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“Good, because he’ll ask,” said Cristina dryly. There was a sudden terrible noise from the kitchen: the sound of Dru running across the kitchen floor and throwing up noisily into the sink.
“Oh, poor girl,” said Emma. “But I mean, that thing she drank was really disgusting. . . .”
“Emma, I know that you’re not telling me the truth. I know you are not going to see Cameron Ashdown.” Cristina held up a hand, stifling Emma’s protest. “And it is all right. You would not lie to me without good reason. It’s just—”
“Yes?” Emma said. She tried to keep her eyes guileless. It was better, she told herself. If Diana caught her, if she got in trouble, she’d be the only one who did: Cristina and Julian didn’t deserve that. She could weather it on her own.
“Be careful,” Cristina said. “Don’t make me regret lying for you, Emma Carstairs.”
The sun was a brilliant ball of flame out over the ocean as Emma steered the Toyota up the dirt road that led to the convergence. The sky was darkening fast. The Toyota bumped the last few yards over the field, nearly rolling into a shallow ditch before she braked and cut the engine.
She got out, reaching back inside to pull out weapons. She had left Cortana back at the Institute. It had caused her a pang, but walking out with it strapped to her back would have invited questions. At least there were seraph blades. She tucked one into her belt and thumbed her witchlight stone out of her pocket, glancing around as she did—it was oddly quiet here, with no sound of insects, small animals, or birdsong. Only the wind in the grass.
The Mantid demons. At night they probably came out and ate everything living. She shuddered and strode toward the cave. The convergence entrance was opening, a thick black line against the granite.
She glanced back once, worriedly—the sun was lower than she would have liked, dying the ocean water bloody. She’d parked as close as she could to the cave entrance so that if it was dark when she emerged, she could get to the car quickly. It was looking more and more likely that she’d have to kill some Mantids on the way, though.
As she strode toward the sheer wall of rock, the black line widened a little more, as if welcoming her. She leaned against the rock with one hand, peering into the gap. It smelled oddly of seawater.
She thought of her parents. Please let me find something, she prayed. Please let me find a clue, discover how this connects to what was done to you. Please let me avenge you.
So I can sleep at night.
Inside the gap, Emma could see the dim gleam of the rock corridor leading into the cave’s heart.
Gripping her witchlight, Emma plunged into the convergence.
Night had nearly fallen—the sky was shading from blue to indigo, the first stars twinkling out above the distant mountains. Cristina sat with her legs up on the dashboard of the truck, her eyes fixed on the two-story ranch house that belonged to Casper Sterling.
The Jeep she recognized was parked in the court in front of the house, under an old-growth olive tree. A low wall ran around the property; the neighborhood, just beside Hancock Park, was full of expensive but not particularly showy houses. Sterling’s was closed, shuttered and dark. The only evidence she had that he was home was the car in the driveway.
She thought of Mark, then wished she hadn’t. She was doing that a lot these days—thinking of Mark and then regretting it. She had worked hard to return her life to normal after she left Mexico. No more romances with brooding and troubled men, no matter how handsome.
Mark Blackthorn wasn’t brooding or troubled exactly. But Mark Blackthorn belonged to Kieran and the Wild Hunt. Mark Blackthorn had a divided heart.
He also had a soft, husky voice, startling eyes, and a habit of saying things that turned her world backward. And he was an excellent dancer, from what she’d seen. Cristina rated dancing highly. Boys who could dance well, kissed well—that was what her mother always said.
A dark shadow ran across the roof of Sterling’s house.
Cristina was up and out of the car in seconds, her seraph blade in her hand. “Miguel,” she whispered, and it blazed up. She was heavily glamoured enough that she knew no mundane could see her, but the blade provided precious light.
She moved forward carefully, her heart pounding. She remembered what Emma had told her about the night Julian had been shot: the shadow on the roof, the man in black. She eased up to the house itself. The windows were dark, the curtains motionless. Everything was still and silent.
She moved toward the Jeep. She slipped her stele out of her pocket just as a shape dropped to the ground beside her with an oomph. Cristina leaped out of the way as the shadow unfolded; it was Sterling, dressed in what Cristina imagined mundanes thought gear looked like. Black pants, black boots, a tailored black jacket.
He stared at her, and his face turned slowly purple. “You,” he snarled.
“I can help you,” Cristina said, keeping her voice and her blade steady. “Please let me help you.”
The hatred in his eyes startled her. “Get away,” he hissed, and yanked something out of his pocket.
A gun. A handgun, small caliber, but enough to make Cristina step back. Guns were something that rarely entered Shadowhunter life; they belonged to mundanes, to their world of ordinary human crime.
But they could still spill Shadowhunter blood and split Shadowhunter bones. He backed away, pointing the gun at her, until he reached the end of his driveway. Then he turned and ran.
Cristina bolted after him, but by the time she’d reached the end of the driveway, he was disappearing around the corner of the street. Apparently he hadn’t exaggerated—weres really were faster than humans. Faster, even, than Shadowhunters.
Cristina muttered a mild curse and trudged back to the Jeep. She drew her stele from her belt with her free hand and, crouching down, carefully marked a small tracking rune into the side of the vehicle, just above the wheel.
It wasn’t a total disaster, she thought, trudging back to the truck. As Emma had said, they were still within the two-day window before the “hunt” began. And having put a tracking rune on Sterling’s car was sure to help. If they just stayed away from his house, let him think they’d given up, hopefully he’d get careless and start driving.
Only when she climbed into the truck and slammed the door behind her did she see that her phone was flashing. She’d missed a call. She picked it up and her heart fell into her stomach.
Diego Rocio Rosales.
She dropped the phone as if it had turned into a scorpion. Why, why, why would Diego call her? She’d told him never to speak to her again.
Her hand stole to the charm at her throat and she clutched it, her lips moving in a silent prayer. Give me the strength not to call him back.
“Are you feeling better, Uncle?” Julian said.
Arthur, slumped behind the desk in his office, looked up with faded, distant eyes.
“Julian,” he said. “I need to talk to you.”
“I know. You said.” Julian leaned back against a wall. “Do you remember what it was about?”
He felt exhausted, scraped out, hollow as a dry bone. He knew he should regret what he’d said in the kitchen about Mark. He knew he should be sympathetic to his uncle. But he couldn’t dredge up the emotion.