Ten-year-old Beverley Kordell watched the world passing outside the car window. Her foster mom, Persephone Alcmedi, was out of town, so she was staying with close friends, Erik and Celia Randolph. Celia brought her to the bus stop every morning, but this morning they had come early. They needed to stop at Seph’s farmhouse and pick up some extra clothes for Beverley.

Usually, if Seph had to be away attending to her duties as court witch of the local vampire haven, Beverley stayed at the farmhouse and Seph’s grandmother, Demeter, took care of her. But Seph’s mom, Eris, had an accident and lost her arm. Demeter was with her in Pittsburgh helping Eris for now. Beverley hoped Demeter—Seph called her Nana—would be back soon. She missed her and the fantastic creatures that lived on the farm, especially a certain unicorn, Errol.

When they arrived at the farmhouse, Beverley slid out of the CX-7 and into the misty morning air, smiling up at the rural salt-box farmhouse before her. Ever since her mom, Lorrie, had died and her godmother disappeared, she had lived here with Persephone.

Though Seph wasn’t home, Beverley was glad to be back. She liked hanging out with Celia and Erik well enough; they played board games and watched movies with her. But they didn’t have anything around their home that would shimmer and flash when she squinted at it. At Seph’s, almost everything would cast rainbowlike arcs of light if she looked at it long enough. Maybe it was because they were w?rewolves and Seph was a witch.

She hadn’t noticed the glimmering and gleaming way things could look until she’d stopped wearing the silver necklace with the flint arrowhead and silver four-leaf-clover charms that Demeter had made for her. Seph had told her to always wear it, but the silver had started making her neck itch badly, so, while at Celia’s, she had taken it off and left it in her drawer in the guestroom.

“This should only take a few minutes,” Celia said as she walked toward the porch and looked through her keys to find the one for Seph’s front door. “We have to get you to the bus stop on time so you don’t miss school. It’s gonna be a short week. Only two days.”

Beverley followed her up onto the porch and squinted at the doorknob. The air around it wavered like it was the sun-kissed surface of a creek.

“Anything in particular you want to wear Thursday?”

“To what?” Beverley asked, blinking.

“Thanksgiving dinner.” Celia slid the key into the lock, turned. “Haven’t you been listening?”

Beverley smiled sheepishly.

“Daydreaming about unicorns again?”

For most little girls, dreaming would have been all there was to unicorns, but at Seph’s there were two new barns out back with real unicorns living in one. Errol, a yearling colt, had taken a fancy to her.

Beverley’s gaze dropped for an instant to the purple cast on her arm. She’d broken it at school last week, and when Seph had signed it she’d drawn a little unicorn, too. “Can I see Errol?”

“We don’t have time this morning, but after school you can, as always.”

When the door opened, she asked Celia, “Will you pick something for me to wear? My mom always picked for the holidays.”

Celia ran her hand over Beverley’s head. “Oh, honey. You’re growing up. Just had a birthday. Don’t you want to start choosing for yourself?”

Beverley did want to, but what she wanted more was to sneak into Seph’s room again before she had to go to school. Besides, all the grown-ups said Celia was “fashionable,” that she had “style.” She would pick something good.

“Maybe next year.” Beverley hurried up the steps and into the bathroom. After shutting the door, she stood behind it listening. When Celia had passed by, Beverley waited for a count of ten, then slowly opened it and peeked out. She made sure Celia was studying the clothes in her bedroom closet before tiptoeing into Seph’s room.

Opening the closet there, Beverley dug straight to the back where the item she wanted was stored. Her little hands grasped the cold sides of the rock-board and she pulled. It was heavy and the cast on her arm made the task more difficult. She lost her grip on the slate—the bottom edge dropped onto the top of her foot.

Stifling her yelp of pain, she regained her grasp and silently laid it flat on the floor before shutting the closet door. Crouching between the bed and the wall so she couldn’t be seen from the doorway, she studied all the strange symbols painted across the surface.

She’d heard Seph and Celia talking about this. Great El’s slate.

They’d said that a person could talk to ghosts with this . . . and that Seph had used it to find her mother.

But how does it work?

Beverley ran her hands over the surface. Her fingers traced the lines of a symbol here, there. They tingled like the fine lines of her fingerprint weren’t so fine after all.

She studied her index finger, then compared it to her other hand’s index finger. If one tingles . . . what does two do? She picked two symbols she liked that were side by side and put her fingertips to the slate. Carefully, slowly, she traced both. The tingling began immediately and resonated through her hands and into her wrists.

Suddenly, some force grabbed her hands. She gasped and tried to pull away, but it just squeezed tighter. It dragged her fingers along to one symbol, then on to another. She watched in horror as all her fingers were pulled across the board, each finger moving independently. The more symbols she traced, the more the tingling increased. It became like a fire inside her skin, swelling up through her thin arms, crackling through the broken bone.

It hurt. It hurt so bad. She drew a breath to scream—

—and then it felt good.

It wasn’t hot, merely warm. It wasn’t warmth like summer, though, not something a thermometer would show. This was warmth of another kind. The kind only a heart could feel. She felt so . . .


A shimmer flashed across the surface of the board.

She whispered, “Mommy?”


Liyliy, a vampire-harpy, had tried to kill me a few hours ago, and the struggle left me exhausted and sore. That was the reason I was still abed at nearly two in the afternoon. When my satellite phone blared the opening riffs of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon,” it startled me, instantly reminding me about all the sore muscles I had.

Mid-reach, I stopped. That was Johnny’s ringtone.

He had tried to kill me, too.

My hand shook as my finger jabbed the Answer button. “Hello?”

“Red . . . I’m so sorry.” Johnny’s voice was barely audible.

I sat up and deliberated whether to play deaf and repeat my “hello” as if I hadn’t heard him. I considered being a jerk and hanging up. I even contemplated ripping him a new one.

Instead, I remained silent.

Two days before, minutes after I’d performed the forced-change spell on him and his loyal pack mates, Johnny had attacked me. He’d always retained his man-mind while transformed, but that last time he didn’t—he’d been pure animal. The only reason I was still among the living was because I’d pumped ley line energy into him like a human Taser.


He’d frightened me to my core. The unshakeable faith I’d had in him had been shattered by an emotional earthquake. Damage was done. My fear felt like betrayal.

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