Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

  Darien sank to his knees. His shoulders sagged as though he couldn’t hold himself upright. The symbol was slowly killing him a second time. “A woman gave it to me. She told me I could redeem myself. Make my worthless life mean something.”

  What was he talking about?

  “He’s lying.” I recognized Jared’s voice immediately. “Vengeance spirits lie just like demons.”

  Darien frowned. “I killed six men in this prison protecting that thing and gave my life to the chair. That’s no lie. You put that piece back where you found it before people get hurt outside these walls.”

  Jared’s face appeared in the window. “Don’t listen to him. He knows we can use the Shift to destroy Andras.”

  The spirit’s eyes widened in horror. “The Shift doesn’t destroy Andras. It frees him.”

  “What did you say?” I asked.

  Darien spoke each word slowly. “If you assemble the Shift, it opens the gate.”

  “Liar!” Alara shouted from the hallway.

  Panic spread through the spirit’s hollow features, and he charged at me. I didn’t have time to turn away before Darien hit the outer boundary of the circle again. His body convulsed like he was caught in an electrified fence. Then the force threw him back, and he slid across the concrete on his side.

  “Kennedy, put it together now,” Priest called out. “If the Shift can destroy Andras, it might be able to destroy him, too.”

  “I’ll just wait until—”

  Priest cut me off. “He’s not giving up. What if he finds a weak spot in the circle?”

  My hand shook as I tried to find the disks in my pocket.

  I sat down and crossed my legs, piling them in my lap. I slid the first disk into the cylindrical casing. One of the symbols cut into the metal lit up, casting a beam of pure white light across the floor in the shape of the looping script.

  Darien opened his eyes, still lying on his side. “I sacrificed my life to protect it for nothing.”

  “You didn’t sacrifice your life,” Jared snapped. “You were executed because you’re a murderer.”

  My whole body trembled. “I should let you guys put it together. I can stay here until the Devil’s Trap destroys him.”

  If it destroys him.

  “Kennedy,” Lukas pleaded. “You’re too close to the circle. Don’t give him the chance to break through and take it away from you.”

  I struggled with the next piece, sliding it into the wrong chamber before I realized each disk only fit into a specific one. The second symbol emitted the same clean white light.

  Darien crawled to the edge of the line separating us, so close I could reach out and touch him. “I killed men inside these walls. Evil men who tried to find the piece and give it to the servants of the demon. I promised to keep it safe.”

  Our eyes met, and I pressed myself flatter against the wall, trying to create distance where there was none.

  My hands shook as I lined up the next piece, and I lost my grip.

  The Shift rolled toward the edge of the Devil’s Trap.

  I scrambled for it, and Darien lunged at me again.

  For a split second, it looked like his hands were going to cross the edge of the circle, or the cylinder was going to roll into the Devil’s Trap. Darien hit the supernatural force field and my fingers caught the casing at almost the same moment—just as it reached the black line and Darien’s body was hurled back into the center of the symbol.

  “Kennedy!” Jared pounded on the metal door, but I didn’t move. I couldn’t.

  I scooted back against the wall, and slid the third disk into position.

  Light poured from the arced shape.

  Darien flickered, his cheek pressed against the cold floor I knew he couldn’t feel. “I failed. We all did.”


  “Don’t talk to him,” Jared begged. “Just put it together.”

  “The spirits protecting the other pieces,” Darien finished.

  The last disk balanced between my fingers. All I had to do was slip it into place, but my hands weren’t working. Every doubt about my mother’s past, the Legion, and the four people who believed in me resurfaced.

  What if I make the wrong choice?

  “What if he’s telling the truth?”

  Jared pressed his forehead against the square opening. “Don’t let him get in your head. You saw the journal. You know what it says.”

  Lukas shoved Jared out of the way, taking his place. “He’s a vengeance spirit working for a demon. You can’t trust him. Trust us.”

  Alara edged her way in front of the opening, her face blurred by my tears. “We’re in this together.”

  “You’re one of us,” Priest called out from somewhere behind her.

  I was tired of being afraid. I wanted to trust them—the people who meant so much to me now, the ones who believed in me.

  “Kennedy, please.” Jared’s eyes found mine, and this time he could see my tears. “We need you. I need you.”

  You can’t choose the person who really sees you—the person who knows what you’re feeling without you saying a word, the person who can make you laugh and cry and everything in between just by looking at you. The one you can’t imagine being lucky enough to have, or unlucky enough to lose.

  I was staring at him—the boy who was all those things and more.

  My hand trembled as I aligned the final disk.

  Darien faded, sputtering out like a candle burned to the wick. I snapped the disk into the casing and the final symbol illuminated.

  Darien blinked one last time and whispered, “May the black dove always carry you.”

  I froze.

  His spirit exploded.

  The Shift grew hotter and hotter until it burned my hands. I barely felt it, paralyzed by Darien’s last words.

  May the black dove always carry you.

  I dropped the cylinder, and a blinding light poured from the strange symbols as it rolled across the floor.

  I thought about the other spirits—the girl in the yellow dress protecting her doll with the disk inside. Millicent’s words from the well: “I won’t let you take anything else from us.”

  The magician’s spirit promising he had tried to keep it safe before I destroyed him.

  The disk hidden in a room protected by the spirits of dozens of dead children, and the words of the one carrying the sledgehammer it was hidden inside: “If I watch over what’s his, he’ll come back for me.”

  And Darien Shears, a serial killer who put the cylinder inside the base of the chair that electrocuted him—a spirit who knew the phrase used by the members of the Legion.

  Were the spirits protecting the pieces all along, or did Andras’ reach extend farther than we thought? Maybe Darien heard one of the members of the Legion say the words and he repeated them?

  It was too late to ask him now that I’d used my specialty to destroy him.

  My specialty.

  Salt spilled from my pocket and in between my fingers as I rubbed it over my wrist. I pictured the final section of the seal embedded in my skin and imagined holding my arm against my friends’ arms, completing the image.

  What will it feel like to be one of them?

  I glanced at the Devil’s Trap one last time to be sure. There was nothing inside, not a single speck of dust. There was no doubt I had destroyed Darien’s spirit.

  But did I really trap a devil?

  I waited for the lines to carve themselves into my wrist, hoping it wouldn’t hurt. Familiar voices called out to me as I leaned over my arm, tears dripping down onto my perfectly smooth skin.


  Heat of Hell

  A crack snaked up the wall, destroying the perfect rendition of the Shift, as I watched the real one roll back and forth across the floor. I tried to pick it up and it burned the skin off my fingertips. The room shook, the low rumble of thunder trapped within the walls.

  Maybe this evil place was coming down around me, and I would never
have to leave Darien’s cell and face the four people who believed I was someone more than myself.


  I hugged my knees to my chest and waited to see if the building would stop shaking before I did.

  Metal scraped and creaked as the bolt on the door unlocked, and Jared dragged me to my feet. “What are you doing? We have to get out of here.”

  I held out my arm silently, a thin layer of salt still coating my unmarked skin.

  Confusion clouded Jared’s beautiful features. Lukas and Alara came over as I reached in my pocket and rubbed more salt on my wrist.


  Jared’s face crumpled.

  Lukas ran his fingers over the salt. “I don’t understand. She drew the Devil’s Trap. She destroyed Darien’s spirit. We all saw it.”

  “My mark didn’t show up right away. Give it some time,” Alara said.

  I fought to keep my voice steady. “Darien’s spirit is gone.”

  Alara shook her head. “Something went wrong.”

  Not this time.

  “Maybe—” Jared started.

  “I’m not the one.”

  Jared’s breath caught and he closed his hand around mine. “There has to be another—”

  I silenced him with a look. “There’s only one explanation, and we all know what it is.”

  The floor buckled, and the ceiling split down the center.

  Jared pulled my arm behind him, our fingers still intertwined. He looked down at me, our bodies practically touching. “It doesn’t matter.”

  He was the boy inside the wall again—the boy who held me and confessed his deepest secret. The one I could trust.

  I shook my head. “We both know it does.”

  Lukas reached for the Shift as it rolled across the floor.

  “Don’t touch it!” I shouted.

  He yanked his hand back the moment his fingers grazed the metal. “What the hell?”

  Alara wrapped her jacket around it and tried to pick it up that way, but the heat burned right through the fabric and she dropped it. “It’s too hot.”

  “We have to go. Now.” Jared shoved them toward the door, dragging me behind him.

  Priest stood outside the cell, frozen. All the color had drained from his face. He grabbed Jared’s arm and pushed the heavy metal door shut.

  Pieces of concrete rained down on us, but no one moved. The letters that had spelled DARIEN SHEARS the first time we saw his cell door had rearranged themselves to spell something else:

  anDraS is here

  “Move!” Lukas yelled.

  Lukas and Alara ran for the stairwell with Priest on their heels. The railing vibrated violently, and the shaking intensified as we navigated the stairs.

  I slipped and my knees slammed against the metal steps.

  Jared hauled me to my feet, and we tore through the cell block. The deafening rattle of the bars rose up around us. Spirits flickered in our path, awakened by the sudden disturbance in their environment. But they weren’t full body apparitions, and we passed right through them. Each time, I felt the revolting sensation of a cold hand tugging at the back of my neck, marking me in a different way.

  Lukas burst through the door to the yard first. Instead of stepping into the afternoon light, there was nothing but darkness.

  The black sky pulsed and churned like it was alive. Lightning cracked and illuminated thousands of beating wings, blocking out the sun.

  Crows—hundreds and hundreds of them.

  Black rain, pouring from the clouds with no end in sight.

  Alara stopped, fixated on the sky. She shouted something before taking off in a dead run. But I couldn’t hear anything over the thunderous din of lightning flashing and feathers flapping.

  It felt like the end of the world, the sky falling one dark wing at a time.

  And it’s my fault.

  The van was only a few yards away now, the roof and windshield covered with more crows. They scattered when Lukas opened the back doors, ascending to meet their own legion.

  Priest tore open the duffel bags and unearthed the EMF detectors. He lined them up on the floor of the van and flipped them on. The needles jerked all the way to the right, pushing into paranormal overdrive. Red bulbs flashed and the devices beeped, lighting up the floor like a pinball machine.

  My heart pounded. “Does that mean there’s something in here?”

  “No.” Priest stared through the window at the sea of black. “It’s out there.”

  The lights of EMFs flashed faster and faster, blinking like the timer on a bomb.

  “What’s happening?”

  Priest shook his head. “I don’t know.”

  The EMFs exploded, wires and plastic ricocheting against the walls. I covered my head as sharp pieces of flying plastic sliced my arms, until the debris stopped banging against the van’s interior.

  A thin trail of blood ran down Alara’s cheek. She winced, but instead of reaching for her face, she clamped her hand over the inside of her wrist.

  Priest seemed confused for a second then shook his own wrist, inhaling sharply. “My skin’s burning.”

  Lukas nodded. “Mine, too.”

  Jared pulled up his sleeve. The mark that usually only appeared when he rubbed it with salt was already carved into his skin. But the indentations weren’t filled with dark lines. The mark was completely white, swollen red skin surrounding the outline. Lukas, Alara, and Priest revealed their marks one at a time. Theirs had reacted the same way.

  I didn’t have to check my skin to know it remained unmarked.

  Alara shook her arm, trying to cool it. “What does it mean?”

  We all knew, but no one wanted to say it.

  So I did. “He was telling the truth.”

  Darien Shears—the spirit who tried to protect us from ourselves.

  “No.” Lukas rubbed his hands over his face. “The journal said—”

  “Either the journal was wrong or we misinterpreted something.” My voice faltered. “Look outside. Does it seem like I put together a weapon to protect the world, or used one against it?”

  Real rain battered the roof, the sky still ink-stained from the clouds and the crows and whatever was coming next.

  “It isn’t your fault,” Jared whispered, rubbing his thumb over my palm. “We decided together.”

  I was the only one in that cell. I snapped the pieces of the Shift together. It didn’t matter if they had wanted me to do it or not.

  In the end, I decided.

  I had failed in too many ways to count, the proof destroying everything around us. Burning itself into everyone’s flesh except mine—the one who didn’t belong.

  In a single moment, I had unleashed a demon their ancestors had spent over two hundred years defending the world against. One their families died trying to destroy.


  Black Dove

  Sirens cut through the storm and the birds and the excruciating silence inside the van. Blue and red lights flashed through the darkness—police cars or ambulances, maybe both—and they were close.

  “We have to run.” Priest shoved everything within reach into one of the bags, and Alara did the same. There was only one road in or out, and we would meet those sirens head-on if we tried to leave the way we came.

  Lukas opened the back door and rain pelted the metal floor. I couldn’t see anything except the colored lights getting closer.

  “If we get separated, head north.” Jared pointed beyond the prison. “Pennsylvania isn’t far. Find the second town closest to the state line, and we’ll meet there.”

  Alara and Priest took off.

  Lukas turned to follow them, and Jared grabbed his jacket.

  “Take Kennedy with you. She’ll be safer,” Jared said.

  Lukas and Jared faced their other halves, the person who made them both weaker and stronger. Neither of them spoke, but a look more powerful than words passed between them.

  Lukas shook his head. “You’re fa

  Jared’s eyes filled with doubt. “I don’t want to screw up again.”

  “We all screw up.” Lukas backed into the storm and disappeared in the darkness.

  Jared’s hand closed around mine, and we ran.

  Our feet splashed through pools of water. Blood pounded in my ears and lightning cracked against the sky.

  I thought about the night my mom died—how scared I was and how alone. I was back in that place. In one moment, I had ruined any chance of destroying the demon that killed her, and I had endangered the lives of how many others? Thousands? Millions?

  Jared swore the mark didn’t matter, but I knew it did. And sooner or later, it would matter to the rest of them.

  We reached the edge of the penitentiary, or what was left of the stone building. It looked as if a child had built it out of blocks and knocked it over after finishing. The sirens grew louder, the blue and red whirling lights practically on top of us.

  We aren’t going to make it.

  “Come on.” Jared led us deeper into the shadows. I tried to keep up, but the ground had turned into a river of mud, and I kept losing my footing. Jared tightened his grip on my hand as if he was determined not to let me fall.

  The ground inclined, turning the gentle rise into an impossible climb as water and earth rushed under our feet. I lost my balance again. This time, my wet hand slipped out of Jared’s and I fell.

  My shoulder hit the ground, and I slid into something sharp.

  Pain shot through my ankles and calves like hundreds of knives piercing my skin. I jerked and the feeling intensified, the blades even sharper. Was it glass?

  Lightning splintered the sky, illuminating the silver vines coiled around my legs.

  Razor wire.

  I tried to pull my body free, but the wire only wound itself tighter, the barbs digging deeper into my flesh. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming, and the tang of blood filled my mouth.

  Jared dropped down next to me, rain running down his face in rivulets. “Are you okay?”

  I closed my eyes, trying to stay calm. “I think so” was all I could manage.

  He smoothed the mud-slicked hair away from my face. “Don’t move.”

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