Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia

  Like save Rid.

  Link was only half-listening when he realized Liv was answering his question. “Illusionists can alter the way a thing looks. Shifters change the object itself.” Liv’s eyes lingered over the collection of strange instruments on the shelves, until she finally turned back to Magnolia Blue. “I can’t believe the Keepers don’t know anything about all this, or about you.”

  “That’s the reason for Madame Blue’s House of Voodoo,” the Caster Archivist said in a theatrical voice. “It gives me plenty of time to sell love potions and good-luck charms to Mortals who don’t know the difference between the voodoo religion and Velveeta cheese, while still monitoring the disruptions in our worlds.”

  “What kind of disruptions?” Liv asked.

  “It’s a dangerous time. We’ve got Sheers crossing over from the Otherworld in record numbers, Darkborns who are immune to Caster powers.” She glanced at Sam.

  Liv looked shocked. “I had no idea things were this bad.”

  Magnolia Blue sighed. “It gets worse. You said you were looking for Ravenwood Oaks, Abraham’s old plantation?”

  “Yeah. We need to find it.” Link tried not to sound too eager.

  “You might want to rethink those plans. I got a little visitor from there this morning. Looks like Silas moved on from dissecting frogs and pulling the wings off butterflies.”

  “He moved on from that a long time ago,” John muttered under his breath.

  “What are you talking about?” Link tried not to panic.

  “Apparently, Silas is injecting Casters with new powers, and it’s changing the nature of their abilities. Among other things.”

  Liv’s eyes widened. “That’s not possible.”

  A woman who didn’t look much older than Link’s cousin Louise—who got knocked up at twenty-five, right before her wedding last year—stepped out from behind a bookcase.

  Link’s first thought was Third Degree Burns, but a second later, he felt a little guilty for thinking it. The mystery woman wasn’t as hot as Rid, but she’d definitely given a few guys whiplash. From the red waves framing her toffee-colored skin to the black leather pants she wore tucked into knee-high lace-up boots, and the tangle of necklaces hanging over her ripped T-shirt, everything about this woman screamed trouble—that and the golden Dark Caster eyes staring back at them.

  Necro and Floyd gave her the once-over as Liv eyed her suspiciously.

  “I find it hard to believe that Silas found a way to inject you with a foreign Caster power,” Liv said. “Unless you wanted him to.”

  The redhead waved Liv off with a flick of her wrist. “I don’t care what you believe, Mortal. What I can tell you is that you’re standing on what used to be a Civil War burying ground.” The woman turned in a slow circle, taking in the room around her. “One the Confederates never bothered to move. The building was a house of ill repute after that—and, from the looks of it, a popular one.”

  Link frowned, his eyes darting around the room. As far as he could tell, this place was still a cross between a library and a creepy apothecary.

  Floyd crossed her arms. “So you’re a Palimpsest? That doesn’t prove anything.”

  “I used to be. Now I’m that and much more.” The redhead smiled at Floyd, and at Liv and Necro, who looked equally skeptical. “I’m sensing you girls want proof. If you insist.”

  The mysterious Caster blew Link a kiss, and the front of his Led Zeppelin T-shirt caught fire.

  The fire burned through his shirt, and he winced, patting down the tiny flames. He pulled at a charred hole in the fabric. “Come on. This was vintage Zeppelin, from the seventies.”

  But Link was worried about more than his shirt, even if he didn’t want the redheaded firestarter to know it. He’d only seen one other Caster do anything like that before.

  Sarafine Duchannes—Ridley’s Dark Cataclyst aunt.

  The Cataclyst flexed her fingers the way Link had seen Sarafine Duchannes do a dozen times. “I couldn’t resist.”

  “So Silas Ravenwood is somehow combining Caster powers. Interesting.” Liv took out her journal without missing a beat. “Do you know how he’s doing it? And extracting the other powers, while keeping them stable? Has he tried this on anyone else?”

  “Slow down.” John rested a hand on Liv’s arm. “Give her a minute.” He turned to the Cataclyst—or half-Cataclyst; Link wasn’t too sure about the terminology in a situation like this. “Why don’t we start with your name? I’m John, and this is Liv, Link, Floyd, Necro, and Sampson.” He pointed at each of them.

  The redhead flexed her fingers, as if she was still getting used to what they could do. “Angelique St. Vincent. My friends call me Gigi. But you can call me Angelique.”

  Link sighed.

  Another Cataclyst with an attitude. Just what we need.

  Angelique turned to Liv. “And to answer your questions: I have no idea how Silas is extracting the powers, but I do know that I’m not the first Caster he injected.”

  “How can you be so sure?” Necro asked.

  Angelique extended her forearm toward them so they could see the tattoo on her skin: PATIENT 12. “After the kind of hangover I had, I’d hate to meet the first eleven.”

  Liv shook her head. “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like.”

  Angelique shrugged and let her arm drop, along with her attitude. “He put me through worse. At least I was sedated during the injections.”

  “What else did he do to you?” Sampson studied the Cataclyst, sizing her up in a way Link didn’t completely understand.

  Angelique toyed with the chains around her neck. “He kept me locked up in a cell with the rest of the women in his little Menagerie—that’s what the sick bastard called us. He left us caged like dogs until a Dark Caster or Darkborn”—she stared at Sampson when she said the word—“rented us out for the night to do their dirty work. I got off easier than most of the girls. Not many people want to pay for the services of a Palimpsest. My friend Lucia was an Empath. Silas’ guys were always dragging her out in the middle of the night for jobs.” Her face clouded over for a moment.

  Then Angelique flexed her hands, stretching out her long fingers, as if the memory had passed. “Once I became a Cataclyst, the game changed, and I was the popular girl on the block. Everyone wants their own firestarter.”

  Link pushed his way in front of Sampson. “Did Silas have a Siren in his ménage-à-whatever? Long blond hair with a pink streak and stubborn as hell? She would’ve come in a couple days ago.”

  Say yes. Please tell me you’ve seen Rid and she’s okay.

  The Cataclyst shook her head. “I broke out a week ago, and the other girls in there were the least of my concerns. Every woman for herself. I got enough problems.”

  Magnolia Blue turned to Link and his friends. “Now do you understand why I said looking for Silas Ravenwood’s place isn’t a good idea?”

  “I don’t have a choice.” Link went into panic mode and stepped closer to Magnolia Blue. “The Siren I asked about is my girlfriend, and we think Silas Ravenwood kidnapped her. What if he’s rentin’ her out like Angelique said? You gotta tell me where the plantation is, ma’am. We need to find her. Please.”

  The Archivist shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry, son. But I don’t know.”

  Angelique scoffed. “Lucky for you, there’s one person here who does.”

  Link turned toward her. He was ready to drop down on his hands and knees and beg if it got him closer to finding Ridley. “Will you tell us where it is?”

  “Sure.” Angelique examined her red nails. “The Outer Door is in the basement of the Gardette-LePretre House, not far from here.”

  That was easy.

  Link almost couldn’t believe how quickly she’d said it—the one thing no one had been able to tell them since the accident: where to find Silas Ravenwood.

  “Isn’t Gardette-LePretre the house people call the Sultan’s Palace?” Liv asked. “I’ve read about it.

  “Of course you have,” Floyd muttered under her breath.

  Liv shot her a look and turned back to the Cataclyst. “People say it’s haunted. According to most of the stories, a wealthy Turk rented the house, and he was living there with a harem of stolen women. That is, until they were all murdered. It was the scene of one of the grisliest mass murders in New Orleans history.”

  “Imagine if people knew that all the women in his harem were Casters,” Magnolia Blue said.

  “A harem of Casters?” Liv asked. “I’ve never heard of anything like that. The Keepers certainly don’t have any records of its existence. It must’ve been the only one.”

  “Not the only one,” Magnolia Blue said. “Abraham Ravenwood had a Caster harem of his own, with girls to spare. Where do you think the sultan got the girls in his?”

  The idea was sobering.

  Link headed for the door. “We need to go.”

  “Even if you find the Outer Door, you still have to go through the plantation’s main house and make it past Silas’ Blood Incubus and Darkborn guards to get inside the labs,” Angelique called after him. “I only found the way because some old lady carrying a tray of food led me to the Outer Door. What if you get lost? Who will save your Siren?”

  Link stopped, then turned and walked back toward them.

  “What you need is someone who’s been there before,” the Cataclyst teased.

  “Are you offerin’ to go with us?” he asked.

  Floyd grabbed his arm. “Why would she go back there after everything Silas did to her? Think about it. She must have an end game.”

  “Of course I do.” Angelique tossed her fiery hair over her shoulder. “No one does anything out of the goodness of their heart. I’m no different. I’m just willing to admit it.”

  “What could possibly be worth risking your freedom—and maybe your life?”

  “Someone she loves,” Necro said thoughtfully.

  “Maybe a family member, or your Empath friend?” Floyd asked.

  A flicker of sadness passed across the Cataclyst’s face. “I would’ve taken her with me, but there was no way….” Angelique shook off the emotion and forced a stiff laugh. “My motives aren’t that sentimental. Just the opposite.” She stretched out her fingers and flexed them again. “I want revenge. Silas Ravenwood locked me up like an animal and treated me like a slave. Then he used me as a lab rat. I want to kill him and burn down every inch of his precious labs.”

  “You get us inside, and Silas is all yours,” Link said.

  A vicious smile spread across Angelique’s lips. “Do we have a deal?”

  John stepped between Link and the Cataclyst. “Hold on. How do we know we can trust her?”

  “This whole thing could be a setup,” Necro added.

  “It doesn’t matter,” Link said. “We can’t turn back now.” He looked at Magnolia Blue. “Mr. Johnson said we could trust you. So if you vouch for her, I’ll take your word for it. Is she tellin’ the truth, ma’am?”

  “Link—” Floyd started, but Link held up his hand.

  The older woman glanced at Angelique, who seemed amused by the dilemma.

  Magnolia Blue shook her head sadly. “I wish I knew. But I can’t predict what’s going to happen. I can only change the way things appear here and now. If you want someone to tell you more than that, you need a Diviner or a—”

  Link picked up a folded tarot card from the counter. “Or a Seer.”


  No One Like You

  Nox stepped away from the bars.

  Ridley stared back at him from the corner of her cell, where she sat hugging her knees and singing “Mockingbird” to herself.

  “What did Silas do to you?” he whispered.

  “They took her away last night,” a girl with a German accent said from somewhere behind him.

  Nox spun around.

  An emerald-eyed Light Caster with a braid of brown hair stood inside a cell across from Ridley’s. Chills pricked the back of Nox’s neck at the sight of yet another girl behind bars.

  He stepped closer. “Who?”

  He heard shuffling in the next cell over, and a golden-eyed blond with Dark Caster tattoos across her knuckles looked back at him. “Silas and his rejects. Who else?”

  “Where did they take her?” he asked.

  The Dark Caster shook her head almost sadly. “The labs. It’s the only explanation for how crazy she’s acting.”

  The German girl nodded in Ridley’s direction. “She has been like that ever since they brought her back. One minute she’s talking to herself, and the next she’s screaming.”

  “Or singing that stupid song,” the other girl said. “She’s got it bad. Even worse than Angelique did.”

  “Shut up, Drew,” the German girl snapped. “She can’t help it.”

  Nox looked at the German girl. “What’s your name?”


  “Katarina,” Nox repeated. “Have they ever taken either of you to the labs?”

  She shook her head, looking terrified. “No. Silas only takes me on jobs. Then they lock me right back up in here afterward.”

  Nox examined the girl more closely. She was probably seventeen or eighteen tops. It was hard to tell, because she had the tired expression of someone much older. “What kind of jobs?”

  “He rents us out for our powers.” She tugged on the end of her braid nervously. “It could be worse. He sells the girls who aren’t part of the Menagerie.”

  Drew shook her head and leaned against the wall inside her cell. “Yeah, we’re the lucky ones. We get to be part of Silas’ little collection and hope he doesn’t drag us off to the labs and lobotomize us next.” She looked back at Ridley. “I wasn’t talking about you. Sorry about that.”

  Nox turned back toward Ridley’s cell. The Siren stopped singing and looked up, and for a moment, he thought she was looking at him. But her gaze stopped at the edge of the cell, just short of where he stood.

  Ridley’s eyes widened and she scrambled backward across the floor until she hit the wall. “Don’t let them out of the cage!” she screamed.

  “Rid, look at me,” Nox called out. “You’re okay. You’re just seeing things.”

  She stared up at him without a hint of recognition, her eyes full of terror. Then she winced and pressed her hands against her temples like she was in pain.


  She blinked over and over as if she couldn’t get her eyes to focus—or maybe her thoughts.

  “Shh. Be quiet, Rat Man. They’ll hear you,” she whispered.

  Nox glanced around.


  He gripped the bars and bent down so he was closer to her eye level. “Who will hear me, Rid?”

  Her eyes were fixed on a random spot in front of him again, and she flattened herself against the wall. “The other rats.”

  Nox’s heart sank.

  She’s still hallucinating.

  He remembered the Chemist and wondered if Silas had drugged her. But Nox had seen plenty of high Casters, and none of them had acted like this.

  Whatever Silas had done to her was something else, and he had no idea how to undo it.

  What if I can’t help her? And she stays like this?

  Suddenly, Ridley screamed, pressing her hands against her temples again. Within seconds she was clawing at the wall like a cornered animal.

  “Ridley, get on the bed!” Katarina shouted. “The rats can’t get you if you’re on the bed.”

  Ridley’s eyes darted frantically toward the hallway, and she scrambled up onto the bed. She pushed herself into the corner and curled into a ball, her eyes still glued to the floor. “They’re coming!” she screamed, covering her head.

  “It’s okay, Rid,” Nox said. “I won’t let them hurt you.”

  “You need to be more concerned about yourself, kid,” a familiar voice said from behind him.


  Nox didn’t even have to look
to know it was him.

  He didn’t turn around. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Ridley. “You’re gonna be okay,” he repeated. It was a lie and Nox knew it, but he couldn’t think of another way to protect her from invisible rats and whatever other tricks her mind was playing on her.

  He felt the Darkborn’s hands around his arms before he saw them. Nox remembered Silas’ friend from the vision. His grip felt like a vise, at least twice as strong as any Incubus. The Darkborn jerked him away from the bars and turned Nox until he was face to face with Silas Ravenwood.

  Guess I’m lucky he let me stay on my feet, Nox thought. But once again, he didn’t feel particularly lucky. Unless I compare my situation to Rid’s.

  “What did you do to her?” Nox asked.

  Silas rolled up the sleeves of his custom Italian shirt and lit a Barbadian. Nox kept his eyes away from the flame. The stench of the cigar made his stomach turn. Silas smiled. “I made a few improvements. What do you think?”

  Nox tried to stay calm, even though he wanted to rip Silas’ head off. But Nox knew he needed more information if he was going to help Ridley. “What the hell does that mean? Did you shoot her up with something?”

  Silas laughed. “That was a few days ago. This”—he pointed in the direction of Ridley’s cell with his cigar—“is something more permanent.”

  Ridley let out a bloodcurdling scream.

  Nox tried to turn around, thrashing against the Darkborn, but he was too strong.

  “Get them off! Get them off! Get them off!” Ridley shrieked.

  Silas walked toward her cell, his expression a mixture of amusement and fascination. “And just think, I’m not even finished yet. My great-grandfather would’ve been proud.” He tipped his head to one side, considering it. “Or jealous. The old man never was good at letting someone else be in the spotlight.”

  Nox’s jaw clenched at the sound of Ridley’s cries. “I swear, I’ll tear your heart out for this, Silas.”

  The Incubus turned around slowly, his amused expression gone. He stepped toward Nox, holding the cigar between them. “When I finish with you, Lennox Gates, you’re gonna wish I’d torn your heart out. You’re also going to wish you had died in that little blaze back at Sirene. You’ve caused me enough problems. At least your Siren is repaying her debt.”

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