Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia


  Nox closed his hand around one of the bars just as she slammed the cell door shut, trapping herself inside.

  He let his head fall against the bars. “Why, Rid? We could be on our way somewhere safe. Together.”

  She reached through the spaces between the bars and took his face in her hands again. “Shh. You worry too much, Nox. Everything is going to be fine. We’ll leave as soon as I get my next infusion. I promise. It’s just—I think there’s more I could get from Silas. Things I might need, if I’m going to take down his organization.” She looked more determined than he’d ever seen her. “The whole House of Ravenwood is going down.”

  Nox’s blood ran cold. “What are you talking about? You can’t let him do this to you again.”

  She ran her thumbs along Nox’s jawline. “I’m not letting anyone do anything to me. I want it, Baby. Don’t you understand?”

  “You aren’t thinking straight. Whatever Silas gave you is messing with your head.”

  Ridley’s lips grazed his, and every nerve in Nox’s body burned for her. She let her lips hover just in front of his, then pressed them against the bars, pulling him even closer. This time, she kissed him the way he’d always wanted to kiss her. Like she belonged to him—and he belonged to her.

  “Does that feel like I’m not thinking straight?” she murmured against his mouth. “I need this, Nox. The power—it’s part of me now, and I need it just like I need you.”

  “Rid, I don’t—”

  She found his mouth again, raking her hand through his hair. “Don’t you need me?”

  He nodded, unwilling to move his mouth away from hers.

  “We tried being good, Nox. I know you tried for me,” she whispered. “But we aren’t cut out for it. I’m not saying we’re bad … we’re just different. I can do things no other Siren has ever been capable of. And you can see the future. We finally have a chance to be who we are, and to be together.”

  Rid sounded sincere, but there was no way to know if she was in her right mind.

  Does it matter?

  Nox tried to tell himself it didn’t, but he wasn’t sure.

  “Are you sure that’s what you really want?” Nox couldn’t believe he was asking the question.

  But I need to know if this is real. If she wants me as much as I want her.

  She dragged her lips up to his ear. “Of course I’m sure.”

  He swallowed hard.

  You have to ask her.

  Nox reached through the bars and held Ridley by the shoulders, pushing her back so he could look at her. “What about Link?”

  Her violet eyes met his without hesitation. “Link who?”

  CHAPTER 25: LINK

  Diary of a Madman

  This isn’t over, Caster,” Chloe said, her body still under Angelique’s control.

  The Cataclyst eyed her coldly. “It certainly looks over to me, and you are horribly tiresome.” She flung her fingers open, and the Darkborns’ bodies hurtled back again. Angelique aimed strategically, and the Darkborns slammed into the trees behind them.

  Chloe’s head cracked against a thick trunk, and she collapsed on the ground in a heap. The other Darkborns all suffered the same fate.

  “Are they dead?” Link asked, not sure which answer would worry him more.

  Angelique strode past the crumpled forms. “One can only hope. At the very least, radically incapacitated.”

  Maybe she didn’t know how to kill a Darkborn any more than he did. This was the first time he’d ever seen anyone take one down—let alone a whole posse.

  “Do you think Silas knows we’re here?” Sampson asked as they followed Angelique to the cement building the Darkborns had been guarding.

  “I wouldn’t be surprised if that sick bastard was watching us right now,” John said, anger churning in his eyes.

  Link knew coming back to the place where Abraham had experimented on him had to be tough. But John wasn’t the kind of guy who complained. He took the punches life threw at him, just like Link.

  Still, that didn’t make returning to the scene of the crime any easier.

  Sampson beat Angelique to the door. “Want me to go in first?” he asked.

  She laughed and pushed him aside. “After my demonstration just now, I think we both know I don’t need your protection.” She patted his cheek as she walked by. “But don’t feel bad, Goliath. If I had a purse, I’d let you carry it for me.”

  “It’s Sampson,” Sam muttered, looking embarrassed.

  Link whacked him on the back. “Don’t take it so hard, Sammy Boy. It’s nothin’ personal. She’s just a—”

  “Narcissistic egomaniac?” Sampson finished.

  “Pretty much,” Liv said, following Angelique through the heavy metal door at the side of the building.

  “If the shoe fits …” Link shrugged.

  “You’re talking, but all I hear is blah, blah, blah,” Angelique said.

  Link wanted to run inside and find Rid, but he waited until everyone else went in, including Lucille, who trotted after Sampson.

  Inside, the stark white walls reminded Link of a hospital, minus all the doctors and nurses rushing around. This place was dead silent. At the end of the short hallway, there was a door with some weird strips of plastic hanging in front of it on one side and another long hallway on the other.

  Link pointed at the curtain of plastic. “Looks like a car wash.”

  John looked up at the sign above the doorway: RESTRICTED ACCESS. TRIALS IN PROGRESS. “I’m guessing it isn’t.” He turned to Angelique. “Which way?”

  The Cataclyst nodded toward the long hall. “I wasn’t at the top of my game when I followed the old lady out of this dump. But I don’t remember seeing a door like that one.”

  “I think we should go this way,” Liv said, separating the car wash flaps.

  Angelique noticed the sign above the door as she walked through. “I can’t wait to burn this place down.”

  “Not until we find Rid,” Link reminded her.

  John rested his forehead against the wall and closed his eyes.

  “You okay, man?” Link asked.

  “Of course he’s not okay,” Liv said. “He shouldn’t be here. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for him.”

  “I’m all right. I just need a minute.” John took a deep breath. “It was a long time ago, and I’m a different person now.”

  Link knew it was true, but watching John come face to face with his past wasn’t easy. Especially not for Liv, who seemed to feel everything John felt.

  Floyd grabbed Link’s hand. “Come on. Follow Angelique. They’ll catch up.” It was a casual gesture, and Floyd was dragging him along more than actually holding his hand in a romantic way. But it still felt wrong now that he was so close to finding Ridley. Link pushed the flaps aside, using it as an excuse to let go of Floyd’s hand.

  When Link stepped into the dim room, it took a moment for him to process what he was seeing.

  Some kind of weird hospital room, full of glowing machines and fancy medical equipment—and rows of gurneys. But that wasn’t the part that made Link’s stomach turn.

  Every single gurney had a person sleeping on it—at least, Link hoped they were sleeping.

  The people lay hooked up to IVs and heart rate monitors, unmoving.

  “Are they Mortals?” Floyd asked, skirting past a woman with an oxygen mask strapped over her nose and mouth.

  Angelique examined one of the IV bags. “Doubtful. From what I overheard, Silas only used Mortals in the early trials. He hates them too much to waste his time experimenting on them this far into the process. He says they dilute the results.”

  Liv inspected another bag. “She’s right. The bags are labeled with the type of Caster they are attached to.” She pointed at a line of black script. “This one’s a Sybil.”

  Sampson read the label on another. “Cypher.”

  “Diviner,” Floyd said, reading the one closest to her. “It’s like a Noah’s Ark of C
asters in here.”

  John stayed close to the wall, avoiding the bodies laid out like meat on slabs. He was practically hyperventilating. Liv glanced over at him and he nodded at her, encouraging her to keep looking around.

  Necro seemed spooked, too, and she stuck close to Liv, who was opening drawers and reading the labels on every vial and container she could find.

  Liv opened a drawer and took out a stack of notebooks. “Score.”

  “Whatcha got there?” Link asked.

  She flipped through the pages of tiny handwriting and what looked to Link like math equations. “Notebooks and scientific logs. They must belong to whoever is conducting the experiments.”

  Link watched one of the blinking monitors, the zigzagged line of the girl’s heartbeat stretching across the screen. “Hey, Liv. What’s that blue stuff?”

  A stream of glowing blue liquid rose from the IV in the girl’s arm, filling a clear plastic bag hanging from an IV pole next to her bed. It reminded him of the glow of fireflies lighting up dark summer nights.

  Angelique cringed and staggered back, as if she wanted to get as far away from the glowing blue stuff as possible.

  “I didn’t think Silas could be as sick as Abraham,” John said softly. “But he’s worse.”

  Angelique regained her composure, but she didn’t get any closer to the IV. “Something I know firsthand.”

  Floyd walked over to the IV tube. “Is the blue liquid Silas is pumping out of her—”

  “Her power,” Liv finished, holding up the notebook. “It’s all in the lab notes. Silas isn’t wasting his time with genetics anymore. Now he’s playing God.”

  Angelique fluttered her fingers. “Then that makes me the woman who is going to destroy Heaven. Burn it down, technically.” She paused. “Which is fine with me.”

  “Let’s stop talkin’ about burnin’ the place down till we find my girlfriend, okay?” Link asked.

  Liv walked over to the shelves of metal canisters labeled with Caster powers, like NECROMANCY, DIVINATION, ILLUSION, PALIMPSESTRY. “Can you store power in containers like these? I think he’s stockpiling.”

  John shook his head. “I grew up listening to enough of Abraham and Silas’ crazy theories to know that. Power is a living entity, and it can only survive inside a living organism. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

  Angelique eyed Liv and Link coldly. “I’m sure the two of you are familiar with the terms. Mortals have all sorts of symbiotic relationships. It’s not as if you people can survive on your own.”

  “Us people? You’re getting a little personal, aren’t you?” Liv sounded offended. “We all want the same thing. To stop Silas and right the incredible wrongs that have been perpetrated here.”

  John paced in front of the door. “If Silas is siphoning off their powers for his Frankenstein Caster experiments, where are the Casters he’s putting them into?” Like he did with Angelique—that was the part he didn’t say.

  The Cataclyst shrugged. “I was already part of the Menagerie, so he took me right out of my cell. I don’t know about the others before me. And honestly, I don’t really care.”

  Liv looked up from the lab notes. “It says something in here about ‘incubation’ and ‘long-term storage for SD Sample.’ ”

  “Does it mention what kind of methods he’s using?” Necro asked.

  John peered through the window cut into the door. When he turned around again, he looked sick. “I’m not sure you want to know.” He looked right at Link. “But you need to see this, man.” He paused, frowning. “You all do.”

  Link worried that being back in the labs was messing with John’s head more than he was letting on. Sure, this place was creepy, but they were in Silas Ravenwood territory, and he was even more twisted than Abraham.

  “What kind of freak show does Silas have in there?” Link asked, making his way over to the door. “Vampires and werewolves?”

  “Worse.” John pushed the door open, and a trail of luminescent light stretched across the floor.

  Link gave John a gentle whack on the shoulder as he walked by. “Everything’s gonna be okay, dude.”

  John swallowed hard. “There’s nothing okay about this. There never was.” Liv slid her hand into his and squeezed it.

  Link caught a glimpse of the room out of the corner of his eye.

  What the hell?

  It was dark inside, illuminated by hundreds of thin filaments hanging from the ceiling like glowing fishing lines. The lines were connected to what looked like magical cocoons spun from the same luminescent filament.

  Link heard footsteps behind him, and someone gasped. He probably would’ve had the same reaction, except he was holding his breath, convinced the slightest sound might snap the magical strings and send the cocoons and their fragile contents crashing to the ground.

  Their contents.

  Link couldn’t wrap his mind around what he was seeing—dozens of men, women, and guys and girls around his age hanging from the ceiling.

  Angelique glided past him and walked to the center of the room, her face tilted toward the human cocoons above her. “You’ve been busy since I left, haven’t you, Silas? It’s a regular factory in here.”

  “A power factory.” Liv shuddered.

  Floyd stumbled toward Angelique and Necro, who was already walking in the Cataclyst’s direction. “What is he doing to them? They look dead.”

  “They’d probably wish they were if they had any awareness of what Silas was doing to them,” Liv said.

  “Which is?” Sampson asked, walking up behind Floyd.

  Liv stared up at the imprisoned Casters. “Suspended animation.”

  Link followed John and Liv as they joined the others in the middle of the room, below the sea of bodies. He tried not to imagine one of them falling on him, but it was tough.

  “It’s all right here in the notes.” Liv tapped on the page. “He’s using them as incubators until he’s ready to drain their powers. Then he moves them into the room we were just in to do the extraction.”

  “And he has other rooms for the infusions,” Angelique said.

  “We’ve got to cut them down,” Sampson said as Lucille wove her way between his ankles.

  “Only if we want to kill them.” Liv was still reading. “According to these notes, it’s a Cast—the Dreamless Sleep. If you touch them without breaking the Cast first, they’ll die.”

  “We can’t leave them here like this,” Floyd said.

  “You’re right.” Sampson walked over to the steel drawers lining one side of the room and started pulling them open and rummaging through the contents one by one. “There has to be a way to help them.”

  “That’s the problem with Mortals,” Angelique said. “No sense of self-preservation. You’re always so worried about everyone else. You’re like Boy Scouts, and just as goofy. No wonder you’re always getting yourselves killed.” She swatted Liv on the back of the head as she walked by. “It’s the way we get you every time. We give you a shiny ball to keep you occupied while we kill your friends … destroy the world … I’m sure you can fill in the blank.” She pointed up at the bodies. “Those are the shiny balls. Would you rather stay here and try to break a Cast we know nothing about or find your friend?”

  “Shut up,” Link said.

  “I’m laying out the odds for you, because they’re not in your favor. What are you going to do, save the world? That only happens in Mortal movies.”

  Sam shut a metal drawer a little hard, and Link looked over at him. The Darkborn had a weird look on his face. “I found”—he held up a glass vial—“something.”

  Necro walked over and nudged him. “What kind of something, exactly?”

  He handed her the vial. “Isn’t that—?”

  She nodded.

  “What is it?” Liv asked, in the scientist-Keeper tone Link recognized. She took the tiny bottle out of Necro’s palm and read the label. “ ‘Infusion: Patient 12.’ ” Liv turned to Angelique. “This must’ve b
een your injection.”

  Angelique dismissed it with a wave. “Spare me the walk down memory lane. I don’t care where it came from. I know where it is now.”

  “Turn it over, Liv,” Necro said quietly.

  The Keeper frowned, turning the vial between her fingers. “Why? Is there—?” She gasped, the color draining from her face. “Oh my god.”

  “Liv? You okay?” Link asked, already knowing she wasn’t and wondering just how bad it was.

  “The power infusion Angelique was given … the sample code and the name of the Caster it was extracted from are printed on the back. It says ‘SD Sample’—”

  Liv’s hand was shaking.

  “ ‘Sarafine Duchannes.’ ”

  CHAPTER 26: NOX

  Rainbow in the Dark

  Nox took a long look at the girl he loved.

  He was thinking she needed a twelve-step program.

  She was hooked on whatever Silas was pumping into her, which meant she wasn’t leaving without her next fix. And that only left him with two choices—keep trying to talk her into leaving or stay here with her until she was ready to go.

  Because leaving without her wasn’t an option.

  I’d let Silas kill me first.

  He stared into her violet eyes one more time, squeezing her hand through the bars.

  I’ve officially lost it.

  And I know this is wrong.

  I know she isn’t mine.

  But it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to look at her and know she’s okay—and as long as I get her out of here.

  Who was he kidding? Nox was addicted to every single thing about Ridley Duchannes, and they both knew it.

  She was his drug.

  CHAPTER 27: RIDLEY

  Powerslave

  I need him.

  As she held his hand, Ridley could feel his presence—the energy between them pulsed through her, a different kind of high. One she needed almost as badly as the infusions.

  Almost.

  When I’m with Nox, I’m more powerful, and I’m more aware of my own power.

  Like needs like.

  Power needs power.

  Maybe it was the TFPs, or something from his Siren mother—she couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that being with Nox made her sharper, clearer.

 
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