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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:17

“And what about us? Do you want a vampire boyfriend?” He laughed bitterly. “Because I foresee many romantic picnics in our future. You, drinking a virgin pi?a colada. Me, drinking the blood of a virgin.”

“Think of it as a handicap,” Clary urged. “You just have to learn how to work your life around it. Lots of people do it.”

“I’m not sure I’m people. Not anymore.”

“You are to me,” she said. “Anyway, being human is overrated.”

“At least Jace can’t call me mundane anymore. What’s that you’re holding?” he asked, noticing the pamphlet, still rolled up in her left hand.

“Oh, this?” She held it up. “How to Come Out to Your Parents.”

He widened his eyes. “Something you want to tell me?”

“It’s not for me. It’s for you.” She handed it to him.

“I don’t have to come out to my mother,” said Simon. “She already thinks I’m gay because I’m not interested in sports and I haven’t had a serious girlfriend yet. Not that she knows about, anyway.”

“But you have to come out as a vampire,” Clary pointed out. “Luke thought maybe you could, you know, use one of the suggested speeches in the pamphlet, except use the word ‘undead’ instead of—”

“I get it, I get it.” Simon spread the pamphlet open. “Here, I’ll practice on you.” He cleared his throat. “Mom. I have something to tell you. I’m undead. Now, I know you may have some preconceived notions about the undead. I know you may not be comfortable with the idea of me being undead. But I’m here to tell you that the undead are just like you and me.” Simon paused. “Well, okay. Possibly more like me than you.”

“All right, all right.” He went on. “The first thing you need to understand is that I’m the same person I always was. Being undead isn’t the most important thing about me. It’s just part of who I am. The second thing you should know is that it isn’t a choice. I was born this way.” Simon squinted at her over the pamphlet. “Sorry, reborn this way.”

Clary sighed. “You’re not trying.”

“At least I can tell her you buried me in a Jewish cemetery,” Simon said, abandoning the pamphlet. “Maybe I should start small. Tell my sister first.”

“I’ll go with you if you want. Maybe I can help make them understand.”

He looked up at her, surprised, and she saw the cracks in his armor of bitter humor, and the fear that was underneath. “You’d do that?”

“I—” Clary began, and was cut off by a sudden deafening screech of tires and the sound of shattering glass. She leaped to her feet and raced to the window, Simon beside her. She yanked the curtain aside and stared out.

Luke’s pickup truck was pulled up onto the lawn, its motor grinding, dark strips of burned rubber laid across the sidewalk. One of the truck’s headlights was blazing; the other had been smashed and there was a dark stain across the front grille of the truck—and something humped, white and motionless lying underneath the front wheels. Bile rose in Clary’s throat. Had Luke run someone over? But no—impatiently she scraped the glamour from her vision as if she were scraping dirt from a window. The thing under Luke’s wheels wasn’t human. It was smooth, white, almost larval, and it twitched like a worm pinned to a board.

The driver’s side door of the truck burst open and Luke leaped out. Ignoring the creature pinned under his wheels, he dashed across the lawn toward the porch. Following him with her gaze, Clary saw that there was a dark shape sprawled in the shadows there. This shape was human—small, with light, braided hair—

“That’s that werewolf girl. Maia.” Simon sounded astonished. “What happened?”

“I don’t know.” Clary grabbed her stele off the top of a bookcase. They clattered down the steps, and dashed for the shadows where Luke crouched, his hands on Maia’s shoulders, lifting her and propping her gently against the side of the porch. Up close, Clary could see that the front of her shirt was torn and there was a gash in her shoulder, leaking a slow pulse of blood.

Simon stopped dead. Clary, nearly crashing into him, gave a gasp of surprise and shot him an angry look before she realized. The blood. He was afraid of it, afraid of looking at it.

“She’s all right,” said Luke, as Maia’s head rolled and she groaned. He slapped her cheek lightly and her eyes fluttered open. “Maia. Maia, can you hear me?”

She blinked and nodded, looking dazed. “Luke?” she whispered. “What happened?” She winced. “My shoulder—”

“Come on. I’d better get you inside.” Luke hoisted her in his arms, and Clary remembered that she’d always thought he was surprisingly strong for someone who worked in a bookstore. She’d put it down to all that hauling around of heavy boxes. Now she knew better. “Clary. Simon. Come on.”

They headed back inside, where Luke laid Maia down on the tattered gray velour couch. He sent Simon running for a blanket and Clary to the kitchen for a wet towel. When Clary returned, she found Maia propped up against one of the cushions, looking flushed and feverish. She was chattering rapidly and nervously to Luke, “I was coming across the lawn when—I smelled something. Something rotten, like garbage. I turned around and it hit me—”

“What hit you?” said Clary, handing Luke the towel.

Maia frowned. “I didn’t see it. It knocked me over and then—I tried to kick it off, but it was too fast—”

“I saw it,” said Luke, his voice flat. “I was driving up to the house and I saw you crossing the lawn—and then I saw it following you, in the shadows at your heels. I tried to yell out the window to you, but you didn’t hear me. Then it knocked you down.”

“What was following her?” asked Clary.

“It was a Drevak demon,” said Luke, his voice grim. “They’re blind. They track by smell. I drove the car up onto the lawn and crushed it.”

Clary glanced out the window at the truck. The thing that had been twitching under the wheels was gone, unsurprisingly—demons always returned to their home dimensions when they died. “Why would it attack Maia?” She dropped her voice as a thought occurred to her: “Do you think it was Valentine? Looking for werewolf blood for his spell? He got interrupted the last time—”

“I don’t think so,” Luke said, to her surprise. “Drevak demons aren’t bloodsuckers and they definitely couldn’t cause the kind of mayhem you saw in the Silent City. Mostly they’re spies and messengers. I think Maia just got in its way.” He bent to look at Maia, who was moaning softly, her eyes closed. “Can you pull your sleeve up so I can see your shoulder?”

The werewolf girl bit her lip and nodded, then reached over to roll up the sleeve of her sweater. There was a long gash just below her shoulder. Blood had dried to a crust on her arm. Clary sucked her breath in as she saw that the jagged red cut was lined with what looked like thin black needles poking grotesquely out of the skin.

Maia stared down at her arm in obvious horror. “What are those?”

“Drevak demons don’t have teeth; they have poisonous spines in their mouths,” Luke said. “Some of the spines have broken off in your skin.”

Maia’s teeth had begun to chatter. “Poison? Am I going to die?”

“Not if we work fast,” Luke reassured her. “I’m going to have to pull them out, though, and it’s going to hurt. Do you think you can handle it?”

Maia’s face was contorted into a grimace of pain. She managed to nod. “Just … get them out of me.”

“Get what out?” asked Simon, coming into the room with a rolled-up blanket. He dropped the blanket when he saw Maia’s arm, and took an involuntary step back. “What are those?”

“Squeamish about blood, mundane?” Maia said, with a small, twisted smile. Then she gasped. “Oh. It hurts—”

“I know,” Luke said, gently wrapping the towel around the lower part of her arm. From his belt he drew a thin-bladed knife. Maia took a look at the knife and squeezed her eyes shut.

“Do what you have to,” she said in a small voice. “But—I don’t want the others watching.”

“I understand.” Luke turned to Simon and Clary. “Go in the kitchen, both of you,” he said. “Call the Institute. Tell them what’s happened and have them send someone. They can’t send one of the Brothers, so preferably someone with medical training, or a warlock.” Simon and Clary stared at him, paralyzed by the sight of the knife and Maia’s slowly purpling arm. “Go!” he said, more sharply, and this time they went.


SIMON WATCHED CLARY AS SHE LEANED AGAINST THE refrigerator, biting her lip like she always did when she was upset. Often he forgot how small she was, how light-boned and fragile, but at times like this—times when he wanted to put his arms around her—he was restrained by the thought that holding her too hard might hurt her, especially now when he no longer knew his own strength.

Jace, he knew, didn’t feel that way. Simon had watched with a sick feeling in his stomach, unable to look away, as Jace had taken Clary in his arms and kissed her with such force Simon had thought one or the both of them might shatter. He’d held her as if he wanted to crush her into himself, as if he could fold the two of them into one person.

Of course Clary was strong, stronger than Simon gave her credit for. She was a Shadowhunter, with all that entailed. But that didn’t matter; what they had between them was still as fragile as a flickering candle flame, as delicate as eggshell—and he knew that if it shattered, if he somehow let it break and be destroyed, something inside him would shatter too, something that could never be fixed.

“Simon.” Her voice brought him back down to earth. “Simon, are you listening to me?”

“What? Yes, I am. Of course.” He leaned against the sink, trying to look as if he’d been paying attention. The tap was dripping, which momentarily distracted him again—each silvery drop of water seemed to shimmer, tear-shaped and perfect, just before it fell. Vampire sight was a strange thing, he thought. His attention kept getting caught by the most ordinary things—the glitter of water, the flowering cracks in a bit of pavement, the sheen of oil on a road—as if he’d never seen them before.

“Simon!” Clary said again, exasperated. He realized she was holding something pink and metallic out to him. Her new cell phone. “I said I want you to call Jace.”

That snapped him back to attention. “Me call him? He hates me.”

“No, he doesn’t,” she said, though he could tell from the look in her eyes that she only half-believed that. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk to him. Please?”

“Fine.” He took the phone from her and scrolled through to Jace’s number. “What do you want me to say?”

“Just tell him what happened. He’ll know what to do.”

Jace picked up the phone on the third ring, sounding out of breath. “Clary,” he said, startling Simon until he realized that of course Clary’s name would have popped up on Jace’s phone. “Clary, are you all right?”

Simon hesitated. There was a tone in Jace’s voice he’d never heard before, an anxious concern devoid of sarcasm or defense. Was that how he spoke to Clary when they were alone? Simon glanced at her; she was watching him with wide green eyes, biting unselfconsciously on her right index fingernail.

“Clary.” Jace again. “I thought you were avoiding me—”

A flash of irritation shot through Simon. You’re her brother, he wanted to shout down the phone line, that’s all. You don’t own her. You’ve got no right to sound so—so—

Brokenhearted. That was the word. Though he’d never thought of Jace as having a heart to break.

“You were right,” he said finally, his voice cold. “She still is. This is Simon.”

There was such a long silence that Simon wondered if Jace had dropped the phone.

“I’m here.” Jace’s voice was crisp and cool as autumn leaves, all vulnerability gone. “If you’re calling me up just to chat, you must be lonelier than I thought.”

“Believe me, I wouldn’t be calling you if I had a choice. I’m doing this because of Clary.”

“Is she all right?” Jace’s voice was still crisp and cool but with an edge to it now, autumn leaves frosted with a sheen of hard ice. “If something’s happened to her—”

“Nothing’s happened to her.” Simon fought to keep the anger out of his voice. As briefly as he could, he gave Jace a rundown of the night’s events and Maia’s resultant condition. Jace waited until he was done, then rapped out a set of short instructions. Simon listened in a daze and found himself nodding before realizing that of course Jace couldn’t see him. He began to speak and realized he was listening to silence; the other boy had hung up. Wordlessly, Simon flipped the phone shut and handed it to Clary. “He’s coming here.”

She sagged against the sink. “Now?”

“Now. Magnus and Alec will be with him.”

“Magnus?” she said dazedly, and then, “Oh, of course. Jace would have been at Magnus’s. I was thinking he was at the Institute, but of course he wouldn’t have been there. I—”

A harsh cry from the living room cut her off. Her eyes widened. Simon felt the hair on his neck stand up like wires. “It’s all right,” he said, as soothingly as he could. “Luke wouldn’t hurt Maia.”