Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

  I struggled to sit up, but the weight was too heavy.

  It felt like someone was holding a pillow over my face. I reached out blindly, trying to push it away. But there was no pillow. Just the air I couldn’t breathe and the weight I couldn’t move.

  Blinking hard, I searched for something familiar to pull me out of the dream. There was nothing except a blurry silhouette looming above me.

  No. On top of me.

  Two eyes glittered in the darkness.

  A strangled scream caught in my throat as the pressure on my chest intensified, and the room began to fade….

  Sounds brought me back—a crash, banging on the stairs, voices. The hall lights flickered, and I finally saw what was hiding behind those luminous eyes.

  Elvis—crouched on my chest, mouth open and eyes locked on mine.

  I inhaled sharply, but there was still no air. Elvis’ ears flattened against his head, and his jaw pulled back like a snake about to strike.

  The bedroom door banged against the wall, and someone shouted, “Take the shot!”

  Elvis whipped around toward the voice, and a rush of air burned through my lungs. A guy stood in the doorway with something black in his hand.


  He raised his arm.

  Was that a gun?

  A shot rang out, and almost immediately the weight disappeared. I sat up, gasping and choking on the air my body so desperately needed. A sticky mist rained down over everything, stinging my eyes, and I squeezed them shut.

  When I opened them again, I was too stunned to make a sound.

  At the foot of my bed, a girl floated in the air above Elvis’ body. Pale and gaunt, her face marred with bruises and cuts, her blond hair hanging in tangled curls.

  Bare feet dangled beneath her white nightgown.

  It was the girl from the graveyard. Her bloodshot eyes found mine, frozen in a moment of pure torment. I noticed the marks around her neck—two purple bruises, perfect imprints of the hands that must have killed her.

  A second shot hit the strangled girl’s body, and she exploded. Millions of tiny particles fluttered in the air like dust before vanishing completely.

  Hands touched my shoulders. “Are you okay?”

  Our faces were only inches apart—a guy about my age, wearing a black nylon flight jacket.

  I scrambled backward. “Who are you?”

  “My name is Lukas Lockhart, and that’s my brother, Jared.” He looked over at a guy standing by the door in a green army jacket with the name LOCKHART on a patch sewn above the pocket. A pale scar cut across the skin above his eyebrow.

  They were both tall and broad-shouldered, with the same messy brown hair and blue eyes.

  Identical twins.

  The one in the army jacket walked over to the Elvis’ body, a gun wrapped in silver duct tape still in his hand.

  The gun that killed my cat.

  My stomach lurched, and I bolted off the bed.

  “Wait!” one of them shouted, his footsteps practically on top of mine.

  The staircase at the end of the hall was too far and he was too close. I’d never make it. But the bathroom was only a few feet away.

  I slipped inside and locked the door.

  The knob rattled a second later. “It’s Lukas. We just want to help.”

  I couldn’t think straight. Something that looked like a dead girl had just exploded in my bedroom, and now I was alone in the house with two guys I didn’t know. They had definitely saved my life….

  But one of them has a gun.

  “You killed my cat.”

  “It’s not dead. It took off out the window.” His voice sounded soothing and gentle, which only made me more anxious. “Those were liquid-salt rounds.”

  I gasped, remembering the sticky mist in my bedroom. “So he’s okay?”

  “Your cat’s probably freaked out,” he said. “But he was alive the last time I saw him.”

  Tears of relief ran down my cheeks. “What was that thing inside him?”

  Thinking about the girl’s tormented expression and the dark bruises around her neck made my skin crawl. Something horrible must have happened to her—whatever she was.

  There was a long pause, followed by whispering on the other side of the door.

  “She was a vengeance spirit,” Lukas said. “They manifest when a person suffers a violent or traumatic death.”

  I thought about the night in the cemetery and the walk home, when I tried to convince myself that I hadn’t seen a girl floating in the graveyard. “A spirit? You mean, like a ghost?”

  “Yeah. A really pissed off one.” Another voice passed through the door. It was harder, like the kindness had been hammered out of it. Lukas’ brother—what was his name? Jared.

  “I think I’ve seen it before—the ghost.”

  “When?” Jared sounded worried.

  “A month ago, in the cemetery a few blocks from here.” More whispering. “What did it want with me?”

  They were silent for a moment before Lukas answered, “She was using the cat to steal your breath. Vengeance spirits are angry or confused about their deaths, so they attack the living.”

  The image of Elvis crouched on my mom’s chest flashed through my mind, and a wave of nausea racked my body. She didn’t die of a heart attack.

  I barely made it to the toilet before my stomach lurched.

  Someone knocked softly. “You okay?”

  My mom was dead, and according to two strangers, an angry spirit had killed her—the same one that had just tried to kill me.

  “How did the spirit get inside my cat?” It sounded ridiculous. But I could still feel the unbearable pressure on my chest.

  “Most likely by grave jumping. An animal walks over a fresh grave and the spirit hitches a ride.” It was Jared, the one with the gun.

  I pictured Elvis walking over the girl’s grave and her ghostly hand shooting up from the ground and grabbing his furry leg. They couldn’t be serious. “Sounds like a crazy superstition.”

  “That superstition almost killed you,” Jared said.

  I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. “Well, I’m fine now. You can go.”

  “It’s not safe, Kennedy. You should come with us.”

  Regardless of what happened in my room, two guys had broken into my house and they were standing in the hallway, armed. I glanced at the window. The last streaks of darkness were fading from the sky, but the sidewalks remained empty.

  “I have my cell,” I bluffed. “Leave, or I’m calling the police.”

  “Will you—”

  “I’m dialing.”

  Eventually, I heard the stairs creak.

  I didn’t come out until the front door slammed. I leaned against the wall, staring at my bedroom door, as a question fought its way from the back of mind.

  How did they know my name?


  Dead Ends

  The girl’s tortured expression and the handprints around her neck kept coming back to me, no matter how loud I blasted Velvet Revolver. Even worse, when it wasn’t her face, it was my mother’s empty stare.

  My mom was dead because of that girl—or something like her.

  The thought had sent me tearing out of the house as soon as the guys left. I had spent hours looking for Elvis, but there was no sign of him. I doubted he would come back to the house. At least he was alive.

  Now I was driving around aimlessly on a Saturday morning with nowhere to go.

  I almost called Elle, but what could I say? Two guys broke into my house and shot a ghost that tried to kill me? Now I’m scared to go home and—oh, did I mention that I’ve lost all touch with reality?

  Elle checked our horoscopes every morning, and she stayed inside for two days after a palm reader told her that her “future was uncertain,” but a ghost possessing my cat was pushing it. Convincing her that I didn’t need therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder after my mom died had been hard enough.

  The li
ght turned red, and I closed my eyes for a second. With the adrenaline rush over, my head pounded. I took a deep breath and tried to relax, when a horn blared behind me.

  My eyes flew open to a green light.

  I was too exhausted to keep driving around like this.

  I pulled into the nearest driveway. At nine thirty in the morning, the lot at the public library was practically empty. Maybe I could sleep for a little while. I locked the doors, unable to shake the feeling that someone, or something, was following me.

  I tried to piece together the scene in my bedroom, but the ghost and the gun and the voices were all tangled up like a box of old Christmas lights. I only remembered snippets of the conversation with Jared and Lukas.

  Something about angry spirits? No—vengeance spirits. That’s what they called them.

  Two girls walked past my window carrying armloads of grad school prep books. I climbed out of the car and followed them into the library. I needed answers, and this was a good place to start.

  I found an empty computer station and typed vengeance spirits in the search field. I scrolled through pages of articles, reading the ones that seemed the most legitimate and the least crazy. The consensus among paranormal investigators was pretty consistent when it came to the definition—malevolent spirits who haunt or seek to harm the living; usually victims of murder, violence, or suicide; spirits who may, or may not, know they’re dead.

  Lukas and Jared Lockhart weren’t the only ones who believed in this stuff.

  There were hundreds of sites dedicated to paranormal activity. I had actually witnessed more in my room than most so-called investigators had in a lifetime, and it was still hard to believe.

  Researching grave jumping was harder. It was classified under myths, folklore, or urban legends, depending on the website. Some articles claimed that if you walked over a fresh grave, the spirit could leap out and turn you into a vampire. Others validated Jared’s version in which the spirit jumped inside a person or an animal. It sounded ridiculous, but I still wasn’t about to step on a grave anytime soon.

  The Internet wasn’t going to answer all my questions. I needed to figure out who Lukas and Jared Lockhart were, and what they were doing in my neighborhood at five o’clock in the morning, carrying a gun loaded with salt.

  First, I had to find them.

  A general search for their names led to information on a dead poet, a German family crest, and the drummer from a punk band. Maybe I was spelling their names wrong. I should’ve asked if they could write them down before I kicked them out of my house.

  “Can I help you find something?” A young and eager-looking librarian stood behind me.

  “Um, is there a way to see if someone attends one of the local high schools?”

  “Not online. But you can try the reference room.”

  “What’s in there?”

  The librarian headed toward the stacks. “Yearbooks.”

  She led me to the back of the library and unlocked the door to the reference room, where dusty public school yearbooks were lined up on an even dustier shelf. “Let me know if I can help you with anything else.”


  I ran my finger along the rows of leather volumes with tacky silver and gold lettering, estimating how long it would take to flip through them all. Lukas and Jared looked about my age or a little older, so I started with ones from last year.

  My cell rang and Elle’s name popped up on the screen.

  I took a deep breath and tried to sound grouchy and half asleep, the way I usually did when she called this early. “Hey.”

  “I’m starving. Wanna get breakfast?” Hearing her voice made the last six hours seem surreal.

  “I still have a ton of packing.” I fought the urge to tell her everything. Even if I knew she’d believe me, which I didn’t, this definitely warranted a face-to-face conversation. “Let’s meet up when I’m done.”

  Then maybe I’ll tell you about the ghost that tried to kill me.

  “I have rehearsal until nine tonight, remember? I can’t blow it off again or my understudy will totally try to steal my part.” Elle had scored a lead role in the school musical and developed an unhealthy paranoia when it came to her understudy. “You can come hang out and witness the suckage firsthand.”

  “Tempting, but I’ll pass. See you at your house at nine thirty.”

  Elle hesitated. “You sound weird. Is everything okay?”

  Everything is completely screwed up and confusing and in no way okay.

  I took a deep breath, trying to sound normal. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

  “Don’t be late. It’s your last night.” She hung up before I had time to say good-bye.

  Reaching for a dingy white yearbook at the top of the stack, I flipped through the pages of football games and homecoming candids until I hit class photos.

  Identical twins wouldn’t be hard to spot.

  If I figured out where Jared and Lukas went to school, maybe I could track down an e-mail address or a phone number. It was a long shot. But I needed to do something—to take control of a situation that felt completely out of control.

  By the time I closed the last creased leather cover, it was getting dark outside, and I didn’t know any more about Lukas and Jared Lockhart than when I started.

  I should’ve been at home packing the rest of my stuff. A driver was taking me to the airport in the morning—a fact I had accepted before I found out what really happened to my mother.

  I pulled into the last space on the street in front of my house, letting the engine idle as I listened to the last few verses of the Cure’s “Inbetween Days.” My world felt that way. Trapped in between the days before it fell apart and the ones I lived in now.

  I glanced at my house, and my throat went dry.

  Even with its Kelly green door and trimmed boxwoods lining the walkway, I couldn’t see past the dead girl in my bedroom.

  Were there other spirits in the house? Could they hurt me if I was awake?

  I got out, trying to summon the courage to go back in the house.

  A black van was parked across the street, facing the opposite direction. It looked like the ones serial killers use to abduct their victims. The driver noticed me staring and jerked away from the window.

  Part of me wanted to take off, but I couldn’t handle any more unanswered questions.

  Walking up to a stranger’s car felt crazy, but there were plenty of university students on the sidewalks. Even a psycho wouldn’t kidnap me in front of witnesses. My eyes darted to the license plate for a second just in case: AL-0381.

  I knocked on the driver’s-side window, my knees turning to rubber.

  It rolled down slowly.

  Jared Lockhart stared back at me, still wearing his green army jacket.

  I must have been in serious shock last night because I didn’t remember him being this gorgeous. Pale blue eyes and full lips, balanced by a roughness that came from a fight or two, kept him from looking like your average pretty boy.

  “How long have you been out here?” I couldn’t believe I’d spent the whole day trying to find him and his brother, and they were sitting in front of my house.

  Jared shrugged sheepishly. “Awhile.”

  Lukas leaned forward in the passenger seat, rolling a silver coin over his fingers. “Glad you’re happier to see us this time.”

  “I’m sorry about last night. But I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

  Lukas threw me a crooked smile. “Apology accepted. I’m just glad we got there when we did.” He seemed sincere, and something inside me relaxed.

  “You guys showed up out of nowhere,” I said. “How did you know I needed help?”

  Jared’s eyes darted from me to his brother.

  “We heard you screaming.” Lukas didn’t miss a beat. “Your window was open, remember?”

  How could I forget—struggling to breathe, the pressure on my chest, almost suffocating. Screaming was the part I didn’t remember
. They weren’t telling me everything. I just didn’t know why.

  “Do you guys carry around a gun full of salt and shoot ghosts every night?”

  Jared shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It’s kind of a hobby.”

  A hobby? He made it sound like they were playing video games, and I was scared to walk into my own house.

  “But I’m safe now? I mean, there’s nothing else in my house I need to worry about? Right?”

  Jared frowned, his scar disappearing between the worry lines in his forehead. “Those are two different questions.”

  Lukas’ smile faded. “Jared, we have to tell her. She’s in danger.”

  My skin went cold.

  What was inside? The ghosts of other dead girls?

  “I thought you got rid of the spirit.”

  “We did.” Jared stared into the growing darkness. “But he’ll send others.”

  “Who?” My voice wavered.

  Lukas stopped rolling the coin and looked at me. “The demon that’s trying to kill you.”


  Sinister Lullaby

  Let me get this straight. A demon is sending these vengeance spirits to kill people?”

  It was hard to believe we were having this conversation at the table where I ate my cereal every morning. It wasn’t that I had never considered the possibility of ghosts, especially after my mom died. I wanted to imagine her out there somewhere in a better place. But a vengeance spirit possessing my cat and murdering her was on a completely different level. And now we were talking demons.

  Lukas watched me from across the table, measuring my reactions. “The demon isn’t sending them after just anyone. He wants them to kill specific people.” He hesitated. “And you’re one of them.”

  It didn’t make any sense. “Why me?”

  Jared had been pacing the room like a caged animal since we came inside. He stopped and turned to his brother, a silent question passing between them. Lukas nodded, and Jared took something out of his pocket.

  A tattered sheet of yellowed parchment, the creases so deep it practically fell apart when he unfolded it.

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