Unbreakable by Kami Garcia


  “You saved my life.” I could still feel the water in my lungs, the pressure, and her arm around my neck.

  He smiled. “I am the high priest, remember?”

  “I’m pulling you guys up.” Lukas’ voice sounded shaky, or was it Jared’s? I couldn’t tell over the echo of the sloshing water and our ragged breathing.

  “Take Kennedy,” Priest said. “I need to look for the disk.”

  My stomach roiled at the thought of staying in the filthy water for another second. But we had risked our lives to find it, and I wasn’t leaving Priest down here alone.

  “I’m staying.”

  “You’re both coming up,” one of them barked.

  “Give us a minute.” Priest ran his hands along the slippery walls. “Check between the cracks.”

  We worked our way around the inside of the well until my legs started to go numb from the cold. Priest even dove to the bottom a few times, but he came up empty-handed.

  “Maybe it’s up there around the perimeter of the well somewhere,” I said.

  “Your lips are turning blue. We’d better get out of here anyway.” He retied the rope so it was more secure, leaving us a few feet apart.

  He signaled to Lukas. “Okay, pull us up.”

  I watched Priest rise above me, moving closer to the gray sky. My body rose out of the water slowly, grime running down my arms. As my feet lifted out of the water, I felt a tiny hand close around my ankle.

  It was impossible. I watched her explode. Then I remembered.

  She wasn’t the only one who died in the well.

  The boy’s spirit looked like he was standing on top of the water. But his feet were just below the surface. The dark water splashed against his shins as if it was only inches deep.

  “Wait.” His voice was tiny. The boy’s fingers uncurled from my skin as he reached into his pocket with his other hand. He pulled out a muddy silver disk, exactly the same size as the one we found at Lilburn.

  “Lower me back down,” I said.

  “No way,” Lukas yelled. I could see his black jacket at the edge of the well. He tugged the rope harder.

  “I’ll untie myself,” I threatened.

  Lukas hesitated, then lowered me a few inches.

  “A little more.” I extended my shaking hand.

  The boy dropped the disk in my palm.

  “We’re supposed to look after it, but I don’t wanna stay here without Mamma. I’m scared of the water,” he said. “Don’t tell her I gave it to you.”

  “I won’t.”

  The boy smiled before he faded away.

  Lukas hauled me over the side and untied the frayed rope. He pulled the last end free and paused, his hand lingering on my waist. “You scared the crap out of me, you know that?”

  “Sorry,” I whispered.

  Jared stood a few feet behind his brother watching us. For a split second, I held his gaze, wishing I could be braver.

  Not the kind of bravery it took to climb into the well, but the kind it would take to act on what I was feeling right this second—to run over and throw my arms around Jared until everything else disappeared. But I wasn’t that brave, and I didn’t want to feel anything when it came to Jared. Not when I knew how easily a guy like him could hurt me.

  Lukas wiped the dirt off my face with the edge of his T-shirt. He made me feel safe in a world I didn’t understand, while Jared always left me feeling off balance. Like the way he was making me feel right now.

  Heat spread across my cheeks.

  I wondered if Lukas noticed—if he thought it was because of him.

  “Did you see me take out that vengeance spirit?” Priest asked Jared. “Don’t tell me it wasn’t badass.”

  Jared looked away, breaking the connection between us, and gave Priest a weak smile. “Yeah, it was badass all right. And dumbass.”

  “Whatever.” Priest stripped off his shirt and yanked on his dry hoodie, flipping the hood over his head.

  “Here.” I handed Priest the disk.

  He grinned when he saw it. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

  Alara put her hand on my arm gently. “Are you okay?”

  For a second, I was speechless. It was something a friend would do, not the girl who couldn’t stand me.

  I rubbed my neck, trying to get rid of the feeling of Millicent’s arm wrapped around it. “I didn’t know spirits could touch us like that. She felt so real.”

  “Not all of them can, but she was a full body apparition. Some of them feel as real as you and me.”

  “How can you tell the difference?”

  Alara stepped behind me, helping me wring the disgusting water out of my hair. “Sometimes you can’t.”

  “Damn.” Priest winced and shook his wrist in the air. “I must have cut myself.”

  It was worse than that.

  When he pulled up his sleeve, I saw lines carving themselves into the underside of his wrist. It looked like they were being guided by an invisible blade, leaving deep bloodless indentations behind.

  I gasped. “Oh my god.”

  It looked like another paranormal attack.

  Jared squeezed Priest’s shoulder. “You’re getting your mark.”

  What was he talking about? And why was he so calm while something sliced into Priest’s skin?

  I pointed at the lines. “Does someone want to explain that?”

  “When the original members of the Legion summoned Andras, they carved part of his seal into their flesh to bind him,” Lukas said. “It was supposed to help them control the demon. When a member of the Legion dies, their part of the seal transfers to the person chosen to take their place.”

  “Why wasn’t it there before?”

  “You have to earn it by destroying a paranormal entity.” Priest stared down at the mark in awe. There was something wrong about a kid killing a vengeance spirit before he went to a high school dance.

  Alara twisted her eyebrow ring, pouting. “I still don’t have one.”

  Lukas nudged her. “You will. Maybe you can take down a pink milkshake.”

  “Eventually our marks will form the seal,” Priest said.

  “How?”

  Jared pulled up his sleeve and Lukas did the same. The skin on the insides of their wrists was smooth and unmarked. Priest held out his wrist, too. Where there were deep depressions a moment ago, the skin had completely healed.

  I grabbed his wrist. “Where did the cuts go?”

  “Wait.” Jared nodded at Alara.

  She scooped a handful of salt out of her pocket. The guys offered her their wrists and she rubbed them with the crystals. Within seconds, the indentations appeared in their skin, the lines blackening like they were filled with ink.

  How is that possible?

  I examined the shapes etched into their skin. None of the designs resembled the demon’s seal until they bent their wrists, Lukas and Jared lining up theirs side by side, and Priest pressing the heel of his hand against Jared’s. It created an L shape that transformed into three-fifths of the seal. After a minute, the lines faded again.

  “So you don’t have one?” I asked Alara.

  She brushed the salt off her hands. “Not yet. My grandmother was overprotective. But I’m not going to be last.”

  “I don’t think you have to worry about that.” I had almost gotten myself killed again today. I obviously wasn’t ready to destroy a vengeance spirit.

  “You still don’t believe you’re one of us?” Priest asked, shaking the water out of his hair. He saved my life. This fifteen-year-old kid I barely knew.

  I looked back at Priest and gave him the only answer I could. “I don’t know what I believe.”

  CHAPTER 20

  A Sliver of Light

  Priest wiped off the disk, revealing the red glass in the center of the silver ring. I sat on the ground wearing Lukas’ jacket over my wet clothes. This time I was too cold to let my pride get in the way when he offered.

  “We should go back to the van
or you guys are going to freeze to death.” Two near-drownings had transformed Alara from hard-core to maternal, but Priest didn’t seem like he wanted to be mothered.

  “No way. The clue to finding the next piece has to be out here.”

  “Where? In there?” Jared stopped pacing and gestured at the well.

  “You think?” Priest raised his eyebrows.

  Alara shoved him affectionately. “Don’t even joke about it.”

  Lukas peered over the edge of the well. “No one’s going back down.”

  “Maybe it’s in the house,” I offered.

  “At Lilburn, the disk and the clue about this place were together.” Priest sounded skeptical. “The house is pretty far away.” He rolled the circle of glass between his fingers, fascinated. “Whoever designed the Shift must’ve been a genius.”

  As he rotated the disk, a slash of light appeared on the side of the well.

  “Did you see that?” I pointed at the spot on the gray stones.

  Priest looked around. “What?”

  “I saw it.” Lukas gestured at the disk in Priest’s hand. “Turn it again.”

  Priest rolled the glass one more time. The light caught in exactly the same spot as before, appearing almost fluorescent. He bent down and ran the disk along the stones, and letters appeared like they were written in glow-in-the-dark marker. “No way.”

  DYBBUK BOX, SUNSHINE

  “What’s a dybbuk box?” I asked.

  Alara shook her head. “Don’t ask.”

  “Wait. I know this.” Lukas paced in front of the well. “My dad told me a story about one.”

  “So what is it?” Priest asked.

  “Dad said that in Jewish folklore they believe that if you commit horrible sins when you’re alive, your spirit won’t be able to rest after you die,” Lukas explained. “They call the disembodied spirit a dybbuk, and it wants one thing—a body to possess. My dad talked about them a few times. It always seemed random.”

  “You said he told you a story?” Alara asked.

  Lukas nodded. “This woman came over from Poland after World War II, and the only thing she brought with her was this wine cabinet. She kept it in her sewing room and called it dybbuk. The woman never let anyone inside that room, and she left instructions for the cabinet to be buried with her when she died. But get this. The rabbi wouldn’t do it. So they sold it at an estate sale.”

  Jared looked at his brother. “I don’t remember this story.”

  “I guess Dad didn’t tell you everything.” It was an obvious dig. When Jared didn’t react, Lukas continued. “Anyway, this guy bought the cabinet and gave it to someone in his family as a gift. But after a few days they gave it back. He kept giving it to different family members. And every time, the person brought it back. Eventually, he got everyone together to find out what was going on. Apparently, they all had similar experiences—the cabinet wouldn’t stay closed, it smelled like urine, and while it was in the house, they had nightmares about being beaten by an old woman and woke up covered in bruises.”

  “Are you making this up?” Priest asked, wiping his damp hair out of his eyes. At least I wasn’t the only one who thought it sounded completely crazy.

  “He’s not,” Alara said. “I’ve heard the story, too.”

  “That’s not even the weirdest part.” Lukas paused. “All of them saw a figure moving around the house while they had the cabinet.”

  A chill crept up my back. Listening to the story while Lukas paced in front of the well we had almost drowned in made it more disturbing.

  “What happened to it?” I asked.

  Lukas shrugged. “The guy sold it. That’s all I know.”

  Alara walked over and ran the red glass across the stones again. “Do you think this is the same box?” She sounded almost excited.

  “I don’t know,” Lukas said. “It could be another one. But it looks like we’re dealing with a dybbuk either way.” The idea that there was more than one possessed box floating around the world wasn’t comforting.

  Jared studied the fluorescent print on the well. “What about Sunshine? Think it’s someone’s last name?”

  “No.” For once, I was the one with the answer. “It’s a city not far from here.” I drove to the art supply store there every few months to stock up on paint sticks in this amazing shade, cadmium red.

  Priest slipped the disk in the pocket of his wet jeans. We trudged back to the van scraped, bruised, and bloody—ready to hunt down a spirit residing somewhere in its own little piece of Sunshine.

  Everyone was exhausted, and no one wanted to sleep in the van. My muscles were shredded and sore from treading water, and my chest ached with every breath. Priest didn’t look much better. Even the music blaring from his headphones couldn’t keep him awake.

  “If we’re staying in a hotel, I need to find an ATM.” Alara sat in the passenger seat next to Jared. “We’re low on cash.”

  “I don’t have any money,” I whispered to Lukas.

  “It’s okay,” Lukas said. “Alara gets money every month.”

  Jared pulled over in front of a bank, and she jumped out.

  I watched her walk up to the machine in her cargo pants and combat boots. “A trust fund? Seriously?”

  Priest grinned. “Never judge a girl by her piercings.”

  Jared scanned through the radio stations, and I heard a familiar song.

  “Wait—”

  “Leave it there,” Lukas said at the same time.

  “Just lookin’ for shelter from the cold and the pain Someone to cover, safe from the rain….”

  I looked at Lukas, shocked. “You know this song?”

  It wasn’t one of the Foo Fighters’ most popular songs. “Home” was quiet and understated, a whisper in a world full of screams.

  Lukas gave me a sheepish smile. “It’s my favorite.”

  Warmth spread across my cheeks, and suddenly it felt like we were sharing something intimate in front of a room full of people. I was drawn to the song the first time I heard it, right after my mom died. I must have played it a hundred times. It became a sort of anthem, a silent prayer.

  What did Lukas think about when he heard it? Did he ever sit in the car listening to it over and over? I wanted to ask him.

  He stared back at me as if he wanted to ask me something, too.

  Alara opened the door, breaking the thread between us.

  “Are we good?” Jared asked.

  “No.” She sounded stunned.

  “What’s wrong?”

  She stared out the window for a moment before answering. “There’s only three thousand dollars left.”

  Only three thousand dollars?

  Jared shrugged. “You’ll have more in a few weeks, right?”

  Alara shook her head. “You don’t get it. Someone took money out of my account. Unless it was hacked, my parents are the only ones who have that kind of access.”

  Priest slipped off his headphones. “What are you saying?”

  “It’s a message.” Alara got out and hit speed dial. “I need to make a call.”

  She paced in front of the van and, judging from her scowl, the conversation wasn’t going well. The way Alara held the phone right in front of her while she shouted into it reminded me of Elle, who did almost exactly the same thing whenever one of her boyfriends screwed up. I wished she were here now.

  I tried to imagine Alara and Elle meeting—two iron wills clashing, or forging into one unstoppable and sarcastic force.

  Lukas watched as she screamed at the phone. “Not good.”

  Alara got in and slammed the door, seething.

  Priest leaned over the seat tentatively. “What happened?”

  “My parents want me to come home. They’ve been pressuring me ever since my grandmother died. My mom thinks I don’t have enough training.” She laughed. “Like I’ll be able to get any there. Neither one of them is part of the Legion. What do they think they’re going to teach me?”

  Jared loo
ked surprised. “You never said anything.”

  She reached over and turned the key in the ignition. “That’s because I’m not going back.”

  We pulled into a motel parking lot, a cracked vacancy sign flashing above the office. Empty beer cans littered the walkway.

  “It’s only for one night. How bad can it be?” Priest asked.

  From Alara’s perspective, it couldn’t have been worse. Every door facing the lot was Pepto-Bismol pink.

  She crossed her arms, defiant. “I’m not sleeping in a room with a pink door. That’s where I draw the line.”

  Lukas got out and walked toward the office. “You can always sleep in the van.”

  By the time he came back with the key, Priest had persuaded Alara to check out the room. But when Lukas unlocked the door, he stopped short.

  “Alara, you might want to rethink that line.”

  Inside, the tiny room was painted the same sickening shade of pink.

  “No way.” She backed up, shaking her head. “I’d rather sleep on the thirteenth floor.”

  Priest coaxed her across the threshold. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you from the dangerous color.”

  The room was practically empty—two double beds with mismatched bedspreads, a broken TV on a rolling cart, and a plastic trash can that hadn’t been emptied lately. Not even a cheap landscape on the tragically bare walls.

  Alara crinkled her nose. “This is disgusting.”

  Priest fell back onto the tacky Western bedspread. “It has beds. That’s all that matters.”

  “Two.” Alara tipped her chin toward me. “And we get one of them.”

  “I call half of this one,” Priest said. “I did almost drown.”

  “You’re going to milk that for all it’s worth, aren’t you?” Alara teased.

  “Ah… that would be a yes.”

  “You should call the first shower while you’re at it,” she said. “You smell even worse than Kennedy.”

  Jared and Lukas stood next to each other by the door. I wasn’t used to seeing them side by side, the same broad shoulders and full lips, sleepy eyes and long eyelashes.

  After Priest took a shower, I was voted second dirtiest. I didn’t argue. Dried well water coated my skin, and my clothes were even worse.

 
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