A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

When this season ends in failure, I’ll watch it again.

“She is injured,” says Grey. “She cannot get far.”

He is right. I am wasting time.

As if I don’t have time in spades.

“Go,” I say. “Bring her back.”



I’m running down a long hallway, my breath roaring in my ears. This has to be a museum or some kind of historical building. My socks fight to grip the velvet carpeting that lines the marble floor. Wood paneling covers the walls, with stone masonry climbing to a ceiling that arches high above. Heavy wooden doors with wrought-iron handles sit at uneven intervals along the hallway, but none are open.

I don’t stop to try any. I just run. I need to find another person or get out of here.

As I round a curve in the hallway, I’m met by a massive, sweeping, sunlit staircase that descends into a grand entranceway. The space is the size of my high school gymnasium, with a dark slate floor, massive stained glass windows, and a pair of iron doors. Tapestries hang from the walls, threaded with purples and greens and reds, shot through with strands of gold and silver that sparkle in the light. Tables sit along the side, laid out with cakes and pastries and dozens of champagne glasses. Half a dozen gilded white chairs wait in the corner, musical instruments sitting ready.

The place looks prepped for a wedding. Or a party. But definitely not a kidnapping.

I’m so confused—but at least I’ve found a door.

A sudden beeping pierces the silence.

Jake’s timer.

I dig the phone out of my pocket, staring at the flashing zeroes. My throat closes up. I don’t know if he made it out.

I need to get myself together. I’m standing in the open and tears won’t give me anything but a wet face. Once I find somewhere safe, I can call 911.

I grip the banister and rush down the steps. My left leg is clumsy and about to give way, but I mentally threaten to cut it off if it doesn’t get me out of here. It listens.

As I pass the corner, the instruments lift from the chairs in unison.

I startle and duck right, ready for one to come flying at me—but then, without warning, the instruments begin to play. Symphonic music fills the hall, a rich song filled with flutes and trumpets and violins.

This has to be a trick. An optical illusion. Like at a theme park, somehow triggered by my motion.

I reach out and grab a flute, expecting it to be fixed in place with thin wires or subtle plastic.

But it’s not. My hand closes on the metal like I’m picking it up from a shelf. The steel is vibrating as if someone is playing. There’s no weight to it—no batteries. No speaker. Nothing.

When I move it close to my ear, the sound is coming from inside the tube.

I take a step back and fling it away from me.

The flute snaps right back into place, levitating above the chair as though an invisible musician stood there holding it. The keys depress and release.

I swallow hard. This is a dream. I’m drugged. Something.

I’m wasting time. I need to get out of here.

I hurry for the door, prepared for it to be locked—but it’s not. I stumble out onto a marble platform, and warm air swirls around me. Stone walls stretch to either side, and steps lead down to a cobblestone path. Acres of trimmed grass stretch as far as I can see, dappled by randomly spaced trees. Flower beds. A massive fountain spraying water into the air. In the distance is a dense forest, thick with vibrant greenery.

No paved road that I can see.

The door swings closed behind me, clanking into place, choking the music into silence. There’s no railing here, so I ease down the steps and onto the cobblestones. The building towers over me, large cream-colored bricks spaced by blocks of marble and stone.

This isn’t a museum. It’s a castle. A big one.

And still, no people. No one anywhere—and I can see for acres. The silence is all-consuming. No cars. No buzzing power lines. No airplanes.

I jerk the phone out of my pocket and start punching in the numbers 911.

The phone beeps at me in protest. No service.

I shake it, like that’s somehow going to help. Everything across the top is grayed out.

No cell towers. No Wi-Fi. No Bluetooth.

A whimper escapes my chest.

Those instruments were playing themselves.

I can’t reason that out. It’s too tangled up with my very real worry for my brother.

A new thought hits me, piling more worry on top. If something happened to Jake, no one is there to help Mom. I imagine her lying in bed, coughing wetly from the cancer that crowds her lungs. Needing food. Medicine. Needing someone to bring her to the bathroom.