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By Kami Garcia
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From the world of Beautiful Creatures--the instant New York Times bestselling tale of love and magic.
Ridley Duchannes is nobody’s heroine. She’s a Dark Caster, a Siren. She can make you do things. Anything. You can’t trust her, or yourself when she’s around. And she’ll be the first to tell you to stay away–especially if you’re going to do something as stupid as fall in love with her.
Lucky for Ridley, her wannabe rocker boyfriend, Wesley “Link” Lincoln, never listens to anyone. Link doesn’t care if Rid’s no good for him, and he takes her along when he leaves small-town Gatlin to follow his rock-star dream. He teams up with a ragtag group of Dark Casters, and when the band scores a gig at a hot Underground club, it looks like all of Link’s dreams are about to come true.
But New York City is a dangerous place for both Casters and Mortals, and soon Ridley realizes that Link’s bandmates are keeping secrets. With bad-boy club owner Lennox Gates on her heels, Rid is determined to find out the truth. What she discovers is worse than she could have imagined: Link has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay. With their lives on the line, what’s a Siren to do?
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthors of the Beautiful Creatures novels, are back to cast another magical spell. Their signature blend of mystery, suspense, and romance, with a healthy dose of wit and danger, will pull fans in and leave them begging for more.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Dangerous Deception
A Sneak Peek of Icons
A Sneak Peek of Unbreakable
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There are only two kinds of Mortals in the backwater town of Gatlin, South Carolina—the stupid and the stuck. At least, that's what they say.
As if there are other kinds of Mortals anywhere else.
Luckily, there's only one kind of Siren, no matter where you go in this world or the Otherworld.
It's all a matter of perspective. Here's mine: I've been called a lot of things, but what I really am is a survivor—and while there are more than a few stupid Sirens, there are zero stupid survivors.
Consider my record. I outlasted some of the Darkest Casters and creatures alive. I withstood whole months of Stonewall Jackson High School. Beyond that, I survived a thousand terrible love songs written by one Wesley Lincoln, a clueless Mortal boy who became an equally clueless quarter Incubus. And who, by the way, is not the most gifted musician.
For a while, I survived wanting to write him a love song of my own.
That was harder.
This Siren gig is meant to be a one-way street. Ask Odysseus and two thousand years' worth of dead sailors if you don't believe me.
We didn't choose for it to be that way. It's the hand we were dealt, and you won't hear me whining about it. I'm not my cousin Lena.
Let's get something straight: I'm supposed to be the bad guy. I will always disappoint you. Your parents will hate me. You should not root for me. I am not your role model.
I don't know why everyone seems to forget that. I never do.
No matter what she says, Lena was meant to be Light. I was meant to be Dark. Respect the teams, people. At least learn the rules.
My own parents disowned me after the Dark Claimed me as a Siren on my Sixteenth Moon. Since then, nothing rattles me—nothing and no one.
I always knew my incarceration in the sanitarium that my Uncle Macon called Ravenwood Manor was a temporary pit stop on the way to bigger and better, my two favorite words. Actually, that's a lie.
My two favorite words are my name, Ridley Duchannes.
Why wouldn't they be?
Sure, Lena gets the credit for being the most powerful Caster of all time.
Whatever. It doesn't make me any less excellent. Neither does her too-good-to-be-true Mortal boyfriend, Ethan "the Wayward" Wate, who defeats Darkness in the name of true love every day of the week.
I was never going for perfect. I think that should be clear by now.
I've done my part, played my hand, even thrown in my cards when I had to. I've bet what I didn't have and bluffed until I had it. Link once said: Ridley Duchannes is always playing a game. I never told him, but he was right.
What's so bad about that? I always knew I'd rather play than watch from the sidelines.
There was one game I regretted. At least, one that I regretted losing. And one Dark Caster I regretted losing to.
Two markers. That's all I owed him, and it was enough to change everything. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
It all started long before that. There were blood debts to be paid—though this time it wasn't up to my cousin and her boyfriend to pay them.
Ethan and Lena? Liv and John? Macon and Marian? This wasn't about them anymore.
This was about Link and me.
I should've known we wouldn't get off easy. No Caster goes down without a fight, even when you think the fight is over. No Caster lets you ride off into the sunset on some lame white unicorn or in your boyfriend's beat-up excuse for a car.
What's a Caster fairy-tale ending?
I don't know, because Casters don't get to have fairy tales—especially not Dark Casters. Forget the sunset—the whole castle burns to the ground, taking Prince Charming down with it. Then the seven dwarves go all ninja and drop-kick your butt straight out of the kingdom.
That's what a Dark Caster fairy tale looks like.
What can I say? Payback's a bitch.
But here's the thing:
So am I.
Home Sweet Home
It was their last night of summer, their last night of freedom, their last night of being frozen in time together in Gatlin, South Carolina—and technically speaking, Ridley Duchannes and Wesley Lincoln were in a fight.
When are we ever not? Ridley wondered. But this wasn't just any fight. It was the knockdown, drag-out, mother-of-all supernatural takedowns—Siren Predator versus Hybrid Incubus Alien. That was what Link had called it, behind her back. Which was about the same as saying it to her face, at least in Gatlin.
It had started right after graduation, and three months later, it was still going strong. Not that you'd know from looking at them.
If Link and Ridley openly admitted that they were still fighting, it would mean openly admitting that they still cared. If they openly admitted that they still cared, it would mean openly admitting to things like feelings. Feelings implied all sorts of gushy, messy, fuzzy complications.
Feelings were how they'd gotten into this fight in the first place.
Ridley would rather have Link stab her through the heart with a pair of gardening shears than admit to any of those things. She'd rather fall on her face like Abraham Ravenwood did, in His Garden of Perpetual Peace, drawing his last breath unloved and alone—a far fall for the most powerful Blood Incubus in the Caster world.
At least Ridley understood Abraham Ravenwood. She was an expert on being unloved and alone.
Worshipped and obeyed? Great. Feared and hated? She'd take it.
But loved and together? That was harder.
That was Lena's territory.
So Ridley wasn't about to admit that she and Link were still fighting. Not tonight, or any other night. You couldn't hit one relationship domino without toppling all the others. And if they couldn't discuss whether they were in a fight, she didn't even want to think about what else might come toppling down.
It wasn't worth the risk.
Which was the reason Ridley didn't mention anything she was thinking as she trudged through Gatlin's stickiest marsh, heading for Lake Moultrie in her mile-high snakeskin platforms.
"I should have worn kitten heels," Rid lamented.
"Pretty sure kittens don't have heels." Link grinned.
Rid had caved and asked him for a ride to the stupid farewell party her cousin had organized. It was the first time the two of them had been alone together for longer than five minutes, ever since that night at the beginning of the summer when Link made the mistake of telling Rid he loved her at the Dar-ee Keen.
"Meow," Ridley said, annoyed.
Link looked amused. "I don't really think a you as a cat person, Rid."
"I love cats," she said, wrenching one foot out of a patch of drying mud. "Half my closet is leopard." Her shoe made a gross sucking sound that reminded Ridley of her little sister, Ryan, slurping on an ICEE.
"And the rest is leather, Greenpeace." Link's spiky hair stood straight up, as usual—more bed head than boy band. But you could see what he was going for. His faded T-shirt said GRANNY BROKE BOTH HIPSTERS, and the chain hanging from his wallet made him sound like a puppy on a leash. In other words, Link looked like he'd looked every day of his life, hybrid Incubus or not. Gaining supernatural powers had done nothing to improve his sense of style.
Just like the boy I fell for, Ridley thought. Even if everything else between us is different.
She yanked her foot up out of the muck again and went toppling over backward. Link caught her on her way to a full-body mud bath. Before Rid could say a word, he hoisted her over his shoulder and bounded across the marsh, all the way to the edge of the lake.
"Put me down." Rid squirmed, tugging her miniskirt back into place.
"Fine. You're a real brat sometimes." Link laughed. "Want me to put you down again? 'Cause I gotta whole lotta blond jokes…"
"Oh my god, stop it—" She hit his back, kneeing his chest in the process, but deep down, she didn't mind the ride. Or the jokes. Or the superstrength. There were some perks to having a quarter Incubus for an ex-boyfriend. Hanging upside down wasn't one of them, though, and Rid tried to push her way back upright in his arms.
Lena waved them over from her spot at the campsite, a makeshift fire pit at the water's edge. Macon's massive black dog, Boo Radley, was curled at her feet. Ethan and John were still working on the fire itself, the Mortal way, under Liv's direction—not that she'd ever made a fire before. Which was probably why it was still only smoking.
"Hey, Rid." Lena smiled. "Nice ride."
"I have a name," Link said, holding Ridley with one arm.
"Hey, Link." Lena's black curls were pulled up into a loose knot, and her familiar charm necklace hung from her neck. Even her old black Chucks never changed. Ridley noticed that the ornament from Lena's graduation had already joined her charm collection. Meaningless Mortal ceremonies. Rid smirked at the memory of Emily Asher's diploma turning into a live snake, right as Emily shook Principal Harper's hand. Some of my better work, Ridley thought. Nothing like a few snakes to end a boring graduation, and fast. But Lena looked a thousand times happier now that Ethan was back.
"Down. Now." Ridley gave Link one last kick for good measure.
Link dumped Ridley back on her feet, grinning. "Don't ever say I didn't do anything for you."
"Aw, Shrinky Dink. If it's the thought that counts, you didn't." She smiled sweetly back at him. She reached up and patted his head. "That thing's like an air mattress."
"My mom says balloon." Link was unfazed.
"Pound it, Pudding Head." Ethan dropped a last log on the smoking pile of sticks. He bumped fists with Link.
Liv sighed. "There's plenty of oxygen going to all the logs. I used a classic tepee structure. Unless the laws of physics have changed, I don't know why—"
"Do we have to do this the Mortal way?" Ethan looked at Lena.
She nodded. "More fun."
John struck another match. "For who?"
Ridley held up her hand. "Hold on. That sounds like camping. Is this camping? Am I camping?"
Link moved across the fire pit. "You may not know this, but Rid is not a happy camper."
"Sit." Lena gave her the Look. "Because I'm about to make you all very happy. Camping or not." She fluttered her fingers, and the fire ignited.
"Are you kidding me?" Liv looked from Lena to the crackling fire, insulted, while the boys laughed.
"You want me to put it out?" Lena raised an eyebrow. Liv sighed but reached for the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. Between her love of snack foods, her faded Grateful Dead T-shirts, and her messy braids, Liv seemed like she should be heading back to high school, not college. Once Liv opened her mouth, though, she seemed like she should be one of the professors.
"I'd pay serious money to see Rid campin' for real." Link flopped down next to Ethan.
"Your allowance isn't serious enough to get me to go camping, Shrinky Dink." Rid tried to figure out a way to sit down on a stone near the fire pit without ripping the thin black spandex skirt she was rocking.
"Havin' a little trouble with your nano-skirt, there?" Link patted the makeshift seat next to him.
"No." Ridley twirled the pink stripe in her hair. Lena speared a marshmallow on a stick, laughing as Ridley took another pass at sitting on the rock.
"Can't rest your dogs while you're strapped in that butt Band-Aid?" Link was enjoying himself.
Ridley was not. "It's a micro-mini. From Miu Miu. And what would you know? You can't even dress a salad."
"I've got my own kind of flair, Babe. And I don't need to buy mine at Meow Meow."
Ridley gave up on the rock, squatting instead at the edge of a log just down from Link. "Flair? You? You wash your face with shampoo and brush your teeth with a washcloth."
"What's your point?" Link raised an eyebrow.
Lena looked up. "Enough. Don't tell me you two are still going at it. This has to be some kind of record, even for you." She waved her stick and her marshmallow caught on fire.
"I mean, if you're referring to that one night—" Rid began.
"It was more of a conversation," Link said. "And she did blow me off—"
"I said I was sorry," Rid countered. "But you know what they say. Once a Mortal…"
Link snorted. "Mortal? I wouldn't believe a Siren if she—"
Lena held up her hand. "I said not to tell me." Ridley and Link looked away from each other, embarrassed.
"It's all good," Link said stiffly.
"Camping." Ridley changed the subject.
Lena shook her head. "No, this is not camping. This is… I don't actually know the verb for it. S'moring?" Lena caught a glop of brown and white goo between two graham crackers, shoving the whole thing into Ethan's mouth.
Ethan made a sound like he was trying to say something, but he couldn't open his mouth enough to make any actual words.
"I take it you like my s'moring?" Lena smiled at him.
Ethan nodded. Tonight, in his oldest Harley-Davidson T-shirt and ratty jeans, he looked the same as he had the day Ridley first met him, after basketball practice at the Stop & Steal. Which was crazy, if you thought about everything that had happened to him since then. The things that boy has been through in the name of my cousin. And people think Sirens are hard on the opposite sex. He'd do anything for her.
A little voice in Ridley's head pointed out the obvious: Loved and together is the opposite of unloved and alone. Ridley could barely stand to watch a relationship that functional.
She shuddered and shook her head, recovering. "S'moring? Don't you mean snoring? Because this is no way to spend our last night together. There are enemies to be made. Laws to be broken. Cheerleaders to—"
"Not tonight." Lena shook her head, spearing another marshmallow.
Rid gave up, grabbing a bag of chocolate bars to console herself. Sirens loved their sugar, especially this one.
"Speak for yourself. I think this is brilliant," said Liv, stuffing her face with a gooey chocolate–marshmallow–graham cracker mess. "Melted chocolate and warm marshmallow coming together as one—on the same graham cracker? That's democracy at its best. This is why I love America. S'mores."
"Is that the only reason?" John nudged her.
"The only reason? Yes. No," Liv teased, licking a finger. "S'mores, the Dar-ee Keen, and the CW." She shot him a playful look and he smiled, tossing a marshmallow into Boo Radley's open mouth. Boo thumped his tail appreciatively.
Twenty-five marshmallows later, Boo was a little less appreciative and the fire was burning down to embers, but the night was far from over.
"See? No tears. No good-byes," Lena said, breaking up the ash with her burnt-black stick. "And when we go, no one is allowed to say anything you'd read in a cheesy greeting card."
Ethan drew his arm around her. Lena was trying, but all the sugar in the world wasn't going to make this good-bye go down any easier.
Not for the six of them.
Ridley made a face. "If you want to boss people around, Cuz, start a sorority." She rummaged through a bag of empty chocolate wrappers. "It's our last night together. So what? Accept it and move on. Tough love, people." Ridley talked a good game, but deep down she knew her own tough love wasn't all that much tougher than her cousin's marshmallow meltdown.
They just had different ways of showing it.
Lena grew still, gazing into the dying fire. "I can't." She shook her head. "I've left too many people behind too many times. I won't do it again. Not to you guys. I don't want everything to change." She reached for Boo, burying her hands deep in his dark fur. His head dropped down to his paws.
The six friends fell silent, until only the crackling remnants of the campfire could be heard.
Ridley was uncomfortable with the silence, but more uncomfortable with all the feelings talk that had preceded it, so she kept her mouth shut.
It was finally Link who spoke up. "Yeah, well, change happens. I used to really love these things," he said, squeezing a marshmallow between his fingers. He shoved John, who was sitting on a rock between Link and Liv. "Dude. When you turned me into an Incubus, you shoulda warned me about the whole we-don't-need-to-eat-and-everything-tastes-like-crap thing. I would've eaten a bunch a stuff for my last meal."
John held up a fist. "You're only a quarter Incubus, you big stud, and I did you a favor. No one would've ever called you a big stud if you'd kept eating those things."
"No one calls him that now," Ethan said.
"What are you saying?" Link was indignant.
"I'm saying, you used to be kinda sorry, Stay Puft, and now the chicks are lining up. You're welcome." John sat back.
"Oh, please," Ridley said. "As if his head could get any bigger."
"That's not the only thing that's bigger." Link winked, and everyone groaned. Ridley rolled her eyes, but he didn't care. "Oh, come on. Like you didn't see that one comin'."
Lena sat up straight, looking over the fire at the faces of her five closest friends in the world.
"All right. Forget this. Forget good-bye. So what if we're going to college tomorrow?" Lena glanced at Ethan.
"And England." Liv sighed, taking John's hand.
"And Hell," Link added, "if you ask my mother."
"Which no one is," Rid said.
"What I mean is, we don't have to do this the Mortal way," Lena said. Ethan stared at her strangely, but Lena kept going. "Let's make a pact instead."
"Just no blood oaths," John said. "Which would be the Blood Incubus way."
Link perked up at the thought. "Is that another camp thing? 'Cause we definitely didn't get to do that at church camp."
Lena shook her head. "Not blood."
"Maybe like a spit promise?" Link looked hopeful.
"Eww," Rid said, shoving him off his log.
"Not a spit promise." Lena leaned in, holding her hand over the fire. The flames reflected against her palm, turning orange and red and even blue.
Rid shivered. Her cousin was up to something, and with powers as unpredictable as Lena's, that wasn't always a good idea.
The embers glowed under Lena's fingertips. "We need to mark this occasion with something a little stronger than s'mores. We don't need to say good-bye. We just need a Cast."
Symptom of the Universe
The six friends had talked circles around the idea, until the moon had risen and the fire had all but died, and even then Link wasn't really sure what was going on.
They're just feeling low, he thought. Don't think there's a Cast for that. Still, he wasn't going to be the one to break the news. If Lena and Liv wanted to pretend there was something anyone could do to change the fact that they were all getting the hell out of Gatlin tomorrow, Link wasn't going to pop that bubble. He'd learned to stay out of the way when it came to Casters and their Casts.
"Here's what we want: something that says that no matter where we go, no matter what we do, we will always, always be there for each other." Lena nudged Ethan in the moonlight. "Right?"
"Do you really have to ask?" Ethan mumbled, sleepily nuzzling her neck. "We don't need a Cast for that."
"Anywhere? Even across an ocean?" Liv asked, squeezing John's hand.
Link looked away. It was a long-established fact that John was basically following Liv halfway across the world like a whipped dog so Liv could finish studying at Oxford while completing her Keeper training. It was nothing like what Link had ever had with Rid, even back when they did have something.
But tonight John and Liv were happy as clams because they were staying together, while you couldn't chisel Ethan and Lena apart with a spatula the size of Link's Beater. They were headed to schools in the same state but different cities; that was the compromise they had reached with their families. Link couldn't even remember the names, though he'd pretended to listen to a thousand conversations about them—the schools, their dorms, their reading lists. Blah, blah, blah. All he knew was they'd be at rival schools in sleepy old towns up in Massachusetts (or Michigan, or maybe Minnesota—heck, what was the difference?) ninety minutes apart. You would think it was nine hundred miles, the way they're acting.
Whipped as Thanksgiving potatoes.
Still, Link smiled at the sweet stupidity of it all. Who was he to judge? If anybody had a shot, it was Ethan and Lena. Even John and Liv had managed to keep it together. It was only Link and Ridley who were Gatlin's biggest basket case of a relationship.
Ex-relationship, he reminded himself.
"Nothing's going to change." Lena's tone turned serious. "We won't let it. We've been through enough together to know that the people you care about are the only thing that matters."
Link caught Ridley's eye in the flickering firelight, in spite of everything. Ridley looked away, pretending to listen to what Lena was saying, as if she cared. Anything to ignore me, Link thought. That's her trick, same as always, and she still thinks I don't know what she's up to.
Just like the old days.
"So, you think a Cast will keep us together?" Ridley asked, pretending to listen. "Can't we just, I don't know, send postcards?"
Lena ignored her. "Maybe Marian would have an idea."
"Or maybe she wouldn't. Because it's a bad idea," Ridley said.
"No, wait. I think I've got it." Liv's braids were coming undone, and she sounded exhausted. But the sparks in her eyes burned as bright as the remnants of the campfire. "A Binding Cast. It's how Ravenwood protects itself and keeps those who would do harm out, right? Binds a person to a place? Couldn't it also Bind six people together? Theoretically."
Lena shrugged. "A Binding Cast for people? It could work. I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't."
Link scratched his head. "Work how? Like, our hands are permanently stuck together in a group hug? Or like, we can read each other's minds? Can you get a little more specific?" Not that I'd mind being Bound to Rid, he thought. At least, it wouldn't suck.
Lena stared into the glowing embers. "Who knows? We're kind of winging it here. There aren't a whole lot of Casts about Binding people."
"Or, you know. Any." Ridley sighed. "So why am I the only person who thinks we should get out the peach schnapps and go bowling instead?" No takers. "How about breakfast, then?"
Link kicked a clod of dirt toward the fire. When had Rid gotten so worried about using her powers? She'd been like that ever since the summer. Skittish as a new pup, and about as nervous.
"This isn't black magic, Rid," Lena said. "If we do something wrong, we'll undo it."
"When have those words ever not come back to haunt you?" Ridley shook her head at her cousin.
"Nothing big," Lena said. "Just a little something so we don't forget about each other. Like a Forget-Me-Not. A memento. I could do it in my sleep."
Rid raised an eyebrow. "Someone's gotten a little cocky since she brought Boyfriend back from the dead."
Lena ignored the dig and held out her hand to Ridley. "Everyone join hands."
Ridley sighed and took Lena's hand, also taking Link's warm and sweaty one.
He grinned and gave her a squeeze. "Is this gonna be kinky? Please let this be kinky."
"Please let you shut up," said Rid. But it was hard not to smile, and she had to make an effort to keep her bratty expression in place.
John took Liv's hand, and Liv took Link's. Ethan grabbed hands with John and Lena to complete the circle.
Lena closed her eyes and began to speak in a low tone. "There is a time beyond mountains and men—"
"Is that it?" Link asked. "The Cast? Or are you just makin' it up? Because I thought all your Casts were in Lat—"
Lena opened her eyes and glared, one green eye and one gold flashing in the remaining firelight. Link's mouth shut and his voice was silenced for him, Caster-style. Link swallowed, hard. Lena might as well have slapped duct tape across his face.
He got the message.
Then she closed her eyes again. As she spoke, Link could almost see the words on the page, as if a scroll had opened itself for them.
"There is a time beyond mountains and men
When our six-faced moon must rise.
If you call for me, I will come to you then,
And our six-headed horse will ride.
Though Sixteen Moons began our thread,
And Nineteen Moons must end us,
Let us always be Bound by the Southern Star,
And when in grave danger—
Lightning flashed in the sky, ripping across the dark clouds and reflecting in the still surface of the lake. Boo growled.
A shiver rolled through all six of them—like a cold current coming from the lake itself—and they dropped hands, as if some invisible force had ripped them apart.
The circle was broken.
Link tried his voice and found to his relief that he could use it. Which was good, since he had something to say.
"Sweet buckets of crap! What was that?" Link opened his eyes. "'Grave danger'? And 'send us'? Send us where? What are you talkin' about?" His voice was raspy, as if he'd just been yelling.
Lena looked uncomfortable. "Those are just the words that came to me."
Praise for the bestselling Beautiful Creatures novels:An Amazon.com Big Books of Spring Selection"A hauntingly delicious dark fantasy."
—Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author of City of Bones
"In the Gothic tradition of Anne Rice....Give this to fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight or HBO's True Blood series."
—School Library Journal
"Gorgeously crafted, atmospheric, and original."
—Melissa Marr, New York Timesbestselling author of Wicked Lovely
* "The authors ground their Caster world in the concrete, skillfully juxtaposing the arcane, magical world with Gatlin's normal southern lifestyle....[Fans will] plead for more."
—VOYA (starred review)
"A lush Southern gothic."
—Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
"Smart, textured and romantic."
- On Sale
- Apr 7, 2015
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers