Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)

She thought of what James had said about faerie fruit: that the more you had of it, the more you wanted, and the more you ached when it was gone. And yet, was not knowing what it was like to taste it not also a form of torment?

She loved James; she always would. So many people loved without hope of return, without the dream of a touch or a glance from the object of their affection. They pined away in silence and misery like mortals starving for faerie fruit.

What fate was offering her now was a year of such fruit for her table. A year of living with James and loving him might ruin her for any other love, but oh, at least she would blaze up in glory. For a year she would share his life. They would walk together, read together, eat together, and live together. They would laugh together. For a year, she would stand close to the fire and know what it was like to burn.





Epilogue CHISWICK HOUSE, LONDON




Not far from the lights of London, Nephilim guards had escorted Tatiana to Chiswick House, its gates and lanes choked and rendered almost impassable with thorns. Briars clawed sunlight from every window, preventing the guards—who included her brothers, Gabriel and Gideon—from seeing inside as Tatiana gathered her things and reappeared at the front door of the house, a small brown valise in hand.

She looked down at them from the top of the stairs. “I would like to be allowed to go one more time to the garden,” she said. She did not think the hatred she felt for them showed on her face. They did not seem to know it; they never had understood how much they deserved her loathing. “To bid goodbye to the memories of my husband and my father.”

A sort of spasm seemed to cross Gabriel’s face. Gideon put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. They never had respected their father properly. Never had mourned him after they let Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs murder him.

Gideon nodded. “Go ahead,” he said, with a short nod. “We will await you here.”

Herondales, Tatiana thought as she made her way to the Italian gardens. Tainted blood ran in their veins. In her opinion, their name dominated the history books more than it should. There should be far more instances of the name “Lightwood” and less of the name “Herondale.” After all, she wouldn’t be surprised if Will Herondale’s warlock wife wasn’t the first time they’d sullied the line with Downworlder blood.

She had reached the small, walled structure in the center of the garden. The door was unlocked—she cursed Grace silently: stupid, lazy girl—and she hurried inside to see if any damage had been done. To her relief, Jesse’s coffin was pristine: the wood glowing, the glass untouched by dust. The ancient Blackthorn sword that would one day be her son’s hung gleaming on the wall.

She laid a hand on the surface. There lay her boy, her sleeping prince. He resembled her husband, in her opinion. Rupert had possessed such fine bones, such delicacy and perfection of feature and form. The day he had been torn from this world had been a tragedy. She had stopped every clock in this house and the country manor at the time they had taken his body away, for then her world had ended.

Save for Jesse. She lived for Jesse now, and for revenge.

“Worry not,” said a silken voice.

Tatiana knew who had spoken before she glanced up.

He was a swirl of dust at first, a handful of glittering sand that re-formed into the shape of a beautiful man clothed in gray, with eyes like shards of mirrors.

“Grace will look after him,” Tatiana said. “She cares for her brother like you care for no one.”

“I will let no harm come to Jesse,” said the Prince of Hell. “What he carries is too precious.”

Tatiana knew he was not truly there, that Belial could not walk upon the earth save as an illusion of himself. Still, he was bright as broken glass, bright as cities burning. They said Lucifer was the most beautiful angel who had ever lost Heaven, but Tatiana did not believe that. There could be no angel more beautiful than Belial, for he was ever-changing. He had a thousand shapes.

“Why should I believe that?” she demanded. “You let me sicken from that poison, and I could have died. You promised me that only my enemies would be harmed. And look”—she threw her arm out in the direction of the courtyard where Gideon and Gabriel waited for her—“they still live!”

“I would never have let you die,” said Belial. “It was necessary to keep suspicion from falling upon you. What I did, I did in order to save you.”

Bitterness roughened her voice. “Save me for what? That I may languish in prison while my enemies flourish?”

Belial laid his hands on Jesse’s coffin. His fingers were long, like a spider’s legs. “We have discussed this before, Tatiana. The death of Barbara was my gift to you, but it was only the beginning. What we have in mind for the Herondales and Lightwoods and Carstairs is so much greater and more terrible than simple death.”

“But your plan to raise James Herondale up in darkness seems to have failed. Even after I prepared him for you—”

For just a moment, Belial’s expression lost its composure, and in that space Tatiana seemed able to see down through the abyss into the visible darkness of the Pit. “You prepared him?” he sneered. “When he came to me in my realm, there was no bracelet on his wrist. He was protected.”

Tatiana blanched. “That’s not possible. It was on his wrist at the meeting today. I saw it!”

A smirk passed over Belial’s face, but vanished quickly. “That was not all. You did not tell me that the Carstairs girl bears one of the blades of Wayland the Smith.”

He opened his jacket. There on his chest was a wound, a bloody tear in the fabric of his shirt through which dark red blood seeped. A wound that seemed fresh and unhealed. Though Tatiana knew he was not really here in a solid form, not really bleeding, the sight was still disturbing. One should not be able to wound a Prince of Hell.

She took a step back. “I—I didn’t think it important. The girl seems like nothing—”

“Then you do not understand what Cortana is. As long as she bears that sword, and protects James, I will not be able to come near him.” Belial snapped his jacket closed. “Those fools believe that since I have been wounded by that blade, I will not be able to return to their world for a century’s time. They do not know I have an anchor here. Nor do they understand the power of my wrath.” He bared his teeth, and each was a sharp, filed point. “They will see my return sooner than they think.”

Tatiana knew she should dread the rage of a Prince of Hell, but there could be no fear when you had already lost everything that mattered. Her lip curled back. “I suppose you will be facing that return alone, as I will be imprisoned in the Adamant Citadel.” She touched Jesse’s coffin, a sob rising in her throat. “And my beautiful boy will languish without me.”

“Oh Tatiana, my dark swan,” Belial murmured, and now he was smiling. “Don’t you see this is the culmination of my plan? The Herondales, the Lightwoods, the Enclave, all of them have blocked you from their seats of power. But where does the heart of the Nephilim lie? It lies in their gift from the angel, the adamas. The steles that draw their runes, the seraph blades that protect them.”

She looked up at him, realization dawning. “You mean—”

“No one can break into the Adamant Citadel,” he said. “But you will be escorted in, my dear. And then you will strike at the Clave from its very heart. We will strike together.”

With her hand braced upon the coffin of her son, Tatiana began to smile.