Magnus woke up with the slow golden light of midday filtering through his window, and his cat sleeping on his head.
Chairman Meow sometimes expressed his affection in this unfortunate way. Magnus gently but very firmly disentangled the cat from his hair, tiny claws doing even more damage as the Chairman was dislodged with a long sad cry of feline discomfort.
Then the cat jumped onto the pillow, apparently fully recovered from his ordeal, and leaped from the bed. He hit the floor with a soft thump and dashed with a rallying cry to the food bowl.
Magnus rolled over in bed so that he was lying across the mattress sideways. The window overlooking his bed was stained glass. Diamonds of gold and green drifted over his sheets, resting warmly against his bare skin. He lifted his head from the pillow he was clutching and then realized what he was doing: searching the air for a trace of the smell of coffee.
It had happened a few times in the last several weeks, Magnus stumbling out into the kitchen toward the rich scent of coffee, pulling on a robe from his wide and varied selection, and finding Alec there. Magnus had bought a coffeemaker because Alec had consistently seemed mildly distressed by Magnus’s magicking-slash-slightly-stealing cups of coffee and tea from The Mudd Truck. The machine was extra bother, but Magnus was glad he had bought it. Alec had to know the coffeemaker was for him and his delicate moral sensibilities, and Alec seemed to feel a sense of comfort around the machine that he felt about nothing else, making coffee without asking if he could, bringing Magnus a cup when he was working. Everywhere else in Magnus’s loft Alec was still careful, touching things as if he had no right to them, as if he were a guest.
And of course he was a guest. It was only that Magnus had an irrational desire for Alec to feel at home in his loft, as if that would mean something, as if that would give Magnus a claim on Alec or indicate that Alec wanted a claim on him. Magnus supposed that was it. He badly wanted Alec to want to be here, and to be happy when he was here.
He could not kidnap the Lightwoods’ eldest born and keep him as a decoration about the house, however. Alec had fallen asleep twice—on the sofa, not the bed. Once after a long slow night of kissing; and once when Alec had come over for a brief coffee, clearly exhausted after a long day of demon-hunting, and he had slid into unconsciousness almost instantly. Magnus had also taken to leaving his front door open, since nobody was going to rob the High Warlock of Brooklyn, and Alec would sometimes come by in the early mornings.
Every time Alec had dropped by—or in the mornings after Alec had fallen asleep there—Magnus had woken to the sounds and smells of Alec’s making him coffee, even though Alec knew that Magnus could magic coffee out of the air. Alec had done it only a few times, had been there for only a handful of mornings. It was not something Magnus should be getting used to.
Of course Alec wasn’t here today, because it was his birthday, and he was going to be with his family. And Magnus wasn’t exactly the kind of boyfriend you could bring to family outings. In fact, speaking of family outings, the Lightwoods didn’t even know Alec had a boyfriend—much less one that was also a warlock—and Magnus had no idea if they ever would. It wasn’t something he pushed Alec about. He could tell by Alec’s carefulness that it was too early.
There was no reason for Magnus to slide out of bed, amble out through the living space into the kitchen space, and picture Alec kneeling at the counter, making coffee and wearing an ugly sweater, his face intent on the simple task. Alec was even conscientious about coffee. And he wears truly awful sweaters, Magnus thought, and was dismayed when the thought brought with it a rush of affection.
It was not the Lightwoods’ fault. They obviously provided Alec’s sister, Isabelle, and Jace Wayland with plenty of money to dress themselves in flattering outfits. Magnus suspected that Alec’s mother bought his clothes, or Alec bought them himself on the basis of pure practicality—Oh, look, how nice; gray won’t show the ichor too much—and then he wore the ugly functional clothes on and on without even seeming to notice that age was fraying them, or wear and tear causing holes.
Against his will, Magnus found a smile curving his lips as he rummaged around for his big blue coffee cup that said BETTER THAN GANDALF across the front in sparkly letters. He was besotted; he was officially revolted by himself.
He might have been besotted, but he had other things to think of besides Alec today. A mundane company had hired him to summon up a cecaelia demon. For the amount of money they were paying, and considering that cecaelia demons were lesser demons who could scarcely cause all that much fuss, Magnus had agreed to not ask questions. He sipped his coffee and contemplated his demon-summoning outfit for the day. Demon summoning was not something Magnus did often, on account of it being technically extremely illegal. Magnus did not have enormous respect for the Law, but if he was breaking it he wanted to look good doing it.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the buzzer. He had not left his door open for Alec today, and he raised his eyebrows at the sound. Ms. Connor was twenty minutes early.
Magnus deeply disliked people who were early to business meetings. It was just as bad as being late, since it put everyone out, and even worse, people who were early always acted terribly superior about their bad timekeeping skills. They acted as though it were morally more righteous to get up early than to stay up late, even if you got the same amount of work done in the exact same amount of time. Magnus found it to be one of the great injustices of life.
It was possible that he was a bit cranky about not getting to finish his coffee before he had to deal with work.
He buzzed in the company representative. Ms. Connor turned out to be a woman in her midthirties whose looks bore out her Irish name. She had thick red hair done up in a twist, and the kind of impenetrable white skin that Magnus was prepared to bet never tanned. She was wearing a boxy but expensive-looking blue suit, and she looked extremely askance at Magnus’s outfit.
This was Magnus’s home, she had arrived early, and Magnus felt entirely within his rights to be dressed in nothing but black silk pajama bottoms decorated with a pattern of tigers and flamingos dancing. He did realize that the pants were sliding down his h*ps a fraction, and pulled them up. He saw Ms. Connor’s disapproving gaze slip down his bare chest and fasten on the smooth brown skin where a belly button should have been. Devil’s mark, his stepfather had called it, but he’d said the same thing about Magnus’s eyes. Magnus was long past caring whether mundanes judged him.
“Caroline Connor,” said the woman. She did not offer a hand. “CFO and vice president of marketing for Sigblad Enterprises.”
“Magnus Bane,” said Magnus. “High Warlock of Brooklyn and Scrabble champion.”
“You come highly recommended. I have heard you are an extremely powerful wizard.”
“Warlock,” said Magnus, “actually.”
“I expected you to be . . .”
She paused like someone hovering over a selection of chocolates, all of which she was extremely doubtful about. Magnus wondered which she would choose, which marker of a trustworthy magic user she had been imagining or hoping for—elderly, bearded, white. Magnus had encountered many people in the market for a sage. He had very little time for it.
Still, he had to admit that this was perhaps not the most professional he had ever been.
“Did you expect me to be, perhaps,” he suggested gently, “wearing a shirt?”
Ms. Connor lifted her shoulders in a slight shrug.
“Everybody told me that you make eccentric fashion choices, and I’m sure that’s a very fashionable hairstyle,” she said. “But frankly, it looks like a cat has been sleeping on your head.”
Magnus offered Caroline Connor a coffee, which she declined. All she would accept was a glass of water. Magnus was becoming more and more suspicious of her.
When Magnus emerged from his room wearing maroon leather pants and a glittering cowl-neck sweater, which had come with a jaunty little matching scarf, Caroline looked at him with a cool distance that suggested she did not find it to be a huge improvement on his pajama pants. Magnus had already accepted the fact that there would never be an eternal friendship between them, and did not find himself heartbroken.
“So, Caroline,” he said.
“I prefer ‘Ms. Connor,’” said Ms. Connor, perched on the very edge of Magnus’s gold velvet sofa. She was looking around at the furniture as disapprovingly as she had looked at Magnus’s bare chest, as if she thought that a few interesting prints and a lamp with bells were somewhat equivalent to Roman orgies.
“Ms. Connor,” Magnus amended easily. The customer was always right, and that would be Magnus’s policy until the job was completed, at which point he would decline to ever be employed by this company again.
She produced a file from her briefcase, a contract in a dark green binder, which she passed over to Magnus to flip through. Magnus had signed two other contracts in the past week, one graven into a tree trunk in the depths of a German forest under the light of a new moon, and one in his own blood. Mundanes were so quaint.
Magnus scanned through it. Summon minor demon, mysterious purpose, obscene sums of money. Check, check, and check. He signed it with a flourish and handed it back.