City of lost souls, p.36
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       City of Lost Souls, p.36
 

         Part #5 of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Page 36

 

  She washed her hair over and over again, trying to get the dried silver gunk out. It was like trying to wash out oil paint. The scent of it lingered too, like the water from a vase after the flowers have rotted, faint and sweet and spoiled on her skin. No amount of soap seemed to be able to get rid of it.

  Finally convinced she was as clean as she was going to get, she dried off and went to the master bedroom to get dressed. It was a relief to climb back into jeans and boots and slip on a comfortable cotton sweater. It was only then, as she pulled on her second boot, that the nagging feeling returned, the feeling that she was missing something. She froze.

  Her ring. The gold ring that let her speak to Simon.

  It was gone.

  Frantically she searched for it, tearing through the wastebasket to see if the ring had gotten caught on her dress, then searching every inch of Jaces room while he slept peacefully on. She combed through the carpet, the bedclothes, checking the nightstand drawers.

  At last she sat back, her heart slamming against her chest, a sick feeling in her stomach.

  The ring was gone. Lost, somewhere, somehow. She tried to remember the last time shed seen it. Surely it had flashed on her hand while shed wielded that dagger against the Elapid demons. Had it fallen off in the junk store? In the nightclub?

  She dug her nails into her blue-jeaned thighs until the pain made her gasp. Focus, she told herself. Focus.

  Maybe the ring had fallen from her finger somewhere else in the apartment. Probably Jace had carried her upstairs at some point. It was a small chance, but every chance had to be explored.

  She rose to her feet and went as soundlessly as she could out into the hallway. She moved toward Sebastians room, and hesitated. She couldnt imagine why the ring would be in there, and waking him up would only be counterproductive. She turned around and made her way down the stairs instead, walking carefully to mask the sound of her boots.

  Her mind was racing. With no way to contact Simon, what was she going to do? She needed to tell him about the antiques shop, the adamas. She should have talked to him sooner. She wanted to punch the wall, but she forced her mind to slow down, to consider her options. Sebastian and Jace were beginning to trust her; if she could get away from them briefly, on a busy city street, she could use a pay phone to call Simon. She could duck into an Internet cafe and e-mail him. She knew more about mundane technology than they did. Losing the ring didnt mean it was over.

  She would not give up.

  Her mind was so occupied with thoughts of what to do next that at first she didnt see Sebastian. Fortunately, he had his back to her. He stood in the living room, facing the wall.

  Already at the bottom of the staircase, Clary froze, then darted across the floor and flattened herself against the half wall that separated the kitchen from the larger room. There was no reason to panic, she told herself. She lived here. If Sebastian saw her, she could say she had come downstairs for a glass of water.

  But the chance to observe him without his knowledge was too tempting. She turned her body slightly, peering over and around the kitchen counter.

  Sebastian still had his back to her. He had changed his clothes since the nightclub. The army jacket was gone; he wore a button-down shirt and jeans. As he turned, and his shirt lifted, she could see that his weapon belt was slung around his waist. As he raised his right hand, she saw that he held his stele-and there was something about the way he held it, just for a moment, with a careful thoughtfulness, that reminded her of the way her mother held a paintbrush.

  She closed her eyes. It felt like fabric snagging on a hook, the jerk inside her heart when she recognized something in Sebastian that reminded her of her mother or herself. That reminded her that however much of his blood was poison, just as much was the same blood that ran in her own veins.

  She opened her eyes again, in time to see a doorway form in front of Sebastian. He reached for a scarf that hung on a peg on the wall, and stepped out into darkness.

  Clary had a split second to decide. Stay and search the rooms, or follow Sebastian and see where he was going. Her feet made the choice before her mind did. Spinning away from the wall, she darted through the dark opening of the door moments before it closed behind her.

  The room Luke was lying in was lit only by the streetlights glow, which came through the slatted windows. Jocelyn knew she could have asked for a light, but she preferred it like this. The darkness hid the extent of his injuries, the pallor of his face, the sunken crescents beneath his eyes.

  In fact, in the dimness he looked very like the boy she had known in Idris before the Circle had been formed. She remembered him in the school yard, skinny and brown-haired, with blue eyes and nervous hands. Hed been Valentines best friend, and because of that, no one had ever really looked at him. Even she hadnt, or she would not have been so enormously blind as to miss his feelings for her.

  She remembered the day of her wedding to Valentine, the sun bright and clear through the crystal roof of the Accords Hall. Shed been nineteen and Valentine twenty, and she remembered how unhappy her parents had been that shed chosen to marry so young. Their disapproval had seemed like nothing to her-they didnt understand. Shed been so sure there would never be anyone for her but Valentine.

  Luke had been his best man. She remembered his face as she walked down the aisle-she had looked at him only briefly before turning her full attention to Valentine. She remembered thinking that he must not have been well, that he looked as if he were in pain. And later, in Angel Square, as the guests milled about-most of the members of the Circle were there, from Maryse and Robert Lightwood, already married, to barely fifteen Jeremy Pontmercy-and she stood with Luke and Valentine, someone made the old joke about how if the groom hadnt showed up, the bride would have had to marry the best man. Luke had been wearing evening clothes, with the gold runes for good luck in marriage on them, and he had looked very handsome, but while everyone else had laughed, hed gone terribly white. He must really hate the idea of marrying me, shed thought. She remembered touching his shoulder with a laugh.

  "Dont look like that," shed teased. "I know weve known each other forever, but I promise youll never have to marry me!"

  And then Amatis had come up, dragging a laughing Stephen with her, and Jocelyn had forgotten all about Luke, the way he had looked at her-and the odd way Valentine had looked at him.

  She glanced over at Luke now and started in her chair. His eyes were open, for the first time in days, and fixed on her.

  "Luke," she breathed.

  He looked puzzled. "How long-have I been asleep?"

  She wanted to throw herself onto him, but the thick bandages still wrapped around his chest held her back. She caught at his hand instead and put it against her cheek, her fingers interlocking with his. She closed her eyes and, as she did, felt tears slip from under her lids. "About three days. "

  "Jocelyn," he said, sounding really alarmed now. "Why are we at the station? Wheres Clary? I really dont remember-"

  She lowered their interlaced hands and, in as steady a voice as she could manage, told him what had happened-about Sebastian and Jace, and the demon metal embedded in his side, and the help of the Praetor Lupus.

  "Clary," he said immediately, when she was finished. "We have to go after her. "

  Drawing his hand from hers, he started to struggle into a sitting position. Even in the dim light she could see his pallor deepen as he winced with pain.

  "Thats not possible. Luke, lie back down, please. Dont you think if there were any way to go after her, I would have?"

  He swung his legs over the side of the bed so he was sitting up; then, with a gasp, he leaned back on his hands. He looked awful. "But the danger-"

  "Do you think I havent thought about the danger?" Jocelyn put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him gently back against the pillows. "Simons been in contact with me every night. Shes all right. She is. And youre in no shape to do anything about it.
Killing yourself wont help her. Please trust me, Luke. "

  "Jocelyn, I cant just lie here. "

  "You can," she said, standing up. "And you will, if I have to sit on you myself. What on earth is wrong with you, Lucian? Are you out of your mind? Im terrified about Clary, and Ive been terrified about you, too. Please dont do this-dont do this to me. If anything happened to you-"

  He looked at her with surprise. There was already a red stain on the white bandages that wrapped his chest, where his movements had pulled his wound open. "I. . . "

  "What?"

  "Im not used to you loving me," he said.

  There was a meekness to his words that she didnt associate with Luke, and she stared at him for a moment before she said, "Luke. Lie back down, please. "

  As a sort of compromise he leaned further back against the pillows. He was breathing hard. Jocelyn darted to the nightstand, poured him a glass of water, and, returning, thrust it into his hand. "Drink it," she said. "Please. "

  Luke took the glass, his blue eyes following her as she sat back down in the chair beside his bed, from which she had barely moved for so many hours that she was surprised she and the chair hadnt become one. "You know what I was thinking about?" she asked. "Just before you woke up?"

  He took a sip of the water. "You looked very far away. "

  "I was thinking about the day I married Valentine. "

  Luke lowered the glass. "The worst day of my life. "

  "Worse than the day you got bitten?" she asked, folding her legs up under her.

  "Worse. "

  "I didnt know," she said. "I didnt know how you felt. I wish I had. I think things would have been different. "

  He looked at her incredulously. "How?"

  "I wouldnt have married Valentine," she said. "Not if Id known. "

  "You would-"

  "I wouldnt," she said sharply. "I was too stupid to realize how you felt, but I was also too stupid to realize how I felt. Ive always loved you. Even if I didnt know it. " She leaned forward and kissed him gently, not wanting to hurt him; then she put her cheek against his. "Promise me you wont put yourself in danger. Promise. "

  She felt his free hand in her hair. "I promise. "

  She leaned back, partly satisfied. "I wish I could go back in time. Fix everything. Marry the right guy. "

  "But then we wouldnt have Clary," he reminded her. She loved the way he said "we," so casually, as if there were no doubt at all in his mind that Clary was his daughter.

  "If youd been there more while she was growing up. . . " Jocelyn sighed. "I just feel like I did everything wrong. I was so focused on protecting her that I think I protected her too much. She rushes headlong into danger without thinking. When we were growing up, we saw our friends die in battle. She never has. And I wouldnt want that for her, but sometimes I worry that she doesnt believe she can die. "

  "Jocelyn. " Lukes voice was soft. "You raised her to be a good person. Someone with values, who believes in good and evil and strives to be good. Like you always have. You cant raise a child to believe the opposite of what you do. I dont think she doesnt believe she can die. I think, just like you always did, she believes there are things worth dying for. "

  Clary crept after Sebastian through a network of narrow streets, keeping to the shadows close beside the buildings. They were no longer in Prague-that much was immediately clear. The roads were dark, the sky above was the hollow blue of very early morning, and the signs hung above the shops and stores she passed were all in French. As were the street signs: RUE DE LA SEINE, RUE JACOB, RUE DE LABBAYE.

  As they moved through the city, people passed her like ghosts. The occasional car rumbled by, trucks backed up to stores, making early-morning deliveries. The air smelled like river water and trash. She was fairly sure where they were already, but then a turn and an alley took them to a wide avenue, and a signpost loomed up out of the misty darkness. Arrows pointed in different directions, showing the way to the Bastille, to Notre Dame, and to the Latin Quarter.

  Paris, Clary thought, slipping behind a parked car as Sebastian crossed the street. Were in Paris.

  It was ironic. Shed always wanted to go to Paris with someone who knew the city. Had always wanted to walk its streets, to see the river, to paint the buildings. Shed never imagined this. Never imagined creeping after Sebastian, across the Boulevard Saint Germain, past a bright yellow bureau de poste, up an avenue where the bars were closed but the gutters were full of beer bottles and cigarette butts, and down a narrow street lined with houses. Sebastian stopped before one, and Clary froze as well, flat against a wall.

  She watched as he raised a hand and punched a code into a box set beside the door, her eyes following the movements of his fingers. There was a click; the door opened and he slipped through. The moment it closed, she darted after him, pausing to key in the same code-X235-and waiting to hear the soft sound that meant the door was unlocked. When the sound came, she wasnt sure if she was more relieved or surprised. It shouldnt be this easy.

  A moment later she stood inside a courtyard. It was square, surrounded on all sides by ordinary-looking buildings. Three staircases were viewable through open doors. Sebastian, however, had disappeared.

  So it wasnt going to be that easy.

  She moved forward into the courtyard, conscious as she did so that she was bringing herself out of sheltering shadow and into the open, where she could be seen. The sky was lightening with every passing moment. The knowledge that she was visible prickled the back of her neck, and she ducked into the shadow of the first stairwell she encountered.

  It was plain, with wooden stairs leading up and down, and a cheap mirror on the wall in which she could see her own pale face. There was a distinct smell of rotting garbage, and she wondered for a moment if she were near where the trash bins were stored, before her tired mind clicked over and she realized: The stink was the presence of demons.

  Her tired muscles started to shake, but she tightened her hands into fists. She was painfully conscious of her lack of weaponry. She took a deep breath of the stinking air and began to make her way down the steps.

 
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