Table of Contents
BOOKS BY KELLEY ARMSTRONG
The Otherworld Series
Dime Store Magic
No Humans Involved
Living with the Dead
Waking the Witch
The Nadia Stafford Series
Made to Be Broken
The Darkest Powers Series
The Darkness Rising Series
Men of the Otherworld
Tales of the Otherworld
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.); Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England; Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd); Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd); Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi â 110 017, India; Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd); Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, July 2011
Copyright Â© 2011 by KLA Fricke, Inc.
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARKâMARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
has been applied for
ISBN : 978-1-101-53547-9
Set in Sabon
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
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Thanks to my incredible editorial team: Carrie Thornton at Dutton, Anne Collins of Random House Canada, Antonia Hodgson of Orbit, and my agent, Helen Heller.
As always, I'm indebted to my beta readers: Ang Yan Ming, Xaviere Daumarie, Terri Giesbrecht, Raina Toomey, and Danielle Wegner. Thanks again, guys!
e watched the girl stumble from the motel office, room key glinting under the harsh lights of the parking lot. Lightning flashed, illuminating her figure. Tall and slender, barely more than a teen, too young to be out alone in a place like this, on a night like this.
Thunder rumbled and crashed. The parking lot lights flickered and buzzed. Sheets of ice-cold rain battered the girl. She kept walking, oblivious, as her long hair whipped against her face.
She paid no attention to the storm. No attention to the dark. No attention to him, standing across the road, watching.
So young. So confident. So foolish.
The girl stopped at her room and jammed the key into the lock. When it didn't work the first time, she cast an unlock spell. The door swung open. She staggered inside.
So young. So powerful. And, at this moment, so broken.
Perhaps he could use that.
The girl had just solved the murders of three young women in a nearby town. On the surface, the deaths were unremarkable. Humans killed one another all the time. As it turned out, the first two fit the usual patternâpointless deaths, tragic for a few, meaningless to everyone else. The third was different. She'd been killed by a half-demon spirit, escaped from her hell dimension. A mere shade should not be able to do such a thing. But the half-demon had help, powerful help, and her escape was yet another sign that what he'd foreseen was inevitable.
For years, mortal supernaturals had whispered about signs and portents. The impossible becoming possible. Humans learning magic. New races evolving within a generation. Bitten werewolves passing their genes to their offspring. A clairvoyant of unsurpassed power, born from a dead mother. As one who had observed for millennia, he knew these were not new occurrences. Merely rare. Yet with so many in quick succession, even the demonic and the celestial had taken note. Some believed. Others did not, but saw opportunity in the growing unrest.
Now mortal supernaturals who believed the signs were coalescing under one man. A man with a dream that could change the world. Or destroy it. The demonic and the celestial took note of that, too. They whispered. They conspired. They chose a side.
The girl in the motel room knew nothing of this. She'd sent the half-demon shade back to her hell and considered the matter closed, except for the details that obsessed her now, ones that had nothing to do with the gathering storm.
Before the half-demon shade was banished from the living world, she'd exacted revenge by telling the authorities who'd killed the first two young womenâthe mother of one. It had been accidental. A struggle, the gun goes off. It concerned him not at all. But it did concern the girl in the motel room. She'd been the one who learned the truth. The half-demon shade simply acted on her findings. Now the girl couldn't stop thinking about the woman she'd inadvertently sent to prison. Couldn't stop thinking about the child, alone now, mother dead, grandmother accused of her murder.
It mattered not a whit in the larger scheme of things. In a few days, the girl in the motel room would be swept into the maelstrom brewing in the supernatural world. She would play a role. A critical role. A dangerous role.
Now inside the room, the girl flicked on the light, only to have it go out again as the power failed. She cast a light ball.
Thank God for my spells,
he heard her think.
She paused then and images flickered through her mind. Images of the accused woman and the orphaned child. Of the girl's own mother and father, whose long-ago deaths she felt responsible for. Of a man she'd begun to care for, killed by the half-demon shade.
Guilt. Anguish. Despair.
Then a clear thought.
If I could fix even one thing, and give Kayla back her grandmother, I'd gladly give up my powers.
He smiled. Yes, he could definitely use that.
itting cross-legged on my motel bed in the dark, I cast my light ball spell for the twentieth time. As I recited the incantation, I waited for the mental click that told me it had worked. When that didn't come, I opened my eyes, still expecting to see the glowing ball floating over my fingers. It didn't matter that I hadn't seen it the first nineteen times. It was a damned light ball spell, so simple I usually didn't even need to finish the incantation before it worked.
The room stayed dark.
On a chair by the bed, Adam mumbled and shifted in his sleep. Adam Vasic, Exustio half-demon, the guy I'd been in love with since I was twelve, now my best friend. He'd followed me when I took off in a tantrum of guilt and grief, snuck into my motel room, and quietly fell asleep.
He was close to waking now, and even my whispered incantations had him fussing. He needed sleep, not more of my angst, so I slid from the room.
I stepped outside. It was a wet spring night, the earlier storm gone, whipping winds and a bone-chilling cold left behind. I walked over to Adam's Jeep, parked beside my vintage Triumph motorcycle. I peered through the back of his vehicle, in case I'd left a sweater there. All I could see was his duffel bag, and I didn't want to break in and go through his stuff, which was proof that I really wasn't myself tonight.
A soda machine glowed across the motel lot. I wasn't thirsty, but I had change in my pocket and it gave me a destination. After sloshing through one puddle in the dark, I didn't bother trying to avoid the rest, just trudged along, icy water soaking my sneakers.
When gravel crackled to my left, I spun and spotted a shape darting behind the motel. Which reminded me . . . besides losing my spells, I was also the target of a witch-hunter. Apparently she'd found me again.
I glanced toward my room. I should get Adam. Without my powers, I wasâ
Powerless? Hardly. I was six feet tall and in great shape. The witch-hunter was a scrawny mouse of a girl, barely an adult, barely five-foot-five, with no apparent supernatural powers.