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By Kami Garcia
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Is death the end . . . or only the beginning?
Ethan Wate has spent most of his life longing to escape the stiflingly small Southern town of Gatlin. He never thought he would meet the girl of his dreams, Lena Duchannes, who unveiled a secretive, powerful, and cursed side of Gatlin, hidden in plain sight. And he never could have expected that he would be forced to leave behind everyone and everything he cares about. So when Ethan awakes after the chilling events of the Eighteenth Moon, he has only one goal: to find a way to return to Lena and the ones he loves.
Back in Gatlin, Lena is making her own bargains for Ethan’s return, vowing to do whatever it takes — even if that means trusting old enemies or risking the lives of the family and friends Ethan left to protect.
Worlds apart, Ethan and Lena must once again work together to rewrite their fate, in this stunning finale to the Beautiful Creatures series.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Dangerous Creatures
A Sneak Peek of Icons
A Sneak Peek of Unbreakable
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Death is the beginning of Immortality.
Other people had flying dreams. I had falling nightmares. I couldn't talk about it, but I couldn't stop thinking about it either.
Ethan's shoe dropping to the ground, seconds before.
It must have come off when he fell.
I wondered if he knew.
If he'd known.
I saw that muddy black sneaker dropping from the top of the water tower every time I closed my eyes. Sometimes I hoped it was a dream. I hoped I'd wake up, and he'd be waiting out in the driveway, in front of Ravenwood, to take me to school.
Wake up, sleepyhead. I'm almost there. That's what he would've Kelted.
I'd hear Link's bad music coming through the open window, before I even saw Ethan behind the wheel.
That's how I imagined it.
I'd had nightmares about him a thousand times before. Before I knew him, or at least knew he was going to be Ethan. But this wasn't like anything I'd ever seen in any nightmare.
It shouldn't have happened. It wasn't how his life was supposed to be. And it couldn't be how my life was supposed to be.
That muddy black sneaker wasn't supposed to drop.
Life without Ethan was something worse than a nightmare.
It was real.
So real that I refused to believe it.
That's how you know they're nightmares. This—
Ethan—everything—it isn't ending, has no sign
I felt—I feel—like I'm stuck.
Like it's my life that shattered when he—when
everything else ended.
It broke into a thousand tiny pieces.
When he hit the ground.
I couldn't stand to look at my journal anymore. I couldn't write poetry; it hurt to even read it.
It was all too true.
The most important person in my life died jumping off the Summerville water tower. I knew why he did it. Knowing why didn't make me feel any better.
Knowing he did it for me only made me feel worse.
Sometimes I didn't think the world was worth it.
Sometimes I didn't think I was worth it either.
Ethan thought he was doing the right thing. He knew it was crazy. And he didn't want to go, but he had to anyway.
Ethan was like that.
Even if he was dead.
He saved the world, but he shattered mine.
A blur of blue sky over my head.
Just like the sky in real life, only a little more blue and a little less sun in my eyes.
I guess the sky in real life isn't actually perfect. Maybe that's what makes it so perfect.
I squeezed my eyes shut again.
I was stalling.
I wasn't sure I was ready to see whatever was out there to see. Of course the sky looked better—Heaven being what it was and all.
Not to assume that's where I was. I'd been a decent guy, as far as I could tell. But I had seen enough to know that everything I thought about everything had pretty much been wrong so far.
I had an open mind, at least by Gatlin's standards. I mean, I'd heard all the theories. I had sat through more than my share of Sunday school classes. And after my mom's accident, Marian told me about a Buddhism class she took at Duke taught by a guy named Buddha Bob, who said paradise was a teardrop inside a teardrop inside a teardrop, or something like that. The year before that, my mom tried to get me to read Dante's Inferno, which Link told me was about an office building that caught fire, but actually turned out to be about a guy's voyage into the nine circles of Hell. I only remember the part my mom told me about monsters or devils trapped in a pit of ice. I think it was the ninth circle of Hell, but there were so many circles down there that after a while they all sort of ran together.
After what I'd learned about underworlds and otherworlds and sideways worlds, and whatever else came in the whole triple-layer cake of universes that was the Caster world, that first glimpse of blue sky was fine by me. I was relieved to see there was something that looked like a cheesy Hallmark card waiting for me. I wasn't expecting pearly gates or naked cherub babies. But the blue sky, that was a nice touch.
I opened my eyes again. Still blue.
A fat bee buzzed over my head, climbing high into the sky—until he banged into it, just as he had a thousand times before.
Because it wasn't the sky.
It was the ceiling.
And this wasn't Heaven.
I was lying in my old mahogany bed in my even older bedroom at Wate's Landing.
I was home.
Which was impossible.
Had it been a dream? I desperately hoped so. Maybe it was, just like it had been every single morning for the first six months after my mom died.
Please let it have been a dream.
I reached down and searched the dust under my bed frame. I felt the familiar pile of books and pulled one out.
The Odyssey. One of my favorite graphic novels, though I was pretty sure Mad Comix had taken a few liberties with the version Homer wrote.
I hesitated, then pulled out another. On the Road. The first sight of the Kerouac was undeniable proof, and I rolled to one side until I could see the pale square on my wall where, until a few days ago—was that all it had been?—the tattered map had hung, with the green marker lines circling all the places from my favorite books I wanted to visit.
It was my room, all right.
The old clock on the table next to my bed didn't seem to be working anymore, but everything else looked about the same. It must be a warm day, for January. The light that came flooding in from the window was almost unnatural—sort of like I was in one of Link's bad storyboards for a Holy Rollers music video. But aside from the movie lighting, my room was exactly the way I'd left it. Just like the books under my bed, the shoe boxes holding my whole life story were still there lining my walls. Everything that was supposed to be there was there, at least as far as I was concerned.
L? You there?
I couldn't feel her. I couldn't feel anything.
I looked at my hands. They seemed all right. No bruises. I looked at my plain white T-shirt. No blood.
No holes in my jeans or my body.
I went to my bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror above my sink. There I was. Same old Ethan Wate.
I was still staring at my reflection when I heard a sound from downstairs.
My heart felt like it was pounding, which was pretty funny, since when I woke up, I wasn't even sure it was beating. Either way, I could hear the familiar sounds of my house, coming from down in the kitchen. Floorboards creaked as someone moved back and forth in front of the cupboards and the burners and the old kitchen table. Same old footsteps, going about the same old business as usual in the morning.
If it was morning.
The smell of our old frying pan on the burner came wafting up from downstairs.
"Amma? That's not bacon, is it?"
The voice was clear and calm. "Sweetheart, I think you know what I'm cooking. There's only one thing I know how to cook. If you can call it that."
It was so familiar.
"Ethan? How much longer are you going to make me wait to give you a hug? Been down here a long time, darling."
I couldn't understand the words. I couldn't hear anything except the voice. I'd heard it before, not that long ago, but never like this. As loud and clear and full of life as if she was downstairs.
Which she was.
The words were like music. They chased all the misery and confusion away.
I raced down the stairs, three at a time, before she could answer.
Fried Green Tomatoes
There she was, standing in the kitchen in her bare feet, her hair the same as I remembered—half up, half down. A crisp white button-down shirt—what my dad used to call her "uniform"—was still covered with paint or ink from her last project. Her jeans were rolled at her ankles like always, whether or not it was in style. My mom never cared about stuff like that. She was holding our old, black iron frying pan filled with green tomatoes in one hand and a book in the other. She had probably been cooking while she read, without looking up. Humming some part of a song she didn't even realize she was humming and probably couldn't hear.
That was my mom. She seemed exactly the same.
Maybe I was the only one who had changed.
I took a step closer, and she turned toward me, dropping the book. "There you are, my sweet boy."
I felt my heart turning inside out. Nobody else called me that; they wouldn't want to and I wouldn't let them. Just my mom. Then her arms caught me, and the world folded around us as I buried my face in her hug. I breathed in the warm smell and the warm feeling and the warm everything that was my mom to me.
"Mom. You're back."
"One of us is." She sighed.
That's when it hit me. She was standing in my kitchen, and I was standing in my kitchen, which meant one of two things: Either she had come back to life, or…
Her eyes filled with something—tears, love, sympathy—and before I knew it, her arms were around me again.
My mom always understood everything.
"I know, sweet boy. I know."
My face found its old hiding place in the crook of her shoulder.
She kissed the top of my head. "What happened to you? It wasn't supposed to be like this." She pulled back so she could see me. "None of it was supposed to end this way."
"Then again, it's not like there's a right way to end a person's life, is there?" She pinched my chin, smiling down into my eyes.
I had memorized it. The smile, her face. Everything. It was all I had left during the time she was gone.
I'd always known she was alive somewhere, in some way. She had saved Macon and sent me the songs that shepherded me through every strange chapter of my life with the Casters. She'd been there the whole time, just like she had when she was alive.
It was only one moment, but I wanted to keep it that way as long as I could.
I don't know how we got to the kitchen table. I don't remember anything except the solid warmth of her arms. But there I sat, in my regular chair, as if the past few years had never even happened. There were books everywhere—and from the looks of it, my mom was partway through most of them, as usual. A sock, probably fresh from the laundry, was stuck in The Divine Comedy. A napkin poked halfway out of The Iliad, and on top of that a fork marked her place in a volume of Greek mythology. The kitchen table was full of her beloved books, one pile of paperbacks higher than the next. I felt like I was back in the library with Marian.
The tomatoes sizzled in the pan, and I breathed in the scent of my mother—yellowing paper and burnt oil, new tomatoes and old cardboard, all laced through with cayenne pepper.
No wonder libraries made me so hungry.
My mom slid a blue and white china platter onto the table between us. Dragonware. I smiled because it had been her favorite. She dropped hot tomatoes onto a paper towel, sprinkling pepper across the plate.
"There you go. Dig in."
I tucked my fork into the nearest slice. "You know, I haven't eaten one of these since you—since the accident." The tomato was so hot it burned my tongue. I looked at my mom. "Are we—is this—?"
She returned the look blankly.
I tried again. "You know. Heaven?"
She laughed, pouring sweet tea into two tall glasses—tea being the only other thing my mom knew how to make. "No, not Heaven, EW. Not exactly."
I must have looked worried, like I thought we had somehow ended up in the other place. But that couldn't be right either, because—as cheesy as it sounded—being with my mom again was Heaven, whether or not the universe thought of it that way. Then again, the universe and I hadn't agreed on much lately.
My mom pressed her hand against my cheek and smiled as she shook her head. "No, this isn't any kind of final resting place, if that's what you mean."
"Then why are we here?"
"I'm not sure. You don't get a user's manual when you check in." She took my hand. "I always knew I was here because of you—some unfinished business, something I needed to teach you or tell you or show you. That's why I sent you the songs."
"The Shadowing Songs."
"Exactly. You kept me plenty busy. And now that you're here, I feel like we were never apart." Her face clouded over. "I always hoped I would get to see you again. But I hoped I would be waiting a lot longer. I'm so sorry. I know it must be terrible for you right now, leaving Amma and your father. And Lena."
I nodded. "It sucks."
"I know. I felt the same way," she said.
"About Macon?" The words came tumbling out of my mouth before I could stop them.
Her cheeks went red. "I guess I deserved that. But not everything that happens in a mother's life is something she needs to discuss with her seventeen-year-old son."
She squeezed my hand. "You were the person I didn't want to leave, most of all. And you were the person I worried about leaving, most of all. You and your father.
"Your father, thankfully, is in the exceptional care of the Ravenwoods. Lena and Macon have him under some powerful Casts, and Amma's spinning stories of her own. Mitchell has no idea what's happened to you."
She nodded. "Amma tells him you're in Savannah with your aunt, and he believes it." Her smile wavered, and she looked past me into the shadows. I knew she must be worried about my dad, despite whatever Casts he was under. My sudden departure from Gatlin was probably hurting her as much as it was me—standing by and watching it all happen, without being able to do anything about it.
"But it's not a long-term solution, Ethan. Right now everyone is just doing the best that they can. That's usually how it is."
"I remember." I'd been through it once before.
We both knew when.
She didn't say anything after that, just picked up a fork of her own. We ate together in silence for the rest of the afternoon, or for a moment. I couldn't tell which was which anymore, and I wasn't sure it mattered.
We sat out on the back porch picking shiny-wet cherries out of the colander and watching the stars come out. The sky had faded to a darkish blue, and the stars appeared in crazy bright clusters. I saw stars from the Caster sky and the Mortal sky. The split moon hung between the North Star and the Southern Star. I didn't know how it was possible to see two skies at once, two sets of constellations, but it was. I could see everything now, like I was two different people at the same time. Finally, an end to the whole Fractured Soul thing. I guess one of the perks of dying was having both halves of my soul back together.
Everything had come together now that it was over, or maybe because it was over. I guess life was like that sometimes. It all looked so simple, so easy from here. So unbelievably bright.
Why was this the only solution? Why did it have to end like this?
I leaned my head against my mom's shoulder. "Mom?"
"I need to talk to Lena." There it was. I'd finally said it. The one thing that had kept me from being able to exhale all day. The thing that had made me feel like I couldn't sit down, like I couldn't stay. Like I had to get up and go somewhere, even if I had nowhere to go.
As Amma used to say, the good thing about the truth is it's true, and there's no arguing with the truth. You may not like it, but that doesn't make it any less true. That's all I had to hold on to right about now.
"You can't talk to her." My mom frowned. "At least, it's not easy."
"I need to tell her I'm okay. I know her. She's waiting for a sign from me. Just like I was waiting for a sign from you."
"There's no Carlton Eaton to run your letter over to her, Ethan. You can't send a letter from this world, and you can't get to hers. And even if you could, you wouldn't be able to write one. You don't know how many times I wished it was possible."
There had to be a way. "I know. If it was, I would've heard from you more."
She looked up toward the stars. Her eyes shone with reflected light as she spoke. "Every day, my sweet boy. Every single day."
"But you found a way to talk to me. You used the books in the study, and the songs. And I saw you that night I was at the cemetery. And in my room, remember?"
"The songs were the Greats' idea. I suppose because I had been singing to you since you were a baby. But everyone's different. I don't think you can send anything like a Shadowing Song to Lena."
"Even if I knew how to write one." My songwriting skills made Link look like one of the Beatles.
"It wasn't easy for me, and I'd been kicking around here a whole lot longer than you have. And I had help from Amma, Twyla, and Arelia." She squinted up at the twin skies. "You have to remember, Amma and the Greats have powers that I know nothing about."
"But you were a Keeper." There had to be things she knew that they didn't.
"Exactly. I was a Keeper. I did what the Far Keep asked me to do, and I didn't do what the Far Keep didn't want me to do. You don't mess with them, and you don't mess with their record of things."
"The Caster Chronicles?"
She picked a cherry from the bowl, examining it for spots. She took so long to answer, I was starting to think she hadn't heard me. "What do you know about The Caster Chronicles?"
"Before Aunt Marian's trial, the Council of the Far Keep came to the library, and they brought the book with them."
She put the old metal colander down on the step beneath us. "Forget about The Caster Chronicles. All of that doesn't matter anymore."
"I'm serious, Ethan. We're not out of danger, you and I."
"Danger? What are you talking about? We're already—you know."
She shook her head. "We're only partway home. We've got to find out what's keeping us here, and move on."
"What if I don't want to move on?" I wasn't ready to give up. Not as long as Lena was waiting for me.
Once again, she didn't answer for a long time. When she did, my mom sounded about as dark as I'd ever heard her. "I don't think you have a choice."
"You did," I said.
"It wasn't a choice. You needed me. That's why I'm here—for you. But even I can't change what happened."
"Yeah? You could try." I found myself crushing a cherry in my hand. The juice ran red between my fingers.
"There's nothing to try, Ethan. It's over. It's too late." She barely whispered, but it felt like she was shouting.
Anger welled up inside me. I hurled a cherry across the yard, then another, then the whole bowlful. "Well, Lena and Amma and Dad need me, and I'm not just going to give up. I feel like I shouldn't be here—like this is all a huge mistake." I looked at the empty bowl in my hands. "And it's not cherry season. It's winter." I looked up at her, my eyes blurring with tears, though all I could feel was anger. "It's supposed to be winter."
My mom put her hand on mine. "Ethan."
I pulled away. "Don't try to make me feel better. I missed you, Mom. I did. More than anything. But as happy as I am to see you, I want to wake up and have this not be happening. I understand why I had to do it. I get it. Fine. But I don't want to be stuck here forever."
"What did you think was going to happen?"
"I don't know. Not this." Was that the truth? Had I really thought I could get out of sacrificing my own good for the good of the world? Did I think the One-Who-Is-Two thing was a joke?
I guess it was easier to play the hero. But now that it was real—now that I had to own up to an eternity of what and who I'd lost—suddenly it didn't seem so easy.
My mom's eyes welled up, worse than mine. "I'm so sorry, EW. If there was a way I could change things, I would." She sounded as miserable as I felt.
"What if there is?"
"I can't change everything." My mom looked down at her bare feet on the step below her. "I can't change anything."
"I'm not ready for some stupid cloud, and I don't want to get my wings when some stupid bell rings." I threw the metal bowl. It went clattering down the stairs, rolling across the back lawn. "I want to be with Lena and I want to live and I want to go to the Cineplex and eat popcorn until I'm sick and drive too fast and get a ticket and be so in love with my girlfriend that I make a total fool out of myself every day for the rest of my life."
"I don't think you do," I said, louder than I'd intended. "You had a life. You fell in love—twice. And you had a family. I'm seventeen. This can't be the end for me. I can't wake up tomorrow and know that I'm never going to see Lena again."
My mother sighed, sliding her arm around me and pulling me close.
I said it again because I didn't know what else to say. "I can't."
She rubbed my head like I was a sad, scared little kid. "Of course you can see her. That's the easy part. I can't guarantee you can talk to her, and she won't be able to see you, but you can see her."
I looked at her, stunned. "What are you talking about?"
"You exist. We exist here. Lena and Link and your father and Amma, they exist in Gatlin. It's not that one plane of existence is more or less real. They're just different planes. You're here and Lena's there. In her world, you'll never be fully present. Not like you were. And in our world, she'll never be like us. But that doesn't mean you won't be able to see her."
"How?" At that moment, it was the only thing I wanted to know.
"It's simple. Just go."
"What do you mean, go?" She was making it sound easy, but I had a feeling there was more to it.
"You imagine where you want to go, and then you just go."
It didn't seem possible, even though I knew my mom would never lie to me. "So if I just wish myself to Ravenwood, I'll be there?"
"Well, not from our back porch. You have to leave Wate's Landing before you can go anywhere. I think our homes have the Otherworld equivalent of a Binding on them. When you're at home, you're here with me and nowhere else."
A shiver went down my spine as she said the words. "The Otherworld? Is that where we are? What it's called?"
She nodded, wiping her cherry-stained hand on her jeans.
I knew I wasn't anywhere I'd been before. I knew it wasn't Gatlin, and I knew it wasn't Heaven. Still, something about the word seemed farther away than anything I'd ever known. Farther even than death. Even though I could smell the dusty concrete of our back patio and the fresh cut grass stretching beyond it. I could feel the mosquitoes biting and the wind moving and the splinters of the old wooden steps at my back. All it felt like was loneliness. It was just us now. My mom, and me, and my backyard full of cherries. Some part of me had been waiting for this ever since her accident, and another part of me knew, maybe for the first time, it would never be enough.
"Yes, sweet boy?"
"Do you think Lena still loves me, back in the Mortal realm?"
She smiled and tousled my hair. "What kind of silly question is that?"
"Let me ask you this. Did you love me when I was gone?"
I didn't respond. I didn't have to.
"I don't know about you, EW, but I knew the answer to that question every day we were apart. Even when I didn't know anything else about where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. You were my Wayward, even then. Everything always brought me back to you. Everything." She smoothed my hair out of my face. "You think Lena's any different?"
She was right.
It was a stupid question.
So I smiled and took her hand and followed her inside. I had things to figure out and places to go—that much I knew. But some things I didn't have to figure out. Some things hadn't changed, and some things never would.
Except me. I had changed, and I would give anything to change back.
This Side or the Next
Go on, Ethan. See for yourself."
I didn't look back at my mom when I reached for the doorknob.
Even though she was telling me to go, I was still uneasy. I didn't know what to expect. I could see the painted wood of the door, and I could feel the smooth iron of the handle, but I had no way of knowing if Cotton Bend was on the other side.
Lena. Think about Lena. About home. This is the only way.
"The fourth and final installment picks up after the massive cliff-hanger in Beautiful Chaos and doesn't disappoint."—Entertainment Weekly
"The Beautiful Creatures novels contain a potent mix of the gothic, the mythic, and the magical. Readers can look forward to more of what they love in the final installment, Beautiful Redemption, as they follow Ethan's compelling journey to its bittersweet close. With original characters, complex world building, and crackling prose, this is masterful storytelling."—Deborah Harkness, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches
- On Sale
- Oct 22, 2013
- Page Count
- 496 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers