Authors: Ruth Frances Long
A Crack in Everything
‘If you enjoyed
by Lauren Kate,
Daughter of Smoke
by Laini Taylor or
by Michael Scott then this book should be added to your shelves immediately!’
‘Ruth Frances Long’s writing is haunting, lyrical and above all skilful.’ Sarah Rees Brennan, author of the
trilogy and co-author of
The Bane Chronicles
with Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson
A Hollow in the Hills
‘I’m genuinely hungry for the next book.’ Celine Kiernan, author of
The Moorehawke Trilogy
Into the Grey
‘I love the complexity of the world, the fact that I can breathe it in and hear the music and recognise her characters, as if I’ve spent time with them in real life.’
Liz de Jager, author of
The Blackhart Legacy
To Pat, Diarmuid and Emily
he angel stumbled and fell, unable to save himself with bound arms in front of him and pinioned wings behind. He hit the stony ground hard, unaccustomed pain biting through his skin. For a moment he could only lie there, breathing hard. It shouldn’t be like this. He was one of the Host of Heaven, an angel, the Joy of the Lord.
No joy remained. She had beaten every last scrap of it out of him. And now she brought him here, to this place of wind and dark clouds, to a gorse-covered hilltop where the earth itself writhed and screamed as if fighting against what lay beneath. The sea crawled and crashed against rocks, squirming away from the headland. Even the water couldn’t bear to touch these stones. He could feel it deep inside his broken body.
There had once been a cairn raised here, an ancient seal to guard against what had been buried long ago. Not anymore. Mankind had
razed it to the ground. They named it and renamed it, making up stories about kings buried beneath piles of stones and then forgot even those tales. They used this place to walk their dogs, or exercise away the excesses in which they indulged. Sometimes they climbed here just to look at the view or to instinctively add another rock to the piles scattered around. They couldn’t say why, just an urge. They knew nothing, let alone what they had done by destroying it in the first place. The arrogance of mankind.
The kick took him in the ribs, lifted him from the ground and drove his breath out of him. With a burst of red agony, he crashed into a heap of stones behind him. Something made a dreadful breaking sound. Ribs cracked, fractured ends stabbing into him. He slid down into the depression below it, amid crushed beer cans and ashes.
‘Did I say you could rest?’ his captor asked, her voice as smooth as a hot blade. ‘We have mighty work to do, angel. Mighty work indeed.’
‘Why do this? You were one of us.’
She smiled, an expression with no warmth, no joy. ‘And I was cast out. For doing nothing.’
He couldn’t argue with that. She was one of those who had indeed done nothing. While other angels had fought and died and fallen in flames.
‘Please,’ he whispered. ‘You were one of the Didanum. You stood in the ranks of light.’
‘Nothing is forgotten. Only we call ourselves Dé Dannan now. And it doesn’t mean what you think it means.’
‘You were chosen.’
‘We were accursed. We questioned Heaven’s actions. Imagine, being
cast out for asking questions. Does that seem fair to you, angel? Does that seem just? We took no side. We merely asked why conflict was necessary.’
‘Cuileann.’ He had to try, one last attempt to reach her, using her now forbidden name. The one she had borne so long ago. She had to answer to that. She had to recognise their kindred spirit.
Instead she seized him by the back of his neck and slammed him back down against the stones. He slumped across them, broken.
‘Cuileann is gone,’ she said in a voice as cold as the void itself. ‘I’m Holly. Now, we ought to begin – Heaven forbid we should drag this out.’
Sunlight glinted off the razor-sharp edge of her knife.
‘You know why knives are so dear to my kind?’ She cocked her head to one side as if waiting for an answer. ‘They’re personal. You have to get up close. Or have a spectacular aim.’
‘What are you doing?’ he asked, wishing he hadn’t. He didn’t want the answer.
‘You know what I’m doing. You know this place and what lies hidden beneath it. Locked away for so long. You can thank Sorath. She gave me the idea, cunning little bitch that she was.’
‘Sorath?’ He stared at her. ‘Sorath fell. Sorath’s gone. That girl …’
‘Oh yes,’ Holly’s smile widened like the maw of a beast. ‘That girl. I’m going to deal with her as well. But first you.’
Emptiness opened up under him, another place of nothingness and loss. A thousand voices called out, voices lost and damned.
A burst of agony engulfed him as she drove the knife into his stomach, deep, hard. The angel screamed, his body twisting as he tried
to escape. Holly drew out the knife and watched his blood spill onto the dirt and stones.
Then she stabbed again.
Darkness rose like a wave, winnowing its way through his veins, thrusting tiny barbs through his body. His spark burst from his chest, blinding him, wrenched out of him. He wept hot tears, cried out for his Lord, but no one answered. He was lost, he was falling. Holly pulled the spark from him and threaded it through her fingers, crushing it in her fist. She pulled at it, refining it to a long line that shone like silver.
The last thing he saw before the light burned out inside him, was her smile.
The smile of a predator. The smile of a killer.
he ground shuddered, sending books and trinkets tumbling off the shelves. Izzy rolled out of bed onto the floor before she was even fully awake, her body trying to get itself into the best position for defence before her mind even knew what was happening. Just as abruptly as it started, everything went still.
She crouched on all fours, the sheet still half twisted around her, breathing hard, looking for something – anything – to explain what had just happened.
The tattoo on the back of her neck felt so cold she could sense each line in all its intricacy, like someone had sketched the design on her skin in acid. The door crashed open and Dad stood there, looking like he’d tear something limb from limb if he could just find something to tear.
‘Are you okay?’
‘I think so. Dad? Was that an earthquake?’
‘I don’t know.’ Izzy checked the clock – three in the morning. Great. Shaken awake at three am. That was no way to start any day, not even the last day of school before half term. Izzy scrambled to her feet.
‘If it wasn’t an earthquake, what was it?’
‘An explosion? Maybe. Gas or something.’ He sagged a little, looking more like her dad again and less like some sort of mortifying superhero rushing to her defence. ‘An earthquake’s more likely.’
He rubbed the back of his neck as if it hurt. She often wondered if his tattoo warned her in the same way hers did. She’d asked him, once or twice, but never got a straight answer. He wouldn’t admit it, or didn’t really understand it and wouldn’t admit
. She wasn’t sure. They didn’t talk like they used to, even though she knew many of the secrets he had kept from her. Somehow it changed everything. Not knowing had been easier than knowing.
‘An earthquake here? In Dublin?’
He shrugged. ‘We get them. Usually off the coast and never as strong as that before. And sometimes “earthquake” is a good explanation for something else. Maybe you should go back to bed.’
As if she could sleep after that; she felt energised, wide awake, but she knew it wouldn’t last. It was just a case of her other nature kicking in, expecting danger and preparing to fight it. Being a Grigori, she had discovered since the summer,
was more than just a surname and a funky tattoo. It was a hell of a lot of work without any recognition or gratitude. She didn’t even get a fancy hat.
Dad looked tired, like he had when he woke up from the coma three months ago. She’d healed him then, but the ability to do anything spectacular like that had faded. The last vestiges of the angel’s spark for which she’d been a vessel had let her do that one thing, the thing she needed most.
Strange, the hole that had left within her. Unexpected, and unwelcome. As a fallen angel, Sorath had slipped under Izzy’s skin and changed her, making her capable of a magic she would never have believed possible. Brí called her a grail, her birth mother never one to speak plainly, but Izzy hadn’t appreciated what that meant until she had the power to save lives. She had used it, even in the most desperate straits, and she’d won. She’d saved Jinx, and Dad. And now? Without the powers Sorath had given her, what was she? A Grigori? But one too young to be of any use, to be trusted with the responsibilities it entailed. She hated the angel. She missed her as well. The psychotic, dangerous, glorious fires that Sorath, the angel of the dawn, had brought with her, which had almost consumed Izzy without any resistance, were gone now. She was bereft, like a ship without wind for its sail. And her life was her own once more.
Well, apart from all the extra studying that Dad and Gran felt she needed to put in, self-defence classes and dusty old tomes she couldn’t even get digitally. She’d suggested scanning
them. Gran had told her to go home. Her anger was more painful than a fencing lesson from Dad.
A knack with fire had joined her knack of destroying electronics. If she concentrated really hard she could still conjure up a little flame. No more than the flare of a match-strike, really. It wasn’t much use for anything. Plus, it drove Dad up the wall. Another reminder.
‘Should we check with Brí? Make sure everything is okay on that side?’
Dad winced. Mention of Izzy’s birth mother, the Matriarch of the South Dublin Sídhe, usually caused that expression. He didn’t have good memories of her. And even the vaguest reference to Dubh Linn, the shadowy Sídhe world that coexisted beside the human one, tended to close him down these days. He only told Izzy what he needed to, she realised that. He still didn’t want to put her in danger perhaps, or didn’t want her learning too much about it too quickly. But it was driving her crazy.
‘I’ll see to it. You go back to bed. School’s in a few hours.’
‘But we’ll be doing next to nothing. Halloween break’s starting. It isn’t even a full day.’
Dad had already closed the door. Izzy dug out her phone and put in her earbuds, flicking through the tracks she had on it. The phone had been a present from Mum to replace the one that she’d lost to the creepy Sídhe tramp, Mistle. When she’d first met Jinx. She remembered his long, elegant hands helping her pick up the broken pieces in the alley that led
her into Dubh Linn. That first day. Before she knew anything about the Grigori and the fae, the supernatural world that lay alongside her own. Before angels and demons had become a part of her everyday life.
Izzy lay back on her bed and closed her eyes, listening to the soft, lyrical strains of a song she shouldn’t play, a song that always made her think of him. Jinx had been heartless and cruel, flippant and obnoxious. He moved like a hunting animal, his silver eyes seeing everything, especially her mistakes. Tattoos and piercings covered his lean, pale body, contrasting with his long, jet-black hair. He thought he knew everything!
But … he’d helped her time and again. She’d never meant to fall for him. She’d never dreamed he could feel the same, but he had. She knew he had. He’d kissed her, shed tears of grief when he thought he’d lost her, begged her forgiveness – impossible for one of the fae – and saved her life.
And then he’d completely vanished from it.
Izzy wasn’t sure if she slept or not. Her thoughts kept turning back to Jinx and that whole tangle of misery no matter what she tried. She kept telling herself that she should forget him, that she shouldn’t dwell on it, that he wasn’t worth it. But sometimes, late at night, she couldn’t help it.
The sun glowed red and gold around the corners of the blinds, but she didn’t welcome the sunrise anymore.
Besides, morning meant getting up and plastering on a brave face, getting on with things. Morning meant school, even if it was just one more half day before the half-term break. It wasn’t like there was going to be much to do. But still, she wished she didn’t have to go.
Mum called her from downstairs. Already up and making coffee, no doubt, the early bird, always brightest in the morning. Infuriatingly chirpy. Not like Izzy and Dad, who were better off not talking to anyone for at least two hours after waking up. But of course, Izzy now knew her mum wasn’t her real mum, not her birth mother. She wondered what Sídhe matriarchs like Brí did in the early morning; she’d bet they didn’t make coffee and sing along with the radio.
Murder, torture, general sadism – or did that wait until after brunch?
Dad drove her to school, blissfully silent the whole way. A stream of uniformed girls flowed towards the gates, a strangely hypnotic sight. She saw Clodagh, surrounded as usual by a host of friends. She turned and waved at Izzy, hanging back waiting for her while the others went on.
‘Don’t be late back tonight,’ said Dad. ‘We have training.’
They were the first words he’d said to her since the earthquake. The radio had been filled with chatter about it. They couldn’t pinpoint the epicentre, which was unusual, but it had been one of the strongest ever felt on the island. Dad had huffed, clearly finding that dubious. She didn’t want to ask why.
‘Training?’ She sighed. ‘Again?’
‘You know why. It has to be done, Izzy.’
And here she thought being the latest descendent of the line of Grigori would be glamorous and exciting once the turmoil of last summer had passed. With Dad recovered from the accident that had sent him into a coma, she’d also thought her life might at least return to some semblance of normality, but she was wrong on both counts. Dad, and Gran, had decided on extracurricular activities – fitness training, fencing, martial arts, endless myths and legends, secret histories – to prepare her for the inheritance they’d so far hidden from her. Mum agreed with them. There was no escape.
‘It’s half term, Dad. I was going to meet Clodagh and—’
‘Straight home. We have to go through the annals and you need to—’
‘I know, I know. Fine. I’ll be back home straight after school. It’s not like I need a life or anything.’
‘Izzy.’ He sighed as he said her name and looked out of the window. Was this how he had spent his teenage years, she wondered? He never spoke of it. ‘It’s important. Besides, there are those who would use you against us. Think about it.’
She could think of any number who would try. For a while. And then they’d learn. She’d make sure of it. She wouldn’t let herself be used again. Dad ought to know that, but he didn’t believe it. Not really.
It wasn’t, but what else could she say? She got out of the car and slammed the door behind her.
‘You okay?’ asked Clodagh as Izzy joined her.
‘No.’ It wasn’t worth more than a one-word answer. Clodagh got it immediately.
Another girl was standing by the entrance to the school, watching them with overly curious eyes. There was something about her that caught Izzy’s attention, held it in an unnerving way that was seldom good news. Izzy frowned, trying to make out the tell-tale strangeness that marked the Sídhe when they walked among humankind. But there was nothing. No metallic glint to the eye, no instant attraction and desire to please. She was just a girl, very pretty, with jet black hair and olive skin. And the most startling hazel eyes Izzy had ever seen.
‘The Newbie,’ said Clodagh. ‘She’s been in our class since September. Her name’s Ash. Haven’t you been paying attention?’
Not much. Not really. Now that she thought about it, there had been a new student in the class since the start of term. Izzy just hadn’t taken any notice.
‘Um … maybe. I don’t know. How do you even know these things?’
Clodagh shook back her long golden locks and tapped her nose with a perfectly manicured finger. ‘I have my sources. They include talking to people and being sociable. You should try it. Did you do the maths homework? I completely fecked it up. Can I cog yours?’