Dangerous Deception by Kami Garcia

  “Don’t bother lying. I know all about John.”

  The Chemist stumbled back as if Nox had pointed a gun at him.

  Nox took a step closer. “John Breed. That was his name, right?”

  “I didn’t want to do it. Abraham Ravenwood forced me.”

  “He was just a kid.” Nox shook his head.

  “You don’t know what he was like or what he would have done—” The Chemist examined Nox more closely, his whole body shaking. “Wait. You’re the boy. John. You’re finally here to kill me, aren’t you?”


  Nox took advantage of the Chemist’s fear. “I’m not John. But I know where he is.”

  It was sort of the truth.

  And it could’ve been me.

  “If you don’t tell me where the labs are, I’ll bring John here so he can thank you in person.”

  The Chemist started talking so fast Nox could barely understand him. “They’re behind Abraham’s house. You can’t access them from here, but there’s a door along the Mile that leads right into his house.”

  Of course.

  “How do I find the door?”

  “Get to the Mile just before the sun comes up. Ravenwood’s cook will be there, unless the old Caster is dead by now. Follow her. But you won’t find Abraham Ravenwood there. He’s dead. People say your friend John killed him.” The Chemist had a crazed look in his bloodshot eyes. “I’m probably next.”

  “If the labs aren’t where you say they are, you will be.” Nox tossed the hundred-dollar bill on the kitchen counter. The Mile wasn’t a hard place to find.

  The junkie’s eyes flicked between Nox and the money, but fear was no match for the Shine. He lunged for it and scrambled past Nox.

  By the time Nox reached the first floor again, the Chemist already had a plastic bag in his hand. He was killing himself, one tiny piece of Sunshine at a time.

  As he made his way through the shadowy world of the Tunnels, Nox was haunted by his own demons. He’d spent most of his life trying to forget his past, and this was the reason. It opened a sea of darkness that threatened to drown him. No one was strong enough to hold off an entire sea, and he had never felt closer to going under.

  He desperately wanted to think about anything other than his childhood—or Silas Ravenwood.

  To be more specific, Silas Ravenwood and Ridley.

  He tried to shake it off, but the more he tried not to think about it, the more clearly the images took shape in his mind.

  What Silas might be doing to her right now—or making her do. What he could do to her, if he wanted to. Or if she was already gone.

  Nox stopped and leaned against the side of the Tunnel wall, letting his head drop into his hands. The thought put him over the edge, and when he went that far over, he couldn’t think straight. When he couldn’t think straight, he made stupid mistakes. Stupid mistakes could end up getting Ridley hurt.


  Find something else to think about. Anything else. Just keep it together until you get to New Orleans.

  He had to know if Silas Ravenwood had gotten his hands on Ridley.

  Or her corpse.

  Nox drew his lighter out of his pocket and held it up in front of him. He felt the familiar coiling in his stomach at the thought of the unshakable stone of whatever the future held.

  Might as well strap the Wheel of Fate to my back right now.

  But it didn’t matter.

  He didn’t matter. This had stopped being about him the moment he’d seen the car crash, inside the lighter’s flames the last time.

  With a shaking hand, he struck the flint and looked into the flickering light….

  At first there was nothing but fog, thicker and blacker than usual.

  Nox made his way into the depths of it, just as he always did.

  The smoke of time and memory and everything else that stood between the Dark Caster and his even darker visions.

  Nox pushed through.

  When the shadows began to clear and the vision began to take shape, Nox thought something was wrong.

  I’m losing my Sight. I can’t see anything.

  Then he realized he was seeing something.

  The smoke formed broad vertical lines, as if someone had spilled black ink over his head and now it was dripping in front of his eyes.

  Like trees in a forest, flashing by a speeding car. Like a picket fence, only black, not white.

  He almost smiled at the idea of one of his visions showing him something as happy and peaceful as a white picket fence. Then he stopped smiling, because the smoke began to focus itself into a more detailed shape, and Nox Gates realized exactly what he was looking at.


  Prison bars.

  He forced himself to control the vision. Slowly, he pushed his way down the bars until he saw it … her face. Pale and unmoving. Scratched and bruised and covered with dry blood. Her lips were purplish blue.


  Ridley, wake up. It’s me. It’s Nox.

  It was no use. Her lips were parted but remained unmoving. He couldn’t tell if she was breathing. He held on to the sight of her for as long as he could. He couldn’t bear to let it slip away, because he didn’t know if he’d ever see it again.

  By the time the vision began to fade, his eyes were as blurry as the smoke.

  She’s alive. That’s what the vision means.

  It would take more than one Ravenwood to kill Ridley Duchannes. Maybe more than two. He couldn’t let himself consider the alternative. He pushed himself off the wall and kept moving. Someone had to do the right thing. Someone had to show up for her, whether or not it was too late.

  Not just anyone. Me.

  Nox didn’t trust anyone else. He was the only one who really knew, because he was the only one who had watched it all happen before.

  I have to stop him. I have to find her.


  He wouldn’t let the Ravenwoods do this to another Siren he cared about. But it was more than that. Nox couldn’t escape it, and he didn’t want to. He’d never felt this way about anyone, and it terrified him.

  Because he knew what happened to the people he cared about.

  In the hands of a Dark Caster, love is a death sentence.

  The thought—and the feeling—hit him hard, and Lennox Gates knew one thing for sure. He loved Ridley Duchannes.


  Return of the Warlord

  You have to stay awake.

  Ridley struggled to keep her eyes open.

  Fight it off. Stay in control.

  If you stay awake, you can think. If you think, you can find a way out of here. A way back to Link.

  But it was no use, and Ridley found herself drifting in and out of a restless sleep, filled with surreal dreams and hallucinations.

  Not again. Don’t close your eyes again.

  Think of Lena and Link. Think of your friends.

  Drugs. It had to be drugs.

  Only now she couldn’t remember them doing it.

  Link. I can’t. I’m so tired.

  But then she felt her eyes closing again, and she almost didn’t care anymore, because with sleep came dreams of Link.

  “So where do you want to go? Sky’s the limit, Babe.” Link glanced at me from behind the wheel of the Beater. In front of us, there was nothing but highway, and above us¸ nothing but blue sky.

  “Don’t call me Babe,” I said. But after everything that had happened, I was actually starting to like it. Not that I’d ever admit it to him. I propped my platforms up on the dashboard. “Definitely not the South. I think we should head west. LA, Vegas … somewhere we can hole up in a four-star hotel, order room service, basically the opposite of everything we were doing in New York.”

  Link grinned and turned up “Stairway to Heaven.”

  “Whatever you say, Sugarplum. But only because I’m crazy about you, and I’ve never been to the West Coast.” He smiled at me again, looking happier than I’
ve ever seen him.

  Lucille meowed from the backseat and jumped between us. Today, even that fleabag couldn’t ruin my mood.

  The song was halfway over, and I realized I was holding my breath. It felt like something terrible was about to happen, and I was waiting for it.

  Link sang along with Led Zeppelin, and I kept waiting.

  And waiting.

  The song ended, and I exhaled. Everything was okay. We were gonna make it. All the way to LA, or Vegas, or wherever the hell we wanted to go. And I was gonna charm our way into the nicest hotel I could find and keep Link as far from New York City as I could.

  New York City.

  A thought slipped through my mind, but I lost it. It had something to do with New York. Something I left behind.


  The thought slammed into me, and I saw the black truck speeding toward us, and “Stairway to Heaven” was playing all over again.

  That’s when the screaming started—


  Ridley bolted upright, clawing at the sheets around her. The chandelier was switched on. But even in the dim light, her vision was still blurry.

  Of course. They drugged me again.

  She vaguely remembered the Darkborn entering her cell—her room. That was what he’d called it. But this wasn’t a room any more than Ridley was a guest. She remembered bits and pieces of her conversation with other girls in the cells somewhere in the hallway.

  I’m not the only prisoner. There were girls. They had names and faces.

  I can’t remember. Why can’t I remember?


  The word lingered in her mind. Ridley had no intention of becoming a permanent part of the Menagerie, whatever the hell that meant.

  Get up. You need to find a way out of here.

  She took deep breaths, focusing her powers inward. She couldn’t use the Power of Persuasion on herself, but trying pulled her out of the drug-induced haze faster. Anything to keep her mind sharp.

  Another silver tray rested on the nightstand. Instead of soup, this time her captors had upped the ante and left a plate of filet mignon and baby carrots, as if the meal could fool her into believing they weren’t going to do something terrible to her.

  They probably put something in the food, too.

  She stared at the meat as if it was a cherry lollipop. To Link, it would’ve been.

  How did the words go? Little Fillet, I think of you most every day.

  Her mind flooded with memories of stupid lyrics, until she almost smiled. With every word, the haze of the drugs lifted.

  She looked down at her hands and realized she had scratched something into the side of the lacquered wood table next to her bed. One of her long pink nails was hanging off.

  Rid traced the scratches with her finger.

  A long line, and a shorter one—an L.

  He was coming for her. She had to be ready.

  Stay clear and get up.

  As Ridley pushed herself up, she noticed that the dark purple bruises on her arms were gone. Come to think of it, her neck didn’t hurt anymore, either. If it weren’t for the drugs, she probably would’ve felt fine.

  But I haven’t been here long enough to heal, have I?

  The familiar sound of footsteps in the hallway sent her flying back under the covers. She closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep.

  Please don’t come in here.

  The sound of metal clinking and another girl’s scream tore through the hallway.

  “Come on out. We’re taking a little trip.” She recognized the Darkborn’s Southern drawl.

  “I don’t want to go anywhere,” the girl begged. Names started to come back to her. It wasn’t Drew or Katarina. This girl had an Italian accent. “Please, just let me stay here.”

  “Now you want to stay?” the Darkborn asked. “After you’ve spent months begging to leave?”

  Months. A knot formed in Ridley’s stomach.

  How long have I been here? She couldn’t handle staying in this cell for weeks, let alone months.

  Unless I already have.

  “Don’t worry,” the Darkborn continued. “You’re coming back.”

  Ridley heard shoes scraping against the concrete. He must’ve been dragging the poor girl.

  “Where are we going?” The Italian girl sounded frantic.

  “Men in the Syndicate are willing to pay a lot of money for an Empath’s services. Depending on the services.” He laughed cruelly.

  Ridley opened her eyes and stared at the bars. She could tell from the sound of their footsteps that they were moving in the other direction.

  Power trafficking. That’s what these scumbags are doing.

  She’d heard rumors about it in some of the darker Caster clubs, like Suffer. Casters being abducted and sold for their powers. Or in this case, rented. Either way, it was a dirty trade, something even Dark Casters looked down upon.

  There’s no way I’ll let them drag me around like a dog and make me do tricks.

  I’m not for sale.

  I’m Ridley Duchannes.

  Ridley waited until the footsteps were long gone, letting the anger churn inside her. She grabbed the plate from the nightstand and hurled it against the wall. The white bone china shattered across the rug.

  She didn’t like people messing with her, but using her was worse.

  Just try me. Go ahead.

  Treat me like a dog, and I’ll bite you. But the anger only exhausted her. She was still so weak.

  Ridley climbed off the bed and stumbled toward the bars, her legs unsteady beneath her. “Hey, Katarina? Drew?” she whispered. “Are you out there?”

  For a moment, no one responded. Maybe the Darkborn had taken them all at the same time.

  “Can you guys hear me?” she tried again.

  “Shut up, Pink,” Drew hissed from the darkness.

  “He’s already gone,” Ridley said. “And my name is Ridley.”

  It took a moment for the German girl to answer. “Katarina—I’m here.”

  “What happened to that girl? Where was he taking her?”

  “Her name is Lucia,” Katarina said. “Silas rents out our powers to members of the Syndicate. He was taking her on a job.”

  “Shut up,” Drew snapped. “Are you stupid? You don’t want him coming back for you.”

  Silence fell over the cells, until Ridley spoke up again. “How many of us are here?”

  Katarina finally answered. “Six, I think.” Her voice was shaky.

  “No. It’s at least seven,” a girl with a French accent whispered. “You’re forgetting about Angelique.”

  “Idiots,” Drew hissed.

  “Who’s Angelique? Did something happen to her?” Ridley gripped the bars, her knuckles turning white.

  “Plenty of stuff happened to her, but she also escaped,” Katarina said. “She didn’t talk much to anyone, except Lucia. She went crazy every time they took Lucia.”

  Ridley sensed there was more to the story, but right now she needed to know something more important. “Are you all Casters?”

  “I’m a Sybil,” the French girl answered.

  “Diviner,” the German girl said.

  “Thaumaturge.” This girl sounded Spanish. “My name is Alicia. I’m the one they brought in to heal you.”

  Like Ryan. No wonder I don’t feel like death warmed over anymore.

  American. Italian. German. French. Spanish. Siren, Sybil, Diviner, Thaumaturge. Silas has his own little version of It’s a Small World down here.

  “Thanks for fixing me up.” Ridley rubbed her hands over her arms where the bruises had been. At least that answered one of her questions. “Anyone else?” she asked. “Come on, we can help each other.”

  “An Illusionist and a Cypher were already here when they brought me in,” the French girl said. “I don’t know if they’re still here.”

  “I’m here,” a voice called out.

  “Me, too.” Another one.

a Siren,” Ridley whispered. “Does anyone know what they’re giving us? The drugs, I mean?”

  Or am I the only one?

  “You’re pretty stupid, Pink,” Drew said. “Sunshine is the only drug strong enough to knock some of us out. Including a Siren.”

  Ridley wondered who this girl was. She had backbone, which meant she was probably Ridley’s best ally in the group.

  Even if she is a pain in the ass.

  “Sorry I’m not up to speed on all the drugs Casters are using these days. I’m not accustomed to anyone being able to knock me out under any circumstances.” Ridley racked her brain, trying to figure out what kind of Caster would be as difficult to drug as a Siren. She needed to know more about this girl so she could find a way to bring her around. “Are you a Shifter?”

  Drew laughed. “Please. An antihistamine could knock out a Shifter.”

  A light went on in Ridley’s brain. Of course. She’s almost as defensive as Necro.

  “You’re a Necromancer.”

  “Give the girl a prize.” Drew sounded bored, or scared. It was hard to tell without looking at her.

  “Is that why the Darkborn calls us the Menagerie? Because we’re different kinds of Casters?” Rid asked.

  Or is it because they treat us like animals?

  For a moment, no one said a word.

  “His boss chooses us because we’re different types of Casters,” the French girl said. “He’ll keep doing it until he completes his collection.”

  The word collection sent a chill up Ridley’s spine.

  “Or until he needs a replacement,” Drew said.

  Ridley clung to the bars, her legs suddenly weaker. “Who’s his boss?”

  No one answered.

  Footsteps echoed somewhere down the hallway.

  “Shh,” someone hissed.

  A familiar scent floated through the passageway.

  The stench of the Barbadian cigars Abraham favored when he was alive.


  Anyone but him.

  But there was no denying it.

  I’d know the smell of those smokes anywhere.

  Up until that moment, Ridley had believed her life was in danger because she’d been kidnapped by a crazy Darkborn. Now she realized someone far more deranged and deadly was controlling her fate.

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