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Authors: Cassandra Clare

Chain of Gold (36 page)

BOOK: Chain of Gold
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Anna threw her hands up. “All right. You are off your heads, every one of you.”

James's mouth tugged upward at the corner. “Don't you think you could do it?”

“Humph.” Anna toyed with her watch so the chain caught the light and glittered. “I could do it. But it goes entirely against my code. It is against my strict policy to seduce anybody twice.”

“I didn't know you'd seduced Hypatia once,” said Matthew.

Anna waved an impatient hand. “Ages ago. How do you think I got invited to the Hell Ruelle in the first place? Honestly, Matthew.”

“How did you leave things with Hypatia?” said Lucie. “Was her heart broken? In that case, she might want… revenge.”

Anna rolled her eyes. “Wait here a moment, my dear novelist. In fact, all of you wait here, except Cordelia. You come with me, Daisy.”

She swung up from her place on the arm of Christopher's chair and strode across the room, bounding up a couple of steps and disappearing behind a wooden door. Cordelia stood, smoothed the frills of her gown, wiggled her eyebrows at Lucie, and marched into the infamous bedchamber of Anna Lightwood.

It was surprisingly ordinary. If Cordelia had hoped for scandalous etchings or tearstained love letters pinned to the walls, there were none. Instead there were cigars laid out with bottles of cologne on a battered walnut desk, and a kingfisher-blue waistcoat slung
carelessly over a japanned screen. The bed was unmade, the sheets a tangle of silk.

As Cordelia closed the door carefully after her, Anna glanced up, tossing her a grin and a brightly colored bundle. Cordelia caught it reflexively. It was a long bolt of cloth: a royal-blue silk.

“What's this?” asked Cordelia.

Anna leaned against one of her bedposts, her hands in her pockets. “Indulge me. Hold it up against yourself.”

Cordelia did as she was told. Perhaps Anna was having a dress made for a paramour? And using Cordelia as a model?

“Yes,” Anna murmured. “The shade quite suits your coloring. As would a claret, I think, or a deep gold or saffron. None of these insipid pastels all the girls are wearing.”

Cordelia smoothed a hand down the fabric. “I didn't think you liked dresses.”

Anna shrugged, a brief lilt of her shoulders. “Wearing them myself was like having my soul in a prison of petticoats, but I deeply appreciate a beautiful woman in a gown that matches her. In fact, one of my favorite paramours—a lady who entertained me for almost two weeks—was a
belle
who you might know from the mundane fashion papers.”

“Is this for her? Is it—” Cordelia began, delighted.

Anna laughed. “I'll never tell. Now put it down and come along. I've got what I came for.”

She held up a small black-bound memorandum book. Cordelia hadn't even seen her retrieve it. They strode out of the bedroom, Anna waving the book over her head in triumph. “This,” she announced, “will hold the answers to all our questions.”

The occupants of the parlor looked up. Lucie, Christopher, and Matthew were squabbling over cake—though, Cordelia saw, a piece had been set on a plate for Thomas already and rested in his lap. James was looking into the cold grate of the fireplace, his expression distant.

Matthew looked up, his eyes fever-bright. “Is this your list of conquests?”

“Of course not,” Anna declared. “It's a memorandum book… about my conquests. That is an important but meaningful distinction.”

Cordelia sank back onto the sofa beside Lucie, who had succeeded in acquiring a piece of Victoria sponge. Matthew leaned against the frame of the sofa beside her; James was looking over at Anna now, his eyes the color of sunlight through pale yellow leaves.

Anna flipped through the book. There were many pages, and many names written in a bold, sprawling hand.

“Hmm, let me see. Katherine, Alicia, Virginia—a very promising writer, you should look out for her work, James—Mariane, Virna, Eugenia—”

“Not my sister Eugenia?” Thomas nearly upended his cake.

“Oh, probably not,” Anna said. “Laura, Lily… ah, Hypatia. Well, it was a brief encounter, and I suppose you might say she seduced me.…”

“Well, that hardly seems fair,” said James. “Like someone solving a case before Sherlock Holmes. If I were you I would feel challenged, as if to a duel.”

Matthew chuckled. Anna gave James a dark look. “I know what you're trying to do,” she said.

“Is it working?” said James.

“Possibly,” said Anna, regarding the book. Cordelia couldn't help but wonder: Was Ariadne's name in there? Was she considered a conquest now, or something—someone—else?

“I appreciate the scientific rigor with which you've approached this project, Anna,” said Christopher, who had gotten jam on his sleeve. “Though I don't think I could manage to collect that many names and also pursue science. Much too time-consuming.”

Anna laughed. “How many names would you want to collect, then?”

Christopher tilted his head, a brief frown of concentration crossing his face, and did not reply.

“I would only want one,” said Thomas.

Cordelia thought of the delicate tracery of the compass rose on Thomas's arm, and wondered if he had any special person in mind.

“Too late for me to only have one,” declared Matthew airily. “At least I can hope for several names in a carefully but enthusiastically selected list.”

“Nobody's ever tried to seduce me at all,” Lucie announced in a brooding fashion. “There's no need to look at me like that, James. I wouldn't say yes, but I could immortalize the experience in my novel.”

“It would be a very short novel, before we got hold of the blackguard and killed him,” said James.

There was a chorus of laughter and argument. The afternoon sun was sinking in the sky, its rays catching the jeweled hilts of the knives in Anna's mantelpiece. They cast shimmering rainbow patterns on the gold-and-green walls. The light illuminated Anna's shabby-bright flat, making something in Cordelia's heart ache. It was such a homey place, in a way that her big cold house in Kensington was not.

“What about you, Cordelia?” said Lucie.

“One,” said Cordelia. “That's everyone's dream, isn't it, really? Instead of many who give you little pieces of themselves—one who gives you everything.”

Anna laughed. “Searching for the one is what leads to all the misery in this world,” she said. “Searching for many is what leads to all the fun.”

Cordelia met James's eyes, half by accident. She saw the worry in his—there had been something brittle in Anna's laugh. “Then this should be fun,” Cordelia said quickly. “Seducing Hypatia. After all, what are rules for if not to be broken?”

“You make an excellent point,” said Matthew, finagling a piece of cake from Lucie's plate. She slapped at his hand.

“And getting this Pyxis might help quite a few people,” said Cordelia. “It could have helped Barbara. It could still help Ariadne.”

The blue of Anna's eyes darkened. “Oh, very well. Let's try it. Might be a lark. However.”

“However what?” said Christopher. “If you haven't got the proper clothes, I could lend you my new waistcoat. It's orange.”

Anna shuddered. “Orange is not the color of seduction, Christopher. Orange is the color of despair, and pumpkins. Regardless, I have all the clothes I need. However”—she held up a finger, the nail clipped quite short—“the Hell Ruelle is not assembled every night. The next salon is tomorrow.”

“Then we will go tomorrow,” said James.

“We cannot possibly all go to the Hell Ruelle,” said Anna. “Hypatia wouldn't like it if we all show up in a gaggle. A gaggle is not dignified.”

“It makes sense for me to go,” said Matthew. “They know me there.”

“I should go as well,” said James. “It is possible my shadow power might be useful. I have utilized it before to—to acquire certain things.”

Everyone looked puzzled, but James's expression was not one that suggested a request for clarification would be welcome.

Anna smiled her slow, scotch-and-honey smile. “And Cordelia as well, of course,” she said. “A beautiful girl is always a distraction, and we will need to be very distracting indeed.”

James and Matthew both glanced at Cordelia.
I will not blush,
she told herself fiercely.
I will not.
She had a suspicion she looked as if she might be choking.

“Bother,” said Lucie. “I can already tell I'm going to be left out.”

Anna turned toward her. “Lucie, you are very much needed. At the Institute. You see, there is a meeting of all the Enclave tomor
row night, and I had planned to attend. Apparently there is some significant news.”

Lucie looked puzzled. Enclave meetings were restricted to Clave members who were eighteen and older. Only Anna and Thomas qualified.

“I can attend,” said Thomas, with some reluctance. “Though I am not keen on sitting in a room full of people looking at me bloody pityingly.”

They all looked at him in surprise; Thomas rarely swore.

“I was not thinking of attendance,” said Anna. “They may moderate what they have to say if you are there. Better to spy on them.”

“Oh, spying,” said Lucie. “Perfect. They'll be meeting in the library; I know which room is over it. We can spy on them from overhead. Christopher shall be able to analyze what they say from a scientific perspective, and Thomas can recall it all with his excellent memory.”

She beamed, and Cordelia found herself wanting to smile. Hidden in Lucie's practicality was a great kindness, she knew—Thomas had lost his sister and was desperate for something to do, some action to take. Lucie was giving him just that.

Thomas seemed to understand as well. He smiled at Lucie—the first smile Cordelia had seen on his face since Barbara's death. “Espionage it is,” he said. “At last, something to look forward to.”

14
A
MONG
L
IONS

She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled;

He bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild:

The leap was quick, return was quick, he has regained his place,

Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady's face.

“By God!” said Francis, “rightly done!” and he rose from where he sat:

“Not love,” quoth he, “but vanity, sets love a task like that.”

—Leigh Hunt, “The Glove and the Lions”

James insisted on walking Cordelia
home, though it was a distance from Percy Street to Kensington. Anna had whisked Matthew away on a secret errand, and Thomas, Christopher, and Lucie had returned to the Devil Tavern to research the working of Pyxis boxes. Cordelia had wished she could stay with them, but she knew the limits of her mother's patience. Sona would be wondering where she was.

It was getting on toward twilight, the shade thickening under the trees on Cromwell Road. Only a few horse-drawn carriages clipped by in the blue light. It felt almost as if they had the city to themselves; they weren't glamoured, but still no one cast them more than glances of idle curiosity as they passed by the great brick
pile of the Natural History Museum. They were probably looking at James, Cordelia thought: like his father, he drew glances without trying. In the darkening light, his eyes reminded her of the eyes of tigers she had seen in Rajasthan, golden and watchful.

“It was clever of you to think of Anna,” said James. Cordelia looked at him in some surprise; they had been chatting rather desultorily about their educations: Cordelia had been taught by Sona and an ever-changing group of tutors. James had gone to Shadowhunter Academy for only a few months; he'd met Thomas, Matthew, and Christopher there, and they'd promptly blown up a wing of the school. They'd all been expelled, save Thomas, who hadn't wanted to stay at the Academy without his friends and returned to London willingly at the end of the school year. For the past three years the Merry Thieves had been taught by Henry Fairchild and Sophie Lightwood. “I was grateful to have you with us today.”

“The calming presence of a feminine hand?” Cordelia teased. “Lucie could do that.”

James laughed. There was a graceful lightness to his walk that she had not noticed when she had first come to London. As if he had laid down something heavy he had been carrying, though that made little sense in the circumstances. “Lucie wouldn't want to bother. Familiarity breeds contempt, I fear, and to us we are her ridiculous brother and his ridiculous friends. I worry sometimes—”

He broke off. The wind caught the edges of his black morning coat. They flew like wings at his sides.

“You worry about Lucie?” asked Cordelia, a little puzzled.

“It's not that,” James said. “I suppose I worry we all tumble into our roles too easily—Christopher the scientist, Thomas the kind one, Matthew the libertine. And I—I don't know what I am, exactly.”

“You are the leader,” said Cordelia.

He looked amused. “Am I?”

“The four of you are tightly knit,” said Cordelia. “Anyone could see that. And none of you is so simple. Thomas is more than just kind, and Christopher more than beakers and test tubes, Matthew more than wit and waistcoats. Each of you follows his own star—but you are the thread that binds all four together. You are the one who sees what everyone needs, if anyone requires extra care from their friends, or even to be left alone. Some groups of friends drift apart, but you would never let that happen.”

James's amusement had gone. There was a little roughness in his voice when he said, “So I am the one who cares the most, is that it?”

“You have a great power of caring in you,” Cordelia said, and for a moment, it was a relief to say those words, to say what she had always thought about James. Even when she had watched him loving Grace, and felt the pain of it, she had thought, too, of what it would mean to be loved by someone with such a capacity for loving. “It is your strength.”

James looked away.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

“That night at Battersea Bridge,” he said. They had reached Cordelia's house but remained on the pavement, in the shadow of a beech tree. “Grace asked me if I would run away with her. Cut my ties with my family, marry her in Scotland, and start over as mundanes.”

“But—but your parents, and Lucie—” Cordelia's thoughts went immediately to her friend. How shattered Lucie would have been to lose her brother like that. As if he had died, but worse almost, because he would have chosen to have left them.

“Yes,” said James. “And my
parabatai
. All my friends.” His tiger eyes glittered in the dark. “I refused. I failed her. I failed to love as I should have. I am not sure caring could be my strength.”

“That was not love she asked for,” said Cordelia, suddenly furi
ous. “That is not love. That is a test. And love should not be tested like that.” She paused. “I am sorry,” she said. “I should not—I cannot understand Grace, so I should not judge her. But surely that is not the reason your understanding has ended?”

“I am not sure I do know the real reason,” James said, locking his hands behind his back. “But I know it is final. She took back her bracelet. And she is marrying Charles.”

Cordelia froze. She must have heard wrong.
“Charles?”

“Matthew's older brother,” said James, looking surprised, as if he thought perhaps she had forgotten.

“No,” Cordelia breathed. “She cannot. They
cannot.

Somehow James was still explaining, saying something about Ariadne, about engagements being called off, but Cordelia's mind was full of Alastair. Alastair and Charles in the library—Alastair in agony over Charles's engagement. Alastair saying that at least it was Ariadne—he could not possibly have known of
this
.

Oh, Alastair.

“Are you all right?” James took a step toward her, his expression worried. “You look very pale.”

I ought to go home,
she was about to say. James had moved closer to her; she could smell the scent of him, of sandalwood soap and a mixture of leather and ink. She felt the brush of his hand against her cheek, his thumb softly tracing her cheekbone.

“Cordelia!”
Both James and Cordelia turned, startled: Sona was standing on the threshold of the house, candlelight burning behind her. A silk
roosari
covered her dark hair and she was beaming. “Cordelia
joon
, do come inside before you catch cold. And Mr. Herondale, it was kind of you to escort Cordelia home. You are truly a gentleman.”

Cordelia looked at her mother in surprise. She hadn't expected Sona to be in such a good mood.

James's eyebrow flicked upward, black as the wing of a crow,
if the wing of the crow had a faintly sardonic air. “It's a pleasure to escort Daisy anywhere.”

“Daisy,” Sona repeated. “Such a charming pet name. Of course, you were children together, and now you are reunited and quite grown-up. It's all so delightful.”

Ah. Cordelia realized what was going on with her mother. James was eligible—very eligible. As the son of the head of the London Institute, he might be expected to wield significant influence in the future, or even to become the head of an Institute himself, a job that paid far more than the salary provided by the Clave to a typical Shadowhunter.

Besides, he was charming when he was not wearing the Mask, and that sort of thing had an effect on mothers. At Sona's urging, she and James climbed the steps to the front door of the house: warm light spilled out from the vestibule, along with the smell of Risa's cooking.

Sona was still exclaiming over James. “Delightful,” she said again. “Might I offer you refreshment, James? Tea, perhaps?”

Cordelia was seized by the impulse to flee the scene, but the Angel alone knew what her mother would say to James then. Besides, she could not flee—Alastair should hear this news from her, rather than from gossip or a stranger.

James smiled. It was the sort of smile that could lay waste to a good portion of England. “I remember the tea you made me at Cirenworth,” he said. “It tasted of flowers.”

Sona brightened. “Yes. A spoonful of rosewater, that's the secret to good
chai
.”

“You had a beautiful samovar as well, I recall,” said James. “Brass and gold.”

Sona was beaming like a lighthouse. “It was my mother's,” she said. “Alas, it is still among the things we have not unpacked, but my mother's tea set—”

“James has to go,” Cordelia said firmly, and steered James back down the steps. “James, say goodbye.”

James bid Sona a quick goodbye; Cordelia hoped he didn't notice the clear look of disappointment on her mother's face. She released her grip on his jacket as Sona went back inside.

“I had no idea your mother liked me so much,” said James. “I should come round more often when I am in need of feeling appreciated.”

Cordelia made an exasperated sound. “I fear my mother might be equally enthused over any eligible bachelor who pretended an interest in tea. That is why I told you to find me one, remember?”

She had made her voice light and joking, but the smile left James's face anyway. “Right,” he said. “When all this business is over…”

“Yes, yes,” Cordelia said, starting back up the stairs.

“I really do like tea!” James shouted from the bottom of the steps. “In fact, I love it! I LOVE TEA!”

“Good for you, mate!” yelled the driver of a passing hansom cab.

Despite everything, Cordelia could not stop herself from smiling. She went inside and shut the door; when she turned, her mother was standing directly behind her, still looking delighted. “He is handsome, isn't he?” said Sona. “I never would have thought it. He was such an awkward boy.”

“Mâmân,”
Cordelia protested. “James is just a friend.”

“Why have such a handsome friend? It seems a waste,” said Sona. “Also, I do not think he regards you as only a friend. The way he looks at you—”

Cordelia threw her hands up. “I need to speak with Alastair about—about training,” she said, and escaped at speed.

The door to Alastair's room was open. Cordelia stood a moment in the hallway, looking at her brother: he was seated at his satinwood writing desk, mundane newspapers strewn in front of him. He rubbed at his eyes as he read, weariness evident in the set of his shoulders.

“Any interesting news?” she asked, leaning against the doorframe. She knew better than to actually enter without an invitation; Alastair kept his room neat as a pin, from the polish on the walnut wardrobe to the spot-free set of blue armchairs by the window.

“Charles says that a rash of demon attacks can often be accompanied by a spike in what the mundanes report as crime,” said Alastair, flicking aside the page he was reading with a newsprint-stained finger. “I can't say I'm seeing anything here, though. Nary a single juicy murder or the like.”

“I was actually hoping to speak with you about Charles,” said Cordelia.

Alastair flicked his gaze up at her. People often remarked that the two of them had the same black eyes, the iris only a shade lighter than the pupil. A strange effect considering Sona's eyes were light brown and Elias's blue. “About Charles?”

She nodded.

“Well, come inside then, and shut the door,” he said, leaning back in his chair.

Cordelia did as requested. Alastair's room was bigger than hers, furnished in dark gentleman's colors: green walls, a muted Persian rug. Alastair had a collection of daggers, and he had brought quite a few of them with him from Cirenworth. They were the only beautiful things Cordelia remembered Alastair ever paying special attention to: one had a sheath of blue-and-white enamel, another was inlaid with golden designs of dragons, kylins, and birds. A
pishqabz
carved of a single piece of ivory hung above the washstand, near it a
khanjar
whose blade bore an inscription in Persian:
I wanted so much to have a gleaming dagger, that each of my ribs became a dagger
.

Cordelia settled herself in a blue armchair. Alastair turned a little to look at her; his fingers tapped out a rhythm on the newsprint. “What about Charles?” he said.

“I know he has become engaged again,” she said. “To Grace Blackthorn.”

Alastair's restless hands stopped moving. “Yes,” he said. “Pity for your friend James.”

So he knows,
Cordelia thought. Charles must have told him. “So—are you all right?” she asked.

Alastair's black eyes were fathomless. “What do you mean?”

Cordelia couldn't bear it any longer. “I heard you and Charles talking in the library,” she said. “I heard you say you loved him. I won't tell anybody else, I promise. You know I always keep my word. It doesn't make the least bit of difference to me, Alastair.”

Alastair was silent.

“I wouldn't have said anything, but—for Charles to become engaged again, after he knew how unhappy you were about Ariadne—Alastair, I don't want anyone to be cruel to you. I want you to be with someone who will make you happy.”

Alastair's eyes glittered. “He's not cruel. You don't know him. He and Grace have an understanding. He explained it to me. Everything Charles does is so he and I can be together.” There was something mechanical about the words, as if they had been rehearsed.

“But you don't wish to be someone's secret,” said Cordelia. “You said—”

“How do you know what I said? How could you possibly have overheard us without going out of your way to do so? You were upstairs, we were downstairs—unless you followed me,” Alastair finished slowly. “You were eavesdropping. Why?”

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