James cried out. Lightning seemed to fork behind his vision, and suddenly he was back in Regent’s Park, kneeling on the grass. There was a firm grip on his shoulders. “Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” said an urgent voice, and James — his breath tearing in and out of his chest — tried to focus on what was in front of him.
Everything was blurred in that moment but Matthew’s face, his green eyes wide and dark and steady. Behind him moved other figures; they seemed in that moment like the shapes James had been finding in the clouds — inchoate and untouchable.
“Jamie, breathe,” Matthew said, and his voice was the only steady thing in a world turning upside down. It had been years since this had happened. Years. The horror of it happening in front of a crowd of people —
“Did they see me?” he said in a cracked voice. “Did they see me turn?”
“You didn’t,” Matthew said, “or at least, only a very little bit — perhaps just a bit fuzzy round the edges —“
“It’s not funny,” James said through his teeth, but Matthew’s humor acted like a slap of cold water; he opened his eyes fully, saw Thomas and Christopher looking down at him. They had positioned themselves so as to block him from the crowd at the lake’s edge.
“Get up,” Thomas said. “It’s the best thing you can do, James, we’ll tell them you tripped or fell.” His hazel eyes were anxious but his tone was reassuring. “Honestly all the attention was on Ariadne — “
Matthew’s hands on James’ shoulders turned into a grip on his arms, and James was hauled upright by his three best friends. Christopher produced a handkerchief from somewhere and began to dust his lapels.
“Chris,” said Matthew. He was the only person who ever used that nickname for Christopher besides Anna. “Stop. Who cares if he’s dusty? He was just invisible.”
“But he isn’t any more,” Christopher pointed out.
“We need to get you back to the Institute,” said Matthew to James in a low voice. “If you’re going to start suddenly going all — shadowy — for no reason, then the Silent Brothers —“
“Not the Silent Brothers,” said Thomas. “Just Zachariah.”
James could see his mother moving like an anxious pale star among the guests in her lilac dress, greeting each of them warmly, welcoming them to her home. She had not glamoured herself to look her husband’s age for the evening, and she appeared enormously young, though her hair was done up like a gracious older woman’s, not a girl’s. When Will materialized out of the crowd and came to put his arm around Tessa, smiling down at her, the gray at his temples flashed like silver. James looked away; he loved his parents for being extraordinary, but sometimes he also hated them for the same thing.
James pouvait voir sa mère bouger comme une pâle étoile anxieuse parmi les invités dans sa robe lilas, saluant chacun d'eux chaudement, les accueillant chez elle. Elle ne s'était pas enchantée pour sembler avoir l'âge de son mari pour la soirée, et elle semblait très jeune, bien que ses cheveux ait été placés comme ceux d'une vieille dame gracieuse, pas comme ceux d'une jeune fille. Quand Will apparu hors de la foule et vint placer son bras autour de Tessa, lui souriant, le gris de ses tempes brilla comme l'argent. James regarda ailleurs. Il aimait ses parents parce qu'ils étaient extraordinaires, mais parfois il les haïssait pour la même raison.
Anna’s deep-blue eyes narrowed as she studied him. James was sitting on the edge of his chair, hands clasped together and leaning forward in Anna’s direction. These cousins looked more like brother and sister than James and Lucie, or Anna and Christopher. James’s face was chiseled and serious, while Anna’s features were sharp and roguish, but they shared the same coloring of crow-black hair and snow-white skin. More than that, both had an air of cleverness that seemed thrown up as a defense against sensitivity, sharp minds that shut away hearts too easily broken. Seeing the similarity made Cordelia wonder what had happened to Anna, and fear what might happen to James.
Anna flicked an eyebrow upward, a scratch of ink dashed across a page. “Ah yes, about that. Let me be perfectly clear what you are asking: you want me to seduce a pretty warlock in order to procure you an [item redacted for spoilers!]?”
Anna surveyed the room, and when she was answered with cautious nods she threw her hands into the air.
“You are off your heads, every one of you.”
“Can you not do it?” Thomas asked apprehensively.
Anna toyed with her watch chain so the chain caught the light and glittered. “Oh, I daresay I could.”
There was a collective moan lamenting Thomas’s stupidity in asking such a question. Lucie told Thomas he was a dolt. Thomas begged Anna’s pardon.
“Not at all, Thomas, I know you’re an innocent soul. That said,” Anna drawled, “I take many issues with your request. For a start, it is against my strict policy to seduce anybody twice.”
“Every outlaw must have a code,” James said.
He took a deep breath, and crossed the floor of blades and constellations to the other boy’s side. He stood at the foot of the stairs, looking down.
“But of course,” he said, very softly, “your sentiments are reciprocated.”
He stooped over him, tilting his chin up. Their lips met. The other boy made a soft sound, almost like surrender, stretching under his body. He slid an arm around his neck and pulled him down onto the stairs.
James pouvait voir sa mère se déplacer comme une pâle étoile anxieuse parmi les invités dans sa robe lilas, saluant chaleureusement chacun d'entre eux, et leur souhaitant la bienvenue chez elle. Elle n'avait pas utilisé sa magie afin de paraître l'âge de son mari pour la soirée, et elle semblait extrêmement jeune, mais ses cheveux était gracieusement arrangés comme ceux d'une femme plus âgée, pas ceux d'une jeune fille. Lorsque Will se matérialisa dans la foule et vint mettre son bras autour de Tessa, lui souriant, le gris à ces tempes flasha comme de l'argent. James détourna son regard; il aimait ses parents car il était extraordinaire, mais parfois il les haïssait aussi pour la même raison.
Matthew tendit ses mains. "Pax", dit-il enjôleur. "Que règne la paix entre nous. Tu peux verser le reste du port sur ma tête ". La bouche de James se courba dans un sourire. Il était impossible de rester en colère envers Matthew. Il était presque impossible de se mettre en colère contre Matthew.
James and Matthew separated, Matthew to dance with Lucie, and James to speak to his parents. Cordelia saw them glance over toward her and looked away quickly; still, she was not at all surprised when James appeared a moment later in front of her, flashing a smile at his aunt and uncle.
“Miss Carstairs,” he said, with a slight bow in Cordelia’s direction. “Would you favor me with this dance?”
“It’s a waltz,” said Cordelia’s mother, before Cordelia could speak. “My daughter does not know how to waltz.”
Cordelia bit her lip. She certainly knew how to dance: her mother had engaged an expert instructor to teach her the quadrille and the lancer, the stately minuet and the cotilion. 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 very much wanted to waltz with James.
Cordelia glanced over her shoulder. “Is it — I mean, I wish to chat alone with you, too, but are we being dreadfully rude asking your brother to walk behind us?”
“Not a bit,” Lucie assured her. “Look at him. He’s quite distracted, reading.”
And he was. James had a book out and was calmly reading while he walked. Though he seemed entirely caught up in whatever he was perusing, he nevertheless skirted oncoming passers-by, the occasional rock or fallen branch, and once even a small boy holding a hoop, with admirable grace. Cordelia suspected that if she had tried such a stunt, she would have crashed into a tree.
“You’re so lucky,” Cordelia said, wistfully, still looking over her shoulder at James.
“Goodness me, why?” Lucie looked at her with wide eyes. Where James’ eyes were amber, Lucie’s were a pretty pale blue, a shade lighter than her father’s. The famous dark blue Herondale eyes had gone to Will’s sister’s children.
Cordelia’s head snapped back around. “Oh, because —“ Because you get to spend time with James every day? She doubted Lucie thought that was any special gift; one didn’t, when it was one’s family. “He’s such a good older brother. If I’d asked Alastair to walk ten paces behind me in a park he would have made sure to stick by my side the entire time just to be annoying.”
“Pfft!” Lucie exhaled. “Of course I adore Jamie but he’s been dreadful lately, ever since he fell in love.”
She might as well have dropped an incendiary device on Cordelia’s head. Everything seemed to fly apart around her. “He’s what?”
“Fallen in love,” Lucie repeated, with the look of someone enjoying imparting a bit of gossip. “Oh, he won’t say with who, of course, because it’s Jamie and he never tells us anything. But Father’s diagnosed him and he says it’s definitely love.”
“You make it sound like consumption.” Cordelia’s head was whirling with dismay. James in love? With who? The look he had given her when she stepped down from the carriage, perhaps she had imagined that?
“Well, it is a bit, isn’t it? He gets all pale and moody and stares off out of windows like Keats.”
“Did Keats stare out of windows? I don’t recall hearing that.”
Lucie plowed on, undeterred by the question of whether England’s foremost romantic poet did or did not stare out of windows. “He won’t say anything to anyone but Matthew, and Matthew is a tomb where James is concerned. I heard a bit of their conversation once by accident, though —“
“Accident?” Cordelia raised an eyebrow.
“I may have been hiding beneath a table,” said Lucie, with dignity. “But it was only because I had lost an earring and was looking for it.”
Cordelia suppressed a smile. “Go on.”
“He is definitely in love, and Matthew definitely thinks he is being foolish. He does not like her.“
“Cordelia Carstairs,” Will said, after greeting her mother. “How pretty you’ve become.”
Cordelia beamed. If Will thought she was pretty, perhaps his son thought so, too. Of course Will was entirely prejudiced toward all things Carstairs. He even thought Alastair was perfect (and, possibly, also pretty.)
Matthew held out his hands. “Pax,” he said, wheedlingly. “Let it be peace between us. You can pour the rest of the port on my head.”
James’ mouth curved up into a smile. It was impossible to stay angry with Matthew. It was almost impossible to get angry at Matthew.
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