Margaret K. McElderry Book
March 8, 2016
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago―has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind―and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?
Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.
“Hello? This is Clary Fairchild.”
“Clary? It’s me, Emma.”
“Oh, Emma, hi! I haven’t heard from you in ages. My mom says thanks for the wedding flowers, by the way. She wanted to send a note but Luke whisked her away on a honeymoon to Tahiti.”
“Tahiti sounds nice.”
“It probably is — Jace, what are you doing with that thing? There is no way it’ll fit.”
“Is this a bad time?”
“What? No! Jace is trying to drag a trebuchet into the training room. Alec, stop helping him.”
“What’s a trebuchet?”
“It’s a huge catapult.”
“What are they going to use it for?”
“I have no idea. Alec, you’re enabling! You’re an enabler!”
“Maybe it is a bad time.”
“I doubt there’ll be a better one. Is something wrong? Is there anything I can do?”
“I think we have your cat.”
“Your cat. Big fuzzy Blue Persian? Always looks angry? Julian says it’s your cat. He says he saw it at the New York Institute. Well, saw him. It’s a boy cat.”
“Church? You have Church? But I thought — well, we knew he was gone. We thought Brother Zachariah took him. Isabelle was annoyed, but they seemed to know each other. I’ve never seen Church actually like anyone like that.”
“I don’t know if he likes anyone here. He bit Julian twice. Oh, wait. Julian says he likes Ty. He’s asleep on Ty’s bed.”
“How did you wind up with him?”
“Someone rang our front doorbell. Diana, she’s our tutor, went down to see what it was. Church was in a cage on the front step with a note tied to it. It said For Emma. This is Church, a longtime friend of the Carstairs. Take care of this cat and he will take care of you. —J.“
“Brother Zachariah left you a cat.”
“But I don’t even really know him. And he’s not a Silent Brother any more.”
“You may not know him, but he clearly knows you.”
“What do you think the J stands for?”
“His real name. Look, Emma, if he wants you to have Church, and you want Church, you should keep him.”
“Are you sure? The Lightwoods —”
“They’re both standing here nodding. Well, Alec is partially trapped under a trebuchet, but he seems to be nodding.”
“Jules says we’d like to keep him. We used to have a cat named Oscar, but he died, and, well, Church seems to be good for Ty’s nightmares.”
“Oh, honey. I think, really, he’s Brother Zachariah’s cat. And if he wants you to have him, then you should.”
“Why does Brother Zachariah want to protect me? It’s like he knows me, but I don’t know why he knows me.”
“I don’t exactly know … But I know Tessa. She’s his — well, girlfriend seems not the right word for it. They’ve known each other a long, long time. I have a feeling they’re both watching over you.”
“That’s good. I have a feeling we’re going to need it.”
“Emma — oh my God. The trebuchet just crashed through the floor. I have to go. Call me later.”
“But we can keep the cat?”
“You can keep the cat.”
Emma rolled onto her back and stared up at Julian and the sky behind him. She could see a million stars. He was shivering, his black shirt and jeans plastered to his body, his face whiter than the moon.
“Emma?” he whispered.
“I had to try —”
“You didn’t have to try alone!” His voice seemed to echo off the water. His fists were clenched at his sides. “What the hell is the point of being parabatai if you go off and risk yourself without me?”
“I didn’t want to put you in danger —”
“I almost drowned inside the Institute! I coughed up water! Water you breathed!”
Emma stared at him in shock. She started to prop herself up on her elbows. Her hair, heavy and soaked, hung down her back like a weight. “I didn’t know.”
“How could you not know?” His voice seemed to explode out of his body. “We are bound together, Emma, bound together — I breathe when you breathe, I bleed when you bleed, I’m yours and you’re mine, you’ve always been mine, and I have always, always belonged to you!” She had never heard him say anything like this, never heard him talk this way, never seen him so close to losing control.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said. She started to sit up, reaching for him. He caught her wrist.
“Are you joking?” Even in the darkness, his blue-green eyes had color. “Is this a joke to you, Emma? Don’t you understand? I don’t live if you die!” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I wouldn’t even want to, even if I could.”
“I wouldn’t want to live without you, either.” Her eyes searched his face. “Jules, I’m so sorry, Jules —”
His face twisted. The wall that usually hid the truth deep in his eyes had crumbled; she could see the hungry panic there, the desperation, the relief that had punched through his defenses.
He was still holding her wrist. She didn’t know if she leaned into him first or if he pulled her toward him. Maybe both. They crashed together, hard, like stars colliding, and then he was kissing her.
Jules. Kissing her. The shock was all she felt at first, his cold mouth against hers, and then she tasted him, under the salt water, the hot-cool taste of sugar and cloves, and it was as if someone had flipped a switch inside her body and turned on all the lights.
“Emma,” he murmured against her lips, not taking his mouth away from hers. They were clasped together, wet and cold and hot and burning all at once. He leaned into her, kissing her harder, feverishly, his hands burying themselves in the thickness of her wet hair. The weight of him bore her down onto the sand.
She clutched at his shoulders, thought of the disoriented moment when he’d pulled her out of the water, the moment she hadn’t quite known who he was. He was stronger, bigger than she remembered, than she had let herself know, though every kiss was burning away her memories of the boy he had been.
It was like nothing else that had ever happened to her. Her lips parted and her head fell back. Julian slid one hand under her head, his fingers splayed across the back of her skull, cradling her even as his tongue stroked inside her mouth like a bow across a violin, wringing painful sparks from her nerves.
So this was what it was supposed to be like, what kissing was supposed to be like, what all of it was supposed to be like. This.
Her whole body was shaking. She clutched at him, at his shoulders, his sides, her fingers digging into his skin, dragging him harder against him. He gasped into her mouth when she reached down to grab the hem of his soaking wet shirt and tore it up over his head.
His eyes were catlike, burning in the darkness, hot with hunger. “Emma, God —” he said in a choked voice, and then he was gathering her up under him again, pressing her against his body as if he could press them into each other, meld them into one person.
His hands clawed at the back of her shirt, and she pulled back far enough to let him help her shimmy out of it. And then they were kissing again, more fiercely now that they could feel each other’s bare skin. She couldn’t stop touching him, her hands roaming down his back and over his waist, feeling the dips and divots of muscle, the bumps of his spine.
And he was touching her, too. She looked down in disbelief that this was actually happening, that this was Julian touching her, her Julian. His long fingers stroking up the curves of her waist, caressing her back, fumbling against the clasp of her bra until finally it snapped open and slid off her shoulders. She shrugged it to the ground.
It fell to the wet sand and they stared at each other. His pupils widened, darkening his eyes to the color of the ocean at night. His eyes seemed to devour her, and she in turn was staring at him: he was gorgeous in the moonlight, spare and clean and muscular, and when had that happened?
“You’re so beautiful,” he said. “So beautiful, Emma.”
She opened her arms and he went into them. Her breasts flattened out against his chest as he held her to him, his hands stroking over and over down her back. Slowly, he lowered her to the sand — he reached out and grabbed her shirt, not taking his mouth away from hers, and he pushed it under her, pillowing her head. She made a soft sound — something about the tenderness of the gesture, a bright sweet flare of gentleness cutting through the fierce dizziness of their shared hunger, made her want to cry.
“Jules,” she whispered. Somehow she kicked her wet jeans off without letting him go, and the sand scratched lightly at her bare calves. She parted her knees, making her body a cradle for him to lie against. He kissed his way down her throat, his breath warm on her skin. Tangling her hands in his wet curls, she stared up in wonder at the sky above them, wheeling with stars, shimmering and cold, and thought that this couldn’t be happening, people didn’t get things they wanted like this.
He reached down to unsnap his own jeans and she helped him as much as she could. Sand scraped against her elbows when she moved. With anyone else she would have been bothered by it, but there was no room in her head for anything but Julian. She stared at him: he was propped up on one arm, his wet hair pasted to his forehead in dark curlicues. Moonlight sparked off his eyelashes, each one as long and dark as the fillip of a pen stroke. Pale white scars starred his bare shoulders. He was more beautiful than the whole of the sky.
He kicked the jeans off and surged back up her body, sliding his hands underneath her to cup her shoulder blades. He kissed her collarbones, the space between her breasts. She arched her hips up. He was hard against her thigh and when their bodies ground together he made a choked sound, a moan, as if something inside him had broken.
“Do you want to stop?” She froze.
“Never, not ever.” His eyes were half-closed. “Do you — is this —?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes.”
His eyelashes trembled against his cheek. “I can’t not,” he said, low, heartfelt, “I can’t,” and his mouth found hers, trembling, inexpert. She kissed the breath out of him, out of both of them, until he was moving against her, restless and uncontrolled. The last of their clothes were discarded. His skin was as hot against hers as if he had a fever. She heard him whisper her name.
There were only molecules of air between them, and then Emma moved to wrap her legs around his waist. Julian gasped and his body moved instinctively and then there was nothing between them at all because he was inside her.
They froze, looking at each other, motionless. Julian’s teeth were dug into his lower lip. His face was flushed, his eyes brilliant. He looked shocked and amazed and overwhelmed and desperate.
“Emma, God, Emma, I —” he choked, and then his words dissolved into inarticulate sounds as his body moved against hers.
Emma held onto his shoulders, tightly, and her body was moving, too, she couldn’t stop it, but she was also staring, and she’d never done this with her eyes open before, she’d always closed them, but this was different, this was Julian. Not Jules, not her sweet boy Jules, this was someone else, someone who made harsh sounds of rapture and buried his face in her hair and gripped her body hard enough to leave marks. She hoped he did leave marks, bruises even. She hoped they’d last for days. Because she was trying to memorize him, trying to memorize the way he looked above her, silhouetted by stars, hair in his face and eyes half shut, the lines of worry that were always next to his mouth smoothed away by pleasure, but she couldn’t.
She couldn’t hold it in her mind. Her concentration was fragmenting, she couldn’t grasp onto it, thoughts flying from her head like the spray of the ocean dissolving in the air. Lightning forked up and down her veins and she was clawing at Jules’ back, gasping, trying to get enough air, trying to pull him closer and closer still and then the world burst apart in bright fragments, a broken kaleidoscope, and she finally, finally, closed her eyes and let colors she had never seen before paint the insides of her eyelids. As if at a distance she heard Julian cry out, felt him collapse against her, kiss her shoulder, nuzzle his way into her neck.
His heart was still racing, slamming against hers. She loved him so much it felt like her chest was cracking open.
She wanted to tell him so, but the words stuck in her throat.”You’re heavy,” she whispered instead, into his hair.
He laughed and rolled to the side, pulled her hard against him. She relaxed into the warm curve of his body. He reached down, grabbed his dry flannel jacket, spread it over them. It wasn’t much, but Emma huddled under it, giggling, and he kissed her face, almost drunkenly peppering kisses across her cheeks, the bridge of her nose, her chin.
She laid her head down against his arm. She had never felt so happy. He had stopped kissing her face and was gazing at her, head propped up on one hand. He looked dazed, his blue-green eyes half-lidded. His fingers traced slow circles on her bare shoulder.
She thought, I love you, Julian Blackthorn. I love you more than starlight.
The air was cold, but she was warm here, in this small circle with Julian, hidden by the outcroppings of rock, wrapped in the flannel jacket that smelled like him. His hand was gentle in her hair. “Shh. Go to sleep.”
She closed her eyes.
At night they slept curled together under Kieran’s blanket, made of a thickly woven material that was always warm. One night they stopped on a hilltop, in a place green and north. There was a cairn of stones crowning the hill, something built by mundanes a thousand years back. Mark leaned against the side of it and looked out over the green country, silvering in the dark, to the distant sea. The sea, everywhere, he thought, was the same, the same sea that broke against the shores in the place he still thought of as home … — Lady Midnight
From the top of Mynydd Mawr, you could see the Irish Sea. Somewhere across that ocean, Mark thought, was the country he’d grown up in, and far on its west coast was Los Angeles, where his brothers and sisters lived.
The summit of the mountain was covered with low green grass, and the peak fell away to long slopes of scree reaching down to views of more green — a patchwork of verdigris dotted with the gray lines of farmers’ stone walls. Kieran’s horse Windspear was cropping grass at the mountain’s edge, while Mark’s mount had wandered off in search of excitement, which Mark doubted she would find in this quiet corner of Wales.
Clouds scudded across the sky, low and gray, promising a downpour. Mark looked over at Kieran, who was working at putting up a shelter for them. He had draped two cloaks — Wild Hunt cloaks were made of tough fibrous material, impervious to rain —over the top of a half-collapsed cairn of stones.
Mark watched him as he spread another cloak out inside the cairn, over the grass and packed earth. His gestures were faerie gestures: economic and graceful. In the silvery rain-light, his skin looked sheered with silver, etching the fine bones of his face, his hands. When he blinked, his blue-black lashes scattered light.
Like Mark, his clothes were worn and battered; there were holes in his linen shirt, through which Mark could catch tantalizing glimpses of skin. He felt a blush rise on his cheeks. He didn’t know why he’d thought that, or why he was looking at Kieran that way: Kieran was his friend, that was all. And an odd, unpredictable sort of friend at that. He was often reminded that Kieran’s status as a gentry prince made both their lives in the Hunt easier — if he’d been alone, he wouldn’t have been allowed to break off from the main group and make camp on this hill tonight. He would have been required to attend the revel the rest of the Hunt were at with the local goblins, piskies and whatnots. But Kieran’s desire for privacy was respected, as much as the Hunt respected anything.
Kieran was moody, though, his temper changing as often as the color of his hair. He was like the water his nixie mother had lived in — sweet and giving sometimes, rough and stormy at others. Not that Mark blamed him for being unhappy in the Hunt, though Kieran had not left beloved family behind as Mark had.
“Come here.” Kieran stretched out a hand. “Or do you plan to soak yourself in rainwater?”
“I wouldn’t mind the shower.” Mark’s skin had just begun to prickle with the first drops of rain.
“You’re clean enough,” Kieran said: Mark supposed it was true; they’d both bathed in the Cwellyn lake earlier. Mark loved watching Kieran swim; you could see the water faerie in his blood as he moved under the surface, fast and sleek as an otter, or rose to shake silver drops from his hair.
The sky opened up then, and Mark dashed to fling himself into the cairn, under the roof of cloaks. It was a bigger space than he had expected, and Kieran had lit a small fire at the far end of the shallow rectangle. The smoke wound up through a gap in the rocks. Mark could feel the dampness of the earth even through the blanket, but the cloaks kept the rain off.
“I think this was a barrow-place once,” said Kieran, glancing around. “Where they buried the dead.”
Mark mock-shuddered. Kieran gave him a curious look. Faeries found death odd, because it happened only when faeries were hundreds of years old. Death in battle was different: respected and not bothersome. They didn’t really have a conception of “morbid.”
Mark lay back on the blanket and laced his hands over his stomach. He could feel his pulsebeat at the top of his stomach, just below his ribs. It was a feeling he associated with hunger, the gnawing of appetite, but he and Kieran had eaten earlier that day, and there was even bread in Windspear’s saddlebag.
“Are you all right?” In the shadows, Kieran’s eyes were both silver, the light reflecting off them like mirrors. His hair was tangled, jaw-length; he’d cut it himself using a lake as a mirror, not long ago. Mark longed to touch it, to see if it was as thick and soft as it looked.
He need to stop having thoughts like this about Kieran. He’d seen Kieran kiss both boys and girls at revels, and sometimes do more. But that wasn’t the issue. Kieran was a gentry prince and Mark was a half-blooded Shadowhunter. Even a prince in the Wild Hunt would look down on someone with human blood. He wondered sometimes if Kieran looked at him like a mascot or a lucky charm, someone it was handy and amusing to have around: he laughed often at Mark’s human idioms and puzzlement — even after all this time — at faerie customs.
Kieran lay down beside Mark. For a moment, they breathed in companionable silence. But it was hard for Mark to rest next to Kieran; he was too conscious of the other boy, of his body heat, his presence, the slight tickle of his hair against Mark’s shoulder when he turned his head. He stirred uncomfortably, warmth rising low in his belly.
“You will not be able to see the stars tonight,” Kieran said. “The clouds will blot them out.”
Kieran knew Mark’s odd custom. Each night as he fell asleep, he would find the six stars that shone the brightest in the sky and give them the names of his brothers and sisters: Helen, Julian, Tiberius, Livia, Drusilla, Octavian. Different stars shone brightly in different places and different weather; he didn’t think he’d ever picked the same six twice.
I am here, alive in the world just as you are, my family, he would think, tracing invisible lines between the stars. How was time passing for them, he would wonder sometimes: could Tavvy tie his shoelaces now, had Julian’s voice broken, had Livvy mastered the sabre, did Dru still love bright colors? Were Helen and Aline happy? He remembered when they had met, in Italy, during all that odd business; how delirious with love Helen had been when she had first come home.
But there were others things that blurred in his mind sometimes, memories whose edges had lost their sharpness. The music Ty liked — it was classical, but what was his favorite Bach fugue? Mark had known once. And perhaps it had changed. Was it Dru who loved movies, or Livvy? Was it oils Jules painted in, or watercolors?
“My Mark,” said Kieran. He had propped himself on his elbow and was looking down at Mark at an odd angle. “Tell me what troubles you.”
Mark shivered. He always did when Kieran called him that. It felt like an endearment though he suspected it was merely faerie speech: Kieran was identifying Mark as his friend rather than someone else with the same name. Faeries were very odd about names, anyway, since they had the names everyone called them by and also their true names, which held power over them. Knowing the true name of a faerie was an intimate and powerful piece of business.
Mark put his arm behind his head. The rain had intensified: he could hear the drops falling on the material of the cloaks above them. “Memories trouble me,” he said, “and wondering if my family will forget me.”
Kieran traced a fingertip across Mark’s chest, stopping over his heart. Mark nearly stopped breathing. It didn’t mean anything, he reminded himself. Faeries had no sense of personal space.
“No one would forget you,” Kieran said, quietly. “You do not forget those that love you. I remember my mother’s face still. And there is no more loving heart than yours.”
“And yet sometimes I think it would be better if I did forget,” Mark said, in a low voice. Such thoughts did not come without guilt. “For them, for me. I will never return.”
“No one can know the future,” said Kieran, sitting up with a surprising fierceness. “Your exile may end. Clemency comes in many forms — a more generous and kinder King would have brought you to his court long ago. If I had the power a Prince should have —“
Mark rose to a sitting position, but Kieran had already stopped speaking. His hand was a fist in his lap, his head bent. It was unusual for him ever to speak of the fact that he was a Prince in the world of the courts, since as an exile his power had not followed him into the Hunt.
“Kieran —“ Mark began, but it was clear that Kieran was distressed, and that was unusual enough to hold Mark back. He had rarely seen Kieran show anger or sadness, especially after his first days in the Hunt; he remained controlled, showing nothing to the other Hunters.
“We should sleep,” Kieran said, after a long pause. “We must rise with the dawn tomorrow if we wish to meet the others.”
Mark lay back down, and Kieran lay beside him, his back to Mark. Mark curled as close to Kieran as he could get — they had slept together like this on countless nights, sharing the heat of their bodies. But Mark was rattled by Kieran’s distress, and didn’t want to add to it by pressing attention on him that he might not want. He settled for moving as close to Kieran as he could without touching him, one of his arms under his head, his other hand stretched out to rest only a millimeter from Kieran’s hair. He didn’t want to admit that he hoped that perhaps, during the night, when the wind stirred the space inside the cairn, the strands might brush Mark’s fingers in something like a caress.
But he did.
Mark’s hands were bound, and he was screaming. The Endarkened were before him, Sebastian Morgenstern at their head: a sea of scarlet, covering the world in blood. His family was lined up before Sebastian, on their knees — Helen and Julian, Ty and Livvy, Dru and Tavvy. Sebastian swung the Mortal Sword, slicing open Julian’s chest. As his brother slipped to the ground, Mark saw his agonized expression, the plea in his eyes — Help me, Mark, help me —
“Mark. Mark!” Mark was sitting bolt upright in the darkness, and there were hands on his shoulders. “Mark, it is was a dream, a glamour of the mind, no more.”
Mark gasped in air, scented like rain and dirt. There was no blood, no Endarkened, no Sebastian. He was in the cairn with Kieran, and there was rain all about them. “My — family —“
Kieran brushed back Mark’s hair with a care that would have stunned the Hunt. Mark leaned into the caress without thinking: he was aware only of Kieran’s hands, gentle against his skin. Like all faeries, Kieran had no calluses; the brush of his fingertips was like moth wings. Mark leaned into the touch, even as Kieran moved gently to stroke his shoulders, fingers gliding over the rips in his shirt.
“Your scars have healed well,” Kieran said; some months before, Mark had been whipped by members of the Hunt angry at the Shadowhunter government.
Mark drew back slightly. “But they are still ugly —“
“Nothing about you is ugly,” Kieran said, and because he could not lie, Mark knew he meant it. His heart seemed to contract, sending a rush of blood and heat through his body.
In all his time in the Hunt, there had been only Kieran to lift his despair, to transmute his sorrow, to heal his heart. He leaned in toward Kieran, not knowing quite what he meant to do — it was not at all the swift and elegant move he would have wanted it to be; their lips bumped warmly together, and his hands rose to stroke through Kieran’s hair, which was as soft as he had always imagined.
Kieran’s hands tightened hard on Mark’s shoulders — surprise, annoyance, Mark couldn’t guess; he was too horrified at himself. He pulled away from Kieran quickly.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
Kieran reached a hand up to touch his mouth, fingertips against his lips. “But Mark —”
He didn’t finish. Mark, burning with humiliation, had pushed past him. Kicking aside the stones at the mouth of the cairn, he plunged out into the storm.
The rain was needle-like and driving, blown sideways by the harsh wind. Mark staggered a little, slipping on the wet grass outside the cairn.
He felt immediately foolish. The sky was a gray mist and he could see little all around him: dirt, green grass, the shadow of Windspear in the distance. The wind chilled him. And how was he ever going to face Kieran again? He was a Shadowhunter, he ought to know perfectly well that running away never solved anything.
Also, where was he going to sleep?
He was about to brave the cairn again, humiliation or no humiliation, when he heard a distant whinny. His blood ran cold. His horse. It was steep up here, unstable with shale and scree, slippery now with rain. His horse could have tumbled and be lying on the cliffside with a broken leg.
Forgetting his own personal woe for a moment, Mark splashed through the downpour to the edge of the mountaintop and looked down. Rain and shadows. Thunder cracked through the air and he thought he heard another whinny; dropping to hands and knees, he edged down a narrow path he imagined was usually trod only by goats.
Still nothing. He paused to catch his breath. Perhaps if he fell off the mountain he would be saved from the embarrassment of explaining to Kieran why he’d kissed him.
He stood up, pressing himself back against the cliff. He was standing on a wide ledge, with the mist and green of the Lleyn Peninsula spread out below him. In the far distance he could see the water of the Afon Menai, churning and gray. The sight of seawater always made him ache, reminding him of the view from the Los Angeles Institute.
Missing his family came back to bite at Mark savagely, along with a new pain: what if he had driven Kieran away? He had long ago determined it was worth it to keep Kieran as a friend even if Mark could have no deeper feeling from him. Other than Gwyn, Kieran had been the only one to show him kindness in the Hunt, and Gwyn could show only so much kindness lest the other Hunters think he had an unfair partiality. But Kieran — Kieran had held Mark after whippings or when wounded. Had given him water and folded blankets around his shoulders. Had saved aside portions of food for him. And more than any of those gestures, Kieran had spoken with Mark and listened to him; one did not realize how much one lost when no one spoke to you as if you were a person with worthwhile things to say until enough time had passed that the desperation was so intense you would begin to talk to rocks and trees. Kieran had given Mark back his humanity through the grace of ordinary affection and now Mark did not know how he would live without it.
He would go now, he decided, and apologize to Kieran. That was the right thing to do, the only thing to do, the only way to salvage things.
He clambered up the path and slipped on the wet earth; he tumbled and slid several feet, fetching up hard against a rock. Standing, he brushed at the mud on his clothes and realized two things: one, that he could see his idiot horse, cropping grass several feet away, looking unfazed by the weather. The second was that Kieran was standing on a few feet from him: somehow he’d returned to the cairn, though he didn’t know how.
“Mark!” Kieran said. His voice sounded hoarse, probably because of the wind. He looked wild-eyed, his newly short dark hair the deep black color it turned when he was upset. “Mark, where were you?”
“I went to look for my horse,” Mark said. “I mean, ah, not initially. I left because — “ He sighed, letting his hands fall to his sides. “I am sorry, Kieran. I didn’t mean to do what I did.”
Kieran’s eyes had narrowed. “You didn’t mean to do what?”
Mark wiped drizzle out of his eyes. “I’d rather not say.”
“Humans,” said Kieran, with surprising vehemence, “thinking that if they do not speak the words, they can unmake the past. Tell me, Mark. Tell me what you regret.”
“Kissing you,” Mark said. “If it was something you didn’t want, then I regret it.”
Kieran stood still as a statue, looking at him. He was already drenched, his clothes sticking to him. “And if it was something I did want?”
Mark raised his head. The words were like individual flames, lighting incredulous sparks along his nerve endings. “Then I don’t regret it,” he said in a steady voice. “Then it’s the best thing that happened to me since I joined the Hunt and the first few bloody seconds in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been happy.”
The words seemed to electrify Kieran. He almost stumbled getting to Mark across the rough ground. When he reached him, he pulled Mark into his arms, his fingers raking through Mark’s soaking wet hair. “By all the Gods, Mark,” he said in a shaking voice. “How could you not know?”
Mark said nothing; he was too surprised. Kieran was running his hands over Mark’s hair, his face, as if Mark were a treasure that had been lost and then, when all hope was gone, returned, and Kieran was examining it to see if it was still whole. “You are all right,” he said, finally, a catch in his voice. “You are uninjured.”
“Of course,” Mark said, as reassuringly as he could.
Kieran’s black and silver eyes gleamed. “When you ran out into the storm, I thought only of how dangerous Mynydd Mawr is, how many have fallen to their deaths here, and how if anything were to happen to you, Mark, how I myself would die. You are unbearably precious to me.”
“As a friend?” Mark said, completely dazed — Kieran was holding him, and touching him, half frantic and half adoring. It shouldn’t be possible. Kieran couldn’t feel like that about him.
“Mark.” Kieran’s voice flared. “I beg you, stop being obtuse, or I may jump off the mountain myself.”
“But —” Mark protested, and with a groan, Kieran kissed him.
This time Mark let himself fall headlong into the kiss, as if he really were falling off the mountain, into the sea. Kieran’s lips on his were firm and sweet and he tasted like smoke and rainwater. He gave a soft cry as Mark parted his own lips and the heat where their mouths were fused together seemed to double.
Mark had never kissed anyone before tonight, not really — there had been quick furtive touches at revels during dances, but in some part of his mind he had, he thought, been saving his first kiss. And he was glad he had, now, for he was dizzy with the heart-aching pleasure of it, the almost-pain of a desperate hunger that was finally being fed.
It was Kieran who pulled away first, though only to enough of a distance to cup Mark’s face in his hands and say wonderingly, “My Mark. The heart of my regard. How did you not know?”
“You’re a prince,” Mark said. “I’m — nothing. Not gentry, or court, or anything at all. Even now I cannot possibly believe you could truly care for me — though,” he added, hastily, “if desire alone is what you have to offer, I will take it.”
“I do desire you,” Kieran said, and there was a darkness in his eyes that made Mark shiver. “But it is not all I feel. If it were, I would have acted on it long ago.”
“Why didn’t you?” Mark said. “You could have had me for the asking — at any time or moment. I am the one overreaching, not you.”
Kieran shook his head. “Mark, you are a prisoner of Faerie,” he said, and there was despair in his voice. “We keep you chained to the Hunt! You would have had reason to hate me and all others like me. I could not imagine you could feel for me the shadow of what I feel for you.”
“You are not the one who has chained me,” Mark said. “It is the Clave, my own people, who left me here. I know who betrayed me, Kieran; I know those who I do not trust, and they have never worn your face.”
“Many would not be able to make that judgement,” Kieran said.
Mark brushed the back of his knuckles along Kieran’s cheek. The prince shivered. “Many would look at me and see only a Shadowhunter and enforcer of the Cold Peace.”
“I look at you and see the steadfast companion of my days and nights.” Kieran spoke in a whisper; his wet blue-black hair was pasted to his cheeks and neck. “I would love you even if you did not love me: I have loved you since I met you. I have loved you all this time, believing that you never could love me back. I have loved you without hope or expectation.”
Mark dropped his hand to grip the front of Kieran’s shirt. “Love me, then,” he said, in a rough voice. “Show me.”
Dark fire flared in Kieran’s eyes; he cupped his hands around the back of Mark’s head and held him in place while he bent to explore his mouth thoroughly, making Mark gasp: he sucked Mark’s bottom lip, teased at the corners of his mouth, ravished Mark’s mouth with long strokes of his tongue that left Mark pressing his body helplessly against Kieran’s, wanting more. He was wet to the skin with rain and shivering hard, but he didn’t care. He felt nothing but Kieran and the heat of his body and the torturing sensuality of his mouth.
It was Kieran who disentangled them, finally, Kieran who took Mark by the wrist and pulled him back toward the cairn. They crawled under its shelter, where the fire had burned down to glimmering coals. They knelt in the dirt and kissed frantically, tearing at each other’s clothes. Wet fabric ripped and was discarded, and when they were both unclothed they fell back among the tangle of cloaks and fabric and kissed until Mark was drunk with it: long slow dark kisses like the black waters of faerie streams that made humans forget. They did not speak, except once:
“Have you?” Kieran asked, half in shadow.
“No,” Mark said. “Not with anyone.”
Kieran paused, his hand splayed over Mark’s bare chest. He was gorgeous like this, in the firelight, pale skin and dark hair like a Michelangelo sketch in pen and ink. “In the Hunt, our bodies bring us only pain,” he said. “The agony of hunger and the pain of weariness and whips. Let me show you now what a miracle a body can be.”
Mark nodded and Kieran went to work with his hands and his mouth. He was unhurried in his intensity; Mark had not realized anything could be so rough and so gentle at the same time. Kieran touched him with such care that he imagined that where Kieran’s hands went, a stele passed bearing healing runes, smoothing his scars, erasing remembered pain.
He drew the pleasure from deep within Mark’s body, unspooling it slowly, like a banner unfurling. Mark’s breath came fast, and then faster. He reached to touch Kieran, wanting to give back some of what he was receiving, and was almost undone by Kieran’s sharp gasp of pleasure. By the feel of Kieran’s body under his hands: his skin smooth and fine-grained as silk, the angularity of his bones, his intense sensitivity, responsive to Mark’s lightest touch. He was shivering already as Mark stroked down his body, licked and sucked at his skin: finally he cried out and drew Mark beneath him, propping himself over Mark on his elbows.
His eyes were glazed, unfocused: Mark felt a sense of intense pride, that he could make a Prince of Faerie look that way. The pride only lasted a moment: Kieran grinned wickedly and rocked his hips in a way that shot fire through Mark’s veins, and everything else vanished. Mark clutched at Kieran: they were pressed together chest to chest and thigh to thigh and when the prince slid his hand between their bodies and began to stroke them both together, it was the purest physical pleasure Mark had known since he had joined the Hunt. Everything else was driven out if his mind, all complications and all loss gone with the wondrous realization his body was more than an instrument that brought pain or endured privation. It was capable also of wonders.
Kieran’s hands and fingers were like fire, fire that wrought unutterable joy. Mark closed his eyes, his body arching helplessly toward the prince’s. Kieran was gasping too, his body shuddering, and every shudder brought more friction and more pleasure until Mark thought he might die of it. He reached up to capture Kieran’s face between his hands and kissed him, deep and hard, and the kiss seemed to smash the last of the prince’s resolve: Kieran came apart just as Mark did, both of them trembling and crying out in each other’s arms.
In later times, Mark would not remember what he himself had cried or whispered in that moment, but he would not forget Kieran’s words, tumbling from the prince’s lips as he sank down into Mark’s embrace, for it would not be the last time Mark ever heard them.
“You will never be nothing to me, Mark Blackthorn,” Kieran said. “For you are all on this earth and under this sky that I do love.”
Afterward they lay in each other’s arms, Mark with his head on Kieran’s shoulder, and Mark told Kieran that he was right, that the stars could not be seen, even through the gaps in the cloaks above them.
“Count the coals in the fire,” Kieran said, his fingers in Mark’s hair. “Give them the names you treasure.”
And Mark did, though by the end, his voice was slurred with sleep; he drifted off, and for the first time in many years of wandering it was without a last thought of sorrow or of pain, but only of love, and how it outshone the stars.
Emma turned to head down the beach to the shoreline. That was when she saw him. Silhouetted against the water. She wondered how long he’d been standing there, hands in the pockets of his jeans.
“Cam?” she said.
Cameron Ashdown walked toward her, the wind off the ocean tousling his dark auburn hair. He’d always looked like a picture-perfect California surfer boy, even though the Ashdown family were Scottish, as far as she remembered. His shoulders were broad, his eyes were blue, and there was a spray of freckles across his nose.
“I texted you,” he said. “Last night. And this morning.”
“I know.” She put her hands on her hips. She felt slightly undressed, not so much because she was only wearing a sports bra and running pants, but more because when she was training, she felt vulnerable. She didn’t mind training with Cristina, Julian, or any of the Blackthorns, but anyone else from the Conclave, even Cam, was — different. “But we broke up, so —“
He laughed shortly. “Classic, Emma,” he said. “You broke up with me, so you don’t ever have to talk to me again?”
“I think that is how it works. Technically,” Emma said. “If we did still have to talk with each other, what would be the point of breaking up?”
He shook his head. “The thing is, you actually mean that.”
She rubbed her hands up and down her arms. The wind off the ocean chilled the sweat on her body, and all she wanted was to get away. “Cam, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
He looked up toward the sky, as if hoping for celestial support. “I am so stupid,” he said. “This is what, the third time? And I thought it would be different. I figured, why would you keep coming back if you didn’t actually like me?”
“I do like you. I always have liked you.” It was true; she’d always liked Cam — a lot of the members of the Conclave, like Cam’s awful sister Paige, could be viciously nasty about the Blackthorns and their connections to Fae. But Cam had never been. “So why break up with me?”
Emma tucked a damp curl of hair back behind her ear. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I thought it had run its course.”
“Run its course?” he echoed. “And that means what?”
She felt herself flush. “That it was never supposed to be serious. Right?”
Cam moved toward her. The sun was truly up now, casting his shadow lightly against the sand. He reached out, and she let him take her forearms, his tanned, freckled fingers spanning their width. “Emma,” he said. “You only have one serious relationship, and that’s with Julian Blackthorn.”
“He’s my parabatai,” she said. “Of course it’s a serious relationship.” She looked up into his blue eyes, squinted against the rising sun. “Why are you here?” she said. “I don’t know what I can tell you to make it different, besides that I’m sorry. Does that help?”
“Not really,” he said. “As for why I’m here — every other time you’ve dumped me on my ass, I have come by, just for the record. I think if you’re going to end a relationship, you should do it in person.”
“You’ve never come by —“
“I have,” he repeated. “I’ve just always run into Julian first.” He let go of her forearms. “You know, it’s weird,” he said. “He’s not bigger than me, and I don’t even think he’s a better fighter.”
Emma wanted to protest, wanted to say Julian could slay Cameron Ashdown with a crossbow, wanted to say that not everyone had to go around sporting huge muscles and a giant neck to prove they were strong. She’d seen Jules bend steel girders; he was as strong as any Shadowhunter needed to be. But she held herself back because she wanted to know what Cam was going to say next.
“But he’s damn convincing,” Cameron said. “I’d show up at the Institute and he’d get to me before I ever got to you. And somehow I’d find myself leaving without talking to you. So I’d wait around, until you wanted me again for some fun or company or whatever. You think I haven’t noticed that you called me and asked if I wanted to go out the day after Julian left for England, and you dumped me the day before he got back?”
“I didn’t know you were so intimately familiar with Jules’ travel schedule,” Emma snapped. “Maybe you should be dating him, if you care so much where he is.”
“I care because you care,” said Cam. “You know I’m right.”
“I know you’re jealous,” Emma said, and immediately regretted it.
“Yeah, I am,” said Cam. “Jealous of your parabatai. That’s a little weird, isn’t it? I mean, he’s supposed to be like a brother to you. Protective, maybe, but what you have between you — it’s different. I’ve been alone with you, and I’ve been with you when he’s around, and it’s like you’re a totally different person. Like he turns on a light inside you. I thought maybe I could make you like me enough that I could turn that light on for you, but —“ He broke off, shaking his head. “I don’t think anyone can.”
“You’re crazy,” she said. “It’s not like that.”
“Anyway, I came because I wanted to see you before Julian got back and stopped me,” he said. “That’s it. I didn’t really think I could change your mind.”
The tide had started to come in; it was lapping at their shoes. “I really would like to be friends,” Emma said. “With you.”
The expression that crossed his handsome face was unreadable. “We’ll see.” He turned away, and she watched him go, his shoes crunching on the sand. A few steps away he spun around to face her again. “About Julian,” he said.
She looked at him.
“There’s something cold in him,” he said. “Something scary. I don’t think you see it, but everyone else does.”
She thought of Julian, flecks of paint in his dark hair; Julian picking up Tavvy and swinging him around, Julian bandaging Dru’s scraped knees and smiling at Ty when Ty was clever and cheering Livvy on when she learned to use a sabre. Julian, grinning at her like sunrise.
“Julian isn’t cold,” she said, biting off each word. “Don’t you ever say that again.”
His face had gone stiff. “I guess you two deserve each other,” he said, and turned around. She refused to watch him walk away.
Emma discovered the sea caves when she was eleven years old. She’d been at the beach with her parents when she found them — great fingers of gray rock reaching into the ocean, and boring through them, like tunnels in the stone, were the caves. They were open to the ocean on both ends, and they smelled delightful, like sea water and wet rock and dark, secret things.
She was thirteen years old when she and Julian declared the sea caves their official meeting place. If anything ever happened at or to the Institute — and they both had nightmares about it, ever since the attack during the Dark War — they would meet at the caves.
She was fourteen years old when she first showed the sea caves to Cameron Ashdown.
The Ashdowns had come to Los Angeles after the Dark War, easily situating themselves among the small Conclave of Shadowhunters who lived in the city. Although all Conclaves were small now, since the deaths in the war. The Clave was doing everything it could to track down every wayward mundane who might have a drop of Nephilim blood, even if their family had left the Shadowhunters generations ago. Still, it would be decades before they were the strength they once had been.
Cameron, his parents, and his younger sister, Paige, moved into a house in Santa Monica and, as soon as they could, arranged to visit the Institute to decide if Paige and Cameron were going to have lessons with the Blackthorns or hire their own tutor.
Diana was there to greet them and show them the training rooms, the library, and the classroom. Emma was in the training room, practicing fencing with Livvy. She was taller and stronger than Livvy, but Livvy was lightning-fast on her feet, which gave her the advantage with a saber. Ty and Julian were watching: Ty was cheering for Livvy, and Jules for Emma, as if it were a real match.
The door opened, and Cameron and his sister came in with Diana.
Emma stopped in her tracks, which allowed Livvy to score with the side of her blade across Emma’s shoulder. “Emma!” she complained. “You’re not paying attention.”
But Emma was already pushing her mask back, letting her hair spill down. Cameron Ashdown might have grown up in Idris, but he looked like the perfect California boy, with fiery red hair, tanned skin, broad shoulders, and hazel eyes. His nose looked as if it had been broken before, but it lent his face a charming asymmetry.
His sister Paige was a small copy of him, with short red hair and a pointed chin. She regarded Emma with dislike, perhaps because Emma was staring at her brother.
Emma had been thinking lately, rather scientifically, about the fact that she was fourteen years old and hadn’t kissed anyone yet. Nor, she thought, growing up in the Blackthorn house, was it likely. They rarely saw other children their age; the Conclave simply wasn’t that big, and now that the Academy in Idris had re-opened, most younger Shadowhunters were being trained there.
She thought of Julian, the way that when he smiled at her, he seemed to put his whole self into the smile. The way it lit up the room and made her heart catch. Cameron Ashdown was looking at her curiously as Diana made the introductions; Livvy was tugging off her helmet. Lowering her blade, Emma smiled at Cameron, putting all of herself into it.
When he smiled back, he looked dazzled.
Later, after the Ashdowns had gone, Ty said, “I didn’t like them.”
Julian ruffled his hair. Instead of saying what Emma had expected — something about how Ty had to give them a chance — he said, “I didn’t like them either.”
“Why not?” she asked, curious.
He shrugged. “I just didn’t.”
“Well, too bad,” said Diana. “You kids need to spend time with some people who aren’t Blackthorns.” She eyed Emma. “Or Carstairs.”
The Ashdowns came back, the next weekend, and the next weekend after that. It was the summer, and the group spent their time at the beach, getting sunburned, swimming in the water — all except Emma — and building sandcastles with the younger children. Ty built meticulous sandcastles, carefully sculpted, while Livvy’s were shapeless and towering, collapsing under their own weight as they climbed toward the sky. They buried Tavvy in sand, and Drusilla sat cross-legged and lost in a book — Paige was nearly the same age as her, but the girls ignored each other.
Later, Emma thought that should have been a warning to her. Later she blamed herself for everything.
She was fourteen when she brought Cameron to see the caves. He had been teasing her about never going into the water; she laughed, but didn’t tell him why. Instead she drew him away from the group and brought him into her favorite of the caves: not the biggest, but the longest and most winding. It was possible to find a bend in the tunnel where the ocean couldn’t be seen from either side.
She drew Cameron in after her and faced him, her heart pounding. She studied the hazel color of his eyes in the shadows, their mixture of blue and brown and green. She held out her hands, not knowing how to be anything but direct. “Do you want to kiss me?” she said.
He swallowed hard and nodded. He was shaking as he pulled her toward him and kissed her gently, her head tipping back, her hands finding purchase on his shoulders. She stroked his arms, lightly, timidly; his mouth was warm and soft, and he tasted like strawberry ice cream.
Kissing was everything she’d hoped it would be. It was like a good kind of drowning, filling her ears and eyes with forgetfulness, blocking out the crashing sound of the waves against the shore. Cameron’s touch became more urgent, sliding up from her waist, and she leaned harder against him, and that was when she heard someone scream.
It sounded like a scream of anger rather than pain or fear, but Emma had heard screams at a distance before and she tore away from Cameron without a thought and burst into a run. He followed her. When they reached the beach where they’d left the others, they both stared: Ty was sitting on the sand, and Julian was holding Paige by the collar of her t-shirt, his face white with rage.
Later, Emma found out what had happened. Livvy and Dru had gone to collect seashells; Julian was sketching up by the dunes, and Ty had been making a sandcastle with Paige half-heartedly helping him.
He’d picked up a piece of sea glass and become fascinated with it. Ty became fascinated with things sometimes: the way an ink blot spread across a page, or the way dye feathered into water. He would sit and look at them, lost in contemplation. If he was especially distracted, it would take a gentle hand on his shoulder, or his name spoken softly, to rouse him.
But Paige had done neither of those things. When she’d asked him what he was doing and he hadn’t reacted, she’d thrown a handful of sand into his face. Ty had come back to himself choking and blinded and gasping. He’d started rocking, his hands fluttering, his butterflies frantic.
“Freak,” Paige had snapped. “Stop doing that, you freak.”
And then Julian had been there, hauling Paige bodily to her feet. As Emma ran up, Cameron beside her, they heard him hiss.
“If you ever,” he said, “ever, call my brother names again, I’ll kill you. I don’t care if you’re a girl. I’ll kill you.”
“Stop it! Stop!” Cameron darted ahead of Emma and yanked his sister away from Julian; she promptly started crying. Julian looked at him in a daze. In the distance, Emma could see Livvy and Dru running toward them across the sand.
“Get her away,” he said. “Both of you get away, and don’t come back.”
Cameron turned to Emma, his face open, puzzled. “We could talk about this,” he said. “We — we should talk about this.”
Emma looked from him, to Julian, who was crouching down by Ty now, saying his name, softly, his voice full of love and panic. And she turned to Cameron, who was holding his red-faced sister and looking at her with a look that said that he expected her to take his side. That their kiss in the caves had been a signal that her allegiance had changed. That she would be loyal to him now, and not Julian.
“Go away,” she said. “Like Julian said. And don’t ever bring her back.”
A few weeks later, she and Julian left for Idris, for their parabatai ceremony. When they came back, Paige had been sent to the Academy. A month after that, Emma began dating Cameron for the first time.
“I know things haven’t been exactly right between us since I got back from England,” he said. “And I don’t know if it’s because I’m a little jealous of Cristina, or a lot jealous of —”
“JULIAN,” Emma said.
Some people made lists of things they wanted to do before they died; Julian had a list of things he couldn’t do. He lay with his arm circling Emma’s body, his fingers barely touching her bare arm, silently reciting his list.
Emma shifted in her sleep, patting him gently with her hand, curling toward him like a cat seeking warmth. It was past midnight; Julian had to get up in four hours, but he could feel his heart hammering in the back of his throat and he knew sleep would not come.
Things I can never do:
Leave the children
Let anyone find out about Arthur
Let the Clave have Ty
Let anyone know why I get up before sunrise
“So what does this mean for us?” said Livvy. “This connection to the Blackthorns?” She looked anxiously at Jules. “What does it mean that that woman, Belinda, knew about Uncle Arthur?”
“It means that there are people that know about this and will try to use it against us,” said Julian. “But it also means we must be close, close to the answer, or they wouldn’t be threatening us now.”
“But we don’t feel close,” said Emma, clearly frustrated. “At least I don’t. I feel like we’re wandering around in a fog. So what set them off? What made them think we knew more than we know?”
“They figured out we were at the theater for the Lottery,” said Cristina. “Maybe they panicked that we knew who they were.”
“We don’t,” said Emma. “We know they’re a bunch of movie producers with a bee in their bonnet about Blackthorns and a yen to bring someone back from the dead.”
“Who would movie producers want to bring back from the dead?” Ty asked.
“Marilyn Monroe?” suggested Livvy.
“Brad Pitt,” said Drusilla.
“Brad Pitt is still alive,” pointed out Emma.
“Prove it,” said Ty.