There are only two kinds of Mortals in the backwater town of Gatlin, South Carolina—the stupid and the stuck. At least, that’s what they say.
As if there are other kinds of Mortals anywhere else.
Luckily, there’s only one kind of Siren, no matter where you go in this world or the Otherworld.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Here’s mine: I’ve been called a lot of things, but what I really am is a survivor—and while there are more than a few stupid Sirens, there are zero stupid survivors.
Consider my record. I outlasted some of the Darkest Casters and creatures alive. I withstood whole months of Stonewall Jackson High School. Beyond that, I survived a thousand terrible love songs written by one Wesley Lincoln, a clueless Mortal boy who became an equally clueless quarter Incubus. And who, by the way, is not the most gifted musician.
For a while, I survived wanting to write him a love song of my own.
That was harder.
This Siren gig is meant to be a one-way street. Ask Odysseus and two thousand years’ worth of dead sailors if you don’t believe me.
We didn’t choose for it to be that way. It’s the hand we were dealt, and you won’t hear me whining about it. I’m not my cousin Lena.
Let’s get something straight: I’m supposed to be the bad guy. I will always disappoint you. Your parents will hate me. You should not root for me. I am not your role model.
I don’t know why everyone seems to forget that. I never do.
No matter what she says, Lena was meant to be Light. I was meant to be Dark. Respect the teams, people. At least learn the rules.
My own parents disowned me after the Dark Claimed me as a Siren on my Sixteenth Moon. Since then, nothing rattles me—nothing and no one.
I always knew my incarceration in the sanitarium that my Uncle Macon called Ravenwood Manor was a temporary pit stop on the way to bigger and better, my two favorite words. Actually, that’s a lie.
My two favorite words are my name, Ridley Duchannes.
Why wouldn’t they be?
Sure, Lena gets the credit for being the most powerful Caster of all time.
Whatever. It doesn’t make me any less excellent. Neither does her too-good-to-be-true Mortal boyfriend, Ethan “the Wayward” Wate, who defeats Darkness in the name of true love every day of the week.
I was never going for perfect. I think that should be clear by now.
I’ve done my part, played my hand, even thrown in my cards when I had to. I’ve bet what I didn’t have and bluffed until I had it. Link once said: Ridley Duchannes is always playing a game. I never told him, but he was right.
What’s so bad about that? I always knew I’d rather play than watch from the sidelines.
There was one game I regretted. At least, one that I regretted losing. And one Dark Caster I regretted losing to.
Two markers. That’s all I owed him, and it was enough to change everything. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all started long before that. There were blood debts to be paid—though this time it wasn’t up to my cousin and her boyfriend to pay them.
Ethan and Lena? Liv and John? Macon and Marian? This wasn’t about them anymore.
This was about Link and me.
I should’ve known we wouldn’t get off easy. No Caster goes down without a fight, even when you think the fight is over. No Caster lets you ride off into the sunset on some lame white unicorn or in your boyfriend’s beat-up excuse for a car.
What’s a Caster fairy-tale ending?
I don’t know, because Casters don’t get to have fairy tales—especially not Dark Casters. Forget the sunset—the whole castle burns to the ground, taking Prince Charming down with it. Then the seven dwarves go all ninja and drop-kick your butt straight out of the kingdom.
That’s what a Dark Caster fairy tale looks like.
What can I say? Payback’s a bitch.
But here’s the thing:
So am I.
Home Sweet Home
It was their last night of summer, their last night of freedom, their last night of being frozen in time together in Gatlin, South Carolina—and technically speaking, Ridley Duchannes and Wesley Lincoln were in a fight.
When are we ever not? Ridley wondered. But this wasn’t just any fight. It was the knockdown, drag-out, mother-of-all supernatural takedowns—Siren Predator versus Hybrid Incubus Alien. That was what Link had called it, behind her back. Which was about the same as saying it to her face, at least in Gatlin.
It had started right after graduation, and three months later, it was still going strong. Not that you’d know from looking at them.
If Link and Ridley openly admitted that they were still fighting, it would mean openly admitting that they still cared. If they openly admitted that they still cared, it would mean openly admitting to things like feelings. Feelings implied all sorts of gushy, messy, fuzzy complications.
Feelings were how they’d gotten into this fight in the first place.
Ridley would rather have Link stab her through the heart with a pair of gardening shears than admit to any of those things. She’d rather fall on her face like Abraham Ravenwood did, in His Garden of Perpetual Peace, drawing his last breath unloved and alone—a far fall for the most powerful Blood Incubus in the Caster world.
At least Ridley understood Abraham Ravenwood. She was an expert on being unloved and alone.