"I know. But I don't just sleep," Isabelle said irritably. "With anybody. I don't stay the night usually at all. Like, ever."
"You said you wanted to-"
"Oh, shut up," she said, and kissed him. This was marginally more successful. He'd kissed Isabelle before. He loved the texture of her soft lips, the way his hands felt in her long, dark hair. But as she pressed herself against him, he also felt the warmth of her body, her long bare legs against him, the pulse of her blood-and the snap of his fang teeth as they came out.
He pulled back hastily.
"Now what is it? You don't want to kiss me?"
"I do," he tried to say, but his fangs were in the way. Isabelle's eyes widened.
"Oh, you're hungry," she said. "When was the last time you had any blood?"
"Yesterday," he managed to say, with some difficulty.
She lay back against his pillow. Her eyes were impossibly big and black and lustrous. "Maybe you should feed yourself," she said. "You know what happens if you don't."
"I don't have any blood with me. I'll have to go back to the apartment," Simon said. His fangs had already begun to retract.
Isabelle caught him by the arm. "You don't have to drink cold animal blood. I'm right here."
The shock of her words was like a pulse of energy zipping through his body, setting his nerves on fire. "You're not serious."
"Sure I am." She started to unbutton the shirt she was wearing, baring her throat, her collarbone, the tracery of faint veins visible beneath her pale skin. The shirt fell open. Her blue bra covered a lot more than many bikinis might, but Simon still felt his mouth go dry. Her ruby flashed like a red stoplight below her collarbone. Isabelle. As if reading his mind, she reached up and drew her hair back, draping it over one shoulder, leaving the side of her throat naked. "Don't you want... ?"
He caught her wrist. "Isabelle, don't," he said urgently. "I can't control myself, can't control it. I could hurt you, kill you."
Her eyes shone. "You won't. You can hold yourself back. You did with Jace."
"I'm not attracted to Jace."
"Not even a little?" she said hopefully. "Eensy bit? Because that would be kind of hot. Ah, well. Too bad. Look, attracted or not, you bit him when you were starving and dying, and you still held back."
"I didn't hold back with Maureen. Jordan had to pull me off."
"You would have." She took her finger and pressed it to his lips, then ran it down his throat, across his chest, coming to a stop where his heart had once beat. "I trust you."
"Maybe you shouldn't."
"I'm a Shadowhunter. I can fight you off if I have to."
"Jace didn't fight me off."
"Jace is in love with the idea of dying," said Isabelle. "I'm not." She slung her legs around his hips-she was amazingly flexible-and slid forward until she could brush her lips against his. He wanted to kiss her, wanted it so badly his whole body ached. He opened his mouth tentatively, touched his tongue to hers, and felt a sharp pain. His tongue had slid along the razor edge of his fang. He tasted his own blood and drew back abruptly, turning his face away from her.
"Isabelle, I can't." He closed his eyes. She was warm and soft in his lap, teasing, torturous. His fangs ached painfully; his whole body felt like sharp wires were twisting through his veins. "I don't want you to see me like this."
"Simon." Gently she touched his cheek, turning his face toward her. "This is who you are-"
His fangs had retracted, slowly, but they still ached. He hid his face in his hands and spoke between his fingers. "You can't possibly want this. You can't possibly want me. My own mother threw me out of the house. I bit Maureen-she was only a kid. I mean, look at me, look what I am, where I live, what I do. I'm nothing."
Isabelle stroked his hair lightly. He looked at her between his fingers. Up close he could see that her eyes weren't black but a very dark brown, flecked with gold. He was sure he could see pity in them. He didn't know what he expected her to say. Isabelle used boys and threw them away. Isabelle was beautiful and tough and perfect and didn't need anything. Least of all a vampire who wasn't even very good at being a vampire.
He could feel her breathing. She smelled sweet-blood, mortality, gardenias. "You're not nothing," she said. "Simon. Please. Let me see your face."
Reluctantly he lowered his hands. He could see her more clearly now. She looked soft and lovely in the moonlight, her skin pale and creamy, her hair like a black waterfall. She unlooped her hands from around his neck. "Look at these," she said, touching the white scars of healed Marks that snowflaked her silvery skin-on her throat, on her arms, on the curves of her breasts. "Ugly, aren't they?"
"Nothing about you is ugly, Izzy," said Simon, honestly shocked.
"Girls aren't supposed to be covered in scars," Isabelle said matter-of-factly. "But they don't bother you."
"They're part of you-No, of course they don't bother me."
She touched his lips with her fingers. "Being a vampire is part of you. I didn't ask you to come here last night because I couldn't think of anyone else to ask. I want to be with you, Simon. It scares the hell out of me, but I do."
Her eyes shimmered, and before he could wonder for more than a moment whether it was with tears, he had leaned forward and kissed her. This time it wasn't awkward. This time she leaned into him, and he was suddenly under her, rolling her on top of him. Her long black hair fell down around them both like a curtain. She whispered to him softly as he ran his hands up her back. He could feel her scars under his fingertips, and he wanted to tell her he thought of them as ornaments, testaments to her bravery that only made her more beautiful. But that would have meant stopping kissing her, and he didn't want to do that. She was moaning and moving in his arms; her fingers were in his hair as the two of them rolled sideways, and now she was under him, and his arms were full of the softness and warmth of her, and his mouth with the taste of her, and the scent of her skin, salt and perfume and... blood.
He stiffened again, all over, and Isabelle felt it. She caught hold of his shoulders. She was luminous in the darkness. "Go ahead," she whispered. He could feel her heart, slamming against his chest. "I want you to."
He closed his eyes, pressed his forehead to hers, tried to calm himself. His fangs were back, pushing into his lower lip, hard and painful. "No."
Her long, perfect legs wrapped around him, her ankles locking, holding him to her. "I want you to." Her breasts flattened against his chest as she arched up against him, baring her throat. The scent of her blood was everywhere, all over him, filling the room.
"Aren't you scared?" he whispered.
"Yes. But I still want you to."
He bit her.
His teeth slid, razor-sharp, into the vein at her throat like a knife slicing into the skin of an apple. Blood exploded into his mouth. It was like nothing he had experienced before. With Jace he had been barely alive; with Maureen the guilt had crushed him even as he had drunk from her. He had certainly never had the sense that either of the people he had bitten had liked it.
But Isabelle gasped, her eyes flying open and her body arcing up against him. She purred like a cat, stroking his hair, his back, little urgent movement of her hands saying Don't stop, Don't stop. Heat poured out of her, into him, lighting his body; he had never felt, imagined, anything else like it. He could feel the strong, sure beat of her heat, pounding through her veins into his, and for that moment it was as if he lived again, and his heart contracted with pure elation-
He broke away. He wasn't sure how, but he broke away and rolled onto his back, his fingers digging hard into the mattress at his sides. He was still shuddering as his fangs retracted. The room shimmered all around him, the way things did in the few moments after he drank human, living blood.
"Izzy... ," he whispered. He was afraid to look at her, afraid that now that his teeth were no longer in her throat, she would stare at him with revulsion or horror.
"You didn't stop me," he said. It was half accusation, half hope.
"I didn't want to." He looked at her. She was on her back, her chest rising and falling fast, as if she'd been running. There were two neat puncture wounds in the side of her throat, and two thin lines of blood that ran down her neck to her collarbone. Obeying an instinct that seemed to run deep under the skin, Simon leaned forward and licked the blood from her throat, tasting salt, tasting Isabelle. She shuddered, her fingers fluttering in his hair. "Simon..."
He drew back. She was looking at him with her big dark eyes, very serious, her cheeks flushed. "I..."
"What?" For a wild moment he thought she was going to say 'I love you,' but instead she shook her head, yawned, and hooked her finger through one of the belt loops on his jeans. Her fingers played with the bare skin at his waist.
Somewhere Simon had heard that yawning was a sign of blood loss. He panicked. "Are you okay? Did I drink too much? Do you feel tired? Are-"
She scooted closer to him. "I am fine. You made yourself stop. And I'm a Shadowhunter. We replace blood at triple the rate a normal human being does."
"Did you..." He could barely bring himself to ask. "Did you like it?"
"Yeah." Her voice was husky. "I liked it."
She giggled. "You couldn't tell?"
"I thought maybe you were faking it."
She raised herself up on one elbow and looked down at him with her glowing dark eyes-how could eyes be dark and bright at the same time? "I don't fake things, Simon," she said. "And I don't lie, and I don't pretend."
"You're a heartbreaker, Isabelle Lightwood," he said, as lightly as he could with her blood still running through him like fire. "Jace told Clary once you'd walk all over me in high-heeled boots."
"That was then. You're different now." She eyed him. "You're not scared of me."
He touched her face. "And you're not scared of anything."
"I don't know." Her hair fell forward. "Maybe you'll break my heart." Before he could say anything, she kissed him, and he wondered if she could taste her own blood. "Now shut up. I want to sleep," she said, and she curled up against his side and closed her eyes.
Somehow, now, they fit, where they hadn't before. Nothing was awkward, or poking into him, or banging against his leg. It didn't feel like childhood and sunlight and gentleness. It felt strange and heated and exciting and powerful and... different. Simon lay awake, his eyes on the ceiling, his hand stroking Isabelle's silky black hair absently. He felt like he'd been caught up in a tornado and deposited somewhere very far away, where nothing was familiar. Eventually he turned his head and kissed Izzy, very lightly, on the forehead; she stirred and murmured but didn't open her eyes.
When Clary woke in the morning, Jace was still asleep, curled on his side, his arm outstretched just enough to touch her shoulder. She kissed his cheek and got to her feet. She was about to pad into the bathroom to take a shower when she was overcome by curiosity. She went quietly to the bedroom door and peered out.
The blood on the hallway wall was gone, the plaster unmarked. It was so clean she wondered if the whole thing had been a dream-the blood, the conversation in the kitchen with Sebastian, all of it. She took a step across the corridor, placed her hand against the wall where the bloody handprint had been-
She whirled. It was her brother. He had come out of his room soundlessly and was standing in the middle of the hall, regarding her with a crooked smile. He looked freshly showered; damp, his fair hair was the color of silver, almost metallic.
"You planning to wear that all the time?" he asked, eyeing her nightgown.
"No, I was just..." She didn't want to say she'd been checking to see if there was still blood in the hall. He just looked at her, amused and superior. Clary backed away. "I'm going to get dressed."
He said something after her, but she didn't pause to hear what it was, just darted back into Jace's bedroom and closed the door behind her. A moment later she heard voices in the hallway-Sebastian's again, and a girl's, speaking musical Italian. The girl from last night, she thought. The one he'd said was asleep in his room. It was only then that she realized how much she'd suspected he was lying.
But he'd been telling the truth. I'm giving you a chance, he'd said. Can you give me a chance?
Could she? This was Sebastian they were talking about. She mulled it over feverishly while she showered and dressed carefully. The clothes in the wardrobe, having been selected for Jocelyn, were so far from her usual style that it was hard to choose what to wear. She found a pair of jeans-designer, from the price tag still attached-and a dotted silk shirt with a bow at the neck that had a vintage feel she liked. She threw her own velvet jacket on over it and headed back to Jace's room, but he was gone, and it wasn't hard to guess where. The rattle of dishes, the sound of laughter, and the smell of cooking floated up from downstairs.
She took the glass stairs two at a time, but paused on the bottom step, looking into the kitchen. Sebastian was leaning against the refrigerator, arms crossed, and Jace was making something in a pan that involved onions and eggs. He was barefoot, his hair messy, his shirt buttoned haphazardly, and the sight of him made her heart turn over. She had never seen him like this, first thing in the morning, still with that warm golden aura of sleep clinging to him, and she felt a piercing sadness that all these firsts were happening with a Jace who wasn't really her Jace.
Even if he did look happy, eyes shadow-free, laughing as he flipped the eggs in the pan and slid an omelet onto a plate. Sebastian said something to him, and Jace looked over at Clary and smiled. "Scrambled or fried?"