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A slow sweet song with a shivery beat began. Alec would not have thought the dance floor could become more crowded, but it happened. Dozens of masked Downworlders in formal wear who had previously been standing near the walls converged on the floor. Alec found himself standing awkwardly alone in the center of the room as couples twirled around him in unison. Crowns of thorns and towering multi-colored feathers blocked his vision. He looked around in alarm for an escape route.
Instead he saw Magnus. Magnus all in silver and black, like the night sky. “May I have this dance, sir?”
“I was coming to find you,” said Alec, a little breathless.
“I saw you coming.” Magnus’s gorgeous lips curved beneath his shining mask. “We found each other.”
He moved in close to Alec, one hand settling on his lower back, lacing their fingers together with the other, and kissed him. The glancing touch of his mouth was like a ray of light on water, illuminating and transforming. Alec moved instinctively closer, longing to be illuminated and transformed again, then remembered they had a mission. He should remain on task.
“I met a Shadowhunter here called Helen Blackthorn,” he murmured against Magnus’s mouth. “She said—”
Magnus kissed him again.
“Something fascinating, I’m sure,” he said. “You haven’t answered my question.”
“May I have this dance?”
“Of course,” said Alec. “I mean—I would love this dance. It’s only that I know we should work this out.”
Magnus drew in a breath and nodded.
“We will. Tell me.”
He had been smiling before, but the smile had faded. Instead there was a certain burdened set to Magnus’s shoulders. Magnus felt guilty, Alec realized for the first time, with shattering dismay. Magnus felt as if he was spoiling Alec’s vacation when the truth was that there would be no holiday without Magnus, no shine of magic and no shocks of joy, no lights and no music.
Alec reached up and touched the bright silvery mask Magnus wore. He could see his own face reflected in the mask as if it were a mirror, eyes wide and blue against the glittering carnival of the Venetian ballroom. He almost did not recognize himself, he looked so happy.
Then he pushed the mask up and he could see Magnus’s face. That was better.
“Let’s dance first,” he said.