Dangerous Dream by Kami Garcia

  Except Ridley.

  She played Floyd next, who was her only real competition. Everyone else sucked, even without Ridley’s influence. Rid waited until it was Floyd’s turn before she made her move.

  As Floyd studied her cards, Ridley gave her a nudge with her powers. You want to bluff on this hand and dump as many cards as you can.

  Floyd hesitated for a moment, then dropped three cards onto the pile. “Jack. Queen. King.”

  Rid stretched her arms over her head, as if she’d just woken up from a long nap. Then she gave Floyd a big smile. “Liar.”

  Floyd seemed dazed, and she blinked a few times before responding. “Damn. Guess I won’t be turning myself into Roger Waters again anytime soon.”

  Floyd was obviously an Illusionist, like Ridley’s idiot brother, Larkin. Her brother used his powers for ridiculous things like picking up girls. The fact that Floyd used hers to fool people into thinking she was the lead singer of Pink Floyd was even more pathetic. Ridley had never met an Illusionist who actually created illusions worth seeing—unless Lena’s mother, Sarafine, was breathing down their neck.

  After another round, Ridley didn’t have a single card left in her hand. Ridley kept tabs on how games were progressing around the room. Grown men were reduced to sobbing babies in her presence as they lost everything from the temporary use of their powers to the permanent loss of talents. She kept a mental record of every loss: a Necromancer who’d be spending a lot more time with the living; a Shifter who wouldn’t be able to change water into ice for at least six months; a Caster poet who was going to need help finding a rhyme in a Dr. Seuss book; and a handful of entirely forgettable losers.

  Three players were left: Ridley, Sampson, and the band’s crappy drummer. She hadn’t even bothered to learn his name.

  As Ridley approached the table designated for the final games, Sampson pulled out Ridley’s chair. He was playing the winner of the game between Ridley and the drummer, which meant he’d be losing to her next.

  Up close, Sampson was even taller than she’d thought, close to seven feet, if Rid had to guess. He had the physically menacing posture of an Incubus without the reflective black eyes, a feature that all Incubuses shared. His eyes weren’t Caster green or gold, either. They were steel gray, ringed in smudged black liner that made him look even more dangerous, as if he hadn’t slept in days and didn’t care. He was obviously wearing colored contacts, which was too hipster for Ridley’s taste.

  Link would’ve made fun of this guy.

  He held out a tattooed hand. “Sampson.”

  This guy looked more like Goliath.


  He smiled. “I heard.”

  “Tonight or previously?” Rid asked, only half-joking.

  “I’m Ace.” The drummer, and her opponent, stared at her from across the table like a lion eyeing raw meat. She was going to enjoy kicking his ass.

  “Of course you are.” Ridley rolled her eyes.

  “Now, if everyone has decided who they’re taking home tonight, we’ve got a game to play,” the dealer said, cutting the cards.

  Rid watched him shuffle, the king of blood and the ace of fire flipping through his fingers. Floyd and the pretty-boy punk with the blue faux-hawk stood behind Ace.

  For the first few rounds, no one spoke as the two players sized each other up. Ridley was biding her time, waiting for just the right moment to make her move. She was also testing the waters, determining exactly how hard she needed to push Ace. When he hesitated too long after dropping two cards into the pile, Ridley gave him a little nudge. You can get away with one more. Go ahead and throw it. He tossed the card within seconds.

  It was on his next turn that he made a fatal mistake and blew her a kiss.

  “Seven. Eight,” Ridley said, dropping her last two cards facedown on the discard pile.

  Ace gave her one of his perverted smiles. “You wouldn’t be lying now, would you, Baby?”

  Ridley’s eyes narrowed. She tolerated it when Link called her Babe, because he was Link and things were… complicated between them. But there was no way this scumbag was going to get away with calling her Baby. “Are you calling me a liar, or just asking? I mean, either you have the balls or you don’t.”

  The dealer stifled a laugh.

  “Someone should teach you how to act like a lady,” Ace snapped.

  Ridley leaned over, the edge of a red bra peeking out of her top, and looked the second-rate drummer right in the eye. “I’ll get right on that. As soon as someone teaches you how to act like a man.”

  Ace stared at her like he wanted to set her on fire.

  Ridley gazed into his gold eyes. You know I’m lying. Go ahead. Call me a liar.

  It only took a second for him to react. “Liar.”

  She leaned back in her chair, savoring the moment. “You must’ve bet something major to make it all the way to the big girl table. What are you going to lose if I flip those cards and I’ve got a seven and an eight?”

  Floyd was standing behind Ace’s chair. “Shit.”

  Sampson glanced up at his bandmate. “What did he bet?”

  The color drained from Ace’s face, as if he had just figured out what Floyd seemed to sense. Ridley wasn’t lying.

  Floyd shook her head. “His sticks.”

  Ridley immediately understood. The crappy drummer had bet his talent—at least, what little he had. If he lost, he wouldn’t be able to play anymore. Which wouldn’t be a huge loss, from Ridley’s point of view.

  She flipped the cards over one at a time.

  Seven of stars and eight of blades.

  Ace sprang out of his chair, and Sampson yanked her from hers before the drummer overturned the table. “You bitch!”

  The dealer signaled one of the bouncers lurking along the edges of the room. “Get him outta here.”

  Even though Sampson had rescued her, he looked almost as pissed off as Floyd, who was pacing and cussing under her breath. The punk boy with the blue faux-hawk gave her a hard stare and whispered something to Sampson.

  “Pull it together, ladies,” the dealer shouted at everyone left in the room. “We’ve got one more game to play.”

  Ridley tried to look nervous, but fear wasn’t an emotion she experienced often. The effort was exhausting, and she dropped down into a chair at the black felt table. There was a lot of money on the line, enough to let her hole up in her favorite five-star resort in Barbados for weeks. Close enough to visit a few relatives, and far enough away to get twenty-four-hour room service and cause some serious trouble.

  She was trying to remember the name of the hotel with the cabanas—the ones that came with their own private chefs—when the dealer sat down with a fresh deck.

  “You know the rules. The winner’s looking at fifty grand and a share of the take.”

  A share of the TFPs—that’s what he meant.

  Sampson was all business now. “You ready, Pink?”

  She gave him a cold stare. “Sure thing, Goliath.”

  They didn’t say anything else as the cards slid across the table. Rid hadn’t noticed how well Sampson played until now. He was definitely counting cards, which was a solid strategy if you didn’t have a Siren’s Power of Persuasion at your disposal.

  Ridley bluffed a few times, testing her powers on Sampson the same way she had with the loser drummer.

  Sampson required a little more encouragement.

  You don’t want to call me on that discard. The stakes are too high to screw up.

  The huge Caster looked around as if he’d actually heard her voice, then did exactly what she wanted.

  The initial rush from sneaking in with her powers had faded, and Ridley was getting bored. Time to wrap this up, she thought.

  Within a few hands, both Ridley and Sampson were down to one card. Sampson studied her with his steel gray eyes, waiting to take his turn.

  “Hold the game,” a deep voice called from behind her.

  The dealer put his hand o
ver the discard pile. “Hold your cards.”

  What the hell?

  When Ridley turned around, the guy from Suffer—the gorgeous stranger she’d caught staring at her from the edge of the stage—stood in the doorway.

  “You came in late,” he said to her. “I don’t think we have a record of your marker.”

  Her marker.

  Ridley hadn’t even considered what to wager, since winning the game was a guarantee. “I don’t know. What do you want?”

  The Caster strode toward her. When he reached her seat, he leaned down until Ridley could feel his breath on her neck, and whispered in her ear.

  “What?” She must have heard him wrong.

  He can’t be serious.

  This time, his mouth was so close to her ear that she felt his lips against her skin. There was no mistaking what he said.

  Ridley shuddered, and goose bumps crawled up her arms.

  “Like I’d ever agree to that,” she tossed off, trying to keep her cool.

  “The way I see it, you don’t really have a choice.” He walked over to the wall in front of her and leaned against it. “Everyone has to register their marker before they play, or the house gets to choose.” He didn’t take his eyes off her. “House rules.”

  “Tell her, Lennox,” Floyd said.

  Ridley tossed her hair nonchalantly. “Well, I didn’t know anything about that. So I’m sure you can make an exception.”

  Lennox—whoever he was—gave her a long look. “I can’t do that. You’ll have to play this one out.”

  There was something strange about the way he said it, but Ridley couldn’t put her finger on it. “Fine.”

  This situation was anything but fine. Even though Ridley knew she could manipulate the outcome of the game, this guy, Lennox, made her antsy. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would risk anything on a card game, especially not one he didn’t already know he would win.

  Just like me, she thought. So I guess he’s met his match.

  “We’re back on play,” the dealer said, lifting his hands off the discard pile.

  Rid waited until Sampson’s attention was focused on her before she made her move. Bluff. She’ll never figure it out.

  He hesitated, the way he had the last time she used her powers on him. Then he dropped his card. “King.”

  “Liar.” Ridley let the word roll off her tongue slowly.

  Lennox moved closer to the tables, crossing his arms over his broad chest. Sampson bit his lip.

  Poor baby.

  Ridley barely noticed when he flipped his card over—until someone gasped. The Caster card rested on the top of the discard pile.

  King of fates.

  Ridley couldn’t hide her shock. “No. That can’t be right.”

  “Why? Because you used your Siren song on him?” Lennox asked.

  It felt like the floor had dropped out from underneath her. How the hell did he know? More importantly, why the hell didn’t it work?

  “Don’t worry, Little Siren. You haven’t lost your touch,” Lennox said, as if he could read her mind.

  “How did you know?” She choked out the words, still in shock.

  “I’ve known all night.” He didn’t answer the question.

  Ridley stared across the table at Sampson. “He put some kind of Cast on you, didn’t he? So my powers wouldn’t work on you.”

  “He didn’t need to,” Sampson said. He smiled, for the first time all night. “Your powers don’t work on me.”

  Ridley’s head was spinning. She wished she had her friend John Breed’s scorpion belt buckle so that she could dematerialize and Travel like an Incubus. “What kind of Caster are you?”

  Sampson watched her with those steel gray eyes. “I’m not a Caster.”

  He couldn’t be a full-blooded Incubus. There was no way to hide the black eyes of an Incubus behind a pair of gray contacts. “Then what are you? Some kind of hybrid Incubus?”

  “No.” The corner of his mouth turned up into a smile. “I’m something else.”

  Lennox stood behind Sampson. “He’s a Darkborn.”

  “What the hell is that?” Ridley had no idea what he was talking about.

  “When the Order of Things was broken, it changed things,” Lennox said. “You should pay a little more attention to the world around you.”

  “I’ve been busy,” she said calmly.

  But inside she was starting to panic.

  Ridley rose, her knees wobbling, and looked up at Lennox. “You guys cheated, so the game doesn’t count. I’ll see you around.” She started to turn away, and the bouncers moved toward her.

  Lennox walked between the bouncers and stood in front of Ridley. He tucked a stray strand of pink hair behind her ear. “No. You cheated, Little Siren. Now you’re going to pay the debt you owe me.”

  “You weren’t even in the game.”

  Lennox smiled. “Sampson was playing for me. His debts are mine, and so is his take.”

  Ridley remembered what he had whispered in her ear—what he wanted from her—and she felt sick. She couldn’t do it.


  He ran his finger gently down her cheek and across her lips. “I’ll see you soon.”

  When he reached the door, he stopped and turned back to look at her. “I almost forgot. I’m opening a new club in New York, and these guys are my house band.” He glanced at the members of the Devil’s Hangmen.

  Ridley gave him a blank stare. “That concerns me because?”

  “You owe me a drummer. And you’d better find one before my club opens,” Lennox said. “In Liar’s Trade, the winner calls in his markers whenever he chooses. I’m calling that one in now. You might want to study up on the rules before you play at the big girl table.”

  Ridley tried to keep her expression unreadable.

  Lennox winked. “Next time.”

  He disappeared down the hallway, and Ridley stared after him.

  His marker.

  A drummer.

  New York City.

  She frowned.

  Even for her, this was cold.


  Ridley twirled a strand of pink hair. “I think I know just the guy.”

  Don’t miss the exciting first book in a new series coming in 2014.

  Dangerous Creatures

  Some loves are cursed.…

  Others are dangerous.

  A Siren’s Song

  There are only two kinds of Mortals in the backwater town of Gatlin, South Carolina—the stupid and the stuck. That’s what they say, anyway.

  As if there’s any other kind of Mortal anywhere else.


  On the other hand, there’s only one kind of Siren, no matter where you go in the universe.

  Stuck, no. Stuck up? Maybe.

  Stupid? Never.

  Powerful? Do you even have to ask?

  Not to mention powerfully hot. Third Degree Burns hot, if you want to get technical. Ask my sort-of-ex-boyfriend, Link. He’s been burned more than anyone.

  I should know. I’m usually the one holding the match.

  It’s all a matter of perspective, and here’s mine: I’ve been called a lot of things, but no matter what, I’m a survivor—and while there are more than a few stupid Supernaturals, there are zero stupid survivors.

  Consider my record. I outlasted some of the Darkest Casters and creatures alive. I withstood whole months of Stonewall Jackson High School. Beyond that, I survived a thousand terrible love songs written by a clueless Mortal boy who became an equally clueless quarter Incubus—and, by the way, not the most gifted musician.

  For a while, I survived wanting to write him a love song of my own.

  That was harder.

  This Siren gig is meant to be a one-way street. Ask Odysseus and two thousand years’ worth of dead sailors if you don’t believe me.

  We didn’t choose for it to be that way. It’s the hand we were dealt, and you won’t hear me whining about it. I’m not my cousin Len

  She was meant to be Light. I was meant to be Dark. Respect the teams, people. At least learn the rules.

  Let’s get something straight: I’m supposed to be the bad guy. I will always disappoint you. Your parents will hate me. You should not root for me. I am not your role model.

  I don’t know why everyone seems to forget that. I never do.

  My own parents disowned me after the Dark Claimed me as a Siren on my Sixteenth Moon. Since then, nothing rattles me—nothing and no one.

  I always knew my incarceration in the sanitarium that my Uncle Macon called Ravenwood Manor was a temporary pit stop on the way to bigger and better, my two favorite words. Actually, that’s a lie.

  My two favorite words are my name, Ridley Duchannes.

  Why wouldn’t they be?

  Sure, Lena gets all the credit, being the most powerful Caster of all time—aka Queen of Perfectland. It doesn’t make me any less excellent. Neither does her too-good-to-be-true Mortal boyfriend, Ethan “the Wayward” Wate, who, like, defeats Darkness in the name of true love every day of the week.

  There’s a shocker.

  They should have their own Caster talk show. They could cohost interventions and turn Dark hearts to good instead of evil, and they’d be every bit as popular as Oprah.

  And that gag-fest is why my name is my favorite two words in the whole language.

  So what?

  I was never going for perfect. I think that should be clear by now.


  I’ve done my part, played the game, even thrown in my hand when I had to. I’ve bet what I didn’t have and bluffed until I had it. Link once said, Ridley Duchannes is always playing a game. I never told him, but he was right.

  What’s so bad about that? I always knew I’d rather play than watch from the sidelines.

  Except once.

  There was one game I regretted. At least, one that I regretted losing. And one Dark Caster I regretted losing to.

  Lennox Gates.

  Two markers.

  That’s all I owed him, and it was enough to change everything. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

  Everything started long before that, with a pair of gardening shears stuck halfway through an Incubus’ chest. There were blood debts to be paid—though this time it wasn’t up to a Caster or a Mortal to pay them.

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