Authors: Cassandra Clare
Cordelia bit her lip. This was not at all how she wanted the evening to go. She was meant to be charming people and influencing them, but instead she felt like a child banished to the perimeter of adult conversation about motorcars. It was with extreme relief that
she saw Lucie abandon Thomas on the dance floor and race over to her. They hugged, and Cordelia exclaimed over Lucie's pretty blue lace dress, while Lucie stared in horror at Cordelia's lilac nightmare.
“May I take Cordelia to meet the other girls?” she said to Sona, smiling her most charming smile.
“Of course.” Sona looked pleased. It was, after all, what she had brought Cordelia here for, wasn't it? To meet the sons and daughters of influential Shadowhunters? Though really, Cordelia knew, more the sons than the daughters.
Lucie took Cordelia's hand and drew her over to the refreshment table, where a group of girls in colorful dresses had gathered. In the avalanche of introductions, Cordelia caught only a few of their names: Catherine Townsend, Rosamund Wentworth, and Ariadne Bridgestock, who must be related to the Inquisitor. She was a tall, lovely-looking girl a few years older than the others, with brown skin a shade darker than Cordelia's own.
“What a pretty dress,” Ariadne said to Cordelia, her voice warm. Her own gown was of flattering wine-colored silk. “I believe that's the shade they call âashes of roses.' Very popular in Paris.”
“Oh, yes,” Cordelia said eagerly. She'd known so few girls growing upâjust Lucie, reallyâso how
one impress them and charm them? It was desperately important. “I did get this dress in Paris, as a matter of fact. On Rue de la Paix. Jeanne Paquin made it herself.”
She saw Lucie's eyes widen in concern. Rosamund's lips tightened. “How fortunate you are,” she said coolly. “Most of us here in the poky little London Enclave rarely get to travel abroad. You must think us
“Oh,” said Cordelia, realizing she had put her foot in it. “No, not at allâ”
mother has always said Shadowhunters aren't meant to have much of an interest in fashion,” said Catherine. “She says it's mundane.”
“Since you've spoken of Matthew's clothes admiringly so often,” said Ariadne tartly, “should we assume that rule is only for girls?”
“Ariadne, reallyâ” Rosamund began, and broke off with a laugh. “Speak of the devils,” she said. “
who's just come in.”
She was looking toward the far doors of the ballroom, through which two boys had just spilled. Cordelia saw James first, as she always did. He was tall, beautiful, smiling: a painter's vision in black and white with tousled ebony hair.
She heard Lucie groan as the girls whispered among themselves: she caught James's name in the whispers, and then a second name in the same breath:
Of course. James's
. It had been years since Cordelia had seen him. She remembered a slim blond boy. Now he was a well-built young man, his hair darkened to bronze, with a face like a dissipated angel.
,” said Catherine, sounding almost pained. “Don't you think so, Ariadne?”
“Ohâyes,” Ariadne said hastily. “I suppose.”
“She only has eyes for Charles,” said Rosamund. Ariadne turned red, and the girls went off into gales of laughter. All but Lucie, who rolled her eyes.
,” she said.
“James is your brother,” said Catherine. “You cannot be objective, Lucie! He is
Cordelia had begun to feel a certain dismay. James, it seemed, was not her discovery alone. He and Matthew had stopped to laugh with Barbara and her dance partner; James had an arm slung over Matthew's shoulder and was smiling. He was so beautiful it was like an arrow in the heart to look at him. Of course she was not the only one to have noticed. Surely James could have his pick of girls.
“Matthew isn't bad-looking either,” said Rosamund. “But so
“Indeed,” Catherine added, eyes sparkling. “You must be careful of him, Miss Carstairs. He has a
Lucie began to turn an angry shade of pink.
“We should guess who James will ask to dance first,” said a fair-haired girl in a pink dress. “Surely you, Rosamund; you are looking so lovely tonight. Who could resist you?”
“Ah, yes, who will be graced by my brother's attentions?” drawled Lucie. “When he was six, he threw up in his own shoe.”
The others girls pointedly ignored her as the music began once more. Someone who appeared to be Rosamund's brother came to claim the fair-haired girl for a dance; Charles left Alastair and came across the room to take Ariadne's hand and whisk her onto the floor. Will and Tessa were in each other's arms, as were both sets of Lucie's aunts and uncles.
A moment later Matthew Fairchild approached the table. He was suddenly startlingly close to Cordelia. She could see that his eyes were not dark, as she had thought, but a deep shade of green like forest moss. He bowed slightly to Lucie. “Might I have this dance?”
Lucie cast a glance back at the other girls that Cordelia could read as clearly as words on a page.
was not concerned about Matthew's reputation, the look said. Head held high, Lucie sailed out onto the dance floor with the Consul's second son.
Which was commendable of her, Cordelia thought, but it did leave Cordelia alone with a group of girls she was not sure liked her. She could hear a few of them whispering that she seemed terribly pleased with herself, and she thought she caught her father's name, too, and the word “trial”â
Cordelia stiffened her spine. She had made a mistake in mentioning Paris; she would not compound it by seeming weak. She gazed out upon the dance floor, a smile glued to her lips. She caught sight of her brother, now in conversation with Thomas Lightwood. The two boys sat casually on a rout-seat together, as if they were
exchanging confidences. Even Alastair was doing a better job of charming the influential than she was.
Not far from them, leaning against a wall, was a girl dressed in the height of fashionâmen's fashion. Tall and almost painfully slender, she had dark, dark hair like Will and James did. Hers was cut short and smoothed down with pomade, the edges finger-combed into careful curls. Her hands were long, ink-and-tobacco-stained and beautiful to look at, like the hands on a statue. She was smoking a cheroot, the smoke drifting up past her face, which was unusual: fine-boned and sharp edged.
Anna, Cordelia realized. This was Anna Lightwood, Lucie's cousin. She was certainly the most intimidating person in the room.
“Oh, my,” said Catherine, as the music rose. “It's a waltz.”
Cordelia glanced down. She knew how to dance: her mother had engaged an expert instructor to teach her the quadrille and the lancer, the stately minuet and the cotillion. But the waltz was a seductive dance, one where you could feel your partner's body against yours, scandalous when it had first become popular. She'd never learned it.
She very much wanted to dance it with James. But he probably didn't even wish to dance at all; he probably wanted to talk with his friends, as any young man would. She heard another spate of giggles and whispers, and Catherine's voice saying, “Isn't she that girl whose fatherâ”
“Daisy? Would you like to dance?”
There was only one boy who called her that. She looked up, incredulous, to see James standing in front of her.
His beautiful hair was disorderly, as it always was, and more charming for that: a lock of it fell over his forehead, and his lashes were thick and dark over his pale gold eyes. His cheekbones arched like wings.
The group of girls had fallen into a stunned silence. Cordelia felt as if she might be floating.
“I don't,” she faltered, having no idea what she was saying, “quite know how to waltz.”
“Then I shall teach you,” James said, and a moment later they had whirled out onto the dance floor.
“Thank goodness you were free,” James said with frank cheerfulness as they moved among the other couples, searching for a space. “I was afraid I'd have to ask Catherine to dance, and all she talks about is how scandalous Matthew is.”
“Glad to be of service,” said Cordelia, a bit breathless. “But I truly can't waltz.”
“Oh, neither can I.” He grinned and spun to face her. She was so close to him, and they were
, his hand on her forearm. “At least not well. Shall we agree to try not to mash each other's toes?”
“I can try,” Cordelia said, then gave a small squeak as he drew her into his arms. The room swam for a moment. This was James,
James, and he was holding her, his hand on her shoulder blade. He took her other hand and placed it firmly on his arm.
And then they were off, and she was doing her best to follow. She had learned that much at least: how to be led in a dance, how to respond to your partner's hinted movements. James danced wellânothing surprising there, given how graceful he wasâand he made it easy to follow him.
“Not bad,” James said. He blew at the lock of hair dangling over his forehead, but that only made it fall farther into his eyes. He grinned ruefully as Cordelia forced herself through sheer exercise of will not to reach up and push it back. “Still, always embarrassing when your parents dance better than you do.”
“Humph,” Cordelia said. “Speak for yourself.” She caught sight of Lucie dancing with Matthew a few feet away. Lucie was laughing. “Maybe Catherine is in love with Matthew,” she suggested. “Maybe he holds a dark fascination for her.”
“That would be exciting. And I assure you, nothing exciting
has happened to the London Enclave in a very long time.”
Dancing with James was its own reward, of course, but it occurred to Cordelia that it might also be useful. “I was just thinking how very many people there are in the Enclave, and how little I know of them. I know you and Lucie, of course.â¦”
“Shall I give you a bit of the tour of the rest of them?” he asked, as they executed a complicated turn. “Perhaps a few pointers on who everyone is will make you feel more at home?”
She smiled. “It would, thank you.”
“Over there,” he said, and indicated Ariadne and Charles, dancing together. Her wine-colored dress glowed under the lights. “Charles you know, and with him is Ariadne Bridgestock, his fiancÃ©e.”
“I didn't know they were engaged!”
James's eyes crinkled at the corners. “You know Charles is nearly assured of the position of Consul when his mother steps down after her third term. Ariadne's father is the Inquisitor, a very advantageous political alliance for Charlesâ¦ though I'm sure he loves her as well.”
James didn't sound as if he entirely believed that, though to Cordelia's eyes, Charles was gazing down at his fiancÃ©e quite adoringly. She hoped James hadn't become cynical. The James she remembered was anything but cynical.
“And that must be Anna,” she said. It could not have been anyone else than the cousin Lucie had described in her letters: beautiful, fearless, always dressed in the finest clothes Jermyn Street had to offer. She stood laughing as she spoke with her father, Gabriel, near the door to the withdrawing room.
“Anna indeed,” said James. “And there is her brother, Christopher, dancing with Rosamund Wentworth.”
Cordelia moved her gaze to a slim boy in glasses she recognized from photographs. Christopher, she knew, was one of James's close
friends, along with Matthew and Thomas. He was glumly dancing with a furious-looking Rosamund.
“Alas, Christopher is far more at home with beakers and test tubes than he is with female company,” said James. “Let's just hope he doesn't pitch poor Rosamund into the refreshment table.”
“Is he in love with her?”
“Lord, no, barely knows her,” said James. “Besides Charles and Ariadne, Barbara Lightwood has an understanding with Oliver Hayward. And Anna is always breaking someone's heart. Beyond that, I'm not sure I can think of any romances brewing in our set. Though having you and Alastair here might bring us some excitement, Daisy.”
“I didn't realize you remembered that old nickname.”
?” He was holding her close as they danced: she could feel the heat of him all up and down her front, making her prickle all over. “Of course I remember it. I gave it to you. I hope you don't intend me to stop using it.”
“Of course not. I like it.” She forced herself not to move her gaze from his. Goodness, his eyes were startling up close. They were the color of golden syrup, almost shocking against the black of his pupils. She had heard the whispers, knew people found his eyes odd and alien, a sign of his difference. She thought they were the color of fire and gold, the way she imagined the heart of the sun. “Though I don't think it suits me. Daisy sounds like a pretty little girl in hair ribbons.”
“Well,” he said. “You are at least one of those things.”
And he smiled. It was a sweet smile, the kind she was used to from James, but there was an edge to it, a hint of something moreâdid he mean she was pretty, or a little girl? Or did he just mean she was a girl? What
he mean? Goodness, flirting was vexing, Cordelia thought.
Wait, was James Herondale
“A number of us are having a picnic in Regent's Park tomorrow,” he said, and Cordelia felt her body tighten. Was he about to ask her to accompany him somewhere? She would have preferred a private ride or walk in the park, but she would accept a group outing. In truth, she would have accepted a visit to Hades. “On the chance that Lucie hasn't already mentioned it to youâ”
He broke off: suddenly he was looking past her, at someone who had just come into the room. Cordelia followed his gaze and saw a tall woman, thin as a scarecrow in the black of mundane mourning, with gray-streaked hair dressed in the style of decades ago. Tessa was hurrying toward her, a concerned look on her face. Will was following.