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By Kami Garcia
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From the world of Beautiful Creatures–a dangerous new tale of love and magic continues in the sequel to Dangerous Creatures.
After a disastrous car crash outside New York City, Ridley Duchannes–Dark Caster, Siren, and bona fide bad girl-has gone missing. Her wannabe rocker and quarter Incubus boyfriend, Wesley “Link” Lincoln, was driving, and when he comes to, Ridley is nowhere to be found. The only clue is the giant raven emblazoned on the hood of the truck that hit them, which can mean only one thing: Silas Ravenwood is back. And he has Ridley.
Determined to find her, Link reunites with old friends John Breed and Liv Durand, his New York bandmates, and the mysterious Lennox Gates–who has his own reasons for tracking down Ridley. Together they travel through the Caster Tunnels and the Deep South to New Orleans, where they uncover the truth about the infamous Ravenwood labs and exactly what Silas has been doing within those walls. By the time Link and his friends reach Ridley, she is no longer the Siren they know and love. She’s something new. This time, love might not be enough to save them.
In this sequel to Dangerous Creatures, the bestselling spin-off of the #1 New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures novels, coauthors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl deliver an intoxicating blend of magic, suspense, and danger.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Beautiful Creatures
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Love is ten kinds a crazy, right?
Especially when you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with when you're still in high school? The girl who is gonna elbow her way into more chapters of your autobiography than your folks, your car, and your best friend? The one who's got Satan on her speed dial, at least accordin' to all the parents in the Stonewall Jackson PTA.
Ridley Duchannes is every mother's nightmare—and a whole different kinda nightmare for their sons. Let me put it to you this way: If you can get away, run. Don't walk. Because once you're exposed, you'll never get a Siren outta your head.
If they ever make a vaccine for Ridley Duchannes, I'll be first in line.
But once you've been exposed, things get a lot more complicated. Rid's like those killer viruses they're always talkin' about on the Discovery Channel. She changes everything—including you.
What I'm tryin' to say is, it's too late for me. I'm headed down a one-way street, with no stoplights and no brakes. The craziest part is that I don't even wanna turn back, and you wouldn't, either. You don't need a Caster mood ring to tell you that.
Because there are three kinds of girls in the world.
And Ridley Duchannes.
Rid's in a category all her own—and trust me, she's earned it. She'll let you peek in the window, right before she slams the door in your face. She does what she wants, says what she wants, and lovesick guys like me still write songs about her.
Sure, she scammed me into comin' to New York with her and joinin' a Dark Caster band. She even pretended we were goin' there to make all my dreams come true, instead a settling her debt with Lennox Gates. Not every girl bets her boyfriend's future in a Caster card game, that's for sure. Like I said, ten kinds a crazy.
And the part that's even crazier? How much your life feels like it's over when she's not around to wreck it anymore.
But I'm gettin' ahead of myself.
It all started with a fire.
CHAPTER 1: NOX
Ring of Fire
Nox woke up on the floor in the back of the SUV. The last thing he remembered was the car driving away from what was left of his club Sirene… before Silas' thugs started beating on him and he blacked out.
Not that it mattered.
Between all the smoke he'd inhaled inside the burning club and the two Dark Casters kicking the crap out of him, he wasn't sure how much more he could take. Mortals weren't the only ones who had their limits.
The car rolled to a stop, and a moment later, the sunlight blinded Nox as the driver opened the door.
Silas Ravenwood climbed out and stood over him, smoking a cigar. "I'd like to say it's been fun, kid. But mostly, you've been a huge waste of my time." He flicked his cigar at Nox, missing his face by just inches. "And a waste of a Caster. Not that I'd expect much more from the son of a whore."
"Good one. Never heard that one before."
Silas punched him in the face, sending a spray of blood across his cheekbone.
Nox clenched his fists, but he didn't move. There was no point anymore. Ridley was safely gone, and he was going to take his beating like a man. He had known this would be coming when he set fire to Sirene instead of delivering Ridley and the quarter Incubus to Silas Ravenwood as promised.
But I'll kill you one day, Silas. I swear to God. Then you can rot in the Otherworld with Abraham.
Silas stood in the shadow of the alley. "See you in the next life, kid. It's sure as hell your last day in this one." He slammed the door, and the driver pulled away from the curb.
Once Silas was gone, the real beatings started. Enough blows to the head, and Nox barely remembered his own name. Even worse, he had no idea where he was, or where they were taking him.
The river was his best guess. Maybe they'd toss him in like a sack of kittens.
I'd be lucky to get off that easy.
Then the SUV stopped at a red light.
Nox could see the cloud of smoke above the club in the distance. He was still staring at the smoke, dazed, when the side window next to him shattered.
A hand the size of a dinner plate plunged through the glass.
Sampson dragged one of Silas' men out through the window and unlocked the door before the driver even realized what was happening. Instead of hitting the gas, the idiot came out and tried to take on close to seven feet of angry Darkborn.
Bad move, big guy.
Silas' other lackey was still in the back with Nox, and he jumped out to help. Sampson hurled him headfirst into a sign, leaving the guy's face almost as cut up as Sampson's hand. Nox crawled out of the car and stumbled to his feet, but the fight was already over. The driver and one of Silas' thugs were knocked out cold, and Sampson finished off the second guy, who was bleeding under the sign, with one hard stomp from his size fifteen Red Wings.
The Darkborn grabbed Nox by the arm and shoved him into the passenger seat of the SUV. "You're welcome. Now get your ass in the car."
"Sam, look at your hand." Nox could barely get the words out, but he pointed at the gashes slicing through his friend's skin and the blood running down his arm.
Sampson yanked his sleeveless T-shirt over his head and tugged down the ripped Sex Pistols one he was wearing underneath. "Wrap it around my fingers, but not too tight. I'll take care of it. After we get out of here."
"I owe you one," Nox said as he picked the slivers of glass out of Sampson's hand with a pair of tweezers. He had so much gauze stuffed up his bloody nose that he wasn't sure if Sampson could understand what he was saying.
After they'd ditched Silas' men, Nox had bought a first-aid kit from the nearest Duane Reade drugstore. Now they were parked in a seedy long-term lot near Penn Station, and it was the best Nox had felt all day. He could almost see out of one eye, and Silas' thugs hadn't knocked out any of his teeth.
It's the little things.
"One?" Sampson winced as Nox pulled out a big piece of glass. "You owe me three or four by now, boss," the huge Darkborn said.
"You don't have to call me that anymore. The club is gone, and opening another one would be like sending Silas an invitation to kill me."
"You mean another invitation?" Sampson didn't smile.
Nox ignored him, tossing a piece of glass on the dashboard. "So I hope you didn't risk your life for a job."
Sampson's jaw tightened. "There are other cities. And if you think I saved your ass and stole one of Silas Ravenwood's cars because of some crappy job, you don't know me very well."
Nox felt like a jerk. "Sorry, Sam."
"Forget it. You're just lucky those guys didn't kill you before I got there."
Nox knew Sampson was right, but he didn't feel lucky. Alive was different from lucky. A guy had to be pretty unlucky to lose the only girl he'd ever cared about.
Nox tipped the bottle of peroxide over Sampson's gnarled hand. "I think it's all out."
"Just wrap it up," Sampson said. "Darkborns heal pretty fast."
Nox wound a whole roll of gauze around his friend's hand until it looked like a prizefighter's.
Sampson pointed at his face. "You better clean out that cut on your cheek, stitch it up. Pretty boys don't look so pretty with scars."
"Yeah?" Nox flipped open the mirror on the visor and cringed. He looked like crap. Silas' punch had left a gash across his cheek. "I don't know, I think I look good. All things considered."
"Good for a hamburger, maybe. A rare one. Now sew that thing shut." Sampson screwed the top off a bottle of rubbing alcohol. "You're out of peroxide. Time to man up."
Nox found a needle in the first-aid kit and poured alcohol all over it. He was looking forward to the pain.
But the moment Sampson flicked on a lighter and Nox saw the flame, he felt something else. The alcohol stung Nox's skin, and the world faded away.…
The sight of a flame triggered Nox's Sight, and the vision hit him all at once.
This time he heard the impact.
It was the last sound that hit him like a kick in the gut. A song—"Stairway to Heaven."
Nox had seen hints of this before in his visions, but the details had never been clear enough. It had always been a vague future. But it had become a reality.
This was the outcome he'd been desperate to avoid. If only he'd put the pieces together sooner.
So he hadn't saved Ridley from dying in a fire. He'd saved her from dying in one particular fire—the one at Sirene—only to let her die in another, the one at the car wreck. He'd done everything he could to keep her from meeting the fate he'd seen laid out for her in his dreams, and he had still failed.
I gave up too easily. I shouldn't have let her leave with that idiot hybrid. I should've asked her to choose me.
He'd sacrificed everything to protect Ridley—his club, his safety, even his heart. And it had been pointless. He hadn't protected her from anything.
Then I pushed her right into another guy's arms.
I thought he could protect her. I thought he was better for her. Safer.
Who's the idiot now?
"What's wrong, Nox?" Sampson asked.
"Everything." Nox could barely move his jaw, but he forced the words out somehow. "She's in trouble, Sam. We've gotta go. Now."
Finding the location of the crash was the easy part; in Nox's vision, the flames were already melting the road signs, which meant he'd gotten a good look at them in the process. "Hurry, Sam. We don't have much time."
What if we're already too late? Nox thought.
Nox stared out the window in a daze, trying to blot out the images of the fire and the sound of Ridley's screams. He pressed against his stitches, trying to feel the pain. At least his pain distracted him from hers.
She's not dead. I'd know. I would've felt it.
He pressed harder.
Sampson didn't say a word, but the speedometer inched up past ninety, and he covered a hundred miles in less than an hour.
By the time Nox spotted the cloud of black smoke, he was practically jumping out of his skin. The wind blew the dirty air through the SUV's broken window as they approached the flashing lights—two police cars, a fire engine, and an ambulance on the shoulder of the highway—behind a perimeter of orange cones and flares. One of the cops stood in the road, waving cars past the crash site. Traffic slowed as drivers rubbernecked while passing the wreckage.
Nox scanned the area for any sign of Ridley or a blue and white medical examiner's van.
It's not here. Not yet.
Sampson shook his head. "It looks bad."
Up close, it looked even worse. What was left of Link's piece-of-crap car was crushed like a tin can, and firefighters were hosing down the half-melted body of the Beater.
As Sampson guided the SUV toward the shoulder, Nox jumped out and bolted for the ambulance. He held his breath when he glanced at the wreckage. No bodies or body bags. Just a lot of charred and banged-up metal. Smoldering upholstery. Shattered glass.
Where is she?
Two paramedics were standing around behind the ambulance.
"Is she okay?" Nox asked, out of breath.
One of them looked up at him, confused. "Excuse me?"
"The girl in the car. Is she okay?" Nox repeated.
The paramedics exchanged a strange look. "There was no one in the car when we got here. It was a hit-and-run. The police checked the area, but they couldn't find any sign of the driver. Do you know whose car this is?"
"Yeah. It belongs to this guy we know," Nox said as Sampson caught up with him.
One of the paramedics stepped back at the sight of the Darkborn. It was everyone's reaction to Sampson. At over six foot five, he looked like a linebacker.
"The police are trying to figure out what happened to the driver," the paramedic said. "They'll probably want to talk to you guys." He took a closer look at Nox. "What happened to your face?"
Nox stiffened. "I got in a fight."
The paramedic looked at him skeptically.
"More than one," Nox added. "What are you, my mother?"
The paramedic glanced over at the nearest police car. "Wait here."
The moment the guy turned his back on them, Sampson shoved Nox in the direction of the SUV. "We need to bail. As much as I don't like Mortals, I hate cops even more."
Nox agreed, and after seeing the wreckage, part of him was relieved Ridley wasn't there.
She's not dead. There would be a body.
But another part of him had a bad feeling.
Don't fool yourself. Nobody could walk away from an accident like that. The Beater looks like a burnt pretzel.
Lennox Gates' feelings were never simple when it came to Ridley Duchannes. There was no reason to expect them to be any less complex now. He climbed back into the car and slammed the door. "We need to figure out where she is. Fast."
"I'll work on that as soon as I get us out of here." Sampson threw the SUV into reverse, guided the car off the shoulder of the road, and flipped a U-turn. He waited until the flashing lights were out of sight before he hit the gas.
"Relax. It's not a high-speed chase." Nox grabbed the door.
The Darkborn glanced at the rearview mirror. "Not yet."
"We haven't done anything wrong," Nox said, though he didn't sound convinced.
"Yeah? That's not how it looks." Sampson kept his eyes on the road. "My hand is bleeding. The window is shattered. And you look like you lost a cage fight."
"Think it's possible she walked away from the crash?" Nox asked, hating how desperate he sounded. He didn't want to say the words out loud.
She's alive. She has to be.
"I don't know." Sampson seemed doubtful. "The back of the car was crushed." He glanced at Nox. "But yeah, anything's possible."
As Sampson turned back onto the highway, Nox noticed something on the side of the road. Something small, and furry, and out of place.
Lucille Ball. She was sitting on the shoulder, as if she was waiting for them.
"Pull over. That's Link's cat."
"I wonder how she got all the way out here." Sampson stopped the car a few feet away from Lucille.
The cat didn't move until they both got out. Then she trotted off into the trees.
Nox took off after her. "I think she wants us to follow her."
Sampson shook his head. "It looks more like she's running away from us."
"But toward what?" Nox asked. Ridley had told Nox a story about how Lucille had practically led Rid and her friends to her cousin Lena when she was missing once. He had no idea how much of it was true, but that cat was definitely different.
Lucille scampered ahead, stopping every now and then to make sure they were still behind her. Nox wasn't that interested in chasing mangy cats through the bushes, but he followed her anyway.
If that stupid cat was in the car with them… she could be leading us to Rid.
Nox wasn't so sure when the cat led them through a cluster of trees and he saw Link slumped against a trunk ahead of them. The ridiculous spiked blond hair and threadbare Black Sabbath T-shirt were unmistakable. Above Link, the branches were cracked and broken as if he'd hit every one of them before he finally made it to the ground.
Headfirst, knowing him.
"What are you doing out here, Link?" Sampson asked as they made their way through the brush.
Link barely moved. His skin was smudged with black smoke and ash, and one side of his shirt was singed above the burns running down his arm.
Nox leaned closer and grabbed a handful of Link's ripped shirt. "Hey. Wake up."
Confused didn't begin to describe the expression on Link's face. He opened and closed his eyes, shaking his head at the sight of Nox. "Aw, great. I'm in Hell. My mom was right."
"You're not in Hell. You're in New Jersey." Nox squatted in front of him. "Where's Ridley?"
Link jerked his head up at the mention of her name. "Wait. You don't know where she is, either?"
Nox stiffened. It was the million-dollar question, and Link didn't have the answer any more than he did.
"We were hoping you knew," Sampson said.
Link rubbed his eyes, wincing as he lifted his arm. "It all happened so fast. 'Stairway to Heaven' came on the radio. That's all I remember, until this black truck ran a red light and plowed right into the Beater." His face clouded over as he realized what he was saying. "Aw, man. The Beater."
"Mangled," Nox said, with a shred of satisfaction.
Sampson nodded. "You don't want to know."
Link pressed his hands against his temples. "The driver didn't even try to swerve out of the way. It was like he was headin' right for us." He rubbed his eyes like he was fighting the worst headache of his life. "The only thing I remember after that was the sound of metal crunchin' and Ridley screamin'. There was so much smoke I couldn't see her. I kept callin' her name, but she didn't answer. Then the Beater caught on fire."
Sampson examined Link's eyes. "Do you remember how you got here? You're pretty far from the crash site. I doubt you walked."
Link squinted, as if he was trying to piece everything together in his mind. "I didn't walk. I Ripped."
"And you didn't take Ridley with you?" Nox snapped. He didn't bother to hide the rage in his voice.
Why did she leave with this clown in the first place?
Link shook his head. "It wasn't like that. I reached out for her, but she wasn't in the passenger seat. The fire kept gettin' bigger, and then my shirt started burnin'. I don't know what happened. I wasn't tryin' to Rip, but the next thing I knew, I was out here."
Sampson glanced at Nox. "I bet it was some kind of defense mechanism. An Incubus fight or flight response."
"A cowardly one," Nox muttered. "All you had to do was get her out of here. You had her back for, what, two hours? And this was the best you could manage?"
"It's not like I had a choice." Link was trying to stay focused, but his vision was fuzzy. He fell back, pushing his hands against his temples.
Nox grabbed his arm and yanked hard. There it was. The Binding Ring—the one that should've been going off like a three-alarm fire.
It was completely dark now.
They all stared at it in horror. Even Link looked like he wanted to chuck it in the bushes.
"Maybe it's broken."
Nox's voice was hard. "Maybe you were just born an idiot."
Link rolled to one side. "I was right the first time. If I've gotta listen to you, Rich Boy, I might as well be in Hell." He winced, sounding more miserable than pained.
"This is real productive," Sampson said. Now everyone was annoyed.
Even though the hybrid had ruined everything, Nox knew it wasn't that simple.
Link didn't have a choice, but I did. I chose not to fight. I chose to give in—to give up everything so she'd have a better shot at being happy.
Or at least staying alive.
Nox sighed and bent down in front of Link. "Think. Do you remember anything else? Were there any other cars around, or people who might have witnessed the accident?"
Link shook his head. "No. The only car I saw was the truck that hit us. It wasn't a pickup like the junkers folks drive back home in Gatlin. It was one of those fancy black Raptors with the big tires and everything."
A black Raptor.
Sampson stared at Nox. "You know what that means, right?"
Nox nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
"What am I missin'?" Link asked, pushing himself off the ground.
Sampson grabbed his arm and pulled him up, so fast that Link's legs dangled above the ground for a second. "Do you remember if the truck had a huge bird on the hood?"
"Yeah," Link answered. "Full-on Big Bird sized. How'd you know?"
Sampson dropped him. Link stumbled, like his knees were going to buckle, and Nox grabbed him before he could fall.
"It's a raven." Nox tried not to think about all the things that might be happening to Ridley right now. "It was one of Silas Ravenwood's trucks."
CHAPTER 2: LINK
Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)
Silas Ravenwood. The thought sent Link reeling. It was a punch to the gut multiplied by a hundred.
What if she didn't make it?
Don't do this to me, Rid. I just got you back.
"I'm the one they wanted. This is all my fault." Link couldn't bring himself to look at Sampson and Nox as they searched the area. Link hadn't been this banged up since he stopped being a hundred percent Mortal. But he felt even worse on the inside, like his heart was limping, too.
All he could think about was Ridley. He slipped his hand out of his pocket and stared at the lifeless ring on his finger.
Where are you, Rid?
"You're right. Your fault. No one's arguing with you," Nox said, walking ahead of them. He didn't bother to turn around.
Link ignored him. "She must've made it out of the car. Like I said, I reached for her and she wasn't there."
"Or whoever was driving Silas Ravenwood's truck grabbed her," Nox snapped. "Did you think of that?"
Link frowned. "Are you sure it was Silas' car?"
"Everyone knows that truck," Sampson said.
Link stopped walking. "I'm the one who killed Abraham Ravenwood, not Rid. His psychotic grandson shoulda taken me."
"Finally we agree on something," Nox said.
Link's expression hardened. "You can stop actin' like you're a big hero. The way I see it, we both let her down. At least I'm man enough to admit it."
Nox's eyes narrowed. "I wasn't the one behind the wheel."
Link stepped forward, moving closer to Nox. "You might as well have been."
Nox's hands curled into fists. "You have no idea how much I wish I was. Then I could've done something. Unlike some of us."
Sampson stepped between them. "You two can fight it out after we find her."
"After we find her, I'm taking her somewhere safe where you'll never see her again." Nox didn't take his eyes off Link.
Link barely kept himself from punching the guy in the face. "I'd like to see you try."
"And I'd like to beat the crap out of you both. Unfortunately, as Mick Jagger would say, you can't always get what you want." Sam shoved them both. "Now move."
Link didn't care if Lennox Gates had saved their lives at Sirene. As far as he was concerned, the guy was still a tool. Another piece of Underground club trash who was too rich and too slick for anybody's good. Not to mention the other thing.
A tool who spent the last few months tryin' to steal my girlfriend. Who only wants to find her so he can steal her again.
If she's even still alive.
Link tried not to think that way. Especially since now the three of them were holed up in a diner off the highway, doing their best to figure out a way to find Rid before they killed each other. Only exhaustion had prevented it from happening so far.
The three of them—four, if you counted Lucille—had searched the woods for hours, looking for any sign of Ridley, even though the odds seemed pretty high that Silas or one of his thugs had taken her.
Or her body.
That was the part no one said out loud.
The situation sucked.
Link didn't have to say that out loud, either. He pushed the fries he'd never consider eating around on his plate. Mortal food tasted like cardboard, another downside of being a quarter Incubus. Not that he would've been able to eat at a time like this. "You really think Silas might have her?"
Nox didn't respond right away. Instead, he stared into the coffee cup in his hand.
A bad sign.
"If she's still alive," Nox said finally.
"Don't say that." Link started to lunge across the table, but Sampson caught him. "Don't ever say that again. She's alive. We just have to find her."
"Your ring—" Nox stared at it.
"Is busted." Link glared.
"Grow up," Nox shot back. "It's called reality. We let him take her."
Link lunged again, and Sampson picked him up by the scruff of his neck, as if the hulking hybrid was a harmless kitten.
"We don't know anything for sure yet." Sampson hauled Link back down to his seat. "And I'm not sure Ridley Duchannes ever let anyone do anything. So let's all relax. We're not gonna figure this out if we can't work together."
The bells on the door of the diner chimed and Necro and Floyd walked in, scanning the restaurant. Sampson had called them as soon as he'd sat down. The girls had been laying low in a crappy Motel 6 outside Brooklyn, waiting for Sam to rescue Nox from Silas' thugs so the band could head out to LA as planned. When Sam called to tell them about the accident, Link's bandmates hadn't wasted any time getting there.
Floyd's stringy blond hair swung over her shoulders as she searched for Link. When she saw him, her face broke into a thousand pieces, like she was about to start smiling or sobbing. Link couldn't tell which. She practically ran toward their booth, in her holey jeans and faded Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon concert tee, and caught Link around the neck in a huge hug. "You okay? We were so worried."
Link squeezed her tight. He knew Floyd still had a thing for him, but at that moment, he was so happy to see his friends that he didn't care. At least she didn't blame him for everything that had happened, like some people.
Myself included, he thought miserably.
Praise for the bestselling Beautiful Creatures novels:"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." —SLJ
"Gorgeously crafted, atmospheric, and original." —Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling 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." —Kirkus Reviews
- On Sale
- May 3, 2016
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers