City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 15

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“I don’t know. The Institutes aren’t safe.”

“Neither are you,” said Jordan. “That’s why you have me.”

Maia looked at Jordan. There was something odd in the look, something Simon couldn’t quite identify. There had been something off between Maia and Jordan for some time now, a distance from Maia, a question in her eyes when she looked at her boyfriend. Simon had been waiting for Jordan to say something to him, but Jordan hadn’t. Simon wondered if Jordan had noticed Maia’s distance—it was obvious—or if he was stubbornly in denial.

“Would you still be a Daylighter?” Maia asked, turning her attention to Simon. “If you could change it?”

“I don’t know.” Simon had asked himself the same question, then pushed it away—there was no point obsessing over things you couldn’t change. Being a Daylighter meant that you had gold in your veins. Other vampires wanted it, for if they drank your blood, they too could walk in the sun. But just as many wanted you destroyed, for it was the belief of most vampires that Daylighters were an abomination to be rooted out. He remembered Raphael’s words to him on the roof of a Manhattan hotel. You had better pray, Daylighter, that you do not lose that Mark before the war comes. For if you do, there will be a line of enemies waiting their turn to kill you. And I will be at the head of it.

And yet. “I would miss the sun,” he said. “It keeps me human, I think.”

The light from the fire sparked off Jordan’s eyes as he looked at Simon. “Being human’s overrated,” he said with a smile.

Maia swung her feet off his legs abruptly. Jordan looked over at her, worried, just as the doorbell rang.

Simon was on his feet in a flash. “Takeout,” he announced. “I’ll go get it. Besides,” he added over his shoulder as he headed down the hall to the front door. “No one’s tried to kill me in two weeks. Maybe they got bored and gave up.”

He heard the murmur of voices behind him but didn’t listen; they were talking to each other. He reached for the knob and swung the door open, already fumbling for his wallet.

And there was a throb against his chest. He glanced down to see Isabelle’s pendant flash bright scarlet, and threw himself backward, just missing a hand thrust out to grab him. He yelled out loud—there was a looming figure dressed in red gear in the doorway, a Shadowhunter man with ugly splashes of runes on both cheeks, a hawk-like nose, and a broad, pale forehead. He snarled at Simon and advanced.

“Simon, get down!” Jordan shouted, and Simon threw himself flat and rolled to the side just as a crossbow bolt exploded along the hallway. The Dark Shadowhunter spun sideways with almost unbelievable speed; the bolt embedded itself in the door. Simon heard Jordan curse in frustration, and then Maia in wolf form sprang past him, leaping at the Endarkened.

There was a satisfying howl of pain as her teeth sank into his throat. Blood sprayed out, filling the air with a salty red mist; Simon inhaled it, tasting the bitter tang of demon-tainted blood as he rose to his feet. He stepped forward just as the Endarkened seized hold of Maia and threw her down the hall, a thrashing, howling ball of teeth and claws.

Jordan shouted. Simon was making a noise low in his own throat, a sort of vampire hiss, and he could feel his fang teeth snap out. The Endarkened stepped forward, pouring blood but still steady. Simon felt a pang of fear low in his gut. He had seen them fight at the Burren, Sebastian’s soldiers, and he knew that they were stronger, faster, and harder to kill than Shadowhunters. He hadn’t really thought about how much harder to kill they were than vampires.

“Get out of the way!” Jordan grabbed Simon by the shoulders and half-threw him after Maia, who had scrambled to her feet. There was blood on her ruff, and her wolf eyes were dark with rage. “Get out, Simon. Let us deal with this. Get out!”

Simon stood his ground. “I’m not going—he’s here for me—”

“I know that!” Jordan shouted. “I’m your Praetor Lupus guard! Now let me do my job!”

Jordan swung around, bringing up his crossbow again. This time the bolt sank into the Dark Shadowhunter’s shoulder. He staggered back and let loose a string of curses in a language Simon didn’t know. German, he thought. The Berlin Institute had been hit—

Maia sprang past Simon, and she and Jordan closed in on the Dark Shadowhunter. Jordan glanced back once at Simon, his hazel eyes fierce and wild. Simon nodded and darted back into the living room. He slammed open the window—it gave with a fierce shriek of swollen wood and an explosion of old paint chips—and climbed out onto the fire escape, where Jordan’s wolfsbane plants, withered by winter air, crowded the metal ledge.

Every part of him screamed that he shouldn’t be leaving, but he had promised Isabelle, promised he would let Jordan do his work as bodyguard, promised he wouldn’t make himself a target. He clasped one hand around Izzy’s pendant, warm under his fingers as if it had lain recently against her throat, and headed down the metal steps. They were clanging and slippery with snow; he almost fell several times before he reached the last rung and dropped to the shadowy pavement below.

And was immediately surrounded by vampires. Simon had time to recognize only two of them as part of the Hotel Dumort clan—delicate dark-haired Lily and blond Zeke, both grinning like fiends—before something was thrown over his head. Fabric pulled tight around his throat, and he choked, not because he needed air but because of the pain of having his throat compressed.

“Maureen sends her regards,” said Zeke into his ear.

Simon opened his mouth to scream, but darkness claimed him before he could make a sound.

“I didn’t realize you were quite so famous,” said Clary as she and Jace made their way down the narrow pavement that ran alongside Oldway Canal. It was turning to evening—darkness had only just fallen—and the streets were full of people hurrying to and fro, wrapped in thick cloaks, their faces cold and closed-off.

Stars were beginning to come out, a soft prickle of light across the eastern sky. They illuminated Jace’s eyes as he looked over at Clary curiously. “Everyone knows Valentine’s son.”

“I know, but—when Emma saw you, she acted like you were her celebrity crush. Like you were on the cover of Shadowhunters Weekly every month.”

“You know, when they asked me to pose, they said it would be tasteful. . . .”

“As long as you were holding a strategically placed seraph blade, I don’t see the problem,” Clary said, and Jace laughed, a cut-off sound that indicated that she had surprised the amusement out of him. It was her favorite laugh of his. Jace was always so controlled; it was still a delight to be one of the few people who could get under his carefully constructed armor and surprise him.

“You liked her, didn’t you?” Jace said.

Thrown, Clary said, “Liked who?” They were passing through a square she recalled—cobblestoned, with a well in the center, covered now with a stone circle, probably to keep the water from freezing.

“That girl. Emma.”

“There was something about her,” Clary acknowledged. “The way she stood up for Helen’s brother, maybe. Julian. She’d do anything for him. She really loves the Blackthorns, and she’s lost everyone else. . . .”

“She reminded you of you.”

“I don’t think so,” Clary said. “I think maybe she reminded me of you.”

“Because I’m tiny, blonde, and look good in pigtails?”

Clary bumped him with her shoulder. They had reached the top of a street lined with stores. The stores were closed now, though witchlight glowed through the barred windows. Clary had the sense of being in a dream or fairy tale, a sense that Alicante never failed to give her—the vast sky overhead, the ancient buildings carved with scenes out of legends, and over everything the clear demon towers that gave Alicante its common name: the City of Glass. “Because,” she said as they passed a store with loaves of bread stacked in the window, “she lost her blood family. But she has the Blackthorns. She doesn’t have anyone else, no aunts or uncles, no one to take her in, but the Blackthorns will. So she’ll have to learn what you did: that family isn’t blood. It’s the people who love you. The people who have your back. Like the Lightwoods did for you.”

Jace had stopped walking. Clary turned around to look at him. The crowd of pedestrians parted around them. He was standing in front of the entrance to a narrow alley by a shop. The wind that blew up the street ruffled his blond hair and his unzipped jacket; she could see the pulse in his throat. “Come here,” he said, and his voice was rough.

Clary took a step toward him, a little warily. Had she said something that had upset him? Though, Jace was rarely angry at her, and when he was, he was straightforward about it. He reached out, took her hand gently, and led her after him as he ducked around the corner of the building and into the shadows of a narrow passage that wound toward a canal in the distance.

There was no one else in the passageway with them, and its narrow entrance blocked the view from the street. Jace’s face was all angles in the dimness: sharp cheekbones, soft mouth, the golden eyes of a lion.

“I love you,” he said. “I don’t say it often enough. I love you.”

She leaned back against the wall. The stone was cold. Under other circumstances it might have been uncomfortable, but she didn’t care at the moment. She pulled him toward her carefully until their bodies were lined up, not quite touching, but so close that she could feel the heat radiating off him. Of course he didn’t need to zip his jacket, not with the fire burning through his veins. The scent of black pepper and soap and cold air clung around him as she pressed her face into his shoulder and breathed him in.

“Clary,” he said. His voice was a whisper and a warning. She could hear the roughness of longing in it, longing for the physical reassurance of closeness, of any touch at all. Carefully he reached around her to place the palms of his hands against the stone wall, caging her into the space made by his arms. She felt his breath in her hair, the light brush of his body against hers. Every inch of her seemed supersensitized; everywhere he touched she felt as if tiny needles of pleasure-pain were being dragged across her skin.

“Please don’t tell me you pulled me into an alley and you’re touching me and you don’t plan on kissing me, because I don’t think I could take it,” she said in a low voice.

He closed his eyes. She could see his dark lashes feathering against his cheeks, remembered the feel of mapping the shape of his face under her fingers, of the full weight of his body on hers, the way his skin felt against her skin.

“I don’t,” he said, and she could hear the dark roughness under the usual smooth glide of his voice. Honey over needles. They were close enough together that when he breathed in, she felt the expansion of his chest. “We can’t.”

She put her hand against his chest; his heart was beating like trapped wings. “Take me home, then,” she whispered, and she leaned up to brush her lips against the corner of his mouth. Or at least she meant it as a brush, a butterfly touch of lips on lips, but he leaned down toward her, and his movement changed the angle swiftly; she pressed up against him harder than she’d meant to, her lips sliding to center against his. She felt him breathe out in surprise against her mouth, and then they were kissing, really kissing, exquisitely slow and hot and intense.

Take me home. But this was home, Jace’s arms surrounding her, the cold wind of Alicante in their clothes, her fingers digging into the back of his neck, the place where his hair curled softly against the skin. His palms were still flat against the stone behind her, but he moved his body against hers, gently pressing her up against the wall; she could hear the harsh undertone of his breathing. He wouldn’t touch her with his hands, but she could touch him, and she let her hands go freely, over the swell of his arms, down to his chest, tracing the ridges of muscle, pressing outward to grip his sides until his T-shirt was rucking up under her fingers. Her fingertips touched bare skin, and then she was sliding her hands up under his shirt, and she hadn’t touched him like this in so long, had nearly forgotten how his skin was soft where it wasn’t scarred, how the muscles in his back jumped under her touch. He gasped into her mouth; he tasted like tea and chocolate and salt.

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult