Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  “So, can I go?”

  “You’re simpler than I thought, if you’re thinkin’ Savannah Snow wants you anywhere near her place.”

  “It’s just a regular old high school party.”

  She lowered her voice. “There’s no such thing as a regular old high school party when you’re takin’ a Caster and an Incubus and a worn-out Siren with you.” Turns out, Amma could even whisper a pretty fierce scolding. Then she slammed the oven door and stood there with an oven-mitted hand on each hip.

  “Quarter Incubus,” I whispered back. Like that changed anything. “It’s at the Snows’ house. You know what they’re like.” I did my best impression of Reverend Blackwell. “Fine, God-fearin’ folk. Keep a Bi-ah-ble right next to the bed.” Amma glared at me. I gave it up. “Nothing’s gonna happen.”

  “If I had a nickel for every time you’ve said that, I’d be livin’ in a castle.” Amma covered the cookies in plastic wrap. “If the party’s at the Snows’ house, why are you goin’ anyhow? Didn’t even invite you last year, as I recollect.”

  “I know. But I thought it would be fun.”

  I met Lena on the corner of Dove Street because she’d had even less luck with her uncle and ended up sneaking out of her house. She was so afraid Amma would see her and send her back home that she parked the hearse a block away. Not like her car was hard to miss.

  Macon had made it clear no one was going to any parties, not while the Order was still broken—especially not at the Snows’. Ridley had made it equally clear she was going. How did they expect her to fit in as a Mortal if she wasn’t allowed to do normal things with her new Mortal friends? Things were thrown. In the end, Aunt Del caved, even if Macon didn’t.

  So Ridley had walked right out the front door, while Lena was left to find a way to sneak out.

  “He thinks I’m in my room, sulking because he wouldn’t let me go out.” Lena sighed. “Which is where I was until I figured out my exit strategy.”

  “How did you get out?” I asked.

  “I had to use, like, fifteen different Casts: Hiding, Blinding, Forgetting, Disguising, Duplicating.”

  “Duplicating? You mean you cloned yourself?” That was a new one.

  “Just my scent. Anyone who Casts a Revelation on the house might be fooled, for a minute or two.” She sighed. “But there’s no fooling Uncle Macon. I’m dead when he finds out I’m gone. You think it’s bad living with a Seer? All Uncle Macon wants to do is practice his Mindhunting skills.”

  “Awesome. So we have all night.” I pulled her closer to me, and she leaned her back up against her car.

  “Umm. Maybe longer. There’s probably no way I’ll get back inside tonight. The place is Bound a thousand times over.”

  “You can stay with me if you want to.” I kissed her neck, working my way up to her ear. My mouth was already burning, but I didn’t care. “Why are we going to this stupid party again when we have a perfectly good car right here?”

  She pushed up onto her toes, kissing me until my head was pounding as hard as my heart. Then she pulled back, ducking away. “Aunt Mercy and Aunt Grace would really love that, wouldn’t they? It would almost be worth it to see the looks on their faces when I came down to breakfast in the morning. Maybe I could wear one of your towels.” She started to laugh, and I pictured it all right, only the shrieking in my head was so loud, I gave up.

  “Let’s just say, the language could get a whole lot stronger than ‘fanny.’ ”

  “I bet they’d call the ‘durned po-lice.’ ” She was right.

  “Yeah, but I’m the one they’d have arrested for compromising your virtue.”

  “Then I guess we better pick up Link, before you have the chance.”

  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d set foot in Savannah’s house, but I started to feel uncomfortable the minute we walked up to the stairs. There were pictures of her everywhere—wearing sparkly tiaras and all kinds of MISS AREN’T-I-BETTER-THAN-YOU? sashes, posing with her cheer uniform and pom-poms—and a whole row of what I guess were supposed to be modeling head shots, featuring Savannah in bathing suits, with fake eyelashes and too much lipstick. From the looks of it, she’d been wearing lipstick since she got out of diapers.

  Turns out, the Snows didn’t really need party decorations. Past the table covered with a hundred basketball cupcakes, past the punch bowl with little plastic basketballs frozen into the ice ring, past the chicken salad sandwiches made into basketballs with little round cookie cutters, Savannah was the biggest decoration of all. She was still wearing her cheer uniform, but she had written Link’s name on one cheek and drawn a giant pink heart on the other. She stood in the middle of the backyard—waiting, smiling, generally lighting up the place as if she was the Christmas tree at a Christmas party. And the minute Savannah saw Link, it was like someone had flipped the switch that turned on all her lights.

  “Wesley Lincoln!”

  “Hey there, Savannah.”

  Savannah was hoping for some serious sparks between them, but she didn’t have a chance. When it came to Link, there was only one girl who could cause that kind of spark, and it was only a matter of minutes until she arrived and really lit up the place.

  More like an hour.

  That’s when Ridley got there and ratcheted things up a notch or two—or two hundred. “Evening, boys.”

  Link’s head whipped around when he saw her, and he broke into a smile about a mile wide, confirming what I knew all along. Ridley was still under his skin, and pretty much everywhere else. I knew what that kind of radar felt like. It was the way I felt about Lena.

  Uh-oh. This isn’t good, L.

  I know.

  “Come on. I think it’s going to get ugly.” I took Lena’s hand and turned to leave, and there was Liv. Lena shot me a look.


  With everything else going on, I’d forgotten all about giving Liv the invitation.

  “Lena.” Liv smiled.

  “Liv.” Lena sort of smiled. “I didn’t know if you were coming.”

  “Really? I left Ethan a note.” Liv smiled at me pointedly.

  “Really.” Lena shot me a look that said I’d be hearing about this later.

  Liv shrugged. “Well, you know Ethan.” Don’t you? That’s what Lena heard.

  “Yeah, I do.” Lena wasn’t smiling anymore.

  I started to panic and noticed the punch table, a good fifteen feet away. That seemed like a safe distance. “I’m going to get something to eat. Anybody want anything?”

  “Nope.” Liv smiled at me like everything was fine.

  “Not a thing.” Lena smiled at me like she was about to kill me.

  I escaped as quickly as I could.

  Mrs. Snow was standing by the punch bowl talking to two men I’d never seen before. They were both wearing university caps and collared shirts. “It’s a surprise,” Mrs. Snow told them. “That’s why my daughter wanted to throw this little get-together. She wanted you to be able to talk to Wesley in a casual environment.”

  “That sure was kind of your daughter, ma’am.”

  “Savannah’s a very thoughtful girl. Always puttin’ others first. And her boyfriend, Wesley, is a real talented basketball player. That’s why my husband asked y’all to come up. And Wesley comes from a good, churchgoing family. His mother’s got a hand in everythin’ that goes on in this town.”

  I froze at the table, a chocolate basketball jammed halfway into my mouth. They were college scouts. And they were here to meet Link.

  I looked across the yard to where Link and Savannah were dancing and Ridley was circling like a shark. Rid would make her move any minute now, striking so fast that there would be nothing left but blood in the water.

  I took off, nearly knocking over the punch bowl in the process.

  “Sorry, Savannah. I need to talk to Link for a minute.” I grabbed Link and hauled him out Savannah’s back gate.

  “What the hell?” Link looked at me like I was crazy.

??There are scouts in there, from the university. Mrs. Snow set this whole thing up for you. And if you let Ridley get near Savannah tonight, you’re going to blow everything.”

  “What are you talkin’ about?” He looked confused.

  “Basketball. College recruiters. It’s your ticket out of here.”

  He shook his head. “Nah, dude. You’ve got it all wrong. I don’t want a ticket out of this town. I just wanna a ticket outta this party.”

  “You what?”

  He was already shaking his head and walking back to the party. “It’s not Savannah. It never was. It’s Ridley, good or bad.” He looked at me like he was telling me he had a fatal disease or something. “I can’t shake it.”

  “Shake what, Shrinky Dink?” Ridley was standing with her back against the gate. Unlike the rest of the girls on the squad, she wasn’t wearing her cheer uniform. Her green dress was so tight in some places and slit so high in others, you weren’t exactly sure where to look.

  Link moved closer to her. “Come on, Rid. I want to talk to you.”

  “That’s not what your little girlfriend said. She said you didn’t want to talk to me. In fact, she told me to get the hell off her property.”

  “Savannah’s not my girlfriend.”

  I tried to pretend I didn’t know what was about to happen. I tried not to listen, or care.

  But I could hear the desperation in Link’s voice. “It’s never been anyone but you.”

  “What are you talking about?” She froze, but it was too late.

  Link couldn’t stop himself. “Sometimes I think crazy things, like I want to be with you forever. We could live in an RV and see the world. I mean, the parts you can drive to. And you could write songs, and I could play them at gigs. Can’t you see it?”

  Ridley’s face looked like it was about to crack into a thousand tiny pieces. “I—don’t know what to say.”

  “Say you’ll be my girl, the way it used to be.”

  I could see her wavering, and I realized how hard it must be to be her right now. Because she wasn’t the Ridley she used to be, any more than he was the Link he used to be. Nothing was the same. Not for anyone.

  Then she noticed Lena and Liv, watching from one side—and me, standing there on the other. Her face clouded over. Ridley wasn’t going to crack, especially not in front of us. “What are you on, Shrinky Dink?”

  “Come on, Rid. You’re my girl. Stop pretending you don’t feel the same way about me.”

  “I’m a Siren. I’m nobody’s girl. I don’t feel anything. And I don’t fall in love. I can’t.” She started to back away. “It’s always been just a gig.”

  “Rid, you’re not a Siren anymore. You’re never gonna be one again.”

  Ridley spun around, her blue eyes raging. “That’s where you’re wrong. I’m not going to be stuck in this pathetic excuse for a town forever. And there’s no way I’m traveling the world in some crappy trailer with you. I have plans.”

  “Ridley—” Link sounded miserable.

  “Big plans. And I can tell you right now, they have nothing to do with you!” She turned to face the rest of us. “Any of you!”

  Link looked like she’d slapped him in the face. For a guy who spent most of his time joking around, I’d never heard him lay it out like that to a girl.

  As Ridley walked toward the gate, Link kicked the lawn chair next to him, sending it flying.

  Across the yard, Savannah saw her chance, and took it. She smoothed her blond hair and pushed her way through the crowd to Link. She slid her hands up his T-shirt. “Come on, Link. Let’s dance.”

  The next minute they were dancing and Savannah was all over him. Lena, Liv, and I stared as if we were watching a three-car pile-up on Route 9. You couldn’t turn away.

  Liv scrunched up her nose. “Should we be letting this happen?”

  Lena shrugged. “I don’t see what we can do to stop it. Unless you want to go over there.”

  “No, thanks.”

  That’s when Savannah—who clearly didn’t realize she was dancing with a heartbroken guy whose hopes and dreams of true love and record deals and RV parks across the country had just been shattered—moved in for the kill.

  The three of us collectively held our breath.

  Right there under the twinkling lights, Savannah took Link’s face in her hands and pulled him toward her.

  “Bollocks.” Liv hid her face.

  “This is bad.” Lena didn’t want to look either.

  “We’re screwed.” I braced myself.

  The kiss lasted for a full twenty seconds.

  Until Ridley happened to look over her shoulder.

  You could probably hear the sound a half a mile away. Ridley was standing behind the gate at the edge of Savannah’s backyard, screaming so loud that everyone at the party stopped dancing. She was holding her scorpion belt, her lips moving as if she was Casting.

  “She can’t be—” Lena whispered.

  I grabbed Lena’s hand. “We have to stop her. She’s lost it.”

  But it was too late.

  A minute later, everything turned into complete and total chaos.

  I felt the Cast rip through the party like a wave. And you could almost see it, hitting one person and moving on to the next. You could tell where it had hit, from the angry expressions and the shouting left in its wake. One minute, couples were dancing—the next, they were fighting. Guys were shoving each other while unsuspecting victims tried to move out of the way. Until the Cast hit them, and then they were the ones doing the pushing and yelling.

  I heard the punch bowl shatter on the floor, but I couldn’t see it through the crowd of cheerleaders pulling each other’s hair and basketball players tackling each other. Even Mrs. Snow was screaming at the college scouts, giving them enough pieces of her mind to keep them from ever crossing the county line again.

  Lena’s eyes went dark. “I can feel it—a Furor!” She grabbed Liv and me, pulling us toward the gate, but it was too late.

  I knew as soon as it hit, because Liv turned and slapped Lena across the face as hard as she could.

  “Have you lost your mind?” Lena held her cheek, which was already turning an angry shade of red.

  Liv pointed at her, the heavy black selenometer turning on her wrist. “That is for all the whining, Princess.”

  “What?” Lena’s hair started to curl, her green and gold eyes narrowing.

  Liv went on. “Poor, beautiful me. My gorgeous boyfriend is so in love with me, but my heart is broken because—hey—that’s how beautiful emo girls like me are supposed to act.”

  “Shut up!” Lena looked like she was about to punch Liv in the face. I heard thunder rumble in the sky.

  “Instead of being happy that a great guy loves me, I’m going to slap on some more black nail polish and run off with some other gorgeous guy.”

  “That’s not what happened!” Lena swung at Liv, but I caught her arm. Rain started to fall.

  Liv kept talking. “And—wait for it—I’m the most powerful Caster in the universe. In case the rest of you lowly Mortals didn’t already feel like total crap.”

  “Are you crazy?” Lena screamed at her, but it was hard to hear over all the chaos. “My uncle died. I thought I was going Dark.”

  “Do you know what it feels like to hang out with a guy when you have feelings for him? Help him look for his girlfriend who doesn’t want to be found? Watch him break his own heart, and yours, over some stupid Caster girl who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about him?”

  Lightning ripped across the sky, the rain pelting us like hailstones. Lena lunged for Liv. I moved in front of Lena, holding her back.

  “Liv. That’s enough. You’re wrong.” I had no idea what Liv was doing, but I wanted her to shut up.

  “Feelings for him? At least you finally admit it!” Lena was screaming.

  “I don’t admit anything except that you’re a bloody little bitch who thinks the world orbits around your pretty little curls.”
r />   That was it. Lena wrenched her arms free and slammed her hands into Liv’s shoulders. Liv fell backward, hitting the ground hard. Lena wasn’t going to let her have the last word. Or the last hit.

  “Okay, little Miss I’m-Not-Here-to-Steal-Your-Boyfriend.” Lena imitated Liv’s voice. “Really, we’re just friends, even though I’m smarter and blonder than the rest of you combined. And did I mention my cute little British accent?”

  Liv kicked mud at her, but Lena moved out of the way just in time. Lena didn’t stop there. “And if that’s not enough, let me martyr myself, so you can spend the rest of your life feeling guilty. Or maybe I can spend all my time with your uncle, so he can think of me as the daughter he never had. Oh, wait—he already has one of those! But who cares. Because if Lena has it, I’m going to try to take it!”

  Liv scrambled to her feet and tried to slip past me. I held on to her. “Stop it! You’re acting like idiots. It’s a Cast! You don’t even realize who you should be mad at!”

  “And you do?” Lena screamed, trying to reach around me to grab Liv’s hair.

  “Of course I do. But the only person I’m angry at isn’t here.” I bent down and picked up Ridley’s scorpion belt from the muddy grass. I handed it to Lena. “It’s Ridley. And she’s gone. So I have no one to yell at.”

  I heard the Beater’s engine gunning. I pointed out the gate, and we watched the Beater peel away from the curb. “Actually, I think there’s someone even angrier at her than I am. And it looks like he’s taking off to find her.”

  “You really think this is some kind of Cast?” Lena looked at Liv.

  “No. I think we always fight like stray dogs in the street when we try to socialize at parties.” Liv rolled her eyes.

  “See? There you go, having to be the smart one all the time.” Lena tried to pull free, but I clamped down harder on both of their arms.

  “It’s a Furor, you moron,” Liv snapped.

  “I’m a moron? I said Furor before this whole thing started.”

  I pushed them both through the gate in front of me. “You’re both acting like morons. And now we’re gonna get in the car and go up to Ravenwood. And if you two can’t say something nice to each other, don’t say anything.”

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