Dream Dark by Kami Garcia


  Doc Asher leaned back in his chair. “Don’t interrupt. As I was saying, sometimes when a man truly loves a woman, he wants to impress her. Maybe develop bigger muscles. Show off a bit.”

  “Are you askin’ me somethin’, Doc?” Link knew his mom had probably already shared her steroids theory.

  Doc Asher picked up a pen and Link’s chart off the desk. “Have you been feeling angry?”

  Was he for real?

  “I don’t know, Doc. Have you?”

  “Wesley, this is serious. The abuse of steroids…”

  Link stopped listening and started wondering if the serious abuse of your son’s privacy would show up in the container. Until Doc said something that stopped him cold.

  “With all the changes your mother’s mentioned, after I cast your arm, I think I’m going to check for puncture marks.”

  Puncture marks? It took him a second to put it together. Doc was talking about needle marks, from shooting steroids. But that wasn’t the kind of puncture Link was thinking about.

  He froze. And suddenly he wasn’t in the doctor’s office anymore. He was back in a dark cave at the Great Barrier the night before, during Lena’s Claiming. The fighting had already started, and he was standing between Ridley and John Breed—who looked like some psycho robot. Link wasn’t gonna let John hurt Rid, no matter what. But just as Link was planning to rush him, the guy ripped, disappearing. Link scanned the cavern trying to figure out where John went.

  A second later, he knew.

  Link felt John’s teeth sink into his neck.

  It hurt like hell, and it burned like it, too. He could hear Ridley screaming, pink and blond hair whipping through the air as she jumped onto John. Between the two of them, they threw John off. Or maybe he just let go. But he left something behind.

  Two puncture marks, shaped like canines.

  Link sat in Doc’s office for the rest of the visit, but he wasn’t listening anymore.

  Link doesn’t spook easily, but that same night he climbed through my window and told us everything. He was scared, and Lena and Ridley tried to explain some of the basic Incubus facts of life to him, even they couldn’t tell him everything he needed to know. But I knew someone who could.

  CHAPTER 3

  Your Average Superhero

  Link wasn’t crazy about going back down into the Caster Tunnels, but he had questions, and Macon Ravenwood was the only one with the answers. So I offered to go with him. It had taken me an hour to convince him that he wasn’t going to burst into flames the second the sunlight hit him.

  Ridley pitched a fit when she found out, and refused to let us use the door in her bedroom to access the Tunnels. I guess it was hard for her to watch Link morph into a Supernatural while she was trapped as a Mortal. If anyone knew how she felt, it was me. I was watching Lena become more and more of a Caster with every passing month. Maybe Macon had a pamphlet down in his study: “So You’re Powerless Now, But You’re Going Out with One of the X-Men.”

  Link and I ended up at the fairgrounds again, wandering around until we found the Outer Door.

  “Your girlfriend’s a real pain in the ass.” It was so hot I thought I was going to pass out. Link hadn’t even broken a sweat.

  “She says she’s not my girlfriend, but Rid’s just playin’ hard to get.” Link didn’t sound like he minded the girlfriend reference. “Right?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe it’s different with an ex-Siren.” I pulled on the heavy earthen door. “Man, could it get any hotter?” My shirt was already soaked.

  Link shrugged. “I guess it is pretty hot.”

  “You guess?” There had never been a heat wave like this in Gatlin, at least not in my lifetime. Folks were wandering around town melting like Popsicles in the sun.

  “I don’t really sweat anymore. It must be an Incubus thing,” Link said, pulling the heavy Outer Door open with one hand like he was taking the lid off a piece of Tupperware. His arm had already healed at supersonic speed. “Pretty cool, right? You want to see it again?”

  Before I could say anything, he let the door slam in my face. A cloud of dust rose up from the ground, and I coughed. “Thanks, man.”

  “Anytime.” He yanked the door open again.

  I stared into the abyss below, pausing for a second the way I always did when faced with a staircase I couldn’t see. But Link didn’t hesitate. He jumped, landing about halfway down. Usually I was the one who went first when we were faced with a potentially dangerous situation.

  “You comin’, dude?” Link called from the darkness.

  “I’m right behind you.” How often did that happen?

  Macon’s study was at the base of the stairs that led down into the Tunnels from his old bedroom at Ravenwood—the room that was Ridley’s now.

  “You sure he’s cool with this?” Link asked, reaching out to touch the carved oak door.

  Before I could respond, the door swung open and Macon was staring back at us through the green eyes of a Light Caster. “I am nothing, Mr. Lincoln, if not ‘cool,’ as you boys say. Particularly considering the state of the climate in our fair town these days.”

  “I—uh…I mean, thanks for invitin’ me down here, sir,” Link stammered. “This whole Incubus thing has kinda come outta nowhere and kicked my butt. No offense.”

  Macon dismissed the comment with a wave of his hand. “None taken. Though I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the term Incubus no longer applies to my current state.”

  Link scrunched up his forehead. “Sir?”

  “I don’t bite, Mr. Lincoln. Not that I ever did.” Macon opened the door wider and stepped aside to let us in. “But now it’s not even within the realm of possibility. Why don’t you come in, so we can make sure that you can say the same?”

  Link scratched his head, and I doubted he was catching more than half the words coming out of Macon’s mouth. It was going to be a long day.

  “You see, Mr. Lincoln, there comes a time in a young man’s life when his body starts to change…” Macon kept talking, and Link’s face turned beet red. Guess there were birds and bees in the Caster world, too.

  I was pretty sure I was going to have to do some translating, until Macon finally gave up and said something Link understood perfectly. Something I was pretty sure he had never heard anyone say to him, least of all his own folks.

  “Let’s sit down, Wesley. You can ask me anything you want to know.”

  The next time Link went to see Macon, he didn’t ask me to come. I felt guilty about it, like I should’ve been there for him anyway. But Lena and I had been apart in so many ways, for so long, that we had a lot of catching up to do. When Link told me he took Ridley with him instead, I figured their train wreck of a relationship was bound to take its course, sooner or later.

  “So I don’t have to drink blood?” It was the same question Link had asked Lena the night he told us about the bite, and the same one he’d asked Macon the last time he was there. Link couldn’t seem to get enough reassurance about it.

  “Ugh!” Ridley sighed dramatically. “Haven’t we been over this, Shrinky Dink?” She was sitting next to Link, filing her purple polished nails. She looked totally bored, but she had insisted on coming along.

  “Sorry, Mr. Ravenwood. Lena told me some of the basics, but I was pretty freaked out that night, and I don’t remember much.”

  “That’s quite all right and completely understandable.” Macon poured himself a glass of sweet tea. “And the answer is no, Wesley. You don’t have to drink blood. May I ask if you’ve experienced any other cravings?”

  Link shook his head. “Not for blood.”

  Ridley stopped filing.

  “Have you been craving something else, son?” Macon asked.

  Ridley examined her nails so closely you would’ve thought she was a professional hand model.

  “Just a mother’s love,” she said. “And a record deal. Two things he’ll never get. Right, Shrinky Dink?” She made a little sound in the back o
f her throat that was probably meant to be a giggle, but it came out more like a snarl. It wasn’t a good sound.

  “Ridley, let him answer.”

  Link wasn’t sure he wanted to, or even knew how to, answer that question. “I don’t know exactly.” He hesitated. It was going to sound crazy. “Sometimes I get the urge to…I don’t actually know how to say this.”

  “You can speak freely here, Wesley.”

  Link glanced at the door like he was afraid his mother had her ear pressed against the other side. “To watch people sleep.”

  Ridley opened her mouth and shut it again, finally at a loss for words. She was paying attention now.

  “Go on,” Macon encouraged. “It’s only natural now that you’re part Incubus. You aren’t going to have the same desires as Mortals. Just be honest—there’s no wrong answer.” Not unless he was taking a page out of Hunting’s book and drinking people’s blood.

  Ridley looked away.

  Link ran his hand over his spiked hair nervously. “I kinda want—to know what they’re thinking.”

  Macon nodded. “And do you know why that is?”

  Link shook his head. Because I’m nuts?

  “It’s an urge to feed, Wesley,” Macon explained. “You will always find yourself drawn to the thoughts and dreams of Mortals because that is what sustains an Incubus who does not consume blood.”

  Ridley stiffened when her uncle said “Mortal,” as if he was talking about her specifically.

  “So I have to read people’s minds when they’re sleepin’?” Link asked.

  The color drained from Ridley’s face. She looked completely panic-stricken, as if she was suddenly imagining Link standing over her bed, reading her thoughts.

  Macon laughed. He seemed to be enjoying the chance to show someone else the ropes. “Something like that. We can discuss the particulars when you come back tomorrow.” It wasn’t a request.

  “Do I have to feed?” Link asked.

  Macon considered for a moment. “I’m not entirely sure how often you will need to feed, considering John Breed’s hybrid nature. I will ask Olivia to do some research on the subject.”

  Liv had been lying low since we had come back from the Great Barrier, but from what we’d heard, she was never far from Macon’s side. Which basically guaranteed a lifetime spent out of sight, since the folks in Gatlin thought Macon Ravenwood was in a pine box six feet under at His Garden of Perpetual Peace.

  Macon seemed to like it that way, considering the small fortune he spent grooming his gravesite. In that respect, he was no different from the rest of the folks in Gatlin. Not that Macon would have seen it that way. Except his flowers weren’t plastic, and his headstone was surrounded by potted gardenias and hydrangeas, rather than glow-in-the-dark crosses.

  “Thanks,” Link said gratefully. “I wouldn’t wanna starve or anything. I definitely can’t eat any a my mom’s cookin’ anymore.”

  “That is unfortunate.” Macon took a long sip of his sweet tea. “Mortal food is certainly an unexpected perk of my transformation.”

  “You know, it’s not the sweet tea I miss as much as Amma’s pie.”

  “Ah, yes.” Macon smiled. “She brought me a beautiful lemon pie just this week.”

  “Cream or meringue?”

  “Cream.” Lemon meringue was strictly for Uncle Abner and the Greats. They both smiled—Link at the memory of all the pie in his past, Macon at the thought of all the pie in his future.

  “Enough about pie. Get back to the part about powers,” Ridley said, annoyed. “Speaking of powers, you haven’t mentioned yours, Uncle M. What kind of Caster are you, anyway? Not that we Mortals have a reason to care.”

  “I think we should focus on Wesley today.” Macon drained his glass, refilling it immediately. “There are some perks to being an Incubus, you know.”

  “Like the superstrength?” Link was getting stronger every day. Just that morning, he had lifted his broken old bed off the ground with one hand while he was trying to pull out some contraband CDs.

  “Among other things,” Macon answered. “You’re a Supernatural now, Wesley. Your days as a Mortal are over. And you have powers that far exceed superior strength.”

  Ridley stood up and walked over to the fireplace, unwrapping a stick of gum. It wasn’t the Charmed gum that could Bind a lock to hold off Hunting and his Blood Pack. It was just regular Mortal bubble gum.

  Link leaned forward in his chair, propping his elbows on the table. This was the part he was really interested in. “What kinda powers? Can I bend metal?” Anyone could’ve told you that would be his first question. In Link’s book, it was worth being part Incubus if it turned him into Magneto.

  “I’m afraid not,” Macon answered. “But if it’s any consolation, you can bend space, in a manner of speaking.”

  “Huh?”

  “Hello? He’s talking about Traveling.” Ridley’s voice sounded far away.

  “Precisely. You can dematerialize now,” Macon explained. “It can come in quite handy at times.”

  Link was skeptical. “Yeah. That sounds sorta advanced, Mr. Ravenwood. Maybe we should save that one for later.”

  They were still talking when Ridley slipped out the door. Neither of them noticed. And this time, they weren’t even talking about pie.

  CHAPTER 4

  Mortal Wounds

  Link climbed the stairs that led from the Tunnels to Ravenwood Manor.

  Where the hell did Rid go?

  One second she was smacking her gum by the fireplace, and the next she was gone.

  He reached up and pushed on the trapdoor that conveniently opened into Ridley’s room. The fuzzy pink carpet was heavy, but Link popped the door open with one hand. The second he cracked the door, the Tunnel flooded with bright light.

  Link covered his eyes with his free hand. “Jeez, whatcha doin’ in there, Rid?”

  “Don’t sneak up on me like that!” A door slammed, and the light dimmed suddenly, as if she had flipped a switch. “You just about gave me a heart attack.”

  Link was only halfway out of the Tunnel when he saw Ridley sitting on the floor, her back against the closet door. She looked about as innocent as a cat with a mouthful of feathers, but when he looked around the room, there was nothing going on.

  Still. This was Rid, so he took another look.

  Nothing.

  “Why’d you take off?” Link pulled himself out of the Tunnel, letting the trapdoor slam shut behind him. He sat down in front of her.

  “Do you really think I want to sit around and listen to you and my uncle talk about all your stupid magical powers?” She kicked off her shoes and began rubbing her pink and purple toes.

  Link was confused. Then again, Ridley was about as confusing as a girl could get. “You’re the one who said you wanted to come with me.”

  She flipped her hair, an old Siren habit she would probably never be able to break. There was something sad about it, like watching her unwrap those lollipops. “I’m a Mortal now, Shrinky Dink. You don’t need me.”

  She got up, and he knew she was planning a quick getaway. Link grabbed her arm before she had the chance to run. “I’ll always need you, Rid.”

  Ridley bit her bottom lip. “For how long?”

  “What are you talkin’ about?” Link honestly had no idea. Girls were like aliens, and as far as he was concerned, Ridley was their queen. “Just tell me what’s wrong.”

  “This. Us.” She gestured at the empty space between them. “It’s not going to work. We both know it, so let’s just quit while we’re ahead.”

  Link felt the panic rise in his chest. She was going to bolt, the way she always did whenever he thought they were finally starting to get close. “What do you mean, Rid? You’re my girl.”

  Ridley shook her head. “Don’t you get it? That’s the problem. I’m a girl—an average, worthless Mortal girl. I’m not a Supernatural anymore. I’m a super-nothing. And you’re a hard-core, walk in the daylight Incubus.”

>   “Quarter Incubus.”

  “Well, I’m a hundred percent Mortal. So we have nothing in common.”

  Link grabbed her shoulders. She winced, and he tried to loosen his grip before he accidentally snapped a few bones. “We never had anythin’ in common, and it never mattered before. You were a Siren and I was a regular guy. You were Third Degree Burns hot, and I was Thirty Degrees Below cool.”

  “I hate to break it to you, but you were never that cool.” Ridley smiled at him.

  “So how is it any different now?” Link clung to her smile. That lip-glossed, pouty diva smile meant about as much to him as anything these days.

  Ridley looked away.

  There was something about saying the words out loud that finally made Link understand. “Oh, I get it. When you were a Caster, it was all good. But now that I’m the supernatural one, things won’t work out.” He took his hands off her shoulders and shoved them into his pockets awkwardly. “Because I’m just some dumb hick, right?”

  She stared up at the ceiling, focusing on a thin crack in the perfectly white plaster. It was funny how one tiny crack could completely ruin something perfect.

  “You are a dumb hick if that’s what you think.” Ridley hesitated.

  Link leaned forward, his forehead touching hers. “Can a dumb hick do this?” He leaned in and kissed her as softly as he could.

  “Yes. And this.” She pushed against him and kissed Link as hard as she could. Then she hauled herself up off the floor and took off before he could say a word.

  Still, he was almost sure she was smiling.

  Link picked up one of Ridley’s sky-high heels and stared at it. Usually, he just wondered how she walked in those things, which was the closest Link ever came to contemplating physics.

  Today all he could think about was the box sitting next to the shoes.

  There was something familiar about it, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember why. Maybe he really was a dumb hick.

 
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