City of Fallen Angels
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"Have you." Her green eyes glowed.
"I never wanted to be a vampire," Simon said, half-wondering why he was telling these things to this strange woman. "I wanted a normal life. When I found out I was a Daylighter, I thought I could have one. Or at least some approximation of one. I can go to school, I can live at home, I can see my mom and sister-"
"As long as you don't ever eat in front of them," said Camille. "As long as you hide your need for blood. You have never fed on someone purely human, have you? Just bagged blood. Stale. Animal." She wrinkled her nose.
Simon thought of Jace, and pushed the thought hastily away. Jace was not precisely human. "No, I haven't."
"You will. And when you do, you will not forget it." She leaned forward, and her pale hair brushed across his hand. "You cannot hide your true self forever."
"What teenager doesn't lie to their parents?" Simon said. "Anyway, I don't see why you care. In fact, I'm still not sure why I'm here."
Camille leaned forward. When she did, the neckline of her black silk blouse gaped open. If Simon had still been human, he would have blushed. "Will you let me see it?"
Simon could actually feel his eyes pop out. "See what?"
She smiled. "The Mark, silly boy. The Mark of the Wanderer."
Simon opened his mouth, then closed it again. How does she know? Very few people knew of the Mark that Clary had put on him in Idris. Raphael had indicated it was a matter for deadly secrecy, and Simon had treated it as such.
But Camille's eyes were very green and steady, and for some reason he wanted to do what she wanted him to do. It was something about the way she looked at him, something in the music of her voice. He reached up and pushed his hair aside, baring his forehead for her inspection.
Her eyes widened, her lips parting. Lightly she touched her fingers to her throat, as if checking the nonexistent pulse there. "Oh," she said. "How lucky you are, Simon. How fortunate."
"It's a curse," he said. "Not a blessing. You know that, right?"
Her eyes sparked. "'And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.' Is it more than you can bear, Simon?"
Simon sat back, letting his hair fall back into place. "I can bear it."
"But you don't want to." She ran a gloved finger around the rim of her wineglass, her eyes still fixed on him. "What if I could offer you a way to turn what you regard as a curse into an advantage?"
I'd say you're finally getting to the reason you brought me here, which is a start. "I'm listening."
"You recognized my name when I told it to you," Camille said. "Raphael has mentioned me before, has he not?" She had an accent, very faint, that Simon couldn't quite place.
"He said you were the head of the clan and he was just leading them while you were gone. Stepping in for you like-like a vice president or something."
"Ah." She bit gently on her lower lip. "That is, in fact, not quite true. I would like to tell you the truth, Simon. I would like to make you an offer. But first I must have your word on something."
"And what's that?"
"That everything that passes between us this night, here, remains a secret. No one can know. Not your redheaded little friend, Clary. Not either of your lady friends. None of the Lightwoods. No one."
Simon sat back. "And what if I don't want to promise?"
"Then you may leave, if you like," she said. "But then you will never know what I wished to tell you. And that will be a loss you will regret."
"I'm curious," Simon said. "But I'm not sure I'm that curious."
Her eyes held a little spark of surprise and amusement and perhaps, Simon thought, even a little respect. "Nothing I have to say to you concerns them. It will not affect their safety, or their well-being. The secrecy is for my own protection."
Simon looked at her suspiciously. Did she mean it? Vampires weren't like faeries, who couldn't lie. But he had to admit he was curious. "All right. I'll keep your secret, unless I think something you say is putting my friends in danger. Then all bets are off."
Her smile was frosty; he could tell she didn't like being disbelieved. "Very well," she said. "I suppose I have little choice when I need your help so badly." She leaned forward, one slim hand toying with the stem of her wineglass. "Until quite recently I led the Manhattan clan, happily. We had beautiful quarters in an old prewar building on the Upper West Side, not that rat hole of a hotel Santiago keeps my people in now. Santiago-Raphael, as you call him-was my second in command. My most loyal companion-or so I thought. One night I found out that he was murdering humans, driving them to that old hotel in Spanish Harlem and drinking their blood for his amusement. Leaving their bones in the Dumpster outside. Taking stupid risks, breaking Covenant Law." She took a sip of wine. "When I went to confront him, I realized he had told the rest of the clan that I was the murderer, the lawbreaker. It was all a setup. He meant to kill me, so that he might seize power. I fled, with only Walker and Archer to keep me safe."
"So all this time he's claimed he's just leading until you return?"
She made a face. "Santiago is an accomplished liar. He wishes me to return, that's for certain-so he can murder me and take charge of the clan in earnest."
Simon wasn't sure what she wanted to hear. He wasn't used to adult women looking at him with big tear-filled eyes, or spilling out their life stories to him.
"I'm sorry," he said finally.
She shrugged, a very expressive shrug that made him wonder if perhaps her accent was French. "It is in the past," she said. "I have been hiding out in London all this time, looking for allies, biding my time. Then I heard about you." She held up her hand. "I cannot tell you how; I am sworn to secrecy. But the moment I did, I realized that you were what I had been waiting for."
"I was? I am?"
She leaned forward and touched his hand. "Raphael is afraid of you, Simon, as well he should be. You are one of his own, a vampire, but you cannot be harmed or killed; he cannot lift a finger against you without bringing down God's wrath on his head."
There was a silence. Simon could hear the soft electrical hum of the Christmas lights overhead, the water plashing in the stone fountain in the center of the courtyard, the buzz and hum of the city. When he spoke, his voice was soft. "You said it."
"What was that, Simon?"
"The word. The wrath of-" The word bit and burned in his mouth, just as it always did.
"Yes. God." She retracted her hand, but her eyes were warm. "There are many secrets of our kind, so many that I can tell you, show you. You will learn you are not damned."
"Camille. You must call me Camille."
"I still don't understand what you want from me."
"Don't you?" She shook her head, and her brilliant hair flew around her face. "I want you to join with me, Simon. Join with me against Santiago. We will walk together into his rat-infested hotel; the moment his followers see that you are with me, they will leave him and come to me. I believe they are loyal to me beneath their fear of him. Once they see us together, that fear will be gone, and they will come to our side. Man cannot contend with the divine."
"I don't know," Simon said. "In the Bible, Jacob wrestled an angel, and he won."
Camille looked at him with her eyebrows arched.
Simon shrugged. "Hebrew school."
"'And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face.' You see, you are not the only one who knows your scripture." Her narrow look was gone, and she was smiling. "You may not realize it, Daylighter, but as long as you bear that Mark, you are the avenging arm of heaven. No one can stand before you. Certainly not one vampire."
"Are you afraid of me?" Simon asked.
He was almost instantly sorry he had. Her green eyes darkened like thunderclouds. "Me, afraid of you?" Then she collected herself, her face smoothing, her expression lightening. "Of course not," she said. "You are an intelligent man. I am convinced you will see the wisdom of my proposal and join with me."
"And what exactly is your proposal? I mean, I understand the part where we face down Raphael, but after that? I don't really hate Raphael, or want to get rid of him just to get rid of him. He leaves me alone. That's all I ever wanted."
She folded her hands together in front of her. She wore a silver ring with a blue stone in it on her left middle finger, over the material of her glove. "You think that is what you want, Simon. You think Raphael is doing you a favor in leaving you alone, as you put it. In reality he is exiling you. Right now you think you do not need others of your kind. You are content with the friends you have-humans and Shadowhunters. You are content to hide bottles of blood in your room and lie to your mother about what you are."
"How did you-"
She went on, ignoring him. "But what about in ten years, when you are supposed to be twenty-six? In twenty years? Thirty? Do you think no one will notice that as they age and change, you do not?"
Simon said nothing. He didn't want to admit he hadn't thought ahead that far. That he didn't want to think ahead that far.
"Raphael has taught you that other vampires are poison to you. But it does not need to be that way. Eternity is a long time to spend alone, without others of your kind. Others who understand. You befriend Shadowhunters, but you can never be of them. You will always be other and outside. With us you could belong." As she leaned forward, white light sparked off her ring, stinging Simon's eyes. "We have thousands of years of knowledge we could share with you, Simon. You could learn how to keep your secret; how to eat and drink, how to speak the name of God. Raphael has cruelly hidden this information from you, even led you to believe it doesn't exist. It does. I can help you."
"If I help you first," Simon said.
She smiled, and her teeth were white and sharp. "We will help each other."
Simon leaned back. The iron chair was hard and uncomfortable, and he suddenly felt tired. Looking down at his hands, he could see that the veins had darkened, spidering across the backs of his knuckles. He needed blood. He needed to talk to Clary. He needed time to think.
"I've shocked you," she said. "I know. It is a great deal to take in. I would be happy to give you as much time as you needed to make up your mind about this, and about me. But we don't have much time, Simon. While I remain in this city, I am in danger from Raphael and his cohorts."
"Cohorts?" Despite everything, Simon grinned slightly.
Camille seemed baffled. "Yes?"
"Well, it's just ... 'Cohorts.' It's like saying 'evildoers' or 'minions.'" She stared at him blankly. Simon sighed. "Sorry. You probably haven't seen as many bad movies as I have."
Camille frowned faintly, a very fine line appearing between her brows. "I was told you would be slightly peculiar. Perhaps it is just that I don't know many vampires of your generation. But that will be good for me, I feel, to be around someone so ... young."
"New blood," said Simon.
At that she did smile. "Are you ready, then? To accept my offer? To begin to work together?"
Simon looked up at the sky. The strings of white lights seemed to blot out the stars. "Look," he said, "I appreciate your offer. I really do." Crap, he thought. There had to be some way to say this without him sounding like he was turning down a date to the prom. I'm really, really flattered you asked, but... Camille, like Raphael, always spoke stiffly, formally, as if she were in a fairy tale. Maybe he could try that. He said, "I require some time to make my decision. I'm sure you understand."
Very delicately, she smiled, showing only the tips of her fangs. "Five days," she said. "And no longer." She held out her gloved hand to him. Something gleamed in her palm. It was a small glass vial, the size that might hold a perfume sample, only it appeared to be full of brownish powder. "Grave dirt," she explained. "Smash this, and I will know you are summoning me. If you do not summon me within five days I will send Walker for your answer."
Simon took the vial and slipped it into his pocket. "And if the answer is no?"
"Then I will be disappointed. But we will part friends." She pushed her wineglass away. "Good-bye, Simon."
Simon stood up. The chair made a metallic squeaking sound as it dragged over the ground, too loud. He felt like he should say something else, but he had no idea what. For the moment, though, he seemed to be dismissed. He decided that he'd rather look like one of those weird modern vampires with bad manners than risk getting dragged back into the conversation. He left without saying anything else.
On his way back through the restaurant, he passed Walker and Archer, who were standing by the big wooden bar, their shoulders hunched under their long gray coats. He felt the force of their glares on him as he walked by and wiggled his fingers at them-a gesture somewhere between a friendly wave and a kiss-off. Archer bared his teeth-flat human teeth-and stalked past him toward the garden, Walker on his heels. Simon watched as they took their places in chairs across from Camille; she didn't look up as they seated themselves, but the white lights that had illuminated the garden went out suddenly-not one by one but all at the same time-leaving Simon staring at a disorienting square of darkness, as if someone had switched off the stars. By the time the waiters noticed and hurried outside to rectify the problem, flooding the garden with pale light once again, Camille and her human subjugates had vanished.
Simon unlocked the front door of his house-one of a long chain of identical brick-fronted row houses that lined his Brooklyn block-and pushed it open slightly, listening hard.
He had told his mother he was going out to practice with Eric and his other bandmates for a gig on Saturday. There had been a time when she simply would have believed him, and that would have been that; Elaine Lewis had always been a relaxed parent, never imposing a curfew on either Simon or his sister or insisting that they be home early on school nights. Simon was used to staying out until all hours with Clary, letting himself in with his key, and collapsing into bed at two in the morning, behavior that hadn't excited much comment from his mother.