Page 10

"I have a crush on Archer Cross."

Jenna laughed. "How original of you."

I flopped down on my bed. "Why?" I moaned into my pillow. I rolled over and stared at the ceiling. "Okay, so he's cute. Big deal. Lots of guys are cute."

Clearly my whining about a boy I liked was interfering with Jenna's reading, because she uncrossed her legs and came to perch on the edge of her desk. "Archer's not cute," she amended. "Puppies are cute. Babies are cute. I'm cute. Archer Cross is smokin' hot. And I'm not even into guys."

Okay, so Jenna was not going to be much assistance in squashing the crush. "He's a jerk," I pointed out. "Remember the whole werewolf thing this morning?"

"Yeah," Jenna said drily. "Saving you from a were-wolf. What a tool."

I groaned. "You're not helping."


We sat in silence for a moment, me looking at a suspicious mildew stain on the ceiling, Jenna leaning back on her elbows, drumming her feet against the desk drawers. Outside, I could hear howling. It was a full moon, so the shifters got free run of the grounds. I wondered if Taylor was out there.

"Ooh!" Jenna said suddenly, sitting up so fast she knocked over her cup of pens. "He has a total bitch for a girlfriend!"

"Yes!" I said, sitting up and pointing at her. "Thank you! Evil girlfriend who already hates me, no less. And any guy who willingly spends time with Elodie is not a guy worth liking."

"Too true," Jenna said with an emphatic nod.

Feeling better, I rolled onto my stomach to grab a book from beside the bed. "It's weird, though," Jenna said.

"What is?"

"Archer and Elodie. She was after him all last year, but he never wanted anything to do with her. Like, ever. Then he came back from wherever he was, and bam! Suddenly they're a couple. It's weird."

"Not that weird," I countered. "I mean, she's incredibly beautiful.

Maybe hormones finally got the best of him."

"Maybe," Jenna said, resting her chin in her hand. "But still. Archer is smart and funny in addition to being hot. Elodie is stupid and dull."

"And hot," I added. "And even smart boys are dumb when it comes to hot girls."

"True," Jenna agreed.

I was about to bring up the subject of Holly again when Casnoff's voice drifted through the room, almost like she was on a PA system. I guessed it was some sort of voice amplification spell.

"Ladies and gentlemen, in light of tomorrow's busy schedule, you are expected to retire early tonight. Lights out in ten minutes."

I glanced at my watch. "It's eight o'clock," I said incredulously. "She wants us to go to bed at eight o'clock?"

Sighing, Jenna went to her closet and pulled out her pajamas.

"Welcome to life at Hecate, Sophie."

There was a mad rush for the bathroom to brush teeth, but it was all shifters and witches. I guess faeries have naturally clean teeth. Once I made it back from that, I only had three minutes left to put on my pajamas and dive into bed. At 8:10 exactly, the lights blinked out.

My mind was whirling, and I didn't know how I was ever going to get to sleep. "Is it weird for you," I asked Jenna, "going to bed at night? I mean, aren't vampires supposed to sleep during the day?"

"Yeah," she replied. "But as long as I'm here, I have to follow Hecate's schedule. It's gonna be a bitch once I get to leave."

I didn't ask Jenna when she would get to leave. Everybody else was released from Hecate at eighteen, but the rest of us aged like humans. Jenna would always be fifteen.

I settled into my bed and tried to think sleepy thoughts. It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when I heard the door creak open.

Panicked, I sat up, heart pounding. The clock by my bed said it was a few minutes after midnight.

A dark figure slid into the room.

I gasped. "Relax," Jenna muttered from her bed. "It's probably just one of the ghosts. They do that sometimes."

Then there was the soft snick of a match being lit, and a small pool of light illuminated the figure.


She was wearing purple silk pajamas, a black candle cradled in her hands. Two other candles blazed to life, and I saw Chaston and Anna, also pajama-clad, standing behind Elodie.

"Sophia Mercer," Elodie intoned, "we have come to induct you into our sisterhood. Say the five words to begin the ritual."

I blinked at her. "Are you freaking kidding me?"

Anna gave an exasperated sigh. "No, the five words are 'I accept your offer, sisters.'"

I brushed my hair out of my face and said, "I told you earlier, I'm not sure if I want to join your coven. I'm not saying any words to begin any ritual."

"Saying the five words doesn't mean you automatically join," Chaston said, stepping forward. "It just means that the ritual of acceptance can start.

You can back out any time."

"Oh, just go with them," Jenna said. I could see her in the candlelight, sitting up in her bed, her dark eyes wary. "They're not going to leave you alone until you hear them out."

Elodie's mouth tightened, but she didn't say anything.

"Fine," I said, pushing off my covers and standing up. "I . . . I accept your offer, sisters."


The three of them led me to Elodie and Anna's room.

"How did you two get to room together?" I whispered. "I thought the big thing at Hecate was learning to live with other Prodigium."

Elodie was searching her desk for something and gave no sign of hearing me, so Chaston said, "Witches sometimes have to pair up since there are always way more of us than faeries or shifters."

"Why is that?" I asked.

Anna answered me as she lit some more candles, bathing the room in a soft glow. "Faeries and shifters don't attempt to travel in the human world as much as witches do. Less chance of them getting sent to this place."

Elodie had found a piece of chalk in her desk and was busy drawing a large pentagram on the hardwood floor. Once she was done, she drew a circle around it.

"Normally we'd do this ritual outside, preferably in a ring of trees,"

she said, sitting at the head of the pentagram. Chaston and Anna sat on either side of her, so I took my place at the other end. "But we're not allowed in the woods. Mrs. Casnoff is, like, insanely strict about that."

The four of us sat around the pentagram holding hands. I wondered if we were about to sing "Kumbaya."

"Sophie, what was the first magic you put out into the universe?"

Elodie asked.


"The first spell you ever cast," Chaston said, leaning forward, her blond hair spilling over her shoulders. "It's a sacred thing for a witch, that first spell. When I was twelve, I created a storm that lasted three days. And Anna froze time for . . . how long?"

"Ten hours," Anna answered.

I looked across the circle at Elodie. The light from the candles flickered in her eyes.

"What about you?" I asked her. "I turned day to night."


"What was yours, Sophie?" Chaston asked eagerly.

I thought about lying. I could say I turned someone to stone, or something. But then again, maybe if they knew what a crappy witch I was, they'd back off from this coven business.

"I turned my hair purple."

I was met with three identical stares.

"Purple?" Anna asked.

"It wasn't on purpose or anything," I said. "I was trying to permanently straighten it, but I guess I did something wrong because instead it turned purple. Only for three weeks, though. So . . . yeah, that was the first magic I ever did."

They were silent. Anna and Chaston exchanged looks across the circle.

"Maybe I should go," I said.

"No!" Chaston said, squeezing my hand.

"Yeah, don't go," Anna added. "So your first magic was . . . well, kind of stupid. You've done bigger spells than that since then, right?" She nodded at me encouragingly.

"What spell got you in here?" Elodie asked. She was sitting perfectly still, her eyes glittering. "Surely that was something."

I met her gaze across the circle. "I did a love spell."

Anna and Chaston heaved identical sighs and dropped my hands.

"A love spell?" Elodie sneered.

"What about you?" I looked around the circle at the three of them.

"What did you do to get sent to Hecate?"

Anna spoke first. "I turned a boy in my English class into a rat."

Chaston shrugged. "I told you. I made it storm for three days."

Elodie glanced down at the floor for a second. I wasn't sure, but I thought she took a deep breath. When she raised her head, she looked calm.

Relaxed, even. "I made a girl vanish."

I swallowed. "For how long?"


Now I took a deep breath. "So all three of you did spells that hurt people."

"No," Anna replied. "We did powerful spells befitting our kind.

Humans just . . . got in the way."

That was all I had to hear. I stood up. "All right, well, thanks for the offer, but . . . yeah. I don't think this is gonna work out."

Chaston reached up and grabbed my hand again. "No, don't go," she said. Her eyes were huge and shining in the candlelight.

"Oh, let her," Elodie said in a disgusted voice. "She clearly thinks she's better than us anyway."

"Okay, that's not what I said--"

"But we need a fourth," Chaston broke in.

"Not if that fourth is dead weight," Elodie retorted.

"She's the only other dark witch here. We need her," Anna said in a low voice. "Without four, we won't be strong enough to hold it."

"Hold what?" I asked, but at the same time, Elodie hissed, " Shut up, Anna. "

"It didn't work anyway," Chaston said glumly.

"Seriously, are you guys talking in code or something?" I asked.

"No," Elodie said, rising to her feet. "They're talking about things related to the coven. Things that don't concern you."

I don't think anyone has ever looked at me with that much anger. I was kind of baffled by it. I mean, sure I'd turned down the invitation to join their coven, but it wasn't like I'd spit in their faces or anything.

"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings," I said, "but . . . um, it's not you, it's me?"

Oh, that was original, Sophie.

Anna and Chaston were both standing by now. Anna was scowling at me, but Chaston still looked worried.

"You need us too, Sophie," Chaston said. "It won't be easy for you without your sisters to protect you."

"Protect me from what?"

"Do you honestly think people here are going to welcome you with open arms?" Elodie asked. "Between that leech you room with and your father, you're looking at total pariahdom without us."

My stomach dropped. "What about my dad?"

The three of them glanced at each other.

"She doesn't know," Elodie murmured.

"Know what?"