“Your hair,” Isabelle said. “It needs fixing. Desperately. Sit.” She pointed imperiously toward the vanity table. Clary sat, and squinched her eyes shut as Isabelle yanked her hair out of its braids—none too kindly—brushed it out, and shoved what felt like bobby pins into it. She opened her eyes just as a powder puff smacked her in the face, releasing a dense cloud of glitter. Clary coughed and glared at Isabelle accusingly.
The other girl laughed. “Don’t look at me. Look at yourself.”
Glancing in the mirror, Clary saw that Isabelle had pulled her hair up into an elegant swirl on the top of her head, held in place with sparkling pins. Clary was reminded suddenly of her dream, the heavy hair weighing her head down, dancing with Simon … She stirred restlessly.
“Don’t get up yet,” Isabelle said. “We’re not done.” She seized an eyeliner pen. “Open your eyes.”
Clary widened her eyes, which was good for keeping herself from crying. “Isabelle, can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” said Isabelle, wielding the eyeliner expertly.
“Is Alec gay?”
Isabelle’s wrist jerked. The eyeliner skidded, inking a long line of black from the corner of Clary’s eye to her hairline. “Oh, hell,” Isabelle said, putting the pen down.
“It’s all right,” Clary began, putting her hand up to her eye.
“No, it isn’t.” Isabelle sounded near tears as she scrabbled around among the piles of junk on top of the vanity. Eventually she came up with a cotton ball, which she handed to Clary. “Here. Use this.” She sat down on the edge of the bed, ankle bracelets jingling, and looked at Clary through her hair. “How did you guess?” she said finally.
“You absolutely can’t tell anyone,” said Isabelle.
“Not even Jace?”
“Especially not Jace!”
“All right.” Clary heard the stiffness in her own voice. “I guess I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.”
“It would be to my parents,” said Isabelle quietly. “They would disown him and throw him out of the Clave—”
“What, you can’t be gay and a Shadowhunter?”
“There’s no official rule about it. But people don’t like it. I mean, less with people our age—I think,” she added, uncertainly, and Clary remembered how few other people her age Isabelle had ever really met. “But the older generation, no. If it happens, you don’t talk about it.”
“Oh,” said Clary, wishing she’d never mentioned it.
“I love my brother,” said Isabelle. “I’d do anything for him. But there’s nothing I can do.”
“At least he has you,” said Clary awkwardly, and she thought for a moment of Jace, who thought of love as something that broke you into pieces. “Do you really think that Jace would … mind?”
“I don’t know,” said Isabelle, in a tone that indicated she’d had enough of the topic. “But it’s not my choice to make.”
“I guess not,” Clary said. She leaned in to the mirror, using the cotton Isabelle had given her to dab away the excess eye makeup. When she sat back, she nearly dropped the cotton ball in surprise: What had Isabelle done to her? Her cheekbones looked sharp and angular, her eyes deep-set, mysterious, and a luminous green.
“I look like my mom,” she said in surprise.
Isabelle raised her eyebrows. “What? Too middle-aged? Maybe some more glitter—”
“No more glitter,” Clary said hastily. “No, it’s good. I like it.”
“Great.” Isabelle bounced up off the bed, her anklets chiming. “Let’s go.”
“I need to stop by my room and grab something,” Clary said, standing up. “Also—do I need any weapons? Do you?”
“I’ve got plenty.” Isabelle smiled, kicking her feet up so that her anklets jingled like Christmas bells. “These, for instance. The left one is electrum, which is poisonous to demons, and the right one is blessed iron, in case I run across any unfriendly vampires or even faeries—faeries hate iron. They both have strength runes carved into them, so I can pack a hell of a kick.”
“Demon-hunting and fashion,” Clary said. “I never would have thought they went together.”
Isabelle laughed out loud. “You’d be surprised.”
* * *
The boys were waiting for them in the entryway. They were wearing black, even Simon, in a slightly too-big pair of black pants and his own shirt turned inside out to hide the band logo. He was standing uncomfortably to the side while Jace and Alec slouched together against the wall, looking bored. Simon glanced up as Isabelle strode into the entryway, her gold whip coiled around her wrist, her metal ankle chains chiming like bells. Clary expected him to look stunned—Isabelle did look amazing—but his eyes slid past her to Clary, where they rested with a look of astonishment.
“What is that?” he demanded, straightening up. “That you’re wearing, I mean.”
Clary looked down at herself. She’d thrown a light jacket on to make her feel less naked and grabbed her backpack from her room. It was slung over her shoulder, bumping familiarly between her shoulder blades. But Simon wasn’t looking at her backpack; he was looking at her legs as if he’d never seen them before.
“It’s a dress, Simon,” Clary said dryly. “I know I don’t wear them that much, but really.”
“It’s so short,” he said in confusion. Even half in demon hunter clothes, Clary thought, he looked like the sort of boy who’d come over to your house to pick you up for a date and be polite to your parents and nice to your pets.
Jace, on the other hand, looked like the sort of boy who’d come over to your house and burn it down for kicks. “I like the dress,” he said, unhitching himself from the wall. His eyes ran up and down her lazily, like the stroking paws of a cat. “It needs a little something extra, though.”
“So now you’re a fashion expert?” Her voice came out unevenly—he was standing very close to her, close enough that she could feel the warmth of him, smell the faint burned scent of newly applied Marks.
He took something out of his jacket and handed it to her. It was a long thin dagger in a leather sheath. The hilt of the dagger was set with a single red stone carved in the shape of a rose.
She shook her head. “I wouldn’t even know how to use that—”
He pressed it into her hand, curling her fingers around it. “You’d learn.” He dropped his voice. “It’s in your blood.”
She drew her hand back slowly. “All right.”
“I could give you a thigh sheath to put that in,” Isabelle offered. “I’ve got tons.”
“CERTAINLY NOT,” said Simon.
Clary shot him an irritated look. “Thanks, but I’m not really a thigh sheath kind of girl.” She slid the dagger into the outside pocket on her backpack.
She looked up from closing it to find Jace watching her through hooded eyes. “And one last thing,” he said. He reached over and pulled the sparkling pins out of her hair, so that it fell in warm and heavy curls down her neck. The sensation of hair tickling her bare skin was unfamiliar and oddly pleasant.
“Much better,” he said, and she thought this time that maybe his voice was slightly uneven too.
DEAD MAN’S PARTY
THE DIRECTIONS ON THE INVITATION TOOK THEM TO A LARGELY industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn whose streets were lined with factories and warehouses. Some, Clary could see, had been converted into lofts and galleries, but there was still something forbidding about their looming square shapes, boasting only a few windows covered in iron grilles.
They made their way from the subway station, Isabelle navigating with the Sensor, which seemed to have a sort of mapping system built in. Simon, who loved gadgets, was fascinated—or at least he was pretending it was the Sensor he was fascinated with. Hoping to avoid them, Clary lagged behind as they crossed through a scrubby park, its badly kept grass burned brown by the summer heat. To her right the spires of a church gleamed gray and black against the starless night sky.
“Keep up,” said an irritable voice in her ear. It was Jace, who had dropped back to walk beside her. “I don’t want to have to keep looking behind me to make sure nothing’s happened to you.”
“So don’t bother.”
“Last time I left you alone, a demon attacked you,” he pointed out.
“Well, I’d certainly hate to interrupt your pleasant night stroll with my sudden death.”
He blinked. “There is a fine line between sarcasm and outright hostility, and you seem to have crossed it. What’s up?”
She bit her lip. “This morning, weird creepy guys dug around in my brain. Now I’m going to meet the weird creepy guy who originally dug around in my brain. What if I don’t like what he finds?”
“What makes you think you won’t?”
Clary pulled her hair away from her sticky skin. “I hate it when you answer a question with a question.”
“No you don’t, you think it’s charming. Anyway, wouldn’t you rather know the truth?”
“No. I mean, maybe. I don’t know.” She sighed. “Would you?”
“This is the right street!” called Isabelle, a quarter of a block ahead. They were on a narrow avenue lined with old warehouses, though most now bore the signs of human residence: window boxes filled with flowers, lace curtains blowing in the clammy night breeze, numbered plastic trash cans stacked on the sidewalk. Clary squinted hard, but there was no way to tell if this was the street she’d seen at the Bone City—in her vision it had been nearly obliterated with snow.
She felt Jace’s fingers brush her shoulder. “Absolutely. Always,” he murmured.
She looked sideways at him, not understanding. “What?”
“The truth,” he said. “I would—”
“Jace!” It was Alec. He was standing on the pavement, not far away; Clary wondered why his voice had sounded so loud.
Jace turned, his hand falling away from her shoulder. “Yes?”
“Think we’re in the right place?” Alec was pointing at something Clary couldn’t see; it was hidden behind the bulk of a large black car.
“What’s that?” Jace joined Alec; Clary heard him laugh. Coming around the car, she saw what they were looking at: several motorcycles, sleek and silvery, with low-slung black chassis. Oily-looking tubes and pipes slithered up and around them, ropy as veins. There was a queasy sense of something organic about the bikes, like the bio-creatures in a Giger painting.
“Vampires,” Jace said.
“They look like motorcycles to me,” said Simon, joining them with Isabelle at his side. She frowned at the bikes.
“They are, but they’ve been altered to run on demon energies,” she explained. “Vampires use them—it lets them get around fast at night. It’s not strictly Covenant, but …”
“I’ve heard some of the bikes can fly,” said Alec eagerly. He sounded like Simon with a new video game. “Or go invisible at the flick of a switch. Or operate underwater.”
Jace had jumped down off the curb and was circling the bikes, examining them. He reached out a hand and stroked one of the bikes along the sleek chassis. It had words painted along the side, in silver: NOX INVICTUS. “‘Victorious night,’” he translated.
Alec was looking at him strangely. “What are you doing?”
Clary thought she saw Jace slide his hand back inside his jacket. “Nothing.”
“Well, hurry up,” said Isabelle. “I didn’t get this dressed up to watch you mess around in the gutter with a bunch of motorcycles.”
“They are pretty to look at,” said Jace, hopping back up on the pavement. “You have to admit that.”
“So am I,” said Isabelle, who didn’t look inclined to admit anything. “Now hurry up.”
Jace was looking at Clary. “This building,” he said, pointing at the red brick warehouse. “Is this the one?”
Clary exhaled. “I think so,” she said uncertainly. “They all look the same.”
“One way to find out,” said Isabelle, mounting the steps with a determined stride. The rest of them followed, crowding close to one another in the foul-smelling entryway. A naked bulb hung from a cord overhead, illuminating a large metal-bound door and a row of apartment buzzers along the left wall. Only one had a name written over it: BANE.
Isabelle pressed the buzzer. Nothing happened. She pressed it again. She was about to press it a third time when Alec caught her wrist. “Don’t be rude,” he said.
She glared at him. “Alec—”
The door flew open.
A slender man standing in the doorway regarded them curiously. It was Isabelle who recovered herself first, flashing a brilliant smile. “Magnus? Magnus Bane?”
“That would be me.” The man blocking the doorway was as tall and thin as a rail, his hair a crown of dense black spikes. Clary guessed from the curve of his sleepy eyes and the gold tone of his evenly tanned skin that he was part Asian. He wore jeans and a black shirt covered with dozens of metal buckles. His eyes were crusted with a raccoon mask of charcoal glitter, his lips painted a dark shade of blue. He raked a ring-laden hand through his spiked hair and regarded them thoughtfully. “Children of the Nephilim,” he said. “Well, well. I don’t recall inviting you.”
Isabelle took out her invitation and waved it like a white flag. “I have an invitation. These”—she indicated the rest of the group with a grand wave of her arm—“are my friends.”