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Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
Author:Cassandra Clare

Kit nodded and ducked out of the booth, glad to get away. Any errand was an excuse to wander. He passed a stand laden with white flowers that gave off a dark, sweet, poisonous aroma, and another where a group of people in expensive suits were passing out pamphlets in front of a sign that said PART SUPERNATURAL? YOU’RE NOT ALONE. THE FOLLOWERS OF THE GUARDIAN WANT YOU TO SIGN UP FOR THE LOTTERY OF FAVOR! LET LUCK INTO YOUR LIFE!

A red-lipped, dark-haired woman tried to thrust a pamphlet into his hands. When Kit didn’t take it, she cast a sultry glance past him, toward Johnny, who grinned. Kit rolled his eyes—there were a million little cults that sprang up around worshipping some minor demon or angel. Nothing ever seemed to come of them.

Tracking down one of his favorite stands, Kit bought a cup of red-dyed shaved ice that tasted like passion fruit and raspberries and cream all mashed up together. He tried to be careful who he bought from—there were candies and drinks at the Market that could wreck your whole life—but no one was going to take any risks with Johnny Rook’s son. Johnny Rook knew something about everyone. Cross him and you were liable to find your secrets weren’t secret anymore.

Kit circled back around to the witch with the charmed jewelry. She didn’t have a stall; she was, as usual, sitting on a printed sarong, the kind of cheap, bright cloth you could buy on Venice Beach. She looked up as he drew closer.

“Hey, Wren,” he said. He doubted it was her real name, but it was what everyone at the Market called her.

“Hey, pretty boy.” She moved aside to make room for him, her bracelets and anklets jingling. “What brings you to my humble abode?”

He slid down beside her on the ground. His jeans were worn, holes in the knees. He wished he could keep the cash his father had given him to buy himself a few new clothes. “Dad needed me to break two fifties.”

“Shh.” She waved a hand at him. “There are people here who’d cut your throat for two fifties and sell your blood as dragon fire.”

“Not me,” Kit said confidently. “No one here would touch me.” He leaned back. “Unless I wanted them to.”

“And here I thought I was all out of shameless flirting charms.”

“I am your shameless flirting charm.” He smiled at two people walking by: a tall, good-looking boy with a streak of white in his dark hair and a brunette girl whose eyes were shaded by sunglasses. They ignored him. But Wren perked up at the sight of the two Market-goers behind them: a burly man and a woman with brown hair hanging in a rope down her back.

“Protection charms?” Wren said winningly. “Guaranteed to keep you safe. I’ve got gold and brass too, not just silver.”

The woman bought a ring with a moonstone in it and moved on, chattering to her partner. “How’d you know they were werewolves?” Kit asked.

“The look in her eye,” said Wren. “Werewolves are impulse buyers. And their glances skip right over anything silver.” She sighed. “I’m doing a bang-up business in protection charms since those murders started up.”

“What murders?”

Wren made a face. “Some kind of crazy magic thing. Dead bodies turning up all covered in demon languages. Burned, drowned, hands chopped off—all sorts of rumors. How have you not heard about it? Don’t you pay attention to gossip?”

“No,” Kit said. “Not really.” He was watching the werewolf couple as they made their way toward the north end of the Market, where the lycanthropes tended to gather to buy whatever it was they needed—tableware made out of wood and iron, wolfsbane, tear-away pants (he hoped).

Even though the Market was meant to be a place where Downworlders mingled, they tended to group together by type. There was the area where vampires gathered to buy flavored blood or seek out new subjugates from among those who’d lost their masters. There were the vine-and-flower pavilions where faeries drifted, trading charms and whispering fortunes. They kept back from the rest of the Market, forbidden to do business like the others. Warlocks, rare and feared, occupied stalls at the very end of the Market. Every warlock bore a mark proclaiming their demonic heritage: some had tails, some wings or curling horns. Kit had once glimpsed a warlock woman who had been entirely blue-skinned, like a fish.

Then there were those with the Sight, like Kit and his father, ordinary folk gifted with the ability to see the Shadow World, to pierce through glamours. Wren was one of them: a self-taught witch who’d paid a warlock for a course of training in basic spells, but she kept a low profile. Humans weren’t supposed to practice magic, but there was a thriving underground trade in teaching it. You could make good money, provided you weren’t caught by the—

“Shadowhunters,” Wren said.

“How did you know I was thinking about them?”

“Because they’re right over there. Two of them.” She jerked her chin to the right, her eyes bright with alarm.