. ”

“Youd think that if he were doing that, hed have figured out a way to tell us about it,” Alec said. “Not to leave us panicking. Thats too cruel. ”

“Unless he couldnt risk sending a message. Hed believe we would trust him. We do trust him. ” Isabelles voice rose, and she shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. The trees lining the gravel path they stood on rattled their bare branches.

“Maybe we should tell the Clave,” Clary said, hearing her own voice as if from a distance. “This is-I dont see how we can handle this on our own. ”

“We cant tell the Clave. ” Isabelles voice was hard.

“Why not?”

“If they think hes cooperating with Sebastian, the mandate will be to kill him on sight,” Alec said. “Thats the Law. ”

“Even if Isabelles right? Even if hes just playing along with Sebastian?” Simon said, a note of doubt in his voice. “Trying to get on his side to get information?”

“Theres no way to prove it. And if we claimed it was what hes doing, and that got back to Sebastian, hed probably kill Jace,” said Alec. “If Jace is possessed, the Clave will kill him themselves. We cant tell them anything. ” His voice was hard. Clary looked at him in surprise; Alec was normally the most rule-abiding of them all.

“This is Sebastian were talking about,” said Izzy. “Theres no one the Clave hates more, except Valentine, and hes dead. But practically everyone knows someone who died in the Mortal War, and Sebastians the one who took the wards down. ”

Clary scuffed at the gravel underfoot with her sneaker. The whole situation seemed like a dream, like she might wake up at any moment. “Then, what next?”

“We talk to Magnus. See if he has any insight. ” Alec tugged on the corner of his scarf. “He wont go to the Council. Not if I ask him not to. ”

“Hed better not,” said Isabelle indignantly. “Otherwise, worst boyfriend ever. ”

“I said he wouldnt-”

“Is there any point now?” Simon said. “In seeing the Seelie Queen? Now that we know Jace is possessed, or maybe hiding out on purpose-”

“You dont miss an appointment with the Seelie Queen,” Isabelle said firmly. “Not if you value your skin the way it is. ”

“But shell just take away the rings from Clary and we wont learn anything,” Simon argued. “We know more now. We have different questions for her now. She wont answer them, though. Shell just answer the old ones. Thats how faeries work. They dont do favors. Its not like shes going to let us go talk to Magnus and then come back. ”

“It doesnt matter. ” Clary rubbed her hands across her face. They came away dry. At some point her tears had stopped coming, thank God. She hadnt wanted to face the Queen looking like shed just been bawling her eyes out. “I never got the rings. ”

Isabelle blinked. “What?”

“After I saw Jace and Sebastian, I was too shaken to get them. I just raced out of the Institute and Portaled here. ”

“Well, we cant see the Queen, then,” said Alec. “If you didnt do what she asked you to, shell be furious. ”

“Shell be more than furious,” said Isabelle. “You saw what she did to Alec last time we went to the Court. And that was just a glamour. Shell probably turn Clary into a lobster or something. ”

“She knew,” Clary said. “She said, When you find him again, he may well not be quite as you left him. ” The Seelie Queens voice drifted through Clarys head. She shivered. She could understand why Simon hated faeries so much. They always knew exactly the right words that would lodge like a splinter in your brain, painful and impossible to ignore or remove. “Shes just playing around with us. She wants those rings, but I dont think theres any chance shell really help us. ”

“Okay,” Isabelle said doubtfully. “But if she knew that much, she might know more. And who else is going to be able to help us, since we cant go to the Clave?”

“Magnus,” Clary said. “Hes been trying to decode Liliths spell all this time. Maybe if I tell him what I saw, itll help. ”

Simon rolled his eyes. “Its a good thing we know the person whos dating Magnus,” he said. “Otherwise, I get the feeling wed all just lie around all the time wondering what the hell to do next. Or try to raise the money to hire Magnus by selling lemonade. ”

Alec looked merely irritated by this comment. “The only way you could raise enough money to hire Magnus by selling lemonade is if you put meth in it. ”

“Its an expression. We are all aware that your boyfriend is expensive. I just wish we didnt have to go running to him with every problem. ”

“So does he,” said Alec. “Magnus has another job today, but Ill talk to him tonight and we can all meet at his loft tomorrow morning. ”

Clary nodded. She couldnt even imagine getting up the next morning. She knew the sooner they talked to Magnus the better, but she felt drained and exhausted, as if shed left pints of her blood on the library floor in the Institute.

Isabelle had moved closer to Simon. “I guess that leaves us the rest of the afternoon,” she said. “Should we go to Takis? Theyll serve you blood. ”

Simon glanced over at Clary, clearly worried. “Do you want to come?”

“No, its okay. Ill grab a cab back to Williamsburg. I should spend some time with my mom. All of this stuff with Sebastian has her falling apart already, and now. . . ”

Isabelles black hair flew in the wind as she whipped her head back and forth. “You cant tell her what you saw. Lukes on the Council. He cant keep it from them, and you cant ask her to keep it from him. ”

“I know. ” Clary looked at the three anxious gazes fixed on her. How had this happened? she thought. She, who had never kept secrets from Jocelyn-not real ones, anyway-was about to go home and hide something enormous from both her mother and Luke. Something she could talk about only with people like Alec and Isabelle Lightwood and Magnus Bane, people that six months ago she hadnt known existed. It was strange how your world could shift on its axis and everything you trusted could invert itself in what seemed like no time at all.

At least she still had Simon. Constant, permanent Simon. She kissed him on the cheek, waved her good-bye to the others, and turned away, aware that all three of them were watching her worriedly as she strode away across the park, the last of the dead fall leaves crunching under her sneakers as if they were tiny bones.

Alec had lied. It wasnt Magnus who had something to do that afternoon. It was himself.

He knew what he was doing was a mistake, but he couldnt help himself: it was like a drug, this needing to know more. And now, here he was, underground, holding his witchlight and wondering just what the hell he was doing.

Like all New York subway stations, this one smelled of rust and water, metal and decay. But unlike any other station Alec had ever been in, it was eerily quiet. Aside from the marks of water damage, the walls and platform were clean. Vaulted ceilings, punctuated by the occasional chandelier, rose above him, the arches patterned in green tile. The nameplate tiles on the wall read CITY HALL in block lettering.

The City Hall subway station had been out of use since 1945, though the city still kept it in order as a landmark; the 6 train ran through it on occasion to make a turnaround, but no one ever stood on this platform. Alec had crawled through a hatch in City Hall Park surrounded by dogwood trees to reach this place, dropping down a distance that would probably have broken a mundanes legs. Now he stood, breathing in the dusty air, his heart rate quickening.

This was where the letter the vampire subjugate had handed him in Magnuss entryway had directed him to go. At first he had determined he would never use the information. But he had not been able to bring himself to throw it away. He had balled it up and shoved it into his jeans pocket, and all through the day, even in Central Park, it had eaten at the back of his mind.

It was like the whole situation with Magnus. He couldnt seem to help worrying at it the way one might worry at a diseased tooth, knowing you were making the situation worse but not being able to stop. Magnus had done nothing wrong. It wasnt his fault he was hundreds of years old, and that he had been in love before. But it corroded Alecs peace of mind just the same. And now, knowing both more and less about Jaces situation than he had yesterday-it was too much. He needed to talk to someone, go somewhere, do something.

So here he was. And here she was, he was sure of it. He moved slowly down the platform. The ceiling vaulted overhead, a central skylight letting in light from the park above, four lines of tiles radiating out from it like a spiders legs. At the end of a platform was a short staircase, which led up into gloom. Alec could detect the presence of a glamour: any mundane looking up would see a concrete wall, but he saw an open doorway. Silently, he headed up the steps.

He found himself in a gloomy, low-ceilinged room. An amethyst-glass skylight let in a little light. In a shadowy corner of the room sat an elegant velvet sofa with an arched, gilded back, and on the sofa sat Camille.

She was as beautiful as Alec remembered, though she had not been at her best the last time he had seen her, filthy and chained to a pipe in a building under construction. She wore a neat black suit now with high-heeled red shoes, and her hair spilled down her shoulders in waves and curls. She had a book open on her lap-La Place de letoile by Patrick Modiano. He knew enough French to translate the title. “The Place of the Star. ”

She looked at Alec as if she had expected to see him.

“Hello, Camille,” he said.

She blinked slowly. “Alexander Lightwood,” she said. “I recognized your footsteps on the stairs. ”

She put the back of her hand against her cheek and smiled at him. There was something distant about her smile. It had all the warmth of dust. “I dont suppose you have a message from Magnus for me. ”

Alec said nothing.

“Of course not,” she said. “Silly me. As if he knows where you are. ”

“How did you know it was me?” he said. “On the stairway. ”

“Youre a Lightwood,” she said. “Your family never gives up. I knew you wouldnt let well enough alone after what I said to you that night. The message today was just to prod your memory. ”

“I didnt need to be reminded of what you promised me. Or were you lying?”

“I would have said anything to get free that night,” she said. “But I wasnt lying. ” She leaned forward, her eyes bright and dark at the same time. “You are Nephilim, of the Clave and Council. There is a price on my head for murdering Shadowhunters. But I already know you have not come here to bring me to them. You want answers. ”

“I want to know where Jace is,” he said.

“You want to know that,” she said. “But you know theres no reason Id have the answer, and I dont. Id give it to you if I did. I know he was taken by Liliths son, and I have no reason to have any loyalty to her. She is gone. I know there have been patrols out looking for me, to discover whatever I might know. I can tell you now, I know nothing. I would tell you where your friend is if I knew. I have no reason to further antagonize the Nephilim. ” She ran a hand through her thick blond hair. “But thats not why youre here. Admit it, Alexander. ”

Alec felt his breath quicken. He had thought of this moment, lying awake at night beside Magnus, listening to the warlock breathing, hearing his own breaths, numbering them out. Each breath a breath closer to aging and dying. Each night spinning him closer to the end of everything.

“You said you knew a way to make me immortal,” said Alec. “You said you knew a way Magnus and I could be together forever. ”

“I did, didnt I? How interesting. ”

“I want you to tell it to me now. ”

“And I will,” she said, setting down her book. “For a price. ”

“No price,” said Alec. “I freed you. Now youll tell me what I want to know. Or Ill give you to the Clave. Theyll chain you on the roof of the Institute and wait for sunrise. ”

Her eyes went hard and flat. “I do not care for threats. ”

“Then give me what I want. ”

She stood up, brushing her hands down the front of her jacket, smoothing the wrinkles. “Come and take it from me, Shadowhunter. ”

It was as if all the frustration, panic, and despair of the past weeks exploded out of Alec. He leaped for Camille, just as she started for him, her fang teeth snapping outward.

Alec barely had time to draw his seraph blade from his belt before she was on him. He had fought vampires before; their swiftness and force was stunning. It was like fighting the leading edge of a tornado. He threw himself to the side, rolled onto his feet, and kicked a fallen ladder in her direction; it stopped her briefly enough for him to lift the blade and whisper, “Nuriel. ”

The light of the seraph blade shot up like a star, and Camille hesitated-then flung herself at him again. She attacked, ripping her long nails along his cheek and shoulder. He felt the warmth and wetness of blood. Spinning, he slashed at her, but she rose into the air, darting just out of reach, laughing and taunting him.

He ran for the stairs leading down to the platform. She rushed after him; he dodged aside, spun, and pushed off the wall into the air, leaping toward her just as she dived. They collided in midair, her screaming and slashing at him, him keeping a firm hold on her arm, even as they crashed to the ground, almost getting the wind knocked out of him. Keeping her earthbound was the key to winning the fight, and he silently thanked Jace, who had made him practice flips over and over in the training room until he could use almost any surface to get himself airborne for at least a moment or two.

He slashed with the seraph blade as they rolled across the floor, and she deflected his blows easily, moving so fast she was a blur. She kicked at him with her high heels, stabbing his legs with their points. He winced and swore, and she responded with an impressive torrent of filth that involved his sex life with Magnus, her sex life with Magnus, and there might have been more had they not reached the center of the room, where the skylight above beamed a circle of sunshine onto the floor. Seizing her wrist, Alec forced Camilles hand down, into the light.

She screamed as enormous white blisters appeared on her skin. Alec could feel the heat from her bubbling hand. Fingers laced with hers, he jerked her hand upright, back into the shadows. She snarled and snapped at him. He elbowed her in the mouth, splitting her lip. Vampire blood-shimmering bright red, brighter than human blood-dripped from the corner of her mouth.

“Have you had enough?” he snarled. “Do you want more?” He began to force her hand back toward the sunlight. It had already begun to heal, the red, blistered skin fading to pink.

“No!” She gasped, coughed, and began to tremble, her whole body spasming. After a moment he realized she was laughing-laughing up at him through the blood. “That made me feel alive, little Nephilim. A good fight like that-I should thank you. ”

“Thank me by giving me the answer to my question,” Alec said, panting. “Or Ill ash you. Im sick of your games. ”

Her lips stretched into a smile. Her cuts had healed already, though her face was still bloody. “There is no way to make you immortal. Not without black magic or turning you into a vampire, and you have rejected both options. ”

“But you said-you said there was another way we could be together-”

“Oh, there is. ” Her eyes danced. “You may not be able to give yourself immortality, little Nephilim, at least not on any terms that would be acceptable to you. But you can take Magnuss away. ”

Clary sat in her bedroom at Lukes, a pen clutched in her hand, a piece of paper spread out on the desk in front of her. The sun had gone down, and the desk light was on, blazing down on the rune she had just begun.

It had started to come to her on the L train home as shed stared unseeingly out the window. It was nothing that had ever existed before, and she had rushed home from the station while the image was still fresh in her mind, brushing away her mothers inquiries, closing herself in her room, putting pen to paper-

A knock came on the door. Quickly Clary slid the paper she was drawing on under a blank sheet as her mother came into the room.

“I know, I know,” Jocelyn said, holding up a hand against Clarys protest. “You want to be left alone. But Luke made dinner, and you should eat. ”

Clary gave her mother a look. “So should you. ” Jocelyn, like her daughter, was given to loss of appetite under stress, and her face looked hollow. She should have been preparing for her honeymoon now, getting ready to pack her bags for somewhere beautiful and far away. Instead the wedding was postponed indefinitely, and Clary could hear her crying through the walls at night. Clary knew that kind of crying, born out of anger and guilt, a crying that said This is all my fault.

“Ill eat if you will,” Jocelyn said, forcing a smile. “Luke made pasta. ”

Clary turned her chair around, deliberately angling her body to block her mothers view of her desk. “Mom,” she said. “There was something I wanted to ask you. ”

“What is it?”

Clary bit the end of her pen, a bad habit shed had since she started to draw. “When I was in the Silent City with Jace, the Brothers told me that theres a ceremony performed on Shadowhunters at birth, a ceremony that protects them. That the Iron Sisters and the Silent Brothers have to perform it. And I was wondering. . . ”

“If the ceremony was ever performed on you?”

Clary nodded.

Jocelyn exhaled and pushed her hands through her hair. “It was,” she said. “I arranged it through Magnus. A Silent Brother was present, someone sworn to secrecy, and a female warlock who took the place of the Iron Sister. I almost didnt want to do it. I didnt want to think you could be in danger from the supernatural after Id hidden you so carefully. But Magnus talked me into it, and he was right. ”

Clary looked at her curiously. “Who was the female warlock?”

“Jocelyn!” It was Luke calling from the kitchen. “The waters boiling over!”

Jocelyn dropped a quick kiss on Clarys head. “Sorry. Culinary emergency. See you in five?”

Clary nodded as her mother hurried from the room, then turned back to her desk. The rune she had been creating was still there, teasing the edge of her mind. She began to draw again, completing the design she had started. As she finished, she sat back and stared at what shed made. It looked a little like the Opening rune but wasnt. It was a pattern as simple as a cross and as new to the world as a just-born baby. It held a sleeping threat, a sense that it had been born out of her rage and guilt and impotent anger.

It was a powerful rune. But though she knew exactly what it meant and how it could be used, she couldnt think of a single way in which it could possibly be helpful in the current situation. It was like having your car break down on a lonely road, rooting desperately around in the trunk, and triumphantly pulling out an electrical extension cord instead of jumper cables.

She felt as if her own power was laughing at her. With a curse, she dropped her pen onto the desk and put her face in her hands.

The inside of the old hospital had been carefully whitewashed, lending an eerie glow to each of the surfaces. Most of the windows were boarded up, but even in the dim light Maias enhanced sight could pick out details-the sifted dusting of plaster along the bare hallway floors, the marks where construction lights had been put in, bits of wiring glued to the walls by clumps of paint, mice scrabbling in the darkened corners.

A voice spoke from behind her. “Ive searched the east wing. Nothing. What about you?”

Maia turned. Jordan stood behind her, wearing dark jeans and a black sweater half-zipped over a green T-shirt. She shook her head. “Nothing in the west wing either. Some pretty rickety staircases. Nice architectural detailing, if that sort of thing interests you. ”

He shook his head. “Lets get out of here, then. This place gives me the creeps. ”

Maia agreed, relieved not to be the one who had to say it. She fell into step beside Jordan as they made their way down a set of stairs whose banister was so flaked with crumbling plaster that it resembled snow. She wasnt sure why exactly shed agreed to patrol with him, but she couldnt deny that they made a decent team.

Jordan was easy to be with. Despite what had happened between them just before Jace had disappeared, he was respectful, keeping his distance without making her feel awkward. The moonlight was bright on both of them as they came out of the hospital and into the open space in front of it. It was a great white marble building whose boarded-over windows looked like blank eyes. A crooked tree, shedding its last leaves, hunched before the front doors.

“Well, that was a waste of time,” said Jordan. Maia looked over at him. He was staring at the old naval hospital, which was how she preferred it. She liked looking at Jordan when he wasnt looking at her. That way she could watch the angle of his jawline, the way his dark hair curled against the back of his neck, the curve of his collarbone under the V of his T-shirt, without feeling like he expected anything from her for looking.

Hed been a pretty hipster boy when shed met him, all angles and eyelashes, but he was older-looking now, with scarred knuckles and muscles that moved smoothly under his close-fitting green T-shirt. He still had the olive tone to his skin that echoed his Italian heritage, and the hazel eyes she remembered, though they had the gold-ringed pupils of lycanthropy now. The same pupils she saw when she looked in the mirror every morning. The pupils she had because of him.

“Maia?” He was looking at her quizzically. “What do you think?”

“Oh. ” She blinked. “I, ah-No, I dont think there was much point in searching the hospital. I mean, to be honest, I cant see why they sent us down here at all. The Brooklyn Navy Yard? Why would Jace be here? Its not like he had a thing for boats. ”

Jordans expression went from quizzical to something much darker. “When bodies wind up in the East River, a lot of times they wash up here. The navy yard. ”

“You think were looking for a body?”

“I dont know. ” With a shrug he turned and started walking. His boots rustled in the dry, choppy grass. “Maybe at this point Im just searching because it feels wrong to give up. ”

His pace was slow, unhurried; they walked shoulder to shoulder, nearly touching. Maia kept her eyes fixed on the Manhattan skyline across the river, a wash of brilliant white light reflecting in the water. As they neared the shallow Wallabout Bay, the arch of the Brooklyn Bridge came into view, and the lit-up rectangle of the South Street Seaport across the water. She could smell the polluted miasma of the water, the dirt and diesel of the navy yard, the scent of small animals moving in the grass.

“I dont think Jace is dead,” she said finally. “I think he doesnt want to be found. ”

At that, Jordan did look at her. “Are you saying we shouldnt be looking?”

“No. ” She hesitated. They had come out by the river, near a low wall; she trailed her hand along the top of it as they walked. There was a narrow strip of asphalt between them and the water. “When I ran away to New York, I didnt want to be found. But I would have liked the idea that someone was looking for me as hard as everyones looking for Jace Lightwood. ”

“Did you like Jace?” Jordans voice was neutral.

“Like him? Well, not like that. ”

Jordan laughed. “I didnt mean like that. Although, he seems to be generally considered stunningly attractive. ”

“Are you going to pull that straight-guy thing where you pretend that you cant tell whether other guys are attractive or not? Jace, the hairy guy at the deli on Ninth, they all look the same to you?”

“Well, the hairy guy has that mole, so I think Jace comes out slightly ahead. If you like that whole chiseled, blond, Abercrombie-and-Fitch-wishes-they-could-afford-me thing. ” He looked at her through his eyelashes.

“I always liked dark-haired boys,” she said in a low voice.

He looked at the river. “Like Simon. ”

“Well-yeah. ” Maia hadnt thought about Simon that way in a while. “I guess so. ”

“And you like musicians. ” He reached up and pulled a leaf off a low-hanging branch overhead. “I mean, Im a singer, and Bat was a DJ, and Simon-”

“I like music. ” Maia pushed her hair back from her face.

“What else do you like?” Jordan tore at the leaf in his fingers. He paused and hoisted himself up to sit on the low wall, swinging around to face her. “I mean, is there anything you like so much you think you might want to do it for, like, a living?”

She looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Do you remember when I got these?” He unzipped his sweater and shrugged it off. The shirt he wore underneath was short-sleeved. Wrapped around each of his biceps were the Sanskrit words of the Shanti Mantras. She remembered them well. Their friend Valerie had inked them, after hours, for free, in her tattoo shop in Red Bank. Maia took a step toward him. With him sitting and her standing, they were nearly eye to eye. She reached out and hesitantly ran her fingers around the letters inked on his left arm. His eyes fluttered shut at her touch.

“Lead us from the unreal to the real,” she read aloud. “Lead us from darkness to light. Lead us from death to immortality. ” His skin felt smooth under her fingertips. “From the Upanishads. ”

“They were your idea. You were the one who was always reading. You were the one who knew everything. . . . ” He opened his eyes and looked at her. His eyes were shades lighter than the water behind him. “Maia, whatever you want to do, Ill help you. Ive saved up a lot of my salary from the Praetor. I could give it to you. . . . It could cover your tuition to Stanford. Well, most of it. If you still wanted to go. ”

“I dont know,” she said, her mind whirling. “When I joined the pack, I thought you couldnt be a werewolf and anything else. I thought it was just about living in the pack, not really having an identity. I felt safer that way. But Luke, he has a life. He owns a bookstore. And you, youre in the Praetor. I guess. . . you can be more than one thing. ”

“You always have been. ” His voice was low, throaty. “You know, what you said earlier-that when you ran away you would have liked to think someone was looking for you. ” He took a deep breath. “I was looking for you. I never stopped. ”

She met his hazel eyes. He didnt move, but his hands, gripping his knees, were white-knuckled. Maia leaned forward, close enough to see the faint stubble along his jaw, to smell the scent of him, wolf-smell and toothpaste and boy. She placed her hands over his. “Well,” she said. “You found me. ”

Their faces were only inches away from each other. She felt his breath against her lips before he kissed her, and she leaned into it, her eyes closing. His mouth was as soft as she remembered, his lips brushing hers gently, sending shivers all through her. She raised her arms to wind them around his neck, to slide her fingers under his curling dark hair, to lightly touch the bare skin at the nape of his neck, the edge of the worn collar of his shirt.

He pulled her closer. He was shaking. She felt the heat of his strong body against hers as his hands slid down her back. “Maia,” he whispered. He started to lift the hem of her sweater, his fingers gripping the small of her back. His lips moved against hers. “I love you. I never stopped loving you. ”

Youre mine. Youll always be mine.

Her heart hammering, she jerked away from him, pulling her sweater down. “Jordan-stop. ”

He looked at her, his expression dazed and worried. “Im sorry. Was that not any good? I havent kissed anyone but you, not since. . . ” He trailed off.

She shook her head. “No, its just-I cant. ”

“All right,” he said. He looked very vulnerable, sitting there, dismay written all over his face. “We dont have to do anything-”

She groped for words. “Its just too much. ”

“It was only a kiss. ”

“You said you loved me. ” Her voice shook. “You offered to give me your savings. I cant take that from you. ”

“Which?” he said, hurt sparking in his voice. “My money, or the love part?”

“Either. I just cant, okay? Not with you, not right now. ” She started to back away. He was staring after her, his lips parted. “Dont follow me, please,” she said, and turned to hurry back the way they had come.

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