City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 16

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She had taken control of the kiss. Now she felt him tense as he took it back, biting at her lower lip until she shuddered, nipping at the corner of her mouth, kissing along her jawbone to suck at the pulse point at her throat, swallowing her racing heartbeat. His skin burned under her hands, burned—

He broke away, reeling back almost drunkenly, hitting the opposite wall. His eyes were wide, and for a dizzy moment Clary thought she could see flames in them, like twin fires in the darkness. Then the light went out of them and he was only gasping as if he had been running, pressing the heels of his palms against his face.

“Jace,” she said.

He dropped his hands. “Look at the wall behind you,” he said in a flat voice.

She turned—and stared. Behind her, where he had been leaning, were twin scorch marks in the stone, in the exact shape of his hands.

The Seelie Queen lay upon her bed and looked up at the stone ceiling of her bedchamber. It was wreathed with dangling trellises of roses, thorns still intact, each one perfect and blood-red. Every night they withered and died, and every morning they were replaced, as fresh as the day before.

Faeries slept little, and rarely dreamed, but the Queen liked her bed to be comfortable. It was a wide couch of stone, with a feather mattress laid on top, and covered with thick swathes of velvet and slippery satin.

“Have you ever,” said the boy in the bed beside her, “pricked yourself on one of the thorns, Your Majesty?”

She turned to look at Jonathan Morgenstern sprawled among the covers. Though he had asked her to call him Sebastian, which she respected—no faerie would allow another to address them by their true name either. He was on his stomach, head pillowed on his crossed arms, and even in the dim light the old whip weals across his back were visible.

The Queen had always been fascinated by Shadowhunters—they were part angel, as were the Fair Folk; certainly there should be a kinship between them—but had never thought she would find one whose personality she could stand for more than five minutes, until Sebastian. They were all so dreadfully self-righteous. Not Sebastian. He was most unusual for a human, and for a Shadowhunter especially.

“Not so often as you cut yourself on your wit, I think, my dearest,” she said. “You know I do not wish to be called ‘Your Majesty’ but only ‘Lady,’ or ‘my lady,’ if you must.”

“You do not seem to mind it when I call you ‘beautiful one,’ or ‘my beautiful lady.’?” His tone was not repentant.

“Hmm,” she said, raking her slim fingers through the mass of his silvery hair. He had lovely coloring for a mortal: hair like a blade, eyes like onyx. She recalled his sister, so very different, not nearly so elegant. “Was your sleep refreshing? Are you weary?”

He rolled over onto his back and grinned up at her. “Not quite spent, I think.”

She leaned to kiss him, and he reached up to twine his fingers in her red hair. He looked at a curl of it, scarlet against the scarred skin of his knuckles, and touched the curl to his cheek. Before she could speak another word, a knock came at the door of her bedchamber.

The Queen called out, “What is it? If it is not a matter of importance, be off with you, or I shall have you fed to the nixies in the river.”

The door opened, and one of the younger Court ladies came in—Kaelie Whitewillow. A pixie. She curtsied and said, “My lady, Meliorn is here, and would speak with you.”

Sebastian quirked a pale eyebrow. “A Queen’s work is never done.”

The Queen sighed and rolled from the bed. “Bring him in,” she said, “and bring me one of my dressing gowns as well, for the air is chill.”

Kaelie nodded and left the room. A moment later Meliorn entered, and bowed his head. If Sebastian thought it odd that the Queen greeted her courtiers standing naked in the middle of her bedchamber, he did not evince it by any quirk of expression. A mortal woman would have been embarrassed, might have tried to cover herself, but the Queen was the Queen, eternal and proud, and she knew she was as glorious out of clothes as she was in them. “Meliorn,” she said. “You have news from the Nephilim?”

He straightened. Meliorn wore, as he usually did, white armor in a design of overlapping scales. His eyes were green and his hair was very long and black. “My lady,” he said, and glanced behind her at Sebastian, who was sitting up on the bed, the coverlet tangled around his waist. “I have much news. Our new forces of Dark Ones have been situated at the fortress of Edom. They await further orders.”

“And the Nephilim?” the Queen asked as Kaelie came back into the room carrying a dressing gown woven of the petals of lilies. She held it up, and the Queen slipped into it, wrapping the silken whiteness about herself.

“The children who escaped the Los Angeles Institute have given enough information that they know that Sebastian is behind the attacks,” said Meliorn rather sourly.

“They would have guessed it anyway,” said Sebastian. “They do have a regrettable habit of blaming me for everything.”

“The question is, were our people identified?” the Queen demanded.

“They were not,” said Meliorn with satisfaction. “The children assumed all the attackers to be Endarkened.”

“That is impressive, considering the presence of faerie blood in that Blackthorn boy,” said Sebastian. “One might have thought they’d be attuned to it. What are you planning on doing with him, anyway?”

“He has faerie blood; he is ours,” said Meliorn. “Gwyn has claimed him to join the Wild Hunt; he will be dispatched there.” He turned to the Queen. “We have need of more soldiers,” he said. “The Institutes are emptying: The Nephilim are fleeing to Idris.”

“What of the New York Institute?” Sebastian demanded sharply. “What of my brother and sister?”

“Clary Fray and Jace Lightwood have been sent to Idris,” said Meliorn. “We cannot attempt to retrieve them quite yet without showing our hand.”

Sebastian touched the bracelet on his wrist. It was a habit of his the Queen had noted, something he did when he was angry and trying not to show it. The metal was written on in an old language of humans: If I cannot reach Heaven, I will raise Hell. “I want them,” he said.

“And you shall have them,” said the Queen. “I have not forgotten that was part of our bargain. But you must be patient.”

Sebastian smiled, though it did not reach his eyes. “We mortals can be overhasty.”

“You are no ordinary mortal,” said the Queen, and turned back to Meliorn. “My knight,” she said. “What do you advise your Queen?”

“We need more soldiers,” Meliorn said. “We must take another Institute. More weapons would be a boon as well.”

“I thought you said all the Shadowhunters were in Idris?” Sebastian said.

“Not quite yet,” said Meliorn. “Some cities have taken longer than expected to evacuate all the Nephilim—the Shadowhunters of London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Istanbul, and Taipei remain. We must have at least one more Institute.”

Sebastian smiled. It was the sort of smile that transformed his lovely face, not into something lovelier but into a cruel mask, all teeth, like a manticore’s grin. “Then I shall have London,” he said. “If that does not go against your wishes, my Queen.”

She could not help but smile. It had been so many centuries since a mortal lover had made her smile. She bent to kiss him, and felt his hands slide over the petals of her gown. “Take London, my love, and turn it all to blood,” she said. “My gift to you.”

“You’re all right?” Jace asked, for what felt to Clary like the hundredth time. She was standing on the front step of Amatis’s house, partly illuminated by the lights from the windows. Jace was just below her, his hands jammed into his pockets, as if he were afraid to let them free.

He had stared at the burn marks he’d made on the wall of the shop for a long time, before tugging his shirt down and practically yanking Clary out into the crowded street, as if she shouldn’t be alone with him. He’d been taciturn the rest of the way home, his mouth set in a tense line.

“I’m fine,” she assured him. “Look, you burned the wall, not me.” She did an exaggerated twirl, as if she were showing off a new outfit. “See?”

There were shadows in his eyes. “If I hurt you—”

“You didn’t,” she said. “I’m not that fragile.”

“I thought I was getting better at controlling it, that working with Jordan was helping.” Frustration curled through his voice.

“You are; it is. Look, you were able to concentrate the fire in your hands; that’s progress. I was touching you, kissing you, and I’m not hurt.” She put her hand against his cheek. “We work through this together, remember? No shutting me out. No epic sulks.”

“I was figuring I could sulk for Idris in the next Olympics,” Jace said, but his voice was already softening, the edge of hard self-loathing filed away, wryness and amusement taking its place.

“You and Alec could go for pair sulking,” said Clary with a smile. “You’d get the gold.”

He turned his head and kissed the palm of her hand. His hair brushed the tops of her fingers. Everything around them seemed still and quiet; Clary could almost believe they were the only people in Alicante. “I keep wondering,” he said against her skin, “what the guy who owns that store is going to think when he comes to work in the morning and sees two handprints burned into his wall.”

“?‘I hope I have insurance for this’?”

Jace laughed, a small puff of air against her hand.

“Speaking of which,” said Clary, “the next Council meeting is tomorrow, right?”

Jace nodded. “War council,” he said. “Only select members of the Clave.” He wiggled his fingers irritably. Clary felt his annoyance—Jace was an excellent strategist and one of the Clave’s best fighters, and would have greatly resented being left out of any meeting that was about battles. Especially, she thought, if there was going to be discussion about using the heavenly fire as a weapon.

“Then maybe you can help me out with something. I need an armaments shop. I want to buy a sword. A really good one.”

Jace looked surprised, then amused. “What for?”

“Oh, you know. Killing.” Clary made a hand gesture she hoped conveyed her murderous intentions toward all things evil. “I mean, I’ve been a Shadowhunter for a while now. I should have a proper weapon, right?”

A slow grin spread over his face. “The best blade shop is Diana’s on Flintlock Street,” he said, eyes alight. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon.”

“It’s a date,” Clary said. “A weapons date.”

“So much better than dinner and a movie,” he said, and disappeared into the shadows.

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult