It looked as if the kitchen had exploded.
The refrigerator had been emptied out. Ketchup decorated its once-white surface in scarlet swirls. One of the pantry doors was hanging off its hinges. The Costco tub of maple syrup had been dragged out, and syrup covered almost every available surface. A massive bag of powdered sugar had been torn open and Tavvy was sitting inside it, completely covered in white powder. He looked like a tiny abominable snowman.
Mark seemed to have tried cooking, since there were pans on the stove, filled with burned substances that were pouring smoke into the air. The flames were still on. Julian darted to turn them off while Emma stared.
Julian’s kitchen, which he’d stocked with food for five years, kept clean and cooked in, made pancakes in—was destroyed. Bags of candy had been ripped open and littered the floor. Dru was sitting on the counter, poking at a glass of something foul-looking and humming happily to herself. Livvy was curled up on one of the bench seats, giggling, a stick of licorice in her hand. Ty was beside her, licking a speck of sugar from the back of his wrist.
Mark emerged from the pantry wearing a white apron with red hearts on it and carrying two pieces of singed bread. “Toast!” he announced happily, before catching sight of Julian and Emma.
There was a silence. Julian appeared to be struggling for words; Emma found herself backing toward the door. She had suddenly remembered the fights Mark and Julian used to have when they were children. They had been vicious and bloody in scope, and Julian had given as good as he got.
In fact, sometimes he had given before he got. Mark raised his eyebrows. “Toast?”
“That’s my toast,” Ty pointed out.
“Right.” Mark crossed the room, side-eyeing Julian as he went. Julian was still wordless, slumped against the stove. “And what do you want on your toast?”
“Pudding,” Ty said promptly.
“Pudding?” Julian echoed. Emma had to admit that when she’d imagined the first word Julian was going to say out loud in this situation, it hadn’t been “pudding.”
“Why not pudding?” Livvy said equably, locating a container of tapioca pudding and handing it to her twin, who began to spoon it onto the bread in measured doses.
Julian turned to Mark. “I thought you said she was locked in her room.”
“She came out when you guys texted that you found Ty,” said Mark. “There didn’t seem to be any reason not to,” said Livvy.
“And why is the toaster in the pantry?” Julian said.
“I couldn’t find any other . . .” Mark seemed to be searching for words. “Electrical outlets.” “And why is Tavvy in a bag of sugar?”
Mark shrugged. “He wanted to be in a bag of sugar.”
“That doesn’t mean you should put him in a bag of sugar.” Julian’s voice rose. “Or practically destroy the stove. Or let Drusilla drink—what is in that glass, Dru?”
“Chocolate milk,” Dru said promptly. “With sour cream and Pepsi.” Julian sighed. “She shouldn’t be drinking that.”
“Why not?” Mark untied the apron around his waist and flung it aside. “I do not understand the source of your anger, brother. They’re all alive, aren’t they?”
“That’s a pretty low bar,” Julian said. “If I’d realized all you thought you had to do was keep them alive—”
“That’s what you said,” Mark said, half angry and half bewildered. “You joked about it, said they could take care of themselves—”
“They can!” Julian had risen to his full height; he seemed suddenly to tower over Mark, bigger and broader and altogether more adult than his brother. “You’re the one causing the chaos! You’re their older brother, do you even know what that means? You’re meant to take better care of them than this!”
“Jules, it’s fine,” Livvy said. “We’re fine.”
“Fine?” Julian echoed. “Ty sneaked out—and I’ll talk to you about that later, Livia—got into Johnny Rook’s house, and held his son at knifepoint; Livvy locked herself in her room, and Tavvy is possibly permanently coated in sugar. As for Dru, we’ve got about five minutes until she throws up.”
“I won’t,” Dru said, scowling. “I’ll clean it,” Mark said.
“You don’t know how!” Julian was white-faced and furious. Emma had rarely seen him so angry. “You,” he said, still looking at Mark, “you used to look after them, but I guess you’ve forgotten that. I guess you’ve forgotten how to do anything normal.”
Mark flinched. Tiberius stood up; his gray eyes burned in his pale face. His hands were moving at his sides, fluttering. Moth’s wings—wings that could hold a knife, could cut a throat. “Stop,” he said.
Emma didn’t know whether he was talking to Julian, to Mark, or to the room in general, but she saw Julian freeze. She felt her heart contract as he looked around the room at his brothers and sisters. Dru sat unmoving; Tavvy had climbed out of the sugar and was gazing at Julian with wide blue-green eyes.
Mark was unmoving: his face pale, color striping the high cheekbones that marked out his faerie heritage.
There was love in his family’s eyes as they looked at Julian, and worry and fear, but Emma wondered if Jules could see any of it. If all he saw was the children he had given up so much of his life for, happy with someone else. If, like her, he looked at the kitchen and remembered how he had taught himself to clean it when he was twelve years old. Taught himself to cook: simple things at first, spaghetti and butter, toast and cheese. A million cheese sandwiches, a million burns on Julian’s hands and wrists from the stove and the spatter. The way he’d walked down the path to the highway every few days to accept the grocery delivery, before he could drive. The way he’d dragged and carried all their food back up the hill.
Julian on his knees, skinny in jeans and sweatshirt, scrubbing the floor. The kitchen had been designed by his mother, it was a piece of her, but it was also a piece of everything he’d given over the years to his family.
And he would do it again, Emma thought. Of course he would: He loved them that fiercely. The only thing that made Julian angry was fear, fear for his sisters and brothers.
He was afraid now, though Emma wasn’t sure why. She saw only the look on his face as he registered their resentment of him, their disappointment. The fire seemed to go out of him. He slid down the front of the stove until he was sitting on the floor.
“Jules?” It was Tavvy, white granules coating his hair. He shuffled close and put his arms around Julian’s neck.
Jules made an odd sound, and then he pulled his brother in and hugged him fiercely. Sugar sifted down onto his black gear, dusting it with white powder.
The kitchen door opened and Emma heard a gasp of surprise. She turned and saw Cristina gaping at the mess. “¡Qué desastre!”
It didn’t exactly require a translation. Mark cleared his throat and began stacking dirty dishes in the sink. Not so much stacking them as flinging them, really. Livvy went over to help him while Cristina stared.
“Where’s Diana?” Emma asked.
“She’s home. Malcolm Portaled us there and back,” said Cristina, not taking her eyes off the charred pots on the stove. “She said she needed to catch up on sleep.”
Still holding Tavvy, Julian stood up. There was powdered sugar on his shirt, in his hair, but his face was calm, expressionless. “Sorry about the mess, Cristina.”
“It’s fine,” she said, looking around the room. “It is not my kitchen. Though,” she added hastily, “I can help you clean up.”
“Mark will clean up,” Julian said, without looking at his brother. “Did you and Diana find anything out from Malcolm?”
“He had gone to see some warlocks he thought might be able to help,” said Cristina. “We talked about Catarina Loss. I’ve heard of her—she teaches at the Academy sometimes, Downworlder studies. Apparently both Malcolm and Diana are good friends with her, so they exchanged a lot of stories I didn’t really understand.”
“Well, here’s what we learned from Rook,” said Emma, and launched into the story, leaving out the part where Ty had almost sliced off Kit Rook’s head.
“So someone needs to tail Sterling,” said Livvy eagerly when Emma was done. “Ty and I could do it.” “You can’t drive,” Emma pointed out. “And we need you here for research.”
Livvy made a face. “So we get stuck here reading ‘it was many and many a year ago’ nine thousand times?”
“There’s no reason we can’t learn how to drive,” said Ty, looking mulish. “Mark was saying, it’s not like it matters that we’re not sixteen, it’s not as if we have to obey mundane laws anyway—”
“Did Mark say that?” Julian said quietly. “Fine. Mark can teach you how to drive.” Mark dropped a plate into the sink with a crash. “Julian—”
“What is it, Mark?” said Jules. “Oh, right, you don’t actually know how to drive, either. And of course teaching someone to drive takes time, but you might not actually be here. Because there’s no guarantee you’re staying.”
“That’s not true,” Livvy said. “We’ve practically solved the case—”
“But Mark has a choice.” Julian was looking at his older brother over his baby brother’s head. His blue-green gaze was a steady fire.“Tell them, Mark. Tell them you’re sure you’ll choose us.”
Promise them, his gaze said. Promise them you won’t hurt them.
Mark said nothing.
Oh, Emma thought. She remembered what Julian had said to her outside. This was what he was afraid of: that they loved Mark too much already. He would give up the children he loved to Mark without a murmur, if it was what they wanted—if, as Ty had said, they wanted Mark to take care of them. He would give them up because he loved them, because their happiness was his, because they were his breath and
But Mark was his brother too, and he loved him as well. What did you do, what could you do, when what threatened the ones you loved was something else you loved just as much?
“Julian.” To everyone’s surprise, it was Uncle Arthur, standing in the doorway. He cast a brief, uninterested look over the mess in the kitchen, before zeroing in on his nephew. “Julian, I need to talk to you about something. Privately.”
Faint worry flickered in the back of Julian’s eyes. He nodded to his uncle just as something buzzed in Emma’s pocket. Her phone.
Her stomach clenched. It was only two words, not from a number but from a series of zeroes. THE
Something had tripped the monitor at the convergence site. Her mind raced. It was nearly sunset. The convergence door would be opening—but the Mantids would be stirring as well. She needed to leave immediately to get there at the safest time.
“Did someone call you?” Julian asked, glancing over at her. He was setting down Tavvy, ruffling his hair, gently pushing him toward Dru, who was looking distinctly green.
Emma stifled a frown—wouldn’t the message have gone to him, too? Or not—she remembered him saying that his phone was nearly dead, back at Johnny Rook’s. And Diana was asleep. Emma realized she might well be the only person here who had received the convergence message.
“Just Cameron,” she said, grabbing for the first available name she could think of. Jules’s eyes shuttered; maybe he was still worried she was going to tell Cameron about Mark. He looked pale. His expression was calm, but she could feel a tense misery coming off him in waves. She thought of the way he had clung to Ty in front of Johnny Rook’s house, the way he had looked at Mark. At Arthur.
Her training said she should bring Julian with her to the convergence. He was her parabatai. But she couldn’t tear him away from his family right now. She just couldn’t. Her mind rebelled against the thought in a way she couldn’t bring herself to examine too closely.
“Cristina.” Emma turned to her friend. “Can I talk to you in the hallway?” With a worried look, Cristina followed Emma out into the corridor.
“Is this about Cameron?” Cristina said as soon as the kitchen door shut behind them. “I do not think I am up to giving any romantic advice right now—”
“I do have to go see Cameron,” said Emma, her mind working quickly. She could bring Cristina with her to the convergence. Cristina was trustworthy; she wouldn’t mention to anyone what they were doing. But Julian had been so clearly hurt—not just hurt, gutted—by her going to the cave alone with Mark and not telling him. And so much had strained and troubled their parabatai relationship—she couldn’t do it to him again by bringing someone else with her. “But it’s not that. Look, someone needs to tail Sterling. I don’t think anything’s going to happen with him—we’re still within the window of two days—but just in case.”
Cristina nodded. “I can do it. Diana left the truck; I’ll take it. I need the address, though.” “Julian has it. And I’ll give you a note for him.”
“Good, because he’ll ask,” said Cristina dryly. There was a sudden terrible noise from the kitchen: the sound of Dru running across the kitchen floor and throwing up noisily into the sink.
“Oh, poor girl,” said Emma. “But I mean, that thing she drank was really disgusting. . . .”
“Emma, I know that you’re not telling me the truth. I know you are not going to see Cameron Ashdown.” Cristina held up a hand, stifling Emma’s protest. “And it is all right. You would not lie to me without good reason. It’s just—”
“Yes?” Emma said. She tried to keep her eyes guileless. It was better, she told herself. If Diana caught her, if she got in trouble, she’d be the only one who did: Cristina and Julian didn’t deserve that. She could weather it on her own.
“Be careful,” Cristina said. “Don’t make me regret lying for you, Emma Carstairs.”
The sun was a brilliant ball of flame out over the ocean as Emma steered the Toyota up the dirt road that led to the convergence. The sky was darkening fast. The Toyota bumped the last few yards over the field, nearly rolling into a shallow ditch before she braked and cut the engine.
She got out, reaching back inside to pull out weapons. She had left Cortana back at the Institute. It had caused her a pang, but walking out with it strapped to her back would have invited questions. At least there were seraph blades. She tucked one into her belt and thumbed her witchlight stone out of her pocket, glancing around as she did—it was oddly quiet here, with no sound of insects, small animals, or birdsong. Only the wind in the grass.
The Mantid demons. At night they probably came out and ate everything living. She shuddered and strode toward the cave. The convergence entrance was opening, a thick black line against the granite.
She glanced back once, worriedly—the sun was lower than she would have liked, dying the ocean water bloody. She’d parked as close as she could to the cave entrance so that if it was dark when she emerged, she could get to the car quickly. It was looking more and more likely that she’d have to kill some Mantids on the way, though.
As she strode toward the sheer wall of rock, the black line widened a little more, as if welcoming her. She leaned against the rock with one hand, peering into the gap. It smelled oddly of seawater.
She thought of her parents. Please let me find something, she prayed. Please let me find a clue, discover how this connects to what was done to you. Please let me avenge you.
So I can sleep at night.
Inside the gap, Emma could see the dim gleam of the rock corridor leading into the cave’s heart. Gripping her witchlight, Emma plunged into the convergence.
Night had nearly fallen—the sky was shading from blue to indigo, the first stars twinkling out above the distant mountains. Cristina sat with her legs up on the dashboard of the truck, her eyes fixed on the two-story ranch house that belonged to Casper Sterling.
The Jeep she recognized was parked in the court in front of the house, under an old-growth olive tree. A low wall ran around the property; the neighborhood, just beside Hancock Park, was full of expensive but not particularly showy houses. Sterling’s was closed, shuttered and dark. The only evidence she had that he was home was the car in the driveway.
She thought of Mark, then wished she hadn’t. She was doing that a lot these days—thinking of Mark and then regretting it. She had worked hard to return her life to normal after she left Mexico. No more romances with brooding and troubled men, no matter how handsome.
Mark Blackthorn wasn’t brooding or troubled exactly. But Mark Blackthorn belonged to Kieran and the Wild Hunt. Mark Blackthorn had a divided heart.
He also had a soft, husky voice, startling eyes, and a habit of saying things that turned her world backward. And he was an excellent dancer, from what she’d seen. Cristina rated dancing highly. Boys who could dance well, kissed well—that was what her mother always said.
A dark shadow ran across the roof of Sterling’s house.
Cristina was up and out of the car in seconds, her seraph blade in her hand. “Miguel,” she whispered, and it blazed up. She was heavily glamoured enough that she knew no mundane could see her, but the blade provided precious light.
She moved forward carefully, her heart pounding. She remembered what Emma had told her about the night Julian had been shot: the shadow on the roof, the man in black. She eased up to the house itself. The windows were dark, the curtains motionless. Everything was still and silent.
She moved toward the Jeep. She slipped her stele out of her pocket just as a shape dropped to the
ground beside her with an oomph. Cristina leaped out of the way as the shadow unfolded; it was Sterling, dressed in what Cristina imagined mundanes thought gear looked like. Black pants, black boots, a tailored black jacket.
He stared at her, and his face turned slowly purple. “You,” he snarled.
“I can help you,” Cristina said, keeping her voice and her blade steady. “Please let me help you.” The hatred in his eyes startled her. “Get away,” he hissed, and yanked something out of his pocket. A gun. A handgun, small caliber, but enough to make Cristina step back. Guns were something that rarely entered Shadowhunter life; they belonged to mundanes, to their world of ordinary human crime.
But they could still spill Shadowhunter blood and split Shadowhunter bones. He backed away, pointing the gun at her, until he reached the end of his driveway. Then he turned and ran.
Cristina bolted after him, but by the time she’d reached the end of the driveway, he was disappearing around the corner of the street. Apparently he hadn’t exaggerated—weres really were faster than humans. Faster, even, than Shadowhunters.
Cristina muttered a mild curse and trudged back to the Jeep. She drew her stele from her belt with her free hand and, crouching down, carefully marked a small tracking rune into the side of the vehicle, just above the wheel.
It wasn’t a total disaster, she thought, trudging back to the truck. As Emma had said, they were still within the two-day window before the “hunt” began. And having put a tracking rune on Sterling’s car was sure to help. If they just stayed away from his house, let him think they’d given up, hopefully he’d get careless and start driving.
Only when she climbed into the truck and slammed the door behind her did she see that her phone was flashing. She’d missed a call. She picked it up and her heart fell into her stomach.
Diego Rocio Rosales.
She dropped the phone as if it had turned into a scorpion. Why, why, why would Diego call her? She’d told him never to speak to her again.
Her hand stole to the charm at her throat and she clutched it, her lips moving in a silent prayer. Give me the strength not to call him back.
“Are you feeling better, Uncle?” Julian said.
Arthur, slumped behind the desk in his office, looked up with faded, distant eyes. “Julian,” he said. “I need to talk to you.”
“I know. You said.” Julian leaned back against a wall. “Do you remember what it was about?”
He felt exhausted, scraped out, hollow as a dry bone. He knew he should regret what he’d said in the kitchen about Mark. He knew he should be sympathetic to his uncle. But he couldn’t dredge up the emotion.
He didn’t really remember leaving the kitchen: He recalled handing Tavvy off, as much as you could hand off a sugarcoated seven-year-old; he recalled them all promising they would clean up their dinner of cheese and chocolate and brownies and burned things. Even Dru, once she’d stopped throwing up into the sink, had sworn she’d scrub the floor and get the ketchup off the windows.
Not that Julian had realized until that moment that there was ketchup on the windows.
He’d nodded and gone to leave the room, and then stopped to look around for Emma. But at some point Emma had left with Cristina. Presumably they were somewhere talking about Cameron Ashdown. And there was nothing Julian wanted less than to join in on that.
He didn’t know when that had happened, that the thought of Cameron made him not want to see Emma. His Emma. You always wanted to see your parabatai. They were the most welcome face in the world to you. There was a wrongness about not wanting it, as if the earth had suddenly started spinning in the other direction.
“I don’t think I do,” Arthur said after a moment. “There was something I wanted to help with. Something about the investigation. You are still investigating, aren’t you?”
“The murders? The ones the faerie convoy came to us about? Yes.”
“I think it was about the poem,” Arthur said. “The one Livia was reciting in the kitchen.” He rubbed at his eyes, obviously tired. “I was passing by and I heard it.”
“The poem?” Julian echoed, confused. “‘Annabel Lee’?”
Arthur spoke in his deep, rumbling voice, sounding out the lines of poetry as if they were the lines of a spell.
“But our love it was stronger by far than the love Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above Nor the demons down under the sea Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee—”
“I know the poem,” Julian interrupted. “But I don’t—”
“‘Those who were older,’” Arthur said. “I’ve heard the phrase before. In London. I can’t remember what it was in connection with.” He picked up a pen from the desk, tapped it against the wood. “I’m sorry. I just—I can’t remember.”
“Those Who Are Older,” murmured Julian. He remembered Belinda, back at the theater, smiling with her blood-red lips. May Those Who Are Older grant us all good fortune, she’d said.
An idea bloomed in the back of Julian’s mind, but, elusive, disappeared when he tried to chase it. He needed to go to his studio. He wanted to be alone, and painting would unlock his thoughts. He
turned to go and only paused when Uncle Arthur’s voice cut through the dusty air. “Did I help you, boy?” he said.
“Yes,” said Julian. “You helped.”
When Cristina returned to the Institute, it was dark and silent. The entryway lights were off, and only a few windows glowed—Julian’s studio, the bright spot of the attic, the square that was the kitchen.
Frowning, Cristina went directly there, wondering if Emma had returned yet from her mysterious errand. If the others had managed to clean up the mess they’d made.
At first glance the kitchen seemed deserted, only a single light on. Dishes were piled in the sink, and though someone had clearly scrubbed the walls and counters, there was still food crusted onto the stove, and two large trash bags, stuffed full and half-spilling their contents, propped against the wall.
She blinked into the dimness, though there was no mistaking the voice. Mark.
He was sitting on the floor, his legs crossed. Tavvy was asleep beside him—on him, really, his head resting in the crook of Mark’s arm, his small legs and arms curled up like a potato bug’s. Mark’s T-shirt and jeans were covered with powdered sugar.
Cristina slowly unwound her scarf and placed it on the table. “Has Emma returned yet?”
“I don’t know,” Mark said, his hand carefully stroking Tavvy’s hair. “But if she has, she’s probably gone to sleep.”
Cristina sighed. She’d probably have to wait until tomorrow to see Emma, find out what she’d been doing. Tell her about Diego’s phone call, if she could get up the nerve.
“Could you—if you don’t mind—get me a glass of water?” Mark asked. He looked down half-apologetically at the boy in his lap. “I don’t want to wake him.”
“Of course.” Cristina went to the sink, filled a glass, and returned, sitting down cross-legged opposite Mark. He took the glass with a grateful expression. “I’m sure Julian isn’t that angry with you,” she said.
Mark made an inelegant noise, finishing the water and setting the glass down.
“You could pick up Tavvy,” Cristina suggested. “You could carry him to bed. If you want him to sleep.” “I like him here,” Mark said, looking down at his own long, pale fingers tangled in the little boy’s
brown curls. “He just— They all left, and he fell asleep on me.” He sounded amazed, wondering. “Of course he did,” Cristina said. “He’s your brother. He trusts you.”
“Nobody trusts a Hunter,” Mark said.
“You are not a Hunter in this house. You are a Blackthorn.”
“I wish Julian agreed with you. I thought I was keeping the children happy. I thought that’s what Julian would have wanted.”
Tavvy shifted in Mark’s arms and Mark moved too, so that the edge of his boot was touching the tip of Cristina’s. She felt the contact like a small shock.
“You have to understand,” she said. “Julian does everything for these children. Everything. I have never seen a brother who is so much like a parent. He cannot only tell them yes, he has to tell them no. He must deal in discipline and punishment and denial. Whereas you, you can give them anything. You can have fun with them.”
“Julian can have fun with them,” Mark said a little sulkily.
“He can’t,” said Cristina. “He is envious because he loves them but he cannot be their brother. He must be their father. In his mind, they dread him and adore you.”
“Julian’s jealous?” Mark looked astonished. “Of me?”
“I think so.” Cristina met his eyes. At some point, in knowing him, the mismatch between his blue and his golden one had stopped seeming strange to her. The same way it had stopped seeming strange to be in the Blackthorns’ kitchen, speaking English, instead of at home, where things were warm and familiar. “Be kind to him. He has a gentle soul. He is terrified you will leave and break the hearts of all these children he loves so very much.”
Mark looked down at Tavvy. “I don’t know what I will do,” he said. “I did not realize how it would tear at my heart to be back among them. It was thinking of them, of my family, that helped me live through the first years I was in the Hunt. Every day we would ride, and steal from the dead. It was cold, a cold life. And at night I would lie down and conjure their faces to lull me to sleep. They were all I had until —”
He broke off. Tavvy sat up, scrubbing his small hands through his tangled hair. “Jules?” He yawned. “No,” said his brother quietly. “It’s Mark.”
“Oh, right.” Tavvy gave him a blink-eyed smile. “Think I crashed from all the sugar.” “Well, you were inside a bag of it,” Mark said. “That could have an effect on anyone.”
Tavvy got to his feet and stretched, a full little-boy stretch with his arms outraised. Mark watched him, a look of wistfulness in his eyes. Cristina wondered if he was thinking about all the years and milestones he’d missed in Tavvy’s life. Of all his siblings, his youngest had changed the most.
“Bed,” Tavvy said, and wandered out of the kitchen, pausing at the door to say, “Night, Cristina!” shyly before scampering off.
Cristina turned back to Mark. He was still sitting with his back against the refrigerator. He looked exhausted, not just physically, but as if his soul were tired.
She could get up and go to bed, Cristina thought. She probably should. There was no reason for her to stay here and sit on the floor with a boy she barely knew, who would most likely disappear out of her life in months, and who was probably in love with someone else.
Which, she thought, might be exactly what drew her to him. She knew what it was like to leave someone you loved behind.
“Until?” she prompted.
Mark’s eyelids lifted slowly, showing her the banked fire in gold and blue eyes. “What?”
“You said your family, the memory of your family, was all you had until something. Until Kieran?” “Yes,” Mark said.
“Was he the only one who was kind to you?”
“In the Hunt?” said Mark. “There is not kindness in the Hunt. There is respect, and a sort of camaraderie of brothers. They feared Kieran, of course. Kieran is gentry, a Prince of Faerie. His father, the King, gave him to the Hunt as a sign of goodwill to Gwyn, but he also demanded his good treatment. That good treatment was extended to me, but even before Kieran, they came slowly to respect me.” His shoulders hunched. “It was worst when we attended the revels. Faeries from all over would come to those, and they did not appreciate a Shadowhunter’s attendance. They would do their best to draw me aside, to taunt and torment me.”
“Did no one intervene?”
Mark laughed shortly. “The ways of Faerie are brutal,” he said. “Even for the greatest among them. The Queen of the Seelie Court can be deprived of her powers if her crown is stolen. Even Gwyn, who leads the Wild Hunt, must yield authority to any who steals his cloak. You cannot imagine they would show mercy to a half-Shadowhunter boy.” His lip curled. “They even had a rhyme they would mock me with.”
“A rhyme?” Cristina held up a hand. “Never mind, you do not need to tell it to me, not if you don’t wish to.”
“I no longer care,” Mark said. “It was an odd bit of doggerel. First the flame and then the flood, in the end it’s Blackthorn blood.”
Cristina sat up straight. “What?”
“They claimed it meant Blackthorn blood was destructive, like flood or fire. That whoever made up the rhyme was saying Blackthorns were bad luck. Not that it matters. It’s just a bit of nonsense.”
“That isn’t nonsense,” Cristina exclaimed. “It means something. The words written on the bodies . . .” She frowned in concentration. “They are the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“‘Fire to water,’” she said. “It is the same—they are simply different translations. When English is not your first language, you understand the sense of the words differently. Believe me, ‘Fire to water’ and ‘First the flame and then the flood,’ they could be the same thing.”
“But what does that mean?”
“I’m not sure.” Cristina pushed her hands into her hair in frustration. “Please, promise me you’ll mention it to Emma and Jules as soon as you can. I could be wrong, but . . .”
Mark looked baffled. “Yes, of course—” “Promise.”
“Tomorrow, I promise.” His smile was bemused. “It occurs to me that you know a great deal about me, Cristina, and I know very little about you. I know your name, Mendoza Rosales. I know you left something behind in Mexico. What was it?”
“Not a something,” she said. “Someone.” “Perfect Diego?”
“And his brother, Jaime.” She waved away Mark’s raised eyebrow. “One of them I was in love with, and the other was my best friend. They both broke my heart.” She was almost astonished to hear the words come out of her mouth.
“For your heart twice broken, I am sorry,” said Mark. “But is it wrong that I am glad that it brought you into my life? If you had not been here when I arrived—I do not know that I could have borne it. When I
first saw Julian, I thought he was my father. I did not know my brother so grown. I left them children, and now they are no longer that. When I knew what I had lost, even with Emma, those years of their lives . . .
You are the only one I have not lost something with, but rather gained a new friendship.” “Friendship,” Cristina agreed.
He extended his hand, and she looked at him, bemused.
“It is traditional,” he said, “among the fey, for a declaration of friendship to be accompanied by a clasp of hands.”
She put her hand in his. His fingers closed about her own; they were rough where they were calloused, but lithe and strong. And not cool, as she had imagined they would be, but warm. She tried to hold back the shiver that threatened to spread up her arm, realizing how long it had been since she had held someone’s hand like this.
“Cristina,” he said, and her name sounded like music when he spoke it.
Neither of them noticed the movement at the window, the flash of a pale face looking in, or the sound of an acorn being viciously crushed between narrow fingers.
The large chamber inside the cave hadn’t changed since the last time Emma had been in it. The same bronze walls, the same chalked circle on the floor. The same large glass doors fixed into the walls and wavering darkness behind them.
Energy crackled against her skin as she walked into the circle. The magic of the glamour. From inside the circle, the room looked different—the walls seemed faded and flowing, as if they were in an old photograph. The porthole doors were dark.
The circle itself was empty, though there was a strange smell inside it, a mixture of sulfur and burned sugar. Making a face, Emma stepped out of the circle and approached the leftmost porthole door.
Up close it no longer looked dark. There was light behind it. It was illuminated from within, like a museum display. She stepped closer still and stared through the glass.
Beyond the glass door was a small, square space, like a closet.
Inside it was a large brass candelabra, though there were no candles fastened to the holders. It would have made a wicked weapon, Emma thought, with its long spikes, meant to be jammed into soft wax. There was also a small pile of what looked to Emma like ceremonial clothes—a dark red velvet robe, a pair of long earrings that flashed with rubies. Delicate gold sandals.
Was the necromancer a woman?
Emma stepped quickly to the second door. With her nose to the glass, she could see what looked like water. It surged and moved, and dark shapes slipped through it—one bumped against the glass, and she jumped back with a shout before realizing that it was only a small, striped fish with orange eyes. It gazed at her for a moment before disappearing back into the dark water.
She lifted her witchlight close to the glass, and now the water was truly visible—it was radiant, a deep blue-green, the color of Blackthorn eyes. She could see fish and drifting seaweed and strange lights and colors beyond the glass. Apparently they were dealing with a necromancer who liked aquariums and fish. Maybe even turtles. Shaking her head, Emma stepped back.
Her eyes lit on the metal object fixed between the doors. At first she had thought it looked like a carved knife sticking out of the wall, but now she realized it was a lever. She reached out and closed her hand around it. It was cold under her fingers.
She yanked it down.
For a moment nothing happened. Then both of the porthole doors swung wide.
An unearthly howl tore through the room. Emma turned and stared in horror. The second porthole was wide open and glowing bright blue, and Emma could see that it wasn’t an aquarium at all—it was a door into the ocean. A great, deep universe of water opened on the other side of the door, of whipping seaweed
and surging currents and the dark, shadowy shapes of things much bigger than fish.
The stench of salt water was everywhere. Flood, Emma thought, and then she found herself lifted off her feet and dragged toward the ocean as if she were being sucked down a drain. She only had time to scream once before she was hauled through the doorway and the water closed over her head.
Julian was painting. Cristina had given him Emma’s note after he’d left the attic: a terse note, to the point, just saying she was going to Cameron’s and not to wait up.
He’d crumpled it up in his hand and muttered something to Cristina. A second later he was sprinting toward the stairs and his studio. Ripping open his supply cabinet, tumbling out the paints. Unzipping his gear jacket, throwing it down, yanking the caps off the tubes of oil paint and squeezing the colors onto the palette until the sharp smell of the paint filled the room and cut through the fog in his head.
He attacked the canvas, holding the brush like a weapon, and the paint seemed to spill out of him like blood.
He was painting in black and red and gold, letting the events of the past days drain out of him as if they were poisonous venom. The brush slashed across the blank canvas and there was Mark on the beach, the moonlight shining across the vicious scars on his back. There was Ty with his knife to Kit Rook’s throat. Tavvy screaming with his nightmares. Mark cringing away from Julian’s stele.
He was aware he was sweating, his hair sticking to his forehead. He tasted salt and paint in his mouth. He knew he shouldn’t be here; he should be doing what he always did: minding Tavvy, finding new books to feed Ty’s curiosity, putting healing runes on Livvy when she cut herself fencing, sitting with Dru while she watched bad horror films.
He should be with Emma. But Emma wasn’t here; she was off having her own life, and that was as it should be, as parabatai were meant to be. It wasn’t a marriage, the parabatai bond. It was something there were no words for in mundane English. He was meant to want Emma’s happiness more than he wanted his own, and he did. He did.
So why did he feel like he was being stabbed to death from the inside?
He fumbled for the gold paint, because the longing was rising up in him, beating in his veins, and only painting her would take it away. And he couldn’t paint her without gold. He caught up the tube and—
Choked. The brush rattled from his hand onto the ground, and he crumpled to his knees. He was gasping, his chest spasming. He couldn’t drag air into his lungs. His eyes burned and the back of his throat burned too.
Salt. He was choking on salt. Not the salt of blood, but the salt of the ocean. He tasted the sea in his mouth and coughed, his body clenching as he spat up seawater onto the floor.
Seawater? He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, his heart pounding. He’d gone nowhere near the ocean today. And yet he could hear it in his ears, as if he were listening to a seashell. His body ached, and his parabatai rune throbbed.
Shocked and dizzy, he placed his hand over the rune. And he knew. He knew without knowing how he knew, knew it down in his soul where his connection to Emma had been forged in blood and fire. He knew in the way that she was a part of him, the way her breathing was his breathing, and her dreams were his dreams, and her blood was his blood, and when her heart stopped he knew that his would too, and he would be glad, because he wouldn’t want to live one second in a world that didn’t have her in it.
He closed his eyes and saw the ocean rise up behind his eyelids, blue-black and depthless, charged with the force of the first wave that had ever crashed on the first lonely beach. And he knew.
Whither thou goest, I will go.
“Emma,” he whispered, and took off at a run.
Emma was not sure what terrified her most about the ocean. There was the rage of the waves—dark blue and tipped with white like lace, they were deceptively beautiful, but as they neared the shore, they closed in like fists. She had been trapped by a breaking wave once and she remembered the feeling of falling, as if she were plunging down an elevator shaft, and then the force of the water pinning her to the sand. She had choked and struggled, trying to free herself, to push her way back up to the air.
There was also the depth of it. She had read, before, about people who had been abandoned out to sea, how they had gone insane thinking about what was below them: the miles and miles of water and the dark and toothy and slippery things that lived in it.
As she was slammed through the porthole door and into the ocean, salt water swallowed Emma, filled her eyes and ears. She was surrounded by water, blackness opening up below her like a pit. She could see the pale square of the porthole door, receding in the distance, but try as she might, she couldn’t kick her way toward it. The current was too strong.
Hopelessly, she looked up. Her witchlight stone was gone, sinking through the water below her. The light from the ever-receding porthole lit the area around her, but she could see nothing but darkness above. Her ears were popping. Raziel only knew how deep down she was. The water near the porthole was pale green, the color of jade, but everywhere else it was black as death.
She reached for a stele. Her lungs were already aching. Floating in the water, kicking out against the current, she jammed the tip of the stele against her arm and scrawled a Breathing rune.
The ache in her lungs eased. With the pain gone, the fear came crashing in, blinding in its intensity. The Breathing rune kept her from struggling for air, but the horror of what might be around her was nearly as intense. She reached for the seraph blade in her belt and pulled it free.
Manukel, she thought.
The blade came to life in her hand, spilling out light, and the water around her turned to murky gold. For a moment Emma was dazzled; then her vision cleared, and she saw them.
She screamed, and the bubbles rose up around her, silent. They were below her, like nightmares rising: lumpy, slippery creatures. Waving tentacles crowned with jagged teeth flailed toward her. She swung Manukel and severed the spiked limb reaching for her leg. Black blood exploded into the water, billowing up in clouds.
A scarlet, snakelike thing shot toward her through the water. She kicked out, collided with something fleshy and soft. She gagged on revulsion and stabbed downward; more blood spilled. The sea around her was turning to charcoal.
She kicked up toward the surface, carried on a billow of demon blood. As she rose, she could see the white moon, a blurred pearl on the surface of the water. The Breathing rune had burned off her skin; her lungs felt as if they were collapsing. She could feel the churn of water under her feet, didn’t dare to look down. She reached up, up toward where the water ended, felt her hand break the surface, the chill of air on her fingers.
Something caught at her wrist. Her seraph blade fell from her hand, a glowing point of light that tumbled away from her as she was hauled to the surface of the water. She gasped in air, but it was too soon. Water filled her lungs, her chest, and darkness slammed into her with the force of a truck.
It was at Emma and Julian’s parabatai ceremony that she learned two important things. The first was that she wasn’t the only Carstairs left in the world.
Their parabatai ceremony was performed in Idris, because they had fought in the Dark War, and their valor was recognized. At least, Julian said, it was recognized sometimes—not when they really wanted anything important, like his sister back from Wrangel Island, but when the Nephilim felt like throwing a party about how awesome Nephilim were, it was always a feature.
When they arrived, they looked around the streets of Alicante, astonished. The last time they had been in the capital city of Idris, it had been wrecked by the Dark War. The streets torn up, nails hammered into walls to keep out faeries, the doors of the Accords Hall torn away. Now it was pristine again, the cobblestones back in place, the canals winding by the houses, and the demon towers glimmering over it all.
“It seems smaller,” Julian said, looking around from the Accords Hall steps.
“It’s not that it’s smaller.” The voice belonged to a young man with dark hair and dark eyes, smiling down at them. “It’s that you’ve grown.”
They stared at him.
“Don’t you remember me?” he said. He lowered his voice as if he were quoting. “Emma Cordelia Carstairs. Stay with your parabatai. Sometimes it’s braver not to fight. Protect them, and save your vengeance for another day.”
“Brother Zachariah?” Emma was astonished. “You helped us during the Dark War—”
“I am no longer a Silent Brother,” he said. “Only an ordinary man. My name is James. James Carstairs. But everyone calls me Jem.”
There was astonishment, and there was chatter, and Julian gave Emma space to be shocked and to pepper former Brother Zachariah with questions. Jem explained that he had become a Silent Brother in 1878, but he had shed the role now so that he could marry the woman he loved, the warlock Tessa Gray. Julian asked if that meant he was a hundred and fifty years old and Jem admitted that he nearly was, though he didn’t look it. He looked about twenty-three.
“Why didn’t you tell me back then?” Emma demanded as they wended their way into the Silent City, down long stone staircases. “That you were a Carstairs?”
“I thought I might die,” he said candidly. “It was a battle. It seemed a cruel thing to tell you if I wasn’t going to live through the day. And after that Tessa cautioned me that I should give you time, to grieve for your parents, to adjust to your new life.” He turned and looked at her, and his expression was both sorrowful and affectionate. “You’re a Shadowhunter, Emma. And neither Tessa nor I are Nephilim, not anymore. To come and live with me, though you would be welcome, you’d have to give up being a Shadowhunter. And that was too cruel a choice to place in front of you.”
“Come and live with you?” It was Julian, a warning sharp in his tone. “Why would she do that? She has a home. She has a family.”
“Exactly,” Jem said. “And there is more. Can you give me a moment alone with Emma?”
Julian checked in with Emma with his eyes, and she nodded. He turned and made his way down the stairs, glancing back several times to make sure she was all right.
Jem touched her arm with light fingers. She was wearing ceremonial gear, ready for the ritual, but she could feel the scar she had given herself with Cortana flare when he touched her, as if recognizing their shared blood. “I wanted to be here for you, for this,” he said. “For I had a parabatai myself once, and the bond of it is precious to me.”
Emma didn’t ask what had happened to Jem’s parabatai. Silent Brothers were forbidden from having parabatai, and besides, a hundred and thirty years was a long, long time.
“But I don’t know when I can be with you again,” he said. “Tessa and I, we have to find something. Something important.” He hesitated. “It will be dangerous looking for it, but once it’s found I’d like to be part of your life once more. Like a sort of uncle.” He gave a half smile. “You might not guess it, but I have a lot of experience in being an uncle.”
His gaze was steady on hers, and though there was no physical resemblance between them, for that moment Emma was reminded of her father—of his level gaze and kind face.
“I’d like that,” she said. “Can I ask you one more thing?”
He nodded, his expression serious. It was easy to imagine him as an uncle: He looked so young, but there was a calm certainty underneath that made him seem ageless, like a faerie or a warlock. “Yes?”
“Did you send me your cat?”
“Church?” He started to laugh. “Yes. Has he been taking care of you? Did he bring you the gifts I gave?”
“The shells and sea glass?” She nodded. “The bracelet Julian’s wearing is made out of sea glass Church brought me.”
His laughter softened into a smile that was a little bit sad. “As it should be,” he said. “What belongs to one parabatai, belongs to the other. For you are one heart now. And one soul.”
Jem stayed with Emma through the ceremony, which was witnessed by Simon and Clary, whom she suspected would become parabatai themselves one day.
After the ceremony, Julian and Emma were led through the streets to the Accords Hall, where there was a special dinner in their honor. Tessa—a pretty, brown-haired girl who looked about Clary’s age— had joined them, hugging Emma tightly and exclaiming over Cortana, which she said she had seen before a long time ago. Other parabatai got up and spoke about their bond and their experiences. Waves of radiant happiness seemed to come off the pairs of best friends as they talked. Jace and Alec spoke about nearly dying in the demon realms together, grinning, and Emma felt a sense of joy at the thought that one day she and Jules would be up there, smiling dopily at each other and talking about how their bond had gotten them through times when they’d thought they were going to die.
At some point during the speeches, Jem had slipped quietly from his chair and disappeared through the doors to Angel Square. Tessa had dropped her napkin and hurried after him; as the doors closed, Emma could see them on the dimly lit steps. Jem had his head down on Tessa’s shoulder.
She wanted to go after them, but she was already being swept up to the front of the Hall by Clary and made to give some sort of speech, and Julian was with her, smiling that calm smile that hid a million thoughts. And Emma had been happy. She’d been wearing one of her first great thrift store finds, a real gown, not like the ragged jeans she usually wore until they fell to pieces. Instead she’d put on a brown Paraphernalia dress scattered with pale gold blossoms like sunflowers growing out of a field and let her hair, which reached her waist, out of its usual ponytail. She’d shot up like a weed in the past year, and she nearly reached Jace’s shoulder when he came over to congratulate her and Julian.
She’d had the worst crush of all time on Jace when she was twelve and she still felt a little awkward around him. He was nearly nineteen years old now, and even better-looking than he had been—taller, broader, tanned, and with his hair bleached from sunlight, but more than anything else, happier-looking. She remembered a tense-looking, beautiful boy who burned with revenge and heavenly fire,
and now he looked at ease with himself.
Which was nice. She was happy for him, and for Clary, who smiled and waved at her across the room. But she no longer got butterflies in her stomach when he smiled at her, or wanted to crawl under something and die when he hugged her and told her she looked pretty in her new dress. “You’ve got a lot of responsibility now,” he said to Julian. “You’ll have to make sure she winds up with a guy who deserves her.”
Julian was strangely white-faced. Maybe he was feeling the effects of the ceremony, Emma thought. It had been strong magic, and she still felt it sizzling through her blood like champagne bubbles. But Jules looked as if he were getting sick.
“What about me?” Emma said quickly. “Don’t I have to make sure Jules winds up with someone who deserves him?”
“Absolutely. I did it for Alec, Alec did it for me—well, actually, he hated Clary at first, but he came around.”
“I bet you didn’t like Magnus much, either,” said Julian, still with the same odd, stiff look on his face.
“Maybe not,” said Jace, “but I never would have said so.”
“Because it would have hurt Alec’s feelings?” Emma asked.
“No,” said Jace, “because Magnus would have turned me into a hat rack,” and he wandered back toward Clary, who was laughing with Alec, both of them looking happy.
Which was as it should be, Emma thought. One’s parabatai should be friends with the person you loved, your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, because that was how it worked. Though when she tried to imagine the person she’d be with, someone she might marry and stay with forever, there was only a sort of blurry space. She couldn’t picture the person at all.
“I have to go,” Julian said. “I need some air.” He brushed the back of his hand across Emma’s cheek before making for the double doors of the Hall. It was a ragged touch: His nails were bitten down to the edges.
Later that night Emma woke up from a dream of fiery circles, her skin burning hot, the sheets tangled around her legs. They had been put up in the old Blackthorn manor house, and Julian was far away, down corridors she didn’t know like she knew the hallways of the Institute. She went to the window. It was a short drop down to the garden path. She kicked her feet into slippers and climbed outside.
The path curved around the gardens. Emma made her way along it, breathing in the cool, clean air of Idris, untouched by smog. The sky above was brilliant with a million stars, totally free of light pollution, and she wished Julian was with her so she could show it to him, and then she heard voices.
The Blackthorn manor had burned down quite a long time ago and been rebuilt near to the Herondale manor. Emma wandered down a number of pretty paths until she found a wall.
There was a gate set into the wall. As Emma approached it, she could hear the murmured voices more clearly. She crept to the side of the gate and peered through the bars.
On the other side, a green lawn sloped down to the Herondale manor, a pile of white and tawny stone. The grass was sparkling with dew under the starlight and starred with the white flowers that grew only in Idris.
“And that constellation right there, that’s the Rabbit. See how it has ears?” It was Jace’s voice. He and Clary were sitting in the grass, shoulder to shoulder. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and Clary was in her nightgown, Jace’s jacket around her shoulders. Jace was pointing at the sky.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no Rabbit constellation,” Clary said. She hadn’t changed as much as Jace had in the past years—she was still slight, her red hair bright as Christmas, her small face freckled and thoughtful. She had her head against Jace’s shoulder.
“Sure there is,” he said, and as the starlight touched his pale curls, Emma felt a faint flutter of her old crush. “And that one there, that’s the Hubcap. And there’s the Great Pancake.”
“I’m going back inside,” Clary said. “I was promised an astronomy lesson.”
“What? Sailors used to navigate by the Great Pancake,” said Jace, and Clary shook her head and started to stand up. Jace grabbed her ankle and she laughed and tumbled over on top of him, and then they were kissing and Emma froze, because what had been a casual moment, one she could have interrupted with a friendly hello, had suddenly become something else.
Jace rolled over on top of Clary in the grass. She had her arms wrapped around him, her hands in his hair. His jacket had fallen off her shoulders and the straps of her nightgown were sliding down her pale arms.
Clary was laughing and saying his name, saying maybe they should go back inside, and Jace kissed her neck. Clary gasped and Emma heard him say, “Remember the Wayland manor? Remember that time outside?”
“I remember.” Her voice was low and throaty.
“I didn’t think I could have you,” Jace said. He was propped over Clary on his elbows, tracing the line of her cheek with his finger. “It was like being in Hell. I would have done anything for you. I still would.”
Clary flattened her hand against his chest, over his heart, and said, “I love you.”
He made a noise, a very un-Jace-like noise, and Emma jerked herself away from the gate and ran back toward the Blackthorn house.
She reached her window and climbed up inside, gasping. The moon shone down like a floodlight, illuminating her room. She kicked off her slippers and sat down on the bed. Her heart was hammering inside her chest.
The way Jace had looked down at Clary, the way she’d touched his face. She wondered if anyone would ever look at her like that. It didn’t seem possible. She couldn’t imagine loving anyone that much.
Anyone but Jules.
But that was different. Wasn’t it? She couldn’t imagine Julian lying on top of her, kissing her like that. They were different, they were something else, weren’t they?
She lay back down on the bed, looking across the room at the door. Some part of her expected Jules to come through it, to come to her because she was unhappy the way he often did, seeming to know without being told. But why would he think she was unhappy? Today had been her parabatai ceremony; it should have been one of the happiest days of her life except for maybe her wedding day. Instead she felt flushed and strange and full of the strangest urge to cry.
Jules, she thought, but the door didn’t open, and he didn’t come. Instead she curled up around her pillow and lay awake until dawn.