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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:18

It was Jace. “Sorry to startle you.”

“It’s fine.” She bent to retrieve the blanket.

“Actually, I’m not sorry,” he said. “That’s the most emotion I’ve seen from you in days.”

“I haven’t seen you in days.”

“And whose fault is that? I’ve called you. You don’t pick up the phone. And it’s not as if I could simply come see you. I’ve been in prison, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Not exactly prison.” She tried to sound light as she straightened up. “You’ve got Magnus to keep you company. And Gilligan’s Island.”

Jace suggested that the cast of Gilligan’s Island could do something anatomically unlikely with themselves.

Clary sighed. “Aren’t you supposed to be leaving with Magnus?”

His mouth twisted and she saw something fracture behind his eyes, a starburst of pain. “Can’t wait to get rid of me?”

“No.” She hugged the blanket against herself and stared down at his hands, unable to meet his eyes. His slender fingers were scarred and beautiful, with the faint white band of paler skin still visible where he had worn the Morgenstern ring on his right index finger. The yearning to touch him was so bad she wanted to let go of the blankets and scream. “I mean, no, it’s not that. I don’t hate you, Jace.”

“I don’t hate you, either.”

She looked up at him, relieved. “I’m glad to hear that—”

“I wish I could hate you,” he said. His voice was light, his mouth curved in an unconcerned half smile, his eyes sick with misery. “I want to hate you. I try to hate you. It would be so much easier if I did hate you. Sometimes I think I do hate you and then I see you and I—”

Her hands had grown numb with their grip on the blanket. “And you what?”

“What do you think?” Jace shook his head. “Why should I tell you everything about how I feel when you never tell me anything? It’s like banging my head on a wall, except at least if I were banging my head on a wall, I’d be able to make myself stop.”

Clary’s lips were trembling so violently that she found it hard to speak. “Do you think it’s easy for me?” she demanded. “Do you think—”

“Clary?” It was Simon, coming into the hallway with that new soundless grace of his, startling her so badly that she dropped the blanket again. She turned aside, but not fast enough to hide her expression from him, or the telltale shine in her eyes. “I see,” he said, after a long pause. “Sorry to interrupt.” He vanished back into the living room, leaving Clary staring after him through a wavering lens of tears.

“Damn it.” She turned on Jace. “What is it about you?” she said, with more savagery than she’d intended. “Why do you have to ruin everything?” She shoved the blanket at him hastily and darted out of the room after Simon.

He was already out the front door. She caught up to him on the porch, letting the front door bang shut behind her. “Simon! Where are you going?”

He turned around almost reluctantly. “Home. It’s late—I don’t want to get caught here with the sun coming up.”

Since the sun wasn’t coming up for hours, this struck Clary as a feeble excuse. “You know you’re welcome to stay and sleep here during the day if you want to avoid your mom. You can sleep in my room—”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Why not? I don’t understand why you’re going.”

He smiled at her. It was a sad smile with something else underneath. “You know what the worst thing I can imagine is?”

She blinked at him. “No.”

“Not trusting someone I love.”

She put her hand on his sleeve. He didn’t move away, but he didn’t respond to her touch, either. “Do you mean—”

“Yes,” he said, knowing what she was about to ask. “I mean you.”

“But you can trust me.”

“I used to think I could,” he said. “But I get the feeling you’d rather pine over someone you can never possibly be with than try being with someone you can.”

There was no point pretending. “Just give me time,” she said. “I just need some time to get over—to get over it all.”

“You’re not going to tell me I’m wrong, are you?” he said. His eyes looked very wide and dark in the dim porch light. “Not this time.”

“Not this time. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He turned away from her and her outstretched hand, heading for the porch steps. “At least it’s the truth.”

For whatever that’s worth. She shoved her hands into her pockets, watching him as he walked away from her until he was swallowed up by the darkness.

It turned out that Magnus and Jace weren’t leaving after all; Magnus wanted to spend a few more hours at the house to make sure that Maia and Luke were recovering as expected. After a few minutes of awkward conversation with a bored Magnus while Jace, sitting on Luke’s piano bench and industriously studying some sheet music, ignored her, Clary decided to go to bed early.

But sleep didn’t come. She could hear Jace’s soft piano playing through the walls, but that wasn’t what was keeping her awake. She was thinking of Simon, leaving for a house that no longer felt like home to him, of the despair in Jace’s voice as he said I want to hate you, and of Magnus, not telling Jace the truth: that Alec did not want Jace to know about his relationship because he was still in love with him. She thought of the satisfaction it would have brought Magnus to say the words out loud, to acknowledge what the truth was, and the fact that he hadn’t said them—had let Alec go on lying and pretending—because that was what Alec wanted, and Magnus cared about Alec enough to give him that. Maybe it was true what the Seelie Queen had said, after all: Love made you a liar.

A HOST OF REBEL ANGELS

THERE ARE THREE DISTINCT SECTIONS TO RAVEL’S GASPARD de la Nuit; Jace had played his way through the first when he got up from the piano, went into the kitchen, picked up Luke’s phone, and made a single call. Then he went back to the piano and the Gaspard.

He was halfway through the third section when he saw a light sweep across Luke’s front lawn. It cut off a moment later, plunging the view from the front window into darkness, but Jace was already on his feet and reaching for his jacket.

He closed Luke’s front door behind him soundlessly and loped down the front steps two at a time. On the lawn by the footpath was a motorcycle, the engine still rumbling. It had a weirdly organic look to it: Pipes like ropy veins wound up and over the chassis, and the single headlight, now dim, resembled a gleaming eye. In a way, it looked as alive as the boy who was leaning against the cycle, looking at Jace curiously. He was wearing a brown leather jacket and his dark hair curled down to the collar of it and fell over his narrowed eyes. He was grinning, exposing pointed white teeth. Of course, Jace thought, neither the boy nor the motorcycle was really alive; they both ran on demon energies, fed by the night.

“Raphael,” Jace said, by way of greeting.

“You see,” Raphael said, “I have brought it, as you asked me to.”

“Though, I might add, I have been very curious as to why you should want such a thing as a demonic motorcycle. They are not exactly Covenant, for one thing, and for another, it is rumored you already have one.”

“I do have one,” Jace admitted, circling the cycle so as to examine it from all angles. “But it’s on the roof of the Institute, and I can’t get to it right now.”

Raphael chuckled softly. “It seems we’re both unwelcome at the Institute.”

“You bloodsuckers still on the Most Wanted list?”

Raphael leaned to the side and spit, delicately, onto the ground. “They accuse us of murders,” he said angrily. “The death of the were-creature, the faerie, even the warlock, though I have told them we do not drink warlock blood. It is bitter and can work strange changes in those who consume it.”

“You told Maryse this?”

“Maryse.” Raphael’s eyes glittered. “I could not speak with her if I wanted to. All decisions are made through the Inquisitor now, all inquiries and requests routed through her. It is a bad situation, friend, a bad situation.”

“You’re telling me,” said Jace. “And we’re not friends. I agreed not to tell the Clave what happened with Simon because I needed your help. Not because I like you.”

Raphael grinned, his teeth flashing white in the dark. “You like me.” He tilted his head to the side. “It is odd,” he reflected. “I would have thought you would seem different now that you are in disgrace with the Clave. No longer their favored son. I thought some of that arrogance might have been beaten out of you. But you are just the same.”

“I believe in consistency,” Jace said. “Are you going to let me have the bike, or not?”

“I take it that means you’re not going to give me a ride home?” Raphael moved gracefully away from the motorcycle; as he moved, Jace caught the bright glint of the gold chain around his throat.

“Nope.” Jace climbed onto the bike. “But you can sleep in the cellar under the house if you’re worried about sunrise.”

“Mmm.” Raphael seemed thoughtful; he was a few inches shorter than Jace, and though he looked younger physically, his eyes were much older. “So are we even for Simon now, Shadowhunter?”

Jace gunned the bike, turning it toward the river. “We’ll never be even, bloodsucker, but at least this is a start.”

Jace hadn’t ridden a cycle since the weather had changed, and he was caught short by the icy wind that arced off the river, piercing his thin jacket and the denim of his jeans with dozens of ice-tipped needles of cold. Jace shivered, glad that at least he had worn leather gloves to protect his hands.

The world seemed leached of color. The river was the color of steel, the sky gray as a dove, the horizon a thick black painted line in the distance. Lights winked and glittered along the spans of the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. The air tasted of snow, though winter was months away.

The last time he’d flown over the river, Clary had been with him, her arms around him and her small hands bunched in the material of his jacket. He hadn’t been cold then. He banked the cycle viciously and felt it lurch sideways; he thought he saw his own shadow flung against the water, tilted crazily to the side. As he righted himself, he saw it: a ship with black metal sides, unmarked and almost lightless, its prow a narrow blade scything the water ahead. It reminded him of a shark, lean and quick and deadly.

He braked and drifted carefully downward, soundless, a leaf caught in a tide. He didn’t feel as if he were falling, more as if the ship were lifting itself to meet him, buoyed on a rising current. The wheels of the cycle touched down onto the deck and he glided slowly to a stop. There was no need to cut the engine; he swung his legs off the cycle and its rumble subsided to a growl, then a purr, then silence. When he glanced back at it, it looked a little as if it were glowering at him, like an unhappy dog after being told to stay.

He grinned at it. “I’ll be back for you,” he said. “I’ve got to check out this boat first.”

There was a lot to check out. He was standing on a wide deck, the water to his left. Everything was painted black: the deck, the metal guardrail that encircled it; even the windows in the long, narrow cabin were blacked out. The boat was bigger than he’d expected it to be: probably the length of a football field, maybe more. It wasn’t like any ship he’d ever seen before: too big to be a yacht, too small to be a naval vessel, and he’d never seen a ship where everything was painted black. Jace wondered where his father had gotten it.

Leaving the bike, he started a slow circuit around the deck. The clouds had cleared and the stars shone down, impossibly bright. He could see the city illuminated on both sides of him as if he stood in an empty narrow-walled passage made of light. His boots echoed hollowly against the deck. He wondered suddenly if Valentine was even here. Jace had rarely been anywhere that seemed so thoroughly deserted.

He paused for a moment at the bow of the boat, looking out over the river that sliced between Manhattan and Long Island like a scar. The water was churned to gray peaks, lashed with silver along their tops, and a strong and steady wind was blowing, the kind of wind that blew only across water. He stretched his arms out and let the wind take his jacket and blow it back like wings, whip his hair across his face, sting his eyes to tears.

There had been a lake by the manor house in Idris. His father had taught him to sail on it, taught him the language of wind and water, of buoyancy and air. All men should know how to sail, he had said. It was one of the few times he’d ever spoken like that, saying all men and not all Shadowhunters. It was a brief reminder that whatever else Jace might be, he was still part of the human race.

Turning away from the bow with his eyes stinging, Jace saw a door set into the wall of the cabin between two blacked-out windows. Crossing the deck quickly, he tried the handle; it was locked. With his stele, he carved a quick set of Opening runes into the metal and the door swung open, the hinges shrieking in protest and shedding red flakes of rust. Jace ducked under the low doorway and found himself in a dimly lit metal stairwell. The air smelled of rust and disuse. He took another step forward and the door shut behind him with an echoing metallic slam, plunging him into darkness.

He swore, feeling for the witchlight rune-stone in his pocket. His gloves felt suddenly clunky, his fingers stiff with cold. He was colder inside than he had been out on the deck. The air was like ice. He drew his hand out of his pocket, shivering, and not just from the temperature. The hair along the back of his neck was prickling, his every nerve screaming. Something was wrong.