Unbreakable by Kami Garcia


  Now I was trapped again.

  I clawed at the wood, splinters digging underneath my fingernails and shredding my skin. Ignoring the pain, I pounded and prayed for one of the boards to break. Though I could barely see him, I felt Jared’s hands scratching and banging alongside mine.

  “How are we going to get out?” My voice echoed back at me.

  “The nails are too strong. He must be holding them in place.”

  Jared stopped fighting and turned to face me. He wrapped his arms around my neck and pulled me against him. “It’s gonna be okay.” He tried to sound convincing, but our bodies were too close to lie. His heart was pounding even harder than mine.

  My head rested against Jared’s chest, and I listened to the sound of his breathing. It was too fast, like his heartbeat.

  He leaned down, his mouth on my ear. “I’m not gonna let anything happen to you. I’ll get us out of this. I promise.”

  I took a deep breath, my face still buried in his shirt. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

  He took my face in his hands and raised my chin with his thumb. “I want you to know I’d never do that.”

  I nodded, too frightened to know anything.

  “Give me your radio,” he said. “I dropped mine fighting with the dead kid.”

  I dug it out of my pocket and slid it between us. Jared rested his arms around my neck, toying with the dials. He pressed the button over and over, repeating the same thing. “Lukas? Priest? Alara? Anyone there?”

  “We’re inside a wall. You won’t get any reception.” I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to cry.

  “It doesn’t matter. When we don’t show up, they’ll look for us.”

  I shook my head and tears spilled down my cheeks. “I don’t want them to.”

  “Why not?”

  If they came down here, they might get hurt. There were so many spirits and no way to predict what could happen if those traumatized children felt threatened. The boy with the sledgehammer had probably been as docile as the rest of them once.

  I pressed my face against Jared’s chest and tried to catch my breath.

  “Kennedy, are you crying?” He pulled back, trying to look down at me even though there was no way he could see me in the dark.

  “No.”

  He pulled me tighter, resting his chin on the top of my head. “I’m so sorry. I should’ve let you go with Lukas.”

  “There’s no way you could have known.”

  Jared took a shuddering breath. “He’s the better half. I’m the screwup. No matter what I do.”

  I laid my palms against his chest. “You protect everyone.”

  His breath caught and the person who seemed so unbreakable finally broke.

  “Is that what you think? If you knew the truth, you’d never say that. I screwed up. Worse than this.” His chest heaved. “Worse than anything.”

  I reached up and touched his damp cheeks. “It can’t be that bad—”

  Jared caught my wrists in his hands and held them tight. “It is that bad. I’m that bad. If you knew what I did, you wouldn’t want to touch me or be anywhere near me.”

  He was coming apart, the way I had so many times. “That’s not true. Whatever it is—”

  Jared exploded. “I killed our parents—yours, mine, all of them. It’s my fault they’re dead. Do you want to be close to me now?”

  I heard the words, but they didn’t make sense. “What are you talking about? You didn’t even know my mom.”

  “No. But I wanted to.” Jared pressed his face into my hands, still holding my wrists. “I wanted to find all the members of the Legion. I thought they’d be stronger together, like the journals say. I didn’t believe my dad when he told me Andras was always hunting them—that it was too risky. So I started researching on my own, piecing together information from conversations I overheard between my dad and my uncle with things my father told me. If I didn’t have two family members in the Legion, I probably never would’ve figured it out. But I found them all. Even your mom, the one nobody else could find.”

  “How?”

  “My uncle was looking for the member who dropped off the grid. One day, I heard him tell my dad that he’d figured out she was a woman, living in the DC area with her daughter. I went through his desk and found her name—and yours.”

  “What are you saying?” My voice sounded distant and muffled like it belonged to someone else and I was eavesdropping on the conversation.

  Jared’s tears ran down my hands. “I made a list of all the names. I was gonna show it to my dad. The next day, he was dead. They were all dead. And suddenly we were the Legion.”

  It’s his fault my mom is dead.

  I knew it was true, but I couldn’t hate him.

  Jared’s father hid something from him, and he went looking for answers. How many times had I searched for the note my father wrote, the one I saw perfectly every time I closed my eyes? My mother never let me see it again after the day he left, and it only made me search harder.

  I would have looked for them, too.

  My body shook as I cried. This time I couldn’t pretend, and I couldn’t stop. Jared let go of my wrists, trying to create space between us, but it was impossible.

  There was no space between us—inside or outside these walls.

  “I know you’ll never be able to forgive me. My own brother hates my guts,” he said.

  It all made sense. The tension between them—the unspoken anger simmering below the surface—it was about so much more than their father choosing Jared to take his place in the Legion… or me.

  “I’m sorry. I wish I could take it back,” Jared whispered, his voice hoarse. “All I want to do is be near you, and I don’t deserve to be.”

  “What?”

  “I’m sorry—”

  I shook my head. “No. The other thing.”

  Jared stilled and put his hands flat against the boards behind me, with my face between them. I couldn’t see him in the darkness, but I could feel him watching me cry.

  Seeing me—the person I tried so hard to hide from the world and replace with someone better.

  “All I want to do is be near you.” He spoke the words slowly, his face so close I could feel on his breath on my skin and smell the salt on his. “Kennedy, what do you want?”

  The question lingered between us tearing me apart. But I couldn’t make myself say the words, no matter how many times I repeated them in my head. “It doesn’t make a difference.”

  “It makes a difference to me.” His voice was raw and deep.

  “I want to matter. I want to be the kind of girl someone can’t just walk away from.”

  He ran his thumb down the center of my bottom lip. “No one could ever forget you.”

  Someone did.

  Something inside me gave way, and I started sobbing.

  He took my face in his hands and his lips brushed mine. It wasn’t a kiss. It was a breath. A heartbeat.

  “You see what I want you to see. It has nothing to do with who I really am,” I said, our lips barely separated.

  “Then let me see the rest,” he whispered.

  I shook my head, choking on my tears. “I can’t.”

  He pressed his forehead against mine. “Why not?”

  “Because I’m afraid I won’t be able to go back to the person I was when you walk away.” I said it before I could stop myself, before I calculated all the ways those words could hurt me.

  His hands slid behind my neck, tangling in my hair. “I won’t walk away.”

  “Everyone does, eventually.”

  He gathered me up in his arms and held me tighter than anyone ever had. Tight enough to make me forget about where we were, or how much I wanted to be someone else. In this moment, I wanted to be me. The girl Jared was holding.

  I wanted right now.

  “I don’t know how anyone could walk away from you,” he murmured. “How anyone could stand to hurt you.”

  Easily.


  “I want…” He hesitated. “Can I kiss you?”

  I pushed up onto my toes and pressed my mouth against his, opening into him. He pulled me closer. His body melted against mine, and my breath hitched as Jared’s finger trailed down my throat. I tugged on his bottom lip and he kissed me harder, like it didn’t matter if we ever got out of here.

  I leaned into him, my hands crushed between his back and the boards.

  “Kennedy.” His voice was ragged, his fingers slipping under the bottom of my shirt. I felt his chest rising and falling, the pressure of all the things we couldn’t say in every kiss.

  CHAPTER 27

  Unearthed

  Something vibrated on the other side of the wall.

  Was the spirit nailing in another board?

  It intensified, and a piece of wood started to give. I pulled back as the board behind Jared’s shoulders came loose, and light flooded through the crack.

  “You guys okay?” Priest’s voice pierced the haze and I turned toward it, blinking hard against the light.

  Jared stared back at me, his face streaked with the blood from my hands.

  Lukas stood on the other side holding the dislodged board. His eyes dropped to Jared’s hands still resting on my hips, and his expression changed.

  Jared stepped back awkwardly. “We’re good. Just get her out.”

  Lukas and Priest tore the boards away one at a time until the opening was big enough to climb through.

  I stepped out and Alara threw her arms around me. I winced and she drew back. “Oh my god, Kennedy. Look at your hands.”

  I didn’t want to see them. I wanted to remember them touching Jared’s face and wiping his tears, instead of clawing at the boards.

  “How did you find us?”

  Broken glow sticks bathed the room in green light. Alara pointed at the rows of beds. The spirits of the children gathered in the aisle, except for the one that trapped us inside the wall. He was conspicuously missing, his sledgehammer lying at the foot of one of the beds.

  “They showed us where you were,” she said.

  I stared out into the sea of expectant faces. “Thank you.”

  Would they be able to move on now? I hated the thought of them being trapped in this slaughterhouse.

  “What happened to the other one?” I asked.

  Priest held up the nail gun loaded with the cold-iron nails. “I took him out.”

  Jared leaned against the wall, his head down. “Did you find the disk?”

  “There was nothing up there except rats and empty beer bottles,” Alara answered.

  “We can’t leave until we find it.” Jared’s eyes drifted to the hole. “Not after that.”

  Priest paced. “If you were going to hide something in this house, where would you put it?”

  “Down here,” I answered automatically. “Not many people would hang around long enough to find it.”

  Priest looked at the spirits. “Think they’ll mind if we try?”

  Alara studied their innocent expressions. “No.”

  Jared rubbed his hand over his face. Now that I knew the truth about the secret he was carrying, I could see the guilt in his every movement.

  Sifting through the evidence of a mass-murder scene was harder than I expected, especially when the victims were scampering around us I lifted the thin mattresses easily, working the right side of the room while Alara worked the left. Jared and Lukas checked the walls for cracks and hidden spaces, two of the taller children trailing behind them.

  Priest sat on the floor with a handheld transistor radio. A group of spirits gathered around him.

  “In the mood for some music?” I asked.

  “Just the opposite.” He turned the dial until a steady stream of static crackled through the air, then he cranked the volume all the way up.

  “What are you doing?”

  He smiled and pulled a calculator out of his jeans. “Watch and learn.”

  “You really do carry that around all the time.”

  “Standard operating genius procedure.” Priest turned on the calculator and held it against the radio until it emitted a loud tone. “You can use calculators to make all sorts of stuff. Can you see if there’s any tape around?”

  A tray next to one of the beds held a dirty roll of medical tape—the same kind securing the IV ports on the spirits’ arms. I tossed it to Priest, eager to have it out of my hands. “Will this work?”

  “Yep.”

  Lukas came over to take a look. “What are you making?”

  Priest held up the contraption. “Behold, all of you scientifically challenged.” He took a few nails out of his pocket and held them next to the calculator. The radio emitted another low tone. “What we have here is a metal detector.”

  “You’re kidding, right?” Lukas asked.

  “Did you miss my little demonstration?” Priest stood up. The spirits scattered, watching from a safe distance.

  He walked back to the mouth of the corridor and reentered the room, sweeping it slowly. Each time he passed a metal tray or an IV pole, the radio emitted the same tone. Like most of Priest’s inventions, the construction reminded me of a futuristic science-fair project. But it was completely functional, and the spirits were mesmerized. Every few minutes, the station changed suddenly.

  Alara’s eyes widened. “They’re channeling the electrical energy.”

  “Come on, kids. I’m working here.” Priest swept the metal detector around the last bed. When it didn’t pick up anything new, he glanced at the hole. “Should we check in there?”

  I shuddered at the thought, as the device transmitted another sound.

  The sledgehammer rested at the end of the bed next to Priest.

  “So much for science.” He lifted it by the handle and smacked the head of the hammer against his hand. “I wonder if I could replace this with cold iron? It’s already loose.”

  “Probably from trying to seal us up in a wall,” I said sarcastically. I didn’t want that thing to become a modified weapon in our arsenal.

  Priest twisted the head and it hit the ground, cracking the concrete floor.

  “It’s a sign.” Alara picked it up and walked toward the hole, ready to toss it inside. But she stopped short. “Priest?”

  He took the hunk of metal from her and examined the circular groove where it connected to the handle. A large plate lay behind it with a channel cut through the center. Priest used his screwdriver to remove the plate, exposing a circular chamber. A disk’s silver edge rested against the lip, completely protected.

  He flipped over the head of the hammer, and the circle of yellow glass dropped into his hand.

  Alara gasped. “How did someone get it in there without that vengeance spirit going crazy?”

  “Maybe they gave him something he wanted. Spirits like to barter.”

  Jared picked up the handle off the floor. Numbers were scratched into the wood. “What do you think they mean? It looks like math homework.”

  39.9159082-80.7420296

  Lukas yanked it out of his brother’s hand, studying them. “They’re coordinates.”

  “You think they lead to the last piece of the Shift?” Alara asked.

  Lukas tightened his hand around the splintered wood. “Yeah. And if we find it and the Marrow, we can destroy Andras.”

  “Let’s get out of here.” Priest handed the metal detector to one of the spirits. The child grabbed it and scampered away.

  We walked back down the aisle between the beds. The children were already playing with the metal detector, possibly the only toy some of them had ever seen. We moved past the nightmarish drawings and up the cracked stairs. I thought about all the innocent people the Legion must have saved over the years, and I couldn’t help but wonder…

  Who saved the innocent souls?

  CHAPTER 28

  Florida Water

  I waited on the front steps, hoping to avoid the awkwardness of being alone with Lukas and Jared. Priest and Alara disappeared the
moment we left the basement. Priest was determined to figure out where the coordinates on the handle led, and Alara mumbled something about tying up loose ends.

  I stared at my hands, splinters and dirt embedded under my nails instead of black charcoal. Artists protected their hands. What did that say about me? How much would I have to give up for the Legion?

  The muffled sound of voices rose inside the house. Without any vengeance spirits to fight, Lukas and Jared were left with each other. A door slammed and snippets of their conversation drifted outside.

  “We both know you don’t care about her,” Lukas shouted. “She’s just something else for you to take—”

  A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. Lukas meant something to me, even if I couldn’t define exactly what it was. I didn’t want to hurt him.

  “Luk, I didn’t mean for this to happen—”

  “Like you didn’t mean to kill dad?” The words echoed through the house, layered with pain and anger.

  “You know that was an accident,” Jared said quietly.

  “Everything’s an accident with you because you never think about anyone but yourself.” I leaned against the door debating whether or not to open it. “Is Kennedy going to be your next victim?”

  “Hey, are you going back in?” Alara climbed the stairs behind me, a canvas knapsack slung over her shoulder.

  “Wait—”

  She opened the door before I could stop her, catching Lukas and Jared off guard. They both turned and looked past Alara to where I stood. I dropped my eyes, hoping they wouldn’t realize how much I heard.

  Alara broke the silence. “Am I interrupting something that looks like it needs interrupting?”

  Jared slouched against the wall, hands shoved in his pockets.

  Lukas noticed Alara’s knapsack. “What are you up to?”

  She strode toward them. “My grandmother would never leave the spirits of those children in this awful place. I have to try to release them so they can move on.”

  “Can you do that?” I followed her tentatively.

  She walked between Jared and Lukas. “I’m not sure. I’ve only seen my grandmother do it, and I don’t have the traditional supplies. But I think I can make some substitutions.”

 
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