A strange look flashed over Cristina’s face, gone so quickly Emma was sure she’d imagined it. Sometimes Emma was reminded that however much she felt close to Cristina, she didn’t know her—didn’t know her the way she did Jules, the way you knew someone whose every moment you had shared since you were children. What had happened to Cristina in Mexico—whatever had sent her running to Los Angeles and away from her family and friends—was something she’d never spoken of to Emma.
“Well,” said Cristina, “at least you were wise enough to bring me along for moral support to help you through this difficult time.”
Emma poked Cristina with her stele. “I wasn’t planning on dumping Cameron. We were here, and he called, and his face came up on my phone—well, actually a llama came up on my phone because I didn’t have a picture of him so I just used a llama—and the llama made me so angry I just couldn’t help myself.”
“Bad time to be a llama.”
“Is it ever a good time, really?” Emma flipped the stele around and started to ink a Sure-Footedness rune onto her arm. She prided herself on having excellent balance without runes, but up on a roof it was probably a good idea to be safe.
She thought of Julian, far away in England, with a sting at her heart. He would have been pleased she was being careful. He would have said something funny and loving and self-deprecating about it. She missed him horribly, but she supposed that was how it was when you were parabatai, bound together by magic as well as friendship.
She missed all the Blackthorns. She had grown up playing among Julian and his sisters and brothers, lived with them since she was twelve—when she had lost her parents, and Julian, whose mother had already died, had lost his father. From being an only child she had been thrust into a big, loud, noisy, loving family. Not every part of it had been easy, but she adored them, from shy Drusilla to Tiberius, who loved detective stories. They had left at the beginning of the summer to visit their great-aunt in Sussex—the Blackthorn family was originally British. Marjorie, Julian had explained, was nearly a hundred years old and might die at any moment; they had to visit her. It was a moral requirement.
Off they’d gone for two months, all of them except their uncle, the head of the Institute. The shock to Emma’s system had been severe. The Institute had gone from noisy to quiet. Worst of all, when Julian was gone, she felt it, like a constant unease, a low-level pain in her chest.
Dating Cameron had not helped, but Cristina’s arrival had helped immeasurably. It was common for Shadowhunters who reached the age of eighteen to visit foreign Institutes and learn their different customs. Cristina had come to Los Angeles from Mexico City—there was nothing unusual about it, but she’d always had the air of someone running from something. Emma, meanwhile, had been running from loneliness. She and Emma had run directly into each other, and become best friends faster than Emma could have believed possible.
“Diana will be pleased about you dumping Cameron, at least,” said Cristina. “I don’t think she liked him.”
Diana Wrayburn was the Blackthorn family’s tutor. She was extremely smart, extremely stern, and extremely tired of Emma falling asleep in the middle of class because she’d been out the night before.
“Diana just thinks all relationships are a distraction from studying,” Emma said. “Why date when you can learn an extra demonic language? I mean, who wouldn’t want to know how to say ‘Come here often?’ in Purgatic?”
Cristina laughed. “You sound like Jaime. He hated studying.” Emma perked her ears: Cristina rarely spoke of the friends or family in Mexico City she’d left behind. She knew Cristina’s uncle had run the Mexico City Institute until he’d been killed in the Dark War and her mother had taken it over. She knew Cristina’s father had died when she was a child. But not much else. “But not Diego. He loved it. He did extra work for fun.”
“Diego? The perfect guy? The one your mom loves?” Emma began to trace the stele over her skin, the Farsighted rune taking shape on her forearm. The sleeves of her gear were elbow length, the skin below it marked all over with the pale white scars of runes long ago used up.
Cristina reached over and took the stele from Emma. “Here. Let me do that.” She continued the Farsighted rune. Cristina had a gorgeous hand with runes, careful and precise. “I don’t want to talk about Perfect Diego,” Cristina said. “My mother talks about him enough. Can I ask you about something else?”
Emma nodded. The pressure of the stele against her skin was familiar, almost pleasant.
“I know you wanted to come here because Johnny Rook told you that there have been bodies found with writing on them, and he thinks one will turn up here tonight.”