Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia


  Hunting glanced at Abraham, and a flash of recognition passed between them—a secret they shared.

  “Is that so?” Abraham dropped The Book of Moons at his feet. “Then why don’t you come over here and take it?”

  John had to know it was some kind of trick, but he started walking anyway.

  I wished Liv were here to see how brave he was. Then again, I was glad she wasn’t. Because I could barely stand to watch him take another step closer to the ancient Incubus, and I wasn’t the girl who loved him.

  Abraham held out his hand and flicked his wrist, like he was turning a doorknob.

  With that one motion, everything changed. Instantly, John grabbed his head like someone had just cracked it open from the inside, and dropped to his knees.

  Abraham kept his arm in front of him, closing his fist slowly, and John jerked violently, screaming in pain.

  “What the hell?” Link grabbed John’s arm and yanked him to his feet.

  John could barely stand. He swayed, trying to regain his balance.

  Hunting laughed. Ridley was still standing next to him, and I could see the lollipop shaking in her hand.

  I tried to think of a Cast, anything that would stop Abraham, even for a second.

  Abraham stepped closer, gathering up the bottom of his coat to keep it from dragging in the mud. “Did you think I would create something as powerful as you if I couldn’t control it?”

  John froze, his green eyes fearful. He squinted hard, trying to fight the pain. “What are you talking about?”

  “I think we both know,” Abraham said. “I made you, boy. Found the right combination—the parentage I needed—and created a new breed of Incubus.”

  John staggered back, stunned. “That’s a lie. You found me when I was a kid.”

  Abraham smiled. “That depends on your interpretation of the word found.”

  “What are you saying?” John’s face was ashen.

  “We took you. I did engineer you, after all.” Abraham dug around in his jacket pocket and removed a cigar. “Your parents had a few happy years together. It’s more than most of us get.”

  “What happened to my parents?” John gritted his teeth. I could almost see the rage.

  Abraham turned to Hunting, who lit the cigar with a silver lighter. “Answer the boy, Hunting.”

  Hunting flipped the top of the lighter closed. He shrugged. “It was a long time ago, kid. They were juicy. And chewy. But I can’t remember the details.”

  John lurched forward and ripped through the darkness.

  One second he was there. The next, he was gone, sliding away in a ripple of air. He reappeared just inches in front of Abraham and wrapped his hand around the old Incubus’ throat. “I’m going to kill you, you sick son of a bitch.”

  The tendons in John’s arm tightened, but his grip didn’t.

  The muscles in his hand were tensing, his fingers obviously trying to close, but they wouldn’t. John grabbed his wrist with his other hand, trying to brace it.

  Abraham laughed. “You can’t hurt me. I’m the architect of the design. Think I would build a weapon like you without a kill switch?”

  Ridley stepped back, watching as John’s hand loosened against his will, his fingers opening as he tried to force them closed again with his other hand. It was impossible.

  I couldn’t bear to watch. Abraham seemed more in control of John now than he had on the night of the Seventeenth Moon. Worse, John’s awareness didn’t seem to change the fact that he couldn’t control his body. Abraham was pulling the strings.

  “You’re a monster,” John hissed, still holding his wrist inches from Abraham’s throat.

  “Flattery won’t get you anywhere. You’ve caused me lots of problems, boy. You owe me.” Abraham smiled. “And I plan to take it out of your flesh.”

  He twitched his hands again, and John rose off the ground further, clutching his own neck with his hands, strangling himself.

  Abraham was trying to do more than make a point. “You have outlived your usefulness. All that work for nothing.”

  John’s eyes rolled back in his head, and his body went limp.

  “Don’t you need him?” Ridley shouted. “You said he was the ultimate weapon.”

  “Unfortunately, he’s defective,” Abraham answered.

  I noticed something move in my peripheral vision a moment before I heard his voice.

  “One could say the same thing about you, Grandfather.” Uncle Macon stepped out from behind one of the crypts, his green eyes glowing in the darkness. “Put the boy down.”

  Abraham laughed, though his expression was anything but amused. “Defective? That’s a compliment, coming from the little Incubus who wanted to be a Caster.”

  Abraham’s grip on John loosened just enough for John to get some air. The Blood Incubus was focusing his anger on Uncle Macon now.

  “I never wanted to be a Caster, but I’m glad to accept any fate that unburdens me from the Darkness you brought upon this family.” Uncle Macon pointed a hand at John, and a wave of energy flashed across the graveyard, the blast hitting John squarely.

  John yanked his hands away from his neck as his body dropped to the ground.

  Hunting started toward his brother, but Abraham stopped him, clapping dramatically. “Nicely done. That’s quite a party trick, son. Maybe next time you can light my cigar.” Abraham’s features settled in his familiar sneer. “Enough games. Let’s finish this.”

  Hunting didn’t hesitate.

  He ripped through the darkness as Uncle Macon focused his green eyes on the black sky. Hunting materialized in front of his brother just as the sky exploded into a blanket of pure light.

  Sunlight.

  Uncle Macon had done it once before, in the parking lot of Jackson High, but this time the light was even more intense—and focused. That light coming from him had been Caster green. This time it was something stronger and more natural, as if the light came from the sky itself.

  Hunting’s body jerked. He reached out and grabbed his brother’s shirt, taking them both to the ground.

  But the killing light only intensified.

  Abraham’s skin went pale, the color of white ash. The light seemed to weaken him, but not nearly as quickly as it was draining Hunting.

  Even as Hunting desperately tried to stay alive, Abraham only seemed interested in trying to kill us. The old Blood Incubus was too strong, and he reached out for Uncle Macon. I knew better than to underestimate him. Even wounded, he wouldn’t give up until he destroyed us all.

  An overwhelming sense of panic surged inside me. I concentrated every thought, every cell on Abraham. The earth around him bucked, tearing itself from the ground like a rug being pulled out from under him. Abraham staggered and then turned his attention to me.

  He closed his hand around the air in front of him, and an invisible force tightened around my throat. I felt my feet rise off the ground, my Chucks kicking below me.

  “Lena!” John shouted. He closed his eyes, concentrating on Abraham, but whatever he was planning, he wasn’t fast enough.

  I couldn’t breathe.

  “I don’t think so.” Abraham twisted his free hand, bringing John to his knees in seconds.

  Link charged Abraham, but another simple flick of the Blood Incubus’ wrist sent him flying. Link’s back hit the jagged stone crypt with a loud crack.

  I struggled to stay conscious. Hunting was below me, his hands around Uncle Macon’s neck. But he didn’t seem to have enough strength left to hurt his brother. The color slowly drained from Hunting’s skin, turning his body hauntingly transparent.

  I gasped for breath, transfixed, as Hunting’s hands slid from Uncle M’s neck and he started writhing in pain.

  “Macon! Stop!” he pleaded.

  Uncle Macon focused his energy on his brother. The light held steady as the darkness leached out of Hunting’s body and into the overturned earth.

  Hunting seized, and sucked in his last breath. Then his body s
huddered and froze.

  “I’m sorry, brother. You left me no choice.” Macon stared down at what was left before Hunting’s corpse disintegrated, as if he had never existed at all.

  “One down,” he said grimly.

  Abraham shielded his eyes, trying to determine if Hunting was really gone. The color was beginning to seep out of Abraham’s skin now, but it had only made it as far as his wrists. He would kill me long before the sunlight took him out. I had to do something before we all ended up dead.

  I closed my eyes, trying to push past the pain. My mind was slipping into numbness.

  Thunder rumbled overhead.

  “A storm? Is that all you’ve got, my dear?” Abraham said. “Such a waste. Just like your mother.”

  Anger and guilt churned inside me. Sarafine was a monster, but she was a monster Abraham had helped create. Abraham had used her weaknesses to lure her into Darkness. And I had watched her die. Maybe we were both monsters.

  Maybe we all are.

  “I’m nothing like my mother!” Sarafine’s fate was decided for her, and she wasn’t strong enough to fight it. I was.

  Lightning tore across the sky and struck a tree behind Abraham. Flames raced down the trunk.

  Abraham took off his hat and shook it with one hand, careful to keep the hand tethered to my throat tightly clenched. “I always say it’s not a party until something catches fire.”

  My uncle rose to his feet, his black hair messy and his green eyes glowing even brighter than before. “I would have to agree.”

  The light in the sky intensified, blazing like a spotlight on Abraham. As we watched, the beam exploded in a blinding flash of white—forming two horizontal beams of pure energy.

  Abraham swayed, shielding his eyes. His iron grip retracted, and my body fell to the rotting soil.

  Time seemed to stop.

  We all stared at the white beams spreading across the sky.

  Except one of us.

  Link ripped before anyone else had a chance to react—dematerializing in a split second, like he was a pro. I couldn’t believe it. The only times he’d ever ripped in front of me, he practically flattened me like a pancake.

  Not this time.

  A crack in space opened up for him, only inches in front of Abraham Ravenwood.

  Link yanked the garden shears out of the waistband of his jeans, raising them above his head. He plunged them into Abraham’s heart before the old Incubus even realized what had happened.

  Abraham’s black eyes widened and he stared at Link, struggling to stay alive as a circle of red seeped slowly out around the blades.

  Link leaned in close. “All that engineerin’ wasn’t for nothin’, Mr. Ravenwood. I’m the best a both worlds. A hybrid Incubus with his own onboard navigation.”

  Abraham coughed desperately, his eyes fixed on the mostly Mortal boy who had taken him down. Finally, his body slid to the ground, the stolen science lab shears protruding from his chest.

  Link stood over the body of the Blood Incubus who had hunted us for so long. The one person generations of Casters hadn’t been able to touch.

  Link grinned at John and nodded. “Screw all that Incubus crap. That’s how you do it Mortal-style.”

  CHAPTER 25

  Death’s Door

  Link stood over Abraham’s body, watching as it started to disintegrate into tiny particles of nothing.

  Ridley stepped up beside him, looping her arm through his. “Grab the scissors, Hot Rod. They might come in handy if I need to cut myself out of a cage sometime.”

  Link pulled the shears from what was left of the Blood Incubus. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Jackson High Biology Department. Stay in school, kids.” He shoved the shears back into his jeans.

  John walked over and slapped Link on the shoulder. “Thanks for saving my ass. Mortal-style.”

  “You know it. I got some mad skills.” Link grinned.

  Uncle Macon brushed off his trousers. “I don’t think anyone can argue with that assessment, Mr. Lincoln. Well played. Your timing was impeccable.”

  “How did you know we were here?” I asked. Had Amma seen something and given us away?

  “Mr. Breed was kind enough to leave a note.”

  I turned to John, who was kicking at the dirt with his boot. “You told him what we were doing? What about our plans? What about the part where we agreed not to tell my uncle anything?”

  “I didn’t. The note was for Liv,” he answered sheepishly. “I couldn’t just disappear without saying good-bye.”

  Link shook his head. “Seriously, dude? Another note? Why didn’t you just leave a map?”

  This was the second time John’s guilty conscience and one of his notes had led Liv—or, in this case, my uncle—to him.

  “You should all be grateful for Mr. Breed’s sentimental inclinations,” Uncle M said. “Or I’m afraid this evening could have resulted in a very unfortunate outcome.”

  Link elbowed John. “You’re still a sap.”

  I stopped listening.

  Why couldn’t Liv keep her mouth shut?

  Another voice entered my mind.

  I hardly think blaming Liv for your mistakes is necessary.

  I was almost too stunned to speak. My uncle had never Kelted with me before. It was a power he could only have acquired after his transition into a Caster.

  “How?”

  “You know my abilities are constantly evolving. This one is unpredictable, I’m afraid.” He shrugged innocently.

  I tried not to think. It didn’t seem to stop him from scolding me.

  Really? You thought you could take on Abraham alone, in a graveyard?

  “But how did you know where we were?” John asked. “I didn’t put that in the note.”

  Oh my God….

  “Uncle M? Can you read minds?”

  “Hardly.” My uncle snapped his fingers, and Boo lumbered up the hill. Knowing my uncle, it was practically a confession.

  I felt my hair lift from my shoulders as a gentle wind whipped around me. I tried to calm down. “You were spying on me? I thought we made a deal about that.”

  “That was before you and your friends decided you were equipped to take on Abraham Ravenwood on your own.” His voice rose. “Have you learned nothing?”

  The Book of Moons lay in the dirt, the moon embossed on its black leather cover facing the sky.

  Link bent down to pick it up.

  “I wouldn’t do that, Hot Rod,” Ridley said. “You don’t have that much Incubus in you.” She picked up the Book and touched her lollipop to his lips almost like a kiss. “Wouldn’t want those pretty hands to get burned.”

  “Thanks, Babe.”

  “Don’t call me—”

  Link grabbed the lollipop out of her hand. “Yeah, yeah. I know.”

  I watched the way they looked at each other. Any idiot could see they were in love, even if they were the only two idiots who couldn’t.

  My chest ached, and I thought about Ethan.

  the missing piece

  my breath

  my heart

  my memory

  me

  the other half

  the missing half

  Stop.

  I didn’t want to write poems in my mind, especially if my uncle could hear them. I needed to send a completely different kind of message. “Rid, give it to me.”

  She nodded and handed me The Book of Moons.

  The Book that nearly killed Ethan and then Uncle Macon. The Book that took more than it ever gave. Part of me wanted to set it on fire and see if it would burn, though I doubted something as mundane as fire could destroy it.

  It still would have been worth a try if it prevented even one person from using the Book to hurt someone else—or themselves. But Ethan needed it, and I trusted him. Whatever he was doing, I believed he wouldn’t use it to hurt anyone. And I wasn’t sure he could hurt himself now.

  “We have to take it to Lila’s grave.”

/>   Uncle Macon studied me for a long moment, an unfamiliar mixture of sadness and worry warring in his eyes. “All right.”

  I recognized his tone. He was indulging me.

  I started walking toward Lila Wate’s grave, next to the empty plot where the good folks of Gatlin believed my uncle was buried.

  Ridley sighed dramatically. “Great. More time in the creepy graveyard.”

  Link slung his arm over her shoulders casually. “Don’t worry, Babe. I’ll protect you.”

  Ridley looked at him suspiciously. “Protect me? You do realize I’m a Dark Caster again?”

  “I like to think you’re kinda on the gray side. Either way, I’ll give you a pass today. I did just kill the Galactus of Incubuses.”

  Rid flipped her blond and pink hair. “Whatever that means.”

  I stopped listening and wove my way through the cemetery, The Book of Moons pressed against my chest. I felt the heat radiating from it, as if the worn leather cover might burn me, too.

  I knelt in front of Ethan’s mother’s grave. This was the spot where I’d left the black stone from my necklace for him. It seemed to work then; I could only hope it would work again. The Book of Moons had to be a whole lot more important than a rock.

  My uncle stared at the headstone, transfixed. I wondered how long he would love her. Forever, that was my best guess.

  For whatever reason, this place was a doorway I couldn’t find my way through. The important thing was that Ethan could open it somehow.

  He had to.

  I put the Book on the grave, touching it for what I hoped would be the last time.

  I don’t know why you need it, Ethan. But here it is. Please come home.

  I waited as if it might disappear right in front of me.

  Nothing happened.

  “Maybe we should leave it alone,” Link suggested. “Ethan probably needs privacy or somethin’ to do his ghost tricks.”

  “He’s not a ghost,” I snapped.

  Link held up his hands. “Sorry. His Sheer tricks.”

  He didn’t realize that the word didn’t matter. It was the image the word called up in my mind. A pale, lifeless Ethan. Dead. The way I found him the night of my Sixteenth Moon, after Sarafine stabbed him. Panic pressed against my lungs like two hands squeezing the breath out of me. I couldn’t stand to think about it.

 
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