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Home > Spell Bound (Hex Hall #3)

Spell Bound (Hex Hall #3)
Author: Rachel Hawkins

CHAPTER 1

PART I

"I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!"

- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

CHAPTER 1

There are times when magic really sucks.

Sure, it's awesome when you're using it to change your hair color, or fly, or turn day into night. But for the most part, magic tends to end in explosions, or tears, or with you flat on your back in the middle of nowhere, feeling like a tiny dwarf is mining for diamonds inside your head.

Okay, so maybe that last bit was just me.

One of the drawbacks of traveling by Itineris-a kind of magical portal that can take you from one place to another-is how rough it was on your body. Every trip I'd ever taken through one had left me feeling like I'd been turned inside out; but this time was particularly bad. I was actually shaking. Of course, that might have been from all the adrenaline. I felt like my heart was trying to throw itself out of my chest.

I took a deep breath and tried to calm my racing pulse. Okay. The Itineris had dropped me off...well, somewhere. I hadn't quite worked out where yet, mostly because I still didn't feel capable of opening my eyes. Wherever it was, it was quiet and hot. I ran my hands over the ground under me. Grass. A few rocks. Some sticks.

I took a ragged breath and thought about lifting my head. But the very idea of trying to move made every nerve ending I had scoff, Yeah, don't think so.

Groaning, I clenched my teeth and decided now was as good a time as any to take stock.

Up until this morning, I'd been a demon and in possession of some pretty freaking-awesome magic. Thanks to a binding spell, that magic was gone. Well, not gone exactly; I could still feel it fluttering inside me like a butterfly under glass. But I couldn't access any of my powers, so it might as well have been gone.

Also gone? My best friend, Jenna. And my dad. And Archer, the guy I was in love with. And Cal, my fiance. (Yeah, my love life was complicated.)

For a second, the pain in my head was nothing compared to the pain in my chest as I thought about the four of them. Honestly, I wasn't sure who to worry about more. Jenna was a vampire, which meant she could take care of herself, but I'd found her bloodstone crushed on the floor at Thorne Abbey. The bloodstone's main job was to protect Jenna from all the side effects of vampiredom. If it had been taken from her in the daylight, the sun would kill her.

Then there was Dad. He'd been subjected to the Removal, which meant he was even more powerless than I was now. At least I still had my magic, useless as it was. Dad's powers were gone forever. The last time I'd seen him, he'd been lying in a cell, pale and unconscious, covered in dark purple tattoos from the Removal. Archer had been with him, and as far as I knew, they had both still been locked in that cell when Thorne Abbey was attacked.

still been trapped there when the Council used Daisy, another demon, to set Thorne Abbey on fire.

Call had gone into the burning mansion to save them, but not before telling me to take the Itineris to find my mom, who was, for some reason, with Aislinn Brannick, leader of a group of monster hunters. And since the Brannicks saw me as one of those monsters, I couldn't figure out why Mom would be with them.

That's how I'd ended up lying flat on my back, Archer's sword still clutched in my hand, my head aching. Maybe I could just lie here and wait for Mom to find me. That would be convenient.

I sighed as the wind rustled the leaves overhead. Yep, that was a solid plan. Lie here on the ground and wait for someone to come to me.

A bright light suddenly seared against my closed eyelids, and I winced, raising my hand to ward off whatever it was. When I opened my eyes, I honestly expected to see one of the Brannicks standing there, maybe with a torch or a flashlight.

What I wasn't expecting was a ghost.

The ghost of Elodie Parris, to be exact, standing at my feet, glaring down at me, arms crossed. She was glowing so brightly that I squinted as I sat up. Elodie had been murdered by my great-grandmother nearly a year ago (long story), and thanks to a little shared magic between us before she died, her ghost was now tied to me.

"Oh, wow," I croaked. "I was just lying here thinking this night could not get any worse, and then it totally did. Huh." Elodie rolled her eyes, and for just a second I thought her glow got a little brighter. She moved her mouth, but no sounds came out. One of the drawbacks of being a ghost-she couldn't talk. From her expression and the little bit of lip-reading I could do, I thought that was probably a good thing.

"Okay, okay," I said. "Now is not the time for snarking."

Using Archer's sword as a crutch, I managed to get to my feet. There was no moon out, but thanks to Elodie's luminescence, I could see...well, trees. Lots of them. And not much else.

"Any idea where we are?" I asked her.

She shrugged and mouthed, "Forest."

"You think?" Okay, so the whole "no more snark" thing wasn't off to a great start. I sighed and looked around. "It's still night, so we must be in the same time zone. That means we couldn't have gone too far. But it's hot. Like, way hotter than it was at Thorne." Elodie's mouth moved, and it took the two of us several tries before I could decipher what she was saying. Finally, I worked out that it was:

"Where were you trying to go?"

"The Brannicks'," I told her. At that, Elodie's eyes went wide, and her lips started flying again, undoubtedly telling me what a freaking idiot I was.

"I know," I said, holding up a hand to cut off her silent rant. "Scary Irish monster hunters, maybe not the best plan. But Call said my mom was with them. And no," I said, as her ghostly mouth opened up yet again, "I don't know why. What I do know is that apparently the Itineris sucks, because the only scary redhead I see around here is you." Sighing, I rubbed my free hand over my eyes. "So now we just-" A howl split the air.

I gulped, and my fingers tightened on the sword's hilt. "Now, we just hope that whatever that is, it doesn't come this way," I finished weakly.

Another howl, this one closer. In the distance, I could hear something crashing through the underbrush. For a second I thought about running, but my knees were so rubbery that just standing was a challenge. No way could I outrun a werewolf. Which meant staying and fighting.

Or, you know, staying and getting mauled.

"Awesome," I muttered, lifting the sword, the muscles in my shoulders groaning. I felt my powers stir in the pit of my stomach, and a sudden terror shot through me. I was normal, I reminded myself. Just a regular seventeen-year-old girl, about to face against a werewolf with nothing more than...Okay, well, I did have a big-ass sword and a ghost. That had to count for something.

I glanced over at Elodie. She was staring into the woods, looking vaguely bored.

"Um, hi," I said. "Werewolf headed this way. Are you even a little bit concerned about that?" She smirked at me and gestured toward her glowing body. I read her lips: "Already dead."

"Right. But if I get killed, too, you and I are so not becoming ghost BFFs." Elodie gave me a look that said there was no danger of that happening.

The sounds got louder, and I hoisted the sword higher.

Then, with a snarl, something large and furry leaped through the trees. I gave a little shriek, and even Elodie jumped back. Well, floated back.

For a moment, all three of us were frozen, me holding the sword like a baseball bat, Elodie hovering a few feet off the ground, the Were crouched in front of us. I had no idea if it was a boy or a girl werewolf, but I thought it was young. White froth dripped from its snout. Werewolves are kind of drooly.

It lowered its head, and I clutched the sword tighter, waiting for it to spring. But instead of leaping to rip my throat out, the werewolf made a low keening sound, almost like it was crying.

I looked in its eyes, which were disturbingly human. Yep, definitely tears. And fear. Lots of it. It was panting hard, and I got the feeling it had been running for a while.

Suddenly it occurred to me that maybe the Itineris didn't suck as much as I'd thought. Something had scared this werewolf, and there were only a few things I could think of that could do that. Scary Irish Prodigium hunters? Way up on that list.

"Elodie-" I started to say, but before I got anything else out, she winked out like a bitchy firefly.

The werewolf and I were plunged into darkness. I cursed, and the werewolf made a growl that sounded like the same word. For a few moments, just long enough to make me think that maybe I'd been wrong, the woods were quiet and still.

And then everything erupted at once.

CHAPTER 2

There was a shout from somewhere in front of me, and the werewolf bayed. I heard a brief scuffle, followed by a sharp yelp. Then the only sound was my own breath, bell owing in and out of my lungs.

I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, and instinctively stepped toward it, still holding the sword out in front of me.

Suddenly, a bright light, much brighter than Elodie had been, shone directly in my face. I closed my eyes, and stumbled. That's when something slammed into my outstretched hand, hard enough to make me cry out. My hand immediately went numb, and Archer's sword slipped from my fingers. Another hit, this one to the back of my legs, and suddenly I was on my back.

A weight settled on my chest as bony knees pressed both of my arms to the ground. I felt a sharp stinging under my chin, and I fought the urge to whimper.

Then a high-pitched voice asked, "What are you?"

I opened my eyes gingerly. The flashlight that had blinded me was lying a few feet from my head now, which gave me just enough light to see what appeared to be a twelve-year-old girl sitting on my chest.

I'd gotten my butt handed to me by a sixth grader? That was embarrassing.

Then the cold metal at my neck reminded me this particular sixth grader had a knife.

"I'm...I'm not anything," I said, trying to move my mouth as little as possible. My eyes were rapidly adjusting to the dim light, and I could see the girl's bright red hair. And as weird as it may seem, what with a blade at my throat and all, my first thought was, Oh, thank God.

She may have been littler than I'd expected, but in a lot of ways, this girl was everything I'd imagined the Brannicks to be. They were a large family of women-always women, although I guess guys factored in there somewhere, seeing as how the family had been around for over a thousand years. Descended from a megapowerful white witch named Maeve Brannick, they'd dedicated themselves to ridding the world of evil.

Unfortunately, I fit their definition of evil.

The girl scowled. "You are something," she hissed, leaning in closer. "I can feel it. Whatever you are, it's not human. So you can either tell me what kind of freak you are, or I can cut you open and find out myself."

I stared at her. "You are one hard-core little kid."

Her scowl deepened.

"I'm looking for the Brannicks," I said in a rush. "And I'm guessing you are one because...you know, red hair and the violence and everything."

"What's your name?" she demanded as the stinging at my neck became actual pain.

"Sophie Mercer," I said through clenched teeth.

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