Sophia's family has skeletons, but they aren't in their graves.
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"Whatever you do, fight."
Sophia's family has skeletons, but they aren't in their graves.
At twenty-two, practicing Wiccan Sophia Parsons is scratching out a living waiting tables in her Rocky Mountain hometown, a pariah after a string of unsolved murders with only one thing in common: her.
Sophia can imagine lots of ways to improve her life, but she'd settle for just getting rid of the buzzing noise in her head. When the spell she casts goes wrong, the static turns into voices. Her personal demons get company, and the newcomers are dangerous.
One of them is a man named Charles, who Sophia falls for despite her better judgment. He has connections that might help her unveil the mystery surrounding her ancestor's hanging, but she gets more than she bargains for when she finally decides to trust him.
Survival in his world, she learns, means not asking questions and staying out of the immortal council's way. It's a line she crossed long ago. If Sophia wants to survive the council and save the people she loves, she must accept who she is, perform dark magic, and fight to the death for her freedom.
MY MOM DIED DURING AN EXORCISM on my eighteenth birthday. On that same day, an ever-present static moved into my head like a squatter I couldn’t evict.
Ever since, I thought getting rid of the noise would be my best shot at survival—like all I needed was silence, even if only within myself, to feel at home again.
I was wrong.
I crossed the black-and-white tiled floor to the jukebox, hoping Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ would drown out the wasping in my mind.
“Sophia!” Mrs. Franklin’s high-pitched, singsong voice cut into my thoughts.
Bound by my waitressly duty, I gripped the sides of the jukebox and turned my head toward her. “Yes?”
She smoothed invisible wrinkles from her paisley, ankle-length dress. “Check, please. I’d prefer to leave before any secular music touches my ears.”
I walked to the register, printed her check, and headed over to the red vinyl booth where she sat. “Anything else, Mrs. Franklin?”
“I was hoping you’d reconsidered my offer on your house.”
Of course I hadn’t. Why would I sell my inheritance unless I would make enough to leave this rotten town?
“I’m not interes—”
She grabbed my arm, and I forced my glare from her whitening knuckles to her scowling face. I considered pulling free, but if we caused a scene, I would be the one to go down. The customer’s always right, after all.
She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Your mother would have wanted it that way,” she said sweetly.
I stared back, uncertain what to say. But I didn’t need to say anything. She gave me a long, condemning glare, then released my arm, gathered her purse, and hurried to the checkout counter.
I get it, I thought at the back of her head. You think it’s my fault Mom died during the exorcism.
Why not? Everyone else did. After all, it’d been my touch that killed her. At least they weren’t blaming me for my father’s murder, but that was likely only because I was six at the time.
On my way back to the kitchen, one of the two boys sitting at table four flagged me down to request a milkshake. I tried focusing on the order as I ran the blender, but I couldn’t tell where the sounds in my head ended and the sounds of the real world began.
“I heard she’s a witch,” the older boy whispered loudly.
His friend grinned. “She’s blonder than your sister, even . . . and probably twice as dumb.”
Right. Sophia Parsons, town idiot. Pale, blonde, and brown-eyed. As bland as oatmeal, yet somehow I was still the rumor mill’s hot sauce.
I wanted to dump the boy’s shake over his greasy little head, but instead, I recalled the Wiccan Rede that had so long guided me: An it harm none, do what ye will.
Too bad my Colorado State University education was proving fruitless. Apparently, no one wanted to hire a twenty-two-year-old fresh out of college to teach history.
The greasy-haired boy nodded toward the diner’s front door. “Let’s get out of here. She’s giving me the creeps.”
Though they left, the itchy feeling of their judgments did not. I blew a stray hair from my eyes and gazed past the booths, out the window to the Rocky Mountains on the horizon. Belle Meadow was thirty minutes from Denver but ages from the modern day. This town was a trap, a collection of crazies. Including myself. If Colorado was the heart of the southwest, Belle Meadow was a clogged artery.
The ding of the diner’s front door opening brought me back to reality: burnt grease and coffee on the air, along with my duty to serve whoever strolled in. It just so happened that ‘whoever’ was Sheriff Locumb. He entered the diner with a purposeful gait, scanning the room before heading my way.
“Hey, Sheriff.” I righted an upside-down coffee mug and began to pour. “Anything besides the usual?”
His mustache twitched. He brushed some crumbs from where his stomach bulged against his brown police uniform and lifted his gaze. “Miss Sophia Parsons?”
I stopped pouring mid-cup. Hello? I serve your coffee every day. “Yeah?”
Jack came up beside me, drying his hands on a towel. “Hey, Sheriff. What’s going on?”
Locumb cleared his throat. “I’m, uh, afraid I need to ask Miss Parsons to come with me.”
Jack and I stared at each other and then back at the sheriff.
“Is this a joke?” I asked.
I didn’t really think he was joking. Sheriff Locumb wasn’t the joking kind. Everyone in the diner watched. Even the jukebox went silent.
Jack leaned closer to the sheriff, lowering his voice. “What’s this about, Jerry?”
Locumb sniffed. “Can’t discuss it. We just need to ask Sophia some questions.”
My heartbeat picked up. Sheriff Locumb could be a nice guy . . . in a diner. But I didn’t want to be on the other end of his questioning. Not again. Not ever.
Trying to appear calm, I removed my apron and gently placed it on the counter.
“Okay,” I said. “Let me get my stuff.”
After promising Jack I’d make up my shift over the weekend, I headed to my Jeep and pulled up behind Sheriff Locumb’s cruiser.
I spent the drive to the sheriff’s office in a cold sweat. No handcuffs, no reading of my rights. At least this time I wasn’t under arrest. He was even allowing me to follow him to the station.
That whole thing with Mr. Petrenko—that was long over with, right? I’d only found his body.
I hadn’t killed the man. No matter what anyone thought.