Lady Midnight – chapter 8

Emma shouldered open the door to Julian’s studio, trying hard not to spill any liquid out of the two overflowing mugs of soup she was carrying.

 

There were two rooms in Julian’s studio: the one Julian let people see, and the one he didn’t. His mother, Eleanor, had used the larger room as a studio and the smaller one as a darkroom to develop photographs. Ty had often voiced the question of whether the developing chemicals and setup were still intact, and whether he could use them.

 

But the second studio room was the only issue on which Julian didn’t bend to the will of his younger siblings or offer to give up what was his for them. The black-painted door stayed closed and locked, and even Emma wasn’t allowed inside.

 

Nor did she ask. Julian had so little privacy, she didn’t want to begrudge him the bit he could claim. The main studio was beautiful. Two of the walls were glass, one facing the ocean and one the desert.

 

The other two walls were painted creamy taupe, and Julian’s mother’s canvases—abstracts in bright colors—still adorned them.

 

Jules was standing by the central island, a massive block of granite whose surface was covered with sheafs of paper, boxes of watercolors, and piled tubes of paint with lyrical names: alazarin red, cardinal purple, cadmium orange, ultramarine blue.

 

He raised one hand and put a finger to his lips, glancing to the side. Seated at a small easel was Tavvy, armed with a box of open nontoxic paints. He was smearing them over a long sheet of butcher paper, seeming pleased with his multicolored creation. There was orange paint in his brown curls.

 

“I just got him calmed down,” Julian said as Emma approached and set the mugs on the island. “What’s going on? Has anyone talked to Mark?”

 

“His door’s still locked,” Emma said. “The others are in the library.” She pushed one of the mugs toward him. “Eat,” she said. “Cristina made it. Tortilla soup. Although she says we have the wrong chiles.”

 

Julian picked up a mug and knelt down to place it next to Tavvy. His little brother looked up and blinked at Emma as if he’d just noticed she was there. “Did Jules show you the pictures?” he demanded. Blue had joined the orange and yellow in his hair. He looked like a sunset.

 

“Which pictures?” Emma asked as Julian straightened up. “The ones of us. The card ones.”

She raised an eyebrow at Jules. “The card what?”

 

He flushed. “Portraits,” he said. “I did them in the Rider-Waite style, like the tarot.”

 

“The mundane tarot?” Emma said as Jules reached for a portfolio book. Shadowhunters tended to eschew the objects of mundane superstition: palmistry, astrology, crystal balls, tarot cards. They weren’t forbidden to own or touch, but they were associated with unsavory dwellers on the fringes of magic, like Johnny Rook.

 

“I made some changes to it,” Julian said, opening the book to show a flutter of papers, each sporting a colorful, distinctive illustration. There was Livvy with her saber, hair flying, but instead of her name beneath, it read THE PROTECTOR. As always, Julian’s paintings seemed to reach out, a direct line to her heart, making her feel as if she understood what Julian had felt while he was painting. Looking at the picture of Livvy, Emma felt a flash of admiration, love, a fear of loss, even—Julian would never speak of it, but she suspected he was watching Livvy and Ty become adults with more than a little terror.

 

Then there was Tiberius, a death’s-head moth fluttering on his hand, his pretty face turned down and away from the viewer. The painting gave Emma a sense of fierce love, intelligence, and vulnerability mixed together. Beneath him it said THE GENIUS.

 

Then there was THE DREAMER—Dru with her head in a book—and THE INNOCENT, Tavvy in his pajamas, sleepy head cradled in his hand. The colors were warm, affectionate, caressing.

 

And then there was Mark. Arms crossed over his chest, hair as blond as straw, he wore a shirt that bore the design of spread wings. Each wing sported an eye: one gold, one blue. A rope circled his ankle, trailing out of the frame.

 

THE PRISONER, it said.

 

Jules’s shoulder brushed against Emma’s as she leaned in to study the image. Like all Julian’s drawings, it seemed to whisper to her in a silent language: loss, it said, and sorrow, and years that you could not recapture.

“Is this what you were working on in England?” she asked.

 

“Yes. I was hoping to do the whole set.” He reached back and scrubbed at his tangled brown curls. “I might have to change the title of Mark’s card,” said Julian. “Now that he’s free.”

 

“If he stays free.” Emma brushed the drawing of Mark aside and saw that the next portrait was of Helen, standing among ice floes, her pale hair covered by a knitted cap. THE SEPARATED, it said. There was another card, THE DEVOTED, for her wife, Aline, whose dark hair made a cloud around her. She wore the Blackthorn ring on her hand. And the last was of Arthur, sitting at his desk. A red ribbon ran along the floor beneath him, the color of blood. There was no title.

Julian reached out and shuffled them back into the notebook. “They’re not finished yet.”

“Am I going to get a card?” Emma teased. “Or is it just Blackthorns and Blackthorns-by-marriage?” “Why don’t you draw Emma?” Tavvy asked, looking at his brother. “You never draw Emma.” Emma saw Julian tense. It was true. Julian rarely drew people, but even when he did, he’d stopped

 

sketching Emma years ago. The last time she remembered him drawing her was the family portrait at Aline and Helen’s wedding.

“Are you all right?” she said, her voice low enough that she hoped Tavvy couldn’t hear.

He exhaled, hard, and opened his eyes, his muscles unclenching. His eyes met hers and the curl of anger that had begun unfurling in her stomach vanished. His gaze was open, vulnerable. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just, I always thought when he got back—when Mark got back—he’d help. That he’d take over, take care of everything. I never thought he’d be something else I had to deal with.”

 

Emma was carried back in that moment to all the weeks, the months, after Mark had first been taken and Helen sent away, when Julian had woken up screaming for the older brother and sister who weren’t there, who would never be there again. She remembered the panic that sent him stumbling to the bathroom to throw up, the nights she’d held him on the cold tiled floor while he shook as if he had a fever.

 

I can’t, he’d said. I can’t do this alone. I can’t bring them up. I can’t raise four children.


Emma felt the anger uncurl in her stomach again, but this time it was directed at Mark.

 

“Jules?” Tavvy asked, sounding nervous, and Julian passed a hand over his face. It was a nervous habit, as if he were wiping an easel free of paint; when he dropped his hand, the fear and emotion had gone from his eyes.

 

“I’m here,” he said, and went over to pick up Tavvy. Tavvy put his head down on Jules’s shoulder, looking sleepy, and getting paint all over Jules’s T-shirt. But Jules didn’t seem to care. He put his chin down in his younger brother’s curls and smiled at Emma.

 

“Forget it,” he said. “I’m going to take this one off to bed. You should probably get some sleep too.” But Emma’s veins were buzzing with a sharp elixir of anger and protectiveness. No one hurt Julian. No

 

one. Not even his much-missed, much-loved brother. “I will,” she said. “I’ve got something to do first.” Julian looked alarmed. “Emma, don’t try to—” But she was already gone.

 

Emma stood in front of Mark’s door, her hands on her hips. “Mark!” She rapped with her knuckles for the fifth time. “Mark Blackthorn, I know you’re in there. Open the door.”

Silence. Emma’s curiosity and anger warred with her respect for Mark’s privacy, and won. Opening runes didn’t work on doors inside their Institute, so she drew a thin knife from her belt and slid it into the gap between the door and the doorjamb. The latch popped, and the door swung wide.

 

Emma stuck her head in. The lights were on, curtains drawn against the darkness outside. The bedcovers were rumpled, the bed empty.

In fact, the whole room was empty. Mark wasn’t there.

Emma pulled the door shut and turned around with an exasperated sigh—and almost screamed. Dru was standing behind her with wide, dark eyes. She was clutching a book to her chest.

 

“Dru! You know, usually when people sneak up on me from behind, I stab them.” Emma exhaled shakily.

 

Dru looked glum. “You’re looking for Mark.” Emma saw no point in denying it. “True.” “He’s not in there,” Dru said.

 

“Also true. This is a big night for stating the obvious, huh?” Emma smiled at Dru, feeling a pang. The twins were so close, and Tavvy so young and dependent on Jules, it was hard, she thought, for Dru to find the place she fit. “He’ll be okay, you know.”

“He’s on the roof,” Dru said.

Emma raised an eyebrow. “What makes you say that?”

 

“He always used to go up there when he was upset,” said Dru. She glanced toward the window at the far end of the hall. “And up there, he’d be under the sky. He could see the Hunt if they rode by.”

 

Emma felt chilled. “They won’t,” she said. “They won’t ride by. They won’t take him away again.” “Even if he wants to go?”

“Dru—”

“Go up there and bring him back down,” Drusilla said. “Please, Emma.” Emma wondered if she looked bewildered; she felt bewildered. “Why me?”

 

“Because you’re a pretty girl,” said Dru, a little wistfully, looking down at her own round body. “And boys do what pretty girls want. Great-Aunt Marjorie said so. She said if I wasn’t such a butterball, I’d be a pretty girl and boys would do what I wanted.”

Emma was appalled. “That old bi—that old bat, sorry, said what?”

 

Dru hugged the book more tightly to her. “You know, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Butterball? Like you could be something cute, like a squirrel, or a chipmunk.”

 

“You’re much cuter than a chipmunk,” Emma said. “Weird teeth, and I have it on good authority that they speak in high, squeaky voices.” She ruffled Dru’s soft hair. “You’re gorgeous,” she said. “You always will be gorgeous. Now, I’ll go see what I can do about your brother.”

 

The hinges on the trapdoor that led to the roof hadn’t been oiled in months; they squeaked loudly as Emma, bracing herself on the top rung of the ladder, shoved upward. The trapdoor gave way and she crawled out onto the roof.

 

She straightened up, shivering. The wind off the ocean was cold, and she had only thrown a cardigan on over her tank top and jeans. The shingle of the roof was rough under her bare feet.

 

She’d been up here too many times to count. The roof was flat, easy to walk on, only a slight slant at the edges where the shingles gave way to copper rain gutters. There was even a folding metal chair up here, where Julian sat sometimes when he painted. He’d gone through a whole phase of painting the sunset over the ocean—he’d given it up when he’d kept chasing the changing colors of the sky, convinced each stage of the setting sun was better than the one before, until every canvas ended up black.

 

There was very little cover up here; it took only a moment to spot Mark, sitting at the edge of the roof with his legs dangling over the edge, staring out toward the ocean.

 

Emma made her way over to him, the wind whipping her pale braids across her face. She pushed them away impatiently, wondering if Mark was ignoring her or if he was actually unaware of her approach. She stopped a few feet from him, remembering the way he’d hit out at Julian.

“Mark,” she said.

 

He turned his head slowly. In the moonlight he was black and white; it was impossible to tell that his eyes were different colors. “Emma Carstairs.”

 

Her full name. That wasn’t very auspicious. She crossed her arms over her chest. “I came up here to bring you back down,” she said. “You’re freaking out your family and you’re upsetting Jules.”

 

“Jules,” he said carefully. “Julian. Your brother.

“I want to talk to my sister,” he said. “I want to talk to Helen.”

“Fine,” said Emma. “You can talk to her whenever. You can borrow an extra cell phone and call her, or we can have her call you, or we can freaking Skype, if that’s what you want. We would have told you that before if you hadn’t started yelling.”

“Skype?” Mark looked as if she’d sprouted several heads.

 

“It’s a computer thing. Ty knows about it. You’ll be able to look at her when you talk to her.” “Like the scrying glass of the fey?”

 

“Sort of like that.” Emma edged a little closer to him, as if she were sidling up to a wild animal that might spook at her approach. “Come back downstairs?”

 

“I prefer it here. I was choking inside on all that dead air, crushed under the weight of all that building —roof and timbers and glass and stone. How do you live like that?”

“You did just fine for sixteen years.”

“I barely remember,” he said. “It seems like a dream.” He glanced back toward the ocean. “So much water,” he said. “I can see it and through it. I can see the demons down under the sea. I look at it and it doesn’t seem real.”

 

That was something Emma could understand. The sea was what had taken her parents’ bodies and then returned them, broken and empty. She knew from the reports that they’d been dead when they’d been cast into the water, but it didn’t help. She remembered the lines of a poem Arthur had recited once, about the ocean: water washes, and tall ships founder, and deep death waits.

 

That was what the sea beyond the waves was, to her. Deep death waiting. “Surely there’s water in Faerie?” she said.

 

“Not any sea. And never enough water. The Wild Hunt would often ride for days without water. Only if we were fainting would Gwyn let us stop to drink. And there are fountains in the Wild of Faerie, but they run with blood.”

 

“‘For all the blood that’s shed on earth, runs through the springs of that country,’” said Emma. “I didn’t realize that was literal.”

 

“I didn’t realize you knew the old rhymes,” said Mark, glancing over with the first real interest he’d shown in her since his return.

 

“The whole family has always tried to learn everything they can about Faerie,” said Emma, sitting down beside him. “Ever since we came back from the Dark War, Diana has taught us, and even the little ones wanted to know about the Fair Folk. Because of you.”

 

“That must be a rather unpopular part of the Shadowhunter curriculum,” said Mark, “considering recent history.”

 

“It isn’t your fault, what the Clave thinks of faeries,” said Emma. “You’re a Shadowhunter, and you were never part of the betrayal.”

 

“I am a Shadowhunter,” Mark agreed. “But I am part Fair Folk, too, like my sister. My mother was the Lady Nerissa. She died after I was born, and with no one to raise us, Helen and I were given back to our father. My mother was gentry, though, one of the highest rank of the fey.”

“Did they treat you better in the Hunt because of her?”

 

Mark shook his head once. “I believe they think of my father as responsible for her death. For breaking her heart by leaving her. That did not dispose them well toward me.” He tucked a lock of pale hair behind his ear. “Nothing the Fair Folk did to my body or mind was as cruel as the moment I was told that the Clave would not be coming to find me. That they would send no rescue parties. Jace told me, when he saw me in Faerie, ‘show them what a Shadowhunter is made of.’ But what are Shadowhunters made of, if they desert their own?”

 

“The Council isn’t all Shadowhunters in the world,” said Emma. “A lot of Nephilim thought what was done to you was wrong. And Julian never stopped trying to get the Clave to change their minds.” She considered reaching to pat his arm, then thought better of it. There was still something a little feral about him; it would have been like reaching to pat a leopard. “You’ll see, now that you’re home.”

 

“Am I home?” asked Mark. He shook his head, like a dog shaking off water. “Perhaps I was unfair to my brother,” he said. “Perhaps I should not have lashed out. I feel like—like I am in a dream. It seems weeks ago they came to me at the Hunt and told me I was to go back to the world.”

“Did they tell you that you’d be coming home?”

 

“No,” he said. “They told me I had no choice but to leave the Hunt. That the King of the Unseelie Court had commanded it. They pulled me down from my horse and bound my hands. We rode for days. They gave me something to drink, something that made me hallucinate and imagine things that were not there.” He looked down at his hands. “It was so I would not be able to find my way back, but I wish they had not done it,” he said. “I wish I could have arrived here as I have been for years, a capable member of the Hunt. I would have liked my brothers and sisters to see me standing tall and proud, not fearful and crawling.”

 

“You do seem very different now,” Emma said. It was true. He seemed like someone who had woken up after a hundred years of sleep, shaking the dust of a century’s dreams from his feet. He had been terrified; now his hands were steady, his expression somber.

Suddenly he smiled wryly.

 

“When they ordered me to reveal myself in the Sanctuary, I thought it was another dream.” “A good dream?” Emma said.

 

He hesitated, then shook his head. “In the early days of the Hunt, when I disobeyed, I was made to see dreams, horrors, visions of my family dying. I thought that was what I was meant to be seeing again. I was

 

terrified—not for myself, but for Julian.”

 

“But now you know it’s not a dream. Seeing your family, your home—”

“Emma. Stop.” He squeezed his eyes shut as if in pain. “I can say this to you because you are not a Blackthorn. You do not have Blackthorn blood running through your veins. I have been in the land of Faerie for years and it is a place where mortal blood is turned to fire. It is a place of beauty and terror beyond what can be imagined here. I have ridden with the Wild Hunt. I have carved a clear path of freedom among the stars and outrun the wind. And now I am asked to walk upon the earth again.”

 

“You belong where you’re loved,” Emma said. It was something her father had said, something she had always believed. She belonged here because Jules loved her and the children loved her. “Were you loved in Faerie?”

 

A shadow seemed to come down over Mark’s eyes, like curtains closing in a dark room. “I meant to tell you. I am sorry about your parents.”

 

Emma waited for the familiar burn of sickening rage that the mention of her parents by anyone but Jules always brought on, but it didn’t come. There was something in the way he said it—something about the strange mixture of formal, faerie speech and sincere regret—that was oddly calming.

“And I’m sorry about your father,” she told him.

 

“I saw him Turned,” Mark said. “Though I did not see him die in the Dark War. I hope he did not suffer.”

 

Emma felt a ripple of shock pass up her spine. Did he not know how his father had died? Had no one told him? “He—” she began. “It was in the middle of battle. It was very quick.”

“You saw it?”

Emma scrambled to her feet. “It’s late,” she said. “We should get to sleep.”

 

He looked up at her with his eerie eyes. “You do not want to sleep,” he said, and he looked wild to her suddenly, wild as the stars or the desert, wild as all natural, untamed things. “You have always been one for adventure, Emma, and I do not think that has died in you, has it? Tied though you might be to my unadventurous little brother?”

 

“Julian isn’t unadventurous,” Emma said angrily. “He’s responsible.” “You would have me believe there is a difference?”

Emma looked up at the moon, and then back at Mark. “What are you suggesting?”

“It occurred to me, as I looked out at the ocean,” he said, “I may be able to find the place where the ley lines converge. I have seen such places before, with the Hunt. They give off a certain energy that fey folk can feel.”

What? But how—”

 

“I’ll show you. Come with me to look for the place. Why wait? The investigation is urgent, isn’t it? We must find the killer?”

 

Excitement rose up in Emma, and sharp desire; she tried to keep it off her face, how badly she wanted, needed to know, to take the next step, to throw herself into searching, fighting, finding. “Jules,” she said, rising to her feet. “We have to get Jules and bring him.”

Mark looked grim. “I do not wish to see him.”

 

Emma stood her ground. “Then we don’t go,” she said. “He’s my parabatai—where I go, he goes.” Something flashed in Mark’s eyes. “If you won’t go without him, we will not go at all,” he said. “You

cannot force me to give up the information.”

“Force you? Mark—” Emma broke off, exasperated. “Fine. Fine. We can go. Just us.”

 

“Just us,” he repeated. He stood up. His movements were impossibly light and fast. “But first you must prove yourself.”

He stepped off the roof.

Emma skidded to the edge of the shingle and leaned out. There was Mark, clinging to the wall of the

 

Institute, an arm’s length below her. He looked up with a fierce grin. A grin that spoke of empty air and cold wind, the torn surface of the ocean, the ragged edge of clouds. A grin that beckoned to the wild, unbound side of Emma, the side that dreamed of fire and battle and blood and vengeance.

“Climb down with me,” he said, and now there was an edge of mockery in his voice.

 

“You’re crazy,” she hissed, but he had already begun to move down the wall, using handholds and footholds that Emma couldn’t even see. The ground swung under her. Real heights: If she fell from the roof of the Institute, she might well die; there was no assurance an iratze could save her.

 

She got down on her knees and turned her back to the ocean. She slid down, her nails scraping shingle, and then she was clinging to the gutter with her hands, her legs dangling out into the air.

 

She scrabbled at the wall with her bare feet. Thank the Angel she wasn’t wearing boots. Her feet were calloused from walking and fighting; they slipped along the wall until they found a crack in the surface. She jammed her toes into it, relieving the weight on her arms.

Don’t look down.

 

For as long as Emma could remember, the voice in her head that calmed her panic had been Jules’s. She heard it now, bringing her hands down, her fingers jamming into the space between two stones. She lowered herself down, an inch at first, then farther as she found another foothold. She heard Jules: You’re climbing over the rocks at Leo Carrillo. It’s only a few feet down to soft sand. Everything’s safe.

 

The wind blew her hair across her face. She turned her head to shake it out of her eyes and realized she was passing a window. Pale light burned behind the curtains. Cristina’s room, maybe?

 

Have you always been this careless? More since the Dark War . . .

 

She was halfway down now, she guessed from looking up, the roof receding. She had started to speed up, her fingertips and toes swiftly discovering new handholds and footholds. The plaster in between the stones helped, kept her sweaty hands from slipping as she gripped and released, gripped and released, pressing her body hard against the wall until suddenly she was reaching down with her foot and struck solid ground.

 

She let go and fell, landing with a soft puff of sand. They were on the east side of the house, facing the garden, the small parking area, and the desert beyond.

 

Mark was already there, of course, bleached by moonlight and looking like part of the desert, a curious carving of pale new stone. Emma was breathing hard as she stepped away from the wall, but it was with exhilaration. Her heart was hammering, her blood drumming; she could taste salt on the wind, in her mouth.

 

Mark rocked backward, hands in his pockets. “Come with me,” he whispered, and turned away from the building, toward the sand and scrub of the desert.

 

“Wait,” Emma said. Mark stopped and looked over his shoulder at her. “Weapons,” she said. “And shoes.” She went to the car. A quick Open rune unlocked the trunk, revealing piles of weapons and gear. She hunted until she found a belt and a spare pair of boots. She buckled the belt on quickly, slammed some blades and daggers into it, grabbed up some spares, and kicked her feet into the boots.

 

Luckily, in the rush back from Malcolm’s she’d left Cortana strapped to the inside of the trunk. She freed the blade and slung it over her back before hurrying over to Mark, who silently accepted her offer of a seraph blade and a set of knives before gesturing for her to follow him.

 

Behind the low wall bordering the parking lot was the rock garden, usually peaceful, planted with cacti and dotted here and there with plaster statues of classical heroes, placed there by Arthur. He’d had them shipped from England when he’d first moved to the Institute and they stuck out among the cacti, anomalous.

 

There was something else there now, a dark, hulking shadow, covered by a cloth. Mark moved toward it, again with that odd smile; Emma stepped aside to let him go ahead of her, and he plucked the long

 

black cloth away.

 

Beneath it was a motorcycle.

Emma gave a little gasp. It wasn’t any make of motorcycle that she knew: It was silvery-white, as if it had been carved out of bone. It glimmered under the moonlight, and Emma almost thought for a moment she could see through it, the way she sometimes saw through glamours, to a shape beneath, with a tossing mane and wide eyes. . . .

 

“When you take a steed from Faerie, whose substance is magic, its nature can change to suit the mundane world,” said Mark, smiling at her stunned expression.

 

“You mean this was once a horse? This is a pony-cycle?” Emma demanded, forgetting to whisper. His smile broadened. “There are many sorts of steeds who ride with the Wild Hunt.”

 

Emma was already beside the motorcycle, running her hands over it. The metal felt smooth like glass, cool under her fingers, milk white and glowing. She had wanted to ride a motorcycle all her life. Jace and Clary had ridden a flying motorcycle. There were paintings of it. “Does it fly?”

Mark nodded, and she was lost.

“I want to drive it,” she said. “I want to drive it myself.”

 

He swept an elaborate bow. It was a graceful, alien gesture, the kind that might have existed in the court of a king, hundreds of years ago. “Then you are welcome to do so.”

 

“Julian would kill me,” Emma said reflexively, still stroking the machine. Beautiful as it was, she felt a thrill of trepidation at the thought of riding it—it didn’t have an exhaust pipe, a speedometer, any of the normal gear she associated with a cycle.

 

“You don’t strike me as that easy to kill,” Mark said, and now he wasn’t smiling, and the way he looked at her was direct and challenging.

 

Without another word Emma swung her leg over the bike. She reached to grip the handlebars, and they seemed to bend inward to fit her hands. She looked at Mark. “Get on behind me,” she said, “if you want to ride.”

 

She felt the cycle rock under her as he climbed on behind her; his hands clasped her sides lightly. Emma exhaled, her shoulders tensing. “It’s alive,” Mark whispered. “It will respond to you, if you will it.”

Her hands tightened on the handlebars. Fly.

 

The cycle shot up into the air and Emma screamed, half in shock and half in delight. Mark’s hands tightened on her waist as they hurtled up, the ground receding below them. The wind poured around them. Untrammeled by gravity, the cycle shot forward as Emma urged it on, leaning forward to communicate with her body what she wanted it to do.

 

They whipped past the Institute, the road that led down toward the highway opening up under them. They raced along above it, desert wind giving way to salt on Emma’s tongue as they reached the Pacific Coast Highway, cars darting past below them in blaring lines of pale gold headlights. She cried out in delight, willing the cycle onward: Faster, go faster.

 

The beach flew by beneath them, pale gold sand turned white by starlight, and then they were out over the ocean. The moon lit a silvery path for them; Emma could hear Mark yelling something in her ear, but for the moment there was nothing but the ocean and the cycle under her, the wind whipping her hair back and making her eyes water.

And then she looked down.

 

On either side of the moonlit path was the water, navy blue in the darkness. Land was a distant line of brilliant lights, the etched shadow of mountains against the sky. And below was ocean, miles of ocean, and Emma felt the familiar cold of fear, like a block of ice applied suddenly to the back of her neck and spreading through her veins.

Miles of ocean, and oh, the vastness of it, shadows and salt, fierce dark water filled with alien


emptiness and the monsters that lived there. Imagine falling into that water and knowing it was below you, even as you treaded water, desperately trying to remain on the surface; the terror of the realization of what was under you—miles and miles of nothingness and monsters, blackness stretching away everywhere and the sea floor so far below—would tear your mind apart.

 

The cycle jerked under her hands, rebelling. She bit down hard on her lip, summoning blood to the surface, focusing her mind.

 

The cycle slewed around under her hands and shot back toward the beach. Faster, Emma urged it, suddenly desperate to have dry land under them. She thought she could see shadows moving under the skin of the sea. She thought of old stories of sailors whose boats were lifted out of the water on the backs of whales and sea monsters. Of small craft torn apart by sea demons, their crews fed to the sharks—

 

She caught her breath, the cycle jumping under her, momentarily losing her grip on the handlebars. They plunged downward. Mark cried out as they shot past the crashing waves and toward the beach. Emma’s fingers scrabbled and seized on the handlebars again, her grip tight as the front wheel grazed the sand, and then the bike was rising again, skimming over the beach, lifting to pass over the highway below them.

She heard Mark laugh. It was a wild sound; she could hear the echo of the Hunt in it, the roar of the horn and the pounding of hooves. She breathed in cool, clear air; her hair whipped behind her; there were no rules. She was free.

“You have proved yourself, Emma,” he said. “You could ride with Gwyn, if you chose.”

 

“The Wild Hunt doesn’t allow women,” she pointed out, the words torn from her mouth by the wind. “The more fool they,” he said. “Women are fiercer by far than men.” He pointed at the shore, toward

the ridges of the mountains that ran along the coast. “Go that way. I will take you to the convergence.”

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