She shut her eyes against the brightness of the sunrise, resting her elbows on the step above and behind her. For just a moment she let herself float in the fantasy that everything was as it had been, that nothing had changed, that she would meet Jace this afternoon for practice, or tonight for dinner, and he would hold her and make her laugh the way he always did.
Warm tendrils of sunlight touched her face. Reluctantly her eyes fluttered open.
And he was there, walking toward her up the steps, as soundless as a cat, as always. He wore a dark blue sweater that made his hair look like sunlight. She sat up straight, her heart pounding. The brilliant sunshine seemed to outline him in light. She thought of that night in Idris, how the fireworks had streaked across the sky and she had thought of angels, falling in fire.
He reached her and held his hands out; she took them, and let him pull her to her feet. His pale gold eyes searched her face. "I wasn't sure you'd be here."
"Since when have you not been sure of me?"
"You were pretty angry before." He cupped the side of her face in his hand. There was a rough scar across his palm; she could feel it against her skin.
"So if I hadn't been here, what would you have done?"
He drew her close. He was shivering too, and the wind was blowing his curling hair, messy and bright. "How is Luke?"
At the sound of Luke's name, another shudder went through her. Jace, thinking she was cold, pulled her more tightly against him. "He'll be all right," she said guardedly. It's your fault, your fault, your fault.
"I never meant for him to get hurt." Jace's arms were around her, his fingers tracing a slow line up and down her spine. "Do you believe me?"
"Jace... ," Clary said. "Why are you here?"
"To ask you again. To come with me."
She closed her eyes. "And you won't tell me where that is?"
"Faith," he said softly. "You have to have faith. But you also have to know-once you come with me, there's no going back. Not for a long time."
She thought of the moment when she'd stepped outside of Java Jones and seen him waiting for her there. Her life had changed in that moment in a way that could never be undone.
"There never has been any going back," she said. "Not with you." She opened her eyes. "We should go."
He smiled, as brilliant as the sun coming out from behind the clouds, and she felt his body relax. "You're sure?"
He leaned forward and kissed her. Reaching up to hold him, she tasted something bitter on his lips; then darkness came down like a curtain signaling the end of the act of a play.
Chapter 8 : Fire Tests Gold
Certain Dark Things
I love you as one loves certain dark things
-Pablo Neruda, "Sonnet XVII"
FIRE TESTS GOLD
Maia had never been to Long Island, but when she thought of it at all, she'd always thought of it as being a lot like New Jersey-mostly suburban, a place where people who worked in New York or Philly actually lived.
She had dropped her bag into the back of Jordan's truck-startlingly unfamiliar. He'd driven a beaten-up red Toyota when they'd been dating, and it had always been littered with old, crumpled coffee cups and fast-food bags, the ashtray full of cigarettes smoked down to the filter. The cab of this truck was comparatively clean, the only detritus a stack of papers on the passenger seat. He moved them aside with no comment as she climbed in.
They hadn't spoken through Manhattan and onto the Long Island Expressway, and eventually Maia had dozed, her cheek against the cool glass of the window. She'd finally woken when they'd gone over a bump in the road, jolting her forward. She'd blinked, rubbing at her eyes.
"Sorry," Jordan had said ruefully. "I was going to let you sleep until we got there."
She'd sat up, looking around. They'd been driving down a two-lane blacktop road, the sky around them just beginning to lighten. There were fields on either side of the road, the occasional farmhouse or silo, clapboard houses set far back with picket fences around them.
"It's pretty," she'd said in surprise.
"Yeah." Jordan had changed gears, clearing his throat. "Since you're up anyway... Before we get to the Praetor House, can I show you something?"
She'd hesitated only a moment before nodding. And now here they were, bumping down a one-lane dirt road, trees on either side. Most were leafless; the road was muddy, and Maia cranked the window down to smell the air. Trees, salt water, softly decaying leaves, small animals running through the high grass. She took another deep breath just as they bumped off the road and onto a small circular turnaround space. In front of them was the beach, stretching down to dark steel-blue water. The sky was almost lilac.
She looked over at Jordan. He was staring straight ahead. "I used to come here while I was training at the Praetor House," he said. "Sometimes just to look at the water and clear my head. The sunrises here... Every one is different, but they're all beautiful."
He didn't look at her. "Yeah?"
"I'm sorry about before. About running off, you know, in the navy yard."
"It's fine." He let his breath out slowly, but she could tell by the tension in his shoulders, his hand gripping the gearshift, that it wasn't, not really. She tried not to look at the way the tension shaped the muscles in his arm, accenting the indentation of his bicep. "It was a lot for you to take in; I get that. I just..."
"I think we should take it slow. Work toward being friends."
"I don't want to be friends," he said.
She couldn't hide her surprise. "You don't?"
He moved his hands from the gearshift to the steering wheel. Warm air poured from the heater inside the car, mixing with the cooler air outside Maia's open window. "We shouldn't talk about this now."
"I want to," she said. "I want to talk about it now. I don't want to be stressing about us when we're in the Praetor House."
He slid down in his seat, chewing his lip. His tangled brown hair fell forward over his forehead. "Maia..."
"If you don't want to be friends, then what are we? Enemies again?"
He turned his head, his cheek against the back of the car seat. Those eyes, they were just as she remembered, hazel with flecks of green and blue and gold. "I don't want to be friends," he said, "because I still love you. Maia, you know I haven't even so much as kissed anyone since we broke up?"
"Wanted to get drunk and talk about Simon." He took his hands off the steering wheel, reached for her, then dropped them back into his lap, a defeated look on his face. "I've only ever loved you. Thinking about you got me through my training. The idea that I might be able to make it up to you someday. And I will, in any way that I can except for one."
"You won't be my friend."
"I won't be just your friend. I love you, Maia. I'm in love with you. I always have been. I always will be. Just being your friend would kill me."
She looked out toward the ocean. The rim of the sun was just showing above the water, its rays lighting the sea in shades of purple and gold and blue. "It's so beautiful here."
"That's why I used to come here. I couldn't sleep, and I'd watch the sun come up." His voice was soft.
"Can you sleep now?" She turned back to him.
He closed his eyes. "Maia... if you're going to say no, you don't want to be anything but friends with me,... just say it. Rip the Band-Aid off, okay?"
He looked braced, as if for a blow. His eyelashes cast shadows on his cheekbones. There were pale white scars on the olive skin of his throat, scars she had made. She unclipped her seat belt and scooted across the bench seat toward him. She heard his gasp of breath, but he didn't move as she leaned in and kissed his cheek. She inhaled the scent of him. Same soap, same shampoo, but no lingering scent of cigarettes. Same boy. She kissed across his cheek, to the corner of his mouth, and finally, edging even closer, set her mouth over his.
His lips opened under hers and he growled, low in his throat. Werewolves weren't gentle with each other, but his hands were light on her as he lifted her and set her on his lap, wrapping his arms around her as their kiss deepened. The feel of him, the warmth of his corduroy-covered arms around her, the beat of his heart, the taste of his mouth, the clash of lips, teeth, and tongue, stole her breath. Her hands slipped around the back of his neck, and she melted against him as she felt the soft thick curls of his hair, exactly the same as it had always been.
When they finally drew apart, his eyes were glassy. "I've been waiting for that for years."
She traced the line of his collarbone with a finger. She could feel her own heart beating. For a few moments they hadn't been two werewolves on a mission to a deadly secret organization-they'd been two teenagers, making out in a car on the beach. "Did it live up to your expectations?"
"It was much better." His mouth crooked up at the corner. "Does this mean..."
"Well," she said. "That's not the sort of thing you do with your friends, right?"
"Isn't it? I'll have to tell Simon. He's going to be seriously disappointed."
"Jordan." She hit him lightly in the shoulder, but she was smiling, and so was he, an uncharacteristically big, goofy grin spreading over his face. She bent close and put her face against the crook of his neck, breathing him in along with the morning.
They were battling across the frozen lake, the icy city glowing like a lamp in the distance. The angel with the golden wings and the angel with the wings like black fire. Clary stood on the ice as blood and feathers fell around her. The golden feathers burned like fire where they touched her skin, but the black feathers were as cold as ice.
Clary awoke with her heart pounding, tangled in a knot of blankets. She sat up, pushing the blankets to her waist. She was in an unfamiliar room. The walls were white plaster, and she was lying in a bed made of black wood, still wearing the clothes she'd worn the night before. She slid out of the bed, her bare feet hitting the cold stone floor, and looked around for her backpack.
She found it easily, propped on a black leather chair. There were no windows in the room; the only light came from a pendant glass light fixture overhead made of cut black glass. She swept her hand through the pack and realized to her annoyance, although without surprise, that someone had already gone through the contents. Her art box was gone, including her stele. All that remained was her hairbrush and a change of jeans and underwear. At least the gold ring was still on her finger.
She touched it lightly and thought at Simon. I'm in.
There was no response. She swallowed back her uneasiness. She had no idea where she was, what time it was, or how long she'd been out cold. Simon could be asleep. She couldn't panic and assume the rings didn't work. She had to go on autopilot. Check out where she was, learn what she could. She'd try Simon again later.
She took a deep breath and tried to focus on her immediate surroundings. Two doors led off the bedroom. She tried the first, and found that it opened onto a small glass-and-chrome bathroom with a copper claw-footed bathtub. There were no windows in here either. She showered quickly and dried herself with a fluffy white towel, then changed into clean jeans and a sweater before padding back into the bedroom, picking up her shoes, and trying the second door.
Bingo. Here was the rest of the-house? Apartment? She was in a large room, half of which was devoted to a long glass table. More of the black pendant cut-glass lights hung from the ceiling, sending dancing shadows against the walls. Everything was very modern, from the black leather chairs to the large fireplace, framed in washed chrome. There was a fire blazing in it. So someone else must be home, or must have been very recently.
The other half of the room was taken up with a large television screen, a glossy black coffee table on which were scattered games and controllers, and low leather couches. A set of glass stairs led upward in a spiral. After a glance around Clary began to climb them. The glass was perfectly clear, and lent the impression that she was climbing an invisible staircase into the sky.
The second floor was much like the first-pale walls, black floor, a long corridor with doors opening off it. The first door led into what was clearly a master bedroom. A huge rosewood bed, hung with gauzy white curtains, took up most of the space. There were windows in here, tinted a dark blue. Clary went across the room to look out.
She wondered for a moment if she was back in Alicante. She was looking across a canal at another building, its windows covered in closed green shutters. The sky above was gray, the canal a dark greenish-blue, and there was a bridge visible just at her right, crossing the canal. Two people were standing on the bridge. One of them held a camera to his face and was industriously taking photos. Not Alicante, then. Amsterdam? Venice? She looked everywhere for a way to open the window, but there didn't appear to be one; she banged on the glass and shouted, but the bridge-crossers took no notice. After a few moments they moved on.
Clary turned back into the bedroom and went to one of the wardrobes, and threw it open. Her heart skipped a beat. The wardrobe was full of clothes-women's clothes. Gorgeous dresses-lace and satin and beads and flowers. The drawers held camisoles and underwear, tops in cotton and silk, skirts but no jeans or pants. There were even shoes lined up, sandals and heels, and folded pairs of stockings. For a moment she just stared, wondering if there were another girl staying here, or if Sebastian had taken to cross-dressing. But the clothes all had the tags on them, and all of them were near her size. Not only that, she realized slowly, staring. They were exactly the shapes and colors that would suit her-blues and greens and yellows, cut for a petite frame. Eventually she drew out one of the simpler tops, a dark green cap-sleeved blouse with silk lacing up the front. After discarding her worn top on the floor, she shrugged the blouse on and glanced at the mirror hanging inside the wardrobe.
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