Home > Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)(12)

Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)(12)
Author: Cassandra Clare

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.”

“But you said you were invited.” Lucie was not inclined to drop the comment. “How could that be, if no one can see you, though why that should be—”

“All the Blackthorns were invited,” he said. “The invitation was addressed to Tatiana Blackthorn and Family. I am family. I am Jesse Blackthorn.”

“But he’s dead,” Lucie said, without thinking. She met his gaze with her own. “So you’re a ghost?”

“Well,” he said. “Yes.”

“That’s why you said ‘even your father,’ ” said Lucie. “Because he can see ghosts. All the Herondales can. My brother, my father—they should be able to see you too.”

“I am no ordinary ghost, and if you can see me, you are no ordinary girl,” said Jesse. Now that he’d told her who he was, the resemblance was unmistakable. He had Tatiana’s height, and Gabriel’s handsome, angular features. Though the crow-dark hair must have come from his father. Blackthorn blood and Lightwood blood, blended.

“But I can touch you,” said Lucie. “I touched you in the forest. You lifted me out of the pit. One cannot touch a ghost.”

He shrugged. “Think of me as on the threshold of a door. I am unable to take a step outside the door, and I know I can never be allowed back in, to live again. But the door has not closed behind me.”

“Your mother and your sister—can they see you?”

He perched on the billiard table with a sigh, as if resigning himself to settling into a long conversation. Lucie could not believe it. To see her forest changeling again, and then to find out he was not a changeling but an odd kind of ghost no one else could see. It was quite a lot to be getting on with.

“They can see me,” he said. “Perhaps because they were there when I died. My mother worried I would vanish on them when we moved to Chiswick House, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.”

“You could have told me your name.”

“You were a little girl. I believed you wouldn’t always be able to see me. I thought it would be kinder not to tell you who I was, when our families are enemies.” Jesse spoke as if the enmity was a fact, as though there were a bloodstained feud between the Blackthorns and the Herondales as there was between the Montagues and Capulets. But it was Tatiana Blackthorn who hated them: they had never hated her.

“Why did you drag me out of the ballroom?” Lucie demanded.

“No one else can see me save my family. I don’t understand how you can; it’s never happened before. I didn’t want everyone to think you were mad. And besides…”

Jesse jerked upright. A shadow passed over his face, and Lucie felt a chill at her very bones; for a moment his eyes seemed too large for his face, too liquid, all the wrong shape. She thought she could see darkness in them, and the form of something moving. He turned his eerie gaze on her. “Stay in this room,” he said, grasping her wrist below the bell of her sleeve. She gasped; his hands were ice-cold.

“There is death here,” he said, and vanished.

* * *

The gray world surrounded James. He had forgotten the cold that came when the shadows rose up. Forgotten the way he could still see the real world, as if through a thin scrim of dust: the ballroom was all around him, but it had turned to black and white like a photograph. The Nephilim on the dance floor had become shadows, stretched and elongated like figures from a nightmare.

He staggered back a step as trees seemed to explode up through the ground, sending roots twining along the polished wood floor. He knew enough not to scream: there was no one to hear him. He was alone in a world that was not real. Scorched earth and sky flickered in and out of his vision, even as the shadow figures twirled around him, unheeding. He recognized a face, a gesture here and there—he thought he saw Cordelia’s bright hair, Ariadne Bridgestock in her wine-colored dress, his cousin Barbara as she reached up toward her dancing partner—just as a curling tendril of root wound its way around her ankle and drew her down.

Lightning seemed to fork behind his vision, and suddenly he was back in the ordinary ballroom, the world teeming with sound and light. There was a firm grip on his shoulders. “Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” said an urgent voice, and James—his heart trying to beat its way out of his chest—tried to focus on what was in front of him.

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