"Fresh, fun, and dangerous! I can't wait for the next one!" —Sherrilyn Kenyon #1 NYT Bestselling Author of the Dark-Hunter Series
Witchcraft Is Her Family’s Business.
No One Quits The Family And Lives To Tell About It.
"Jax” Pherson has power, enough power to know her future will end in service to the dark coven her father controls. Unless she can stay hidden in a small community in the mountains of North Carolina. She must find a way to live without magic and deny the darkness she feels welling up inside her—the same dark power that fuels the covens around the world.
All she wants is a normal life. A boyfriend. Friends. Some place to belong, but all too soon Jax’s barely begun new life hangs in the balance when she discovers that the boy she’s attracted to is sworn to kill her kind. He’s a hunter with good reason to kill everything that goes bump in the night.
Even the most fleeting use of her power is tantamount to signing her death warrant and will bring both hunter and coven down on her. But can she walk away when her friends are threatened by an old evil? Something created by the magic of witches? Jax’s only hope of survival is to convince the boy she loves to forget everything he’s ever been taught and help her find a way to fight the covens. To believe there is some good in her.
"Trish Milburn has taken a piece of history, the Salem Witch trials from 1692, and given it a bit of a twist. This book was fantastic!!" -- Naomi Hopkins, Nomi’s Paranormal Palace
"The characters were fun. The back story was interesting. The action was constant... LOVED the surprise at the end!" -- Lizzy Lessard, Lizzy's Dark Fiction
"...a perfect blend of magic, mystery, action, romance and teenage angst whose pages just ended too soon!" -- Jackie Burris, Housewife Blues and Chihauhau Stories
"...well written and the story is fast paced" -- Liezel Klink
"...a refreshing new take on the typical witch story." -- Laurie Prentice, NetGalley
"I loved this book so much that I found myself saying "I wish I could write as well as that." It's got everything I like in a book, an intriguing storyline with just the right amount of action and romance, and a satisfying ending. It had me hooked from beginning to end and left me wanting more. Underlying this book is also one of my favourite themes - empowerment. If you're in to excellent YA urban fantasy or paranormal romance then this is a must read." -- Tahlia Newland
"… this is one young adult novel that entices you into the story then hooks you into wanting more!!!" -- Jessica Faulkingham, From Me to You
"It's definitely not your typical witch story…left the reader always hanging on the edge of their seat…" -- Kayla Merritt, Kayla’s Reads and Reviews
"White Witch by Trish Milburn is a story that kept me hooked with it's
quirky characters and fast paced plot. Filled with geekery and fun. and
am anxiously awaiting book 2 to see what happens next!" -- Michelle
"White Witch had action, had romance, had
friendship, had suspense, and had the high school drama that most YAs
seem to have..It made for a quick, light and fun read. Until you reach
the three-quarters mark. That's where the thrill comes into play. It was
so much more than what I expected. and I really liked it!" -- Chia Yet
Peng, A Bookalicious Story Blog
was such a nice clean read. It had a little bit of everything in it,
paranormal elements, mystery, romance, action. I really enjoyed the
storyline, the characters were fun and very likeable. I think this was a
great read and a fun new series that I think a lot of people, old and
younger will really like and enjoy." -- Ali Spencer, My Guilty Obsession Blog
Witch is an exciting tale filled with angst and acceptance, dealing
with the everyday issues teenagers face today, while delivering an
action-packed story of magic, witchcraft, friendship and love. I loved
the flow of this story. It was filled with so much emotion and at times I
felt a spasm in my heart. Each character is wonderful in their own
right, and I enjoyed the banter between the girls while getting ready
for Homecoming, and the even the relationship between the male
characters. It felt very real. The ending leaves the promise of great
things to come and I cannot wait to read the other books in this
series." -- Roxanne Kade, Roxy Kade Blog
book. grabbed me from the first page. What I liked about this book was
the unexpected ending...This book reminded me a lot of The Secret Circle
but was more fast paced and edgier. Overall, a good book and I look
forward to reading the possible sequel." -- Meagan Paul, Goodreads.com
"A heated forbidden love, runaway witches, unsettled spirits, vengeful covens, high school drama, and the occasional mean girls, White Witch has all that and then some.The biggest highlight of Milburn's new book is how fast paced it's written. Right off the bat the story line jumped on its feet.
What's not to love? There's magic, romance, friendship, an evil coven on their backs.This is a great start in what's measuring up to be a thrill ride of a series, and I'll be re-reading the first until the next is released because I just can't get over how enticing the story is." -- Kai, Embraceyoumag.com
Hot tears burn my eyes as I watch the last of the black coloring disappear from the tips of my long, blond hair, draining away into nothingness. I swipe at the tears as I curse my image. Fate seems determined to smack me at every turn. Not only does my witch DNA evidently make my hair resistant to dye, but soon I’m going to have to use the inhuman power I want so desperately to leave behind.
Who would have thought when I fled my family’s compound in Miami that my biggest obstacles would be disguising myself and getting enrolled in school? Fleeing a coven of deadly witches, buying a used car and purchasing an RV? No problem. Going brunette and getting your average high school education? Monumental tasks. I’d swear that I hear Fate laughing with evil glee each time I try to enroll in school without a parent, and during every failed attempt to alter my appearance.
In my opinion, Fate needs a good, solid bitch slap.
The now empty box of Miss Clairol Silken Black stares back at me from the edge of the tiny RV’s sink. What would the company think if I asked for a refund because their hair color disappeared from my hair in, oh, about thirty seconds? I knock the box into the trash with enough force to make the trash can dance.
The walls of the RV close in, suddenly too small to contain all the worries and frustrations clanging about inside my head like pots and pans in a clothes dryer. I grab my jacket on the way to the door then step out into the cool, dark night. I shiver. How long before my body acclimates to the temperatures here in the North Carolina mountains? Back in Miami, I’d still be wearing shorts, tanks and flip-flops in September. Here, fall is in full swing—at least to my Florida-thin blood.
Muted conversations and the sounds of televisions float out of the other RVs tucked along the creek running through the Rocky Creek Campground. New forest smells tickle my nose. Pine, damp earth, the dustiness of a few fallen leaves—nothing like the familiar scents of sunshine-baked pavement and salty ocean breezes that have been a part of the first sixteen years of my life.
Gravel crunches under my sneakers as I follow the winding drive through the campground. My mouth waters at the scent of grilling meat. It smells so delicious it’s all I can do to keep from introducing myself to the neighbors in hopes of being offered a burger. But I’ve got to be low-profile girl, and using a fake ID to procure a long-term campsite was pushing my luck more than enough.
My stomach doesn’t get the message, however, and rumbles. It certainly doesn’t help that I’m an abysmal cook. For just a moment, I actually miss Hiram, the coven’s chef. A chill races along my skin. I don’t want to miss anything even remotely related to my coven—not even the food.
I turn my back on temptation and keep walking. At the main road, I go right and head into the even thicker night. These mountains are darker than I’ve ever imagined night could be. Miami was never truly dark. Ironic how the darkness that is my family, my coven, can live in such a bright, vibrant city.
The road starts sloping upward, stretching my calf muscles as I climb. All these rolling mountains, cloaked with an endless sea of trees, will take some getting used to. The high country of North Carolina is as different from flat, coastal south Florida as Mars is from Venus. Still, something about this place calls to me, and the landscape lends itself to my disappearance. I hope that this time I’ll be able to stay. Twice I’ve tried to enroll in schools in other towns, but the officials always insist on a parent being present. Since my mother died when I was a child and my father will likely kill me on sight for desertion if given the chance, that leaves one really unattractive option.
I have to use my power of mind control to hijack some innocent tourist into playing my mother for a couple of hours. Tension and nausea well up inside me, replacing the hunger.
An opening in the trees reveals the twinkling lights of Baker Gap below, at the foot of the mountain bearing the same name. I stop and try to make peace with the inevitable. I’ll do it quickly, only stealing as much of the woman’s life as absolutely necessary. As soon as I’m enrolled in Baker Gap High School and my unaware accomplice is safely back where she’s supposed to be, I’ll give up magic forever, renounce my ancestry and all the horrible things witchkind has done in the past three hundred years.
I, Jaxina Pherson, a.k.a. Jax Taylor, am going to grab a normal life with normal friends at a normal school with both hands. And I’m not letting go.
No matter how far I walk, I can’t escape a feeling of restlessness. It’s almost like I can sense a disturbance in the air around me. It tastes and feels like impending... something. Doom? Trouble? Merely a complication? I’m so wrapped up in the potentially supernatural that I neglect to notice the perfectly normal sound of a vehicle’s engine until it rounds the curve behind me. Despite the winding mountain road, the driver is speeding. As I turn my head, everything seems to happen at once.
The driver swerves into the opposite lane, tires squealing. Before I can think to do otherwise, I engage my inhumanly fast speed and leap into the forest lining the highway.
Engaging magic is so not a good idea if I don’t want to get caught and sacrificed. But it’s too late. I’ve done it, and the guy is already out of his truck. I can’t go back now.
He looks toward the spot where I’d been walking. Bewilderment wafts off him like steam. Some emotion seems to stir the air again. I swear it feels as if all the hairs are standing up on the guy’s neck, like he’s aware that something isn’t right. Little does he know.
He reaches inside the truck’s cab and pulls out a pistol. Great, just what I need—redneck Rambo.
The guy makes his way down the side of the road. He stops and scans the night. It’s like he knows I’m out here, watching him. My frantic heartbeat increases. He searches the ditch and the embankment. I really hope he’s not going to come crashing into the woods.
When he appears about to turn and retrace his steps to the truck, I let out a sigh of relief. But it’s premature. Instead of leaving, he opens the passenger door and retrieves something from inside. When he turns back toward the woods, he’s still holding a gun in one hand. But when he opens his other hand, it’s the small, dark object lying in his palm, the one with the slight red glow, that really concerns me.
I hold my breath, not moving a muscle, and hope that’s not what I think it is. But deep down, I know it’s a bloodstone.
Why does he have a stone that detects the energy emitted by all manner of supernatural beings—including me? Is he working for my family to find me? They can’t find me, not this soon. I’ve worked too long and planned too carefully for this to happen. They should be following meticulously planted false leads to Anchorage, not scanning the North Carolina woods.
He turns his head as if to listen for any hint of unusual sound.
Another car rounds the curve below where he is standing, its headlights illuminating his face. He’s tall, lean, with unruly dark hair and a face that, even at this distance, makes my heart thump harder against my ribs. And he’s near my age.
Would a mortal make my witch blood surge through my veins so fast it’s almost impossible to stand still? But he can’t be a member of one of the other witch families looking to improve his position among the covens by capturing and returning me to my coven for punishment. I’d have felt him the moment he got within a mile of me. And I haven’t felt anything other than the unnamed disturbances and a burst of strange, dangerous attraction.
I watch as he examines the night around him. Could he be some other type of supernatural creature, something that for some reason I can’t detect? Wouldn’t that just be freakin’ awesome?
No, that doesn’t make sense either.
If he were supernatural, he wouldn’t be able to hold that bloodstone. Legend claims that the first bloodstone was formed by the blood of Christ dripping onto the ground below the cross. If a witch or other dark supernatural being attempts to hold a bloodstone, it will burn a hole like those made by the nails in Jesus’s hands. My heart rate skids to a halt. Supernatural beings don’t tote bloodstones around. Humans do. Humans who hunt my kind.
He’s not some goon my family hired. He’s a hunter, the real deal. And not one of those goofy supernatural hunters on TV who uses useless EMF meters. TV and movies tend to get the big ideas right—that the supernatural exists—but not the details. This guy, he’s exhibiting the right details.
I lean my forehead, warm from the burst of magic I used, against the cool bark of the tree hiding me from my hunter. Why, oh why, did I use my power to zip into these woods? Why couldn’t I have simply run in here like a normal person instead of using inhuman speed that leaves a trail?
Because what were the odds the person driving by was a hunter? Like a bazillion to one. Was that Fate cackling again? Forget the slap. That old crone deserves a well-placed fist to the nose.
The crunch of gravel makes me look up. The hunter scans the forest as he walks back to his dark-colored truck. With a final questioning glance in my direction, he slides the gun, no doubt loaded with spirit-killing rock salt, into the truck’s cab then climbs in. Only when he starts the engine and drives away do I let out the breath I’ve been holding for fear he’d hear the slight sound of air escaping my lungs.
The ground catches me as I slide down to sit at the base of the tree. In the darkness surrounding me, I spot the night animals scurrying across the forest floor. The occasional pair of raccoon or opossum eyes turns my direction before hurrying away. They sense my power, the darkness from which it was born, and don’t want to be anywhere near me.
I lean my head back against the tree’s rough bark, stare at the sky filled to bursting with stars, and let the tears trickle down my cheeks, down my neck to soak into the normal T-shirt of a not-so-normal girl.
Through the dissipating morning fog, I eye the RV at the far end of the Jasper Ridge Campground. Unlike the Rocky Creek Campground where I’ve parked my little metal box of a home, Jasper Ridge is more popular with short-term vacationers. The perfect spot to acquire a temporary "mom,” someone the locals won’t recognize.
Deciding to err on the side of caution, I’ve spent the past three days watching the comings and goings of the campers, determining which one will afford me the best opportunity to finally get enrolled in school. Going to a normal high school with normal classmates has always been a part of my grand plan to disappear into averagedom. My father would never think that was my heart’s desire, but he has no idea that the very ideas of crowded school hallways, sitting in the bleachers at football games, and the possibility of going to prom call to me more than the high-end boutiques of South Beach.
I wait for the usual morning routine to bring the man out the front door of the RV, leaving his wife behind for the day. A quick glance at my watch reveals the man is running a few minutes behind this morning. Great, today of all days. I bite my lip, hoping I don’t have to start over in my search for a likely candidate. The tourist is perfect to pose as my mother—she’s alone much of the day, has no connections to the locals and will be gone from the area soon. I just need the woman’s husband to go off for his daily fishing excursion as he has the previous three days. I love predictable people, hate it when they become unpredictable.
Come on. Surely you didn’t catch every fish to be had.
The RV door finally opens. I watch from my perch on a concrete picnic table as the man kisses his wife goodbye, tosses his fishing gear into the back of his little pickup truck, then heads down the road to some crystal-clear mountain stream. Hallelujah! I hope the fish are biting so he doesn’t come back too soon. Not willing to waste time, I head for the RV and knock on the door.
The door opens to reveal the familiar blond woman. "Yes?”
Okay, here goes.
I stare into the woman’s eyes, past them into her mind, concentrate as I navigate my way through the flitting thoughts and empty, unused areas, then finally plant the necessary information.
"Okay, I’ll just get my purse,” the woman says, oblivious to what I’ve just done to her.
No more than two minutes after the woman’s husband headed for his daily limit of trout, she slides into her car behind my cranberry Volkswagen Beetle, vintage 1969. She follows me down the mountain like a lemming, unaware of how she’s being used. I try not to think about my abuse of power as we roll into Baker Gap. A couple of turns bring us into the high school parking lot. I stare at the school, at the other students filtering inside from busses and cars.
This is it, Day One of my normal life.
My stomach performs an uncomfortable roll, spreading uncertainty in its wake. Do I have any chance of fitting in? A month after the beginning of school, cliques will already be in place, resistant to newcomers—even if a newcomer was your average Suzy Student. And that I’m not.
Deep breath, Jax, deep breath.
As I get out of my car, my temporary mom moves up next to me and walks beside me toward the entryway to the school. A few feet from the door, I once again use my power to navigate my way through the woman’s brain then give her a little zap of energy to activate the implanted memories and storyline. Her new persona kicks in as we step into the school office.
"Hello, can I help you?” a woman with short, deliberately messy red hair asks.
"Yes, I’m Emily Taylor. I need to enroll my daughter, Jax.”
"Great.” The woman extends her hand. "I’m Mrs. St. John, the guidance counselor. If you all would like to take a seat, I’ll get the necessary paperwork.” She points toward a table in the corner. My fake mom and I slide into adjacent, hard plastic chairs.
Fighting the urge to fidget, I instead scan the outer office. One off-white, concrete-block wall is filled with plaques and a drawing of the school. The one behind the receptionist’s desk holds the school’s bell system and a fire extinguisher. The hallways are quiet except for the squeaking of an occasional pair of shoes as someone passes outside.
"So, where are you all moving here from?” Mrs. St. John asks as she takes a seat in one of the empty chairs.
"Birmingham, Alabama,” my mom answers.
"What brings you to our neck of the woods?”
"It’s so beautiful here, very peaceful.”
The compliment succeeds in diverting the counselor’s attention away from what would logically be her next question, what my faux mom does for a living.
A pang threatens when an image of my real mother hits me unexpectedly. Paulina Pherson, sitting in her studio, putting the finishing touches on one of the ethereal fairy paintings that made her famous for something other than being a powerful witch. Her face glows with pride and a serenity I’ve not seen anywhere else before or since. My heart squeezes, making me want to massage the pain away. But that’s impossible. After all this time, I still miss her, the person most like me, with a ferocity that makes it feel like her death only happened yesterday.
I shift in my seat, reaffirming contact with the present, not a past that can’t be changed with any amount of powers. Mrs. St. John doesn’t need to see the sadness on my face and wonder about its cause.
"Jax, that’s an unusual name,” Mrs. St. John comments.
"I’m named after my father.” I use a little more of my power and force a fleeting pained expression to pass across the face of the stranger beside me, counting down the minutes until this disgusting subterfuge is over. "His name was Jack.”
"He died when Jax was just a baby.”
As I’d expected and planned, the topic of a dead father quiets Mrs. St. John and causes her to focus on finishing the necessary paperwork quickly.
"I’ll need to get a copy of Jax’s school records.”
The nameless woman hands over the folder filled with forged documents I gave her on the way into the school. These, unlike the fake ID I used to secure my camping space, show my real age of sixteen. "I’ve home schooled Jax up until this point, but I thought a normal high school experience would be good for her during the last few years before college.”
Not fidgeting proves difficult as Mrs. St. John looks over the records showing I’m an excellent student. At least my GPA and the fact I’ve been taught at home aren’t lies.
"Impressive. You’re going to be a wonderful addition to our sophomore class, Jax.”
"Thanks.” I try for sincerity mixed with teenage boredom.
"Though I see you’ve not taken any physical education classes. We’ll have to get you in one of those.”
I groaned before thinking.
Mrs. St. John smiled at me. "I know girls your age often don’t like P.E., but it’s a requirement for graduation.”
I dreaded the days of humiliation ahead but tried to convince myself that it was just another part of this normal existence I wanted so much. Plus, there was no one here to disappoint with my unexplained total lack of a sports gene something no other witch suffered. It was just something else that made me stand apart from my family, one more thing that made it dangerous to live in their midst.
I force my mom-for-a-day to glance at her watch. "Is there anything else I need to do? I hate to hurry, but I have a meeting in Asheville later this morning and I need to get on the road.”
"No, I think Jax and I can take it from here. I believe all we need to do now is make out her class schedule.”
"I’ll be back in a minute,” I say as I stand. "I’m going to walk Mom out.”
I accompany the woman to her car, picking my way through her brain as we walk, telling her to return to her campsite and remember nothing. Only once she’s inside her RV will she pop out of the mind control and wonder where in the universe her morning has gone. With any luck, Mr. Fisherman won’t return to the campground before his wife.
For good measure, I compel the unwitting stranger to lean over and kiss me on the cheek.
"Have a good day, dear. I’ll be home around five or six.”
I watch as the woman gets into her car and drives from the parking lot. Only when she rounds the corner of the building do I return to the school. A strange giddiness still laced with anxiety zips through me. I’m almost an official student. Just a few more minutes and I can relax.
I bring my hand to my warm forehead. After today, no more magic. The risks are just too great.
When I step back inside, I pause and stare down the hallway. Lockers line the far wall. A giant, hand-painted banner announcing the homecoming football game covers the area above the lockers. A large display cabinet facing the office is filled with trophies, pom-poms and framed photos of various sports teams. I smile. Normal, it’s all so blessedly normal.
On my way back into the office, I spot a tall guy standing at the front desk, his back to me. He has to be at least six-three, maybe more. Despite my grades, I’m no good at judging heights or weights.
He offers a "thanks” to the school secretary then turns toward the door. The rotation of the earth screeches to a halt. Did everyone else on the planet suddenly fall over at the abrupt lack of revolution?
The eyes of the hunter stare back at me—the hunted.
I can do nothing but stare while my sluggish brain tries to grasp what I’m seeing. Standing mere feet from me is the guy who stalked me on the side of the road a few nights before. Someone whose mission it is to kill my kind, to kill me. The skin all over my body chills, my heart accelerates, and my body tenses for flight. Should I flee? Using enough magic to fight him off will surely draw my family. I’d rather take the chicken route and run.
I search his expression for any hint of threat. Instead, I notice his medium brown hair, a touch too long and unruly in a wispy way. Dark brown eyes. A lean build, like a runner or swimmer, chiseled features. His dark blue T-shirt hugs his torso, accentuating the corded muscles in his arms. My skin heats as if I’m using my full power.
I also sense a maturity at a level beyond his years. That makes sense if he’s been brought up in a family of hunters. Just like with witches, their training starts early.
His eyes widen slightly, but at least for the moment, he doesn’t seem to realize who—or what—I am.
I jerk at the nearness of Mrs. St. John’s voice. After slapping my fried brain into action, I look at the guidance counselor. The woman is struggling to hide her smile.
A quick glance at the guy reveals only his back as he hurries out the office door. Something deep inside me wants to follow him, not to do him injury but just to be near him. A jolt of fear sears my veins. What is wrong with me? When did I develop a sudden and inexplicable death wish?
Do hunters have some sort of ability of their own, something enticing that lures their prey close enough to kill?
Even if he doesn’t connect me to the roadside incident, I realize trotting after him would be a touch on the strange side. And the name of the game is to be normal, not stand out, blend. Acting like a love-struck puppy doesn’t exactly scream blend.
"Have you thought about what electives you’d like to take?”
"I like art.” And would you happen to have classes in living without magic and how to relate to boys who aren’t witches?
Despite my first-day lookof a Plain Jane braid, no makeup, and a flannel shirt worn over a bulky tee, the attention comes. I feel all the eyes following me throughout the morning, some curious, many admiring.
Part of me actually likes the appreciation by the male population of the school—especially the awkward smile the gorgeous hunter boy offered me when I got up the nerve to look back to where he and a short blond girl were passing notes in our first-period history class. What girl wouldn’t? But if any of those guys could see what I really am, how long would they like me? My long, blond hair, light blue eyes, clear complexion—everything was bought and paid for by an ancient evil, and if I could shed them I would. Even if no guy ever looked my direction again.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t entirely true. I don’t want to be ugly, but being the center of attention has always made me uncomfortable. I wouldn’t mind staying attractive, but normal pretty, not supernatural pretty.
After the first couple of hours of the constant barrage of compliments and offers to do my bidding, I’ve had enough. I’m perfectly capable of carrying my own books, opening my own doors, and finding my own way from History to Algebra to English, thank you very much.
I’d like to believe the guys are only being nice, but I’ve been down this road before. Every time I ventured from the coven’s compound into surrounding Miami, guys of all ages stared and showered me with praise, trying desperately to get my phone number. Every time, I went home wishing I could look in the mirror and see who I am without the magic. I’m more than my packaging, but I’ve never been able to prove that to anyone.
As the bell rings to end English class, I cave, drawing on just a touch of my power of speed to make it out of the room before anyone else. I dodge the guys who’ve been in other classes and the angry stares of my female classmates and duck into the restroom. Who knew being normal was so exhausting?
When the door opens behind me, I spin, paranoid that one of the guys has had the nerve to follow me here. But it isn’t the owner of a Y chromosome.
The blond girl with pink streaks in her hair who sat next to the hunter in History class strolls in. I’ve seen them together in the hall a couple of other times and wonder if they are a couple.
Doesn’t matter. It’s not like I’m going to date him, no matter how much I might like to—if he wasn’t a hunter. Part of my suddenly pea-sized brain isn’t getting the message though. What was I thinking when I looked back at him in History class, then actually returned his smile?
The other girl moves toward me, but I don’t back away. It won’t be the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of a threat from another girl, even though I’ve never made the first move on a guy.
The girl gives me a once-over and smiles as she heads for one of the sinks. "Well, I don’t see any claw marks yet. That’s a good sign.”
The girl proceeds to wash her hands but nods toward the hallway. "I keep expecting a cat fight. Nice job. I haven’t seen this much solidarity among the females of Baker Gap High since low-rise jeans were banned.”
"And you’re here to deliver a message from the population at large?”
The girl laughs as she dries her hands. "Me, heck no. I love anything that stirs up the status quo. Call it my personal motto.” She extends her hand. "I’m Toni.”
"Jax,” I say as I shake Toni’s hand.
"Figured that out.” Toni crosses her arms and leans against the sink. "I’m expecting a special issue of the school paper announcing your arrival.” She doesn’t sound bitter, rather like she thinks the entire idea is as absurd as I do.
"Not much in the way of news around here, huh?”
"You could say that.” Toni leans close, lowering her voice conspiratorially. "You’re even bigger than the mayor’s annual ceremony to crown the grower of the biggest pumpkin in the county.”
I snort, instantly liking this girl with the pink streaks. When Toni leans back and I spot the words on her T-shirt, I like her even more. The black T-shirt sports the words "Joss Whedon is my master now.”
"I like your shirt.”
Toni looks down. "Thanks. It’s part of my very own Whedon Worship collection. Stick around, you’ll see them all.”
"How many do you have?” After all, most people our age hadn’t been viewers of Buffy or Firefly. We’d been too busy teething and learning to read when the shows first aired.
"I’ve lost count.”
Meeting another Whedon fan seems like a good sign. Maybe my luck is finally turning in a better direction.
The door opens again and a pack of populars comes in dressed in the latest brand-name styles they can’t even buy in this town. Gossip Girl wannabes. Okay, so maybe not so much with the luck changing.
They notice me and their eyes narrow in unison, as if they are all sharing one brain. Okay, that is truly creepy. And I know creepy when I see it.
"Oh, goody. It’s Liv, Stacy and Brianna,” Toni says. "Or, as I like to call them, the Three Brainless Wonders.”
I nearly choke trying not to laugh.
"I see you finally found yourself a little friend,” the one with shoulder-length cocoa hair says in a snide tone as she reapplies lipstick.
"Yes, and one who is about to knock you off the pretty throne. My life is complete.” Toni looks at me. "This is Stacy, who thinks she is queen of all she surveys.”
"You’re such a loser,” Stacy says. She spares me a down-her-nose glance. "Be careful, new girl. Loserdom is like a disease. You can catch it if you get too close.”
"Really? I heard the same thing about bitchiness.” Wow. That zinger arrived on the train from nowhere.
Toni hoots and gives me a high-five.
Another of the pack, this time a girl with the type of long black hair with which I tried and failed to cloak myself, points a finger at me. "You have so just made a mistake. Don’t even think you’re coming into our school and getting what you want.”
Toni leans forward. "Don’t worry, Liv. Nobody else wants Thad.”
The expression on Liv’s face turns murderous as Toni laughs and guides me toward the door.
"Yeah, that’ll make me some friends,” I say, though I’m on the verge of laughing, too.
"Trust me, you don’t want that bunch as friends. They’d turn on you in a second if they thought you wore the wrong color for the season.”
"Why do I feel like I’ve wandered into every teen movie I’ve ever seen?”
"What, you didn’t see the cameras and director when you walked in?”
I laugh. "Thanks.”
"Oh, honey, if you think I’m normal, you must have just dropped into Baker Gap from the planet Neptune.”
Does the witch aristocracy of Miami count? Probably more alien than Neptune.
I fall into step beside Toni, thankful I’ve found an ally who doesn’t judge based on appearance. Seems she’s the only one. But then she has pink streaks in her hair.
The glares of the other girls burn into me like hot iron, and the adoration of the males nearly suffocates me. If they only knew what I could do to them, they’d all back away in fear. I rein in my emotions. Normal equals no magic, and no magic means I can’t pin any of the people staring at me to the ceiling.
Our route through the corridors leads to the cafeteria.
"Oh, goody, you’re starting school on Alpo and fruit cocktail day,” Toni says. "Will your good luck never cease?”
Another laugh escapes me, and I let the stares and murmurs of our other classmates fade away. I have the makings of my first friend, and that’s enough for now. I accept my foul-smelling lunch and follow Toni to a table by the bank of windows that look out toward a wooded area behind the school.
When I sit down, I stare at my food. Actually, calling it food is too complimentary.
"Really, no one has died from eating this stuff,” Toni says. "There was that one incident of mass nausea, but...”
I raise an eyebrow and pick up the safest looking thing on the plate, a cornbread stick. "School lunch, the perfect diet plan,” I mutter before taking a bite.
The energy of the stares coming my direction changes. One stare. I somehow know he’s entered the room.
"Hey, Keller,” Toni says as she waves at someone behind me. Then she gives a more demanding look and motions for the person to sit with us.
Even before Keller reaches us, I can tell from the movement of energy around me that it’s him, the hunter. I tense, ready to defend myself. I try to relax, to remember he’s given no sign that he knows who or what I am. But my heart rate kicks up as I hear his footsteps approach.
"Prepare to be dazzled by my uber cool cousin,” Toni says as Keller reaches our table.
"Toni,” he says with a warning tone in his voice.
His voice, I love the rich sound of it. I could listen to him read a biology textbook all day. I’ve never reacted this way to a guy before, and I’m finding it frighteningly intoxicating.
And shameful. Am I any different than the people who’ve been staring at me all morning, seeking out glances at Keller based on his looks alone? His being a hunter sure isn’t a big attraction.
"Jax, Mr. Suave here is my cousin, Keller Dawes.”
The amount of self-control it takes to keep from smiling ear to ear at the knowledge that Keller is Toni’s cousin, not her boyfriend, proves truly amazing and not a little scary.
I swallow and make myself look up at him. "Nice to meet you.”
He nods without much expression. "You, too.”
"Dude, sit down,” Toni says. "I’m getting a crick in my neck looking up at your giant self.”
"I’m not a giant,” Keller hisses under his breath as he sinks into a chair between Toni and me.
"Cuz, I’m five-foot-three. Everyone is a giant to me.”
Fork in hand, I fiddle with my mystery meat concoction, just about giving myself a brain hemorrhage with the effort to not stare at Keller, to not reach over and touch him. I have to find a way to dampen my attraction or risk making a complete fool out of myself, not to mention the risk of exposing my true identity.
I’ve dreamed of dating normal boys in this new life of mine, but I can’t fall hard for one. Witches and mortals do not mix, not if the witch wants to keep her power. And as much as I wish I could truly be normal, I can’t let falling in love with a mortal drain my power. I can’t be left defenseless if my coven finds me and decides not only to punish the wayward daughter but wreak havoc on those around me as well.
"Huh?” I look up to find I’ve totally missed something Toni has said to me.
Toni grins, giving me the uncomfortable feeling that my new friend can read my thoughts.
"I asked what classes you have for the rest of the day.”
Without looking at Keller, I reach for the leather satchel at my feet and pull out my schedule. I slide it across the table toward Toni.
"Oh, look, you’ve got P.E. with Keller fifth period.”
I can’t help a glance at Keller, but find he has his head down concentrating on homework. But I sense the tenseness in his body. He’s heard, just didn’t acknowledge.
Toni punches him in the upper arm. "Hey, Mr. Rude, I was talking to you.”
"Hey.” Keller rubs his arm. "I’m trying to work here.”
"Your mom gave us a ten-page essay due by tomorrow.”
"So do it tonight.”
"I’m busy tonight,” he says, his jaw tight and some sort of extra force lacing his words.
Whatever he conveys, Toni lets the topic drop and goes back to eating select pieces of her fruit cocktail.
In a normal situation, I would assume he has a hot date tonight and be very jealous. But I know how he likely spends his evenings. Hunting.
A chill sweeps down my body like an avalanche. Time for a new, non-supernatural topic.
I eye Keller’s lengthening essay, then meet Toni’s gaze. "So, Mrs. Dawes is your mom?”
"Yes, it’s a dream come true, having my mom with me virtually every waking moment.” Toni rolls her eyes.
Toni grunts in response. There’s some sort of antagonism there, but I don’t know Toni well enough yet to ask what.
"Hey, Keller. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
Stacy’s voice crawls all over my skin like bugs. Miss Snooty Pants stands close to Keller’s side, Liv and the still-silent Brianna hovering close behind.
"I’m busy right now, Stacy.”
"Please.” She tries to close Keller’s textbook, but he places his forearm between the pages to stop her. "You can do this later.”
Keller looks up at Stacy, exasperation written in bold strokes across his face, a fact Stacy is either too stupid to notice or deliberately ignoring. "What?”
Stacy eyes Toni and me with barely concealed disdain. "Not here.” She nods toward an empty table in the corner.
"Oh, please, let me speed this up before I gag,” Toni says. "Stacy, he’s not interested in going to homecoming with you, okay? Now run along and annoy someone else.” She gives Stacy a shooing motion with her hand.
The queen bee huffs and looks like she might say something harsh, but thinks better of it, probably in hopes of getting what she wants. "Keller.”
Stacy’s pouty little whine makes me want to shove her into the ionosphere. I instantly hate her. The blackness wells up from deep within me, scaring me half to death. I wrap my hands firmly around the edges of my lunch tray to keep from doing the same to Stacy’s neck. I have to get out of here, and now.
Without a word to anyone, I stand and bolt for the door, tossing my tray into the trashcan as I pass. I use the last of my self-control to not exit the room at blinding speed.
The hallways stretch out in different directions, and I pick the one that looks the longest. I hurry down its length and find my way into an empty classroom.
Sweat pours down my temples, and my entire body shakes as if someone has touched me with an electric current. Slowly, very slowly, I calm that inner part of myself, the dark instinct that comes of being born into the Pherson Witch Coven. I force my breathing to normalize, the tension to ease from my bunched muscles, the dark thoughts to fade away, dissolving until they are no longer capable of hurting anyone.
I slide down the wall and lower my head into my shaky hands. I knew leaving behind all I’ve ever been would have its hard days, but did it have to be today? Must my struggle happen in front of the one guy who’s ever made my entire being hum with awareness and want? And, oh yeah, he’s a frickin’ hunter!
I must learn to control my emotions and powers better, something I’ve rarely been forced to do. And unless I want to leave my new home, I have to rid myself of this dangerous attraction to the absolute worst guy in the world for me.
Why do I have the feeling harnessing black magic will be the easier of the two?