Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia

  “What is it?” my uncle finally said, over a forkful of lobster.

  “What’s what?” I put down my fork.

  “This.” He gestured at the spread of silver platters between us, pulling the shiny dome off one overflowing with steaming, spicy oysters. “And this.” He looked pointedly at my viola, still playing softly. “Paganini, of course. Am I really that predictable?”

  I avoided his eyes. “It’s called dinner. You eat it. Which you seem to have no problem doing, by the way.” I grabbed a ridiculous flagon of ice water—where Kitchen found some of our tableware, I’d never know—before he could say anything else.

  “This is not dinner. This is, as Mark Antony would say, a tantalizing table of treason. Or perhaps treachery.” He swallowed another bite of lobster. “Or perhaps both, if Mark Antony were a fan of alliteration.”

  “No treason.” I smiled. He smiled back, waiting. My uncle was many things—a snob, for one—but he wasn’t a fool. “Just a simple request.”

  He set down his wineglass, heavy on the linen tablecloth. I waved a finger, and the glass filled itself.

  Insurance, I thought.

  “Absolutely not,” said Uncle Macon.

  “I haven’t asked you anything.”

  “Whatever it is, no. The wine proves it. The last straw. The final pheasant feather on the proverbial fluffy feather bed.”

  “So you’re saying Mark Antony isn’t the only fan of alliteration?” I asked.

  “Out with it. Now.”

  I pulled the matchbook cover out of my pocket and pushed it across the table so he could see it.


  I nodded.

  “And this is in New Orleans?”

  I nodded again. He handed me back the matchbook, dabbing at his mouth with his linen napkin. “No.” He returned to the wine.

  “No? You were the one who agreed with me. You were the one who said we could find him ourselves.”

  “I did. And I will find him while you remain locked safely in your room, like the nice little girl you should be. You’re not going to New Orleans alone.”

  “New Orleans is the problem?” I was stunned. “Not your ancient-but-deadly Incubus ancestor who tried to kill us on more than one occasion?”

  “That and New Orleans. Your grandmother wouldn’t hear of it, even if I said yes.”

  “She wouldn’t hear of it? Or she shouldn’t hear of it?”

  He lifted an eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”

  “What about if she just doesn’t hear of it? That way it’s not an issue.” I put my arms around my uncle. As angry as he made me, and as annoying as it was to have him pay off the Underground bartenders and ground me from various dangerous pursuits, I loved him, and I loved that he loved me as much as he did.

  “How about no?”

  “How about she’ll be with Aunt Del and everyone in Barbados until next week, so why is this even a problem?”

  “How about still no?”

  At that point, I gave up. It was hard to stay angry at Uncle Macon. Impossible, even. Knowing how I felt about him was the only way I understood how hard it was for Ethan to live apart from his own mother.

  Lila Evers Wate. How many times had her path crossed mine?

  we love what we love and who

  we love who we love and why

  we love why we love and find

  a falling shoelace knotted and strung

  between the fingers of strangers

  I didn’t want to think about it, but I hoped it was true. I hoped wherever Ethan was, he was with her now.

  At least give him that.

  John and I left first thing in the morning. We needed to leave early, since we were taking the long way—the Tunnels, rather than Traveling, though if I’d let him, John could have easily gotten us there in the blink of an eye.

  I didn’t care. I wouldn’t let him. I didn’t want to be reminded of the other times I’d let John carry me—all the way to Sarafine.

  So we did it my way. I Cast a Resonantia on my viola and set it to practice in the corner while I was gone. It would wear off eventually, but it might give me enough time.

  I didn’t tell my uncle I was going. I just went. Uncle Macon still slept most of the day, old habits being what they were. I figured I had at least six good hours before he noticed my absence. By which I mean, before he flipped out and came after me.

  One thing I’d realized in the last year was that there were some things no one could give you permission to do. All the same, it didn’t mean you couldn’t or shouldn’t do them—particularly when it came to the big things, like saving the world, or journeying to a supernatural seam between realities, or bringing your boyfriend back from the dead.

  Sometimes you had to take matters into your own hands. Parents—or uncles who are the closest thing you have to them—aren’t equipped to deal with that. Because no self-respecting parent in this world or any other is going to step aside and say, “Sure, risk your life. The world is at stake here.”

  How would they possibly say it?

  Be back by dinner. Hope you don’t die.

  They couldn’t do it. You couldn’t blame them. But it didn’t mean that you shouldn’t go.

  I had to go, no matter what Uncle Macon said. That’s what I told myself, anyway, as John and I headed into the Tunnels far beneath Ravenwood. Where, in the darkness, it could have been any time of day or year—any century, anywhere in the world.

  The Tunnels weren’t the scary part.

  Even spending time alone with John—something I hadn’t done since he’d tricked me and dragged me into going to the Great Barrier for my Seventeenth Moon—wasn’t the problem.

  The truth was, Uncle Macon was right.

  I was more afraid of the Doorwell that stood before me and of what I would find on the other side. The ancient Doorwell that brought light flooding down onto the stone steps of the Caster Tunnel where I waited now. The one marked NEW ORLEANS. The place where Amma had basically made a pact with the Darkest magic in the universe.

  I shivered.

  John looked at me, his head tilted. “Why are you stopping here?”

  “No reason.”

  “You scared, Lena?”

  “No. Why would I be scared? It’s just a city.” I tried to put all thoughts of black magic bokors and voodoo out of my mind. Just because Ethan had followed Amma into bad times there didn’t mean I was going to encounter the same Darkness. At least not the same bokor.

  Did it?

  “If you think New Orleans is just a city, then you’ve got another thing coming.” John’s voice was low, and I could barely see his face in the darkness of the Tunnels. He sounded as spooked as I felt.

  “What are you talking about?”

  “The most powerful Caster city in the country—the greatest convergence of Dark and Light power in modern times. A place where anything can happen, at any hour of the day.”

  “At a hundred-year-old bar for two-hundred-year-old Supernaturals?” How frightening could it be? At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.

  He shrugged. “Might as well start there. Knowing Abraham, it won’t be as easy to find him as we think.”

  We started up the stairs and into the bright sunlight that would take us to the Dark Side o’ the Moon.

  The street—a row of shabby bars, sandwiched between more shabby bars—was deserted, which made sense, considering it was still so early in the day. It looked like all the other streets we’d seen since the Doorwell brought us up into the infamous French Quarter of New Orleans. The ornately wrought iron railings swept across every balcony and along every building, even curving around the street corners. In the stark morning light, the faded colors of the painted plaster were sun-bleached and peeling. The road was lined with trash, trash piled upon more trash—the only remaining evidence of the night before.

  “I’d hate to see how it looks around here the morning after Mardi Gras,” I said, looking for a way to pick through the
mountain of garbage standing between me and the sidewalk. “Remind me never to go to a bar.”

  “I don’t know. We had some good times back at Exile. You and me and Rid, causing trouble on the dance floor.” John smiled and I blushed, remembering.

  arms around me

  dancing, hurried

  Ethan’s face

  pale and worried

  I shook my head, letting the words fall away. “An underground hole for derelict Supernaturals isn’t what I was talking about.”

  “Ah, come on. We weren’t exactly derelicts. Well, you weren’t. Rid and me, we probably qualified.” He pushed me toward the doorway playfully.

  I shoved him back, a little less playfully. “Stop it. That was a million years ago. Maybe two million. I don’t want to think about it.”

  “Come on, Lena. I’m happy. You’re—”

  I shot him a look, and he cut himself off. “You will be happy again, I promise. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”

  I looked at him, standing there next to me in the middle of a run-down side street in the French Quarter far too early in the morning, helping me look for the not-quite-a-man John hated more than anyone in the universe. He had more of a reason to hate Abraham Ravenwood than I did. And he wasn’t saying a word about what I was making him do.

  Who would’ve thought John would end up being one of the best guys I’d ever met? And who would’ve thought John would end up volunteering to risk his life to bring back the love of mine?

  I smiled at him, though I felt like crying. “John?”

  “Yeah?” He wasn’t paying attention. He was looking up at the bar signs, probably wondering how he was going to get up the nerve to go inside any of them. They all looked like serial killer hangouts.

  “I’m sorry.”

  “Huh?” Now he was listening. Confused, but listening.

  “About this. That it has to involve you. And if you don’t want it to—I mean, if we don’t find the Book—”

  “We’ll find it.”

  “I’m just saying, I won’t blame you if you don’t want to go through with it. Abraham and everything.” I couldn’t bear to do it to him. Not him and not Liv—no matter how much had gone down between us. No matter how much she had believed she loved Ethan.


  “We’ll find the Book. Come on. Quit talking crazy.” John kicked a clearing in the trash heap, and we made our way past the empty beer bottles, past the soggy napkins, and up to the sidewalk.

  By the time we made it halfway down the block, we were looking through the open doorways to see if anyone was inside. To my surprise, there were people hiding in the woodwork—literally. Slumping inside the darkened doorways. Sweeping the trash from deserted, shadowy alleys. Even silhouetted on a few of the empty balconies.

  The French Quarter wasn’t that different from the Caster world, I realized. Or from Gatlin County. There was a world within a world, all hidden in plain sight.

  You just had to know where to look.

  “There.” I pointed.


  A carved wooden sign bearing the words swung back and forth, dangling by two ancient chains. It squeaked as it moved in the wind.

  Even though there was no wind.

  I squinted in the bright morning light, trying to see into the shadows of the open doorway.

  This Dark Side was no different from the other nearly deserted bars in the neighborhood. Even from the street, I could hear voices echoing through the heavy door.

  “People are in there this early?” John made a face.

  “Maybe it’s not early. Maybe it’s late if you’re them.” I locked eyes with a scowling man who was leaning against the doorframe and trying to light a cigarette. He muttered to himself and looked away.

  “Yeah. Way too late.”

  John shook his head. “You sure this is the right place?”

  For the fifth time, I handed him the book of matches. He held up the cover, comparing it to the logo on the sign. They were identical. Even the crescent moon carved into the wooden sign was an exact duplicate of the one printed on the matchbook in John’s hand.

  “And I was so hoping the answer would be no.” He handed the matchbook back to me.

  “You wish,” I said, kicking a stray piece of wet napkin off my black Chucks.

  He winked at me. “Ladies first.”


  Bird in a Gilded Cage

  It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the dim light, and even longer for the rest of me to adjust to the stench. It smelled like must and rust and old beer—old everything. Through the shadows, I could see rows of small round tables and a high brass bar, almost as tall as I was. Bottles were stacked on shelves all the way to a high ceiling—so high the long brass chandeliers seemed to dangle down from nowhere.

  Dust covered every surface and every bottle. It even swirled in the air, in the few places where beams of light poked through shuttered windows.

  John elbowed me. “Isn’t there some kind of Cast that can keep our noses from working? Like a Stinkus Lessus Cast?”

  “No, but I can think of a few Shutus Upus Casts that might be applicable right about now.”

  “Temper, Caster Girl. You’re supposed to be Light. You know, one of the good guys.”

  “I broke the mold, remember? On my Seventeenth Moon, when I was Claimed Light and Dark?” I shot him a serious look. “Don’t forget. I’ve got my Dark side.”

  “I’m scared.” He grinned.

  “You should be. Very.”

  I pointed to a mirrored sign on the paneling, right behind him. A silhouette of a woman was painted next to a row of words. “ ‘Lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours.’ ” I shook my head. “Clearly not the slogan of the Jackson cheer squad.”

  “What?” John looked up.

  “I bet this place used to be a speakeasy. A hidden bar during Prohibition. New Orleans was probably full of them.” I looked around the room. “That means there has to be another room, right? A room behind this room.”

  John nodded. “Of course. Abraham would never hang out where anyone could walk into his hideout, no matter where it is. It was one thing all our homes had in common.” He looked around. “But I don’t remember a place like this.”

  “Maybe it was before your time, and he came back here because it was somewhere no one currently alive could find him.”

  “Maybe. Still, something feels off about this place.”

  Then I heard a familiar voice.

  No. A familiar laugh, sweet and sinister. There was nothing else like it in the world.

  Ridley? Is that you?

  I Kelted, but she didn’t answer. Maybe she didn’t hear, or it had been too long since we had connected in any kind of meaningful way. I didn’t know, but I had to try.

  I ran up the wooden staircase at the back of the bar. John was just steps behind me. As soon as I got to the room at the top, I started banging on the wall where I thought her voice had come from, high above stacks of crates and cases of bottles. The storage-room wall was hollow, and there was clearly something behind it.


  I needed a better look. I pushed a tall stack of crates out of the way. I closed my eyes and let myself rise high into the air, until I floated parallel with the window. I opened my eyes, hovering for a second. What I saw was so surprising it knocked me right to the floor.

  I could have sworn I saw my cousin, and a whole lot of makeup, and what looked like a flash of gold. Rid wasn’t in danger. She was probably lying around in there, painting her nails. Sucking on a lollipop, having the time of her life.

  Either that, or I was hallucinating.

  I’m going to kill her.

  “I swear, Rid. If you’re really this crazy, if you’ve really gone this Dark, I’m going to jam those lollipops of yours down your throat, one ball of sugar at a time.”


  I felt John’s arms behind me, pulling me back to the

  I pointed to the wall. “It’s my cousin. She’s on the other side of this wall.” I knocked on the wall above the nearest row of crates.

  “No. No, no, no—” He started backing away, like even the mention of my cousin had him wanting to make a break for it.

  I felt myself turning red. She was my cousin, and I wanted to kill her. Still, she was my cousin, and I was the one who wanted to kill her. It was a family matter. Not something John needed to worry about. “Look, John, I have to get her.”

  “Have you lost your mind?”


  “If she’s hanging with Abraham, she’s not going anywhere. And we don’t want him to find us until we figure out how to get the Book.”

  “I don’t think he’s there,” I said.

  “You don’t think, or you don’t know?”

  “If he was there, wouldn’t you sense something? I thought you two were connected somehow. Wasn’t that how he brainwashed you or whatever?”

  John looked nervous, and I felt guilty for saying it. “I don’t know. It’s possible.” He stared up at the high window. “Okay. You get in there and see what Ridley’s problem is. I’ll keep an eye out for Abraham outside and make sure he doesn’t come back while you’re inside.”

  “Thanks, John.”

  “But don’t be an idiot. If she’s gone too Dark, she’s too Dark. You can’t change Ridley. That’s one thing we’ve all learned the hard way.”

  “I know.” I probably knew it better than anyone, except maybe Link. But deep down, I also knew better than anyone how much my cousin was like everyone else. How badly she wanted to fit in and be loved and have friends and be happy—just like the rest of us.

  How Dark can a person like that really be?

  Hadn’t the New Order shown us that the price had been paid—Ethan made sure he paid it—and that things weren’t as simple as we all thought they were?

  Didn’t I Claim myself for Dark and Light?

  “You’re sure you’ll be all right in there?”

  Is it really any different for anyone else? Even Ridley? Especially Ridley?

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]