Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia


  Heat burned through Ridley’s body at the sight of him—the feel of him. She could sense his power. It tugged at her like a magnet, the cold heat returning to her.

  We’re the same.

  Dark. Irresistible. Strong.

  Power meeting power.

  Electricity.

  Ridley walked to the door of her own cell, her fingers curling around the bars between her and Nox. She could hear his heartbeat from across his cell—thudding softly. Calling out to her.

  We’re the same.

  Nox moaned and rolled over, his eyelids fluttering.

  Open your eyes. Look at me.

  He blinked as if he wasn’t sure she was standing there staring at him.

  “Rid?”

  The sound of his voice made her blood burn. Something about it.

  Something about him.

  There was so much power inside her now, and it seemed drawn to only one thing.

  More power.

  “Looks like they gave you a serious beating,” she said, her tone more flirtatious than concerned.

  Nox pushed himself to his feet. “You’re okay. Before … you were—”

  “I was having a hard time adjusting.” She waved off his shock. “But I’m good as new, now. Better, actually.” It was true. She was doing better by the hour. She remembered her old life now, and her old friends.

  Even though it felt like that life had happened to someone else.

  Nox rested his forehead against the bars. “I thought …” He stopped himself.

  Ridley bit her bottom lip, her eyes cast toward the floor. She didn’t want to look at him, not with all these feelings swirling around inside her. Not when the sound of his voice made her pulse race.

  “What were you going to say?” she asked. Part of her just wanted to hear his voice.

  “I thought I lost you,” he said softly. “Not that you’re mine.”

  “I don’t belong to anyone, Nox.”

  “I just meant that I know the way we left things. You’re with Link, and I have to live with that.”

  Link.

  She’d almost forgotten about him. Not him exactly, but the reason she’d cared about a former Mortal like him in the first place. There had to have been something.

  But not this. Nothing that felt like this.

  We never felt like this. We were never the same.

  Powerless, she thought. The quarter Incubus. That’s all he is, isn’t he?

  As much as the idea of being with someone so limited baffled her now, the possibility of being with someone powerful attracted her even more.

  Nox was brimming with it—whether or not he’d stolen or won or borrowed it, he had access to the abilities of dozens of different Casters.

  Now that she could sense the power within him, she realized he was capable of so much more than he’d ever let on.

  “You’re really ready to accept me being with someone else?” she asked.

  He didn’t look at her.

  “What if I don’t want you to have to live with it?” she asked, feeling Nox’s eyes on her. Heat and a sweetness she could almost taste.

  “Don’t play games, Rid. Not about this.” Nox sighed. “I can’t take it.”

  Another snake emerged from the shadows and she watched it slither across the floor.

  It’s an illusion, she told herself. Try to control it.

  Ridley focused on the black serpent, willing it to disappear. Instead, it wound itself around the bars below Nox’s hands. She closed her eyes, listening to his breathing—ragged and uneven, like someone who had been running for too long.

  Stop running, Nox.

  “There’s something between us, Nox. I know you can feel it, too.” She breathed the words, her head swimming with the sound of his heart hammering in his chest. “We’re the same.”

  Nox was silent for a moment. “You know how I feel about you, Rid.”

  “Maybe I want to hear it again.” It wasn’t a question.

  “Ridley, look at me,” he whispered, and the distance between them seemed to disappear.

  She finally raised her eyes to meet his, and he sucked in a sharp breath.

  “Your eyes. They aren’t gold anymore, Rid.”

  “What color are they?”

  He stared at her as if he was hypnotized. “Violet.” An eye color that doesn’t exist in the Caster world.

  Until now.

  CHAPTER 20: LINK

  Tornado of Souls

  So we’re really gonna break in?” Necro asked, her electric blue Doc Martens shining in the darkness.

  “Did you think the tour company was going to leave us a key?” Angelique asked in a condescending tone.

  It was the middle of the night, and Link, Sampson, John, Liv, Floyd, Necro, and Angelique stood on the sidewalk staring up at the Gardette-LePretre House, in the French Quarter. The streetlights near 716 Dauphine Street bathed the Greek Revival house in soft light.

  “So that’s the Sultan’s Palace?” John asked. “It’s pink.”

  Sampson nodded. “And then some.”

  Link realized he and John were probably thinking the same thing. With its green shuttered windows and delicate black lattice balconies wrapping around the third floor and the roof, it was hard to imagine the pink house as the scene of a mass murder. Still, knowing this place was on the top ten list of the “Most Haunted Houses in America” (a fact he’d looked up on his phone) and the location of what lots of people considered the grisliest murders in New Orleans history (a fact Liv knew without looking it up) gave him the creeps.

  He sighed and folded up the scrap of paper he’d been writing on. The songs kept coming to him, driving him sort of crazy until he wrote them down.

  Liv scribbled something in her journal before tucking it back in her pocket. “Let’s take a moment and think this through—”

  Floyd sighed. “Let me guess? Breaking and entering is too lowbrow for your fancy Oxford sensibilities.”

  John raised an eyebrow and looked away like he didn’t want to witness the verbal beatdown Floyd had coming her way, as Liv tucked her pencil behind her ear.

  “What I was about to say, before I was so rudely interrupted,” Liv said, stepping closer to Floyd, “was that if we’re going to break into one of the most infamous houses in a city that never sleeps, we should use the back door. And you don’t need to be worried about my Oxford sensibilities. In the last year, I’ve faced Vexes; a pack of Blood Incubuses; Sarafine Duchannes, the most powerful Cataclyst in recorded history; the End of Days; a corrupt Council from the Far Keep; and the wrath of Abraham Ravenwood. If you think I’m worried about getting in trouble, think again.”

  Angelique nodded at Liv. “Sarafine Duchannes? I’m impressed.”

  “We killed her twice,” Link said proudly. “Once here and once in the Otherworld.”

  “We?” John looked at Link pointedly.

  “Well, our boy Ethan handled it the second time. But that’s a long story, seein’ as he had sorta kicked the bucket, too.”

  “You done?” Floyd tugged on the bottom of her Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt, shifting uncomfortably. “We know you’ve seen your share of action, and you’re a real badass, Oxford. But the Sultan’s Palace isn’t just any house. It’s haunted, and we all know how brave you Mortals are when it comes to Sheers.”

  Goose bumps pricked Link’s arms at the mention of the Caster term for what he considered plain old ghosts. But he wasn’t about to act like a big chicken in front of his friends. “Let’s not go throwin’ names around. I’m still half Mortal. Or is it three-quarters?” He tried to do the math in his head. “If John was half, and I got half a his half—”

  John grinned. “Some days you really make me proud I bit you.”

  “I try.” Link held his fist up in front of John. “Pound it.”

  Sampson was still watching the house. Even in his leather lead-singer pants, ripped T-shirt, and bike-chain collar, he reminded Link of a wolf watching the woods. It wa
s almost as if Sampson knew there was something in there. It wouldn’t have spooked Link half as much if Lucille wasn’t standing right next to him with her ears perked up and her tail waving back and forth like a snake about to strike.

  “What’s the deal, Sammy Boy? Do those Darkborn eyes a yours see somethin’ we don’t?” Link asked. “Somethin’ we probably don’t wanna know about?”

  Sam kept his gaze fixed on the house. “It’s not what I can see. It’s what I can sense.”

  Link should’ve taken the hint and stopped asking questions, but Rid’s life was on the line. If there was anything inside the Sultan’s Palace that might keep them from getting to the door in the basement that led to the labs, he needed to know. Plus, all that talk about Sarafine reminded him that no matter what was goin’ on in this Sheer Shack, he’d seen worse. “What’s your Darkborn radar pickin’ up? Lay it on us.” He sucked in a breath, ready for anything.

  “Something bad happened in there, that’s for sure,” Sampson said.

  Necro walked up beside Sampson. “I feel it, too. It’s like one big after-party for the dead in there.”

  “A graveyard rave? Great.” Floyd shook her head.

  “Yeah. I never really wanted to party in a graveyard.” Link was less excited.

  Angelique sauntered past them. “Just the spirits of more than a dozen murdered girls and a Turk who was buried alive. I’ve already been through here once, when I broke out of the labs.”

  “So there are definitely ghosts in there?” Link asked, wishing she hadn’t told him. In his experience, knowing nothing was a hundred times better than knowing the wrong thing.

  Necro flinched, as if something had startled her. “That’s an understatement.”

  I knew this was gonna suck.

  Link took a deep breath. “Ghosts or no ghosts, I’m still goin’ in.”

  “Of course you are. We all are.” Liv checked her selenometer, then glanced at Floyd. “Unless any of us are having second thoughts.”

  Floyd stepped off the curb. “Nice try. I’ve never met a Mortal girl who didn’t freak out at the sight of a Sheer.”

  Liv headed toward the back of the house. “Well, you have now. Like I said before, I’ve gone head to head with Vexes.” She waited for John to catch up as Sampson and Necro followed Angelique to the gate ahead of them.

  Lucille trotted along next to Sampson like she was his personal Seeing Eye cat.

  When they reached the back of the property, they saw that the iron gate was secured by a padlock. They probably weren’t the first people who had tried to break in. Partying in haunted houses was practically a rite of passage in a city like New Orleans.

  Link peered through the gate and into the overgrown courtyard. Magnolia trees lined the walkway, with a huge stone fountain in the center. Tangles of sweet jasmine and bougainvillea snaked their way through the garden and up the back porch. Just like every other courtyard in New Orleans, Link thought. Ghosts included.

  Necro yanked on the padlock and glanced at Link and John. “Are you two gonna Rip us inside?”

  John laughed and walked over to the gate. “That would be a waste of a trip.” He closed his hand around the lock and pulled, breaking it off effortlessly.

  “Nice one, dude.” Link held up his fist and John bumped it.

  Necro looked impressed. Not to be outdone, Sampson grabbed one of the gates and jerked his arm up. The heavy hinges ripped right off and clattered onto the sidewalk. He stood there for a moment, holding the gate in the air.

  “Shh,” Necro whispered. “You want to wake up every Sheer in there?”

  “Seriously, Sampson,” Floyd said. “Put that thing down.”

  Angelique patted his arm as she strode by. “We could’ve just climbed over the gate like I did last time.”

  Sam looked embarrassed and propped the gate against the side of the house. “Just trying to help,” he said sheepishly.

  “Show-off.” John winked as he walked past Sampson.

  Liv and Floyd exchanged one of those weird girl looks that always went right over Link’s head.

  Girls. They’re like aliens.

  When they crossed the threshold and stepped into the paved courtyard, Necro stopped and inhaled sharply.

  “What is it?” Sampson sounded concerned.

  “Just what I said before. Some real bad stuff went down here.”

  Link swallowed. “Like, how bad? Slasher movie bad?”

  “The dials on my selenometer are going crazy,” Liv said, studying her weird watch.

  “If I can go through the house a second time, the rest of you will survive,” Angelique said impatiently.

  “Will the ghosts give us any trouble?” Link asked, shoving his hands in his pockets.

  Angelique waved a dismissive hand. “They’ll stay out of your way if you stay out of theirs.”

  “That’s kinda hard to do if we can’t see them,” Link said.

  Necro looked at Angelique. “The Sheers didn’t bother you because you aren’t a Necromancer. They can sense when one of us is around. It wakes them, for lack of a better word.”

  Sampson stepped in front of her. “Then you shouldn’t go in.”

  Necro seemed confused for a moment. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”

  “Or save your life,” Sampson said. “Depending on how you look at it.”

  “He’s just watching out for you, Nec.” Floyd put her hand on Necro’s arm gently.

  Necro’s expression softened. “Sorry, Sam.”

  Sampson gave her a rare smile. “It’s all good.”

  “But I’m still going inside,” Necro said, taking another step into the courtyard. “Stay together and don’t touch anything.” She paused in front of Link. “Got that?”

  “Yes, ma’am. I won’t touch a thing.” Link raised his hands and clasped them behind his head.

  The last thing I wanna do is piss off a whole buncha ghosts.

  As they followed Angelique, moving into the center of the courtyard, Sampson sniffed the air. “Smell that?”

  Necro nodded. “Yeah. It’s strong.”

  Link inhaled deeply and snorted a few times for good measure. “What? I don’t smell anythin’.”

  “Then you’re lucky.” Sampson took another step and winced, like he couldn’t bear the stench. “This whole place reeks of blood.”

  John bent down next to where Necro was standing and inspected the ground.

  Suddenly, Link felt like the emperor in his new clothes. “Dude, can you sense it, too?”

  John shook his head. “No. I just wanted to see if I could pick up anything. Sampson’s and Necro’s powers are a lot stronger than mine when it comes to this kind of thing.”

  Necro stopped a few feet shy of the back porch. Her eyes traced a path up the steps to the back door. “The blood is coming from underneath the door.”

  Link craned his neck to get a better look. He’d never seen ghost blood before—not that he could really see it now. But he didn’t like the idea of it either way.

  “I don’t mean to be morbid, but is the blood hazy or opaque?” Liv asked, flipping open her journal.

  Floyd shot her a disgusted look. “You aren’t seriously asking her that.”

  “This isn’t a diary.” Liv tapped a pen on a fresh page. “I’m a Keeper-in-Training, and it’s my responsibility to record anything of note. As far as I’m concerned, this is scientific data. The average Necromancer can’t see apparitional residue.” Liv scribbled something in the little book. “This is quite remarkable.”

  Angelique leaned against the door that led into the house. “Are you guys always this much fun, or did I just catch you on a bad day?”

  Floyd ignored her and grabbed Necro’s arm, pulling her away from Liv and the blood no one else could see. But within the space of a few feet, Necro froze, the color draining from her face.

  Lucille leaped onto the edge of the fountain with her ears pulled back and hissed like she was ready to tear someone—or somethin
g—to shreds.

  Link caught up to the girls. “Why are you stoppin’?”

  Necro’s eyes widened, and she stumbled back a few steps, reaching for something to grab on to. “The bodies,” she whispered. “I can see them.”

  A chill ran up the back of Link’s neck as he looked around, but he didn’t see anything.

  Sampson, John, Liv, and Floyd glanced around the courtyard, too.

  “How many bodies are we talkin’ about?” Link asked, feeling jumpy.

  “Dozens,” Necro said, growing paler.

  The air shifted subtly, like waves of heat coming off hot asphalt. At first, Link thought his eyes were playing tricks on him in the dark.

  Until the bodies began to materialize.

  One by one—bare feet peeking out from beneath billowing silk harem pants; thin arms covered in gold bracelets from wrist to elbow; long, dark hair. They were hazy, but Link and the others could still see the blood all over them. These were the girls Liv told them about—the ones who were slaughtered along with the Turk who kept them locked up. Even though the murdered girls’ Sheers were still a little hazy, they looked terrified.

  Liv gasped and clamped her hand over her mouth.

  John pushed her behind him, and the pencil tucked behind Liv’s ear dropped in a puddle of blood at their feet.

  Don’t freak out. They’re just ghosts, Link reminded himself.

  Which only seemed about half true when the ghostly bodies began to rise.

  Floyd shoved Necro toward the porch. “Keep moving. Don’t look at them.”

  Link tried to follow Floyd’s advice, even though he knew it wasn’t meant for him. He jumped the stairs two at a time.

  Sampson took Necro’s elbow and steered her toward the steps. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

  Link tried the door, but it was locked.

  “I locked it on my way out,” Angelique said. “In case someone was following me.”

  “At least we know Nox hasn’t been here,” Floyd said, coming up next to him.

  “What do you mean?” Link asked.

  She gestured at the door. “It’s still locked. Nox isn’t an Incubus. He would’ve had to break in.”

  Link knew it was stupid, but secretly, he was glad Nox hadn’t made it here first. That guy had caused enough problems between Ridley and him. Link didn’t need Nox getting in the way of his big rescue.

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