He could feel her breathing, feel the racing of her heart. He was reminded of his falcon, the way it had curled, blind and trusting, in his hand, the rapidity of its heartbeat. Clary was holding him by the front of the shirt, though he doubt she realized it, her face against his shoulder; he was desperately afraid that there wasn’t enough of him, that he couldn’t cover her completely, protect her entirely. He imagined boulders as big as elephants tumbling across the rocky ground, ready to crush them both, to crush her. The ground shuddered under them and he pressed harder against her, as if that might help somehow. It was magical thinking, he knew, like closing your eyes so you didn’t see the knife coming at you.
The roar had faded. He realized to his surprise that he could hear again: small things, the sound of birds, the air in the trees. Clary’s voice, breathless. “Jace — I think I dropped your stele somewhere.”
He drew back and stared down at her. She met his gaze steadily In the moonlight her green eyes could have been black. Her red hair was full of dust, her face streaked with soot. He could see the pulse in her throat. He said the first thing that he could think of, dazed, “I don’t care. As long as you’re not hurt.”
“I’m fine.” She reached up, her fingers brushing lightly through his hair; his body, super-sensitized by adrenalin, felt it like sparks against his skin. “There’s grass — in your hair,” she said.
There was worry in her eyes. Worry for him. He remembered the first time he’d kissed her, in the greenhouse, how he’d finally gotten it, finally understood the way someone’s mouth against yours could undo you, leave you spinning and breathless. That all the expertise in the world, any techniques you knew or had learned, went out the window when it was the right person you were kissing.
Or the wrong one.
“You shouldn’t touch me,” he said.
Her hand froze where it was, her palm against his cheek. “Why not?”
“You know why. You saw what I saw, didn’t you? The past, the angel. Our parents.”
Her eyes darkened. “I saw.”
“You know what happened.”
“A lot of things happened, Jace —”
“Not for me.” The words breathed out on an anguished whisper. “I have demon blood, Clary. Demon blood. You understood that much, didn’t you?”
She set her chin. He knew how much she disliked the suggestion that she hadn’t understood something, or didn’t know it, or didn’t need to know it. He loved that about her and it drove him out of his mind. “It doesn’t mean anything. Valentine was insane. He was just ranting —”
“And Jocelyn? Was she insane? I know what Valentine was trying to do. He was trying to create hybrids — angel/human, and demon/human. You’re the former, Clary, and I’m the latter. I’m part monster. Part everything I’ve tried so hard to burn out, to destroy.”
“It’s not true. It can’t be. It doesn’t make sense—”
“But it does.” How could she not understand? It seemed so obvious to him, so basic. “It explains everything.”
“You mean it explains why you’re such an amazing Shadowhunter? Why you’re loyal and fearless and honest and everything demons aren’t —”
“It explains,” he said, evenly, “why I feel the way I do about you.”
Breath hissed between her teeth. “What do you mean?”
“You’re my sister,” he said, “My sister, my blood, my family. I should want to protect you —” he choked on the words— “to protect you from the sort of boys who want to do to you exactly what I want to do to you.”
He heard her breath catch. She was still staring up at him, and though he had expected to see horror in her eyes, some sort of revulsion — for he didn’t think he’d ever stated so clearly or so tactlessly exactly how he felt — he saw nothing of the sort. He saw only searching curiosity, as if she were examining the map of some unknown country.
Almost absently, she let her fingers trail down his cheek to his lips, outlining the shape of his mouth with the tip of her index finger, as if she were charting a course. There was wonder in her eyes. He felt his heart turn over and his body, ever traitorous, respond to her touch.
“What is it, exactly, that you want to do to me?” she whispered.
He could not stop himself. He leaned down, his lips grazing her ear: “I could show you.”
He felt her tremble, but despite the shiver in her body, her eyes challenged him. The adrenaline in his blood, mixed with desire and the recklessness of despair, made his blood sing. I’ll show her, he thought. Half of him was convinced she would push him away. The other half was too full of Clary: her nearness, the feel of her against him — to think straight. “If you want me to stop, tell me now,” he whispered, and when she said nothing, he brushed his lips against her hollow of her temple. “Or now.” His mouth found her cheek, the line of her jaw: he tasted her skin, sweet-salty, dust and desire. “Or now.” His mouth traced the line of her jaw and she arched up into him, making his fingers dig into the ground. Her small, panting breaths were driving him crazy, and he put his mouth over hers to quiet her, whispering, telling, not asking: “Now.”
And he kissed her. Gently at first, testing, but suddenly her hands were fists in the back of his shirt, and her softness was pressed against his chest and he felt the solid earth give way under him as he fell. He was kissing her the way he’d always wanted to, with a wild and total abandon, his tongue sweeping inside her mouth to duel with hers, and she was just as bold as he was, tasting him, exploring his mouth. He reached for the buttons of her coat just as she bit lightly at his lower lip and his whole body jerked.
She put her hands over his, and for a moment he was afraid she was going to tell him to stop, that this was insane, they’d both hate themselves tomorrow. But: “Let me,” she said, and he went still as she calmly undid the buttons and the coat fell open. The shirt she was wearing underneath was nearly sheer, and he could see the shape of her body underneath: the curves of her breasts, the indentation of her waist, the flare of her hips. He felt dizzy. He’d seen this much of other girls before, of course he had, but it had never mattered.
And now nothing else mattered.
She lifted her arms up, her head thrown back, pleading in her eyes. “Come back,” she whispered. “Kiss me again.”
He made a noise he didn’t think he’d ever made before and fell back against her, into her, kissing her eyelids, lips, throat, the pulse there — his hands slid under her flimsy shirt and onto the heat of her skin. He was pretty sure all the blood had left his brain as he fumbled at the clasp of her bra — which was ridiculous, what was the point of being a Shadowhunter and expert at everything if you couldn’t figure out the clasp on a bra? — and heard his own soft exhalation as it came free and his hands were on her bare back, the fragile shape of her shoulder blades under his palms. Somehow the little noise she made was more erotic than seeing anyone else naked had ever been.
Her hands, small and determined, were at the hem of his shirt, tugging it off. He pushed hers up, around her ribs, wanting more of their skin to be touching. So this was the difference, he thought. This was what being in love meant. He’d always prided himself on his technique, on having control, on the response he could elicit. But that required evaluation, and evaluation required distance, and there was no distance now. He wanted nothing between himself and Clary.
His hands found the waistband of her jeans, the shape of her hipbones. He felt her fingers on his bare back, her the tips finding his scars and tracing them lightly. He wasn’t sure she knew she was doing it, but she was rolling her hips against his, making him shaky, making him want to go too fast. He reached down and fitted her more firmly against him, aligning her hips with his, and felt her gasp into his mouth. He thought she might pull away, but she slung her leg over his hip instead, pulling him even closer. For a second, he thought he might pass out.
“Jace,” she whispered. She kissed his neck, his collarbone. His hands were on her waist, moving up over her ribcage. Her skin was amazingly soft. She raised herself up as he slipped his hands under her bra, and kissed the star-shaped mark on his shoulder. He was about to ask her if what he was doing was all right when she drew back from him sharply, with an exclamation of surprise. . .