Catarina’s suspicious confluence of ley lines turned out to be in a small desert park near the Antelope Valley Freeway, famous for its massive sandstone formations. Both Helen and Aline seemed faintly surprised that Mark and Cristina were planning to go out on patrol, but they hadn’t done anything to stop them, as if they reluctantly acknowledged that patrolling was a normal part of Shadowhunter life, and the sooner everyone got back to normal life, the better.
The drive from Malibu—they’d taken Diana’s truck, which had been left in the parking lot of the Institute—reminded Cristina of long ambling road trips she’d taken with Emma. Windows down in the truck, music playing low on the speakers, beach turning to highway turning to desert as the sun went down in a haze of fire. Mark had his long legs up on the dashboard and would sometimes turn his head to look at her as they rolled along in silence; the weight of his gaze felt like skin against her skin. Like a touch.
The Vasquez Rocks park closed at sunset, and the dirt parking lot was empty when Cristina cruised the truck into it and turned off the engine. They collected their weapons from the bed of the truck, snapping on wrist protectors and buckling weapons belts. Cristina strapped a longsword and her trusted balisong to her belt, while Mark found a runed black whip and cracked it a few times. He wore a look of pleasure on his face as it snaked across the darkening sky.
They had runed themselves before they left. Cristina could see Mark’s Night Vision rune gleaming black against his throat as they passed under the lights of the ranger station and crossed onto a dirt path that wound through scrub among rocks that twisted and folded like envelopes.
Cristina breathed deeply. Of all the things she loved about California, she loved the scent of the desert the most: clear air mixed with juniper, manzanita, and sage. The sky opened above them like a secret told, scattered with a million stars.
They passed a wooden sign for a trail just as a massive rock formation rose ahead of them, nearly blocking out the moon. “The ley line confluence,” Mark said, pointing.
Cristina didn’t ask him how he knew; faeries had a sense for such things. They moved closer to the rocks, which rose above them in tilted slabs, like the remains of a spaceship that had crashed into the sand. Cristina’s boots crunched on the sand, the sound loud in her ears thanks to her Audio rune.
A sharp, insect-like sound buzzed behind her. She turned. Mark was frowning at the Sensor in his hand. “It’s making a buzzing noise, but not one I’ve heard before,” he said.
Cristina turned around slowly. The desert stretched around her, a carpet of black and brown and dim gold. The sky was dark velvet. “I don’t see anything.”
“We should wait here,” said Mark. “See if it happens again.”
Cristina was in no mood to hang around under the romantic moon with Mark. “I think we should keep moving.”
“Cristina,” Mark said. “You seem wroth with me.”
Cristina rolled her eyes. “Nothing gets by you, Mark Blackthorn.”
Mark lowered the Sensor. “Last night—It wasn’t that I didn’t want to—I did want to—”
Cristina blushed furiously. “It’s not that, Mark,” she said. “You can want to or not want to. It’s your business. It was that you lied.”
“Humans lie,” he said, his bicolored eyes suddenly blazing. “Mortals lie to each other every day, especially in matters of love. Is it that my lie wasn’t good enough? Should I be more practiced?”
“No!” She whirled on him. “I like that you don’t lie, Mark. It is why I was so—Mark, can’t you understand? I didn’t expect you to lie to me.”
“You saw me lie to Kieran,” he said.
“Yes, but that was to save lives,” she said. “Unless you’re telling me that you not wanting to have sex with me has something to do with saving lives, which I find hard to believe—”
“I did want to!” Mark exploded. “One thing you must understand—I did want to be with you in that way, and all ways, and that is not a lie.”