The Fiery Trial (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #8)(9) by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

There was a rowboat. This was not so mysterious—it had come loose from the boathouse, not far away. All of the boats were floating freely, excited to be out on their own for the evening. But this boat had come all the way over and bumped up next to where he was standing.

Also, unlike all of the other rowboats, this one was shaped like a swan.

“I take it I’m supposed to get in,” he said, flinching, in case the sky decided to make any more terrifying noises. There was no reply from the sky, so Simon grabbed the neck of the swan with both hands and carefully stepped inside and sat in the middle. The water couldn’t be very deep. He would certainly be able to stand in it if the boat capsized. But still—freezing night, flying fountain, magic boat, and missing Clary. No reason to add “falling into cold water” to the mix.

As soon as he was in it, the little swan boat bobbed off, as if it knew it had somewhere to be. It drifted into the lake, avoiding the other loose boats. Simon huddled in, wrapping his arms around himself as he took his cold, gentle journey on the lake. The surface was utterly smooth, reflecting the moon and clouds. Simon hadn’t ever done this before. The whole “boating in Central Park” thing seemed like it was meant for tourists. But in his recollection, the lake was fairly small and wide. He was surprised when it narrowed very suddenly and made itself into a channel under a thick canopy of trees. Once under the trees, there was absolutely no light at all for several minutes. Then everything lit up at once—rows of superbright bulbs lined the sides of the channel, and in front of him was a low tunnel with the words TUNNEL OF LOVE written around the arch in lights. Bright pink hearts bookended the word.

“You’re joking,” Simon said for what felt like the millionth time.

The air was now thick with the smell of popcorn and sea air, and there were sounds of fairground rides. The swan boat bumped, as if moving onto a track that would take it into the tunnel ride. Simon glided in. The light behind him faded, and the tunnel had a soft, blue glow. Some nondescript, classical-lite music played, full of violins. The boat settled into the track. The walls were painted in old-fashioned scenes of lovers—people sitting on porch swings kissing, women lounging on a depiction of a crescent moon, sweethearts leaning over an ice cream soda to kiss. The water was lit from underneath and glowed green, reflecting off the ceiling. Simon looked over the side of the boat to get a sense of how deep it was, or if there was something under him, but it looked shallow, like any normal water ride.

“This is a weird place to meet,” said a voice.

Simon turned to see that he was now sharing his little swan with Jace. Jace was standing at the front of the boat, leaning against the swan’s head. Being Jace, his balance was perfect, so the boat didn’t rock to the side.

“Okay,” Simon said, “this is really taking a turn I didn’t expect.”

Jace shrugged and looked around at the tunnel.

“I suppose these things had a use at one time,” he said. “It was probably risqué to take this ride. You’d get a whole four minutes of unsupervised necking.”

The word “necking” was bad. Hearing Jace say it was a new kind of bad.

“So,” Jace said, “do you want to talk or should I?”

“Talk about what?”

Jace indicated the tunnel around them, as if this was very obvious.

“I’m not going to kiss you,” Simon said. “Ever.”

“I’ve never heard anyone say that before,” Jace mused. “It was a unique experience.”

“Sorry.” Simon didn’t feel even a little guilty. “If I was into guys, I don’t think you’d make the top ten.”

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