Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia


  “Didn’t you ever have a best friend?” It was clear from Floyd’s tone that she wasn’t betting on it. “Or did you always live alone in that cave you call a heart?”

  Ridley fixed her eyes on the giant X.

  Don’t answer.

  Don’t let her see.

  Don’t give any of them that satisfaction.

  “Cut it out, Floyd,” said Link, looking up. “Rid has a lot of friends and a big family, and she has me. She has all of us.”

  Rid’s eyes met Link’s from across the room.

  “We’re her tribe,” he said.

  And it was true.

  She felt like she was going to burst into tears, except she would’ve rather stabbed her own eyes out than break down in front of Floyd.

  Only a groan coming from the low, rickety bed saved her.

  “Holy Toledo,” Necro muttered.

  Link grinned. “Hey, we were just talkin’ about that.”

  Necro’s eyes fluttered open. “I feel like crap.”

  “You look like crap, too.” Ridley smiled at her. She had never been more relieved to see a few more piercings and a blue faux-hawk.

  “Hey, buddy.” Floyd took Necro’s hand. Floyd’s other hand bloomed instantly into a bouquet of flowers.

  Necro nodded. “Can you make those chocolates?”

  “And let you eat my finger?” Floyd’s hand fell back into its natural form while Necro turned her head to the rest of the room, smiling weakly.

  Link was hovering. “No worries, man. We got this whole thing all figured out. You’re gonna be up and jammin’ in no time at all.” He patted her bed awkwardly.

  “Rock on.” Necro flashed him the horns, the universal heavy metal hell-yeah. “What’s the boss man doing here?”

  Nox sat on the floor, leaning against the wall of her room. He was so quiet that they’d almost forgotten he was still there.

  Floyd reached up to brush a stray blue wisp away from Necro’s face. “He’s just worried about you, like the rest of us.” Floyd didn’t say anything more than that, though Ridley knew she’d have plenty to say on the subject of Nox Gates and his secret relationship with his favorite Necromancer.

  They would fight it out later, Ridley suspected. That was what bands did.

  Just like tribes.

  “I’ve never done one of these before. I hope it works.” Ridley lit the last candle in the Circle of Protection around apartment 2D. A wide ring of flickering light now wound its way from the stage to the beach to Necro’s room and back again. Rid wasn’t sure Necro was in danger, but they were all too afraid to leave her unprotected in her present state.

  Nox looked back after she blew out the last match. He kept his eyes on Ridley. “I’m sorry, Little Siren.”

  Me, too, she thought. About this. About everything. He looked for a second like he didn’t quite know what to say, but Ridley didn’t, either.

  She shrugged it off. “Don’t. It was an accident. And anyway, you came back here to help Necro. That’s the important thing.” It doesn’t matter now, she thought.

  Lines had been crossed. Everything had been said. There was no point in talking about it beyond that.

  Nox reached out to touch a pink strand of hair. “I guess this is good-bye.” He dropped his hand. “Take care of Necro. And yourself.”

  “I always do.” Her eyes lingered on him.

  “I know,” Nox said.

  He took a tentative step toward her.

  “Do you mind?” He gestured awkwardly. “A real good-bye? Seeing as I may never see you again?”

  “What?”

  Nox extended his arms. One last embrace. A hug between friends. Rid couldn’t refuse. But she also couldn’t avoid looking over her shoulder before she moved any closer to him. Just to make sure the door was shut.

  Ridley and Link might not have been together anymore, but he and Floyd would never let her hear the end of it if they walked in and saw her so much as touching Lennox Gates.

  The candles flickered and smoked.

  Ridley and Nox stood in the center of the circle—on the shore of the beach that was apartment 2D.

  He drew her in for a hug. She could feel his powerful arms beneath his jacket. It seemed like so long ago that they had stood together on the dance floor at Sirene and shared that one exquisite, terrifying kiss.

  She hadn’t realized it wouldn’t be the only one.

  He leaned toward her.

  His lips touched hers gently. A very different kind of kiss.

  It was sweet.

  Sweet enough for both of them.

  Nox had hurt Ridley, and he knew it. He could feel it, the moment he kissed her.

  If only he had told her everything he knew, right from the start.

  If only.

  He had thought that if he could have one last kiss, maybe it would be like a Cast. Maybe she would forgive him, and everything would revert to the way it had been before he screwed it all up.

  But that wasn’t possible, because he had been screwing up from the beginning.

  When I promised to deliver her to a Ravenwood Blood Incubus. Or when I watched her die in a fire in my own club and I didn’t warn her.

  If I let it happen that way.

  There was a special place in Hell for guys like Lennox.

  It was called life.

  The only thing he had left was a kiss.

  This kiss.

  Nox caught a glimpse of candlelight in his peripheral vision, and suddenly he was spinning out of control.

  The fire.

  The vision hit during the kiss, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

  The vision smoke cleared even as Nox tried to look past it. He was standing somewhere gray and filthy that reeked of garbage and sewage. A thin spray of mold was growing on the stone floor and ceiling.

  No light. Underground. A prison cell, probably. It looks more like a dungeon.

  Nox found himself standing in the corridor, looking down on the individual lockups. Every steel door was identical—heavy, barred, and bolted.

  He walked away from the doors, toward the end of the hallway. At the very end stood two men who looked vaguely familiar. They looked with interest through a square window cut into the cell door immediately in front of them.

  The first was a hulking figure, wearing a black suit and cheap leather shoes.

  The other man was thinner but imposing, his face hidden behind a black fedora. The sleeves of his expensive dress shirt were pushed up above his elbows carelessly. He was the dangerous one. He stepped back from the door, smoking a cigar.

  Nox recognized the gold crown stamped on the side.

  Barbadian. He’s a Ravenwood.

  Nox didn’t need to see the family crest stamped into the heavy silver signet ring on the man’s finger. There was only one person who fit the description, though Nox himself had never seen him in person.

  Silas Ravenwood, the infamous and deadly great-great-grandson of Abraham.

  “Keep her chained up until I tell you otherwise,” Silas said in a thick accent that Nox couldn’t quite place. “To say the Power of Persuasion is valuable to a man in my line of work is an understatement. And my last Siren was useless.”

  The man in the cheap shoes peered into the shadows of the cell. “Do the chains leave marks?”

  “Of course. But I’ll make her Charm them away herself. Or maybe I’ll let her keep them as a reminder.”

  “You think this Siren will be better?”

  “She comes from a powerful line. And she’s made some powerful enemies. How else would she have ended up here?” His voice didn’t betray a hint of emotion. “You know Lennox Gates?”

  The big guy nodded. “I think I met him once, in one of his clubs.”

  “His mother was my grandfather’s personal Siren, and she was a powerful bitch. The kid sold me this one.” Silas Ravenwood laughed.

  “Expensive?”

  “His life,” Silas said.

  “You made hi
m pay to keep his own life?” Silas’ underling looked shocked.

  “Of course not. I made him pay with it.” He shrugged. “Never bargain with a Blood Incubus.”

  The pit in Nox’s stomach hardened into a lump. It was the closest he’d ever come to seeing his own future, and he suspected it was because it wasn’t really about him.

  This was Ridley’s vision.

  She was the Siren they were talking about.

  The one chained like an animal.

  Then the smoke descended and the terrible faces of the two men vanished…

  … and Ridley broke off the kiss.

  “Nox? Are you okay?” Ridley stared into his eyes, though they didn’t seem to see her. She shook his shoulders, hard. “Nox. You’re creeping me out.”

  He focused his eyes and pulled her into a hug. Now he was holding her so tight that it hurt. “I need to tell you something, Little Siren.”

  Ridley pulled free from his arms. “What is it?”

  “Something I should have told you a long time ago.” His eyes held hers. “I don’t want to do this. And I’ve never done it before.”

  “Done what?” The way Nox was talking, though, Ridley wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

  “My father warned me not to. Nobody wants to hear it.”

  “Nox.” Ridley was frightened.

  “Not even a Caster. We all want to pretend we will live forever.”

  Ridley’s face was pale. “What are you talking about?”

  “There’s a reason your kiss tastes like fire,” Nox began.

  CHAPTER 32

  Disposable Heroes

  Nox told Ridley and Link as much as he could from the relative safety of the Circle of Protection and fifty lit candles. Not that a Circle or a thousand candles could stop a Ravenwood.

  Not even apartment 2D was safe, not anymore.

  Ridley had to physically restrain Link until Nox finished talking. She would’ve had to hold off Floyd and Sampson too, except they were both too busy with Necro to care what Nox had to say about anything.

  “So let me get this straight,” Link said. “You promised Abraham Ravenwood that you’d hand us over to his thugs. You already told us that part.”

  Nox nodded. “One thug. Silas Ravenwood. His grandson.”

  “The criminal,” Link said.

  “Or the Capo. I’ve heard that’s what he calls himself.”

  “Why me? For what?” Ridley was numb.

  “What do you expect? He wants revenge,” Nox said. “Your hybrid stabbed his grandfather with a pair of gardening shears.”

  “And Grandpa had it comin’.” Link shrugged. “Guess that makes sense, not that I’m goin’ down without a fight. But what does he want with Rid?”

  Nox walked over to the window and stared out. It was difficult to look anywhere else. “She lured Abraham there. She delivered him right into your hands.”

  “So Silas wants to kill her, too?” Link asked. “I’m not enough?” He almost looked insulted.

  Ridley was silent, and from the expression on her face, terrified. “Is that it? Is that how I…”

  “I’m not sure,” Nox said slowly. As if the words themselves were painful. “I’ve seen your future twice now. Each time it was slightly different.”

  “But I die? In a fire?”

  “Once.”

  “Once? What about the other time?”

  Nox had a strained look on his face now. “Remember when I told you about my mother?”

  She nodded.

  “Silas is a powerful man. Part of that power comes from the Dark Casters around him. He needs a Siren, and your family is about as powerful as they come, Rid.”

  “Don’t call her that,” Link snapped. “Rid’s not your friend. Friends don’t sell you out to Dark Incubuses.”

  “But Silas would. And Silas is a businessman. Selling a Siren to the highest bidder, that’s good business. Selling the Siren who helped end Abraham Ravenwood, that’s even better business.”

  Ridley stared back at Nox, stunned. “You said your mother was Abraham’s slave. Are you telling me that you were going to hand me over to Silas so he could lock me up in a cage, too? Just like his grandfather?”

  Link curled his hands into fists.

  “That’s one scenario,” Nox said carefully. “The fire is the other.”

  Ridley was incredulous. “And you never said a word?”

  Nox stared at the floor. “I tried.”

  Not hard enough.

  Nox looked miserable. “I didn’t want to hand you over, period. But before, I didn’t really see another way out. It’s different now. Now that we’re… friends. That’s why I’m telling you all this.”

  Link walked over and stood next to Ridley. “I’m not lettin’ you give her to anyone. And I’m not lettin’ anyone stick her back in a cage. I’ll go instead.”

  “Link,” Ridley began.

  Nox turned around to face them. “You don’t get it, Mortal.”

  “Part Mortal,” Link said, unflinching.

  “Abraham wants both of you, and if I hand you over, you’re dead and she’s in chains. If I don’t hand you over, he’ll have Silas find you anyway. So we need to come up with a plan B.”

  “What if we leave?” Ridley said. “Right now.”

  Nox nodded. “You should. Get on the road and don’t look back. It’s the smartest thing to do.”

  “Tell her the rest.” Sampson stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame.

  “Shut up,” Nox said. “Stay out of this.”

  Ridley turned to Sampson. “Tell me what?”

  “Keep your mouth shut,” Nox snapped.

  Sampson shoved his huge hands in his pockets and stared back at Nox. “I don’t like people telling me what to do. You know that, boss.”

  Nox’s temper flared. “There’s only one important word in that sentence: boss. We figured this out. Leave it alone.”

  Sampson nodded, his brown hair hiding his expression. “If those two leave, you won’t be my boss anymore. So I guess it doesn’t matter if I say anything either way, now, does it?”

  Ridley spun around. “Nox, what is he talking about?”

  Nox stared back at her, the girl who had changed everything, including him. “If I don’t deliver the two of you, Silas won’t be happy with me.”

  “Not happy? He’ll kill you.” Sampson didn’t smile. “Silas, or a handful of Vexes. If he’s in a good mood he’ll let you choose.”

  “But hey.” Nox forced a smile. “Things haven’t been going so well for me anyway.”

  Ridley’s expression crumpled. “Then we stay. We aren’t going to let you take on Silas Ravenwood alone.”

  “She’s right,” Link said. “I’m not leavin’ another guy to take a hit for me, especially not a piece a garbage like you.”

  Nox shook his head. “You don’t get it. He won’t stop until the hybrid is dead and you’re on a leash for good. You can’t escape the Ravenwoods. You should know that by now.”

  “What if he thinks we’re dead?” Ridley asked.

  Nox shook his head. “What am I supposed to tell him? That the two of you took a trip to the Bermuda Triangle and your plane disappeared? He’s not going to believe the two of you are dead unless he sees it for himself.”

  “Isn’t there a Cast or some Illusionist trick for that? Maybe Floyd can cook somethin’ up,” Link said. “Some kinda Caster Fakeus Corpsicus?”

  But Ridley knew there were some things even a Cast couldn’t fix.

  Sometimes you just had to go with good old-fashioned planning and manipulation.

  Mortal-style.

  CHAPTER 33

  Oh Yoko!

  Hours later, Nox stood at the top of the Empire State Building. The city unfolded beneath him, but he couldn’t see it. He was only focused on the moment right in front of him. This was the big game, the last hand, and Nox had nothing in it. There was only one thing he could do now.

  What he’d always done.


  Bluff.

  Nox wasn’t sure about any of this. It was Ridley’s idea. The hybrid had agreed, but the hybrid would agree to anything—no matter how risky or ridiculous—if he thought it would keep Ridley out of Abraham’s clutches.

  Nox knew the feeling, which was why he was here now.

  He heard the door to the observation platform swing open, then footsteps behind him. “I heard you were looking for me,” Nox said.

  This is it. Make him think you’ve got a full house.

  Silas Ravenwood circled around him, a wisp of smoke from a Barbadian cigar trailing after him. In a pressed dress shirt, expensive gray slacks, and Italian wing tips, Silas almost could’ve passed for a CEO instead of a crime lord.

  A Blood Incubus CEO.

  It was only the smuggled cigars, the way he rolled up the sleeves of his fifteen-hundred-dollar shirt, and the fedora that marked him as a criminal.

  And his knuckles.

  Businessmen don’t have crooked knuckles from beating people to death.

  “Where have you been, kid? I left you a message.”

  Nox shrugged. “Nowhere special.”

  Silas walked up to him, the cherry of his cigar dangerously close to Nox’s cheek. “You think I’m screwing around? When I tell a mutt like you to come in, I expect to see you in my goddamned office with that tail of yours tucked between your legs.”

  “I’ve been busy.”

  “You won’t be as busy if you’re dead,” Silas said. “You have one day to deliver the Siren and the hybrid Incubus.”

  “Why do you care about the two of them so much, if you don’t mind me asking?” Nox knew he was walking a slippery slope. Silas Ravenwood wasn’t a fan of questions.

  “Why are you suddenly so interested? Feeling sentimental? I know how you feel about half-breeds and wish workers.” Silas smiled. “They’re almost like family.”

  Nox shrugged, holding in his anger. “Sorry I touched a nerve. I was just curious.”

  “My grandfather wants his name avenged.” Silas took a long pull on the cigar. “I have my own reasons for wanting the Siren.”

  “Is it love?” Nox raised an eyebrow.

  Silas grinned. “It is to me.”

 
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