Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Secret Life of a Witch, Page 4

Jessica Sorensen

  He pats my arm. “I’ll be fine. I promise.”

  “Are you sure? Because I …” I trail off as he begins to chant the spell.

  All I can do is hold my breath and hope that nothing goes wrong.

  Chapter Three

  After Hunter chants the words to the shield spell three times, he retrieves his wand and taps it against the top of his wrist. Moments later, his hands illuminate with a silvery, glittery glow.

  “You look like the Tin Man.” My skin has dampened with sweat from my nerves. I wipe my sweaty palms off on the sides of my plaid pajama bottoms.

  “Gee, thanks. What every guy wants to hear.” He flashes me a smile from over his shoulder as he tucks his wand into the back pocket of his jeans. Then he begins running his hands up and down his lean arms to spread the spell across his body. “And if that’s the case, then that would make you Dorothy.”

  “I could live with that. Dorothy is pretty awesome.”

  Pressing his lips together to stifle a laugh, he reaches out and gently tugs on a strand of my hair. “Actually, I take back the Dorothy comment. With this tangled mess, you’re definitely the Lion.”

  I softly shove him. “Hey, that’s not very nice.”

  He chuckles, his blue eyes casting a silvery glow from the spell. “Calling me the Tin Man wasn’t very nice, either.”

  “Yeah, but the Lion is cowardly.” I jut out my bottom lip. “You think I’m a coward.”

  He aims a finger at me while rubbing his other hand over his neck, causing the silver to spread to his face. “Don’t try to play innocent here. Not when you just told me I look like a character who doesn’t have a heart.”

  “I never said you were the Tin Man. Just that you look like him.” I cross my arms. “But you know what? After the whole cowardly lion remark, now I’m wondering if you don’t have a heart.”

  “I never said you were a coward—you’re definitely not. But your hair kind of looks like a jungle,” he teases with a smirk before capturing my hand and flattening my palm against his chest. “And I definitely have a heart.” His pulse beats steadily against my hand as his grin broadens. “See? Beating and everything.”

  I smile back, but the movement is aching. Why does he let me touch him like that? It’s torturous.

  “Yep, that’s definitely a beating heart.” I casually withdraw my hand and lower my arm to my side, feeling more flustered than I should.

  My fingers tremble as I open and flex them while letting a slow breath slip from my lips. Why does he have to affect me like this? Even in the midst of a crisis, my emotions are completely sync to him.

  Hunter’s gaze drops to my balled fist. “Are you okay?”

  “Yep, siree,” I lie breezily. “I’m just a little anxious about collecting the sample and getting to the expert. I’m hoping, if all goes well, I can track down Ry by tonight.”

  Pity fills Hunter’s glowing silver eyes, but instead of crushing my hope, he turns toward the steel table with the scraper in his hand. “All right, let’s get this done, then.”

  I hold my breath as he inches the scraper toward the glittery smudge, scrapes as much off the surfaces as he can, and transfers it into the container. By the time he’s finished, not a drop of glitter is left on the steel. However, a clear, slightly yellow residue remains.

  “It’ll take some time for that to wear off,” he says, pointing at the yellow residue. “Until then, you’ll want to stay away from this table. Got it?”

  I salute him. “Yes, boss.”

  He rolls his eyes as he screws the lid onto the container. “I’m serious, Eva. You can’t touch that, okay?”

  I nod, trying to put on my best serious face. “I know you’re being serious. And I know this is a serious situation, but you know how I get sometimes when I’m nervous.”

  “Yeah, I know.” He sets the container down, keeping ahold of the scraper as he walks to the trash bin that’s beside the large brewing pot. “And while I love sarcastic jokester Eva, I worry she doesn’t always fully see the consequences of making bad choices.”

  “I promise I do,” I attempt to assure him. “Joking is just how I deal with nerve-racking shit.” That and getting flustered over touching you.

  “I know. I just want to make sure that all jokes aside, you’re careful. I couldn’t handle it if you got hurt.” He tosses the scraper into the trash then tears a few paper towels off a roll sitting on a shelf. “No one’s going to come down here, right? I’d hate for Opal”—his lip twitches in annoyance—“or even Peyton, to come down here and get into this stuff before it’s finished dissolving.”

  “I put some charms up, but maybe you should double-check them, considering I suck.”

  “You don’t suck,” he assures, but then tacts on, “I’ll check on the charms, though, just to be sure.”

  “Thanks,” I say, wishing I didn’t need to ask him to double-check.

  No, what I wish for is that I was a kick-ass witch with badass charm-setting skills. But hey, at least I can talk to the dead, so yeah, there’s that. Right now, though, that little gift is utterly useless. That is, unless I end up interrogating bodies to find my sister.

  The thought makes me laugh out loud, which causes Hunter to give me a curious look. I nervously smile back. Yes, Hunter, your friend is mental and laughs at completely inappropriate times.

  “What? You chose to be my friend,” I remind him with a nonchalant shrug.

  He crooks a brow as he draws out his wand. “Did I now?” When I scowl at him, he chuckles. “I’m just kidding.” He faces the stairway, putting his back toward me, and runs his hand along the bottom step to check the potency of my charms. “And I’m glad I made that choice. My life would be way less interesting if I hadn’t.”

  My shoulders slump, and my head bobbles back as I suffocate a frustrated groan. I make his life more interesting? That’s it? Man, talk about the makings of a not-so-love story. I guess that doesn’t matter. I’ve known since the beginning of high school, when I first developed a crush on Hunter, that he’d probably never reciprocate my feelings. That’s why he can never, ever know that I go all lovey-dovey, cracked-out hummingbird wings heartbeats every time I’m around him. Otherwise, I might lose our friendship.

  Collecting myself, I start for the stairs, but instantly backtrack when I catch sight of a shimmering piece of paper lying on the cement floor beneath the steel table.

  Crouching down, I examine it without touching it to make sure it isn’t anything harmful. From what I can tell, it appears to be a square, bedazzled business card. To be extra careful, I stretch my arm out and let my palm hover above the paper to check for a magical current. Only when I’m absolutely positive that the air around the card is magically charged free do I pluck up the card.

  Straightening my legs, I stand back up and read over the swirly cursive on the front. “The Illuminating Horror House of Truth. Come and see what you truly want, if you dare.”

  “Huh?” Hunter asks as he twirls his magic wand in the air, preparing to reset my charms.

  I hold up the card. “I found this under the table. It’s a card for The Illuminating Horror House of Truth. Have you ever heard of it?”

  He wavers, lowering his magic wand. “I have.”

  “Why do you seem so hesitant that you do?”

  “Because it’s not a place most people like to admit they’ve been to.”

  “Why? What is it?”

  He plops down on the bottom step and tensely massages the back of his neck. “It’s a place where you can go to see the truth.”

  “The truth about what?” I motion for him to embellish. “Come on, Hunter; you have to give me more deets than that. I’m thinking the person who stole Ry may have dropped the card.”

  “That might not be right.”

  “Then who else could’ve dropped it?”

  Another maddening pause before he reluctantly says, “Ryleigh.”

  “No. There’s no way this could’ve been hidden in her pocket
since she died. She wasn’t even buried in the same clothes as when the police”—I swallow the lump wedged in my throat—“found her body.”

  Hunter’s hand falls from his neck to his lap. “I don’t think it was in her pocket.”

  “Then where else would she keep …?” My lips form an O as realization smacks me in the forehead. “You think my sister had a secrets box hidden on her?” I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of my sister carrying around an invisible box that she crammed all her dirty secrets into. And the Ryleigh I knew didn’t seem like the sort of person to have a lot of dirty secrets.

  “She could have. I mean, I doubt your parents checked her for one after she … passed away. People rarely do.”

  “Yeah, because no one wants to find out all the dirty secrets their deceased loved one was hiding while they were alive.” Sighing, I cross the room and take a seat beside him on the bottom step. “Maybe my sister did have a secrets box, but that doesn’t explain why you’d automatically assume the card is hers.”

  Hunter scratches the corner of his eye, a nervous tick. “Because I know for a fact that she’s been to that place.”

  I don’t know why, but my stomach churns a bit. “How?”

  He stares down at his hands as he flexes his fingers. “Because I’ve been there with her.”

  “Oh.” I sink into some sort of strange, confused state of shock.

  Hunter and Ryleigh hung out together without me? Why didn’t I know?

  Wait a minute …

  My eyes widen. “Like, on a date?”

  “What? No,” he sputters. “We just went as friends, I swear to the witches in the sky. And it was only the one time.”

  I relax, but only a smidgeon. “Then, why didn’t you guys tell me? I mean, I wouldn’t have cared if you guys went out on a date.” Liar, liar, liar. “The idea that you didn’t tell me you went out on a—”

  “It wasn’t a date.” He pauses, his eyes searching mine. “Really? You wouldn’t have cared if I dated your sister?”

  I shrug, pretending to be all chillax despite my internal meltdown. “It might have been a little weird to see you two together, but I wouldn’t have been mad or anything.”

  He eyes me over, and I can see that he’s totally not buying my bullshit.

  “Well, whether you’d be mad or not, we weren’t on a date.” He pushes to his feet, stretching his arms above his head. “We went there as friends, and I know for a fact that Ry got a card. So did I. It said our names on the back and everything.”

  I flip the card over and … sure enough … “Ryleigh.” I glance up at Hunter. “You think she left this purposefully as a clue?”

  “I’m guessing she did.” He taps his magic wand against the railing and an array of dark blue sparks shower from the end. “Stuff doesn’t just accidentally fall out of a secrets box.”

  “True.” I look down at the card again, puzzlement tumbling through my mind.

  While my sister and I weren’t BFFs, I thought we were close enough that I’d know if she had a secrets box. At least close enough that I’d know if she was hanging out with the guy I am secretly in love with. Guess I was wrong, which makes me wonder what else she was hiding.

  “You never said what this place is.” I read the title on the front of the card again, “The Illuminating Horror House of Truth.”

  He frowns as he elevates his wand. “That’s because I’ve been purposefully dodging around telling you.”

  “Well, at least you’re honest.” I pat his arm. “But time to fess up.”

  The corners of his lips sink. “Maybe it’s better if you don’t know.”

  “Why? I’m going to find out when I go there. At least if you tell me now, I can prepare myself.”

  He twists to face me with a stern expression. “I still don’t think it’s such a good idea.”

  “Hunter, if it’s a clue Ry left behind, then I have to check out this place and find out why she wanted me to go there.”

  “Maybe the clue wasn’t left behind for you.”

  A foul taste burns in my mouth, but I swallow it down. “Then it was left behind for you since you’re the only other person who knew her body was down here.”

  “I doubt that.” He grimaces. “Look, even if she did leave the card, hoping you’d find it and track that place down, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go. This place …” He crinkles his nose. “It’s pretty hardcore and draws in a pretty rough crowd.”

  I fold my arms and raise my brows. “Well, it’s a good thing I’m pretty hardcore, then.”

  He sighs. “Ev, you’re my best friend, and I think you’re great, but you are far from hardcore.”

  I don’t know what pushes me over the edge. His, “I think you’re great” remark, or him reminding me that I’m not badass.

  “I may not have been badass in the past, but I think it might be time to change that.” I put on my best interrogation face. “Now, come on; tell me what this place is.”

  A surrendering sigh escapes him. “Fine, I’ll tell you. But please don’t judge me … or your sister.” He waits for me nod before continuing, “It’s a place where all your wishes are brought to life.”

  “That doesn’t sound so bad.”

  “It might not sound bad, but imagine seeing all your fears, worries, dreams, and desires brought to life in front of you for you to live out.”

  “Okay, I might see how some of that could be bad, especially the fear part.” I pick at my fingernails, feeling lost. “Why would you guys choose to do that?”

  “Because part of it is fun, like the dreams and desires …” Wariness briefly flickers across his face before he hastily clears his throat. “Anyway, the worries and fears part sucks ass. But it’s a package deal. If you want to see your dreams and desires, you have to face your fears and worries first.”

  I trace my finger along the edge of the card. “And you guys wanted to do that?”

  He shrugs, staring down at the ground. “I was curious about some stuff.”

  “And what about my sister? Was she curious also?”

  He shrugs again. “I’m not really sure what she was searching for, or if she was searching for anything. From what I understand, she regularly hung out at the place.” He tears his face off the floor and meets my gaze. “I was honestly kind of surprised she hung out there, considering the rough crowd it draws in.”

  “Just how rough, exactly?”

  “Werewolves, vampire … demons.”

  “Demons?” My eyes nearly bulge out of my head. “Why would my sister hang out at a place like that?”

  Sure, some werewolves and vampires are sketchy as fuck, but most aren’t bad. Like Peyton, who can be a tad annoying but is decent at heart. But demons … Never have I heard of a good demon.

  “Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out,” I answer my own question.

  Hunter shakes his head. “No, I already said you shouldn’t go—”

  I place my finger over his lips. “This is my sister, Hunter. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to find her. So, either you’re with me or you’re not, but I am going.”

  His chest puffs out as he heaves a sigh. “Fine. I’ll go with you. But only after we take the magic residue sample to the expert and talk to the newspaper. I want going to The Illuminating Horror House of Truth to be the last resort.”

  I nod, standing. “Deal.”

  I leave the conversation at that and head upstairs to change, a thousand unanswered questions haunting my mind. What was my sister doing at a place with demons? Better yet, what she was doing at a place that revealed what she kept hidden in her mind? What was she looking for? What was Hunter looking for?

  Most of all, how did I not know about this part of their lives?

  How much more do I not know?

  Chapter Four

  I hurry up the stairs to my bedroom and peel my pajamas off. Then I throw on a pair of cut-off shorts and a black tank top, before tying a plaid jacket around my wais
t since the fall weather in Mystic Willow Bay can be sort of iffy. To top off the look, I trace my eyes with kohl liner, comb my hair, and slip on a pair of clunky velvet boots.

  I don’t bother glancing in the mirror before I head out of my room, but I do grab the emergency wad of cash I keep stashed in my sock drawer. I have an unsettling feeling that today is going to turn into an emergency cash sort of day. I’ve had these unsettling feelings previously, and usually I’m not wrong.

  As I’m rushing down the cluttered hall toward the stairway, Opal bounces out of her room right in front of me. Thankfully, I manage to slam on the brakes before I topple into the diamond encrusted, paper thin wings spanning out of her back. Otherwise, I might have ended up taking a trip to faerie land (FYI, because fey wings carry the power of realm teleportation).

  “Hey!” she chirps, her eyes bright and shiny, her wings flapping behind her. “I was just about to go look for you.”

  “Really?” I question. “With your wings out?”

  A crease forms between her brows as she cranes her neck to look behind her. “Whoopsie. I thought I put those bad boys away.” With a snap of her fingers, her wings fold and shrink until they vanish completely. “There you go.” She dusts off her hands. “You’re officially safe from any accidental teleportation.”

  “Thanks. Although, it is a shame you can’t keep them out more. They’re so pretty.”

  “And it feels great to stretch them out, too” She twists her wavy brown hair into a messy bun and secures it with an elastic. “But you know the rules. Faeries can only keep their wings out while they’re around other fey or in the fey realm, which makes sense. I mean, can you imagine if we walked around all the time with them out?” She visibly shudders. “We’d have a real traffic problem going on in the path to the fey realm.”

  “Has any fey ever accidentally sent someone there?” My phone goes off in my pocket, and I realize I never did check the message from early. You know, back when Hunter wanted to get all intimate on me and tried to share his magic. Although, to him, he probably looked at his sharing time as a friend helping out a friend in need, because that’s the kind of person he is. A guy who would do anything to help the people he cared about.