“Cordelia, what is wrong? You haven’t come to train with me in days, and the day you do come you take me to the library and just pace.” Lucie asked in a worried tone.
Sure enough, her friend was biting as her nails as she paced back and forth. Cortana was swung on her back and gleamed when the light coming through the windows caught at it. “It’s all too much, Lucie. With the wedding and Belial still out there.”
Lucie sighed. “Cordy, weddings are always stressful to plan. Even if they aren’t necessarily real. But I am here for you and can help you in any way possible?”
“You can’t help me with this. I wish you could. But my problem is all onto myself, and the only person who can solve it will not. Where should we go for our travel year?” She asked, suddenly changed the subject.
Her friend was surprised at this, giving her an odd look. “I was thinking somewhere in America maybe. Possibly the New York Institute to see where my mam grew up. We would have to factor in where James wants to go.”
“Must we bring James?” Cordelia nearly whispered.
“What could you mean by that, Cordelia? Of course, we’ll have to bring James. He will be your husband at that point. The scandals that would arise if you were to travel apart would be much worse than the one you would have faced if he hadn’t proposed to you.” Lucie answered as her mind tried to connect the dots of what Cordelia was saying. “If it’s the wedding planning that’s got you so tense, maybe you should take a break from it for a couple of days.”
Cordelia groaned and stopped. “It’s not the wedding planning! It’s who I’m getting married to!”
Lucie’s jaw dropped. “James is still your friend; it can’t be that terrible.”
“It won’t just be terrible, it will be…impossible! How am I supposed to married to the man that I have loved since I was eleven when he doesn’t feel the same way for me? How am I supposed to sleep next to him every night, knowing that he would rather be in the arms of another woman? It is so humiliating and frustrating because I have everything I have ever wanted, and it’s just so…far away.” Cordelia’s voice choked at the end, her legs giving way under her. Lucie immediately went to her and cradled her in her arms.
“I’m so sorry, Cordy.” She whispered to her. How could it have not been clearer before? The only time she had seen her friend smile so broadly was when James entered a room. At the same time, the only time she had seen her so depressed was when James and Grace were in the same room. “Maybe you can ask him to call off the wedding if it will hurt you so.”
Cordelia shook her head in Lucie’s arms. “I can’t do that, then I will have to tell him why. At least this way he will still talk to me and be my friend. If I were to tell him, he would never be able to look at me again.”
“He wouldn’t do that. My brother may be a dimwit sometimes, but he would never do that to a friend. I only wish he would stop lusting after Grace when they’re both engaged to other people.” This only made Cordelia cry more.
She was finally able to stand up and run her handkerchief under her nose. “I’m sorry, Lucie, but I think I need to go home. Even being here is a risk I cannot take.” Lucie nodded and let her go out of the library, her sniffles following behind her.
When Cordelia opened the door to the library, her eyes were still red but the tears now mostly remained in her eyes. She couldn’t believe that she had lost it in front of Lucie. That would only make it even harder on her parabatai to see her brother and best friend be in a fake relationship together.
“Cordelia!” An all too familiar voice cried from behind her. Her heart immediately stopped as she heard his footsteps behind her. Instead of turning around, however, she ran.
She had no idea what she was thinking, but she ran. Her stele was soon in her hand, drawing a glamour on so the people of London wouldn’t be able to question a girl with a sword on her back running from a tattooed man.
Her feet took her away from the institute, running along the streets in a furry of skirts and desperation. She didn’t even know if James was still behind her by the time she stopped at the Blackfriars Bridge.
The clouds above her seemed on the verge of ran, but she didn’t care as she brought her hands to the railing and took deep breaths. The metal was cool against her fingers and she let herself close her eyes to calm down. Later, she would have to deal with explaining the incident to James. But she didn’t want to think of that. Her eyes looked down at the moving water below, ripples forming as small droplets of rain began to sprinkle down.
James stood outside of Magnus’s flat, the paper bag wrinkled in his hands. He didn’t know why his father couldn’t deliver the object himself, but he knew better than to question Will Herondale on needing something done. Usually, he would just call Jem if something needed to be looked at. It was an occasion if it was Magnus.
“Hello there,” the warlock greeted when he finally opened the door. “Come to ask me for advice?”
The Herondale boy gave a confused look. “Um, no.”
“Huh, that’s odd. Usually that’s the only reason you Herondales ever come to see me. Anyway, what did you need?” Magnus asked slightly more annoyed as he filled a glass tumbler with some form of alcohol.
James held up the bag. “My father wanted you to have a look at this. He sent me to drop it off.”
Magnus nodded and picked up the bag, looking inside at its contents. “Oh, dear. And would you like to stay and give him the information?”
“No, he said a letter would suffice. Is it something important?” James asked as Magnus pulled out the hard rock-like substance.
“I have no idea. But we shall see. Would you like anything to drink before you go?” He asked and looked up at James who shook his head.
“I’m fine, actually I was just heading to lunch with a friend.” James answered. Magnus was looking at him strangely now. His eyes had caught on something.
With a bite of his lip, he asked, “Is it the same friend that gave you that bracelet?”
James looked down at the dangling piece of silver. He smiled slightly at the thought of Grace, “Yes, they are.”
Magnus took a hesitant step closer. “You wouldn’t mind me taking a look at it? I have never seen such beautiful silver.” James shrugged and held out his arm to Magnus. He looked at it for a moment, smoothing his fingers across it.
Then, it a second, the warlock was muttering something and wiggling his fingers. James was about to pull away when a sharp pain cut through his hand, causing him to fall to the ground. The world went black for a moment, so much that he feared he was slipping into the shadow realm again.
Only, he came to still in Magnus’s flat. Magnus was holding the cut bracelet now, holding it delicately. “Who gave this to you?”
“What? What did you do?” James winced as the ringing in his ears began to fade. “It was Grace.”
“Grace Blackthorn.” Magnus muttered. “That makes sense. I’m surprised your friends never noticed it earlier, but this magic can be powerful.”
James managed to stand up, even though his entire body suddenly felt sore. “What do you mean by magic? I got that when I was eleven.”
“This type can last for years. Grace or whoever gave this to her put a curse on it. More specifically, a love curse. It is possible Tatianna did this to try and ruin you. She hates your family with a burning passion.”
Magnus turned around and looked at him with pitiful eyes. “This bracelet made you think that you were in love with Grace. Was there ever a time when she took it back?”
He nodded. “Yeah, when she got engaged to Charles. That night I…” James paused and looked around the room like he had just been transported. “Cordelia. Where’s Cordelia?”
“I do not know. But I do suggest you go to her. This bracelet has locked away a great deal of your feelings, and I fear the damage may already have been done.”
James looked at him and nodded in thanks before leaving the flat. The carriage ride felt too slow. The world of London was milling about around him, but he felt like everything was silent. One word rang in his brain as he approached the institute. Cordelia.
He couldn’t go up the stairs quick enough nor go through each room he thought she would be in. James worried that she wasn’t even at the institute; Lucie had said that she hadn’t been to train in a couple of days.
Finally, he had checked all the common rooms that his sister and her parabatai typically spent their time in and made his way to the library. He felt like he hadn’t seen her in years, so when he did =, he couldn’t stop himself from shouting her name.
Except she didn’t even look at him. Instead, she took off out of the institute. He tried running after he but stopped when he saw his sister in the library she had just left. “Lucie, what’s wrong with Cordelia?”
She only looked back at him with sad eyes. “You should know by now, James.”
And so he ran out of the room, following after Cordelia like he should have done in the first place. The streets were filled with people, but he caught a glimpse of her dark red hair that was beautifully paired with her tan skin. He wondered to himself how he could have ever thought himself in love with Grace when Cordelia was right there.
He was able to keep up with her until the street before Blackfriars Bridge. Carriages were going to and fro across the street, blinding James’s view. When he was finally able to cross, the sidewalk was empty of anyone even resembling Cordelia. Figuring he was defeated, his feet took him to the bridge.
For the first time in months, he felt a true ache in his heart. It felt like it had been battered for months, the pain only reverberating in him now.
And then he saw her. She was gripping the railing with white knuckles, chest falling up and down. Her eyes stared out into the river with a look of despair. James felt his heart break as he looked at her. He could tell she was crying, eyes still red from the fact. Somewhere in him, he knew she was crying because of him. There was something familiar in her countenance, a despair he had known of.
He must have been standing for too long, for she turned suddenly and looked at him with horror in her eyes. “James,” she breathed. Her feet were already taking a few steps back as he tried to approach her.
“Did Lucie tell you anything?” She asked quietly and folded her arms against herself like extra armor.
He shook his head at this, yearning to reach out and hold her. Tell her that he loved her and everything was alright now. But it was never that simple. “I’m sorry, Daisy. I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but I fear I have hurt you more than I ever wished to.”
Cordelia looked at him with slight confusion. “Please, James, I’m sorry for running from you. It was childish of me, but if you only knew what I had just talked to Lucie about—”
“That’s the thing. I think I do know.” He continued when he saw her anxious eyes. “Earlier this afternoon, my father sent me to deliver something to Magnus. When I was there, he made me realize the influence Grace had over me. More specifically, he made me realize why she had such a powerful one.”
Wordlessly, he held up his left wrist that had beforehand always been decorated with a band of silver. Cordelia knew it had been from Grace, but she never wanted to bring it up for the certainty it brought with it. That bracelet had been a blaring symbol that James wasn’t hers and he never would be.
But that symbol was gone.
“How?” She managed to ask, stepping towards him, and taking his outstretched arm. Her fingers ran over the skin of his wrist, a clear scar evidently running around the circumference of it.
James tried not to tense when she touched him. Tried not to breath in her scent too heavily or else he fall victim to his own urges. “Magnus was suspicious of it and took it off of me. Apparently, there was a love spell on it.” Cordelia’s eyes met his. “He didn’t know entirely why, but Magnus guessed it probably had something to do with her mother.”
“That’s horrible. Was it hurting you?” Cordelia asked, her caring instinct taking over. Her hands were even stroking his absentmindedly.
“It hurt when he used magic to cut it off, but not when I was wearing it. I guess it made me feel…numb.” He described, taking in her beautiful eyes and skin from up close.
She nodded and looked down to see his hand in hers, immediately dropping it like she had forgotten she was doing it. Her face was torn, eyebrows set while her teeth chewed at her lip. James watched as she turned away from him, walking next to the railing. “So, you never truly loved her?”
“I did not.” James answered simply.
Cordelia turned around, tears fresh in her eyes. “James, I don’t know how else to say this, but I don’t think we can get married.”
“What?” He nearly shouted, taking abrupt steps toward her. She stood her ground, hugging herself once again.
“It’s hard to explain, but I don’t think I can survive this. It will ruin what’s left of me.” Her breaths were shaky as her eyes tried to meet his and failed.
James felt like his entire world was crumpling around him. She must be in love with someone else. How could he have been so wrong? He had come here, expecting to tell her everything he had felt and—
“Before you go any further, Cordelia, you should know. When Magnus took the bracelet off of me, it felt like I could see thousands of new colors again. Like the world had been in black and white for so long. Do you want to know the only other time I felt that way?” She raised her eyes once again to look at him. “In the Whispering Room. When I was with you. The day we beat Belial. It all felt so real, and I realized it was because the bracelet wasn’t there then. There was just you and me.”
“James, please do not go any further if you will just take it back tomorrow like you did before. My heart has been broken everyday by you, and I do not want to risk it happening again.” Cordelia whispered to him, hands tightening on herself.
He looked at her with all the love he knew he could feel. Everyday, he had seen his parents act ridiculous with each other. Now, he wanted to act that way with Cordelia. Every day. For the rest of their lives. “I love you, Cordelia. I have even when I wasn’t myself. In the back of my mind, you were always there. You are what always brings me back from the shadows. I am nothing if not yours. I always have been and always will be. Because I love you more than a writer loves their stories.”
Cordelia seemed to be searching his face for something. Her eyes dancing across his features as if trying to memorize every line and crease. Then she did the most perfect thing James had ever seen. She smiled. “I have waited since I was eleven for you to say that. Forgive me for being hesitant to accept it. I think it is the natural response when someone tells you that you can have the one thing you have always longed for.”
James chuckled with relief. “So, you love me?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, James Herondale, I am in love with you and always will be. I was always so scared when you would say that Herondales love but once. Now, I feel like it is true to me as well. There is no one else I rather be with for the rest of my life.”
“We can still get married then? I was going to say that the cost of explaining myself to my father would be much worse than any deposit we still would have to pay.” He joked with her, earning another laugh.
“We can still get married. Frankly, I would be worried if you said all of that and still thought we should go through the courting stages.” Cordelia answered, taking his hand in hers.
James smiled at her, forgetting any words he was going to say. “Wait, do you have a glamour on?”
She seemed to think for a second before her eyes widened. “Oh, yes I do.” Her hands immediately found her stele and drew one onto James’s exposed wrist. “That explains the looks you were getting. Maybe—”
Only she couldn’t finish. Before she could even put her stele away, James was grabbing her face and somehow gently putting his lips against hers. She inhaled sharply as her hands settled on his toned arms. A thousand explosions went off within him, all telling him that what he was doing was right.
His hands moved to her waist, picking the stele from her hands, and slipping it back into her hidden pocket. Now free, her arms wrapped around his neck. They pulled him closer till he felt like they were about to topple onto the ground.
Reluctantly, he pulled away and let Cordelia catch her breath. She was smiling like an idiot, gazing up at him with an affectionate gleam in her eyes. “Here I thought the Whispering Room was just a rouse.”
“It wasn’t for me. Did you really think it was?” James asked.
“I could never be fake with you. I thought that you meant it only as a distraction.” She said, hand clasping his and leading him away from the bridge.
James took a moment to look at her. An hour ago, he felt like he would rather die then never be able to touch her wonderfully dark skin again. Now, all he wanted to do was touch her. If they hadn’t been on a bridge, he would have lost control like he did in the Whispering Room.
“What are you looking at?” Cordelia turned to him.
He felt wonderful at not having to pretend he wasn’t. “I was just admiring my gorgeous fiancée.”
She smirked at that. “Better get used to it, I have a feeling you’re going to be seeing this face a lot.”