Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia


  “Nicely played.” Angelique glanced at Floyd. “It’s about time. I was beginning to think you didn’t have a Dark bone in that skinny body of yours.”

  Floyd frowned, focusing on her illusion. “Never underestimate a girl with a guitar.”

  Sampson studied the mirrors as everyone walked right by the Incubuses trying to find their way out of the mirrored maze.

  “Hopefully, getting past all of Silas’ men will be that easy,” Necro said, still looking exhausted after what happened to her at the Sultan’s Palace.

  “Don’t count your fried chickens before I’ve slaughtered them,” Angelique called out. “I’m sure there will be plenty to go around. Just remember, Silas is mine.” The Cataclyst sounded vicious when she said his name, as if she was growing Darker with every step.

  Up ahead, Link caught his first glimpse of what had to be the labs. The rectangular gray cement building reminded him of an elementary school building—minus the windows—and it looked out of place on the grounds of the Louisiana plantation. But he didn’t have time to give it too much thought because three guys were coming straight at them, and judging by their size alone, he was pretty sure they were Darkborns.

  “This isn’t good.” John picked up his pace.

  “Darkborns?” Link asked Sam.

  His friend nodded. “Yeah. Big ones.”

  Angelique didn’t break stride. In fact, she looked kind of bored. “My turn,” she said in a singsong voice, without taking her eyes off her targets. She stopped and a light wind began blowing around her.

  John grabbed Liv and Floyd, pulling them back. Sampson stayed next to John, but Link couldn’t resist taking a closer look. The way Angelique controlled the air reminded him of those magicians on TV—the ones who made airplanes disappear, doing things that seemed impossible even while you were looking right at them.

  The air whipped around the Darkborns, but it didn’t slow them down.

  Angelique turned things up a notch, sending a gale-force wind right at them.

  But the Darkborns kept walking—straight into the wind tunnel. They shielded their eyes from flying leaves and dirt and a wind so strong it blew one Darkborn’s jacket off his body.

  “Um … Angelique. I think you need to throw a little more Cataclyst mojo at them,” Link said. “Don’t hold back now.”

  The Dark Caster flicked her fingers toward him without looking back, and a surge of air sent Link flying. He landed on his butt in the dirt. “When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it,” she called out over the wind. “Which will be exactly ten minutes after Hell freezes over.”

  John grabbed Link by the shirt and yanked him back to his feet.

  “Am I nuts or is she a serious bitch?” Link asked.

  “She’s definitely getting nastier,” Liv offered. “Maybe it’s being back here. Silas experimented on her, after all.”

  “Or maybe she really is just a giant bitch,” Floyd said.

  Before John had a chance to respond, two Incubuses materialized behind them.

  “I’ll take the big one,” John said, Ripping from the spot where he was standing and materializing in front of them.

  “I’m good with that,” Link answered.

  Just don’t let me land on my ass in front of the bad guys, Link prayed, Ripping after John.

  This time, Link didn’t land on his ass. He landed on the Incubus and wrapped his arms around the guy’s neck, trapping him in a headlock.

  The big Incubus was grappling on the ground with John. “You’d better kill me, kid. Or I’m gonna take a bite outta your girlfriend’s neck, and maybe a few other places,” the Incubus said, pinning John. “I missed dinner.”

  Link squeezed the guy’s neck harder, cutting off his airway. “Come on, pass out already, Dog Boy.”

  The Incubus’ body finally went limp, and Link let him drop. Just as Link started to Rip his way over to John, he saw Sampson out of the corner of his eye.

  Holy crap.

  Sam looked scarier than Link had ever seen him—like the feral dogs that lived behind Edgar Nubuck’s house back in Gatlin.

  When Link materialized again a moment later, Sampson was pounding the hulking Incubus into the dirt with his gigantic fist. A third pack member emerged from the tree line and lunged at Sam from the side, but the Darkborn tossed him a good six feet with one arm.

  Link hauled John off the ground. “You okay, man? Anythin’ busted?”

  “Just my pride.” John brushed off his jeans, wincing. “And maybe that rib right there.”

  Sampson stood up, his black leather pants coated in a fine layer of dirt, and looked at John. “Next time, I’ll take the big one.”

  “Deal.”

  Angelique didn’t seem to be having much luck dealing with the Darkborns, either.

  “The wind isn’t slowing them down,” Liv shouted, checking her selenometer from where she stood behind Angelique.

  “Then let’s see how they deal with something a little more destructive.” The Cataclyst held her arms out in front of her, palms facing the ground. Then she flipped them over and threw her arms skyward.

  The ground in front of her tore open—a crack racing from the tip of Angelique’s lace-up boots all the way to the advancing Darkborns. Hunks of earth and rock ripped from the ground and flew into the air, as if guided by her hands.

  Angelique’s eyes blazed as she smiled. “If Silas had mentioned that I would be able to do all this afterward, I might have actually volunteered.”

  Link shuddered, hoping she wasn’t serious. A power-hungry Cataclyst was like a ticking bomb, something he’d learned from watching Sarafine Duchannes destroy half his town, back when she was still alive.

  The Darkborns kept coming, until they reached the enormous fissure and more earth gave way beneath their feet. When they fell in, Angelique flipped her palms over again, and the dirt that had ripped itself from the ground rained back down, pummeling the Darkborns and burying them. She dropped her hands together and dusted off her palms. “Two indestructible Supernaturals down.”

  Liv pointed at five figures moving toward them. “And five to go.”

  The Darkborns fanned out, advancing in military-style formation.

  This time, the air around Angelique did more than blow. With one flick of her wrist, a tornado touched down in front of the Darkborns. The wind spiraled and twisted, pulling up the trees and bushes in its path.

  “Holy crap,” Link said, watching.

  The Darkborns shielded their eyes, but aside from that, they walked right into the tornado.

  John turned to Sampson. “Are all of you that strong?”

  Sam nodded. “Pretty much.”

  “Hmm,” Angelique said, unimpressed. “Wind isn’t my favorite element. It lacks drama.” She whispered something in Latin, and the tornado twisted one last time before it transformed into a vortex of flames. The flames spiraled downward and hit the ground, then spread like they were following trails of gasoline. “That’s more like it.”

  “Get off me!” Floyd screamed.

  Link, John, and Sampson spun around. Two Darkborns had snuck up on them from the side—and one of them had his hand around Floyd’s neck.

  “Let go of her,” Sampson growled, storming toward the guy holding Floyd by the throat. “Now.”

  “Stay back,” the Darkborn said, tightening his grip on Floyd. “Or I’ll snap her neck.”

  Sam froze, and Link turned to Angelique. “We need a little help, Fire Woman.”

  She glanced at Floyd, then went back to aiming her Cataclyst juice at the Darkborns. “I’m a little busy at the moment, but I’m happy to cremate her body if they kill her.”

  “Fire can’t hurt them,” Liv said, moving beside Angelique.

  “That’s because they’ve never been touched by my fire,” Angelique said, sounding more psychotic by the minute. It reminded Link of the arrogance Sarafine had always shown in the face of a potential threat. He wondered if their powers made all Cataclysts this crazy.<
br />
  The Darkborns walked through the flames like they had a force field around them, the same way Sampson had repelled the flames the night he saved Link and Rid at Sirene. Another Darkborn stood in the center of the flames, smoke billowing up around her. From this distance, Link couldn’t see much except for her platinum-blond hair. But the woman could only be one person.

  Chloe the Butcher.

  Angelique cocked her head to the side, studying the blond Darkborn coming her way. “It’s about time. I was getting bored.”

  “I thought Cataclysts were dangerous,” Chloe called out as she strode through the blaze in high-heeled boots. She was pulling someone along beside her, her hand clamped around a girl’s neck. “I’m disappointed. This is rather pedestrian, in terms of power.”

  Link’s heart leaped until a curtain of black hair swung over the girl’s shoulder.

  Calm down. It’s not Rid.

  Chloe jerked the girl’s limp body upright, still holding the back of her neck. The girl looked around Link’s age, younger than Angelique. “Maybe Silas should’ve picked your Empath friend instead of you.”

  The girl’s eyes fluttered open, her black hair knotted and singed around her ash-streaked face. “Gigi?” she rasped, looking at Angelique. “Help me.”

  “Lucia.” Angelique stepped back, clearly thrown by the sight of her friend. She regained her composure, tearing her eyes away from the girl and turning them back on Chloe. “Leave her alone. Or are you afraid to pick on someone who can fight back?”

  “Not at all.” Chloe smiled, sliding her free hand under Lucia’s chin, while her other one remained clamped around the back of the Empath’s neck. In one swift movement, Chloe jerked her hands in opposite directions, breaking the girl’s neck.

  Liv and Necro gasped as Lucia’s body dropped in the dirt, her dark, lifeless eyes open as if she were staring at Angelique.

  Chloe dusted off her hands casually. “I was never planning to fight her, Gigi. I just wanted you to watch her die. Consider it one last gift before you die.”

  Angelique’s eyes changed from gold to bright yellow, like a comic book sun. “I’m going to burn the skin off your bones.”

  “You made a mistake coming back here, Cataclyst. But I’ll enjoy adding your skull to my collection. You can keep your skin.” Chloe was only a few yards away now.

  Angelique raised her arms skyward and began to chant. “From the mouth of the Dark Fire, bring me the heat of flame, the power of a nova, and the heat of a thousand burns. Give your Darkest daughter the power to control any fire.”

  It sounded like a whole lot of Caster mumbo jumbo to Link, but something was happening, even if Link couldn’t figure out exactly what.

  The Darkborns stopped moving. Every one of them—at exactly the same time.

  They looked at one another, exchanging confused and questioning glances. And they weren’t the only ones.

  “What are you doing?” Chloe shouted at them. “I didn’t tell you to stop!”

  None of them moved or responded in any way, which made Link feel like he’d entered the Twilight Zone. Chloe opened her mouth to yell at them again, but her expression changed from anger to confusion before a single word left her lips. She was still coming, which was more than anyone could say about the rest of her Darkborns, but her movements were sluggish, like she was wading through swamp mud. The other Darkborns stood frozen in place, watching as Chloe pushed forward.

  Chloe’s eyes met Angelique’s. “What are you doing, Caster? Is this one of your spells?” Chloe hissed.

  “Wouldn’t you love to know? Unfortunately, I’m not in a sharing mood,” Angelique said, but judging by the expression on her face, she didn’t have any idea how she was controlling them, either.

  “Get up!” Chloe screamed at her lackeys. A few of the more determined Darkborns struggled to sit up or stand, but none of them could move. “We are the most powerful Supernaturals that have ever walked the earth—born from the Dark Fire itself. Do not let her control you.”

  The comment must’ve annoyed Angelique, because she closed her hands, then flung open her fingers again. The Darkborns’ bodies flew backward, some falling into the flames while others rolled into them across the ash-covered grass.

  Angelique held up her hands and wiggled her fingers, as if she still couldn’t believe she was the cause of all this. “Well, that’s new.”

  Sampson stared in shock. “No one can control a Darkborn.”

  “Except me,” the Cataclyst said.

  The Darkborns surrounding Floyd looked stunned, too. They were whispering to one another and backing away—taking her right along with them.

  “Angelique!” Link pointed.

  The Cataclyst closed her hand like she was the one strangling Floyd. Then she opened it again slowly, and the hand around Floyd’s neck opened along with hers.

  Sampson threw his body forward to lunge for Floyd, but he was moving more slowly, too. But John still had his speed, and he caught Floyd’s arm, yanking her away from the Darkborns, who didn’t seem like they could move when Angelique aimed her fingers—and whatever power she was using—at them.

  Sampson winced. “Would you mind aiming your tractor beam away from me?”

  Angelique turned her wrist enough to allow Sam to step out of her path.

  “She’s controlling their bodies,” Necro said. “Like they’re puppets.”

  “You’re all my puppets,” Angelique purred. “Don’t feel left out. You’re equally pointless to me.”

  “Well, one a your puppets is headed this way.” Link nodded in Chloe’s direction.

  Chloe the Butcher was still trudging toward them, even though she wasn’t moving much faster than Ethan’s Great-Aunt Mercy, who was around a hundred years old by Link’s calculations.

  “The Dark Fire,” Liv whispered to herself. “That has to be it.”

  “What’s going on in that head of yours?” Necro asked, leaning over Liv’s journal.

  “I think I know why she can control them.”

  Angelique raised an eyebrow and looked at Liv. “Do tell.”

  Sampson waited anxiously for Liv’s answer. He looked like Superman after he opened a box and realized it was full of kryptonite.

  “She’s not controlling the Darkborns,” Liv explained. “She’s controlling fire—the Dark Fire that’s part of them.”

  Angelique smiled. “Clever girl. You might be worth keeping around.”

  “You’re saying she can control our bodies because we were created by the Dark Fire?” Sam asked.

  Necro looked up from the journal. “Exactly.”

  It was all the information Angelique needed. She focused her gaze and her fingers at Chloe, opening and closing her hand like she was crushing a beer can.

  Chloe’s knees buckled, and she cried out in pain. The Darkborn writhed on the ground, the flames rising up behind her. “I’m not afraid of you, Cataclyst.” She choked out the words. “Silas made you, and he can destroy you.”

  “Just like I can destroy you.” The Dark Caster’s eyes narrowed. “You shouldn’t have killed Lucia.”

  “Enough with the threats. If you were going to kill me, you would’ve done it already,” Chloe said as her cheek hit the dirt.

  Angelique laughed. “Don’t be silly. It’s never too late for murder.”

  CHAPTER 24: NOX

  Pull Me Under

  Silas backed away from Ridley slowly, his confused expression replaced by a sadistic smile.

  Seeing her standing outside the cell should’ve worried him, but Silas was taking something else away from all this—something Nox hadn’t figured out yet.

  The Darkborns practically tripped over themselves trying to get away, and Nox couldn’t blame them. He’d never seen an illusion that realistic, one that actually made you feel like the walls were closing in on you.

  Or one that actually made the walls close in on you.

  Rid wasn’t just an Illusionist anymore.

  Part Siren.
Part Shifter. Part Illusionist.

  He wasn’t sure what else, but Silas hadn’t held back and it was a game changer. A new game for a New Order, with a new Ravenwood dealing a new deck.

  Whatever Silas had done to Rid had amped up the normal level of Caster powers.

  Silas tipped an imaginary hat to Ridley, who was still standing just outside her cell. “Imagine what you’ll be able to do after the next infusion, my dangerous girl.” He backed down the hallway, as if still under Rid’s influence. “So many different Casters to choose from … Palimpsest, Thaumaturge, Evo, Empath. The possibilities are endless.”

  The thought of Silas shooting Ridley up with another set of powers made Nox shudder, but the expression on Ridley’s face made it clear that she didn’t share his revulsion.

  With her violet eyes glowing and her lips parted, she looked almost euphoric.

  We’ll be long gone before Silas gets his hands on you again. And I’ll find a way to fix all this.

  Nox pulled himself up off the ground and stumbled toward Ridley.

  She caught him as he fell against her. Silas’ guards had broken at least one of his ribs for sure.

  Ridley touched his face. “Did they hurt you, Baby?”

  The way she said Baby, like he was the only person she could’ve been talking about, made his heart race.

  He nodded, wincing. “I’m okay. But we have to get out of here while we can. Whatever you did to Silas will wear off eventually, and then he’ll be back.”

  She studied his face like she was trying to memorize every detail. “If he comes back, I’ll give him another taste of my powers. Trust me, Silas Ravenwood can’t hurt us. No one can.”

  “Maybe that’s true, but we don’t need to stay down here locked up like animals to prove a point.” Nox turned toward the hallway that led away from the cells, her hand curled inside his.

  Ridley’s fingers slipped from between his. Nox tried to catch them, but when he turned around, he realized it wasn’t an accident.

  She was standing inside her cell again.

  “Rid, no!” He started toward her, moving as fast as he could with his ribs jabbing him.

 
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