Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia

  It made her a stronger version of her new self, and that was what she needed right now.

  He was what she needed.

  Nox’s eyes searched hers. “Rid, I think we should leave. I know you want the next infusion, but I have a bad feeling about it. And you’re powerful enough already.”

  She gave him a strange look. “You can never be too powerful. It’s like saying you can be too rich or too beautiful. There’s never too much.”

  He bit his lip, which made Ridley want to nibble on it and kiss him again.

  And again and again.

  What’s wrong with me?

  When was I ever like this about a boy?

  A Caster boy?

  Who wasn’t Link, she thought, in spite of herself.

  Who wasn’t mine?

  She didn’t know if it was right or wrong, and she was starting to doubt if she even knew what was best for her.

  I want what I want.

  But what does that even mean now?

  And who am I to discount the person I was before? All those years?

  Even if I know that Nox is the right thing for me now?

  She drew a breath.

  There wasn’t a second when she wasn’t evaluating her options. Sooner or later, she’d have to make a decision. But that moment wasn’t here yet.

  “We’ll be out of here soon enough,” she reminded him. “You’ll see.”

  She heard footsteps in the hallway. “Shh. Someone’s coming.”

  A moment later, Ridley saw Silas’ wing tips.

  Ridley moved toward the bars, and Silas actually moved away.

  He’s afraid of me. She smiled.

  “She startled me when she came in,” Ridley said. “I didn’t mean to hurt her.”

  Now it was Silas’ turn to smile. “Of course you didn’t. You haven’t adjusted to how powerful you are yet.” Silas rose and walked over to Ridley’s cell. “It’ll come, and if it doesn’t, a few people get hurt every now and then.”

  “Mortals, yes. But Casters? You really are getting coldhearted in your old age, Silas.” Ridley shook her head.

  “It’s all the same to me. There’s what I want and what stands in my way.” He shrugged. “As long as you work with me, there’s no problem. The moment you don’t …” He shrugged again. “Who needs that?”

  Ridley caught a glimpse of Nox as he moved closer to the door of his own cell. “You’re a piece of crap, you know that, Silas? We both know you don’t care about Ridley or anyone else. If she gets hurt from whatever you did—”

  “It’s okay, Nox.” Ridley cut him off. “Silas isn’t doing anything without my permission.”

  Her eyes narrowed, and she trained them on Silas. Snakes slithered up the bars, their tongues darting out of their mouths only inches from the Incubus’ neck.

  She was beginning to enjoy herself, and that worried her. “Remember who’s in control here, Silas, or I’ll have to remind you again.”

  “I’m not the one in the cell,” Silas said, stupidly.

  Ridley’s cell door flung open. Silas flew back into the small square of space that had been her prison, while she stepped out. “Think again.”

  Silas rolled his eyes, reaching into his pocket and taking out a cigar. He cut off the end and lit the Barbadian, taking a long pull. When he exhaled a thin stream of smoke, the snakes recoiled. “Of course not, my dear. No one is going to do anything without your consent. So do I have your consent?”

  “Excuse me?” Ridley tried to ignore the rush she felt at the thought of whatever Silas was offering.

  “It’s time for another infusion.” He paused. “Unless you don’t want another one. In which case, I’ll move on to a new subject.”

  “No,” Ridley said, louder than she meant to. “I mean, I’m ready.” She reached toward him and patted his cheek. “Just behave. That’s all I ask. Give me my infusion and I’ll be done with you before you know it.”

  “Like a partnership,” he said, trying to manage a smile.

  “Exactly,” she lied, feeling the power burning in her veins.

  Silas unlocked the cell and extended his arm. “Shall we?”

  Let the little man put on his little airs.

  Or not.

  Just get what you want and go.

  Ridley eyed his arm and then stepped past it. She wasn’t interested in Silas’ theatrics. She wanted whatever he had waiting for her in the lab—and nothing else.

  “Rid, please don’t do this,” Nox pleaded, his hand stretched between the bars. “You don’t need it.”

  But I do, she thought. More than anything.

  And you need me to have it.

  I’m more powerful like this, and the one thing we’re going to need is power.

  But she didn’t say that.

  She just smiled at him. “It’s going to be fine, Baby. You’ll see. I’ll be back before you know it.”

  “I love you exactly the way you are,” he called out. Within seconds, his face reddened and Ridley knew the words had just slipped out, as words do.

  She smiled. “But I don’t.”

  Ridley ignored the way his shoulders sagged and followed Silas down the hallway. “What kind of power am I getting this time?” she asked, her body trembling with anticipation.

  Silas dropped the five-hundred-dollar cigar on the floor, only half-smoked. “I thought I’d surprise you.”

  Ridley relaxed. She loved surprises.

  Surprises, and powers that didn’t belong to her.

  And possibly, for the very first time, Caster boys.


  At War with Satan

  Angelique strode across the room and snatched the vial out of Liv’s hand. She read the label—the one that said Sarafine Duchannes’ Cataclyst powers were running through her veins.

  She threw her head back, red curls whipping through the air, and laughed. “Do you have any idea what this means?”

  “Yeah. We’re screwed,” Link muttered to himself.

  But Angelique wasn’t finished. “Most Casters consider Sarafine Duchannes the Darkest Caster who ever lived. Her powers were legendary.”

  The last comment appeared to snap Liv right out of the state of shock they all seemed to be sharing. “We’re aware of that, you idiot.”

  John looked at Liv. “How could Silas have saved Sarafine’s powers all this time if she’s been dead? I thought he was keeping the Casters in those cocoons until he was ready to extract their powers and inject them into someone else. Angelique’s only had her powers, what—? Weeks?”

  Liv shook her head. “I have no idea how he did it. All I know is that those powers should’ve died with Sarafine.”

  Link was still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that some part of Ridley’s murderous aunt was inside the Cataclyst standing a few feet away from him. “Ethan saw her die,” he said.

  Floyd touched his shoulder. “She is dead, right, Liv?”

  “Yes.” Liv sounded flustered. “Very dead. Ethan was very clear about it.” She took a deep breath and looked at Link. “Whatever Silas did, he managed to do it without Sarafine—at least without her being alive.”

  Now that Link knew the truth, he realized the signs had been there all along.

  The way Angelique flexed her fingers before she was about to use them …

  And the way she fluttered them exactly as Sarafine had, just before she uncurled them …

  The bloodlust, even the smartass comments—they were all things Link remembered about Sarafine Duchannes.

  A Caster so Dark she burned her own house down, with her husband and daughter inside.

  Lena, the daughter Sarafine tried to kill how many times?

  Link had lost count a while ago.

  God, what would Lena think of this? Link did not want to ever tell her.

  Angelique glanced up at the glowing cocoons. “Well, this certainly has been enlightening, but I’ve got places to go and people to kill.”

  “Can you at leas
t tell us where they might be keeping our friends, if they’re here?” Sam asked. “You owe us that much.”

  “Actually, I owe you nothing.” Angelique waved her hand casually. “But I’m not heartless. Just unstoppable.”

  Link headed for the door across the room from the one they’d come in through. He couldn’t get away from creepy cocoons or Angelique and her Sarafine blood—or whatever it was—fast enough. The only person who seemed to want out even more was John, who was right on Link’s heels, dragging Liv along with him.

  The moment they entered the hallway, Angelique strode past them. “This place is bigger than it looks. Silas has private lab rooms, and the cells are in the dungeon.”

  “There’s a dungeon?” Necro cringed.

  “That’s what we called it,” Angelique said before turning back to Link. “If your girlfriend’s here, he’s probably keeping her there. But I only know the way to the cells and the lab room where he gave me my infusions.”

  Infusions. Cells. Link had trouble thinking about anything else as they followed Angelique through the gleaming white hallway and down a stone staircase that led underneath the building and into stone tunnels.

  “Now I understand why they call it the dungeon,” Necro whispered.

  “Shh,” John said. “I heard something.”

  Sam nodded. “Me, too. It sounds like a girl’s voice.”

  It was all Link needed to hear. He bolted through the tunnel, his Chucks slapping against the stone floor.

  I’m coming, Rid.

  Within seconds, he saw the iron bars and rows of cells.

  But when he reached the first cell and looked through the bars, his heart sank.

  A pretty brunette scrambled away from the cell door and cowered in the corner.

  “Hey, I’m not gonna hurt you.” He tried to smile, but he couldn’t. “I’m not one of Silas’ guys. I’m here lookin’ for my girlfriend. Her name’s Ridley. Maybe you’ve seen her?”

  Necro caught up with him just as a girl in another cell stepped forward.

  “We know her,” the girl said with a Russian accent. “The new one.”

  Link darted toward the bars. “Right. That one. Where is she? Is she okay?” He rushed through the tunnel, searching every cell. They were full of girls, but Ridley wasn’t one of them.

  “I see you found the Menagerie,” Angelique said as she caught up with them. Liv, John, Floyd, and Sam were farther behind her, whispering to the terrified imprisoned girls. “Looks like Silas moved everyone.”

  “Angelique? Is that you?” Another girl approached the bars, craning her neck for a better view.

  The Cataclyst walked over to the girl’s cage. “Drew. It’s nice to see you’re still alive.”

  Relief spread across Drew’s features. “I can’t believe you came back for us.”

  The other girls were coming to the doors of their own cells now.

  Angelique brought her fingers to her lips like she was trying not to laugh. “I didn’t come back for you, Drew—or any of the rest of you,” she said, looking around. “I came back for me. But it was fun catching up.”

  Necro stormed over to Angelique, who was reminding Link of Sarafine more and more by the minute. “We can’t leave them here like animals.”

  “Rescuing people wasn’t part of the deal, Necromancer.” Angelique continued down the tunnel. “I don’t need to add hero to my résumé. Again, those are the shiny balls. Not my thing.”

  Necro looked over at Link. “I’m not leaving without them.”

  Floyd shouldered her way past Link and stood next to her friend. “Me neither.”

  “We’ll get you out somehow,” Link said, staring at the Russian girl behind the bars. “I hate to ask you this, but do you know where Silas is keepin’ Ridley? I’ve gotta find her.”

  The girl shook her head. “Our cells were all together for a while. Then Silas moved us.”

  “But they did it at night when it was pitch-black so we couldn’t see where they were taking us,” the other girl, Drew, added. “I guess Silas doesn’t want anyone else escaping.”

  Link glanced down the tunnel as Angelique moved farther away. He didn’t want to leave these girls, but he needed to find Rid. And the Cataclyst knew her way around, at least a little.

  “Go.” Floyd gave him a shove. “Find Ridley. Necro and I will take care of this.”

  “I can stay and Rip them out one at a time,” John offered.

  Necro shook her head. “Link might need you. You and Liv go with him. Sam will help us. We’ve got this.”

  Liv shook her head. “But how—?”

  “I’ve picked a few locks before,” Floyd said sheepishly. “I know my way around a prison.”

  Sam grinned. “And I’ve ripped a few doors off their hinges.”

  “Floyd and I are Dark Casters, after all,” Necro added. “So you probably shouldn’t ask for the details. Now go.” She gave Link a hard shove.

  In that moment, Link loved her. Necro was a true friend, maybe the truest he’d ever had, besides Ethan. He didn’t know how to tell her that, but he hoped she knew.

  “Thanks,” he said. It wasn’t enough, but he didn’t know what else to say. Instead, he took off after Angelique.

  As Link ducked through a doorway after her, he realized there were worse things than unconscious Casters hanging from the ceiling from magical marionette strings and a Menagerie of girls locked in cages.

  At least, there was one thing worse.

  Silas Ravenwood.

  “Crap.” It slipped out right before Link started holding his breath. He didn’t want to end up in some kind of hybrid Incubus cocoon.

  “You can say that again,” John muttered.

  Silas’ eyes narrowed, and the four Darkborns flanking him—including Chloe the Butcher—didn’t look any happier to see them.

  Angelique breezed over to the Blood Incubus. “Silas,” she purred. “What an unpleasant surprise.”

  Silas lit a cigar, trying to look half as relaxed as Angelique genuinely seemed. “Can’t be much of a surprise if you’re breaking into my labs.”

  “We have a score to settle, and it’s not my fault you hired …” The Cataclyst glared at Chloe. “Ineffective security.”

  Chloe lunged at Angelique, her hand closing around the Dark Caster’s throat. With the flutter of Angelique’s fingers, the Darkborn froze, wincing as her arm retracted involuntarily.

  “Now, now,” Angelique said. “Unless you want me to make you dance for us, I suggest you control yourself, Ms. Boucher.”

  Silas’ eyes widened. “Chloe told me about your unusual ability. But I never would’ve believed it.”

  “Sounds like you lack imagination, Silas.” Angelique closed her hand, releasing her hold on the Darkborn. “Although your handiwork on me and your little collection of caterpillars in the lab does make me wonder. It’s a shame you won’t live to see it through.”

  “Aren’t you the least bit curious?” Silas asked.

  Liv held up the book of lab notes. “We know exactly what you’re trying to do. Drain Casters of their powers and inject them into other Casters—”

  “Trying?” Silas raised an eyebrow. “I’m doing a lot more than trying, you stupid Mortal.”

  John charged at Silas, but Angelique threw up her arm to stop him.

  “Tsk, tsk, Silas is mine, remember?”

  The Blood Incubus noticed John for the first time. He’d been so focused on Angelique that he’d barely glanced at the rest of them. Silas pointed a ringed finger at John. “You. How dare you set foot on my family’s property? We raised you—”

  “Raised me?” John snapped. “You experimented on me.”

  Silas clenched his jaw, his expression murderous. “Actually, we engineered you like the animal you are. Bred you like a dog. And before this night is over, I’m going to put you down like one, too. You’ll be sorry you killed my Grandfather Abraham.”

  “Umm, hello?” Link raised his hand like he was in summer
school. “Technically, I killed him.”

  John clapped a hand on Link’s shoulder. “We both did. It was a coordinated effort.”

  “This is all very interesting.” Angelique yawned. “And by interesting, I mean boring.” The wind picked up, blowing her red hair around her head like a fiery halo. “But Silas and I have some unfinished business.” She turned to him. “The kind that ends with you lying dead on the floor. So how about a little fire and blood?” She cracked her knuckles, readying her fingers. “That’s what you made me for, isn’t it?”

  “Angelique, I’m hurt.” The Incubus held a hand over his chest. “I harvested that sample of Sarafine Duchannes’ power a year ago, and I’ve been saving it all this time. Waiting for the right Caster—someone worthy of such a gift.”

  “I didn’t ask for any gifts from you,” she hissed. “Just like I didn’t ask to be kidnapped and live in a cell. Or to be forced to use my powers when you rented me out to your disgusting friends in the Syndicate.”

  Silas dropped the cigar and snuffed it out with his wing tip. “That’s where you’re wrong. Sarafine’s powers are a gift. Originally, I took the sample for research purposes, but when I realized how strong her powers were—the fact that a sample from her was equal to a full extraction from the other Dark Casters we drained—I couldn’t waste them.”

  Angelique walked toward him, stopping only a few feet in front of him. “I’ll consider it payment for services already rendered. Enough is enough.”

  “What if I can offer you something more valuable than revenge?” Silas sounded too calm for someone who was about to die, which made Link nervous.

  “What’s he doing?” Link whispered.

  Liv didn’t take her eyes off the Incubus. “Making a deal.”

  But Angelique didn’t seem interested. “Nothing is more valuable than revenge.”

  “How about power?” Silas asked.

  “Already have it,” she countered. “Thanks to you, I have the power of the most dangerous Cataclyst in history running through my veins. I can even control this new breed of so-called immune Supernaturals. What more could a woman want?”

  Silas stepped closer to the Dark Caster who was probably about to kill him. “I can think of a few things. An empire. Powers so potent that no one can touch you, including my other test subjects. Information on the scope of Sarafine Duchannes’ powers.”

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