Spells Trouble (Sisters of Salem #1) by P. C. Cast

The weathered boards of the dock creaked as she shuffled to the row of three chaise lounge chairs and the faux leather–bound journal she’d abandoned for the blue waters of Goode Lake. Hunter shook out her towel-dried hair and pulled it back into the high ponytail she always wore before tugging on her T-shirt and collapsing into her chair. She opened her journal and fastened her necklace around her neck. She smoothed her fingers over the pendant and stared down at the blank unlined pages, unnervingly white under the bright April sun. She slid her pen from its holder and clicked and unclicked the retractable top. In the three weeks she’d owned the faux leather–bound book, all she’d managed to write was one sentence underneath her name, which she’d erased, written again, erased again and finally written it, HUNTER GOODE, in black marker on the worn page. She hadn’t written her name incorrectly, it just wasn’t … right.

That’s what held Hunter back now, the not rightness of everything she wanted to say. She was supposed to author the next great American novel and, until she’d purchased the journal from the cute paper and craft store on Main Street, she’d thought she’d be at least halfway finished doing exactly that. She had already chosen a title and character names. Weren’t those the most difficult parts?

Hunter rubbed the opalescent jewel hanging from the thin rope cord around her neck. The dip in Goode Lake was supposed to clear her head, but it’d only managed to stir up feelings she so desperately tried to keep tamped down. The deep purplish-pink core of the pendant spun like a top. It always did when she was this perplexed, like her confusion was a blender, her body the power source, and her budding magic a milky purple-pink smoothie.

She pressed the swirling gem against her palm and gazed up at the sky. Puffy white clouds floated above the lake. There were too many for her to see the moon’s ghostly imprint against the pale blue. Without the moon, her moon, daytime often felt like Hunter’s nemesis. She never should have left her tarot cards at home.

Hunter sighed and let her necklace drop against her chest. It stopped churning as soon as it left her fingers. It was weird how it couldn’t sense her magic through a simple layer of cotton. Perhaps there wasn’t enough of it. She smoothed down a few frayed strands of rope. After tonight, she’d be practically overflowing with enough magic no T-shirt would be able to get in its way.

A sharp, chittering meow lifted the hairs on the back of Hunter’s neck. Seconds later, a brown, black, and white Maine coon pounced on the end of Hunter’s chaise. She curled up next to Hunter’s feet and yawned, the points of her sharp teeth glistening in the sunlight as she stretched her large paws and kneaded Hunter’s shin. Xena was always popping up around town to check on Hunter. It was as comforting as it was stalkerish.

“Thanks for getting me back on track, Xena.” Hunter set the point of her pen against the white page. After all these weeks she was finally doing it. She wrote the word title in loopy cursive and dotted the i with a perfectly drawn star.

When Darkness Rises.

She wrote that in block letters and didn’t dot the i with anything. From here on out, it was serious author business only. And now her title was final. She nodded to herself and underlined the three words. Yep, it was set in stone forever.

She tapped the end of the pen against her round chin and leaned forward and combed her fingers through the cat’s soft fur. “And then there are my main characters, Maisie and Mitchell, who will overcome all odds and fall deeply and madly in love with each other…” Hunter stared out past the end of the dock at the rippling blue surface of Goode Lake as she continued to scratch Xena. “Maybe they’re causing my writer’s block…” she mused. “Maisie and Mitchell…”

Hunter’s fingers tingled as her thoughts shifted. Maisie and Mitchell weren’t really the problem. Tonight was the problem. Tonight topped her list of things not to think about. It had for the past three weeks. The dedication ceremony and the gate … It was all so much. Her life was about to change, in an amazing and magical way, but still. Change was big. Change was difficult. And Hunter wasn’t sure if she was ready.

Xena chattered her displeasure as Hunter’s fingers stilled on the cat’s back.

Hunter shook her head, clearing away the doubt to focus on the task at hand. “What if I change Maisie and Mitchell to Maisie and Madison?” Hunter wrote the names below the title and underlined each twice before turning her attention back to the disgruntled cat. “After all, don’t they say to write what you know?”