“Jace lied,” Clary said flatly. “He didn’t want me here, so he lied to me about when you were leaving, and then lied to you about me changing my mind. Remember when you told me he never lies? That is so not true.”
“He normally never does,” said Isabelle, who had gone pale. “Look, did you come here—I mean, does this have something to do with Simon?”
“With Simon? No. Simon’s safe in New York, thank God. Although he’s going to be really pissed that he never got to say good-bye to me.” Isabelle’s blank expression was starting to annoy Clary. “Come on, Isabelle. Let me in. I need to see Jace.”
“So … you just came here on your own? Did you have permission from the Clave? Please tell me you had permission from the Clave.”
“Not as such—”
“You broke the Law?” Isabelle’s voice rose, and then dropped. She went on, almost in a whisper, “If Jace finds out, he’ll freak. Clary, you’ve got to go home.”
“No. I’m supposed to be here,” Clary said, not even sure herself quite where her stubbornness was coming from. “And I need to talk to Jace.”
“Now isn’t a good time.” Isabelle looked around anxiously, as if hoping there was someone she could appeal to for help in removing Clary from the premises. “Please, just go back to New York. Please?”
“I thought you liked me, Izzy.” Clary went for the guilt.
Isabelle bit her lip. She was wearing a white dress and had her hair pinned up and looked younger than she usually did. Behind her Clary could see a high-ceilinged entryway hung with antique-looking oil paintings. “I do like you. It’s just that Jace—oh my God, what are you wearing? Where did you get fighting gear?”
Clary looked down at herself. “It’s a long story.”
“You can’t come in here like that. If Jace sees you—”
“Oh, so what if he sees me. Isabelle, I came here because of my mother—for my mother. Jace may not want me here, but he can’t make me stay home. I’m supposed to be here. My mother expected me to do this for her. You’d do it for your mother, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course I would,” Isabelle said. “But, Clary, Jace has his reasons—”
“Then I’d love to hear what they are.” Clary ducked under Isabelle’s arm and into the entryway of the house.
“Clary!” Isabelle yelped, and darted after her, but Clary was already halfway down the hall. She saw, with the half of her mind that wasn’t concentrating on dodging Isabelle, that the house was built like Amatis’s, tall and thin, but considerably larger and more richly decorated. The hallway opened into a room with high windows that looked out over a wide canal. White boats plied the water, their sails drifting by like dandelion clocks tossed on the wind. A dark-haired boy sat on a couch by one of the windows, apparently reading a book.
“Sebastian!” Isabelle called. “Don’t let her go upstairs!”
The boy looked up, startled—and a moment later was in front of Clary, blocking her path to the stairs. Clary skidded to a halt—she’d never seen anyone move that fast before, except Jace. The boy wasn’t even out of breath; in fact, he was smiling at her.
“So this is the famous Clary.” His smile lit up his face, and Clary felt her breath catch. For years she’d drawn her own ongoing graphic story—the tale of a king’s son who was under a curse that meant that everyone he loved would die. She’d put everything she had into dreaming up her dark, romantic, shadowy prince, and here he was, standing in front of her—the same pale skin, the same tumbling hair, and eyes so dark, the pupils seemed to meld with the iris. The same high cheekbones and deep-set, shadowed eyes fringed with long lashes. She knew she’d never set eyes on this boy before, and yet …
The boy looked puzzled. “I don’t think—have we met before?”
Speechless, Clary shook her head.
“Sebastian!” Isabelle’s hair had come out of its pins and hung down over her shoulders, and she was glaring. “Don’t be nice to her. She’s not supposed to be here. Clary, go home.”
With an effort Clary wrenched her gaze away from Sebastian and shot a glare at Isabelle. “What, back to New York? And how am I supposed to get there?”
“How did you get here?” Sebastian inquired. “Sneaking into Alicante is quite an accomplishment.”
“I came through a Portal,” said Clary.
“A Portal?” Isabelle looked astonished. “But there isn’t a Portal left in New York. Valentine destroyed them both—”
“I don’t owe you any explanations,” Clary said. “Not until you give me some. For one thing, where’s Jace?”
“He’s not here,” Isabelle answered, at exactly the same time that Sebastian said, “He’s upstairs.”
Isabelle turned on him. “Sebastian! Shut up.”
Sebastian looked perplexed. “But she’s his sister. Wouldn’t he want to see her?”
Isabelle opened her mouth and then closed it again. Clary could see that Isabelle was weighing the advisability of explaining her complicated relationship with Jace to the completely oblivious Sebastian against the advisability of springing an unpleasant surprise on Jace. Finally she threw her hands up in a gesture of despair. “Fine, Clary,” she said, with an unusual—for Isabelle—amount of anger in her voice. “Go ahead and do whatever you want, regardless of who it hurts. You always do anyway, don’t you?”
Ouch. Clary shot Isabelle a reproachful look before turning back to Sebastian, who stepped silently out of her way. She darted past him and up the stairs, vaguely aware of voices below her as Isabelle shouted at the unfortunate Sebastian. But that was Isabelle—if there was a boy around and blame that needed to be pinned on someone, Isabelle would pin it on him.
The staircase widened into a landing with a bay-windowed alcove that looked out over the city. A boy was sitting in the alcove, reading. He looked up as Clary came up the stairs, and blinked in surprise. “I know you.”
“Hi, Max. It’s Clary—Jace’s sister. Remember?”
Max brightened. “You showed me how to read Naruto,” he said, holding out his book to her. “Look, I got another one. This one’s called—”
“Max, I can’t talk now. I promise I’ll look at your book later, but do you know where Jace is?”
Max’s face fell. “That room,” he said, and pointed to the last door down the hall. “I wanted to go in there with him, but he told me he had to do grown-up stuff. Everyone’s always telling me that.”
“I’m sorry,” Clary said, but her mind was no longer on the conversation. It was racing ahead—what would she say to Jace when she saw him; what would he say to her? Moving down the hall to the door, she thought, It would be better to be friendly, not angry; yelling at him will just make him defensive. He has to understand that I belong here, just like he does. I don’t need to be protected like a piece of delicate china. I’m strong too—
She threw the door open. The room seemed to be a sort of library, the walls lined with books. It was brightly lit, light streaming through a tall picture window. In the middle of the room stood Jace. He wasn’t alone, though—not by a long shot. There was a dark-haired girl with him, a girl Clary had never seen before, and the two of them were locked together in a passionate embrace.