“Ah, excellent,” Valentine said, grinning up at the waitress bringing a tray of drinks. “Here come the martinis.”
Clary met the gaze of the waitress, then looked away, blushing. Simon took her hand under the table and squeezed it.
“How about a dance first?” he suggested, pulling Clary to her feet. “Love this song.”
“Dancing is for you young people,” Valentine said magnanimously. “I see Mr Bane is here tonight; I’ll go and settle a small business matter with him.” He grinned, nastily. “Jocelyn, I’m sure you can amuse yourself in the meantime.”
Clary’s mom paled, but managed a smile and a nod as they all left the table, Valentine lingering to take a last pull of his whisky first.
“Stay focused,” Simon muttered in Clary’s ear as they danced. “We need to keep up appearances at least until you get control of the money.”
“But why did he want to come here?” Clary whispered back furiously. “Does he know?”
Simon frowned. Clary’s flirtation with the local waitress over the past couple of months had been anything but subtle. And it was somewhat suspicious for Valentine to choose Pandemonium for their engagement dinner tonight—he didn’t often patronise his rivals.
Drat, he thought. And everything had been going according to plan so far.
They might have to take more drastic measures.
“I’m sure he doesn’t know,” he lied soothingly, glaring over at Valentine over her shoulder.
Jocelyn leaned against a pillar next to the dance floor in feigned casualness, lighting a cigarette with shaking fingers. “He knows,” she said.
From the other side of the pillar, Lucian’s voice came softly but clearly. “You’re certain?”
“Yes. He all but said as much.”
“What are you going to do?”
Jocelyn swallowed. “I don’t know,” she said.
“That’s the Morgenstern party’s drinks delivered,” Isabelle said. Her brother gave her a look, leaning across the bar.
“I noticed. Behave. And you gave Mr Morgenstern the martini with the longest lemon twist?”
Isabelle stared at him. “No, I thought you were joking.”
“Did I look like I was joking?”
“You never do whether you are or not; that’s the problem.”
“Mr Morgenstern gave me very particular instructions about his martini,” Alec explained. “I basically had to just wave the vermouth bottle near it.”
Isabelle swore. “You could have told me this before! I couldn’t tell any difference!”
She glanced over at the now empty table and sighed in relief. It didn’t look like the party had touched their drinks yet.
“Back in a moment,” she said.
Valentine arrived back at the table just as the song was ending, with Jocelyn following soon after. They sat in icy silence until Clary and Simon arrived, slightly breathless and smiling, and Valentine raised his glass as they sat down.
“So,” he said, “a toast. To the happy couple.”
They all smiled, raised their glasses and drank.
A few seconds later, with a look of complete surprise, Valentine dropped out of his chair.
He was dead within minutes.