The sky outside the Institute had turned the color of what was very late night or very early morning, depending on your point of view. It had always reminded Julian of blue cellophane or watercolor: the intense blue of evening turned translucent by the imminent arrival of the sun.
The inhabitants of the Institute—all but Arthur, who slept on soundly in his attic—had gathered in the computer room. Ty had brought papers and books from the library, and the others were going through them. Tavvy was curled up asleep in the corner. Piles of empty pizza boxes from Nightshade’s were stacked on the table. Emma didn’t even remember them being delivered, but most of them had been eaten. Mark was busy glaring at Cristina and Diego, though Diego didn’t seem to notice. He didn’t seem to notice Drusilla staring at him with saucer eyes either. He didn’t notice much, Julian thought uncharitably. Maybe being ridiculously good-looking was more time-consuming than it seemed.
Emma had finished telling the story of the way she and Cristina had tracked down Sterling and the things he had told them on the car ride home. Ty had been taking notes with a pencil, a second pencil stuck behind his ear. His black hair was ruffled up like a cat’s fur. Julian remembered when Ty had been young enough that he could reach out and smooth down his younger brother’s hair when it got too messy. Something in him ached at the recollection.
“So,” Ty said now, turning to Diego and Cristina, who was sitting beside Diego. She was barefoot, one of her pant legs rolled up and her calf bound with bandages. Every once in a while she would shoot Diego a look out of the corner of her eye that was half suspicion, half relief—that he’d helped her? That he was there at all? Julian wasn’t sure. “You’re a Centurion?”
“I studied at the Scholomance,” said Diego. “I was the youngest aspirant ever to become a Centurion.” Everyone looked impressed except Mark. Even Ty. “That’s like being a detective, isn’t it?” he said.
“You investigate for the Clave?”
“That is one of the things we do,” said Diego. “We stand outside the Law that precludes Shadowhunters from involving themselves in issues that relate to faeries.”
“The Clave can make that exception for any Shadowhunter, though, in exigent cases,” said Julian. “Why was Diana told we couldn’t investigate? Why did they send you?”
“It was judged that your family, with your connection to the Fair Folk, would not be able to objectively investigate a series of murders where some of the victims were faeries.”
“That is entirely unreasonable,” Mark said, his eyes flashing.
“Is it?” Diego glanced around. “From all I have heard and seen, you appear to have mounted a secret investigation into this issue, telling the Clave nothing about it. You have compiled evidence that you have
not shared. You have discovered a murderous cult operating in secret. . . .”
“You make it sound so shady,” Emma said. “So far all you’ve done is show up in L.A. and shoot another Shadowhunter.”
Diego glanced over at Julian. “It’s mostly healed,” Julian said. “Mostly.”
“I bet you didn’t report that to the Scholomance,” said Emma. “Did you, Perfect Diego?”
“I have reported nothing to the Scholomance,” Diego said. “Not since I found out Cristina was involved in this as well. I would never hurt her.”
Cristina blushed furiously.
“You’re a Centurion,” Ty said. “You have vows—” “Vows of friendship and love are stronger,” said Diego.
Drusilla looked at him with cartoon hearts in her eyes. “That’s beautiful.”
Mark rolled his eyes. He was clearly not a member of the Perfect Diego Appreciation Society. “That’s very touching,” said Emma. “Now talk. What do you know?”
Julian glanced at her. She seemed like Emma, ordinary Emma, sharp and encouraging and tough and normal. She even smiled at him quickly before turning her attention back to Diego. Julian listened, half his brain recording Diego’s story. The other half was in chaos.
For the past five years he had walked a narrow rockway above the ocean, falling away sheer on either side to a boiling cauldron. He had kept his balance by keeping his secrets.
Mark had forgiven him. But it wasn’t just Mark he’d lied to. Lying to your parabatai . . . It wasn’t forbidden, but most parabatai didn’t. They didn’t need or want to conceal things. That he’d concealed so much from Emma must have shocked her. He gazed at her face covertly, trying to read the signs of shock or anger. But he could tell nothing; her face was maddeningly unreadable as Diego launched into his story.
When Diego explained that he had come to the Institute when he arrived in Los Angeles, and that Uncle Arthur had chased him off, telling him he didn’t want non-Blackthorns interfering in Blackthorn problems, Livvy raised a questioning hand. “Why would he do that?” she said. “Uncle Arthur doesn’t like strangers, but he’s not a liar.”
Emma glanced away from her. Julian felt his stomach tighten. His secrets, still a burden.
“A lot of Shadowhunters of the older generation don’t trust Centurions,” he said. “The Scholomance was closed in 1872, and Centurions no longer trained. You know how adults are about things they didn’t grow up with.”
Livvy shrugged, looking mildly placated. Ty was scribbling in his notebook. “Where did you go after that, Diego?”
“He met Johnny Rook,” said Cristina. “And Rook tipped him off about the Sepulchre, just like he did with Emma.”
“I went there immediately,” Diego said. “I’d been waiting days in the alleys behind the bar.” His eyes flicked to Cristina. Julian wondered with a sort of distant cynicism if it was as obvious to everyone else as it was to him that Diego had done everything he did because of Cristina—that if he hadn’t been in a panic over her welfare, it was unlikely he would have rushed to the Sepulchre and spent days watching the place to see what would happen. “Then I heard a girl screaming.”
Emma sat up straight. “We didn’t hear that.”
“I think it was before you arrived,” said Diego. “I followed the sound and saw a group of Followers, including Belinda—though I didn’t know who they were then—attacking a girl. Slapping her, spitting on her. There were chalk protective circles drawn on the ground. I saw that symbol—the lines of water under the sign for fire. I had seen it at the Market. An old, old sign for resurgence.”
“Resurgence,” echoed Ty. “Necromancy?”
Diego nodded. “I fought off the Followers, but the girl got away. Ran to her car.” “That was Ava?” Emma guessed.
“Yes. She saw me and raced off. I followed her to her house, managed to convince her to tell me everything she knew about the Midnight Theater, the Followers, the Lottery. It wasn’t much, but I learned that she had been chosen by the Lottery. That she had been the one who killed Stanley Wells, knowing that if she didn’t, she would be tortured and killed herself.”
“She told you everything?” Livvy said in amazement. “But they’re sworn to secrecy.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why she took me into her confidence—”
“Seriously, dude?” Emma said. “Do you not own any mirrors?” “Emma!” hissed Cristina.
“She’d murdered him a few days before. She was already torn apart by guilt. She’d shown up in the alley because she wanted to see his body. She said an odd thing about the chalk circles—that they were useless, there to mislead. Very little she was saying made sense.” He frowned. “I told her I would protect her. I slept on her porch. The next day she demanded I leave. She said she wished to be with the Guardian and the other Followers. That it was her place. She insisted I go, so I went. I returned to the Market, bought weaponry from Johnny Rook. When I came back to Ava’s that night, she was dead. She had been choked and drowned in the pool, her hand sliced off.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on with the hands,” said Emma. “Ava was missing one hand and was killed; Belinda was missing a hand but they let her live, and she cut off both Sterling’s hands after he died.”
“Maybe they’re proof to the Guardian that someone’s dead,” said Livvy. “Like the Huntsman bringing back Snow White’s heart in a box.”
“Or maybe they’re part of the spell,” said Diego, with a frown. “Ava and Belinda were missing their dominant hands—perhaps Belinda didn’t know which was Sterling’s, so she took both.”
“A piece of the killer to go with the sacrifice?” Julian said. “We’re going to need to dig more deeply into the necromancy section of the library.”
“Yes,” said Diego. “I wished I had access to your library after I found Ava Leigh dead. I had failed in my duty to protect a mundane who needed my help. I swore I would find out who had done it. I waited on her roof—”
“Yeah, we know what happened,” Julian said. “I’ll remember it every time I have a twinge in my side during cold weather.”
Diego inclined his head. “I’m very sorry about that.”
“I want to know what happened next,” Ty said, still scribbling away in his elegant, incomprehensible handwriting. Julian had always thought it looked like cat footprints dancing across a page. His slim, long fingers already had pencil lead on them. “You found out Sterling was the next one chosen and followed him?”
“Yes,” Diego said. “And I saw you were trying to protect him. I didn’t understand why. I am sorry, but after what Arthur said to me, I suspected you all. I knew I should turn you in to the Clave, but I couldn’t do it.” He looked at Cristina, and then away. “I was outside the bar tonight hoping to stop Sterling, but I admit I also wanted your side of the story. Now I have it. I am glad I was wrong about your involvement.”
“You should be,” muttered Mark.
Diego sat back. “So maybe now you tell me what you know. It would only be fair.”
Julian was relieved when Mark took point on the summary. He was scrupulous about the details, even the bargain with the faeries over his own fate, and the results of his presence at the Institute.
“Blackthorn blood,” Diego said thoughtfully when Mark was done. “That is interesting. I would have guessed the Carstairs had more relevance to these spells, given the deaths five years ago.”
“Emma’s parents, you mean,” said Julian. He remembered them, their laughing eyes and their love for Emma. They could never be just “the deaths” to him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tavvy slide off the armchair where he’d been curled up. Quietly he
went to the door and slipped out. He must be exhausted; he’d probably been waiting for Julian to put him to bed. Julian felt a pang for his smallest brother, so often trapped in rooms full of older people talking about blood and death.
“Yes,” said Diego. “One of the questions I have had has been the fact that they were killed five years ago, and then there were no more killings until this last year. Why such a gap in time?”
“We thought maybe the spell required it,” Livvy said, and yawned. She looked exhausted, dark shadows under her eyes. They all did.
“That is another thing: In the car, Sterling said it didn’t matter what kind of creature they killed, human or faerie—even Nephilim, if we count the Carstairs murders.”
Cristina said, “He said they couldn’t murder werewolves or warlocks—”
“I imagine they were staying away from creatures protected by the Accords,” said Julian. “It would have drawn attention. Our attention.”
“Yes,” said Diego. “But otherwise, for it not to matter what kind of victim they chose? Human or faerie, male or female, old or young? Sacrificial magic requires commonalities among the victims—all those with the Sight, all virgins, or all with a certain type of blood. Here it seems random.”
Ty was looking at Diego with open admiration. “The Scholomance sounds so cool,” he said. “I had no idea they let you learn so much about spells and magic.”
Diego smiled. Drusilla looked as if she might fall over. Livvy looked as if she’d be impressed if she wasn’t so tired. And Mark looked even more annoyed.
“Can I see the photos of the convergence?” said Diego. “It sounds very significant. I am impressed you found it.”
“It was surrounded by Mantid demons when we went, so we have pictures of the inside but not the outside,” Mark said as Ty went to get the photos. “As for the demons, Emma and I took care of them.”
He winked at Emma. She smiled, and Julian felt that short, sharp jab of jealousy that came whenever Mark flirted with Emma. He knew it didn’t mean anything. Mark flirted in that way that faeries did, with a sort of courtly humor that had no real weight behind it.
But Mark could flirt with Emma if he wanted. He had a choice, and faeries were notoriously fickle . . .
and if Mark was interested, then he, Julian, had no right or reason to object. He should support his brother —wouldn’t he be lucky, after all, if his brother and parabatai fell in love? Didn’t people dream about the people who they loved loving one another?
Diego raised an eyebrow at Mark but said nothing as Tiberius spread the pictures out on the coffee table.
“It’s energy magic,” said Ty. “We know that much.”
“Yes,” said Diego. “Energy can be stored, especially death energy, and used later in necromancy. But we don’t know what someone would need all that energy for.”
“For a summoning spell,” said Livvy, and yawned again. “That’s what Malcolm said, anyway.”
A small crease appeared between Diego’s brows. “It is unlikely to be a summoning spell,” he said. “Death energy allows you to do death magic. This magician is trying to bring back someone from the dead.”
“But who?” said Ty, after a pause. “Someone powerful?”
“No,” said Drusilla. “He’s trying to bring back Annabel. Annabel Lee.”
Everyone looked surprised that Dru had spoken—so surprised that she seemed to shrink back into herself a little. Diego, though, gave her an encouraging smile.
“The—the poem’s written on the inside of the convergence cave, right?” she went on, looking around worriedly. “And everyone was trying to figure out if it was a code or a spell, but what if it’s just a reminder? This person—the magician—they lost someone they loved, and they’re trying to bring her back.”
“Someone so mad to get back their lost love that they founded a cult, killed more than a dozen people, created that cave at the convergence, etched that poem on the wall, created a Portal to the ocean . . . ?” Livvy sounded dubious.
“I would do it,” Dru said, “if it was someone I really loved. It might not even have been a girlfriend— maybe a mother or a sister or whatever. I mean, you’d do it for Emma, right, Jules? If she died?”
The black horror that was the thought of Emma dying rose against the backs of Julian’s eyes. He said, “Don’t be morbid, Dru,” in a voice that sounded very distant to his own ears.
“Julian?” Emma said. “Are you all right?”
Thankfully he didn’t need to answer. A solemn voice spoke from the doorway. “Dru is right,” Tavvy said.
He hadn’t gone to sleep after all. He stood by the door, wide-eyed, brown hair tousled. He had always been small for his age, and his eyes were big blue-green saucers in his pale face. He was holding something behind his back.
“Tavvy,” Julian said. “Tavs, what have you got there?”
Tavvy drew his hand from behind his back. He was carrying a book—a child’s book, oversize, with an illustrated cover. The title was printed in gold foil. A Treasury of Tales for Nephilim.
A Shadowhunter children’s book. There were such things, though not many of them. The printing presses in Idris were small.
“Where did you get that?” Emma asked, honestly curious. She’d had something like it as a child, but it had been lost with many of her parents’ things in the chaos after the war.
“Great-Aunt Marjorie gave it to me,” Tavvy said. “I like most of the stories. The one about the first parabatai is good, but some of them are sad and scary, like the one about Tobias Herondale. And the one about Lady Midnight is the saddest.”
“Lady what?” said Cristina, leaning forward.
“Midnight,” said Tavvy. “Like the theater you went to. I heard Mark say the rhyme and I just remembered I read it before.”
“You read it before?” Mark echoed incredulously. “When did you see that faerie rhyme, Octavian?” Tavvy opened the book. “There was a Shadowhunter lady,” he said. “She fell in love with someone she
wasn’t supposed to be in love with. Her parents trapped her in an iron castle, and he couldn’t get in. She died of sadness, so the man who loved her went to the King of the faeries and asked if there was a way to bring her back. He said there was a rhyme.
‘First the flame and then the flood: In the end, it’s Blackthorn blood.
Seek thou to forget what’s past First thirteen and then the last.
Search not the book of angels gray, Red or white will lead you far astray. To regain what you have lost,
Find the black book at any cost.’”
“So what happened?” said Emma. “To the man who went to Faerie?”
“He ate and drank faerie food,” said Tavvy. “He was trapped there. The legend is that the sound of the waves crashing on the beach is his cries for her to return.”
Julian exhaled. “How did we not find this?”
“Because it’s a children’s book,” said Emma. “It wouldn’t have been in the library.” “That’s dumb,” said Tavvy serenely. “It’s a good book.”
“But why?” Julian said. “Why Blackthorn blood?”
“Because she was a Blackthorn,” said Tavvy. “Lady Midnight. They called her that because she had long black hair, but she had the same eyes as the rest of us. Look.”
He turned the book around to show a haunting illustration. A woman whose jet-black hair spilled over her shoulders reached out for the retreating figure of a man, her eyes wide—and blue-green as the sea.
Livvy gave a little gasp, reaching for the book. Hesitantly, Tavvy let her have it. “Don’t tear the pages,” he warned.
“So this is the full rhyme,” she said. “This is what’s written on the bodies.”
“It’s instructions,” Mark said. “If the rhyme is a true faerie rhyme, then for the right person, it is a clear list of instructions. How to bring back the dead—not just any dead, but her. This Blackthorn woman.”
“Thirteen,” said Emma. Despite her exhaustion, her heart was racing with excitement. She met Cristina’s eyes across the room.
“Yes,” Cristina breathed. “What Sterling said—after we caught him, after he’d killed the girl. He said she was the thirteenth.”
Emma said, “‘First thirteen and then the last.’ He’s killed thirteen. He’s got one last one to go and then he’s done. He’ll have enough magic to bring back Lady Midnight.”
“So there’ll be one more,” said Julian. “One that might be different from the last.”
“There must be more instructions than this,” said Ty. “No one could figure out exactly how to complete this spell just from this rhyme.” He looked around, a flicker of uncertainty in his gray eyes. The look he got very rarely, but sometimes, when he thought that there was something in the world that everyone understood but him. “Could they?”
“No,” Mark said. “But the rhyme tells you where to look for the rest of the instructions. ‘Search not the book of angels gray’—the answer is not in the Gray Book. Nor is it in the Book of the White or in the Red Texts.”
“It is in the Black Volume of the Dead,” said Diego. “I have heard of that book, in the Scholomance.” “What is it?” said Emma. “Are there copies? Is it something we could get hold of?”
Diego shook his head. “It is a book of very dark magic. Almost legendary. Even warlocks are forbidden to own it. If there are copies, I do not know where. But we should set ourselves to find out, tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Livvy said, her voice blurry with sleep. “Tomorrow.”
“Do you need to go to bed, Livvy?” Julian asked. It was a rhetorical question: Livvy was drooping like a wilted dandelion. At his words, though, she forced herself bolt upright.
“No, I’m fine, I could stay up—”
Ty’s face changed subtly as he looked at his twin sister. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “I think we should all go to sleep. In the morning we’ll be able to concentrate better.”
Julian doubted Ty was actually tired at all: When he was engaged in a puzzle, he could stay up for days at a time. But Livvy nodded gratefully at the words.
“You’re right,” she said. She slid off the chair she was sitting on and picked up Tavvy, handing him back his book. “Come on,” she said. “You should definitely be in bed.”
“I helped, though, didn’t I?” Tavvy asked as his sister carried him toward the door. He was looking over at Julian as he said it, and Julian remembered himself as a child, looking toward Andrew Blackthorn that way. A boy looking to his father, seeking approval. “You didn’t just help,” said Julian. “I think you may have solved it, Tavs.”
“Yay,” said Tavvy sleepily, and put his head down on Livvy’s shoulder.
The others soon followed Ty and Livvy to bed, but Emma found she couldn’t sleep. She found herself, instead, sitting on the front steps of the Institute before the sun rose.
She was in flip-flops, a tank top, and pajama bottoms. The air coming off the ocean was chilly, but she didn’t feel it. She was staring at the water.
From every angle of the steps you could see the ocean: blue-black in the rising morning now, like ink, raked with swells of white foam where the waves broke far out to sea. The moon had shrunk and cast an angular shadow across the water. A blue-and-silver dawn.
She remembered the spilling cold of that blue ocean all around her. The taste of salt water and demon blood. The feeling that the water was pressing her down, crushing her bones.
And the worst part, the fear that once her parents had felt the same pain, the same panic.
She thought of Julian then. The way he had looked in the dining room. The strain in his voice as he’d stood there telling her and Mark everything he’d done for the past five years.
Emma half-turned and saw Perfect Diego coming down the steps. He looked immaculate, despite the night they’d had, even his boots polished. His dark brown hair was thick and fell charmingly over one of his eyes. He looked a bit like a prince in a fairy-tale book.
She thought of Julian again. His untidy hair, his bitten nails, his dusty boots, the paint on his hands. “Hey, Perfect Diego,” she said.
“I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”
“You wish in vain,” Emma said. “Where are you going? Is Cristina all right?”
“She’s asleep.” Perfect Diego looked out at the ocean. “It’s very beautiful here. You must find it peaceful.”
“And you must be kidding.”
He flashed a fairly perfect smile. “You know, when there aren’t murders happening and small armies surrounding the place.”
“Where are you going?” Emma asked again. “It’s practically dawn.”
“I know the cave will not be open, but I am going to the convergence site to see it for myself. The demons should have disbanded by now. I want to take another look around the area, see if there is anything you missed.”
“You are just bursting with tact, aren’t you?” Emma said. “Fine. Go ahead. See what we all missed while we were nearly being cut to pieces by giant grasshopper demons.”
“Mantids aren’t technically grasshoppers—”
Emma glared. Diego shrugged and jogged to the foot of the steps. He paused there and looked back over his shoulder at her.
“Does anyone else in the Clave know about your investigation?” he said. “Anyone but your family?” “Just Diana,” said Emma.
“Diana is your tutor?” When Emma nodded, he frowned. “Weren’t Jace Herondale and the Lightwoods betrayed by their own tutor?”
“She’d never betray us,” Emma said, outraged. “Not to the Clave or to anyone else. Hodge Starkweather was different.”
“Starkweather wasn’t Diana. He was a minion of Valentine’s. Diana is a good person.” “So where is she now?” Diego asked. “I’d like to meet her.”
Emma hesitated. “She . . .”
“She’s in Thailand,” said a voice from behind them. It was Julian. He’d shrugged on a hooded army jacket over his jeans and T-shirt. “There was a witch there she wanted to question about energy spells. Someone she knew when she was younger.” He paused. “We can trust her.”
Diego inclined his head. “I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.”
Julian leaned against one of the pillars, and he and Emma watched as Diego strode away across the
trampled grass and headed down the road. The moon had disappeared entirely and the eastern sky was beginning to turn pink.
“What are you doing out here?” Julian said finally in a quiet voice. “I couldn’t sleep,” said Emma.
Julian had his head tipped back, as if he were bathing in the dim illumination of the dawn. The strange light made him into something else, someone made out of marble and silver, someone whose inky curls clung to his temples and neck like the acanthus leaves in Greek art.
He wasn’t perfect, like Diego, but to Emma, there had never been anyone more beautiful. “We’re going to have to talk about this eventually,” she said. “What you told me and Mark.”
“I know.” He looked down at his long legs, the frayed hems of his jeans, his boots. “I had hoped—I suppose I’d hoped it would never happen, or that at least we’d be adults when it did.”
“So let’s be adults about it. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Do you think I liked keeping secrets from you? Do you think I didn’t want to tell you?” “If you’d wanted to, you could have.”
“No, I couldn’t.” He spoke with a quiet despair. “Did you not trust me? Did you think I’d tell on you?”
Julian shook his head. “That wasn’t it.” Enough light had spread over the landscape for the color of his eyes to be visible despite the darkness. They looked like artificially illuminated water.
Emma thought of the night Julian’s mother had died. She had been ill, attended by Silent Brothers to the end. There were some diseases even Nephilim magic couldn’t cure: She had cancer of the bone, and it had killed her.
Andrew Blackthorn, newly widowed, had been too devastated to be the one to go to Tavvy when the baby cried in the night. Helen had been efficient: heating Tavvy’s bottles, changing him, dressing him. But Julian had been the one who stayed with him during the day. While Mark and Helen trained, Julian sat in Tavvy’s room and sketched or painted. Emma would sit with him there sometimes, and they would play the way they normally did, with the baby gurgling in his crib a few feet away.
At the time Emma hadn’t thought much of it. She, like Julian, had been only ten years old. But she recalled it now.
“I remember when your mother died,” she said. “And you took care of Tavvy during the days. I asked you why, and I remember what you said. Do you?”
“I said it was because no one else could,” said Julian, looking at her quizzically. “Mark and Helen had to train. . . . My father was . . . well, you know how he was.”
“Everything you’ve done is because no one else would or could do it. If you hadn’t covered up for Arthur, no one else would even have thought of it. If you hadn’t been so determined to hold everything together, no one else would have. Maybe it started back then, when you took care of Tavvy. Maybe it gave you the idea.”
He exhaled. “Maybe. I don’t entirely know myself.”
“I still wish you’d told me. I know you thought you were being unselfish—” “I didn’t,” he said.
She looked at him in surprise.
“I did it for entirely selfish reasons,” he said. “You were my escape, Emma. You were my way away from everything terrible. When I was with you, I was happy.”
Emma stood up. “But that can’t have been the only time you were happy—”
“Of course I’m happy with my family,” he said. “But I’m responsible for them—I was never responsible for you—we’re responsible for each other; that’s what parabatai means, don’t you understand, Emma, you’re the only one, the only one who was ever meant to look after me.”
“Then I failed you,” she said, feeling a bone-deep sense of disappointment with herself. “I should have
known what you were going through, and I didn’t—”
“Don’t ever say that again!” He shoved himself away from the pillar, the rising sun, behind him, turning the edges of his hair to copper. Emma couldn’t see his expression, but she knew it was furious.
Emma got to her feet. “What, that I should have known? I should have—”
“That you failed me,” he said hotly. “If you knew—you’ve been all that’s kept me going, for weeks sometimes, months. Even when I was in England, thinking of you kept me going. It’s why I had to be parabatai with you—it was completely selfish—I wanted to tie you to me, no matter what, even though I knew it was a bad idea, even though I knew I—”
He broke off, a look of horror flashing across his face.
“Even though what?” Emma demanded. Her heart was pounding. “Even though what, Julian?”
He shook his head. Her hair had escaped from its ponytail and the wind was whipping it around her face, bright pale strands on the wind. He reached up to tuck one behind her ear: He looked like someone caught in a dream, trying to wake up. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.
“Do you love me?” Her voice was a whisper.
He wound a piece of her hair around his finger, a silver-gold ring. “What’s the difference?” he asked. “It won’t change anything if I do.”
“It changes things,” she whispered. “It changes everything for me.”
“Emma,” he said. “You’d better go back inside. Go to sleep. We both should. . . .”
She gritted her teeth. “If you’re going to walk away from me now, you’ll have to do it yourself.” He hesitated. She saw the tension in him, in his body, rise like a wave about to break.
“Walk away from me,” she said harshly. “Walk away.”
His tension crested and fell; something in him seemed to collapse, water breaking against rocks. “I can’t,” he said, his voice low and broken, “God, I can’t,” and he half-closed his eyes, bringing up his other hand to cradle her face. His hands slid into her hair, and he drew her toward him. She inhaled a breath of cold air and then his mouth was on hers and her senses exploded.
She had wondered, in the back of her mind, if what had happened on the beach between them had been a fluke born of their shared adrenaline. Surely kisses weren’t meant to be like that, so all-encompassing that they ripped through you like lightning, tore down your defenses and decimated your self-control.
Her hands fisted in the material of Julian’s jacket, dragging him toward her, closer, closer. There was sugar and caffeine on his lips. He tasted like energy. Her hands slid up under his shirt, touching the bare skin of his back, and he broke away from her to suck in his breath. His eyes were closed, his lips parted.
“Emma,” he breathed, and the desire in his voice tore a scorching path through her. When he reached for her, she almost fell against him. He swiveled her body around, pushing her back against a pillar, his body a strong, hot line against hers—
A sound cut through the fog in her mind. Emma and Julian tore apart, staring.
Both of them had been in the Hall of Accords in Idris when the Wild Hunt had come, howling around the walls, tearing at the ceiling. Emma remembered the sound of Gwyn’s horn, blasting through the air. Vibrating every nerve in her body. A high, hollow, lonesome sound.
It came again now, echoing through the morning.
The sun had risen while Emma had been wrapped up in Julian, and the road that led down to the highway was illuminated by sunlight. There were three figures coming up it, on horseback: one black horse, one white, and one gray.
Emma recognized two of the riders immediately: Kieran, sitting his horse like a dancer, his hair nearly black in the sunlight, and next to him, Iarlath, wrapped in dark robes.
The third rider was familiar to Emma from a hundred illustrations in books. He was a big, broad man,
bearded, wearing dark armor that looked like the overlapping bark of a tree. He had tucked his horn under his arm; it was a massive object, etched all over with a pattern of deer.
Gwyn the Hunter, the leader of the Wild Hunt, had come to the Institute. And he did not look pleased.