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Authors: Cassandra Clare

Chain of Gold (7 page)

BOOK: Chain of Gold
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As Tessa reached her, the woman stepped aside, revealing the girl who had been standing behind her. A girl dressed all in ivory, with a soft waterfall of white-gold curls gathered back from her face. The girl moved forward gracefully to greet Tessa and Will, and as she did so, James dropped Cordelia's hands.

They were no longer dancing. James turned away from Cordelia without a word and strode across the room toward the newcomers. She stood, frozen in confusion, as James bent to kiss the hand of the stunningly beautiful girl who had just walked into the room. Titters rose on the dance floor. Lucie had stepped back from Matthew, her eyes wide. Alastair and Thomas both turned to look at Cordelia with expressions of surprise.

At any moment, Cordelia knew, her mother would notice that she was drifting in the middle of the dance floor like an abandoned tugboat and charge toward her, and then Cordelia would die. She would die of the humiliation. Cordelia was scanning the room for the nearest exit, ready to flee, when a hand grasped her arm. She was spun around and into an expert grip: a moment later she was dancing again, her feet automatically following her partner's.

“That's right.” It was Matthew Fairchild. Fair hair, spicy cologne, a blur of a smile. His hands were gentle as he swept her back into
the waltz. “Just—try to smile, and no one will notice anything happened. James and I are practically interchangeable in the public consciousness anyway.”

“James—left,” Cordelia said, in shock.

“I know,” said Matthew. “Very bad form. One should not leave a lady on the dance floor unless something is actually on fire. I'll have a word.”

“A word,” Cordelia echoed. She was beginning to feel less stunned and more angry. “A
word
?”

“Several words, if it will make you feel better?”

“Who is she?” Cordelia said. She almost didn't want to ask, but it was better to know the truth. It was always better to know the truth.

“Her name is Grace Blackthorn,” said Matthew quietly. “She is the ward of Tatiana Blackthorn, and they have just come to London. Apparently she grew up in some hole in the country in Idris—that's how James knows her. They used to cross paths in the summers.”

It is a girl who does not live in London, but she is about to arrive here for an extended stay.

Cordelia felt sick to her stomach. To think she had thought that Lucie was talking about
her
. That James could have felt those feelings about
her
.

“You look ill,” Matthew observed. “Is it my dancing? Is it me personally?”

Cordelia drew herself up. She was Cordelia Carstairs, daughter of Elias and Sona, one of a long line of Shadowhunters. She was the inheritor of the famous sword Cortana, which had been passed down through the Carstairs family for generations. She was in London to save her father. She would
not
fall apart in public.

“Perhaps I'm nervous,” she said. “Lucie did say you didn't like many people.”

Matthew gave a sharp, startled laugh, before schooling his face back into a look of lazy amusement. “Did she? Lucie's a chatterbox.”

“But not a liar,” she said.

“Well, fear not. I do not dislike you. I hardly know you,” said Matthew. “I do know your brother. He made my life miserable at school, and Christopher's, and James's.”

Cordelia looked over at James and Grace reluctantly. They made a stunning picture, his dark hair and her fair icicle beauty. Like ashes and silver. How, how,
how
could Cordelia ever have thought someone like James Herondale would be interested in someone like her?

“Alastair and I are very different,” Cordelia said. She didn't want to say more than that. It felt disloyal to Alastair. “I like Oscar Wilde, for instance, and he does not.”

The corner of Matthew's mouth curled up. “I see you go directly for the soft underbelly, Cordelia Carstairs. Have you really read Oscar's work?”

“Just
Dorian Gray
,” Cordelia confessed. “It gave me nightmares.”

“I should like to have a portrait in the attic,” Matthew mused, “that would show all my sins, while I stayed young and beautiful. And not only for sinning purposes—imagine being able to try out new fashions on it. I could paint the portrait's hair blue and see how it looks.”

“You don't need a portrait. You
are
young and beautiful,” Cordelia pointed out.

“Men are not beautiful. Men are handsome,” objected Matthew.

“Thomas is handsome.
You
are beautiful,” said Cordelia, feeling the imp of the perverse stealing over her. Matthew was looking stubborn. “James is beautiful too,” she added.

“He was a very unprepossessing child,” said Matthew. “Scowly, and he hadn't grown into his nose.”

“He's grown into everything now,” Cordelia said.

Matthew laughed, again as if he was surprised to be doing it. “That was a very shocking observation, Cordelia Carstairs. I am
shocked.” But his eyes were dancing. “Did James tell you about tomorrow?”

“He did say there was some sort of excursion—a picnic, I think. I am not sure if I am invited, though.”

“Of course you're invited. I'm inviting you.”

“Oh. Can you do that?”

“I think you'll find I can do whatever I want, and I usually do.”

“Because the Consul is your mother?” Cordelia said.

He raised an eyebrow.

“I've always hoped to meet her,” Cordelia said. “Is she here tonight?”

“No, she's in Idris,” he said, with a gracious half shrug. “She left a few days ago. It's unusual for the Consul to live in London—she's rarely here. The Clave requires her.”

“Oh,” said Cordelia, struggling to hide her disappointment. “How long will she be—”

Matthew spun her in a surprising twirl that left the other dancers looking at them in puzzlement. “You will come to the picnic tomorrow, won't you?” he said. “It will keep Lucie amused while James moons after Grace. You want Lucie to be happy, don't you?”

“Of course I do—” Cordelia began, and then, glancing around, realized that she had not seen Lucie in some time. No matter how she craned her head and searched among the dancers, she did not see her friend's blue dress, or the glint of her brown hair. Puzzled, she turned to Matthew. “But where is she? Where did Lucie go?”

3
T
HIS
L
IVING
H
AND

This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again.

—John Keats, “This Living Hand”

It was a bit like
the moment in a dream where one realized one was dreaming, only in reverse. When Lucie saw the boy from the forest come into the ballroom, she assumed she was dreaming, and only when her parents began to hurry over toward him and his two companions did she realize that she wasn't.

In a daze, she pushed through the crowd toward the ballroom doors. As she neared her parents, she recognized the woman they were speaking to, her taffeta dress stretched across bony arms and shoulders, her oversize hat covered with lace, tulle, and a memorable stuffed bird. Tatiana Blackthorn.

Lucie had always been a bit frightened of Tatiana, especially when she had come to their house, demanding that James cut the
thorns from her gates. She remembered her as a sort of towering skeleton, but with the passage of years, it seemed that Tatiana had shrunk: still tall, but no longer a giant.

And there beside her was Grace. Lucie recalled her as a determinedly poised child, but she was quite different now. Cold and lovely and statuesque.

But Lucie barely spared them a glance. She was staring at the boy who had come in with them. The changeling boy she had last seen in Brocelind Forest.

He had not altered at all. His hair was still a black spill over his forehead, his eyes the same eerie green. He wore the same clothes he had in the forest: dark trousers and an ivory shirt whose sleeves had been rolled up above his elbows. It was very odd attire for a ball.

He was watching as Tessa and Will greeted Tatiana and Grace, Will bending to kiss Grace's satin-gloved hand. Oddly, neither of them greeted the boy. As Lucie neared them, her brows drew down into a frown. They were speaking to each other, ignoring him entirely, talking
through
him as if he weren't there. How could they be so rude?

Lucie hurried forward, her mouth opening, her gaze fixed on the boy,
her
boy, her boy from the forest. He raised his head and saw her looking, and to her astonishment, a look of horror passed over his face.

She stopped dead. She could see James making his way through the crowd toward them somewhere in the distance, but the boy was already stepping away from Tatiana and Grace, moving toward Lucie.
Speeding
toward her, actually, like a runaway horse on Rotten Row.

No one else seemed to see him. No one turned to look at either of them, even when he seized hold of Lucie's wrist and drew her after him out of the room.

“Would you do me the honor of this dance?” said James.

He was conscious of the presence of his parents, and of Tatiana Blackthorn, observing everything with her poison-green eyes. He was conscious of the music, continuing around them, and conscious of his own heartbeat, loud as thunder in his ears. He was conscious of all those things, but they seemed distant, as if trapped behind a wall of glass. The only thing that was real in the room was Grace.

James's parents looked on with concern etched on their faces. He felt a sense of guilt that they must be wondering, now, why he had rushed over to Grace: as far as they knew, he was barely acquainted with her. But the guilt, too, felt distant. They didn't know what he did. They didn't know how important this was.

“Well, go on, Grace,” Tatiana said, a beaky smile spreading across her thin face. “Dance with the gentleman.”

Without looking up, Grace put her hand lightly in James's. They made their way out onto the floor. Touching Grace was like touching
adamas
for the first time: sparks rocketed through James as he drew her toward him, placing one hand on her shoulder and the other at her waist. She had always been graceful when they had danced, as children, in the overgrown garden of her house in Idris. But she felt different in his arms now.

“Why did you not tell me you were coming?” he said in a low voice.

She finally raised her face and he was struck by a jolt of recognition: Grace might hold herself with near-silent poise, but she
felt
with an absolute intensity. She was like a fire blazing in the heart of a glacier. “You didn't come to Idris,” she said. “I waited—I expected you—but you never came.”

“I wrote to you,” he said. “I told you we weren't coming this summer.”

“Mama found the letter,” she said. “First she hid it from me. I thought you had forgotten—at last I found it in her room. She was dreadfully angry. I told her again we only had a friendship, but—” She shook her head. James was conscious that everyone in the room was staring at them. Even Anna was looking at them curiously through the cheroot smoke that wreathed her like mist off the Thames. “She wouldn't say what was in it, she just smiled as the days went by and you didn't come. And I was so frightened. When we are not together, when we are not with one another, the bond between us weakens. I feel it. Don't you?”

He shook his head. “Love must be able to survive distance,” he said, as gently as he could.

“You don't understand, James. You have a life here in London, and friends, and I have nothing.” Her voice shook with the strength of her feeling.

“Grace. Don't say that.” But he thought of the overgrown house full of stopped clocks and rotted food. He had sworn he would help her escape from that.

She slid her hand down his arm. He felt her fingers circle his wrist, below the silver bracelet.
Loyalty Binds Me.
“I should have trusted you would have written to me,” she whispered. “That you thought of me. I thought about you each night.”

Each night.
He knew she meant it innocently, but he felt himself tense. It had been so long since he had last kissed her. He could not remember what it had been like, not exactly, but he knew it had shattered him. “I think of you every day,” he said. “And now that you are here…”

“I never thought it would happen. I never thought I would see London,” she said. “The streets, the carriages, the buildings, it's all so wonderful. The people…” She looked around the room. There was a look in her eyes, avid, almost hungry. “I cannot wait to know them all.”

“There is an outing tomorrow,” James said. “A group going to Regent's Park. Would your mother allow you to come?”

Grace's eyes gleamed. “I think she will,” she said. “She had said she wants me to meet people here in London, and oh—I should like to know your
parabatai
, Matthew. And Thomas and Christopher that you've spoken so much of. I—I should like your friends to like me.”

“Of course,” he murmured, and drew her closer against him. She was light and slim, not nearly as soft and warm as Daisy—

Daisy.
Raziel, he'd been dancing with Daisy just a few minutes ago. He couldn't remember excusing himself. Couldn't remember leaving her.

He looked away from Grace for the first time and searched the floor for Cordelia. He found her in moments—she was easy to spot. No one else had hair that color, a deep dark red, like fire shining through blood. She was dancing with Matthew, he saw to his surprise. Matthew's arms were around her, and she was smiling.

Relief went through him. So he hadn't done her any harm. That was good. He liked Cordelia. He had been glad to see her there among the usual group of girls, knowing he could ask her to dance and she would make no wrong assumptions about his intentions: they were family friends.

The music stopped. It was a pause for refreshments. Couples began to flood off the dance floor—James smiled to himself as he saw Jessamine, the Institute's resident ghost, drifting above the head of Rosamund Wentworth as Rosamund gossiped with her friends. Jessamine loved overhearing gossip, even though she'd been dead for a quarter century.

Cordelia flashed past as she hurried away from Matthew; she was glancing around, as if searching for someone. Her brother, perhaps? But Alastair seemed to be deep in conversation with Thomas. Very puzzling, that—James was positive Thomas hadn't liked Alastair much at school.

“My mother is summoning me back,” Grace said. “I had better go.”

Tatiana was indeed beckoning from the sidelines. James touched Grace's hand lightly with his own. He knew they could not hold hands, as Barbara and Oliver were doing. They could not show any affection openly.

Not now. But someday.

“Tomorrow, in the park,” he said. “We will find a time to talk.”

She nodded and turned away, hurrying toward Tatiana, who stood alone by the ballroom doors. James watched her go: it had been years of summers, he thought, but Grace was still a mystery.

“She's very pretty,” said a familiar voice behind him. He turned and saw Anna leaning against the wall. She had the uncanny ability to disappear from one spot and appear in another, like a moving point of light.

James leaned against the wall next to Anna. He had spent many dances this way, draped against the William Morris wallpaper with his acerbic cousin. Too much dancing always made him feel as if he were being disloyal to Grace. “Is she?”

“I assumed that was why you bolted across the room like Oscar spotting a biscuit.” Oscar was Matthew's golden retriever, well known for loyalty if not intelligence. “Bad form, James. Abandoning that nice Cordelia Carstairs.”

“I hope you know me well enough to know that I don't simply bolt at every pretty girl I see,” said James, nettled. “Maybe she reminded me of a long-lost aunt.”

“My mother
is
your aunt, and you've never been that enthused to see her.” Anna smiled, her blue eyes sparking. “So how do you know Grace Blackthorn?”

James glanced over at Grace, who was being introduced to Charles Fairchild. Poor Grace. She wouldn't find Charles the least bit interesting. James liked Matthew's older brother well enough,
and they were practically family, but he had only one interest—Shadowhunter politics.

Grace was nodding and smiling politely. James wondered if he ought to rescue her. The world of Alicante and its dramas and policies couldn't be further from Grace's experience.

“And now you're thinking you ought to rescue her from Charles,” said Anna, running her fingers through her pomaded hair. “I can't blame you.”

“Do you not like Charles?” James was slightly surprised. Anna viewed the world with amused tolerance. She rarely went so far as to particularly like anyone, and it was even more rare for her to
dislike
them.

“I cannot admire all his decisions,” said Anna, clearly choosing her words with care. James wondered what decisions she meant. “Go ahead, then, Jamie—rescue her.”

James got only a few steps before the world around him shifted and changed. Anna vanished, as did all the music and laughter: gray, formless nothing swirled around him. He could hear only the sound of his own heartbeat. The floor seemed to tilt under him like the deck of a sinking ship.

NO,
he cried out silently, but there was nothing he could do to stop it: the shadows were rising all around him as the universe went gray.

The boy drew Lucie down the hall and through the first open door, taking them into the games room. He didn't move to shut the door, only went to light the witchlight on the mantel, so Lucie shut it herself, and turned the key for good measure.

Then she spun around and stared accusingly. “What on earth are you doing here?” she demanded.

The boy smiled. He looked, puzzlingly, no older than Lucie remembered him—sixteen, seventeen perhaps. Still slender, and
under real light and not a forest moon he was terribly, shockingly pale, with that cast of bruised sickliness to him: his green eyes fever-bright and shadowed.

“I
was
invited,” he said.

“You can't have been,” Lucie said, putting her hands on her hips. The witchlight had flared up, and she could see that the room was in some disarray: someone had knocked over a decanter, and the billiard table was crosswise. “You are a forest-dwelling faerie changeling.”

At that, he laughed. He had the same smile she remembered. “Is that what you thought?”

“You told me about faerie traps!” she said. “You appeared from the forest and vanished back into it—”

“I am no faerie, nor a changeling,” he said. “Shadowhunters know about faerie traps too.”

“But you have no runes,” she said.

He glanced down at himself—his arms, revealed from the elbows down, his hands. Every Shadowhunter was Marked with a Voyance rune on the back of their dominant hand when they turned ten years old, to help them master the Sight. But the only mark on the back of his hand was the old burn scar she had noticed in the forest. “No,” he said. “I don't.”

“You didn't say you were a Shadowhunter.” She leaned back against the billiard table. “You never told me what you were.”

“I never thought it would matter,” he said. “I thought by the time you were old enough to ask questions and demand answers, you wouldn't be able to see me anymore.”

Lucie felt as if a cold hand had been placed on her back. “Why wouldn't I be able to see you?”

“Think about it, Lucie,” he said gently. “Did it seem like anyone else in the ballroom could see me? Did anyone greet me or acknowledge me, even your father?”

She said nothing.

“Children can see me sometimes,” he said. “Not many others. Not people as old as you.”

“Well, thank you
very
much.” Lucie was indignant. “I'm hardly ancient.”

“No.” A smile hovered around his soft mouth. “No, you're not.”

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