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Since my hand was still behind my back, that basically meant he was holding me against him. Result, Elodie exulted in my head.

Cal's breath was warm on my face as he said, "Maybe she made the book so easy to find on purpose. If you touch that page and get your powers back, you'll be a demon again. Maybe that's what the Casnoffs want."

Now the twisting in my stomach had nothing to do with whatever Elodie was up to, and everything to do with what Torin had told me. For the first time, I let myself think that there was a chance he hadn't just been screwing with me. The thought was almost too terrifying to bear.

"I didn't think about that," Elodie said, and I'd never heard my voice sound like that. It was husky. Almost sexy.

For the first time ever, I saw Call falter. "I just don't think you should touch that spell. Not now, at least."

"I won't."


"So why are you still holding on to me?"

I felt like I was watching a car crash in slow motion, only I was actually in the car. Stop it, I said again, and this time I wasn't shouting. I was pleading. Not for me, but for Cal. You're screwing with him, and he doesn't deserve it.

No, she replied as she curled my fingers around the back of Cal's neck. But Archer does.

Cal's lips were tentative on mine, and there was a part of me that wondered if he suspected. But then Elodie pulled him tighter, and I think that even if he did suspect, he didn't care anymore. The kiss in the tent had been intense, but this was...well, it was hot. Probably because Elodie was practically coiling my body around Cal's, kissing him with way more fervor than I'd ever shown.

So many feelings were rushing through my system, I couldn't figure out which were mine, and which were Elodie's. Anger, lust, sadness, triumph. They all pounded inside my skin, and between that and the magic thudding like a second heartbeat in my chest, and the electric shock of the grimoire against my spine, I felt like I might actually explode into a million pieces of blue plaid.

But before that could happen, the door opened, and even as I shrieked for Elodie to let go of Cal, I knew it was too late.

"Whoa," I heard Jenna say, and then Archer asking, "What?"

Suddenly, my eyes were open, and I could see both of them standing in the doorway. Jenna just seemed confused more than anything else.

But Archer...

If I'd had any doubts about how Archer felt about me, they were eradicated when I saw the look on his face. I'd never had my spleen ripped out, but if I had, I figured I'd make the same face Archer wore now.

I felt my lips twist in a smirk, and inside my head, Elodie was practically dancing. "Not such a great feeling watching someone you're in love with hook up with someone else, is it?" she said to Archer.

Cal, who still hadn't let go of my wrist, suddenly stepped back. "Elodie," he said. It wasn't a question.

I will never forgive you for this, I told her. I don't care if I can't do magic for the rest of my life, you will never get into my body again.

This wasn't about you, was her only reply.

And then she was gone.

I hit the floor, one of my knees scraping painfully on the hardwood. Call and Jenna both rushed forward to help me to my feet. The instant I felt steady, Call dropped his hand and moved away from me. Jenna kept a tight grip on my elbow, and as I looked up, I realized why Archer hadn't helped me.

He was gone.

I turned to Cal, miserable. "I'm so sorry. Again. Some more. I...I never would have-" He cut me off with a brisk shake of his head. "It wasn't you," he said, but his voice was gruff, and he still wouldn't look at me.

Unsure of what else to say, I fumbled for the grimoire, handing it to Jenna. "We found this in Lara's desk. Call thinks it might be some kind of trap. I mean, why would they make it so easy to find?" I remembered what Mrs. Casnoff had said the other day about me being their best hope, about something "in the blood." If the Casnoffs wanted me to have my powers back, it couldn't be a good thing.

Jenna took the book from me but didn't open it. "Okay," she said. "Go deal with Archer."

"He's upset, but this is more important," I said, nodding at the grimoire. Let Call and Jenna think I was brave and self-sacrificing. That was better than telling them that I was too chicken to talk to Archer right now. How exactly does one say, "Sorry the ghost of your ex-girlfriend used me to make out with my fiance"?

But Jenna was my best friend. "Soph," she said softly. "Go talk to him. Now." I sighed. "You know, bossiness is my least favorite of your personality traits. Right up there with your unerring ability to be right all the time." She smiled. "You love me."

Before I left the room, I noticed Cal's guarded expression, the tightness of his shoulders. I would have given anything for mind-reading powers.

It didn't take long to find Archer. He was in the green drawing room, the one where I'd first met Elodie, Chaston, and Anna. Sitting on the floor, his back against the sofa, long legs stretched out in front of him, he was studying the one photograph that remained on the wall.

I sat down next to him, even though the carpet was unpleasantly damp. Sickly pale light from the one lamp in the room kept a lot of his face in shadow.

"So, that sucked," I said, trying to sound as jovial as possible. "Side effect of dating in the magical world, I guess." He made a sound of amusement, his shoulders jerking slightly. But he still didn't look at me. "You think those guys ever had these kinds of problems?" he asked, nodding toward the picture. It was the one depicting the very first class at Hecate Hall, back in 1903. There had only been a few students that year, back when the school hadn't been used for punishment but as a kind of safe house.

"Probably," I said. "That chick in the straw hat seems kind of skanky."

He laughed for real then and finally turned his head toward me. "I know it was her," he said, reaching out to take my hand. Our fingers curled together. "But still. It was seeing the girl was seeing you kiss Cal. And even though I knew it was her as soon as I saw the two of you-"

"It was still bad," I finished softly. "I get that, I do. It used to kill me watching you kiss Elodie."

"It killed me to kiss her," he said, and once again, his eyes drifted to the picture. "But it wasn't just that it sucks to see your girlfriend with her tongue down some other dude's throat."

I winced at that, remembering just how heated things had been when Archer and Jenna had walked in. Archer either didn't notice or pretended not to. "It's that Elodie's right. Call cares about you. And he's a really good guy. And even though I want to hate him for being betrothed to you..." He gave a helpless shrug. "I can't. Which must mean he's extra-special dreamy."

"Stop it," I said, jerking our joined hands. "Cal's my friend. That's it. You're the guy I-" Love, I wanted to say. But the word froze on my tongue, and I ended up just saying, "Want. Chose. Whatever." He held my gaze, and his dark eyes were as serious as I'd ever seen them. "Maybe I shouldn't be." Shocked, I leaned away from him. "What does that mean?"

"It's just...If you were with him, you'd be happier. Better off."

Okay, now I was getting angry. "That's really not for you to decide. And if you feel that way, maybe you should just go ahead and give me the

'It's Not You, It's Me' speech right now."

To my surprise, Archer smiled. "That's the thing, though," he said. "I can't. I could stand it if you left me, but I don't think there's any way I could leave you."

I blinked at him. "You are so screwed up."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you."

Wrapping my hand around the back of his neck, I pulled his face to mine. "I happen to like screwed up," I whispered, our lips nearly touching.

"So don't ever say crap like that again, okay?"

I could tell there was more he wanted to say. Instead he just sighed, "Okay."

"Well, this is a lovely moment."

I whipped my head around. Lara stood just inside the room, smiling beatifically at us. "So glad to have found you, Miss Mercer," she said to me. "I think it's time we two had a little chat."


For the second time that day, I found myself in Lara's office.

The room faced the trees at the back of the house, and I watched the fog curling around the blackened trunks. I focused on that so that I didn't have to focus on the little chaise longue in front of the window, where Mrs. Casnoff sat, her hands in her lap, her face empty.

Sinking into the leather chair on the other side of the desk, Lara studied me. She didn't seem angry. Just curious. Almost amused.

"I trust I didn't interrupt anything too important between you and Mr. Cross." I clenched my fingers tightly together so that she couldn't see them shaking. "No, just the usual. You know-how to bring you and this whole twisted plan of yours to ruin, and escape this crazy island."

She laughed. "Even now, your sense of humor doesn't desert you. If it weren't so annoying, I'd respect that." She leaned forward on the desk, palms together, and there was something about her that reminded me of all the guidance counselors I'd met (and trust me, back when I went to regular school, I'd met plenty). "Is that why you've been trying to talk to my sister? Why you broke into my office today?" I flinched, and Lara settled back into her chair, lips curling into a satisfied smile. "Didn't think I knew about that, did you?" I wanted to be quippy. I wanted to say something that would show she hadn't just scared the heck out of me. We'd had the edge for what, maybe ten minutes? And if she knew we'd been in her office, did she know we'd taken the grimoire?

At least I still had sarcasm on my side. "I'm disappointed that you know about it," I told Lara, taking a seat in the chair opposite her desk, "but seeing as how you're an evil witch, I'm not exactly surprised."

She narrowed her eyes. "Everything is a joke to you. A game. My father's lifework, the salvation of our race..."

"Your father's lifework was to enslave a bunch of teenagers? No wonder you two turned out so awesome," I said, jerking my head toward Mrs.

Casnoff. She showed no sign of hearing me.

Okay, now Lara was pissed. She sat up straighter in the chair. "Do you know what my father sacrificed to create you and your line? Do you know what we have given up?" She pointed one long finger at Mrs. Casnoff. "To keep our kind safe. To protect us from those who would eradicate us."

"You're turning people into monsters," I said. "Kids. What your father did destroyed Alice. And then he destroyed her daughter, and if you two had had your way, you would've done the same thing to me and my dad."

"The ends-"

"Justify the means. That's what she said. What is that, your family motto or something?" Lara stilled, her knuckles white. "Would you like to know about my family, Sophie?" Pressing myself back against my chair, I shook my head. "I think I know enough about your family, thanks."

"You don't know anything," Lara said, and then she flicked her fingers in my direction.

At first, nothing happened, and I wondered if all she'd done was give me the witch version of her middle finger.