Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)

“A shrewd observation,” drawled her older brother, Alastair, who was ostentatiously reading a book on sums in the corner of the carriage, as if to announce that he couldn’t be bothered to glance out the window. “I’m sure no one has ever commented on London’s buildings before.”

Cordelia glared at him, but he didn’t look up. Couldn’t he tell she was just trying to raise everyone’s spirits? Their mother, Sona, was leaning exhaustedly against the side of the carriage, violet hollows under her eyes, her normally radiant brown skin sallow. Cordelia had been worried about her for weeks now, ever since the news about Father had come to Devon from Idris. “The point, Alastair, is that now we’re here to live, not visit. We’ll meet people, we can entertain visitors, we needn’t stay in the Institute—even though I would like to be near Lucie—”

“And James,” said Alastair, without looking up from his book.

Cordelia gritted her teeth.

“Children.” Cordelia’s mother glanced at them reprovingly. Alastair looked resentful—he was one month shy of his nineteenth birthday and, in his mind at least, certainly not a child. “This is serious business. As you well know, we are not in London to amuse ourselves. We are in London on behalf of our family.”

Cordelia exchanged a less hostile look with her brother. She knew he was worried about Sona too, though he never would have admitted it. She wondered for the millionth time how much he knew about the situation with Father. She knew both that it was more than she did, and that he would never speak to her of it.

She felt a little thump of excitement as their carriage pulled up at 102 Cornwall Gardens, one of a row of grand white Victorian houses with the number painted in austere black on the rightmost pillar. There were several figures standing atop the front steps, beneath the portico. Cordelia instantly recognized Lucie Herondale, a little taller now than she had been the last time Cordelia had seen her. Her light brown hair was caught up under her hat, and her pale blue jacket and skirt matched her eyes.

Beside her stood two figures. One was Lucie’s mother, Tessa Herondale, the famous—among Shadowhunters, at any rate—wife of Will Herondale, who ran the London Institute. She looked only a little older than her daughter. Tessa was immortal, a warlock and a shape-shifter, and she did not age.

Next to Tessa was James.

Cordelia remembered, once, when she’d been a small girl, reaching to pet a swan in the pond by her house. The bird had launched itself at her, barreling into her midsection and knocking her down. For several minutes she had lain on the grass, choking and trying to get her breath back, terrified she’d never suck air into her lungs again.

She supposed it was not the most romantic thing in the world to say that every time she saw James Herondale she felt as if she’d been attacked by a waterfowl, but it was true.

He was beautiful, so beautiful that she forgot to breathe when she looked at him. He had wild, tumbled black hair that looked as if it would be soft to touch, and his long, dark lashes fringed eyes the color of honey or amber. Now that he was seventeen, he had grown out of his gawky younger self and was sleek and lovely all over, perfectly put together, like a marvelous bit of architecture.

“Oof!” Her feet hit the ground and she nearly stumbled. Somehow she’d wrenched the carriage door open and was now standing on the pavement—well, wobbling really, as she struggled to keep her balance on legs that had gone to sleep after hours of disuse.

James was there instantly, his hand on her arm, steadying her. “Daisy?” he said. “Are you all right?”

His nickname for her. He hadn’t forgotten.

“Just clumsy.” She looked around ruefully. “I was hoping for a more gracious arrival.”

“Nothing to worry about.” He smiled, and her heart turned over. “The pavements of South Kensington are vicious. I’ve been attacked by them more than once myself.”

Make a clever response, she told herself. Say something witty.

But he had already turned away, inclining his head toward Alastair. James and Alastair had not liked each other at school, Cordelia knew, though her mother did not. Sona thought Alastair had been very popular.

“I see you’re here, Alastair.” James’s voice was curiously flat. “And you look—”

He eyed Alastair’s bright yellow-white hair with some astonishment. Cordelia waited for him to continue, with great hope that he would say you look like a turnip, but he didn’t.

“You look well,” he finished.

The boys looked at each other in silence as Lucie raced down the steps and threw her arms around Cordelia. “I am so very, very delighted to see you!” she said, in her breathless way. For Lucie, everything was always very, very, very something, be it beautiful or exciting or horrid. “Darling Cordelia, we shall have so much fun—”

“Lucie, Cordelia and her family have come to London so that you and Cordelia can train together,” said Tessa in her gentle voice. “It will be a great deal of work and responsibility.”

Cordelia glanced down at her shoes. Tessa was being kind in repeating the story that the Carstairs had come to London in a hurry because of Cordelia and Lucie needing to be parabatai, but that wasn’t the truth.

“Well, you must remember being sixteen yourself, Mrs. Herondale,” said Sona. “Young girls adore dances and dresses. I certainly did when I was their age, and I imagine you did as well.”

Cordelia knew this was entirely not true about her mother but kept her mouth shut. Tessa arched her eyebrows. “I do recall attending a vampire frolic once. And some sort of party at Benedict Lightwood’s house, before he got demon pox and turned into a worm, of course—”

“Mother!” Lucie said, scandalized.

“Well, he did turn into a worm,” said James. “Really more of a vicious, giant serpent. It was entirely one of the most interesting parts of history class.”

Tessa was saved further comment by the arrival of the removers’ vans carrying the Carstairs’ belongings. Several large men leaped down from one of the vans and went to pull back the canvas covering the various furniture pieces, which had been fastidiously roped down.

One of the men assisted Risa, Sona’s lady’s maid and cook, down from the first of the vans. Risa had worked for the Jahanshah family when Sona was in her teens and had been with her ever since. She was a mundane who had the Sight, and thus a valuable companion for a Shadowhunter. Risa spoke only Persian; Cordelia wondered whether the men in the van had tried to make conversation with her. Risa understood English perfectly, but she liked her silence.

“Please thank Cecily Lightwood for me, for the loan of her domestic help,” Cordelia’s mother was saying to Tessa.

“Oh, indeed! They will come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to do the rough, until you can find suitable servants of your own,” Tessa replied.

“The rough” was everything Risa—who cooked, shopped, and helped Sona and Cordelia with their clothes—would not be expected to do, like scrubbing the floors or caring for the horses. The idea that the Carstairs were planning to hire their own servants soon was another polite fiction, Cordelia knew. When they left Devon, Sona had let all the servants go, save for Risa, as they were trying to conserve as much money as possible while Elias Carstairs was awaiting trial.

A large shape on one of the vans caught Cordelia’s eye. “Mama!” she exclaimed. “You brought the piano?”

Her mother shrugged. “I like a bit of music about.” She gestured imperiously toward the workmen. “Cordelia, it’s going to be messy and noisy. Perhaps if you and Lucie would go take a turn about the neighborhood? And Alastair, you stay here and help direct the servants.”

Cordelia was delighted at the prospect of time alone with Lucie. Alastair meanwhile looked caught between sourness at having to remain behind with his mother, and pomposity at being trusted with the responsibilities of the man of the house.

Tessa Herondale looked amused. “James, go with the girls. Perhaps Kensington Gardens? It’s a short walk and a lovely day.”

“Kensington Gardens does seem safe,” James said gravely.

Lucie rolled her eyes and seized Cordelia’s hand. “Come along, then,” she said, and pulled her down the steps and onto the pavement.

James, with his long legs, matched them easily. “There’s no need to bolt, Lucie,” he said. “Mother isn’t going to haul you back and demand that you drag a piano into the house.”

Cordelia cast a sideways look at him. The wind was ruffling his black hair. Even her own mother’s hair was not so dark: it had undertones of red and gold. James’s hair was like spilled ink.

He smiled at her easily, as if he hadn’t just caught her staring at him. Then again, he was doubtless used to being stared at when with other Shadowhunters. Not just because of his looks, but for other reasons as well.

Lucie squeezed her arm. “I’m so happy you’re here,” she declared. “I never thought it would really happen.”

“Why not?” said James. “The Law demands you train together before you can become parabatai, and besides, Father adores Daisy, and he does make the rules.…”

previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ..113 next