City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 38

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“Here you go,” said Leila Haryana, one of the newest of the pack’s wolves, as she handed over a stack of clothes to Maia.

Maia took them gratefully. “Thanks—you have no idea what it means to have clean clothes to wear,” she said, glancing through the pile: a tank top, jeans, a wool jacket. She and Leila were about the same size, and even if the clothes didn’t quite fit, it was better than going back to Jordan’s apartment. It had been a while since Maia had lived at pack headquarters, and all her things were at Jordan and Simon’s, but the thought of the apartment without either of the boys in it was a dreary one. At least here she was surrounded by other werewolves, surrounded by the constant hum of voices, the smell of take-out Chinese and Malaysian food, the sound of people cooking in the kitchen. And Bat was there—not getting in her space, but always around if she wanted someone to talk to or just sit silently with, watching the traffic go by on Baxter Street.

Of course there were also downsides. Rufus Hastings, huge and scarred and fearsome in his black leather biker clothes, seemed to be everywhere at once, his grating voice audible in the kitchen as he muttered over lunch about how Luke Garroway wasn’t a reliable leader, he was going to marry an ex-Shadowhunter, his loyalties were in question, they needed someone they could depend on to put werewolves first.

“No problem.” Leila fiddled with the gold clip in her dark hair, looking awkward. “Maia,” she said. “Just a word to the wise—you might want to tone down the whole loyalty-to-Luke thing.”

Maia froze. “I thought we were all loyal to Luke,” she said, in a careful tone. “And to Bat.”

“If Luke were here, maybe,” said Leila. “But we’ve barely heard from him since he left for Idris. The Praetor isn’t a pack, but Sebastian threw the gauntlet down. He wants us to choose between the Shadowhunters and going to war for them and—”

“There’s always going to be war,” Maia said in a low furious voice. “I’m not blindly loyal to Luke. I know Shadowhunters. I’ve met Sebastian, too. He hates us. Trying to appease him, it isn’t going to work—”

Leila put her hands up. “Okay, okay. Like I said, just advice. Hope those fit,” she added, and headed off down the hall.

Maia wiggled into the jeans—tight, like she’d figured—and the shirt, and shrugged on Leila’s jacket. She grabbed her wallet from the table, shoved her feet into her boots, and headed down the hall to knock on Bat’s door.

He opened it shirtless, which she hadn’t been expecting. Aside from the scar along his right cheek, he had a scar on his right arm, where he’d been shot with a bullet—not silver. The scar looked like a moon crater, white against his dark skin. He raised an eyebrow. “Maia?”

“Look,” she said. “I’m going to tell off Rufus. He’s filling everyone’s head with crap, and I’m tired of it.”

“Whoa.” Bat held up a hand. “I don’t think that’s a good idea—”

“He’s not going to stop unless someone tells him to,” she said. “I remember running into him at the Praetor, with Jordan. Praetor Scott said Rufus had snapped another werewolf’s leg for no reason. Some people see a power vacuum and they want to fill it. They don’t care who they hurt.”

Maia spun on her heel and headed downstairs; she could hear Bat making muffled cursing noises behind her. A second later he joined her on the steps, hastily pulling a shirt on.

“Maia, I really don’t—”

“There you are,” she said. She had reached the lobby, where Rufus was lounging against what had once been a sergeant’s desk. A group of about ten other werewolves, including Leila, were grouped around him.

“. . . have to show them that we’re stronger,” he was saying. “And that our loyalties lie with ourselves. The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” His voice was as gravelly as Maia remembered it, as if something had injured his throat a long time ago. The deep scars on his face were livid against his pale skin. He smiled when he saw Maia. “Hello,” he said. “I believe we’ve met before. I was sorry to hear about your boyfriend.”

I doubt that.

“Strength is loyalty and unity, not dividing people with lies,” Maia snapped.

“We’ve only just been reunited, and you’re calling me a liar?” Rufus said. His demeanor was still casual, but there was a flicker of tension under it, like a cat readying itself to pounce.

“If you’re telling people that they should stay out of the Shadowhunters’ war, then you’re a liar. Sebastian isn’t going to stop with the Nephilim. If he destroys them, then he’ll come for us next.”

“He doesn’t care about Downworlders.”

“He just slaughtered the Praetor Lupus!” Maia shouted. “He cares about destruction. He will kill us all.”

“Not if we don’t join with the Shadowhunters!”

“That’s a lie,” Maia said. She saw Bat pass a hand over his eyes, and then something struck her hard in the shoulder, knocking her backward. She was caught off her guard enough to stumble, and then steadied herself on the edge of the desk.

“Rufus!” Bat roared, and Maia realized that Rufus had hit her in the shoulder. She clamped her jaw shut, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing the pain on her face.

Rufus stood smirking amid the suddenly frozen group of werewolves. Murmurs ran around the group as Bat strode forward. Rufus was enormous, towering over even Bat, his shoulders as thick and broad as a plank. “Rufus,” Bat said. “I’m the leader here, in Garroway’s absence. You have been a guest among us but are not of our pack. It’s time for you to get out.”

Rufus narrowed his eyes at Bat. “Are you throwing me out? Knowing I have nowhere to go?”

“I’m sure you’ll find somewhere,” Bat said, starting to turn away.

“I challenge you,” Rufus said. “Bat Velasquez, I challenge you for the leadership of the New York pack.”

“No!” Maia said in horror, but Bat was already straightening his shoulders. His eyes met Rufus’s; the tension between the two werewolves was as palpable as a live wire.

“I accept your challenge,” Bat said. “Tomorrow night, in Prospect Park. I’ll meet you there.”

He spun on his heel and stalked out of the station. After a frozen moment Maia dashed after him.

The cold air hit her the minute she reached the front steps. Icy wind was swirling down Baxter Street, cutting through her jacket. She clattered down the stairs, her shoulder aching. Bat had nearly reached the corner of the street by the time she caught up with him, grabbing his arm and spinning him around to face her.

She was aware that other people on the street were staring at them, and wished for a moment for the Shadowhunters’ glamour runes. Bat looked down at her. There was an angry line between his eyes, and his scar stood out, livid on his cheek. “Are you crazy?” she demanded. “How could you accept Rufus’s challenge? He’s huge.”

“You know the rules, Maia,” said Bat. “A challenge has to be accepted.”

“Only if you’re challenged by someone in your own pack! You could have turned him down.”

“And lost all the pack’s respect,” said Bat. “They never would have been willing to follow my orders again.”

“He’ll kill you,” Maia said, and wondered if he could hear what she was saying under the words: that she’d just watched Jordan die, and didn’t think she could stand it again.

“Maybe not.” He drew from his pocket something that clanked and jingled, and pressed it into her hand. After a moment she realized what it was. Jordan’s keys. “His truck’s parked around the corner,” Bat said. “Take it and go. Stay away from the station until this is resolved. I don’t trust Rufus around you.”

“Come with me,” Maia begged. “You never cared about being pack leader. We could just go away until Luke comes back and sorts all this out—”

“Maia.” Bat put his hand on her wrist, his fingers curling gently around her palm. “Waiting for Luke to get back is pretty much exactly what Rufus wants us to do. If we leave, we’re abandoning the pack to him, basically. And you know what he’ll choose to do, or not do. He’ll let Sebastian slaughter the Shadowhunters without lifting a finger, and by the time Sebastian decides to come back and pick us all off like the last pieces on a chessboard, it’ll be too late for everyone.”

Maia looked down at his fingers, gentle on her skin.

“You know,” he said, “I remember when you told me you needed more space. That you couldn’t be in a real relationship. I took you at your word and I gave you space. I even started dating that girl, the witch, what was her name—”

“Eve,” Maia supplied.

“Right. Eve.” Bat looked surprised that she remembered. “But that didn’t work out, and anyway, maybe I gave you too much space. Maybe I should have told you how I felt. Maybe I should—”

She looked up at him, startled and bewildered, and saw his expression change, the shutters going up behind his eyes, hiding his brief vulnerability.

“Never mind,” he said. “It’s not fair to lay all this on you right now.” He let go of her and stepped back. “Take the truck,” he said, backing away from her into the crowd, heading toward Canal Street. “Get out of town. And look after yourself, Maia. For me.”

Jace set his stele down on the arm of the sofa and traced a finger over the iratze he had drawn on Clary’s arm. A silver band glittered at his wrist. At some point, Clary didn’t remember when, he had picked up Sebastian’s fallen bracelet and clipped it onto his own wrist. She didn’t feel like asking him why. “How’s that?”

“Better. Thanks.” Clary’s jeans were rolled up above her knees; she watched as the bruises on her legs began to fade slowly. They were in a room in the Gard, some kind of meeting space, Clary guessed. There were several tables and a long leather sofa, angled in front of a low-burning fire. Books lined one of the walls. The room was illuminated by the firelight. The unshaded window gave out onto a view of Alicante and the shining demon towers.

“Hey.” Jace’s light golden eyes searched her face. “Are you all right?”

Yes, she meant to say, but the reply stuck in her throat. Physically she was fine. The runes had healed her bruises. She was all right, Jace was all right—Simon, knocked out by the spiked blood, had slept through it all and was currently still sleeping in another room in the Gard.

A message had been sent to Luke and Jocelyn. The dinner they were attending was warded for safety, Jia had explained, but they would receive it on leaving. Clary ached to see them again. The world felt unsteady under her feet. Sebastian was gone, for the moment at least, but still she felt torn apart, bitter and angry and vengeful and sad.

The guards had let her pack a bag of her things before she’d left Amatis’s house—a change of clothes, her gear, her stele, drawing pad, and weapons. Part of her wanted to change her clothes desperately, to get rid of Sebastian’s touch on the fabric, but more of her didn’t want to leave the room, didn’t want to be alone with her memories and thoughts.

“I’m fine.” She rolled the legs of her jeans down and stood up, walked over to the fireplace. She was aware of Jace watching her from the sofa. She put her hands out as if warming them at the fire, though she wasn’t cold. In fact, every time the thought of her brother crossed her mind, she felt a surge of anger like liquid fire rip through her body. Her hands were shaking; she looked at them with a strange detachment, as if they were a stranger’s hands.

“Sebastian’s afraid of you,” she said. “He played it off, especially at the end, but I could tell.”

“He’s afraid of the heavenly fire,” corrected Jace. “I don’t think he’s exactly sure what it does, any more than we are. One thing’s for certain, though—it doesn’t hurt him just to touch me.”

“No,” she said, without turning around to look at Jace. “Why did he kiss you?” It wasn’t what she’d meant to say, but she kept seeing it in her head, over and over, Sebastian with his bloody hand curling around the back of Jace’s neck, and then that strange and surprising kiss on the cheek.

She heard the creak of the leather sofa as Jace shifted his weight. “It was a sort of quote,” he said. “From the Bible. When Judas kissed Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. It was a sign of his betrayal. He kissed him and said ‘Hail, master’ to him, and that was how the Romans knew who to arrest and crucify.”

“That was why he said ‘Ave, master,’ to you,” said Clary, realizing. “?‘Hail, master.’?”

“He meant he planned to be the instrument of my destruction. Clary, I—” She turned to look at Jace as he broke off. He was sitting on the edge of the couch, running a hand through his messy blond hair, his eyes fixed on the floor. “When I came into the room and saw you there, and him there, I wanted to kill him. I should have attacked him immediately, but I was afraid it was a trap. That if I moved toward you, either of you, he would find a way to kill you or hurt you. He’s always twisted everything I’ve ever done. He’s clever. Cleverer than Valentine. And I’ve never been—”

Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult