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Not that Julian had realized until that moment that there was ketchup on the windows.
He’d nodded and gone to leave the room, and then stopped to look around for Emma. But at some point Emma had left with Cristina. Presumably they were somewhere talking about Cameron Ashdown. And there was nothing Julian wanted less than to join in on that.
He didn’t know when that had happened, that the thought of Cameron made him not want to see Emma. His Emma. You always wanted to see your parabatai. They were the most welcome face in the world to you. There was a wrongness about not wanting it, as if the earth had suddenly started spinning in the other direction.
“I don’t think I do,” Arthur said after a moment. “There was something I wanted to help with. Something about the investigation. You are still investigating, aren’t you?”
“The murders? The ones the faerie convoy came to us about? Yes.”
“I think it was about the poem,” Arthur said. “The one Livia was reciting in the kitchen.” He rubbed at his eyes, obviously tired. “I was passing by and I heard it.”
“The poem?” Julian echoed, confused. “‘Annabel Lee’?”
Arthur spoke in his deep, rumbling voice, sounding out the lines of poetry as if they were the lines of a spell.
“But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee—”
“I know the poem,” Julian interrupted. “But I don’t—”
“‘Those who were older,’” Arthur said. “I’ve heard the phrase before. In London. I can’t remember what it was in connection with.” He picked up a pen from the desk, tapped it against the wood. “I’m sorry. I just—I can’t remember.”
“Those Who Are Older,” murmured Julian. He remembered Belinda, back at the theater, smiling with her blood-red lips. May Those Who Are Older grant us all good fortune, she’d said.
An idea bloomed in the back of Julian’s mind, but, elusive, disappeared when he tried to chase it.
He needed to go to his studio. He wanted to be alone, and painting would unlock his thoughts. He turned to go and only paused when Uncle Arthur’s voice cut through the dusty air.
“Did I help you, boy?” he said.
“Yes,” said Julian. “You helped.”
When Cristina returned to the Institute, it was dark and silent. The entryway lights were off, and only a few windows glowed—Julian’s studio, the bright spot of the attic, the square that was the kitchen.
Frowning, Cristina went directly there, wondering if Emma had returned yet from her mysterious errand. If the others had managed to clean up the mess they’d made.
At first glance the kitchen seemed deserted, only a single light on. Dishes were piled in the sink, and though someone had clearly scrubbed the walls and counters, there was still food crusted onto the stove, and two large trash bags, stuffed full and half-spilling their contents, propped against the wall.
She blinked into the dimness, though there was no mistaking the voice.
He was sitting on the floor, his legs crossed. Tavvy was asleep beside him—on him, really, his head resting in the crook of Mark’s arm, his small legs and arms curled up like a potato bug’s. Mark’s T-shirt and jeans were covered with powdered sugar.
Cristina slowly unwound her scarf and placed it on the table. “Has Emma returned yet?”
“I don’t know,” Mark said, his hand carefully stroking Tavvy’s hair. “But if she has, she’s probably gone to sleep.”
Cristina sighed. She’d probably have to wait until tomorrow to see Emma, find out what she’d been doing. Tell her about Diego’s phone call, if she could get up the nerve.
“Could you—if you don’t mind—get me a glass of water?” Mark asked. He looked down half-apologetically at the boy in his lap. “I don’t want to wake him.”
“Of course.” Cristina went to the sink, filled a glass, and returned, sitting down cross-legged opposite Mark. He took the glass with a grateful expression. “I’m sure Julian isn’t that angry with you,” she said.
Mark made an inelegant noise, finishing the water and setting the glass down.
“You could pick up Tavvy,” Cristina suggested. “You could carry him to bed. If you want him to sleep.”
“I like him here,” Mark said, looking down at his own long, pale fingers tangled in the little boy’s brown curls. “He just— They all left, and he fell asleep on me.” He sounded amazed, wondering.
“Of course he did,” Cristina said. “He’s your brother. He trusts you.”
“Nobody trusts a Hunter,” Mark said.
“You are not a Hunter in this house. You are a Blackthorn.”
“I wish Julian agreed with you. I thought I was keeping the children happy. I thought that’s what Julian would have wanted.”
Tavvy shifted in Mark’s arms and Mark moved too, so that the edge of his boot was touching the tip of Cristina’s. She felt the contact like a small shock.
“You have to understand,” she said. “Julian does everything for these children. Everything. I have never seen a brother who is so much like a parent. He cannot only tell them yes, he has to tell them no. He must deal in discipline and punishment and denial. Whereas you, you can give them anything. You can have fun with them.”
“Julian can have fun with them,” Mark said a little sulkily.
“He can’t,” said Cristina. “He is envious because he loves them but he cannot be their brother. He must be their father. In his mind, they dread him and adore you.”
“Julian’s jealous?” Mark looked astonished. “Of me?”
“I think so.” Cristina met his eyes. At some point, in knowing him, the mismatch between his blue and his golden one had stopped seeming strange to her. The same way it had stopped seeming strange to be in the Blackthorns’ kitchen, speaking English, instead of at home, where things were warm and familiar. “Be kind to him. He has a gentle soul. He is terrified you will leave and break the hearts of all these children he loves so very much.”
Mark looked down at Tavvy. “I don’t know what I will do,” he said. “I did not realize how it would tear at my heart to be back among them. It was thinking of them, of my family, that helped me live through the first years I was in the Hunt. Every day we would ride, and steal from the dead. It was cold, a cold life. And at night I would lie down and conjure their faces to lull me to sleep. They were all I had until—”
He broke off. Tavvy sat up, scrubbing his small hands through his tangled hair. “Jules?” He yawned.