“I’ve got ichor on me,” Emma said, looking down at her stained gear. “That was one messy demon.”
“You are still very beautiful,” Mark said with a gallant smile.
Emma smiled back at him, as much as she could. She was unbelievably grateful to Mark, who was playing his part in all this without a word of complaint, though he must have found it strange. In Cristina’s opinion, Mark was getting something out of the pretense, but Emma couldn’t imagine what. It wasn’t as if Mark liked lying—he’d spent so many years among faeries, who were incapable of untruths, that he found it unnatural.
Julian had stepped away from them and was on the phone again, speaking in a low voice. Mark splashed up out of the water and jammed his wet feet into his boots. Neither he nor Cristina was fully glamoured, and Emma noticed the stares of mundane passersby as he came toward her—because he was tall, and beautiful, and because he had eyes that shone brighter than the lights of the Ferris wheel. And because one of his eyes was blue, and the other one was gold.
And because there was something about him, something indefinably strange, a trace of the wildness of Faerie that never failed to make Emma think of untrammeled, wide-open spaces, of freedom and lawlessness. I am a lost boy, his eyes seemed to say. Find me.
Reaching Emma, he lifted his hand to push back a lock of her hair. A wave of feeling went through her—sadness and exhilaration, a longing for something, though she didn’t know what.
“That was Diana,” Julian said, and even without looking at him, Emma could picture his face as he spoke—gravity, thoughtfulness, a careful consideration of whatever the situation was. “Jace and Clary have arrived with a message from the Consul. They’re holding a meeting at the Institute, and they want us there now.”
The four of them went straight through the Institute to the library, without pausing to change their gear. Only when they’d burst into the room and Emma realized she, Mark, Cristina, and Julian had all tracked in sticky demon ichor did she pause to wonder if perhaps they should have stopped to shower.
The roof of the library had been damaged two weeks before and hastily repaired, the stained-glass skylight replaced with plain, warded glass, the intricately decorated ceiling now covered over with a layer of rune-carved rowan wood.
The wood of rowan trees was protective: It kept out dark magic. It also had an effect on faeries—Emma saw Mark wince and look up sideways as they entered the room. He’d told her proximity to too much rowan made him feel as if his skin were powdered with tiny sparks of fire. She wondered what effect it would have on a full-blood faerie.
“Glad to see you made it,” said Diana. She was sitting at the head of one of the long library tables, her hair pulled back into a sleek bun. A thick gold chain necklace glittered against her dark skin. Her black-and-white dress was, as always, pristinely spotless and wrinkle free.
Beside her was Diego Rocio Rosales, notable to the Clave for being a highly trained Centurion and to the Blackthorns for having the nickname Perfect Diego. He was irritatingly perfect—ridiculously handsome, a spectacular fighter, smart, and unfailingly polite. He’d also broken Cristina’s heart before she had left Mexico, which meant that normally Emma would be plotting his death, but she couldn’t because he and Cristina had gotten back together two weeks ago.
He cast a smile at Cristina now, his even white teeth flashing. His Centurion pin glittered at his shoulder, the words Primi Ordines visible against the silver. He wasn’t just a Centurion; he was one of the First Company, the very best of the graduating class from the Scholomance. Because, of course, he was perfect.