The second book of the Melantha Caldwell spell-turner series is coming soon! (I'm looking for beta readers. If you're interested in reading and letting me know what you think of Hunting A Demon, please let me know.) Newsletter subscribers have already seen the cover. I'll be revealing the cover here as soon as I have a publish date. (If you're not signed up for the newsletter, you can do that right now: http://eepurl.com/Wi3mL)
In the meantime, I have the first two chapters here for you!
But first, the summary. Here's what the book is all about:
When Melantha Caldwell suspects her friend and fellow spell-turner, Savion Lebrun, is following in his father's footsteps and becoming a black magic sorcerer, she decides to find out exactly what he's doing when he's not attending high school or magic lessons. What she discovers surprises her: he's spending time with another girl-- a ballet dancer named Hope, who has suddenly developed sleep walking and seizures.
Meanwhile, there's a strange sickness affecting spell-turners everywhere. First Gran is infected, then Savion, leaving Mel no choice but to trust the new spell-turner in town to help her figure out what's wrong with Hope. He calls himself Phoenix and he's much more than he seems, but he's willing to help Mel and teach her spell-turning while her tutor is honeymooning.
After Mel learns the truth about Phoenix and the real reason he's in town, she's not sure she can trust him. Then Mel realizes Hope has been possessed by a demon, she and Phoenix are the girl's only hope of getting it evicted, and if they don't work together, the demon will be free to carry out its own plan for the destruction of humankind— starting with the girl named Hope.
HUNTING A DEMON
Gran's best copper spell pot was on fire and for once it wasn't my fault. Smoke filled the kitchen of our apartment, tickling my nose. I coughed and waved a hand to disperse the unpleasant stench of burnt olive oil, thankful it wasn't my mess so I didn't have to clean it up.
Flames stretched up, reaching for the lights above the kitchen table. Gran reached over and clamped a lid on the pot, putting the fire out. Sweat beaded her brow from a combination of the elevated temperature in the room and her jangled nerves. Every window in the apartment was open, and every ceiling fan spinning, but still the sunny June weather beat through the glass and the spell-casting attempts certainly weren't helping.
"Oh, dear," Gran said with a sympathetic cluck of her tongue. "We'll just have to try again."
Savion, with his glasses askew and dark smudges on his face, suddenly let out a cry. "My bag!"
A spark had jumped from the pot and landed on Savion's leather satchel, where it had festered undetected long enough to burn itself a hole down to the books contained inside. An orange flame shot straight up around the flap of the bag, feeding on the papers and books.
I didn't stop to think. Magic had been dancing in my veins, itching to be let out all during Savion's lessons. I let it loose. The magic pulled on the water molecules from the air, bending them to my will. A beam of water shot out from the palm of my right hand. I aimed the stream at the satchel. The flame went out with a hiss.
Savion raced around the kitchen table and chairs and dove for his bag. He dumped the contents on the floor. Soggy spell-turning books and waterlogged papers and pencils spilled out in a river of ashy water.
Though I had vowed to myself that I wouldn't clean up Savion's mess today, I grabbed the roll of paper towels and started sopping up the dirty water. Savion picked up the spell books, wiped them with paper towel and put them back in his bag. The rest he threw into the garbage.
"Sorry," I said. I felt terrible for him. I would hate it if my stuff had caught fire.
Across the table, Savion slumped down into a chair. "Forget it," he intoned, crossing his arms over his chest. "It's just things. I can replace them."
His short-sleeved button-up shirt and khaki shorts put my black tank top and jean shorts to shame. At one time I would have been jealous, but not anymore. Not now that I knew what Savion's life was really like.
We were supposed to be learning how to create a ball of light, but every time Savion got close to finishing the spell, the potion splattered and set the pot on fire.
"We can try again," Gran said.
"I know how to use a flashlight," he said, pushing his glasses up his nose. "I don't need this."
Her short curls squashed in spots, Gran looked a little frazzled as she examined the blackened and slightly misshapen rim of her pot. Dark carbon smudges marred her periwinkle cotton pants and her white t-shirt with the silk-screened scene of blue birds, picket fence and hollyhocks.
"There might come a day when you will need it," she said, seeming distracted by the damage. It was the third pot Savion had destroyed this month. She wiped at her damp forehead and left streaks of black behind.
"At least you get to learn stuff. I know exactly two spells," I said. "I've got no teacher while Paul is on his honeymoon."
I'd been warned not to try to use my powers without Paul there to guide me. Bad things happened sometimes for spell-turners like me. Turners like Savion and Gran made their spells with liquids in a pot, but turners like me and Paul— well, we were blood turners. Our power ran in our veins. And sometimes it jumped ship and ran out of other people's veins resulting in their deaths.
I was darned lucky the water spell had worked with no unintended consequences.
My rant earned me a sharp look from Gran. She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips reminding me of her feelings on the matter— not that I needed a reminder.
The problem was, I was bored to tears. I wasn't allowed to practice my magic and I wasn't allowed to skip these lessons.
"You were lucky enough to survive that mess," Gran said. She stepped back from the disaster on the kitchen table, her hand gripping the back of a chair. "Looks like we'll be taking a trip to the Sanctuary."
"The Sanctuary?" I sat up, anticipating a return to the place where all spell-turners and magical creatures could congregate hidden from human eyes.
"Not today," Gran said with a sigh. "I think I'm going to lie down. You two are in charge of cleaning up the kitchen."
She shuffled out and went to her room, closing her bedroom door with a soft click.
Huh. Gran didn't want to stay to micromanage the clean-up? To make sure we put away all her stuff exactly as we found it?
"Is she all right?" Savion asked. Even he noticed the change in Gran, and he'd only been coming here for lessons a couple times a week for the last few months.
As I stared at her closed door, one of my eyebrows went up and I bit my lip. This wasn't like Gran, but I didn't think it was anything serious. Maybe she was just getting the flu.
"I don't know," I said, turning to him with a shrug. "But since she's not here, let's dig into the cookie jar."
Normally such a snack suggestion would earn me a reprimand from Gran and a lecture on having fruit or vegetables instead of chocolate chip cookies. As I reached to remove the ceramic jar from the counter, there was nothing but silence from her room. That was perhaps the most telling sign of all.
Savion stood by the door, stuffing his few spelling items into his leather messenger bag. We had the kitchen cleaned up and the smoke cleared from the air, although the smell still lingered. For some reason, I couldn't let Savion leave without asking him something about himself. It had become my little project these past weeks— trying to get him to talk about himself.
"Do you read comics?" I gripped the back of a kitchen chair and waited.
"No." He continued to put the small jars into his bag. He'd built up quite a collection of dried flowers and twigs and stuff. His short response wasn't unexpected. That's just the way he was.
"I'm going to the comic book store later. I didn't think I'd like comics at first— they're so thin. I assumed there was very little story to each volume, but then I found the collected works—" I crossed the apartment to the coffee table and lifted up one to show him. "You know-- graphic novels. I'm really into Stan Lee's stuff and Buffy the Vampire Slayer right now. You can borrow one, if you like. I know they're not your usual doorstopper-sized books, but you might like it."
He shook his head, shifting his hair from side to side. His once white-blond hair had taken on more of a gold tone— maybe it was the approach of summer, or maybe it was because his father was no longer pulling spells through him. His mouth was drawn tight, his eyes wary.
I was trying too hard to get a response from him. Forcing him to give up too much information. Pressing him to use more words than he wanted to. Maybe I should switch to a lighter approach.
"You do read, don't you?" I asked with a wry grin.
Savion paused, shrugged a shoulder. "Mostly history books."
"What— like textbooks?"
He lifted his bag, securing the strap over his shoulder. "Non-fiction. The witch trials of Salem. The history of witchcraft in England. That stuff."
I frowned. Those were all for our spell-turning studies. "You must be doing something for fun."
He returned my prompt with a blank stare.
"Come on," I said. "You can tell me."
"I know about that. What else?"
He bit his lip and shrugged.
I scrunched up my nose. Time to change tactic and my angle of questioning. "Ready for exams?"
He nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Of course."
I didn't doubt it. I, however, would be studying my butt off between now and then. If there was one thing I envied him, it was his smarts.
In addition to his darkening hair colour, I'd noticed his shirts fit a little tighter across the chest, and with closer examination, he'd put on some muscle— most noticeable on his arms and chest, but also subtly around his neck and jaw. He wasn't working out— I'd asked him that in a previous visit. He maintained he was keeping up with his martial arts but that was it.
"See you tomorrow," he said, and then left.
No doubt changes were happening to that sorcerer's boy, but none of them were social in nature. I meant to change that boy. By the end of the summer he would be more human and less robot. Looked like I had my work cut out for me.
The end of my semester at Sir John Sparrow David Thompson Secondary School remarkably resembled the start: here I was in history class thinking of ways to spy on Savion again. Last time I'd been trying to find a way to make him my friend so I could get access to his house. This time I was trying to figure out how to get him to loosen up and be a normal kid. What was he doing when he wasn't at school or my place? Where did he go? The dark circles under his eyes told me he wasn't staying up late playing video games anymore.
Rory MacDonald still sat across the room, but now he was less of a distraction. I'd had almost no contact with him since his memories of me were removed— nothing more than a smile and a nod in the hallways. I'd been told it was better this way, and maybe that was true, but I missed his company.
My head snapped up, I sucked in a breath, and found myself staring at Mr. Brown at the front of the room.
"Yes?" I answered, hoping I hadn't missed the question. We were supposed to be using this period to work on our independent study units, but as I looked around I saw that we'd arrived at the end of the class to the time when Mr. Brown tossed out a question that would be on the upcoming exam.
"Please explain Georges Vanier's contributions to World Wars I and II."
I drew in a breath and tried to gather my thoughts. Sarcasm was the first to arrive. Gee, was that all? That was more like an essay question— not easily answered in a few sentences.
Mr. Brown continued, "And tell us why he is considered an important figure in Canadian history."
"Oh." That was considerably more difficult.
My mouth went dry and I started to tremble. Not everyone turned to stare at me, but it sure felt like it.
"Well, in World War I, George Vanier actively recruited for the Army, resulting in the creation of the 22nd Regiment. He then fought overseas, but was shot and lost his right leg. Instead of going home, he decided to stay in the military hospital near where his fellow soldiers were fighting. For some reason, this resulted in him earning some medals." The corners of my mouth tugged down. Who got medals for being in the hospital?
"You disagree with the awards for bravery?"
I shrugged. "I think it was kind of stupid of him to stay in harm's way, taking up a bed space someone else could use, and making others worry about protecting him when he could have gone home."
Without comment, Mr. Brown nodded. "And World War II?"
"In World War II, Vanier escaped Nazi-occupied France to return to Canada to become a commissioned commander in the Forces. He pleaded for the Prime Minister to accept refugees from war-torn Europe, though he was unsuccessful then."
"And after WWII?"
"He eventually won over the Prime Minister, and brought over hundreds of thousands of refugees from France. He went on to become the first French-Canadian Governor General. His mandate was national unity, sparking outrage from the Quebec separatists. He started many award programs, including the one for university football— the Vanier Cup."
Hands behind his back, Mr. Brown nodded again. "Maclean's magazine called Vanier the number one most influential Canadian of all time. Would you agree or disagree?"
I shrugged. "I guess I would agree. He managed to win over the Prime Minister and helped a lot of people."
Mr. Brown frowned. I'd just given him a boatload of information but froze on the opinion piece.
"Someone else? Hope. Agree or disagree?"
Hope stood up and gave an eloquent speech that both stated and supported her opinion.
"Perfect," Mr. Brown said.
I sighed with relief when the bell rang. I hoped we wouldn't have to give opinions on the exam. Facts, I could remember. But I hated having to give my opinion on something and defend it. Sometimes my feelings were hard to explain. Other times, I didn't have an opinion. This was history— all this stuff happened so long ago. It wasn't even relevant to what I was going through every day.
I jogged down the hallway to catch up with Savion. All this history junk gave me an idea.
"Hey," I said. He stopped and turned. I swallowed down my nerves and tried to breathe normally. No reason to be nervous, right?
"Um, I was wondering if you might be able to help me study for the history exam?" It was lame, but it was the best I could come up with.
Savion shrugged, shifting his backpack strap higher up on his shoulder. "You seem to have a good handle on things." He continued walking, and I followed, pushing through the crowded hallway.
Crap. I was hoping he would make this easier.
"Dates and things," I said, nodding my agreement. "But not the opinion-required stuff. You saw what happened."
"Oh, but that stuff is easy," Savion said with a wave of his hand. "Just pick an argument that goes with the facts you remember."
I seemed to be getting the brush off. "I just thought we could pose questions to each other—"
He stopped suddenly and I crashed into him. I stumbled back a few steps, mumbling apologies.
"That's a good idea," he said. He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "But I have something to do tonight. Maybe another time."
"Oh. Okay." Startled, I blinked. Did I really just get turned down by Savion Lebrun? "But you're coming to spell lessons, right?"
Confused, I watched as he disappeared into the crowd on his way to his next class. The bell rang out a warning, and I dashed away to biology.
Biology class didn't happen. Instead, we were all shuffled down to the gym to watch the school talent show. I'd forgotten all about it. Though this wasn't my first time attending an assembly, I'd never been to a talent show before. Such things didn't occur when I was homeschooled by my mother. So I wasn't really sure what to expect.
We crowded into the gym, most of us having to sit on the floor. The lucky ones who'd arrived early-- mostly seniors and their friends-- occupied the bleachers along the sidewall. I pushed along through the rows of people and plunked myself down next to Savion. As usual, he sat alone.
"So, how much talent do we have here at Sir John Sparrow?"
"I think you might be surprised," he said.
I didn't get to ask him more than that because the lights dimmed. Some grade nine kids made "woo" noises and giggled. A senior from the drama club stepped into the middle of the stage and the seniors in the audience broke out in applause and whistles. The talent show was underway.
There were singers and guitar players in single acts, duos and small groups. Not one of them was terrible. There was serious talent here.
A melancholy-filled pop tune began to play for the next act. A single spotlight followed a dancer around the stage. But to say she danced wasn't accurate. She embodied the emotions of the song. Her movements were strong, precise and professional. I could not take my eyes off her performance. By the time the song ended, tears formed in my eyes. The audience erupted into applause and took to their feet. I knew we had just witnessed something incredible.
"Wow," I said. "What is she doing wasting her time in high school when she can dance like that?"
Savion didn't answer. It was then that I noticed he wasn't applauding with the rest of us, but frowning as the dancer continued to bow and curtsey for the audience.
"Who is she?" I asked.
"Hope Novack," he said. "She's in our history class."
Right. The one who answered the opinion question when I couldn't. I barely recognized her up there on the stage.
"Has she always been this good? Why haven't I heard about her?" I was pretty sure she was in another of my classes. English. Just this morning the teacher praised her for getting perfect on the Shakespeare test.
Hope left the stage and the rest of the gym finally stopped applauding and sat down to watch the rest of the talent show, though after that performance the rest of the show could only be a total let down.
As the next act entered the stage-- a pair of juggling clowns-- Savion got up and slipped away. When he passed me, he promised to see me later at spell lessons. He left the gym via the doors closest to the stage, and I had no doubt in my mind he was going to find Hope.
I had a feeling I needed to keep spying on Savion, but now for a totally different reason.
###END of excerpt###