“Sure,” said Julian, amazed he sounded so coherent. “Thanks for letting me know.”
Mark gave him a long look. “You were very young when we lost Eleanor, your mother,” he said. “She told me once there is a clock in the hearts of parents. Most of the time it is silent, but you can hear it ticking when your child is not with you and you do not know where they are, or when they are awake in the night and wanting you. It will tick until you are with them again.”
“Tavvy isn’t my child,” said Julian. “I’m not a parent.”
Mark touched his brother’s cheek. It was almost more a faerie touch than a human one, though Mark’s hand felt warm and calloused and real. Actually, it didn’t feel like a touch at all, Julian thought. It felt like a blessing. “You know you are,” Mark said. “I must ask your forgiveness, Julian. I told Helen of your sacrifice.”
“My—sacrifice?” Julian’s mind was a blank.
“The years you ran the Institute in secret,” said Mark. “How you have taken care of the children. The way they look to you, and how you have loved them. I know it was a secret, but I thought she should know it.”
“That’s fine,” Julian said. It didn’t matter. Nothing did. “Was she angry?”
Mark looked surprised. “She said she felt such pride in you that it broke her heart.”
It was like a tiny point of light, breaking through the darkness. “She—did?”
Mark seemed about to reply when a second hot dart of pain went through Julian’s shoulder. He knew exactly the location of that twinge. His heartbeat sped up; he said something to Mark about seeing him later, or at least he thought he did, before going into his bedroom and bolting the door. He was in the bathroom in seconds, turning up the witchlight’s brilliance as he gazed into the mirror.
He drew aside the collar of his shirt to get a better look—and stared.
There was his parabatai rune. It was stark against his skin—but no longer black. Within the thickly drawn lines he saw what looked like red and glowing flecks, as if the rune had begun to burn from the inside out.
He grabbed the rim of the sink as a wave of dizziness passed over him. He’d been forcing himself not to think about what Robert’s death meant, about their broken plans for exile. About the curse that would come on any parabatai who fell in love. A curse of power and destruction. He had been thinking only of how much he desperately needed Emma, and not at all of the reasons that he couldn’t have her, which remained unchanged.
They had forgotten, reaching for each other in the abyss of grief, as they had always reached for each other all their lives. But it couldn’t happen, Julian told himself, biting down hard on his lip, tasting his own blood. There could be no more destruction.
It had begun to rain outside. He could hear the soft patter on the roof of the house. He bent down and tore a strip of material from the shirt he’d worn at the Council meeting. It was stiff and dark with his sister’s dried blood.
He tied it around his right wrist. It would stay there until he had vengeance. Until there was justice for Livvy. Until all this bloody mess was cleared up. Until everyone he loved was safe.
He went back out into the bedroom and began to hunt for clean clothes and shoes. He knew exactly where he needed to go.
* * *
Julian ran through the empty streets of Idris. Warm summer rain plastered his hair to his forehead and soaked his shirt and jacket.
His heart was pounding: He missed Emma already, regretted leaving her. And yet he couldn’t stop running, as if he could outrun the pain of Livvy’s death. It was almost a surprise that he could grieve his sister and love Emma at the same time and feel both, neither diminishing the other: Livvy had loved Emma too.
He could imagine how thrilled Livvy would have been to know he and Emma were together; if it were possible for them to get married, Livvy would have been wild with delight at the idea of helping plan a wedding. The thought was like a stabbing blow to the midsection, the twist of a blade in his guts.