Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia

  “How can she, when you’re yelling?” Ridley snapped.

  Reece ignored her. “You’re really going to send the most powerful book in the Caster universe into the Otherworld, with no way of knowing who’ll be on the other end?”

  Rid shrugged. “At least you won’t be there.”

  Reece looked like she wanted to stab Ridley with garden shears of her own.

  “Ethan will be there,” I argued.

  Gramma hesitated, a new thought shaking her resolve. “It’s not as if we are shipping a package, Lena. What if the Book doesn’t end up where we intend?”

  Reece looked satisfied. Ridley looked like now she was the one thinking about garden shears.

  “Amma’s going to call the Greats.”

  Gramma finished her tea, and the cup vanished. “Well, if Amarie is involved, I’m sure she has a plan. I’ll get my coat.”

  “Wait.” I looked over at Reece. “We need everyone to come. Amma says we won’t have enough power unless we do this together.”

  Reece looked at Uncle Macon, who had sidled into the room at the first sign of the Caster family fighting. “Are you going to let her do this?”

  He chose his words carefully. “On the one hand, I think this is a very bad idea.”

  “There.” Reece smiled.

  “What?” Losing my uncle’s support was the one thing I had been afraid of when Amma sent me for reinforcements.

  “Let him finish, girls.” Gramma raised her voice.

  “But,” Uncle M continued, “we owe Ethan a debt we will never be able to properly repay. I watched him give his life for us, and I don’t take that lightly.”

  I exhaled. Thank goodness.

  “Uncle Macon—” Reece started.

  He silenced her with a gesture. “This isn’t up for discussion. If it weren’t for Ethan, you could be powerless right now—or worse. The Order was broken, and we were only beginning to see the effects. Things were headed in a very grave direction indeed. I promise you that.”

  “I don’t know why we’re still talking about it, then.” Gramma gathered her skirt and ascended the stairs. “I’ll get Del, Barclay, and Ryan.”

  Ridley swallowed hard at the sound of her mother’s name. Aunt Del was always heartsick when Ridley disappeared, and she had no idea her daughter was back. Or that she had returned as a Dark Caster.

  I remembered how happy Aunt Del looked when Ridley lost her powers last summer. Being a Mortal was better than being Dark, especially in this family.

  Reece turned to face her sister. “You shouldn’t be here. Haven’t you put everyone through enough pain?”

  Ridley stiffened. “I thought you deserved a little more, Sis. Wouldn’t want to leave you hanging. I mean, seeing how you’ve always been there for me.” She said it sarcastically, but I could hear the pain. Ridley only pretended she didn’t have a heart.

  I heard voices, and Aunt Del appeared at the top of the staircase. Uncle Barclay’s arm was wrapped tightly around her. I wasn’t sure if she’d overheard us or if Gramma told her about Ridley. But I could tell by the way Aunt Del was wringing her hands that she already knew the truth.

  Uncle Barclay led her down the stairs, his tall frame looming over her. His salt-and-pepper hair was combed neatly, and for once he looked like he belonged in the same era as the rest of us. Ryan trailed behind them, her long blond hair swinging in a ponytail.

  When Ryan and Ridley were standing in the same room, it was impossible to ignore how much they resembled each other. In the last six months, Ryan had come to look more like a teenager than a little girl, even though she was only twelve.

  Aunt Del smiled at Rid weakly. “I’m glad you’re all right. I was so worried.”

  Ridley bit her lip and teetered on her stacked heels. “I’m sorry, you know. I couldn’t exactly call.”

  “Abraham had Rid locked up.” I blurted it out before I could stop myself. Ridley was guilty of lots of things, but it was hard to watch them judge her for something that was out of her control.

  Aunt Del’s face crumpled—everyone’s did, except for Reece’s. She positioned herself protectively between her mother and her Dark sister.

  “Is that true?” Uncle Barclay sounded genuinely concerned.

  Ridley twisted a pink strand between her fingers nervously. “Yeah. He was a real prince.” She Kelted to me desperately. Don’t tell them, Cuz. Not now. “I’m fine,” Ridley went on, waving off her father’s concern. “Let’s worry about Ethan. No one wants to hear about me and the Big Bad Wolf.”

  Ryan stepped closer to Ridley tentatively. “I do,” she said quietly.

  Rid didn’t respond. Instead, she held out her empty hand.

  I waited for a mouse or a lollipop to appear in her palm, some cheap trick to distract her sister from what she was now. But her hand stayed empty.

  Ryan smiled and reached out her own hand, closing it around Ridley’s.

  I heard Aunt Del’s breath catch, or maybe it was mine.

  “If Lena trusts you, so do I,” Ryan said. She looked at Reece. “Sisters should trust each other.”

  Reece didn’t move, but I didn’t need to be a Sybil to read her face.

  Tiny cracks were already forming in the tough exterior Reece worked so hard to maintain. They were hard to see, but they were there. The beginning of something—tears, forgiveness, regret—I couldn’t be sure.

  It reminded me of something Marian told Ethan before everything happened. It was one of her famous quotes, by a guy named Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

  That’s what I thought of when I saw Reece’s face.

  The light was finally getting in.

  “Lena, are you all right?” Uncle Barclay glanced at the ceiling. The crystal chandelier was swinging dangerously above us.

  I took a deep breath, and it stopped immediately. Get control of yourself.

  “I’m fine,” I lied.

  I composed the words in my head, even if I wouldn’t let my pen write them.


  like the branches of a tree


  like the pieces of my heart


  like the seventeenth moon


  like the glass in the window

  the day we met

  I closed my eyes, trying to silence the words that wouldn’t stop coming.


  I ignored them, forcing them out of my mind. I wasn’t Kelting them to Uncle Macon, and I wasn’t writing a word until Ethan came back.

  Not a single word.

  “Amarie is expecting us. We should go.” Uncle Macon slipped on his black cashmere coat. “She is not a woman who appreciates being kept waiting.”

  Boo lumbered behind him, his thick fur blending seamlessly into the darkness of the room.

  Ridley opened the door, fleeing as fast as she could. She unwrapped a red lollipop before she even made it down the steps of the veranda. She hesitated for a second near the flower bed before pocketing the wrapper.

  Maybe people could change—even the ones who made the wrong choices, if they tried hard enough to make them right. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped so. I had made enough bad choices myself in the last year.

  I walked toward the only one that had been right.

  The only one that mattered.


  I’m coming.


  The Hands of the Dead

  It’s about time.” Her arms crossed impatiently, Amma was staring at the opening in the old stone wall when we stepped through.

  Uncle Macon was right; she didn’t like to be kept waiting.

  Marian gently put her hand on Amma’s shoulder. “I’m sure it was difficult to round everyone up.”

  Amma sniffed, ignoring the excuse. “There’s difficult, and then there’s difficult.”

  John and Liv were sitting on the ground next to each other, Liv’s head resting casually on John’
s shoulder. Uncle Barclay stepped through after me and helped Aunt Del navigate the broken pieces of the wall. She blinked hard, staring at a spot not far from Genevieve’s grave. She swayed, and Uncle Barclay steadied her.

  The layers of time were obviously peeling themselves back, the way they did only for Aunt Del.

  I wondered what she saw. So much had happened at Greenbrier. Ethan Carter Wate’s death, the first time Genevieve used The Book of Moons to bring him back, the day Ethan and I found her locket and had the vision, and the night Aunt Del used her powers to show us those pieces of Genevieve’s past in this very spot.

  But everything had changed since then. The day Ethan and I were trying to figure out how to repair the Order and I accidentally burned the grass beneath us.

  When I watched my mother burn to death.

  Can Aunt Del see all of it? Can she see that?

  An unexpected feeling of shame washed over me, and I secretly hoped she couldn’t.

  Amma nodded at Gramma. “Emmaline. You’re lookin’ well.”

  Gramma smiled. “As are you, Amarie.”

  Uncle Macon was the last one to enter the lost garden. He lingered near the wall, an uncharacteristic and almost imperceptible unease about him.

  Amma locked eyes with him, as if they were having a conversation that only they could hear.

  The tension was impossible to ignore. I hadn’t seen them together since the night we lost Ethan. And both of them claimed everything was fine.

  But now that they were standing only feet apart, it was clear nothing was fine. Actually, Amma looked like she wanted to tear my uncle’s head off.

  “Amarie,” he said slowly, bowing his head respectfully.

  “I’m surprised you showed up. Aren’t you worried some a my wickedness might stain those fancy shoes a yours?” she said. “Wouldn’t want that. Not when your party shoes cost such a pretty penny.”

  What is she talking about?

  Amma was a saint—at least that’s how I’d always thought of her.

  Gramma and Aunt Del exchanged glances, looking equally confused. Marian turned away. She knew something, but she wasn’t saying.

  “Grief makes people desperate,” Uncle M responded. “If anyone understands that, I do.”

  Amma turned her back on him, facing the whiskey and shot glass lying on the ground next to The Book of Moons. “I’m not sure you understand anything that doesn’t suit your purpose, Melchizedek. If I didn’t think we’d need your help, I would send you packin’ straight back to your house.”

  “That’s hardly fair. I was trying to protect you—” Uncle Macon stopped when he noticed we were all staring. All of us except Marian and John, who were doing everything they could not to look at Amma or my uncle. That pretty much meant looking at the mud on the ground or The Book of Moons, neither of which was going to make anyone any less uncomfortable.

  Amma spun back around to face Uncle Macon. “Next time, try protectin’ me a little less and my boy a little more. If there is a next time.”

  Did she blame Uncle Macon for not doing a better job of protecting Ethan when he was alive? It didn’t make any sense….

  “Why are you two fighting like this?” I demanded. “You’re acting like Reece and Ridley.”

  “Hey,” said Reece. Rid just shrugged.

  I shot Amma and my uncle a look. “I thought we were here to help Ethan.”

  Amma sniffed, and my uncle looked unhappy, but neither of them said a word.

  Marian finally spoke up. “I think we’re all worried. It would probably be best if we put everything else aside and focused on the issue at hand. Amma, what is it you need us to do?”

  Amma didn’t take her eyes off my uncle. “Need the Casters to form a circle around me. Mortals can spread out between ’em. We need the power a this world to hand that evil thing off to the ones who can take it the rest a the way.”

  “The Greats, right?” I hoped so.

  She nodded. “If they answer.”

  If they answered? Was there a chance they wouldn’t?

  Amma pointed to the ground at my feet. “Lena, I need you to bring me the Book.”

  I lifted the dusty leather volume and felt the power pulsing through it like a heartbeat.

  “The Book’s not gonna want to go,” Amma explained. “It wants to stay here, where it can cause trouble. Like your cousin there.” Ridley rolled her eyes, but Amma only looked at me. “I’ll call the Greats, but you need to keep a hand on it till they take it.”

  What was it going to do? Fly away?

  “Everyone else, make that circle. Hold hands nice and tight.”

  After Ridley and Link bickered about holding hands, and Reece refused to hold hands with Ridley or John, they finally completed the circle.

  Amma glanced over at me. “The Greats haven’t been exactly happy with me. They may not come. And if they do, I can’t promise they’ll take the Book.”

  I couldn’t imagine the Greats being upset with Amma. They were her family, and they had come to our rescue more than once.

  We just needed them to do it one more time.

  “I need the Casters to concentrate everything you got inside the circle.” Amma bent down and filled the shot glass with Wild Turkey. She drank the shot and then refilled it for Uncle Abner. “I don’t care what happens—you send the power my way.”

  “What if you get hurt?” Liv asked, concerned.

  Amma stared back at Liv, her expression twisted and broken. “Can’t get any more hurt than I am already. You just hold on.”

  Uncle Macon stepped forward, dropping Aunt Del’s hand. “Would it help if I assisted you?” he asked Amma.

  She pointed a shaky finger at him. “You get outta my circle. You can do your part from there.”

  I felt a surge of heat from the Book, as if its anger flared to meet Amma’s.

  Uncle Macon stepped back and joined hands with everyone else. “One day you will forgive me, Amarie.”

  Her dark eyes narrowed to meet his green ones. “Not today.”

  Amma closed her eyes, and my hair began to curl involuntarily as she spoke the words only she could.

  “Blood a my blood,

  and roots a my soul,

  I’m in need a your intercession.”

  The wind began to whip around me within the circle, and lightning cracked overhead. I felt the heat of the Book joining with the heat of my hands, the heat I could command—to burn and destroy.

  Amma didn’t stop, as if she was talking to the sky.

  “I call you to carry what I cannot.

  To see what I cannot.

  To do what I cannot.”

  A green glow surged from Uncle Macon’s hands and spread around the circle from one hand to the next. Gramma closed her eyes, as if she was trying to channel Macon’s power. John noticed and closed his eyes, too, and the light intensified.

  Lightning tore across the sky, but the universe didn’t open up, and the Greats didn’t appear.

  Where are you? I pleaded silently.

  Amma tried again.

  “This is the crossroads I can’t cross.

  Only you can take this book to my boy.

  Deliver it to your world from ours.”

  I concentrated harder, ignoring the heat of the Book in my hands. I heard a branch break, then another. I opened my eyes, and a burst of flames sprang up outside the circle. It caught like someone had lit the wick on a stick of dynamite, tearing through the grass and creating another circle outside the first.

  The Wake of Fire—the uncontrollable flames that ignited sometimes against my will. The garden was burning again because of me. How many times could this earth char before the damage was irreparable?

  Amma squeezed her eyes tighter. This time she spoke the words plainly. They weren’t a chant but a plea. “I know you don’t wanna come for me. So come for Ethan. He’s waitin’ on you, and you’re as much his family as you are mine. Do the right thing. One last time. Uncle Abner. Aunt Delilah. Aunt Iv
y. Grandmamma Sulla. Twyla. Please.”

  The sky opened up, and rain poured down from the heavens. But the fire still raged, and the Caster light still glowed.

  I saw something small and black circling above us.

  The crow.

  Ethan’s crow.

  Amma opened her eyes and saw it, too. “That’s right, Uncle Abner. Don’t punish Ethan for my mistakes. I know you been lookin’ after him over there, the same way you’ve always looked after us down here. He needs this book. Maybe you know why, even if I don’t.”

  The crow circled closer and closer, and the faces began to appear in the dark sky, one by one—their features carving themselves out of the universe above us.

  Uncle Abner appeared first, his lined face creased by time.

  The crow landed on his shoulder like a tiny mouse at the feet of a giant.

  Sulla the Prophet was next, regal braids cascading over her shoulder. Strands of tangled beads rested against her chest as if they weighed nothing. Or were worth the weight.

  The Book of Moons bucked in my hands, as if trying to pull free. But I knew it wasn’t the Greats reaching for it.

  The Book was resisting.

  I tightened my grip as Aunt Delilah and Aunt Ivy appeared simultaneously, holding hands and looking down like they were evaluating the scene. Our intentions or our abilities—it was impossible to know.

  But they were judging us nonetheless. I could feel it, and the Book could, too. It tried to pull free again, singeing the skin on my palms.

  “Don’t let go!” Amma warned.

  “I won’t,” I called over the wind. “Aunt Twyla, where are you?”

  Aunt Twyla’s dark eyes appeared before her gentle face and arms laden with bracelets. Before her braided hair knotted with charms, or the rows of earrings that marched down her ears.

  “Ethan needs this!” I shouted over the wind and the rain and the fire.

  The Greats stared down at us, but they didn’t react.

  The Book of Moons did.

  I felt the pulse beating within it, the power and rage spreading through my body like poison.

  Don’t let go.

  Images flashed in front of my eyes.

  Genevieve holding the Book, speaking the words that would bring Ethan Carter Wate back for a split second—and curse our family for generations.

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