Standing in the marble entryway, Julian chanced one last look in the mirror.
He had made Livvy look up “semiformal” for him and had his grim suspicions confirmed: It meant a dark suit. The only one he had was a black Sy Devore vintage one Emma had fished out of a bin at Hidden Treasures. It had a charcoal silk lining and mother-of-pearl buttons on the vest. When he’d put it on she’d clapped her hands and told him he looked like a movie star, so of course he’d bought it.
“You look very handsome, Andrew.”
Julian spun around. It was Uncle Arthur. His stained gray robe was loosely belted around sagging jeans and a torn T-shirt. Gray stubble spiked along his jaw.
Julian didn’t bother to correct his uncle. He knew how much he looked like his father had when he was young. Maybe it comforted Arthur to imagine that his brother was still alive. Maybe seeing Julian in formal clothes reminded Arthur of years past, when he and his brother had been young and gone to parties and dances. Before everything had fallen apart.
Julian knew that Arthur grieved for his brother, in his own way. It was hidden under the layers of faerie enchantment and trauma that had shattered his mind. If it were not for the fact that Arthur was so retiring and so studious, Julian could only assume his condition would have been discovered before, when he lived at the London Institute. He also guessed that his uncle had gotten worse since the trauma of the Dark War. Still, sometimes, when Arthur had taken the medicine Malcolm provided, Julian could catch glimpses of the Shadowhunter he had been long ago: brave, sharp, and with a sense of honor like Achilles or Aeneas.
“Hello, Arthur,” he said.
Arthur nodded decidedly. He placed his open palm against Julian’s chest. “I have a meeting with Anselm Nightshade,” he said in a deep voice.
“Good to know,” Julian said. It was good to know. Arthur and Anselm were friends, sharing a love of the classics. Anything that kept Arthur busy was an asset.
Arthur turned with almost military precision and marched across the foyer and through the doors of the Sanctuary. They clanged shut behind him.
Laughter floated down into the entryway. Julian turned away from the mirror just in time to see Cristina coming down the steps. Her brown skin glowed against the old-fashioned pink brocade of her dress. Gold chandelier earrings swung from her ears.
After her came Emma. He registered her dress, but barely—that it was pale ivory, that it floated around her like angel wings. The hem brushed her ankles, and he could see the tips of white boots underneath,
knew there were knives tucked into the tops, their handles pressed against her calves.
Her hair was loose, and it rippled down her back in dark gold waves. There was a movement, a softness to it that he knew he could never capture in paint. Gold leaf, maybe, if he painted like Klimt, but even then it would be a pale comparison to the real thing.
She reached the bottom of the stairs and he realized that the material of her dress was just fine enough that he could see the shape and suggestion of her body through it. His pulse started a hard beat against the inside of his cuffs. His suit felt too tight, his skin hot and scratchy.
She smiled at him. Her brown eyes were outlined with gold; it picked up the lighter flecks in her irises, those circles of copper he had spent his childhood counting, memorizing.
“I brought them,” she said, and for a moment he forgot what she was talking about. Then he remembered and held out his wrists.
Emma unfurled her fingers. Gold cuff links set with black stones glimmered in her palm. Her touch was gentle as she took each of his hands in hers, turned it over, and carefully fastened the French cuffs of his shirt. She was quick, efficient, but he felt each glide and movement of her fingertips against the skin of his inner wrist like the touch of hot wires.
She dropped his hands, stepped back, and pretended to survey him thoughtfully. “I guess you’ll do,” she said.
Cristina gave a gasp. She was looking up, toward the top of the stairs; Julian followed her gaze. Mark was descending the staircase. Julian blinked, not quite believing his eyes. His older brother
seemed to be wearing a long, slightly ratty fake-fur coat—and nothing else. “Mark,” he said. “What are you wearing?”
Mark paused halfway down the stairs. His legs were bare. His feet were bare. Julian was 99 percent sure all of him was bare except for the coat, which was fairly loose. It was more of Mark than Julian had seen since they’d shared a bedroom when he was two.
Mark looked puzzled. “Ty and Livvy told me this was semiformal.”
It was then that Julian became aware of the pealing laughter from above. Ty and Livvy were seated along the upstairs railing of the staircase, giggling. “And I told you not to trust them!”
Emma’s lips were twitching. “Mark, just—” She held out a hand. Cristina was standing looking up at Mark with both her cheeks bright red, her hands clapped over her mouth. “Go back up to the landing, okay?” She turned to Jules and dropped her voice. “You have to find him something else to wear!”
Emma raised her eyes in exasperation. “Jules. Go into my room, okay? Trunk at the foot of the bed, there’s some of my parents’ old clothes. My dad wore a tux at his wedding. There were rune bands around the cuffs but we can rip those off.”
“But your dad’s tux—”
She looked up at him, sideways. “Don’t worry about it.”
A dozen flecks of gold in her left eye, only seven in her right. Each one like a tiny starburst.
“I’ll be right back,” Julian said, and jogged up the stairs toward his brother. Mark was on the landing, his arms held out in front of him as if he were examining the sleeves of his fur coat and deciding that they, in fact, were the problem.
Dru, holding Tavvy’s hand, had joined the twins. They were all giggling. The glow on Ty’s face when he looked at Mark made Julian warm and cold all at once.
What if Mark decided not to stay? What if they couldn’t find the killer and he was taken back to the Wild Hunt? What if?
“Would you say I’m overdressed or underdressed?” Mark inquired, arching his eyebrows.
Emma burst out laughing. She collapsed onto the bottom step of the staircase. A moment later Cristina had joined her. They clutched each other, helpless with laughter.
Julian wanted to laugh too. He wished he could. He wished he could forget the darkness that flickered at the edge of his vision. He wished he could close his eyes and fall, forgetting for one moment that there was no net stretched out below to catch him.
“Are you ready yet?” Julian asked the closed door of the bathroom. He’d retrieved John Carstairs’s suit from Emma’s trunk and dragged Mark back to his own bedroom to change. The thought of his brother being naked in Emma’s room didn’t sit well with him, even if Emma wasn’t there.
The door to the bathroom opened and Mark stepped out. The tux was black, simple. It was impossible to see where the runed bands of fabric had been snipped away. The elegant lines of it seemed to sweep upward, making Mark appear taller, more polished. For the first time since his return, every bit of the feral faerie child in him appeared to have been brushed away like cobwebs. He looked human. Like someone who’d always been human.
“Why do you bite your nails?” he said.
Julian, who hadn’t even been conscious that he was gnawing on the side of his thumb—the satisfying pain of skin between his teeth, the metal of the blood in his mouth—dropped his hands into his lap. “Bad habit.”
“It’s something people do when they’re stressed,” said Mark. “Even I know that.” His fingers scrabbled uselessly at his tie. He frowned down at it.
Julian got to his feet and went over to his brother, taking the loops of the tie in his hands. He couldn’t remember who had taught him how to knot a tie. Malcolm, he thought. It had almost certainly been Malcolm.
“But what do you have to be stressed about, little brother?” Mark said. “You weren’t carried away by the faeries. You’ve spent your life here. Not that the life of a Shadowhunter isn’t stressful, but why are you the one with the bloody hands?”
Julian’s fingers faltered for a moment. “You don’t know everything about me, Mark. Just like I’m willing to bet I don’t know everything about you.”
Mark’s blue-and-gold eyes were wide and guileless. “Ask me.”
“I’d rather learn in my own time.” Julian gave the tie a final tug and stepped back to examine his handiwork. Mark looked as if he might have stepped out of a catalog advertising tuxedoes—if male catalog models had pointed ears.
“I wouldn’t,” said Mark. “Tell me one thing I don’t know about you that makes you bite your fingers.” Julian turned toward the door, then paused, hand on the knob. “Our father,” he said. “You know what
happened to him?”
“He was Turned into one of the Endarkened by Sebastian Morgenstern,” said Mark. “How could I forget?”
“And then?” Mark sounded puzzled. “And then he died during the Dark War.” “Yes, he died,” said Julian. “Because I killed him.”
Mark drew in his breath. There was shock in that gasp, and pity. Julian tensed. He couldn’t bear being pitied.
“He was coming for Ty,” said Julian. “I did what I had to do.” “It wasn’t him,” Mark said swiftly.
“That’s what everyone says.” Julian was still facing the door. He felt a light tap on his shoulder and turned to see Mark looking at him.
“But everyone didn’t see it happen, Julian, our father being Turned. I did,” Mark said, and suddenly in his voice there was the sound of the older brother he had been, the one who knew more, had lived more. “The light in his eyes went out like a candle guttering in the dark. He was already dead inside. All you did
was bury the body.”
There was sadness in Mark’s eyes, and knowledge, the knowledge of dark things. Mark had blood on his hands too, Julian thought, and for a moment the idea was such a relief that he felt the weight on his shoulders lift incrementally.
“Thank you for the assistance,” Mark said formally. “With my manner of dress. I will not trust the twins again with important matters of human tradition.”
Julian felt his lip twitch up at the corner. “Yeah, I wouldn’t.” Mark looked down at himself. “I am presentable?”
“You look like James Bond.”
Mark smiled and Julian felt a small swell of absurd gladness rise up in his chest, that his brother had gotten the reference, that he was pleased.
They made their way back toward the entryway in silence, a silence pierced as they reached the landing by the sound of someone shouting. Together, they were brought up short at the top of the stairs.
“Does your vision match mine, brother?” Mark asked.
“If you mean am I seeing what you’re seeing . . . ?” Julian hazarded. “Then yes, if you mean that the foyer is full of Chihuahuas.”
“It’s not just Chihuahuas,” said Ty, who was sitting on the top step, enjoying the spectacle. “It’s a number of different small dogs of various breeds.”
Julian snorted. The foyer was, indeed, full of small dogs. They yipped and barked and surged. “Don’t worry about the dogs,” he said. “Nightshade likes to stash them in the entryway when he meets with Uncle Arthur.”
“Nightshade?” Mark’s eyebrows went up. “Anselm Nightshade? The head of the Los Angeles vampire clan?”
“Yep,” Julian said. “He comes around sometimes. He and Arthur get along surprisingly well.” “And the dogs . . . ?”
“He likes dogs,” said Ty. One of the Chihuahuas had fallen asleep by the front door, all four paws in the air. “That dog looks dead.”
“It isn’t dead. It’s relaxing.” Ty seemed amused; Julian ruffled his brother’s hair. Ty leaned into it, catlike. “Where are Emma and Cristina?”
“They went to bring the car around,” said Ty. “And Livvy went back to her room. Why can’t I come with you?”
“Too many of us will look suspicious,” Julian said. “You’ll have to stay here—guard the Institute.” Ty looked unconvinced. He frowned after them as Mark and Julian hurried out the front doors. The car
was pulled up in front of the Institute, the engine idling.
Emma pushed the passenger-side door open and whistled. “Mark. You look amazing.”
Mark glanced down at himself, surprised. A surge of prickly heat ran up the insides of Julian’s wrists. Cristina was in the backseat, also looking at Mark. Julian couldn’t read her expression.
Emma patted the seat beside her. In the dimness of the car, she was a shadow: white dress, golden hair, like a faded illustration in a children’s picture book. “Hop in, Jules. You’re mine—my navigator.”
You’re mine. He slid into the seat beside hers.
“Right turn here,” Julian said, pointing.
“You’d think the Institute could afford to have reliable GPS installed in this stupid car,” Emma muttered, slewing the wheel to the right. She’d tried to program it when they’d gotten into the Toyota, but it had refused to turn on. Once, the GPS had only spoken in a heavy German accent for weeks. Julian had decided it was possessed.
Cristina squeaked and subsided. Emma could see her in the rearview mirror. She was subtly leaning
away from Mark; it wasn’t anything that someone who didn’t know her well could have spotted. Mark didn’t seem to have noticed. He was staring out his open window, blond hair ruffled, humming tunelessly.
“Slow down, speed racer,” Julian said as someone behind Emma honked.
“We’re late,” she said. “The show is supposed to start in ten minutes. If some people hadn’t decided that ‘semiformal’ meant ‘seminaked’—”
“Why are you calling me ‘some people’?” Mark inquired. “I am only one person.”
“This is weird,” Julian observed, turning back to look straight ahead. “There’s nobody around on this street.”
“There are houses,” Cristina pointed out.
“They’re all dark.” Julian’s gaze scanned the road. “A little early, don’t you think, for everyone to have gone to bed?” He pointed. “There’s the theater.”
He was right. Emma could see lights, hot neon and electricity, up ahead, the arrow shape of a sign: THE MIDNIGHT THEATER. The Hollywood Hills glittered in the distance as if they’d been dusted with starlight. Everything else was dark, even the streetlights.
As they neared the theater, the sides of the street became more thickly packed with parked cars. Expensive ones—BMWs, Porsches, Italian sports cars whose names Emma couldn’t remember. She pulled into a spot across from the theater and killed the engine.
“Are we ready?” She swung around to look into the backseat. Cristina winked at her. Mark nodded. “Then let’s go.”
Julian was already out of the car, opening the trunk. He rummaged through the weapons and steles, reaching out to Cristina with a pair of slim throwing knives. “Need these?”
Cristina slipped the strap of her dress aside. Clipped to her bra was one of her butterfly knives, the etched rose gleaming on the handle. “I came prepared.”
“I didn’t.” Mark reached out to take the two sheathed knives, and unbuttoned his jacket to slide them into his belt. He reached up to his throat, touching the arrowhead that hung around his neck.
Arrested, Julian watched him. His blue-green eyes were dark, uncertain. Emma could read the look on his face: He didn’t know if his brother was ready to go into potential danger. Didn’t like it. Didn’t see another way.
“Okay,” Julian said. “Weapons hidden, any runes you want to put on now, put them in places no one will see them. Permanent runes, check to make sure they’re covered up. We can’t risk running into a situation where we’ll be recognized by anyone with the Sight.”
Emma nodded. They’d already put concealing makeup on her Voyance and parabatai runes back at the Institute. She’d even done what she could to cover up the small scars that showed where runes had been and then vanished.
Some runes were permanent and some temporary. Voyance, which looked like an open eye and helped you see through glamours, was permanent. So were wedding and parabatai runes. Temporary runes disappeared slowly as they were used up—healing iratzes, for instance, vanished with varying speed depending on the seriousness of the wound. A Sure-Footedness rune might last the duration of a climb up a mountain. To get the absolute best results, when going into battle, a rune ought to be as new as possible.
Jules rolled his sleeve up and held his arm out to Emma. “The honors?” he said.
She took a stele from the trunk and ran it over his bare forearm. Sure-Strike, Swiftness, and Courage. When she was done, she lifted her hair and turned, offering her bare back to Julian. “If you put the runes between my shoulder blades, my hair should cover them,” she said.
Julian didn’t say anything. She felt him hesitate, and then the lightest touch of his hand on her back, steadying her. He was breathing quickly. Nerves, she thought. It was a strange situation they were walking into, and he was worried for Mark.
He started on the second rune, and Emma felt a slight biting sting as the stele moved. She frowned.
Usually, though runes could sting or burn when applied, runes placed on you by your parabatai didn’t hurt. In fact they were almost pleasant—it was like being wrapped in the protection of friendship, the sense that someone else had sealed their dedication to you onto your skin.
Strange for it to hurt.
Julian finished, stepping back, and Emma let her hair fall. She turned and drew a quick Agility rune on Cristina’s shoulder, under the strap of her dress. Then she looked at Mark.
He shook his head, just as he had every time a rune had been offered to him before. “No runes,” he said tightly.
“It’s fine,” Julian said before anyone else could speak. “He doesn’t have Marks on him, besides the Voyance, and that’s covered in makeup. He looks normal.”
“Normal-ish,” said Emma. “His ears and his eyes—”
Cristina stepped forward and reached up to muss Mark’s hair, spilling the curls down to cover his pointed ears. “There’s nothing we can do about the eyes, but—”
“Mundanes have heterochromia too,” said Jules. “The main thing is, Mark, try to act normal.” Mark looked affronted. “Do I ever not?”
No one answered that, not even Cristina. After sliding a pair of daggers into the shoulder harness under his shirt, Julian slammed the trunk closed, and they headed across the street.
The doors of the theater were thrown open. Light spilled out onto the dark pavement. Emma could hear laughter and music, smell the mingled scents of perfume and wine and smoke.
At the door a young woman in a slinky red dress was taking tickets and stamping hands. Her hair was done up in forties-style Victory roll curls, and her lips were blood red. She wore ivory satin gloves that reached her elbows.
Emma recognized her immediately. She’d seen her at the Shadow Market, winking at Johnny Rook. “I’ve seen her before,” she whispered to Jules. “Shadow Market.” He nodded and tucked his hand around Emma’s. She jolted slightly, both at the sudden heat around her palm and in surprise.
She glanced over at him, saw the look on his face as he smiled at the familiar-looking ticket girl. A little bored, a little arrogant, a lot entitled. Someone who wasn’t worried about getting inside at all. He was playing a role, and taking her hand was part of it, that was all there was to it.
He held out their ticket. “Mr. Smith, plus three guests,” he said.
There was a slight commotion behind them as Mark opened his mouth, doubtless to ask who Mr. Smith was, and Cristina stomped on his foot.
The ticket girl smiled, her red lips curving up into a bow, and slowly tore the ticket in half. If she recognized Emma, she didn’t show it. “Mr. Smith,” she said. “Hold out your hand.”
Julian offered his free hand, and the ticket girl stamped it with red-black ink. The stamp was an odd little symbol, lines of water underneath a flame. “The performance is running a bit late tonight. You’ll find your row and seat numbers have appeared on your ticket. Please don’t sit in anyone else’s seat.” Her gaze went to Mark—a sharp, intent, assessing gaze. “And welcome,” she said. “I believe you will find the Followers a . . . sympathetic group.”
Mark looked baffled.
Hands stamped and ticket torn, the four of them trailed into the theater. The moment they crossed the threshold, the music rose to deafening levels, and Emma recognized it as the kind of big-band jazz ensemble her father had loved. Just because I play the violin doesn’t mean I don’t like dancing, she remembered him saying, swinging her mother into an impromptu fox-trot in the kitchen.
Julian turned to her. “What is it?” he asked gently.
Emma wished he couldn’t read her moods quite so perfectly. She glanced away to hide her expression. Mark and Cristina were behind them, looking around. There was a concession stand, selling popcorn and candy. A sign reading DANCE HALL/THEATER hung over the stand, pointing left. People in fancy dress were
moving excitedly down the hallway.
“Nothing. We should go that way,” Emma said, and tugged on Julian’s hand. “Follow the crowd.” “Hell of a crowd,” he muttered. He wasn’t wrong. Emma didn’t think she’d seen so many expensively
dressed people in one place before. “It’s like walking into a noir film.”
Everywhere were beautiful people, the kind of Hollywood beautiful Emma was used to seeing around Los Angeles: people who had access to gyms and tanning salons and expensive hairdressers and the best clothes. Here they looked as if they’d dressed as extras for a Rat Pack movie. Silk dresses and seamed stockings, fedoras and skinny ties and peaked lapels. Apparently Julian’s Sy Devore suit had been a presciently smart choice.
The room was elegant, with a pressed copper ceiling, arched windows, and closed doors marked THEATER LEFT and THEATER RIGHT. A rug had been rolled back for dancing, and couples were swirling together to the sound of a band playing on a raised stage at the end of the room. Thanks to her father’s tutelage, she recognized trombones and trumpets, drums and piano, an upright bass and—no special knowledge needed there—a piano. There was a clarinet player too, who took his lips away from the instrument long enough to grin at Emma as she came into the room. He had auburn curls, and there was something odd about his eyes.
“He is faerie,” Mark said, his voice suddenly tight. “At least in part.”
Oh. Emma shot a second look around the room, gaze sweeping over the dancers. She had dismissed them as mundanes, but . . . glancing through the crowd, she saw a pointed ear there, a flash of orange eyes or taloned fingernails here.
W-H-A-T I-S I-T? Jules wrote on her back, his fingertips warm through the thin material of her dress. “They’re all something,” Emma said. She remembered the sign at the Shadow Market. PART
SUPERNATURAL? YOU’RE NOT ALONE. “Good thing we covered our runes. They’ve all got the Sight, they’ve all got some kind of magic.”
“The musicians are half-gentry Fair Folk,” said Mark, “which is not surprising, for there is nothing the shining ones value more than music. But there are others here whose blood is mixed with those of merfolk, and some who are weres.”
“Come on, newbies!” the auburn-haired clarinetist shouted, and a sudden spotlight shone down on the Shadowhunters. “Get into the swing of things!”
When Emma looked at him blankly, he wiggled his eyebrows, and she realized what was strange about his eyes. They were like a goat’s, with square black pupils. “Dance!” he shouted, and the others in the room whooped and clapped.
The glare of the moving spotlight rendered Julian’s face a white blur as he reached for Cristina and pulled her into the crowd. Emma’s heart gave a slow, heavy thump.
She pushed the feeling down, turned to Mark, and held her hands out to him. “Dance?”
“I don’t know how.” There was something in his expression, half puzzlement and half anxiety, that sent a twinge of sympathy through Emma’s heart. He took her hands uncertainly. “Faerie dances are—not like this.”
Emma drew him toward the crowd. His fingers in hers were slim and cold, not like Jules’s warm clasp. “It’s all right. I’ll lead.”
They moved in among the dancers. Emma led, trying to remember what she’d seen in movies where there was dancing like this. Despite her promise to lead, she wondered if she’d be better off leaving Mark in charge. He had incredible grace, while all her years of fight training made her want to lunge and spin kick more than twirl and shuffle.
Emma glanced over at a girl with short, bright green hair. “Can you tell what everyone is?” she asked Mark.
He blinked, his pale lashes scattering light. “She’s part dryad,” he said. “Wood faerie. Probably not as
much as half. Faerie blood can show up generations later. Most humans who have the Sight have faerie blood years back.”
“What about the musicians?”
Mark swung Emma in a turn. He’d started to lead, instinctively. There was something forlorn about the music, Emma thought, as if it were drifting down from a high, distant place. “The clarinetist is part satyr. The bassist with the pale blue skin, some kind of merfolk. Kieran’s mother was a nixie, a water faerie, and—”
He broke off. Emma could see Jules and Cristina, her hot pink dress startling against the black of his suit. He twirled her. Emma bit the inside of her lip. “Kieran? That gentry prince who came with you to the Institute?”
Mark was sharp-boned light and shadows in the moving illumination. The air smelled like incense— like the cheap sweet stuff they burned on the Venice boardwalks. “We were friends in the Wild Hunt.”
“Well, he could have been less of a jerk to you, then,” Emma muttered.
“I don’t think he could have, actually.” Mark smiled, and Emma could see where the human in him mixed with the fey—faeries, in her experience, never smiled with such openness.
She made a face. “Was there anything about the Hunt that wasn’t awful? Was any of it, I don’t know, fun?”
“Parts.” He laughed and spun her. There was that edge of fey again, the wildness of it. She paced back, slowing the dance.
He whirled her in a circle. “I’m not supposed to talk about it. It’s a geas.” Emma exhaled. “Like if you told me, then you’d have to kill me?”
“Why would I kill you?” Mark sounded honestly bewildered.
She tipped her head back and smiled at him. Sometimes talking to him was like talking to Ty, she thought. She found herself making jokes she thought were obvious and then realizing they weren’t obvious at all unless you understood the subtle codes of social interaction. She didn’t know how she’d learned them, just that she had, and Ty still struggled with them, and so, it seemed, did Mark.
Trying to look at the world through Ty’s eyes, Julian had said once, was like looking into a kaleidoscope, shaking it up, and then looking again. You saw all the same glimmering crystals, just in a different formation.
“The Wild Hunt was freedom,” Mark said. “And freedom is necessary.”
In Mark’s eyes Emma could see a wilderness of stars and treetops, the fierce shine of glaciers, all the glittering detritus of the roof of the world.
It made her think of riding that motorcycle over the ocean. Of the freedom to be wild and untrammeled. Of the ache she felt in her soul sometimes to be connected to nothing, answerable to nothing, bound by nothing.
“Mark—” she began.
Mark’s expression changed; he was looking past her suddenly, his hand tightening on hers. Emma glanced where he was looking but saw only the cloakroom. A bored-looking coat-check girl perched on the counter, smoking a cigarette out of a silver holder.
“Mark?” Emma turned back to him, but he was already moving away from her, vaulting over the counter of the coat-check station—much to the bored girl’s amusement—and vanishing. Emma was about to follow him when Cristina and Julian swung into her line of sight, blocking her.
“Mark ran off,” Emma announced.
“Yeah, he’s not exactly a team player yet,” said Julian. He was ruffled from dancing, his cheeks flushed. Cristina didn’t have a hair out of place. “Look, I’ll go after him, and you two dance—”
“If I might cut in?” A tall young man appeared in front of them. He looked like he was probably about
twenty-five, nattily dressed in a herringbone suit and matching fedora. His hair was bleached blond and he wore expensive-looking shoes with red soles that flashed fire as he walked. A gaudy pink cocktail ring glittered on his middle finger. His gaze was fixed on Cristina. “Would you like to dance?”
“If you don’t mind,” Julian said, his voice easy, polite, reaching to put a hand on Cristina’s arm. “My girlfriend and I, we’re . . .”
The man’s friendly expression changed—infinitesimally, but Emma could see it, a tautness behind his eyes that made Julian’s words trail off. “And if you don’t mind,” he said, “I think you may have failed to notice I’m a Blue.” He tapped his pocket, where an invitation that matched the one they’d found in Ava’s purse was folded—matched it, except for being a pale shade of blue. He rolled his eyes at their puzzled expressions. “Newbies,” he muttered, and there was an undercurrent of something unpleasant—almost scornful—in his dark eyes.
“Of course.” Cristina shot a quick look at Julian and Emma, and then turned back to the stranger with a smile. “We’re so sorry to have misunderstood.”
Julian’s face was grim as Cristina headed onto the dance floor with the man who’d called himself a Blue. Emma sympathized. She comforted herself with the knowledge that if he tried anything on the dance floor, Cristina would fillet him with her butterfly knife.
“We’d better dance too,” said Julian. “Looks like it’s the only way not to be noticed.”
We’ve already been noticed, Emma thought. It was true: Though no fuss had been made over their arrival, plenty of people in the crowd were casting them sideways glances. There were quite a few of the Followers who looked entirely human—and indeed, Emma wasn’t totally clear on their policy regarding mundanes—but as newcomers, she imagined they were still objects of attention. Certainly the behavior of the clarinetist had indicated as much.
She took Julian’s hand and they moved into the outside of the crowd, toward the end of the room, where the shadows were deeper. “Half faeries, ifrits, weres,” Emma murmured, taking Julian’s other hand so that they faced each other. He looked more ruffled than he had before, his cheeks flushed. She couldn’t blame him for being unsettled. In most crowds, their runes, if discovered, would mean nothing. She had the feeling this crowd was different. “Why are they all here?”
“It isn’t easy, having the Sight, if you don’t know others who do,” Julian said in a low voice. “You see things nobody else sees. You can’t talk about it because no one will understand. You have to keep secrets, and secrets—they break you apart. Cut you open. Make you vulnerable.”
The low timbre of his voice shuddered down through Emma’s bones. There was something in it that frightened her. Something that reminded her of the glaciers in Mark’s eyes, distant and lonely.
“Jules,” she said.
Muttering something like “never mind,” he spun her away, then pulled her back toward him. Years of practicing fighting together made them an almost perfect dancing team, she realized with surprise. They could predict each other’s movements, glide with each other’s bodies. She could tell which way Julian would step by the cadence of his breath and the faint tightening of his fingers around hers.
Julian’s dark curls were wildly tousled, and when he drew her near him, she could smell the clove spice of his cologne, the faint scent of paint underneath.
The song ended. Emma looked up and over at the band; the clarinetist was watching her and Julian. Unexpectedly, he winked. The band struck up again, this time a slower, softer number. Couples moved together as if magnetized, arms wrapping around necks, hands resting on hips, heads leaning together.
Julian had frozen. Emma, her hands still in his, stood stock-still, not moving, not breathing.
The moment stretched out, interminable. Julian’s eyes searched hers; whatever he saw there seemed to decide him. His arms came up around her and he pulled her close. Her chin hit his shoulder, awkwardly. It was the first awkward thing they’d done together.
She felt him inhale, a hitching breath against her. His hands splayed, warm, under her shoulder blades.
She turned her head. She could hear his heartbeat, swift and furious, under her ear, feel the hardness of his chest.
She reached up to loop her arms around his neck. There was enough of a height difference between them that when she locked her fingers, they tangled in the hair at his nape.
A shiver went through her. She’d touched Julian’s hair before, of course, but it was so soft there, there at the vulnerable space just under the fall of loose curls. And the skin was soft too. She stroked downward with her fingers, reflexively, and felt at the same time the top bump of his spine and his swiftly inhaled breath.
She looked up at him. His face was white, eyes cast down, dark lashes feathered against his cheekbones. He was biting his bottom lip, the way he always did when he was nervous. She could see the dents his teeth made in the soft skin.
If she kissed him, would he taste like blood or cloves or a mixture of the two? Sweet and spicy? Bitter and hot?
She made herself shove the thought down. He was her parabatai. He wasn’t for kissing. He was— His left hand moved down over her back to her waist, sliding around to lightly cup her hip. Her body
jolted. She’d heard of people having butterflies in their stomachs, and she knew what they meant: that flapping, uneasy feeling deep in your gut. But she had it now everywhere. Butterflies under all of her skin, fluttering, sending shivers that moved in waves up and down her body. She began to trace her finger over his wrist, meaning to write on him: J-U-L-I-A-N, W-H-A-T A-R-E Y-O-U D-O-I-N-G?
But he didn’t seem to notice. For the first time, he wasn’t hearing their secret language. She stopped, stared up at him; his eyes when they met hers were unfocused, dreamy. His right hand was in her hair, winding it through his fingers. She felt the sensations as if each individual hair were a live wire connected to one of her nerve endings.
“When you came down the stairs tonight,” he said, his voice thick and low, “I was thinking about painting you. Painting your hair. That I’d have to use titanium white to get the color right, the way it catches light and almost glows. But that wouldn’t work, would it? It’s not all one color, your hair, it’s not just gold: It’s amber and tawny and caramel and wheat and honey.”
Normal Emma would have made a joke. You make it sound like a breakfast cereal. Normal Emma and Normal Julian would have laughed. But this wasn’t Normal Julian; this was a Julian she’d never seen, a Julian with his expression stripped down to the elegant bones of his face. She felt a wave of desperate wanting, lost in the way his eyes looked, in the curves of his cheekbones and jaw, the unexpected softness of his mouth.
“But you never paint me,” she whispered.
He didn’t answer. He looked agonized. His pulse was pounding triple time. She could see it in his throat. His arms were locked in place; she sensed he needed to hold her where she was, not let her come an inch closer. The space between them was heated, electric. His fingers curled around her hip. His other hand slid down her back, slowly, gliding along her hair until he reached bare skin where the back of the dress dipped down.
He closed his eyes.
They had stopped dancing. They were standing still, Emma barely breathing, Julian’s hands moving over her. Julian had touched her a thousand times: while they trained, while they fought or tended each other’s wounds.
He had never touched her like this.
He seemed like someone under a spell. Someone who knew he was under a spell, and was fighting against the pull of it with every nerve and fiber, the percussion of a terrible internal struggle pounding through his veins. She could feel his pulse through his hands, against the bare skin of her back.
She moved toward him, just a little, barely an inch. He gasped. His chest expanded against hers,
brushing the swell of her breasts through the thin material of her dress. The sensation whipped through her like electricity. She couldn’t think.
“Emma,” he said in a choked voice. His hands contracted, sharply, as if he’d been stabbed. He was pulling her. Toward him. Her body slammed up against his. The crowd was a blur of light and color around them. His head lowered toward hers. They breathed the same breath.
There was a clash of cymbals: shattering, deafening. They broke apart as the doors of the theater were thrown open, the room flooding with bright light. The music stopped.
A loudspeaker crackled to life. “Will the audience please enter the theater,” said a sultry female voice. “The performance of the Lottery is about to begin.”
Cristina had broken away from the man in the herringbone suit and was making her way toward them, face flushed. Emma’s heart was pounding. She chanced a look up at Julian. For the briefest of moments he looked like someone who’d been staggering through the Mojave Desert, half-dead from sun, and had seen a glimmer of water up ahead only to have it turn out to be a mirage.
“Still no Mark?” Emma said hastily as Cristina reached them. Not that there was a real reason Cristina would know where Mark was; Emma just didn’t want her looking at Julian. Not when he looked like that.
Cristina shook her head.
“We’d better go in, then,” Julian said. His voice was normal, his expression smoothing itself into normalcy. “Mark’ll catch up.”
Emma couldn’t help but look at him in surprise. She’d always known Julian was a decent actor— Shadowhunters had to lie and play parts all the time—but it was as if she’d imagined the expression she’d seen on his face a second ago. As if she’d imagined the last ten minutes.
As if none of it had happened at all.