“Where are you going to go?” she said finally, trying to keep her voice steady.
“I can’t tell you.” He pulled himself away from the desk. “I can’t tell anyone. I am a good escape artist, Cristina, but only if I never tell where I’m hiding.”
“You don’t know, do you,” she said. “You’re going to improvise.”
He smiled sideways. “No one knows me better than you.”
“And Diego?” Cristina’s voice shook. “Why didn’t he ever tell me any of this?”
“People do stupid things when they’re in love,” said Jaime, in the voice of someone who never had been. “And besides, I asked him not to.”
“So why are you telling me now?”
“Two things,” he said. “In Downworld, they say the Blackthorns are going up against the Cohort. If it comes to a fight, I want to be in it. Send me a fire-message. I will come.” His tone was earnest. “And secondly, to deliver Diego’s message. He said you might be too angry to read it. But I was hoping that now—you would not be.”
She looked down at the envelope in her hand. It had been bent and folded many times.
“I’ll read it,” she said quietly. “Won’t you stay? Eat a meal with us. You look starved.”
Jaime shook his head. “No one can know I was here, Tina. Promise me. On the fact that we were once going to be parabatai.”
“That isn’t fair,” she whispered. “Besides, Drusilla knows.”
“She won’t tell anyone—” Jaime began.
“Cristina!” It was Mark’s voice, echoing down the hallway. “Cristina, where are you?”
Jaime’s arms were around her suddenly, wiry-strong as he hugged her hard. When he let go, she touched his face lightly. There were a million things she wanted to say—ten cuidado more than anything: Be safe, be careful. But he was already turning away from her, toward the window. He threw it open and ducked outside like a shadow, vanishing into the rain-streaked night.
START AND SIGH
Gwyn wouldn’t come into the Institute.
Kit didn’t know if it was principle or preference, but despite the fact that his arm was bleeding, soaking the side of his gray armor, the Wild Hunt leader only shook his head when Alec invited him cordially into the Institute.
“I am the head of the London Institute, however temporarily,” Alec said. “I am empowered to invite whoever I want inside.”
“I cannot linger,” Gwyn demurred. “There is much to be done.”
It had begun to rain. Alec was on the roof along with Mark, who had greeted Livvy and Ty with a mixture of terror and relief. The twins were still standing close to their brother, his arm around Livvy’s shoulder, his hand clasping Ty’s sleeve.
There was no one to greet Kit that way. He stood off a little to the side, watching. The ride on horseback from the river—Gwyn seemed to be able to summon horses out of the air, like a magician conjuring pennies—had been a blur; Ty and Livvy had ridden with Diana, and Kit had wound up behind Gwyn, clinging desperately to his belt and trying not to fall off the horse into the Thames.
“I cannot stay among all this cold iron,” Gwyn said, and he did look fairly peaked, in Kit’s opinion. “And you, Blackthorns—you should get yourself inside the Institute. Within its walls you are safe.”
“What about Emma and Jules?” Livvy said. “They could be outside, the Riders could be looking for them—”
“Magnus went to find them,” Alec reassured her. “He’ll make sure they’re all right.”
Livvy nodded gravely, but she still looked worried.
“We might need some help from you, Diana,” said Alec. “We’re sending the children to Alicante as soon as Magnus returns.”
“Which children?” asked Diana. She had a soft, low voice; now it was rough with tiredness. “Just yours, or . . .”
“Tavvy and Drusilla as well,” Alec said. He eyed Livvy and Ty: Kit guessed that if he had his druthers, Alec would bring the twins along, too, but knew they’d never stand for it.
“Ah,” said Diana. “Might I suggest that rather than taking up residence with the Inquisitor in Alicante, you stay with me on Flintlock Street? It would be good if the Cohort didn’t know you were there.”
“My thought exactly,” said Alec. “Better to stay under the radar of the Dearborns and their ilk, especially just before the Council meeting.” He frowned. “And hopefully we’ll be able to get the binding spell off Mark and Cristina before we need to leave. Otherwise they might not be able to—”
“One of the Riders was killed,” Kit said.
Everyone stared at him. He wasn’t sure why he’d spoken, himself. The world seemed to be swaying around him, and strange things were important.
“You remember,” he said. “It’s why they fled, in the end. One of them had died, and the others could feel it. Maybe Julian and Emma fought them and won.”
“No one can kill one of the Riders of Mannan,” said Gwyn.
“Emma could,” said Livvy. “If Cortana—”
Kit’s knees gave out. It was very sudden and he hadn’t expected it at all. One moment he was standing, the next he was kneeling in a cold puddle, wondering why he couldn’t get up.
“Kit!” Diana cried. “Alec, he hit his head during the fight—he said it didn’t hurt, but—”
Alec was already striding over to Kit. He was stronger than he looked. His arms braced Kit, lifting him; a hot dart of pain went through Kit’s head as he moved, and a merciful grayness closed in.
They lay on the bed afterward in the twilight dark, Emma with her head on Julian’s chest. She could hear his heart beating through the soft material of his T-shirt.
They had toweled their hair and put on dry clothes and curled up together under one layer of blankets. Their feet were tangled together; Julian was running a slow, thoughtful hand through her loose hair.
“Tell me,” he said. “You said there was something I needed to know. And I stopped you.” He paused. “Tell me now.”
She folded her arms on his chest, resting her chin on them. There was relaxation in the curve of his body around hers. But his expression was more than curious; she could see the intensity in the back of his eyes, his need to know. To make sense out of all the pieces that didn’t make sense now.
“I was never dating Mark,” she said. “That was all a lie. I asked him to pretend to be dating me, and he had said he owed me his life before, so he agreed. It was never real.”
His fingers stilled in her hair. Emma swallowed. She had to get through all this without thinking of whether Julian would hate her at the end. Otherwise she’d never be able to finish.
“Why would you do that?” he said carefully. “Why would Mark agree to hurt me?”
“He didn’t know it was hurting you,” Emma said. “He never knew there was anything between us—not until we went to Faerie. He found out then, and he told me we had to end it. That’s why I stopped things in London. Mark didn’t mind. We didn’t feel that way about each other.”
“So Mark didn’t know,” he said. “Why did you do it, then?” He held up a hand. “Never mind. I know the answer: to stop me loving you. To break us up. I even know why you picked Mark.”
“I wish it could have been anyone else—”
“No one else would have made me hate you,” he said flatly. “Nobody else would have made me give you up.” He propped himself up on his elbow, looking down at her. “Make me understand,” he said. “You love me and I love you, but you wanted to wreck all that. You were so determined you brought Mark into it, which I know you’d never do if you weren’t desperate. So what made you so desperate, Emma? I know being in love with your parabatai is forbidden, but it’s a stupid Law—”
“It’s not,” she said, “a stupid Law.”