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“Well, I imagine it must be tiring, doing what you all do.” Having just read the Codex, Tessa felt herself burning up with questions about Shadowhunters. “Will said you came from a long way away to live here—were you in Idris?
He raised his eyebrows. “You know of Idris?”
“Or did you come from another Institute? They’re in all the big cities, aren’t they? And why to London—”
He interrupted her, bemused. “You ask a lot of questions, don’t you?”
“My brother always says curiosity is my besetting sin.”
“As sins go, it isn’t the worst one.” He sat down on the steamer trunk at the foot of the bed, and regarded her with a curious gravity. “So go ahead; ask me whatever you want. I can’t sleep anyway, and distractions are welcome.”
Immediately Will’s voice rose up in the back of Tessa’s head. Jem’s parents had been killed by demons. But I can’t ask him about that, Tessa thought. Instead she said, “Will told me you came from very far away. Where did you live before?”
“Shanghai,” Jem said. “You know where that is?”
“China,” said Tessa with some indignation. “Doesn’t everyone know that?”
Jem grinned. “You’d be surprised.”
“What were you doing in China?” Tessa asked, with honest interest. She couldn’t quite picture the place Jem was from. When she thought of China, all that came to mind was Marco Polo and tea. She had the sense that it was very, very far, as if Jem had come from the ends of the earth—east of the sun and west of the moon, Aunt Harriet would have said. “I thought no one went there but missionaries and sailors.”
“Shadowhunters live all over the world. My mother was Chinese; my father was British. They met in London and moved to Shanghai when he was offered the position of running the Institute there.”
Tessa was startled. If Jem’s mother had been Chinese, then so was he, wasn’t he? She knew there were Chinese immigrants in New York—they mostly worked in laundries or sold hand-rolled cigars from stands on the street. She had never seen one of them who looked anything like Jem, with his odd silvery hair and eyes. Perhaps it had something to do with him being a Shadowhunter? But she couldn’t think of a way to ask that didn’t seem horrendously rude.
Fortunately, Jem didn’t seem to be waiting for her to continue the conversation. “I apologize for asking, but—your parents are dead, aren’t they?”
“Did Will tell you that?”
“He didn’t need to. We orphans learn to recognize one another. If I might ask—were you very young when it happened?”
“I was three when they died in a carriage accident. I hardly remember them at all.” Only in tiny flashes—the scent of tobacco smoke, or the pale lilac of my mother’s dress. “My aunt raised me. And my brother, Nathaniel. My aunt, though—” At this, to her surprise, her throat began to tighten. A vivid picture of Aunt Harriet came to her mind, lying in the narrow brass bed in her bedroom, her eyes bright with fever. Not recognizing Tessa at the end and calling her by her mother’s name, Elizabeth. Aunt Harriet had been the only mother Tessa had really ever known. Tessa had held her thin hand while she’d died, there in the room with the priest. She remembered thinking that now she truly was alone. “She died recently. She took a fever unexpectedly. She never had been very strong.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jem said, and he genuinely did sound sorry.
“It was terrible because my brother was already gone by then. He’d left for England a month before. He’d even sent us back presents—tea from Fortnum and Mason, and chocolates. And then Aunt took sick and died, and I wrote to him over and over, but my letters came back. I was in despair. And then the ticket arrived. A ticket for a steamship to Southampton, and a note from Nate saying he’d meet me at the docks, that I must come live with him in London now that Aunt was gone. Except now I don’t think he ever wrote that note at all—” Tessa broke off, her eyes stinging. “I’m sorry. I’m maundering on. You don’t need to hear all this.”
“What sort of man is your brother? What is he like?”
Tessa looked at Jem with a little surprise. The others had asked her what he might have done to get himself into his current situation, if she knew where the Dark Sisters might be keeping him, if he had the same power she did. But no one had ever asked what he was like.
“Aunt used to say he was a dreamer,” she said. “He always lived in his head. He never cared about how things were, only how they would be, someday, when he had everything he wanted. When we had everything we wanted,” she corrected herself. “He used to gamble, I think because he couldn’t imagine losing—it wasn’t part of his dreams.”
“Dreams can be dangerous things.”
“No—no.” She shook her head. “I’m not saying it right. He was a wonderful brother. He …” Charlotte was right; it was easier to fight back tears if she found something, some object, to fix her gaze on. She stared at Jem’s hands. They were slender and long, and he had the same design on the back of his hand that Will did, the open eye. She pointed at it. “What’s that meant to do?”
Jem seemed not to notice she had changed the subject. “It’s a Mark. You know what those are?” He held his hand out to her, palm down. “This one is the Voyance. It clears our Sight. Helps us to see Downworld.” He turned his hand over, and drew up the sleeve of his shirt. All along the pale inside of his wrist and inner arm were more of the Marks, very black against his white skin. They seemed to thread with the pattern of his veins, as if his blood ran through the Marks, too. “For swiftness, night vision, angelic power, to heal quickly,” he read out loud. “Though their names are more complex than that, and not in English.”
“Do they hurt?”
“They hurt when I received them. They don’t hurt at all now.” He drew his sleeve down and smiled at her. “Now, don’t tell me that’s all the questions you have.”
Oh, I have more than you think. “Why can’t you sleep?”
She saw that she had caught him off guard; a look of hesitancy flashed across his face before he spoke. But why hesitate? she thought. He could always lie, or simply deflect, as Will would have. But Jem, she sensed instinctively, wouldn’t lie. “I have bad dreams.”
“I was dreaming too,” she said. “I dreamed about your music.”
He grinned. “A nightmare, then?”
“No. It was lovely. The loveliest thing I’ve heard since I came to this horrible city.”
“London isn’t horrible,” Jem said equably. “You simply have to get to know it. You must come with me out into London someday. I can show you the parts of it that are beautiful—that I love.”
“Singing the praises of our fair city?” a light voice inquired. Tessa whirled, and saw Will, leaning against the frame of the doorway. The light from the corridor behind him outlined his damp-looking hair with gold. The hem of his dark overcoat and his black boots were edged with mud, as if he had just come from outdoors, and his cheeks were flushed. He was bareheaded as always. “We treat you well here, don’t we, James? I doubt I’d have that kind of luck in Shanghai. What do you call us there, again?”
“Yang guizi,” said Jem, who appeared unsurprised by Will’s sudden appearance. “‘Foreign devils.’”
“Hear that, Tessa? I’m a devil. So are you.” Will unhitched himself from the doorway and sauntered into the room. He flung himself down onto the edge of the bed, unbuttoning his coat. It had a shoulder cape attached to it, very elegant, lined in blue silk.
“Your hair’s wet,” Jem said. “Where have you been?”
“Here, there, and everywhere.” Will grinned. Despite his usual grace, there was something about the way he moved—the flush on his cheeks and the glitter in his eyes—
“Boiled as an owl, are you?” Jem said, not without affection.
Ah, Tessa thought. He’s drunk. She’d seen her own brother under the influence of alcohol enough times to recognize the symptoms. Somehow, she felt obscurely disappointed.
Jem grinned. “Where have you been? The Blue Dragon? The Mermaid?”
“The Devil Tavern, if you must know.” Will sighed and leaned against one of the posts of the bed. “I had such plans for this evening. The pursuit of blind drunkenness and wayward women was my goal. But alas, it was not to be. No sooner had I consumed my third drink in the Devil than I was accosted by a delightful small flower-selling child who asked me for twopence for a daisy. The price seemed steep, so I refused. When I told the girl as much, she proceeded to rob me.”
“A little girl robbed you?” Tessa said.
“Actually, she wasn’t a little girl at all, as it turns out, but a midget in a dress with a penchant for violence, who goes by the name of Six-Fingered Nigel.”
“Easy mistake to make,” Jem said.
“I caught him in the act of slipping his hand into my pocket,” Will said, gesturing animatedly with his scarred, slender hands. “I couldn’t let that stand, of course. A fight broke out almost immediately. I had the upper hand until Nigel leaped onto the bar and struck me from behind with a pitcher of gin.”
“Ah,” said Jem. “That does explain why your hair’s wet.”
“It was a fair fight,” Will said. “But the proprietor of the Devil didn’t see it that way. Threw me out. I can’t go back for a fortnight.”
“Best thing for you,” Jem said unsympathetically. “Glad to hear it’s business as usual, then. I was worried for a moment there that you’d come home early to see if I was feeling better.”
“You seem to be doing perfectly well without me. In fact, I see you’ve met our resident shape-shifting mystery woman,” Will said, glancing toward Tessa. It was the first time he’d acknowledged her presence since he’d appeared in the doorway. “Do you normally turn up in gentlemen’s bedrooms in the middle of the night? If I’d known that, I would have campaigned harder to make sure Charlotte let you stay.”
“I don’t see how what I do is your concern,” Tessa replied. “Especially since you abandoned me in the corridor and left me to find my own way back to my room.”
“And you found your way to Jem’s room instead?”
“It was the violin,” Jem explained. “She heard me practicing.”
“Ghastly wailing noise, isn’t it?” Will asked Tessa. “I don’t know how all the cats in the neighborhood don’t come running every time he plays.”
“I thought it was pretty.”
“That’s because it was,” Jem agreed.
Will pointed a finger accusingly in their direction. “You’re ganging up on me. Is this how it’s going to be from now on? I’ll be odd man out? Dear God, I’ll have to befriend Jessamine.”