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“Do you mind?” Tessa demanded. “If you’re not going to help me, you might as well both leave. I didn’t let you stay here so that I could listen to you nattering on about ducks.”
“Your impatience,” said Will, “is most unladylike.” He grinned at her around the apple. “Perhaps Camille’s vampire nature is asserting itself?”
His tone was playful. It was so odd, Tessa thought. Only a few days ago he had snarled at her about his parents, and later had begged her to help him hide Jem’s bloody coughing, his face burning with intensity as he did so. And now he was teasing her as if she were a friend’s little sister, someone whom he knew casually, perhaps thought of with affection, but for whom he had no complex feelings at all.
Tessa bit her lip—and winced at the unexpected sharp pain. Camille’s vampire teeth—her teeth—were ruled by an instinct she couldn’t understand. They seemed to slide forward without warning or prompting, alerting her to their presence only by sudden bursts of pain as they punctured the fragile skin of her lip. She tasted blood in her mouth—her own blood, salty and hot. She pressed her fingertips to her mouth; when she drew her hand away, her fingers were spotted with red.
“Leave it alone,” said Will, setting down his apple and rising to his feet. “You’ll find you heal very quickly.”
Tessa poked at her left incisor with her tongue. It was flat again, an ordinary tooth. “I don’t understand what makes them come out like that!”
“Hunger,” said Jem. “Were you thinking about blood?”
“Were you thinking about eating me?” Will inquired.
“No one would blame you,” said Jem. “He’s very annoying.”
Tessa sighed. “Camille is so difficult. I don’t understand the first thing about her, much less being her.”
Jem looked at her closely. “Are you able to touch her thoughts? The way you said you could touch the thoughts of those you transformed into?”
“Not yet. I’ve been trying, but all I get are occasional flashes, images. Her thoughts seem very well protected.”
“Well, hopefully you can break through that protection before tomorrow night,” said Will. “Or I wouldn’t say much about our chances.”
“Will,” Jem chided. “Don’t say that.”
“You’re right,” Will said. “I shouldn’t underestimate my own skills. Should Tessa make a mess of things, I’m sure I’ll be able to fight our way through the slavering vampire masses to freedom.”
Jem—as was his habit, Tessa was starting to realize—simply ignored this. “Perhaps,” he said, “you can only touch the thoughts of the dead, Tessa? Perhaps most of the objects given to you by the Dark Sisters were taken from people they had murdered.”
“No. I touched Jessamine’s thoughts when I Changed into her. So that can’t be it, thankfully. What a morbid talent that would be.”
Jem was looking at her with thoughtful silver eyes; something about the intensity of his gaze made her feel almost uncomfortable. “How clearly can you see the thoughts of the dead? For instance, if I gave you an item that had once belonged to my father, would you know what he was thinking when he died?”
It was Will’s turn to look alarmed. “James, I don’t think—,” he began, but broke off as the door to the library opened and Charlotte entered the room. She wasn’t alone. There were at least a dozen men following her, strangers whom Tessa had never seen before.
“The Enclave,” Will whispered, and gestured for Jem and Tessa to duck behind one of the ten-foot bookcases. They observed from their hiding place as the room filled with Shadowhunters—most of them men. But Tessa saw, as they filed into the room, that among them were two women.
She could not help staring at them, remembering what Will had said about Boadicea, that women could be warriors as well. The taller of the women—and she must have been nearly six feet in height—had powder white hair wound into a crown at the back of her head. She looked as if she were well into her sixties, and her presence was regal. The second of the women was younger, with dark hair, catlike eyes, and a secretive demeanor.
The men were a more mixed group. The eldest was a tall man dressed all in gray. His hair and skin were gray as well, his face bony and aquiline, with a strong, thin nose and a sharp chin. There were hard lines at the corners of his eyes and dark hollows under his cheekbones. His eyes were rimmed with red. Beside him stood the youngest of the group, a boy probably no more than a year older than Jem or Will. He was handsome in an angular sort of way, with sharp but regular features, tousled brown hair, and a watchful expression.
Jem made a noise of surprise and displeasure. “Gabriel Lightwood,” he muttered to Will under his breath. “What’s he doing here? I thought he was in school in Idris.”
Will hadn’t moved. He was staring at the brown-haired boy with his eyebrows raised, a faint smile playing about his lips.
“Just don’t get into a fight with him, Will,” Jem added hastily. “Not here. That’s all I ask.”
“Rather a lot to ask, don’t you think?” Will said without looking at Jem. Will had leaned out from behind the bookcase, and was watching Charlotte as she ushered everyone toward the large table at the front of the room. She seemed to be urging everyone to settle themselves into seats around it.
“Frederick Ashdown and George Penhallow, here, if you please,” Charlotte said. “Lilian Highsmith, if you’d sit over there by the map—”
“And where is Henry?” asked the gray-haired man with an air of brusque politeness. “Your husband? As one of the heads of the Institute, he really ought to be here.”
Charlotte hesitated for only a fraction of a second before plastering a smile onto her face. “He’s on his way, Mr. Lightwood,” she said, and Tessa realized two things—one, that the gray-haired man was most likely the father of Gabriel Lightwood, and two, that Charlotte was lying.
“He’d better be,” Mr. Lightwood muttered. “An Enclave meeting without the head of the Institute present—most irregular.” He turned then, and though Will moved to duck back behind the tall bookcase, it was too late. The man’s eyes narrowed. “And who’s back there, then? Come out and show yourself!”
Will glanced toward Jem, who shrugged eloquently. “No point hiding till they drag us out, is there?”
“Speak for yourself,” Tessa hissed. “I don’t need Charlotte angry at me if we’re not supposed to be in here.”
“Don’t work yourself into a state. There’s no reason you’d have had any idea about the Enclave meeting, and Charlotte’s perfectly well aware of that,” Will said. “She always knows exactly who to blame.” He grinned. “I’d turn yourself back into yourself, though, if you take my meaning. No need to give too much of a shock to their hoary old constitutions.”
“Oh!” For a moment Tessa had nearly forgotten she was still disguised as Camille. Hastily she went to work stripping away the transformation, and by the time the three of them stepped out from behind the bookshelves, she was her own self again.
“Will.” Charlotte sighed on seeing him, and shook her head at Tessa and Jem. “I told you the Enclave would be meeting here at four o’clock.”
“Did you?” Will said. “I must have forgotten that. Dreadful.” His eyes slid sideways, and he grinned. “’Lo there, Gabriel.”
The brown-haired boy returned Will’s look with a furious glare. He had very bright green eyes, and his mouth, as he stared at Will, was hard with disgust. “William,” he said finally, and with some effort. He turned his gaze on Jem. “And James. Aren’t you both a little young to be lurking around Enclave meetings?”
“Aren’t you?” Jem said.
“I turned eighteen in June,” Gabriel said, leaning so far back in his chair that the front legs came off the ground. “I have every right to participate in Enclave activities now.”
“How fascinating for you,” said the white-haired woman Tessa had thought looked regal. “So is this her, Lottie? The warlock girl you were telling us about?” The question was directed at Charlotte, but the woman’s gaze rested on Tessa. “She doesn’t look like much.”
“Neither did Magnus Bane the first time I saw him,” said Mr. Lightwood, bending a curious eye on Tessa. “Let’s have it then. Show us what you can do.”
“I’m not a warlock,” Tessa protested angrily.
“Well, you’re certainly something, my girl,” said the older woman. “If not a warlock, then what?”
“That will do.” Charlotte drew herself up. “Miss Gray has already proved her bona fides to me and Mr. Branwell. That will have to be good enough for now—at least until the Enclave makes the decision that they wish to utilize her talents.”
“Of course they do,” said Will. “We haven’t a hope of succeeding in this plan without her—”
Gabriel brought his chair forward with such force that the front legs slammed into the stone floor with a cracking noise. “Mrs. Branwell,” he said furiously, “is William, or is he not, too young to be participating in an Enclave meeting?”
Charlotte’s gaze went from Gabriel’s flushed face to Will’s expressionless one. She sighed. “Yes, he is. Will, Jem, if you’ll please wait outside in the corridor with Tessa.”
Will’s expression tightened, but Jem bent a warning look on him, and he remained silent. Gabriel Lightwood looked triumphant. “I will show you out,” he announced, springing to his feet. He ushered the three of them out of the library, then swung out into the corridor after them. “You,” he spat at Will, pitching his voice low so that those in the library couldn’t overhear him. “You disgrace the name of Shadowhunters everywhere.”
Will leaned against the corridor wall and regarded Gabriel with cool blue eyes. “I didn’t realize there was much of a name left to disgrace, after your father—”
“I will thank you not to speak of my family,” Gabriel snarled, reaching behind himself to pull the library door shut.
“How unfortunate that the prospect of your gratitude is not a tempting one,” Will said.
Gabriel stared at him, his hair disarrayed, his green eyes brilliant with rage. He reminded Tessa of someone in that moment, though she could not have said who. “What?” Gabriel growled.
“He means,” Jem clarified, “that he doesn’t care for your thanks.”
Gabriel’s cheeks darkened to a dull scarlet. “If you weren’t underage, Herondale, it would be monomachia for us. Just you and me, to the death. I’d chop you into bloody carpet rags—”
“Stop it, Gabriel,” Jem interrupted, before Will could reply. “Goading Will into single combat—that’s like punishing a dog after you’ve tormented it into biting you. You know how he is.”