Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)

Her mother fell immediately into conversation with Barbara’s parents, Gideon and Sophie Lightwood. Cordelia fixed her gaze on Barbara. Would she be interested in hearing about her father? Probably not. She was looking out at the dance floor with a smile on her face.

“Who’s the boy dancing with Lucie?” Cordelia asked, which provoked a surprising burst of laughter from Barbara.

“That’s my brother, Thomas,” she said. “And not tripping over his own feet, for a change!”

Cordelia took another look at the sandy-haired boy laughing with Lucie. Thomas was very tall and broad-shouldered, intimidatingly so. Did Lucie fancy him? If she’d mentioned him in her letters, it was only as one of her brother’s friends.

Alastair, who had been standing at the edge of the group looking bored—truthfully, Cordelia had nearly forgotten he was there—suddenly brightened. “Charles!” he said, sounding pleased. He smoothed down the front of his waistcoat. “If you’ll excuse me, I must go pay my respects. We haven’t seen each other in an age.”

He vanished between the tables without waiting for permission. Cordelia’s mother sighed. “Boys,” she said. “So vexing.”

Sophie smiled at her daughter, and Cordelia noticed for the first time the vicious scar that slashed across her cheek. There was something about her vivaciousness, the way she moved and spoke, that caused one not to see it at first. “Girls have their moments,” she observed. “You should have seen Barbara and her sister, Eugenia, when they were children. Absolute horrors!”

Barbara laughed. Cordelia envied her, to have such an easy rapport with her mother. A moment later a brown-haired boy approached and invited Barbara to dance; she was whisked away, and Tessa steered Sona and Cordelia to the next table, where Lucie’s uncle Gabriel Lightwood sat beside a beautiful woman with long dark hair and blue eyes—his wife, Cecily. Will Herondale was leaning against the edge of their table, arms folded, smiling.

Will looked over as they approached, and his face softened when he saw Tessa, and behind her, Cordelia. In him, Cordelia could see a bit of what James would become when he was grown.

“Cordelia Carstairs,” he said, after greeting her mother. “How pretty you’ve become.”

Cordelia beamed. If Will thought she was pretty, perhaps his son thought so too. Of course, due to Will’s prejudice toward all things Carstairs, he probably thought Alastair was perfect and also pretty.

“I hear you have come to London to be parabatai with our Lucie,” said Cecily. She looked nearly as young as Tessa, though since she wasn’t an immortal warlock, one wondered how she managed it. “I am pleased—it is high time more girls became parabatai. It has been a state monopolized by men for far too long.”

“Well, the first parabatai were male,” Will pointed out, in a manner that made Cordelia wonder if Cecily had once found him insufferable, as she found Alastair.

“Times are changing, Will,” said Cecily with a smile. “It’s the modern age. We have electric lights, motorcars…”

“Mundanes have electric lights,” said Will. “We have witchlight.”

“And motorcars are a fad,” said Gabriel Lightwood. “They won’t last.”

Cordelia bit her lip. This was not at all how she wanted the evening to go. She was meant to be charming people and influencing them, but instead she felt like a child banished to the perimeter of adult conversation about motorcars. It was with extreme relief that she saw Lucie abandon Thomas on the dance floor and race over to her. They hugged, and Cordelia exclaimed over Lucie’s pretty blue lace dress, while Lucie stared in horror at Cordelia’s lilac nightmare.

“May I take Cordelia to meet the other girls?” she said to Sona, smiling her most charming smile.

“Of course.” Sona looked pleased. It was, after all, what she had brought Cordelia here for, wasn’t it? To meet the sons and daughters of influential Shadowhunters? Though really, Cordelia knew, more the sons than the daughters.

Lucie took Cordelia’s hand and drew her over to the refreshment table, where a group of girls in colorful dresses had gathered. In the avalanche of introductions, Cordelia caught only a few of their names: Catherine Townsend, Rosamund Wentworth, and Ariadne Bridgestock, who must be related to the Inquisitor. She was a tall, lovely-looking girl a few years older than the others, with brown skin a shade darker than Cordelia’s own.

“What a pretty dress,” Ariadne said to Cordelia, her voice warm. Her own gown was of flattering wine-colored silk. “I believe that’s the shade they call ‘ashes of roses.’ Very popular in Paris.”

“Oh, yes,” Cordelia said eagerly. She’d known so few girls growing up—just Lucie, really—so how did one impress them and charm them? It was desperately important. “I did get this dress in Paris, as a matter of fact. On Rue de la Paix. Jeanne Paquin made it herself.”

She saw Lucie’s eyes widen in concern. Rosamund’s lips tightened. “How fortunate you are,” she said coolly. “Most of us here in the poky little London Enclave rarely get to travel abroad. You must think us so dull.”

“Oh,” said Cordelia, realizing she had put her foot in it. “No, not at all—”

“My mother has always said Shadowhunters aren’t meant to have much of an interest in fashion,” said Catherine. “She says it’s mundane.”

“Since you’ve spoken of Matthew’s clothes admiringly so often,” said Ariadne tartly, “should we assume that rule is only for girls?”

“Ariadne, really—” Rosamund began, and broke off with a laugh. “Speak of the devils,” she said. “Look who’s just come in.”

She was looking toward the far doors of the ballroom, through which two boys had just spilled. Cordelia saw James first, as she always did. He was tall, beautiful, smiling: a painter’s vision in black and white with tousled ebony hair.

She heard Lucie groan as the girls whispered among themselves: she caught James’s name in the whispers, and then a second name in the same breath: Matthew Fairchild.

Of course. James’s parabatai. It had been years since Cordelia had seen him. She remembered a slim blond boy. Now he was a well-built young man, his hair darkened to bronze, with a face like a dissipated angel.

“They are so handsome,” said Catherine, sounding almost pained. “Don’t you think so, Ariadne?”

“Oh—yes,” Ariadne said hastily. “I suppose.”

“She only has eyes for Charles,” said Rosamund. Ariadne turned red, and the girls went off into gales of laughter. All but Lucie, who rolled her eyes.

“They’re just boys,” she said.

“James is your brother,” said Catherine. “You cannot be objective, Lucie! He is gorgeous.”

Cordelia had begun to feel a certain dismay. James, it seemed, was not her discovery alone. He and Matthew had stopped to laugh with Barbara and her dance partner; James had an arm slung over Matthew’s shoulder and was smiling. He was so beautiful it was like an arrow in the heart to look at him. Of course she was not the only one to have noticed. Surely James could have his pick of girls.

“Matthew isn’t bad-looking either,” said Rosamund. “But so scandalous.”

“Indeed,” Catherine added, eyes sparkling. “You must be careful of him, Miss Carstairs. He has a reputation.”

Lucie began to turn an angry shade of pink.

“We should guess who James will ask to dance first,” said a fair-haired girl in a pink dress. “Surely you, Rosamund; you are looking so lovely tonight. Who could resist you?”

“Ah, yes, who will be graced by my brother’s attentions?” drawled Lucie. “When he was six, he threw up in his own shoe.”

The others girls pointedly ignored her as the music began once more. Someone who appeared to be Rosamund’s brother came to claim the fair-haired girl for a dance; Charles left Alastair and came across the room to take Ariadne’s hand and whisk her onto the floor. Will and Tessa were in each other’s arms, as were both sets of Lucie’s aunts and uncles.

A moment later Matthew Fairchild approached the table. He was suddenly startlingly close to Cordelia. She could see that his eyes were not dark, as she had thought, but a deep shade of green like forest moss. He bowed slightly to Lucie. “Might I have this dance?”

Lucie cast a glance back at the other girls that Cordelia could read as clearly as words on a page. She was not concerned about Matthew’s reputation, the look said. Head held high, Lucie sailed out onto the dance floor with the Consul’s second son.

Which was commendable of her, Cordelia thought, but it did leave Cordelia alone with a group of girls she was not sure liked her. She could hear a few of them whispering that she seemed terribly pleased with herself, and she thought she caught her father’s name, too, and the word “trial”—

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