“But it does.” There was a furious desperation in Jace’s expression. She could see the gleam of the silver chain around his bare throat, lit to a white flare by the starlight. “It explains everything.”
“You mean it explains why you’re such an amazing Shadowhunter? Why you’re loyal and fearless and honest and everything demons aren’t?”
“It explains,” he said, evenly, “why I feel the way I do about you.”
He was silent for a long moment, staring at her across the tiny space that separated them. She could feel him, even though he wasn’t touching her, as if he still lay with his body against hers. “You’re my sister,” he said finally. “My sister, my blood, my family. I should want to protect you”—he laughed soundlessly and without any humor—“to protect you from the sort of boys who want to do with you exactly what I want to do.”
Clary’s breath caught. “You said you just wanted to be my brother from now on.”
“I lied,” he said. “Demons lie, Clary. You know, there are some kinds of wounds you can get when you’re a Shadowhunter—internal injuries from demon poison. You don’t even know what’s wrong with you, but you’re bleeding to death slowly inside. That’s what it’s like, just being your brother.”
“I had to try. And I did.” His voice was lifeless. “But God knows, I don’t want anyone but you. I don’t even want to want anyone but you.” He reached out, trailed his fingers lightly through her hair, fingertips brushing her cheek. “Now at least I know why.”
Clary’s voice had sunk to a whisper. “I don’t want anyone but you, either.”
She was rewarded by the catch in his breathing. Slowly he drew himself up onto his elbows. Now he was looking down at her, and his expression had changed—there was a look on his face she’d never seen before, a sleepy, almost deadly light in his eyes. He let his fingers trail down her cheek to her lips, outlining the shape of her mouth with the tip of a finger. “You should probably,” he said, “tell me not to do this.”
She said nothing. She didn’t want to tell him to stop. She was tired of saying no to Jace—of never letting herself feel what her whole heart wanted her to feel. Whatever the cost.
He bent down, his lips against her cheek, brushing it lightly—and still that light touch sent shivers through her nerves, shivers that made her whole body tremble. “If you want me to stop, tell me now,” he whispered. When she still said nothing, he brushed his mouth against the hollow of her temple. “Or now.” He traced the line of her cheekbone. “Or now.” His lips were against hers. “Or—”
But she had reached up and pulled him down to her, and the rest of his words were lost against her mouth. He kissed her gently, carefully, but it wasn’t gentleness she wanted, not now, not after all this time, and she knotted her fists in his shirt, pulling him harder against her. He groaned softly, low in his throat, and then his arms circled her, gathering her against him, and they rolled over on the grass, tangled together, still kissing. There were rocks digging into Clary’s back, and her shoulder ached where she’d fallen from the window, but she didn’t care. All that existed was Jace; all she felt, hoped, breathed, wanted, and saw was Jace. Nothing else mattered.
Despite her coat, she could feel the heat of him burning through his clothes and hers. She tugged his jacket off, and then somehow his shirt was off too. Her fingers explored his body as his mouth explored hers: soft skin over lean muscle, scars like thin wires. She touched the star-shaped scar on his shoulder—it was smooth and flat, as if it were a part of his skin, not raised like his other scars. She supposed they were imperfections, these marks, but they didn’t feel that way to her; they were a history, cut into his body: the map of a life of endless war.
He fumbled with the buttons of her coat, his hands shaking. She didn’t think she’d ever seen Jace’s hands unsteady before. “I’ll do it,” she said, and reached for the last button herself; as she raised herself up, something cold and metallic struck her collarbone, and she gasped in surprise.
“What is it?” Jace froze. “Did I hurt you?”
“No. It was this.” She touched the silver chain around his neck. On its end hung a small silver circle of metal. It had bumped against her when she’d leaned forward. She stared at it now.
That ring—the weather-beaten metal with its pattern of stars—she knew that ring.
The Morgenstern ring. It was the same ring that had gleamed on Valentine’s hand in the dream the angel had showed them. It had been his, and he had given it to Jace, as it had always been passed along, father to son.
“I’m sorry,” Jace said. He traced the line of her cheek with his fingertip, a dreamlike intensity in his gaze. “I forgot I was wearing the damn thing.”
Sudden cold flooded Clary’s veins. “Jace,” she said, in a low voice. “Jace, don’t.”
“Don’t what? Don’t wear the ring?”
“No, don’t—don’t touch me. Stop for a second.”
His face went still. Questions had chased away the dreamlike confusion in his eyes, but he said nothing, just withdrew his hand.
“Jace,” she said again. “Why? Why now?”
His lips parted in surprise. She could see a dark line where he had bitten his bottom lip, or maybe she had bitten it. “Why what now?”
“You said there was nothing between us. That if we—if we let ourselves feel what we might want to feel, we’d be hurting everyone we care about.”
“I told you. I was lying.” His eyes softened. “You think I don’t want to—?”
“No,” she said. “No, I’m not stupid; I know that you do. But when you said that now you finally understand why you feel this way about me, what did you mean?”
Not that she didn’t know, she thought, but she had to ask, had to hear him say it.
Jace caught her wrists and drew her hands up to his face, lacing his fingers through hers. “You remember what I said to you at the Penhallows’ house?” he asked. “That you never think about what you do before you do it, and that’s why you wreck everything you touch?”
“No, I’d forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder.”
He barely seemed to notice the sarcasm in her voice. “I wasn’t talking about you, Clary. I was talking about me. That’s what I’m like.” He turned his face slightly and her fingers slid along his cheek. “At least now I know why. I know what’s wrong with me. And maybe—maybe that’s why I need you so much. Because if Valentine made me a monster, then I suppose he made you a sort of angel. And Lucifer loved God, didn’t he? So says Milton, anyway.”
Clary sucked in her breath. “I am not an angel. And you don’t even know that that’s what Valentine used Ithuriel’s blood for—maybe Valentine just wanted it for himself—”
“He said the blood was for ‘me and mine,’” Jace said quietly. “It explains why you can do what you can do, Clary. The Seelie Queen said we were both experiments. Not just me.”
“I’m not an angel, Jace,” she repeated. “I don’t return library books. I steal illegal music off the Internet. I lie to my mom. I am completely ordinary.”
“Not to me.” He looked down at her. His face hovered against a background of stars. There was nothing of his usual arrogance in his expression—she had never seen him look so unguarded, but even that unguardedness was mixed with a self-hatred that ran as deep as a wound. “Clary, I—”
“Get off me,” Clary said.
“What?” The desire in his eyes cracked into a thousand pieces like the shards of the Portal mirror at Renwick’s, and for a moment his expression was blankly astonished. She could hardly bear to look at him and still say no. Looking at him now—even if she hadn’t been in love with him, that part of her that was her mother’s daughter, that loved every beautiful thing for its beauty alone, would still have wanted him.
But, then, it was precisely because she was her mother’s daughter that it was impossible.
“You heard me,” she said. “And leave my hands alone.” She snatched them back, knotting them into tight fists to stop their shaking.
He didn’t move. His lip curled back, and for a moment she saw that predatory light in his eyes again, but now it was mixed with anger. “I don’t suppose you want to tell me why?”
“You think you only want me because you’re evil, not human. You just want something else you can hate yourself for. I won’t let you use me to prove to yourself how worthless you are.”
“I never said that. I never said I was using you.”
“Fine,” she said. “Tell me now that you’re not a monster. Tell me there’s nothing wrong with you. And tell me you would want me even if you didn’t have demon blood.” Because I don’t have demon blood. And I still want you.
Their gazes locked, his blindly furious; for a moment neither breathed, and then he flung himself off her, swearing, and rolled to his feet. Snatching his shirt up from the grass, he drew it over his head, still glaring. He yanked the shirt down over his jeans and turned away to look for his jacket.
Clary stood up, staggering a little. The stinging wind raised goose bumps on her arms. Her legs felt like they were made of half-melted wax. She did up the buttons on her coat with numb fingers, fighting the urge to burst into tears. Crying wouldn’t help anything now.
The air was still full of dancing dust and ash, the grass all around scattered with debris: shattered bits of furniture; the pages of books blowing mournfully in the wind; splinters of gilded wood; a chunk of almost half a staircase, mysteriously unharmed. Clary turned to look at Jace; he was kicking bits of debris with a savage satisfaction. “Well,” he said, “we’re screwed.”
It wasn’t what she’d expected. She blinked. “What?”
“Remember? You lost my stele. There’s no chance of you drawing a Portal now.” He spoke the words with a bitter pleasure, as if the situation satisfied him in some obscure way. “We’ve got no other way of getting back. We’re going to have to walk.”
It wouldn’t have been a pleasant walk under normal circumstances. Accustomed to city lights, Clary couldn’t believe how dark it was in Idris at night. The thick black shadows that lined the road on either side seemed to be crawling with barely visible things, and even with Jace’s witchlight she could see only a few feet ahead of them. She missed streetlights, the ambient glow of headlights, the sounds of the city. All she could hear now was the steady crunch of their boots on gravel and, every once in a while, her own breath puffing out in surprise as she tripped over a stray rock.
After a few hours her feet began to ache and her mouth was dry as parchment. The air had grown very cold, and she hunched along shivering, her hands thrust deep into her pockets. But even all that would have been bearable if only Jace had been talking to her. He hadn’t spoken a word since they’d left the manor except to snap out directions, telling her which way to turn at a fork in the road, or ordering her to skirt a pothole. Even then she doubted if he would have minded much if she’d fallen into the pothole, except that it would have slowed them down.
Eventually the sky in the east began to lighten. Clary, stumbling along half-asleep, raised her head in surprise. “It’s early for dawn.”
Jace looked at her with bland contempt. “That’s Alicante. The sun doesn’t come up for another three hours at least. Those are the city lights.”
Too relieved that they were nearly home to mind his attitude, Clary picked up her pace. They rounded a corner and found themselves walking along a wide dirt path cut into a hillside. It snaked along the curve of the slope, disappearing around a bend in the distance. Though the city was not yet visible, the air had grown brighter, the sky shot through with a peculiar reddish glow.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“We must be nearly there,” Clary said. “Is there a shortcut down the hill?”
Jace was frowning. “Something’s wrong,” he said abruptly. He took off, half-running down the road, his boots sending up puffs of dust that gleamed ochre in the strange light. Clary ran to keep pace, ignoring the protests of her blistered feet. They rounded the next curve and Jace skidded to a sudden halt, sending Clary crashing into him. In another circumstance it might have been comic. It wasn’t now.
The reddish light was stronger now, throwing a scarlet glow up into the night sky, lighting the hill they stood on as if it were daylight. Plumes of smoke curled up from the valley below like the unfurling feathers of a black peacock. Rising from the black vapor were the demon towers of Alicante, their crystalline shells like arrows of fire piercing the smoky air. Through the thick smoke, Clary could glimpse the leaping scarlet of flames, scattered across the city like a handful of glittering jewels across a dark cloth.
It seemed incredible, but there it was: They were standing on a hillside high over Alicante, and below them the city was burning.
ANTONIO: Will you stay no longer? Nor will you not that I go with you?
SEBASTIAN: By your patience, no. My stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might, perhaps, distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone. It were a bad recompense for your love to lay any of them on you.
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
“IT’S LATE,” ISABELLE SAID, FRETFULLY TWITCHING THE LACE curtain across the high living room window back into place. “He ought to be back by now.”