The Bane estate was truly impressive. Jace’s only experience with an estate this size had been his father’s own. While the Morgenstern estate had been in ancient disrepair, the Bane estate shone like a beacon in the night. The Lightwoods and Jace, having arrived a bit late, were forced to join a line of carriages winding its way to the beautiful manor. The slow stop and go offered ample time for Jace to gape and gasp to himself like a child, completely charmed by the festive decor of the grounds. Alec seemed greatly amused by his reactions, hiding what Jace was sure was a smile behind his gloved hand. Jace couldn’t find it within himself to be embarrassed. He had very little experience with Society, having been isolated by his father and he had been too young to enjoy parties and dinners of the like when he resided with the Lightwoods.
“Is every party like this?”
Alec scoffed and Maryse shook her head, fanning herself in the humid air left by the storm.
“No, dear. Alpha Bane is truly a gifted host! There is a reason this party is the event of the season. I believe the invitation called it ‘A Night of Fire and Temptation’. It sounds sure to get the traditionalist talking.”
Jace smiled softly and turned to take in the grounds once more, marveling at the sight. Either side of the drive was lined with torches that brightly burned an iridescent red, casting an eerie glow upon the carriages. Ahead, Jace could see the ballroom entrance was draped in black cloth that caught the red glow of the torchlight, making the darkness seem to dance at a distance. Guests descended from their carriages and disappeared into the darkness of the ballroom, venturing into the unknown. The effect was mesmerizing and foreboding. He turned back to his companions and caught Alec gazing at him, his gloved hand still covering his mouth.
“How are the torches glowing red?”
Alec went to respond but Maryse cut him off.
“Oh, the gossips say that Alpha Bane practices magic! It’s almost believable after experiencing his lovely parties and why ruin the fun. Although, I’m sure Alec can tell you all the boring details, he’s been here almost every day for months. Helping prepare, you said?”
Alec cleared his throat and turned his gaze back to the window.
“Yes, I was helping Magnus with the party preparations, mother. It’s quite fascinating...his technique.”
Jace watched a small, sly smile appear on Alec’s face and his ginger scent turned spicy, a burnt undertone that reached out and wrapped around Jace, making him flush, feeling hot. Alec’s eyes cut quickly to Jace, his gaze predatory and Jace ducked his head, mortified by his response. Arousal simmered in his belly and confusion clouded his thoughts. Before he could think further, Maryse cleared her throat loudly and cracked open the carriage window, continuing to fan herself, her eyes wide.
“Oh, good, we are next in line!”
Jace was thankful for the escape, clamoring from the carriage and gripping the offered hand of the coachman tightly. He paced away, taking deep breaths and pretending to admire the decor. By the Angel, Alec’s arousal had affected Jace so quickly, Jace had never smelled anything so delectable and Alec had known. He glanced over his shoulder, watching Alec leave the carriage in front of his mother, offering his own hand to her. His face was blank, no evidence that what had just happened in the carriage had any effect on him. Jace took another long, deep breath and made his way back to them, avoiding looking to Alec and wishing desperately that he could hide away his scent before it betrayed all of his secrets. Maryse smiled at him softly and waved Alec on, winding her arm with Jace’s and leaning in to speak lowly to him.
“Don’t be too distraught, Jace. You’re nearing your heat, yes?”
Jace blushed and glanced ahead at Alec, checking that he was out of hearing range.
“Oh, yes. It’s next month, in fact. Is that a problem?”
Maryse squeezed his arm and snapped her fan open, speaking behind it.
“Of course not, dear. It’s quite ideal, actually. Your scent will be more alluring to suitors and the promise of a heat so close to the honeymoon is exciting for all involved.”
Jace was sure his face was completely red and he was slightly appalled to be speaking so openly about this in public. Was this what omegas usually whispered to each other behind their beaded fans as they gazed, slit-eyed at alphas? It made Jace uncomfortable.
He was surprised when Maryse’s grip on his arm became painful and her smile was tight as she turned her head to him. She pulled him into an alcove as soon as they entered the ballroom, turning her head to check for interlopers. They were much more secluded here and Jace would have relaxed save for the harsh hand on his arm. Maryse met his confused gaze and the red torchlight made her dark eyes seem almost demonic. She pursed her lips and frowned, leaning impossibly closer, looming over him.
“I take great pleasure in helping you secure a husband, my dear, but I ask you to tread carefully around my son.”
Jace tried to lean back but the wall behind him made space between them impossible. What was Maryse trying to say? She continued before he could question her odd behavior.
“It’s quite easy for a scent bond to form so close to a heat and I ask that you allow more space between Alec and yourself. What happened in the carriage can’t happen again. It’s too dangerous.”
Jace stared at her in shock, his mouth opened but he stayed silent, unsure of what to say. He had assumed that Maryse would disapprove of a mating between he and Alec but to hear it from her lips, to know that a woman who was more mother than his own saw him as inferior...it made Jace nauseous. Her face softened and she brushed her fingers over his cheek.
“Forgive me, Jace. I love you but I also can’t let anything happen to jeopardize Alec’s future. He has made some influential friends, Alpha Bane among them. He has many promising prospects for an omega mate and they don’t include you.”
Jace felt numb but he forced himself to take her hand, squeezing it and he tried to smile. It felt wrong and too tight on his face.
“Of course, Maryse. I...understand. I’ve done nothing to attract Alec to me, you have to believe me.”
Maryse stepped back, keeping a hold on his hand and she smiled softly. The smile didn’t reach her eyes.
“I know, Jace. I’m so proud of the man you’ve become and I’ll always see you as a son. I promise I will do everything I can to see you properly settled.”
She stressed the ‘properly’ and Jace valiantly fought to not be sick all over her soft, expensive shoes. He gave her another tight smile and she drew him out of the alcove and into the guests flowing into the ballroom.
Jace was thankful when the press of the crowd separated him from Maryse, her perfectly coiffed hair was swallowed up by the press of immaculately dressed nobles. He slowed his pace, following the path of those around him mindlessly. He felt as if Maryse had reached inside his chest and viciously removed his heart. Surely, even that would hurt less than her words. Was he cursed to have no real allies in his life? He fisted his hands, pressing his nails harshly into his palms.
No, Maryse was an ally but nothing more. He had been greedy to expect more from her. Jace had always felt like an outsider when he was a ward to the Lightwoods, even in the face of their love and protection. He believed Maryse when she promised to help him secure a stable future, a good husband to give him the family he dreamed of. Now he knew what he had always suspected, Maryse would put her own children, her real children, before Jace. He should be thankful for her sponsorship this season and do as she bade; keep away from Alec. It would do him good to put his useless pining to bed, bury his childhood love deep and never revisit it.
He felt greatly calmed and he forced himself out of his thoughts, looking around the ballroom for the first time, taking in the decadent decor. The ballroom had a high vaulted ceiling held up by massive corinthian pillars. Jace craned his head, following a pillar near him up and gasped at the beautiful mural on the ceiling, depicting a lush meadow filled with all sorts of magical creatures, frolicking and dancing.
Red, black and gold stood out against the pure white walls, jewels glinted in the bright glow of candles and gas lamps, tables sat heavy with sumptuous food and drink. The guests around him were graceful and confident, speaking in cultured tones and laughing politely, the din was tempered by the soft swell of music from the orchestra. It was truly a sight to behold and Jace had never felt more out of place in his out of fashion ensemble and awkward body language.
“How are you enjoying my party aesthetics, young lord? I must warn you, I take ill to criticism.”
Jace was startled by the low toned, silky voice beside him and he turned sharply to face the man. The man’s eyes had a charming glint and his grin was mischievous. His dark eyes were lined with black kohl and his eyelids had eye paint that glittered as he moved, catching the light just right. At Jace’s continued silence, his grin grew wider and the clear salve on his lips drew Jace’s admiring eye.
The man hummed, executed a courtly bow and Jace took a deep breath as he watched the black robes he wore shift and pull tight over his muscled chest. The movement brought the scent of the man to Jace’s sensitive nose and he grew lightheaded with a sudden longing to draw nearer, hide his face in the man’s long neck. Orange blossoms, cloves and the faintest hint of cinnamon, decadent and soothing all at once.
The man was an alpha, small for one just as Jace was too large for an omega. The thought was comforting, he was a kindred soul, perhaps. The alpha reached for Jace slowly, keeping his gaze and took his hand, bringing it to his lips and pressing a gentle kiss to the back of his largest knuckle. His hands were warm and long fingered, gentle but firm. Jace felt as if a feather could have felled him, so shocked was he by the alpha’s actions, not used to a kind touch.
“Alpha Magnus Bane, at your service. May I have your name, my dear?”
Jace cut himself off, realizing that this was indeed the host of the party, the man that Maryse had touted as Society’s darling. Jace scanned the crowd around them in a rush, desperate to locate Maryse. Should he be meeting Alpha Bane without Maryse’s introduction? It didn’t seem proper, an unmated alpha and omega meeting without Jace’s sponsor. Jace was sure to bungle this. Bane chuckled and stood again, letting go of Jace’s hand and his fingers felt cold at the loss. Bane brought his hand up to stroke his own face, humming.
“Is that short for Jonathan? What a lovely name for such a jewel.”
Jace choked on his next words, blushing at the breezy compliment and Bane gave an airy laugh, pulling a peacock fan from his robe and snapping it open with a graceful flourish. He fluttered it at Jace, fanning his face and Jace felt his hair lift and settle with each pass.
“My goodness, Jonathan, take a breath, omega! That’s it, another deep breath. What a lamb you are. How have you wandered into the wolf’s den?”
Jace followed his directions, taking a breath and calming down. He was making a horrible first impression on the man meant to welcome him into society and pave the road for his future. Jace felt foolish and lost, truly he was the lamb Bane had called him. He closed his eyes, enjoying the cool wind generated by Bane’s fan and forced himself to calm, breathing deep of the alpha’s intoxicating scent. He met Bane’s gaze again and smiled crookedly, widening his eyes to look more innocent. He could do this, he could be the lamb and dance with the wolf. Bane’s amused smile softened at Jace’s wide eyed, humiliated look and Jace cheered internally. He could salvage this.
“Forgive me, Alpha Bane. I am new to Idris Society and was so charmed by your… aesthetics, you called them, that I lost all sense. It is truly beautiful, my lord.”
Bane pulled his fan away from Jace and covered the lower half of his face with it, fluttering his eyes. Jace laughed at the exaggerated flirtation, his shoulders relaxing.
“How charming, young sir. I truly believe your compliments to be sincere. I’m touched! And, please, call me Magnus or Alpha Magnus, if you must. My father was Alpha Bane and I’d like to avoid the remembrance of him.”
Magnus paused, his mouth open, seeming as shocked as Jace was at the revealing statement. Jace placed a hand over his own heart.
“I understand, my lord, truly. I avoid remembrance of my father, as well. I prefer Omega Jace...or Jonathan, I suppose.”
Magnus’ shoulders relaxed and his smile returned.
“I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t catch your family name?”
Jace winced and cursed his awkwardness again. He opened his mouth to respond but Alec came to Magnus’ side, melting from the flickering shadows to lay a hand between Magnus’ shoulders and frown at Jace. His ginger and parchment scent was cloying, pressing heavily against Jace’s nose. Magnus turned his head to give Alec a soft smile.
“It’s Morgenstern, Magnus. Jace Morgenstern.”
Magnus turned back to Jace, his eyebrows raised in surprise. His face turned blank in an instant, his warm eyes cooling and his posture stiff. He ran a lazy hand through his hair and smiled politely at Jace.
“I see, well met, Omega Morgen-”
Magnus cut himself off and bit his lip. He pitched his voice to carry, speaking loudly so that those around them could hear.
“Omega Jace. I welcome you with open arms. Please, enjoy yourself and make many new friends!”
The crowd around them began to murmur and Magnus said in a lower tone.
“Please, excuse me Omega Jace, I have many more guests to greet. A host’s work is never done!”
He left in a swirl of black robes, taking all the warmth with him. Alec lingered, frowning still.
“You should find mother. She’s been looking for you.”
Jace nodded, feeling dazed at the abrupt change in Magnus’ demeanor.
“I will, thank you, Alpha Lightwood.”
Alec nodded stiffly back and left, going to stand by Magnus’ side again. Jace watched Magnus talk animatedly to another guest while Alec looked on indulgently, breathing deeply of their lingering, entwined scents. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom, like his favorite tea, the underlying smell of old books. It smelled like a lazy Sunday afternoon in the parlor by the fire, a morning spent reading in bed. Like home.
A throat cleared behind him.
“Uh, excuse me, Omega Jace?”
Jace turned to face a young omega man, dark haired and unusually lovely. He wore stylish dark green robes with feather accents and his earrings glinted as he swayed. He stood wringing his hands, shifting nervously and offering a large smile that turned into a grimace. He opened his mouth to speak but paused shifting again and bit his lip. Jace smirked, amused.
“I’m surprised to see someone here more awkward than I. Is there an rodent under your shirt, making you dance in place so?”
The young man’s mouth fell open and he dropped his hands to his side, clearly taken by surprise. Jace cursed himself silently. It wasn’t a good idea to alienate the first brave soul to approach him. The man laughed suddenly, holding his stomach, his whole demeanor relaxing.
“By the Angel! I was so afraid you would be as stuffy as the rest of these....others. Let me say, this is such a relief. I’m Omega Simon Lewis soon to be Simon Fray.”
A wistful look came over Simon’s face as he trailed off, no doubt day dreaming of his future spouse. Jace pursed his lips together, reluctantly charmed by the strange omega and trying not to laugh at his new acquaintance. He took Simon’s hand, still hanging by his side and shook it firmly, giving him a reproachful look. Jace had a feeling Simon would keep his mind in the clouds permanently without interruption.
“Good to meet you, Omega Simon. Congratulations on your engagement. Would you show me to the refreshments?”
Simon’s gaze snapped to Jace’s face and he blushed, embarrassed before squeezing Jace’s hand tightly and pumping it up and down enthusiastically. Jace’s shoulders shook as he suppressed laughter. What a lovable idiot.
“Yes, I would be honored! I was hoping we could spend some time together tonight, being the only omega men in attendance. Of course, I have a fiancee, Alpha Clary Fray…”
Simon began leading Jace to the tables and Jace glanced over at his companion when he trailed off. That dreamy look was on his face and Jace sighed, he had a feeling this was going to be a regular occurrence. He laid a hand on Simon’s shoulder and steered him around a large gentleman before they could collide. Simon laughed weakly and linked their arms.
“Forgive me, Jace. I am still soaking in my good fortune! I have loved Clary since we were children, pining after her and dreaming of being her omega. Her family disapproves, you see. My father was a physician to Clary’s family, that’s how we met as children. Her family believes she could do better and I agree. Lucky for me Clary is steadfast in her love for me and we are to be wed this autumn. Her family dotes on her and she usually gets what she wants.”
Simon finished by speaking softly out of the corner of his mouth, looking around as if afraid to be overheard by his Alpha. Jace smiled sadly, he couldn’t help but compare his childhood love to Simon’s.
“I am happy for you, my new friend. I hope your luck with love will rub off on me. I hope to attract a suitor tonight.”
Simon gasped and bounced back on his feet, pulling Jace so that he stumbled. He apologized and handed Jace a glass of cold refreshment. Jace sipped at it, enjoying the beverage immensely, taking in Simon’s bright personality. Simon seemed warm and genuine, loyal and full of love. He was a ray of sunshine on Jace’s cold winter day.
“Oh, please, let me introduce you to Clary! She has many available Alpha friends and they are all wonderful, upstanding men and women. She’s so insightful, you see, a wonderful judge of character. Only the best for Clary Fray.”
Jace dipped his head submissively and made sure Simon was looking as he gazed up through his thick eyelashes.
“I can tell.”
Simon choked on his drink and did a fair job of trying to swallow his tongue, eyes wide as he stared at Jace. He stammered inarticulately for a moment.
“Um, you see, you are very handsome, beautiful even. Quite pretty, yes. And forgive me, my friend but my heart belongs to my betrothed completely.”
Jace laughed, throwing his head back, his body leaning sideways. It was nice, teasing Simon. Simon gaped at him, shocked for a moment before he began to chuckle.
“Jace! You are wicked. How can you tease me so?”
Jace leaned forward, wiping a tear from his eye.
“Forgive me, Simon. You are too easy to fool, I couldn’t resist.”
Simon gave a pout, crossing his arms and looking away. Jace placed his hand over his heart and sighed forlornly.
“I see. I understand if you never wish to speak to me again. Goodbye, my friend. I shall never darken your door again!”
Simon yelped and grasped onto Jace’s forearm with both hands, shaking him.
“I was speaking in jest! Please, don’t leave me!”
The nobles around them were silent, staring at their uncouth display and some whispering to each other, some frowning. Simon grimaced and made to let go of Jace, flushing in embarrassment. Jace caught his hand and brought it back to his arm.
“I’m so sorry, Jace. That was too much, I’m such an idiot, embarrassing you like that.”
Jace rolled his eyes, ignoring the crowd and their blatant disapproval.
“I don’t care for their opinions.”
“But you’re looking for suitors-”
Jace pat the hand on his arm softly.
“I won’t change to find a husband. My future spouse will marry me for me. I have no titles, no money, no land, I will do my damndest to marry with my self respect intact. I like you, Simon. I haven’t the faintest idea why, but I do.”
Simon stared at him, wide eyed, awe written across his face. It was Jace’s turn to shift uncomfortably, feeling as if he had shown too much of his inner heart to a stranger. He felt an instant connection to Simon and he found himself wishing fervently that they could be friends. He had never managed to find friends outside of the Lightwoods. Simon’s mouth snapped shut and he smiled widely, eyes crinkling at the edges.
“That has to be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Other than Clary, of course, but she gets her own category. I’m impressed by your fortitude, my friend. Truly, you are amazing.”
Jace shook his head, slightly bemused. He hadn’t been that nice, barely nice even. Simon was strange. Simon started looking around the ballroom, craning his neck, his dark green robes swishing softly. He stopped looking around and fluttered his hand.
“Oh, my. It looks like Clary is busy with some important looking lords. I don’t wish to interrupt her…”
He turned to Jace suddenly, a mischievous glint in his eyes, grinning.
“Dance with me, Jace.”
Jace reeled back, confused by his abrupt change in demeanor.
“Oh, won’t your Alpha be jealous?”
Simon laughed and took the drink from Jace’s hand, knocking the rest of it back and placing it carelessly on the table before them. Jace frowned at him.
“Hey, I wasn’t done-”
Simon interrupted, taking Jace’s hand in his.
“Clary isn’t like that, she knows she’s my one and only goddess.”
He shrugged, tilting his head imperiously.
“And if it gets her attention back on me and away from those stuffy lords, all the better.”
Jace bit his lip, unsure.
“I don’t wish to cause a scandal for you. I mean, two omegas dancing…”
Simon chuckled, smirking and gazing at him slit-eyed, as if they shared a joke.
“Alpha Magnus won’t mind two omegas or even two alphas dancing together, I’m sure. His opinion is all that matters tonight. Now, come, dance with me. Do you know how?”
Jace blushed and ducked his head. His voice was soft.
Simon gave him a large grin and Jace felt himself relax. His father had never allowed frivolous instruction for things like dancing, music or painting. The prospect of dancing with Simon was exhilarating and terrifying. Simon began tugging him into the modestly crowded dance floor, dodging skirts and flying hands. They found an open space and Simon turned, drawing Jace into the circle of his arms.
“Don’t worry, I’ll lead. Clary says I’m an excellent dancer. And I can show you off to potential alphas. How exciting!”
They started slow, not moving much as Simon instructed Jace on the steps to the dance. It was a slow, graceful number and the longer they practiced, the more confident and relaxed Jace became. They weren’t perfect. Jace stumbled more than once and stepped on Simon’s foot three times but Simon laughed everytime Jace made a mistake. Jace found himself laughing along, brushing off his embarrassment and enjoying the moment.
They drew attention, of course, some people frowning and pursing their lips and others shaking their heads and smiling indulgently. Simon was impervious to the attention, secure in his and his alpha’s good reputation and that confidence gave Jace courage. He urged Simon to spin him and laughed as the room whirled around him. They came apart, arms spread in a graceful arch, one hand still connected, smiling at each other. As Simon pulled on his arm to come back together, Jace caught sight Alec and Magnus on the edge of the dance floor, watching them.
Alec was watching them wide eyed, mouth parted and Magnus was smiling, eyes sparkling. He snapped his fan open and whispered to Alec, forcing Alec to bend and listen. The spin back to Simon took his eyes from them and when he was settled back into formation, Jace glanced back to find them gone. The dance ended with an exaggerated flourish that Simon enjoyed and Jace laughed at him as he executed it, making Simon pout.
“That was wonderful, Jace! Thank you for indulging me.”
They bowed to each other, ending the dance and Simon began guiding Jace off the dance floor with a hand between his shoulders.
“I’m glad you asked me to dance, Simon. I was atrocious but you carried me well.”
Simon puffed up at the compliment, smiling widely. A woman approached them at a leisurely pace as they reached the edge of the crowd and Simon swanned towards her and settled into her side as she wrapped an arm around his waist and kissed his cheek.
“My love! Come meet my new friend, Jace! Jace, this is my fiancee, Alpha Clary Fray.”
Clary’s smile was crooked and her eyes sparkled at Simon, full of love, and Jace was instantly smitten by the handsome couple. Jace had never met an alpha woman, they were more rare than omega men. She was much shorter than Jace expected but her alpha presence was overwhelming, as was her scent. She turned calculating eyes to him and Jace was instantly intimidated, he wanted to bend his head to the side and back, submit to her. Her frail stature was at odds with her demeanor, this was a woman of power. Power that could destroy as easily as protect.
After a tense moment, she smiled warmly at him and held out her hand, palm up. Startled, Jace stared a bit too long and blushed when Clary raised an eyebrow, her face clearly showing her amusement at his awkward pause. Jace cleared his throat and reached out, settling his larger hand in hers gently.
“Forgive me, alpha. I was blinded by your beauty and forgot myself. You and your omega make a lovely couple.”
Clary laughed, still holding his hand, looking surprised. She grinned at him, her teeth bright white, calling to Jace’s mind the image of a shark. She bent over his hand, kissing the back of it, keeping his gaze and Jace found himself spellbound.
“How charming you are, Omega Jace. I must thank you for keeping Simon company and providing a wonderful distraction. I was able to leave those boring lords and seek out my love.”
She turned her gaze back to Simon and he blushed as she took his hand and kissed over his engagement ring. Jace wanted to sneer and coo at them, jealous and admiring all at once. Not jealous of them personally, just jealous of their beautiful relationship.
“You must be parched, darling. I’ll get you both some refreshments.”
Simon caught her before she could slip away.
“No, no! Let me go. You are less likely to be pulled away from us if you stay here and speak to Jace. I’ll be only a moment.”
Clary hummed and they watched Simon walk away. A loud, melodious laugh sounded, calling their attention across the room. A small group of well dressed and coiffed nobles stood, laughing and sneering and Jace realized they were openly regarding him. The laugh sounded again, louder this time and he met the dark gaze of a coldly beautiful woman, an omega if her attire was to be believed. She wore a long, flowing red dress and glittering diamonds shone in the lights, gracing her neck, her hair, her dress. Clary scoffed.
“Camille Belcourt, a venomous snake, to be sure. Don’t worry about her, you have Magnus’ favor and he has much more power in Society than her. He’s been burned by her in the past and would go against her in an instant.”
Jace shook his head, unconsciously pulling closer to Clary. They watched Camille speak at length, playing to her adoring crowd. Jace flinched to hear their fake laughs and see their fawning behavior.
“I assume there is a story there, of our host and Camille?”
Clary turned her head back to him, eyes narrowed as she regarded him. Protective, Jace realized, of Magnus. He had no ill will towards Magnus but he widened his eyes anyway, trying to seem innocent. Clary smirked.
“You’re not a very good actor, Jace. Too expressive, too gentle.”
Jace shifted nervously, unsure if he should be offended or relieved. She placed a hand on his arm, stilling him. She smiled.
“It’s a good thing around me, not so much around people like Camille. Just stick close to me, Jace, I’ll protect you.”
Jace straightened his posture and crossed his arms, frowning slightly.
“I’ve dealt with worse than Camille Belcourt, Alpha Clary. I handled it then and I will again if I must.”
Over Clary’s shoulder, Jace was distracted by movement in the group around Camille. They parted to allow a familiar figure through and Jace had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from growling as he glared daggers at Sebastian Verlac. His scent soured and he could feel Clary’s eyes on him but he ignored her, staring at the alpha as he put his arm around Camille, threw a charming smile to the crowd, his eyes sharp, predatory. Camille leaned into his side and ran her fingers along the jagged, ugly scars on his face and neck and Sebastian slapped her hand away, sneering. She pouted but ceased her touches, turning to listen with unconcealed boredom to one of her companions.
“Yes, Camille is just as horrible as Seb, just in a different way. Just as destructive though. I heard you gave him those scars.”
Jace snapped his eyes back to Clary’s, his heart rate jumping.
“Where did you hear that?”
Clary frowned at him, looking confused. She laid a hand on his arm again.
“From Seb himself. Unfortunately, he’s my half brother.”
Jace backed away, shaking his arm to break her soft grip. His voice was hoarse and he had trouble breathing, heart beating impossibly loud in his ears.
Clary was Sebastian’s sister, was she talking to him because of Seb? Clary seemed like a good person, a good alpha but Jace had been wrong before, lured in by soft words and gentle smiles. Jace could see it now, they had similar features, the same smile, the same chin and cheekbones. Had Clary sent Simon to him to lower his defenses with a charming, effusive omega, reel him in with a commanding and gentle Clary and throw him, weakened and vulnerable, to his cruel ex-fiance?
Jace backed away, stiff and watchful and Clary didn’t move, looking at him in concern but seeming well aware that he could bolt at any second. She pitched her voice to be calm and soothing but it only made Jace feel worse, panicked and more distantly, mortified at his behavior. He breathed deeply of her scent but it wasn’t right, it wasn’t what he needed and he panicked even more, confused by his own body. What did he need?
“It’s alright, Jace. Take a deep breath, omega.”
Sebastian had noticed him, could probably smell his distraught scent. It would be familiar to the sadistic alpha. A dark, dangerous look was on Sebastian’s face and he pushed through the crowd, coming straight for him, smiling in that shark-like way that Clary had. Instead of intriguing him, the smile sent him running. He turned, looking frantically around the ballroom, the din of music and conversation growing louder to his over sensitive ears. He had to run, to hide, he couldn’t face Seb here, in front of all these people, with no Maryse, Alec or Magnus to help him, keep him from clawing at Sebastian, ripping his throat out with his teeth to save himself. He couldn’t let Seb corner him again, touch him again, whisper poison in his ears.
There, the open veranda doors, the cool air beckoned him, offering an escape. He ran, ignoring the calls of his name, and didn’t look to see if Sebastian was still giving chase. It would be instinct for Seb, to chase Jace and he hoped that Clary would stop him, that she wasn’t sympathetic to her brothers machinations. He flew through the doorway and down the wide marble steps to the gravel walkway. He followed the walkway to the left, the torches lining it guttering as he disturbed the air with his panicked flight.
Jace paused, hearing no one following him and ducked to the side of the walkway and into the shadows of the woods. He stood motionless, straining all his senses and realized he was alone, no Seb and no other guests. Thunder rumbled distantly, threatening more rain and the moon was obscured by clouds. The wind whipped past him, pulling at his messy hair and he pulled his jacket tighter around him, feeling bone-deep coldness. The rainy summer night was humid, warm but Jace felt chilled through, shaky. He wanted to cry, wanted to curl up in someone’s lap, in their arms and hide from the world, from his past. Jace swallowed his bitter disappointment and stepped back onto the path, following it to a fork and taking the left again.
The woods thinned and large, dark shapes grew nearer, a hedge maze. Jace smiled, thinking of Izzy and her excited talk of Magnus’ maze garden. He headed for the entrance, feeling warmer the further he got from the ballroom. He would lose himself for a while in the maze garden, regale Izzy with descriptions of its beauty and size. He would forget for the next hour the demons, both physical and emotional, pursuing him.