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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:09

She set the glass down on the table beside her. It was empty. “And you answer questions with questions to throw me off, just like Valentine always did. Maybe I should have known.”

“Maybe nothing. I’m still exactly the same person I’ve been for the past seven years. Nothing’s changed about me. If I didn’t remind you of Valentine before, I don’t see why I would now.”

Her glance moved over him and away as if she couldn’t bear to look directly at him. “Surely when we talked about Michael, you must have known we couldn’t possibly have meant your father. The things we said about him could never have applied to Valentine.”

“You said he was a good man.” Anger twisted inside him. “A brave Shadowhunter. A loving father. I thought that seemed accurate enough.”

“What about photographs? You must have seen photographs of Michael Wayland and realized he wasn’t the man you called your father.” She bit her lip. “Help me out here, Jace.”

“All the photographs were destroyed in the Uprising. That’s what you told me. Now I wonder if it wasn’t because Valentine had them all burned so nobody would know who was in the Circle. I never had a photograph of my father,” Jace said, and wondered if he sounded as bitter as he felt.

Maryse put a hand to her temple and massaged it as if her head were aching. “I can’t believe this,” she said, as if to herself. “It’s insane.”

“So don’t believe it. Believe me,” Jace said, and felt the tremor in his hands increase.

She dropped her hand. “Don’t you think I want to?” she demanded, and for a moment he heard the echo in her voice of the Maryse who’d come into his bedroom at night when he was ten years old and staring dry-eyed at the ceiling, thinking of his father—and she’d sat by the bed with him until he’d fallen asleep just before dawn.

“I didn’t know,” Jace said again. “And when he asked me to come with him back to Idris, I said no. I’m still here. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

She turned to look back at the decanter, as if considering another drink, then seemed to discard the idea. “I wish it did,” she said. “But there are so many reasons your father might want you to remain at the Institute. Where Valentine is concerned, I can’t afford to trust anyone his influence has touched.”

“His influence touched you,” Jace said, and instantly regretted it at the look that flashed across her face.

“And I repudiated him,” said Maryse. “Have you? Could you?” Her blue eyes were the same color as Alec’s, but Alec had never looked at him like this. “Tell me you hate him, Jace. Tell me you hate that man and everything he stands for.”

A moment passed, and another, and Jace, looking down, saw that his hands were so tightly fisted that the knuckles stood out white and hard like the bones in a fish’s spine. “I can’t say that.”

Maryse sucked in her breath. “Why not?”

“Why can’t you say that you trust me? I’ve lived with you almost half my life. Surely you must know me better than that?”

“You sound so honest, Jonathan. You always have, even when you were a little boy trying to pin the blame for something you’d done wrong on Isabelle or Alec. I’ve only ever met one person who could sound as persuasive as you.”

Jace tasted copper in his mouth. “You mean my father.”

“There were only ever two kinds of people in the world for Valentine,” she said. “Those who were for the Circle and those who were against it. The latter were enemies, and the former were weapons in his arsenal. I saw him try to turn each of his friends, even his own wife, into a weapon for the Cause—and you want me to believe he wouldn’t have done the same with his own son?” She shook her head. “I knew him better than that.” For the first time, Maryse looked at him with more sadness than anger. “You are an arrow shot directly into the heart of the Clave, Jace. You are Valentine’s arrow. Whether you know it or not.”

Clary shut the bedroom door on the blaring TV and went to look for Simon. She found him in the kitchen, bent over the sink with the water running. His hands were braced on the draining board.

“Simon?” The kitchen was a bright, cheerful yellow, the walls decorated with framed chalk and pencil sketches Simon and Rebecca had done in grade school. Rebecca had some drawing talent, you could tell, but Simon’s sketches of people all looked like parking meters with tufts of hair.

He didn’t look up now, though she could tell by the tightening of his shoulder muscles that he’d heard her. She went over to the sink, laying a hand lightly on his back. She felt the sharp nubs of his spine through the thin cotton T-shirt and wondered if he’d lost weight. She couldn’t tell by looking at him, but looking at Simon was like looking in a mirror—when you saw someone every day, you didn’t always notice small changes in their outward appearance. “Are you okay?”

He turned the water off with a hard jerk of his wrist. “Sure. I’m fine.”

She laid a finger against the side of his chin and turned his face toward her. He was sweating, the dark hair that lay across his forehead stuck to his skin, though the air coming through the half-open kitchen window was cool. “You don’t look fine. Was it the movie?”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have laughed, it’s just—”

“You don’t remember?” His voice sounded hoarse.

“I…” Clary trailed off. That night, looking back, seemed a long haze of running, of blood and sweat, of shadows glimpsed in doorways, of falling through space. She remembered the white faces of the vampires, like paper cutouts against the darkness, and remembered Jace holding her, shouting hoarsely into her ear. “Not really. It’s a blur.”

His gaze flicked past her and then back. “Do I seem different to you?” he asked.

She raised her eyes to his. His were the color of black coffee—not really black, but a rich brown without a touch of gray or hazel. Did he seem different? There might have been an extra touch of confidence in the way he held himself since the day he’d killed Abbadon, the Greater Demon; but there was also a wariness about him, as if he were waiting or watching for something. It was something she had noticed about Jace as well. Perhaps it was only the awareness of mortality. “You’re still Simon.”

He half-closed his eyes as if in relief, and as his eyelashes lowered, she saw how angular his cheekbones looked. He had lost weight, she thought, and was about to say so when he leaned down and kissed her.

She was so surprised at the feel of his mouth on hers that she went rigid all over, grabbing for the edge of the draining board to support herself. She did not, however, push him away, and clearly taking this as a sign of encouragement, Simon slid his hand behind her head and deepened the kiss, parting her lips with his. His mouth was soft, softer than Jace’s had been, and the hand that cupped her neck was warm and gentle. He tasted like salt.

She let her eyes fall shut and for a moment floated dizzily in the darkness and the heat, the feel of his fingers moving through her hair. When the harsh ring of the telephone cut through her daze, she jumped back as if he’d pushed her away, though he hadn’t moved. They stared at each other for a moment, in wild confusion, like two people finding themselves suddenly transported to a strange landscape where nothing was familiar.

Simon turned away first, reaching for the phone that hung on the wall beside the spice rack. “Hello?” He sounded normal, but his chest was rising and falling fast. He held the receiver out to Clary. “It’s for you.”

Clary took the phone. She could still feel the pounding of her heart in her throat, like the fluttering wings of an insect trapped under her skin. It’s Luke, calling from the hospital. Something’s happened to my mother.

She swallowed. “Luke? Is it you?”

“Isabelle?” Clary looked up and saw Simon watching her, leaning against the sink. The flush on his cheeks had faded. “Why are you—I mean, what’s up?”

There was a hitch in the other girl’s voice, as if she’d been crying. “Is Jace there?”

Clary actually held out the phone so she could stare at it before bringing the receiver back to her ear. “Jace? No. Why would he be here?”

Isabelle’s answering breath echoed down the phone line like a gasp. “The thing is … he’s gone.”

MAIA HAD NEVER TRUSTED BEAUTIFUL BOYS, WHICH WAS why she hated Jace Wayland the first time she ever laid eyes on him.

Her older brother, Daniel, had been born with her mother’s honey-colored skin and huge dark eyes, and he’d turned out to be the sort of person who lit the wings of butterflies on fire to watch them burn and die as they flew. He’d tormented her as well, in small and petty ways at first, pinching her where the bruises wouldn’t show, switching the shampoo in her bottle for bleach. She’d gone to her parents but they hadn’t believed her. No one had, looking at Daniel; they’d confused beauty with innocence and harmlessness. When he broke her arm in ninth grade, she ran away from home, but her parents brought her back. In tenth grade, Daniel was knocked down in the street by a hit-and-run driver and killed instantly. Standing next to her parents at the graveside, Maia had been ashamed by her own overwhelming sense of relief. God, she thought, would surely punish her for being glad that her brother was dead.

The next year, He did. She met Jordan. Long dark hair, slim hips in worn jeans, indie-boy rocker shirts and lashes like a girl’s. She never thought he’d go for her—his type usually preferred skinny, pale girls in hipster glasses—but he seemed to like her rounded shape. He told her she was beautiful in between kisses. The first few months were like a dream; the last few months like a nightmare. He became possessive, controlling. When he was angry with her, he’d snarl and whip the back of his hand across her cheek, leaving a mark like too much blusher. When she tried to break up with him, he pushed her, knocked her down in her own front yard before she ran inside and slammed the door.

Later, she let him see her kissing another boy, just to get the point across that it was over. She didn’t even remember that boy’s name anymore. What she did remember was walking home that night, the rain misting her hair in fine droplets, mud splattering up the legs of her jeans as she took a shortcut through the park near her house. She remembered the dark shape exploding out from behind the metal merry-go-round, the huge wet wolf body knocking her into the mud, the savage pain as its jaws clamped down on her throat. She’d screamed and thrashed, tasting her own hot blood in her mouth, her brain screaming: This is impossible. Impossible. There weren’t wolves in New Jersey, not in her ordinary suburban neighborhood, not in the twenty-first century.

Her cries brought lights on in the nearby houses, one after another of the windows lighting up like struck matches. The wolf let her go, its jaws trailing ribbons of blood and torn flesh.

Twenty-four stitches later, she was back in her pink bedroom, her mother hovering anxiously. The emergency room doctor had said the bite looked like a large dog’s, but Maia knew better. Before the wolf had turned to race away, she’d heard a hot, familiar whispered voice in her ear, “You’re mine now. You’ll always be mine.”

She never saw Jordan again—he and his parents packed up their apartment and moved, and none of his friends knew where he’d gone, or would admit they did. She was only half-surprised the next full moon when the pains started: tearing pains that ripped up and down her legs, forcing her to the ground, bending her spine the way a magician might bend a spoon. When her teeth burst out of her gums and rattled to the floor like spilled Chiclets, she fainted. Or thought she did. She woke up miles away from her house, naked and covered in blood, the scar on her throat pulsing like a heartbeat. That night she hopped the train to Manhattan. It wasn’t a hard decision. It was bad enough being biracial in her conservative suburban neighborhood. God knew what they’d do to a werewolf.

It hadn’t been that hard to find a pack to fall in with. There were several of them in Manhattan alone. She wound up with the downtown pack, the ones who slept in the old police station in Chinatown.

Pack leaders were mutable. There’d been Kito first, then Véronique, then Gabriel, and now Luke. She’d liked Gabriel all right, but Luke was better. He had a trustworthy look and kind blue eyes and wasn’t too handsome, so she didn’t dislike him on the spot. She was comfortable enough here with the pack, sleeping in the old police station, playing cards and eating Chinese food on nights when the moon wasn’t full, hunting through the park when it was, and the next day drinking off the hangover of the Change at the Hunter’s Moon, one of the city’s better underground werewolf bars. There was ale by the yard, and nobody ever carded you to see if you were under twenty-one. Being a lycanthrope made you grow up fast, and as long as you sprouted hair and fangs once a month, you were good to drink at the Moon, no matter how old you were in mundane years.

These days she hardly thought of her family at all, but when the blond boy in the long black coat stalked his way into the bar, Maia stiffened all over. He didn’t look like Daniel, not exactly—Daniel had had dark hair that curled close to the nape of his neck and honey skin, and this boy was all white and gold. But they had the same lean bodies, the same way of walking, like a panther on the lookout for prey, and the same total confidence in their own attraction. Her hand tightened convulsively around the stem of her glass and she had to remind herself: He’s dead. Daniel’s dead.

A rush of murmurs swept through the bar on the heels of the boy’s arrival, like the froth of a wave spreading out from the stern of a boat. The boy acted as if he didn’t notice anything, hooking a bar stool toward himself with a booted foot and settling onto it with his elbows on the bar. Maia heard him order a shot of single malt in the quiet that followed the murmurs. He downed half the drink with a neat flip of his wrist. The liquor was the same dark gold color as his hair. When he lifted his hand to set the glass back down on the bar, Maia saw the thick coiling black Marks on his wrists and the backs of his hands.