Lady Midnight – chapter 15

“What are you doing here?” Mark hissed into the darkness.

 

He was standing in the coat closet, surrounded by racks of expensive clothes. The temperature dropped in Los Angeles at night, even in the summer, but the coats were light: linen and seersucker men’s jackets, silk and gossamer women’s wraps. There was very little light, but Mark didn’t fight it when a pale hand reached out from behind a leather trenchcoat and yanked him through a coatrack.

 

Kieran. His hair was the darkest of dark blues today, almost black, the color of waves during a roiling storm. Which meant he was in a vile mood. His silver-black eyes glowed in the darkness.

 

“How else am I supposed to see you?” he demanded, shoving Mark up against the wall. There was little space behind the coats; it was close and hot. Mark felt himself gasp, and not just from the force of the wall hitting his back. Rage was rolling off Kieran in waves that he could feel; they twisted inside him, deep down in a place where the cold waters of Faerie had once chilled his heart. “I cannot enter the Institute, save the Sanctuary, and I would be killed if I was found there. Am I meant to spend every night waiting in the desert shadows in the hopes that you might deign to visit me?”

 

“No,” Mark said, even as Kieran pressed him farther back, his knee wedging itself between Mark’s legs. His words were furious but his hands on Mark’s body were familiar: thin, cool fingers working the buttons of his shirt, slipping between them to brush his skin. “We’re supposed to stay away from each other until this is over.”

 

Kieran’s eyes blazed. “And then what? You will come back to the Hunt voluntarily, for me? You think me such a fool. You have always hated it.”

 

“But I did not hate you,” Mark said. The coatroom smelled like a million perfumes mixed together: colognes that clung to coats and jackets tickling his nose. They were synthetic smells, not real: false tuberose, false jasmine, false lavender. Nothing in the mundane world was real. But then, was anything in Faerie any realer?

 

Did not hate me?” Kieran said in a cold voice. “What an honor. How complimented I am. Do you even miss me?”

“I miss you,” said Mark.

“And am I meant to believe that? Remember, half blood, I know well that you can lie.”

 

Mark flicked his eyes up to Kieran’s. He saw the storm in those eyes, but behind the storm he saw two boys as small as stars in a distant sky, locked together under a blanket. They were the same height; he had only to reach across slightly and press his mouth to Kieran’s.

 

The faerie prince stiffened against him. He didn’t move, hesitant rather than unresponsive. Mark’s hands came up to cradle Kieran’s face, and then Kieran did move, pressing forward to kiss Mark with an intensity that sent Mark’s head flying back against the wall.

 

Kieran tasted of blood and cold night sky and for a moment Mark was flying free with the Hunt. The night sky was his road to conquer. He rode a silver-white horse made of moonlight down a path of stars. Surrounded by shouts and laughter and cries, he cut a path through the night that opened the world to his searching eyes; he saw places no human gaze had seen, hidden waterfalls and secret valleys. He stopped to rest on the peaks of icebergs and galloped his horse down the foam of waterfalls, the white arms of water nymphs reaching up to catch at him. He lay with Kieran in the grass of a high Alpine meadow, hand in hand, and counted a thousand billion stars.

 

Kieran was the first to break away.

Mark’s breath was coming hard. “Was there a lie in that kiss?”

“No. But—” Kieran looked wondering. “Are those stars in your eyes for me or for the Hunt?”

 

“The Hunt was pain and glory,” said Mark. “But you were what made me able to see the glory and not only the pain.”

 

“That girl,” Kieran said. “You came back with her the other night, on my steed.” Mark realized with a jolt that he meant Cristina. “I thought perhaps you loved her.”

 

His eyes were lowered. His hair had lightened to a silvery blue, the ocean after a storm. Mark remembered that Kieran was no older than he was; though an ageless faerie, he had lived less than twenty years. And he knew even less than Mark did about humans. “I don’t think one falls in love that quickly,” said Mark. “I like her.”

 

“You cannot give her your heart,” said Kieran, “though you may do whatever else you like with her.” Mark had to stifle a laugh. Kieran, showing his own sort of kindness. Faeries believed in promises

 

over fidelity of body or heart. One made a promise to one’s beloved, and one abided by that promise. Demanding a promise of physical fidelity was rare, but one could absolutely demand fidelity of the

heart, and faeries usually did. The punishment for breaking a promise of love was severe.

“She is the daughter of an old family,” he said. “A sort of princess. I don’t think she would look at me twice.”

“She looked at you several times while you were dancing with the blond girl.”

Mark blinked. Partly in surprise that he had so quickly forgotten how literal faeries were. And partly in surprise that he himself had remembered such a human expression and used it so unconsciously.

 

It was pointless to try to explain to Kieran all the ways that Cristina would never want him. She was too kind to show her revulsion at his faerie blood, but revolted he was sure she must be, under the surface. Instead he tucked his hands into the waistband of Kieran’s breeches and pulled the other boy toward him to take another kiss, and with it memories of the Hunt like sweet wine.

 

Their kisses were hot, tangled. Two boys under a blanket, trying not to make noise, not to wake the others. Kissing to blot out the memories, kissing away the blood and dirt, kissing away the tears. Mark’s hands made their way under Kieran’s shirt, tracing the lines of scars on his back. There, they were matched in pain, though at least those who had whipped Mark were not his own family.

 

Kieran’s hands slipped ineffectually on Mark’s pearl buttons. “These mundane clothes,” he said between his teeth. “I hate them.”

 

“Then take them off me,” Mark murmured, forgetful and dazed and lost in the Hunt. His hands were on Kieran but in his mind he was spinning through the northern lights, the sky painted blue and green like the heart of the ocean. Like Blackthorn eyes.

 

“No.” Kieran smiled and stepped back. He was rumpled, his shirt gaping open at the front. Wanting beat through Mark’s blood, to lose himself in Kieran and forget. “You told me once humans want what they cannot have. And you are half-human.”

 

“We want what we cannot have,” Mark said. “But we love what shows us kindness.”

 

“I will take wanting, for now,” said Kieran, and placed his hand over the necklace at Mark’s throat. “And the memory of my gift to you.”

 

Elf-bolts took a great deal of magic to make and were very valuable. Kieran had given it to him not long after he joined the Wild Hunt, and had strung the point on a chain so Mark could wear it near his heart.

“Shoot straight and true,” said Kieran. “Find the killer, and then come back to me.”

“But my family,” Mark said, his hand closing reflexively over Kieran’s. “Kier, you must—”

 

“Come back to me,” Kieran repeated. He kissed Mark’s closed hand, once, and ducked out through the dangling coats. Though Mark scrambled after him immediately, he was already gone.

 

The interior of the theater was gorgeous, a romantic ode to the glory days of cinema’s golden age. A curved ceiling split into eights by gold-painted beams, each segment painted with a scene from a classic film, done in baroque jewel tones: Emma recognized Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, but not others —a man carrying another man across burning golden sands, a girl kneeling at the feet of a boy holding a gun across his shoulders, a woman whose white dress blew up around her like the petals of an orchid.

 

A heavy sweet scent hung in the air as people hurried to take their seats in the semicircular space. The seats were upholstered in purple velvet, each with a gold M embroidered across the back. As the ticket girl had promised, their ticket now had their row and seat numbers printed on it. They found them and filed in, Cristina first, then Emma, then Julian. He sat down beside Emma.

M for Midnight?” she said, pointing at the seat backs.

 

“Probably,” he said, and went back to looking at the stage. The curtains were drawn back and a massive painting of an ocean view covered the back wall. The stage itself was bare, the floor gleaming polished boards.

 

Emma felt flushed. Julian’s voice had been calm, neutral. But the expression on his face only a few minutes ago flashed across her vision anyway: the way he’d looked when he held her on the dance floor, that naked look in his eyes, all pretense stripped away.

 

That glimpse had shown her an intent and agonized Julian she’d never known. A hidden face she’d never seen, that she didn’t think anyone had ever seen.

 

She felt Cristina shift beside her and turned with quick guilt: She’d been so caught up in her own bewilderment that she’d forgotten to ask Cristina why she’d looked so flustered.

 

Cristina was glaring across the theater. Her eyes were glued to the man in the herringbone suit. He was seating himself next to an elegant blond woman in a silver dress and high heels.

 

“Ugh,” Cristina said. “I practically had to peel him off me. What a pervert. My mother would just have stabbed him.”

 

“Do you want us to kill him?” Emma suggested, only half-joking. “We could kill him, after the show.” “That would be a waste of our energy,” Cristina said dismissively. “I’ll tell you what I found out: He is

 

a half werewolf. And he’s been a member of the Followers, that’s what he called them, for six months now. That’s what he meant by being a Blue.”

 

“The fact that he’s been a Follower for a long time, or the fact that he’s part lycanthrope?” Julian asked. “Both, I think,” Cristina said. “He went to great pains to tell me all about what it meant to be part

 

werewolf. How he’s stronger and faster than a human. He says he could kick through a brick wall.” She rolled her eyes.

“I don’t even get it,” said Emma. “How do you wind up being half-werewolf?”

“It means you have the werewolf virus, but it’s dormant,” said Jules. “You can pass it on, but you can’t Turn yourself. You’ll never change into a wolf, but you do have increased speed and strength.”

 

“He said they all have increased speed and strength,” said Cristina. “Every time they hold a Lottery, he

 

said, the Followers all get stronger.”

 

“Sympathetic magic,” Julian said. Suddenly there was a commotion in their row.

“Am I late?” It was Mark, seeming flustered, tumbling into the seat beside Julian. His fair hair looked as if he’d been standing in front of a wind machine. “Sorry, I got distracted.”

 

Julian looked at him for a long moment. “Don’t tell me,” he said finally. “I don’t want to know.” Mark looked surprised. “You don’t?” he said. “I would.”

 

“I do,” chimed in Emma, but before Mark could say anything, the lights in the theater dimmed. Silence fell instantly—not the slow hushing of voices Emma would have expected, but an abrupt, unnatural cessation of noise.

A shiver passed up the back of her neck just as a single spotlight lit up the stage.

 

The band had gathered in the orchestra pit. They began to play a quiet melody, almost mournful, as a black-velvet-draped object was wheeled out onto the stage by two uniformed men. The music faded, and there was the tap-tap of high heels; a moment later the woman who had been taking tickets at the door appeared. She had changed and was wearing a gorgeous full-length dress of black and dark blue lace that looked like foam on the ocean. Even at a distance Emma could see the dark kohl liner ringing her eyes.

 

The woman reached out a hand, the nails painted viper red, and seized hold of the black velvet, tearing it aside and hurling it dramatically to the floor.

 

Revealed underneath was a machine. A large transparent drum sat atop a metal plinth; inside the glass were hundreds of colored, numbered balls. A metal chute stuck out from the machine, and in front of the chute was a tray.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the woman onstage. “I’m Belinda Belle.” “‘Belinda Belle’?” Julian whispered. “Made-up name.”

“You’re a genius detective,” Emma whispered back. “Genius.”

He made a face at her, and Emma felt a wave of relief. This was her and Julian, making faces at each other, making each other laugh. That was normal.

The woman on the stage continued, “Welcome to the Lottery.”

The room was silent. Belinda smiled, resting her hand on the device, perfectly still. “A lottery machine,” murmured Julian. “That’s literal.”

 

“The Guardian could not be with us tonight,” said Belinda. “Security has required tightening. The last hunt was interrupted by Nephilim, and the value of the sacrifice was endangered.”

 

There was a low hum. A jolt went through Emma. Nephilim. The woman had said “Nephilim.” These people knew about Shadowhunters. It wasn’t a surprise so much as a confirmation of what Emma had suspected all along. There was something going on here, something that reached its threaded tendrils into Downworld and clawed at the roots of everything they knew.

“The sacrifice?” Emma whispered. “Does she mean human sacrifice?”

 

S-H-H-H, Julian wrote on her arm. She saw with a pang as his fingers touched her skin that his nails were bitten down to the quick.

 

The music picked up. Onstage, Belinda pressed a button on the side of the machine. The metal arms whirred to life. The balls spun around inside the globe, becoming a blur of color like the inside of a kaleidoscope.

 

Turn, and turn, and turn. Emma on the beach, her dad’s arm around her. Kaleidoscopes are like magic, Emma. No two people who look into them ever see the same thing.

 

Emma’s heart ached with memory. The machine whirred more quickly, then more quickly still, and spit out a red ball. It shot down the chute and fell into the tray.

 

Belinda picked it up delicately. A tense stillness had fallen over the crowd. It was the stillness of cats poised to spring.

“Blue,” she said, her voice ringing in the silence. “Blue 304.”

 

The moment hung, frozen and suspended. It was broken by a man rising to his feet. He moved warily, like a statue brought to sudden and reluctant life.

It was the man Cristina had danced with, the one in the herringbone suit. He was very pale now, and the woman in the silver dress was edging away from him.

 

“Mr. Sterling,” said Belinda, and let the ball fall back into the tray with a clink. “The Lottery has chosen you.”

 

Emma couldn’t help but look around, trying not to seem as if she was staring. The audience sat stonily, most expressionless. Some wore looks of relief. The man in the herringbone suit—Sterling—seemed dazed, as if he’d been punched in the solar plexus and was about to gasp in air.

 

“You know the rules,” Belinda said. “Mr. Sterling has two days of freedom before the hunt begins. No one may help him. No one may interfere with the hunt.” Her eyes searched the audience. “May Those Who Are Older grant us all good fortune.”

 

The music started up again. Everyone began to rise to their feet, the room filling with the buzz of low conversation. Emma was on her feet like a shot, but Julian’s hand closed around her arm before she could bolt out of the room. He was smiling; it looked clearly fake to her but would probably convince anyone who didn’t know him.

 

“They’re going to kill him,” Emma whispered urgently. “Everything she said—the hunt—” “We don’t know that,” Julian said without moving his lips.

 

“Emma is right,” Mark said. They were hurrying forward, pushed toward the exits by the mass of the crowd. The band was playing “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, the sweet melody completely incongruous with the sense of anxiety whipping through the room. “A hunt means death.”

 

“We have to offer him help,” Cristina said. Her tone was flat. “Even if he is a pervert,” Emma confirmed. “It’s what we do—” “You heard the rules,” Jules said. “No interfering.”

 

Emma spun around, stopping dead. Her eyes met Julian’s. “Those rules,” she said, and took his hand, her fingers moving over his skin. T-H-E-Y D-O-N-T A-P-P-L-Y T-O U-S.

 

Darkness blossomed in the blue-green irises she knew so well: an admission of defeat. “Go,” he said. “Take Cristina.” Emma caught Cristina’s hand and the two of them were shoving through the crowd, Emma using her elbows and boots—stomping viciously on several feet—to push past the other theatergoers. They reached the central aisle. She was aware of Cristina asking her in a hissed whisper how they were going to find Mark and Julian again.

 

“At the car,” said Emma. She saw Cristina’s puzzled look but didn’t bother saying that she knew the plan the way she always knew Julian’s plans. She knew them because she knew him.

 

“There he is.” Cristina pointed with her free hand. They had made it to the lobby. Emma followed her indication and saw a flash of the red soles of shoes. Mr. Sterling, slipping out the door. The woman he’d come with was nowhere to be seen.

 

They bolted after him, darting around the crowd. Emma crashed into a girl with rainbow-dyed hair who made a surprised “Oof!” sound.

 

“Sorry!” Emma yelled just as she and Cristina escaped through the small circle of people standing around the theater entrance.

 

The Hollywood sign twinkled, brilliant, above them. Where the street curved, Emma could see Sterling disappearing around a corner. Emma broke into a flat-out run, Cristina on her heels.

 

This was why she ran every day on the beach. So she could fly over pavement without feeling it, so that her breath didn’t catch and running felt like flying. Cristina was just behind her. Her dark hair had come down out of its careful bun and flew behind her like a dark flag.

 

They turned the corner. They were on a side street; bungalow houses lined the road, most of their windows dark. Sterling was standing just beside a massive, expensive-looking silver Jeep, his hand still

 

on the remote key. He stared at them in total astonishment as they skidded to a halt in front of him. “What—?” he sputtered. Up close it was possible to see how shaken he looked. He was pale and

sweating, his throat working convulsively. “What are you doing?”

 

His eyes flashed yellow-green in the light from the streetlamps. Half-werewolf he might be, Emma thought, but he looked like a scared mundane.

“We can help you,” she said.

His throat worked again. “What are you talking about?” he demanded, so savagely that Emma heard a snicking sound to her left and realized Cristina had flipped open her butterfly knife. She hadn’t moved, but it shone in her hand, a silent threat should Sterling take one step toward Emma.

“The Lottery,” Emma said. “You got picked.”

 

“Yeah, I know. You think I don’t know?” Sterling snarled. “You shouldn’t even be talking to me.” He ran his hands through his hair distractedly. His key ring fell from his grip and rattled to the ground. Emma took a step forward, reaching for it. She held it out to him. “No!” he shouted hoarsely and skittered backward, like a crab. “Don’t touch me! Don’t come near me!”

 

Emma tossed the keys at his feet and held her hands up, palms open. She was aware of where all her own weapons were, the daggers in her boots, under the hem of her dress.

She missed Cortana, though.

“We don’t want to hurt you,” she said. “We want to help, that’s all.”

 

He bent down and warily grabbed his keys. “You can’t help me. No one can help me.” “Your lack of trust is very hurtful,” said Emma.

 

“You have no idea what’s going on here.” He laughed a sharp, unnatural laugh. “Don’t you get it? No one can help me, especially not some stupid kids—” He paused then, looking at Emma. At her arm, specifically. She glanced down and cursed under her breath. The makeup that covered her parabatai rune was smeared—probably from when she had bumped into that girl in the lobby—and the Mark was clearly visible.

 

Sterling looked the opposite of thrilled. “Nephilim,” he snarled. “Jesus, just what I need.” “We know Belinda said not to interfere,” Emma began hastily. “But since we are Nephilim—”

 

“That’s not even her name.” He spat into the gutter. “You don’t know anything, do you? Goddamn Shadowhunters, thinking they’re the kings of Downworld, messing everything up. Belinda should never have allowed you in.”

 

“You could be a little more polite.” Emma felt an edge creep into her voice. “Considering we’re trying to help you. And that you felt Cristina up.”

 

“I didn’t,” he said, his eyes flicking between them. “You did,” Cristina said. “It was very disgusting.” “Then why are you trying to help me?” Sterling asked.

 

“Because nobody deserves to die,” Emma said. “And to be honest, there’re things we want to know. What’s the point of the Lottery? How does it make you all stronger?”

 

He stared at them, shaking his head. “You’re insane.” He slammed his thumb down on his key remote; the Jeep’s headlights flashed as it unlocked. “Stay away from me. Like Belinda said. No interfering.”

He jerked the door open and hurled himself into the car. A second later the Jeep was screeching away down the street, leaving black tire marks on the asphalt.

 

Emma expelled a breath. “Kind of hard to stay desperately concerned about his well-being, isn’t it?” Cristina looked after the Jeep. “It is a test,” she said. Her knife had disappeared, slipped back under her collar. “The Angel would say we were put here to save not only those we like but also the unpleasant

 

and disagreeable.”

“You said your mother would have stabbed him.”

“Yes, well,” said Cristina. “We don’t always agree about everything.”

 

Before Emma could reply, the Institute’s Toyota pulled up in front of them. Mark leaned out the back window. Even with everything that was happening, Emma felt a spark of happiness that Jules had saved the seat next to him for her. “Your chariot, fair ones,” Mark said. “Enter and hie we away before we are followed.”

 

“Was that English?” Cristina demanded, climbing in beside him. Emma darted to the car to slide into the front seat.

 

Julian looked over at her. “That looked like a pretty dramatic conversation.” The car slid forward, away from the odd street, the peculiar theater. They passed over the tire tracks the Jeep had made on the road.

“He didn’t want our help,” said Emma.

“But he’s getting it anyway,” Julian said. “Isn’t he?”

 

“If we can track him down,” said Emma. “They could all have been using assumed names.” She put her feet up on the dashboard. “It might be worth asking Johnny Rook. Since they were advertising at the Shadow Market and he knows everything that happens there.”

 

“Didn’t Diana tell you to stay away from Johnny Rook?” said Julian. “Isn’t Diana kind of far away right now?” Emma said sweetly.

 

Julian looked resigned but also amused. “Fine. I trust you. If you think there’s a reason, we’ll go ask Rook.”

 

They were turning onto La Cienega. The lights and clamor and traffic of Los Angeles exploded all around them. Emma clapped her hands. “And that’s why I love you.”

 

The words slipped out without her thinking. Neither Cristina nor Mark seemed to notice—they were arguing about whether “hie” was a word—but Julian’s cheeks turned a dull brick red and his hands tightened on the wheel.

 

When they reached the Institute, a storm was building out over the ocean—a roil of blue-black clouds spiked with lightning. Lights were on inside the building. Cristina began mounting the steps wearily. She was used to late nights of hunting, but something about the experience at the theater had tired her soul.

“Cristina.”

 

It was Mark, on the step below her. One of the first things Cristina had noticed about the Institute was that depending on which direction the wind was blowing from, it smelled either of ocean water or of the desert. Of sea salt or of sage. Tonight it was sage. The wind blew through Mark’s hair: Blackthorn curls bleached of all their color, silvery as the moon on the water.

 

“You dropped these outside the theater,” he said, and held out his hand. She looked down and past him for a moment, to where Julian and Emma were standing by the foot of the steps. Julian had pulled the car up and was lifting Cortana out of the trunk. It caught the light and shimmered like Emma’s hair. She reached for it, glancing down to run her hand along the scabbarded blade, and Cristina saw Julian glance involuntarily at the curve of her neck. As if he couldn’t help it.

 

Cold fear weighted down Cristina’s stomach; she felt as if she were watching trains hurtling toward each other on the same track, with no way of stopping either one.

 

“Cristina?” Mark said again, a question rising in his voice. Something glittered in his open palm. Two somethings. The gold earrings that had fallen out while she was running, that she had assumed were lost somewhere on a Los Angeles square of pavement.

 

“Oh!” She took them from him, slipping them into the pocket of her coat. He watched her, his mismatched eyes curious. “They were a gift,” she said. “From someone—from an old friend.”

She remembered Diego putting them into her hand, and there had been nervousness in his dark eyes, a wondering if she would like them. But she had, because he had given them to her.

“They’re pretty,” Mark said. “Especially against your hair. It looks like black silk.”

 

Cristina exhaled. Emma was looking up at Julian, smiling. There was uncertainty on her face, uncertainty that cut at Cristina’s heart. Emma reminded her of herself, she thought, just before she turned that corner in the garden where she’d heard Jaime and Diego talking. Before everything had fallen apart.

“You shouldn’t say those sort of things to me,” she said to Mark.

 

The wind blew his hair across his face; he pushed it back. “I thought mortal women liked compliments.” He sounded honestly puzzled.

“Do faerie women like them?”

“I don’t know many,” he said. “The Seelie Queen does enjoy a compliment. But there were no women in the Hunt.”

 

“But there was Kieran,” she said. “And what would he say if he knew you were telling me I was pretty? Because the way he looks at you . . .”

 

A look of shock passed over Mark’s face. He glanced down quickly at Julian, but his brother was absorbed in Emma. “How do you—?”

 

“I saw you,” she said. “In the parking lot. And when you disappeared today at the theater, I would guess that was because of him as well?”

 

“Please tell no one, Cristina.” The look of fear on his face broke her heart. “They would punish him, and me as well. We both swore we would not reveal our relationship to any Shadowhunters, lest they think I would be too loyal to Faerie and too likely to return to it, and not agree to our bargain. Also, Kieran is forbidden to see me now that I am out of the Hunt.”

 

“I will tell no one,” said Cristina. “I have not mentioned it, not to Emma, not to anyone.” “You are as kind as you are lovely,” he said, but the words sounded rehearsed.

“I know you think you can’t trust mortals. But I will not betray you.”

There was nothing rehearsed about the look he gave her then.“I meant it when I said you were beautiful. I want you, and Kieran would not mind—”

“You want me?”

“Yes,” Mark said simply, and Cristina looked away, suddenly very aware of how close his body was to hers. Of the shape of his shoulders under his jacket. He was lovely as faeries were lovely, with a sort of unearthliness, as quicksilver as moonlight on water. He didn’t seem quite touchable, but she had seen him kiss Kieran and knew better. “You do not want to be wanted?”

 

In another time, the time before, Cristina would have blushed. “It is not the sort of compliment mortal women enjoy.”

“But why not?” said Mark.

“Because it makes it sound like I am a thing you want to use. And when you say Kieran would not mind, you make it sound as if he would not mind because I do not matter.”

“That is very human,” he said. “To be jealous of a body but not a heart.”

Cristina had studied faeries closely. It was true that unmarried faerie folk, regardless of sexual orientation, placed a very low value on physical fidelity, though a much greater value than humans did on emotional loyalty. There were few if any vows that had to do with sex, but many that had to do with true love. “You see, I do not want a body without a heart,” she said.

 

He did not reply, but she could read the look in his eyes. If she said the word, she could have Mark Blackthorn, for some value of having him. It was a strange thing to know, even if she did not want what he offered. But if he were offering more—well, there had been a time she had thought she would never want anyone again.

It was good to know that wasn’t true.

 

“Is Kieran the reason?” she said. “That you might return to Faerie, even if the killer is caught?” “Kieran saved my life,” said Mark. “I was nothing in the Wild Hunt.”

“You are not nothing. You are the son of the Lady Nerissa.”

 

“And Kieran is the son of the King of the Unseelie Court,” said Mark flatly. “He did everything for me in the Wild Hunt. Protected me and kept me alive. And he has only me. Julian and the others, they have each other. They do not need me.”

 

But he didn’t sound convinced. He spoke as if the words were dead leaves, blowing across some hollow and aching space inside him. And in that moment Cristina yearned toward him more than she ever had, for she knew that feeling, to be so hollowed out by loss that you felt as if the wind could blow through you.

“That is not love,” Cristina said. “That is debt.”

 

Mark set his jaw. He had never looked more like a Blackthorn. “If there is one thing I have learned in my life, and I grant I have not learned much, it is this: Neither Fair Folk nor mortals know what love is or is not. No one does.”

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