Teen witches teaming up with a rival coven at their high school to catch a killer? Sign us up! Check out the cover for B*Witch by Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin, out July 2020, and read the exclusive excerpt below!
A lone witch has powers. A coven has a multitude more.
New girl and secret witch Iris just wants to get through her first day of school without a panic attack. The last thing she expects is to be taken in by a coven of three witches—soft-spoken Greta, thoughtful and musical Ridley, and fiery and spirited Binx. They may be the first witches Iris has met IRL, but their coven is not alone in their small northwestern town.
The Triad is the other coven at their school. When the Triad’s not using spells to punish their exes or break up happy couples for fun, they practice dark magic. The two covens have a rivalry stretching all the way back to junior high.
When tragedy strikes and one of their own is murdered, the rival covens must band together to find out who is responsible before it’s too late. Someone’s anti-witch ideology has turned deadly . . . and one of them is next.
With an inclusive cast of teen witches who leap off the page with style, attitude, and charm, B*Witch is a singable read perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mean Girls alike.
She hadn’t expected the end to come so soon.
After all, her scrying mirror had told her that she would live to be a hundred: a silver-haired old lady with a dozen pampered rescue dogs and
a closetful of Chanel.
She wasn’t even sixteen yet. Her birthday was next month; she knew
that her parents had planned a party for her at the country club. A live band, a photo booth, goodie bags full of Lush Bath Bombs and Tiffany’s trinkets, her cousin Nell flying in from London . . . the works.
Why had she been brought here? Was this a random act of evil? It wasn’t related to what she’d found in his car, was it? Whatever the case, her instincts told her that she should get the hex out, that it was her only hope. Unless help was on the way? But that was a long shot; she couldn’t count on that.
Straining against the ropes—the knots were like cement—she wrig- gled in the red chair and searched her brain for an escape spell, one of the ones from Callixta Crowe’s secret witch manual. (She’d been online during the brief, miraculous window when the link to it had appeared and disappeared eighteen months ago.) Pertroll? Nope, that was for when you’d misplaced your “communication apparatus,” aka phone. Oblitus? Nope, that was for when you’d forgotten to finish your “studies,” aka homework. (She’d already deployed that spell twice, and it was only the first week of the new school year.)
Honestly, she hadn’t really advanced beyond the day-to-day essen- tials; she hadn’t even known for sure about her witch-ness until Callixta’s manual. In fact, maybe her scrying skills weren’t as far along as she’d thought—maybe designer clothes and rescue dogs were not in her future. Plus, she’d bought that mirror at Target.
What about that shape-altering spell, amitto, that could make you “dispense with the discomfort and indignity of a corset” (i.e., drop a dress size)? She had almost mastered it (not to lose weight or look skinnier, since she believed in body positivity, but for disguise purposes should the need arise). She could try to tweak it for her current predicament and wriggle out of her bonds.
Suddenly, the woman appeared at her side, quiet as a mouse. She was carrying a silver tray with a tea set on it; she placed it on an antique table next to the red chair. The cup, saucer, and pot were antique—bone-white, with an intricate floral design.
“These flowers are called angel’s trumpets. Are you familiar with them?” the woman asked pleasantly.
She shook her head, confused. Wary. What was her captor up to now?
“They’re a marvelous addition to any garden—as long as they receive the proper amount of afternoon sun, of course. And see these? These are doll’s eyes.” The woman pointed to clusters of tiny black dots that flecked the rim of the cup.
Doll’s eyes . . . what the hex? The girl squinted. Ew, the dots did look like little eyeballs.
“Shall I be mother?”
The woman tipped the pot over the cup, releasing a thin ribbon of
steaming tea. She added a generous dollop of honey and stirred. The silver spoon made a soothing tinkling noise against the porcelain.
The tinkling stopped, and the woman lifted the cup and touched it to the girl’s lips. The girl froze. It’s happening. She had seen the poisoned tea move in horror movies.
“No!” She squeezed her mouth shut and turned away.
She thought she’d turned away. But the geometry of the room had shifted like a kaleidoscope, because now the woman was behind her— in front of her?—and the girl was drinking the tea, almost willingly. It was pooling inside her mouth and trickling down her throat. It had a warm, green, slightly bittersweet taste that was masked only slightly by the honey—lavender honey, her favorite.
No! She jerked back from the cup, spit out the tea, and twisted the other way in the red chair.
But the kaleidoscope shifted again, and the woman was right there, feeding her more tea.
“Good girl,” she purred.
No, no, no.
“I brewed the petals and stems along with the leaves. Delicious, isn’t it?”
She closed her eyes. The tea was delicious. A lovely fuzziness was start- ing to settle in, as though she’d been sunbathing all afternoon by the pool—listening to music and the distant hum of a lawn mower, a glossy magazine splayed across her stomach. Her familiar nearby, protecting her even in his sleep.
Adele was singing to her through her earbuds.
’Cause there’s a side to you that I never knew, never knew . . .
She smiled, feeling the sun on her face.
’Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name.
A shadow moved in the window. Another person. The woman had been talking to him earlier. His name was Mark or Matt or . . .
The kaleidoscope shifted one last time. A cat brushed up against her, purring.
Then there was no more.
Part One: Calling the Quarters
To protect the circle, four elements must always be summoned at the beginning of the rite. I usually go with Spearow in the East, Charmander in the South, Squirtle in the West, and Diglett in the North. But only on weekdays. Weekends, I have a whole other system.
(FROM THE GRIMOIRE OF BINX AKARI KATO)
Two Days Earlier…
Chapter One: Category Five Freak-Out
Magic is personal and should be kept away from prying eyes.
(FROM THE GOOD BOOK OF MAGIC AND MENTALISM BY CALLIXTA CROWE)
Iris pressed her face against the cool metal locker—number 1693, was that even the right one?—and fought the urge to vomit all over the black-and-white checkerboard floor. “Stop it, stop it, stop it. You’re being
such a baby,” she whispered to herself. A panic attack on the first day of school; seriously, what a cliché.
She heard footsteps passing behind her, voices rising and falling. Were people talking about her? No, they were talking about stuff that was actually interesting, like “Who got Mr. Ferguson for English?” and “Why did they paint the cafeteria Day-Glo green over summer vacation?” and “Did Shaquille really break up with Taryn because of what Hannah said?”
Iris did have a good excuse for her Category Five freak-out. Kind of. Sort of.
This wasn’t just the first day of school; it was her first day at Sorrow Point High, where she knew absolutely no one and which was three thousand miles, more like three thousand light years, from her old school. Not that she hadn’t had her occasional anxiety spirals there. But still.
It had started this morning. Iris had left the house, made a U-turn, gone back to her house, and changed her outfit . . . four times. The neighbor lady, Mrs. Wendlebaum, had been puttering around in her herb garden and called out, “First day of school, huh? Butterflies in your stom- ach, dear?”
Iris stifled another wave of nausea. This was not butterflies. This was the creature from Alien wanting to explode its way out of her chest. This was her heart pounding a blood-red Dothraki battle cry in her ears. This was the Mage-Rage Potion from her favorite video game, Witchworld, shockwaving its way through her system.
Behind her, the hallway chatter seemed to have shifted away from teachers and cafeteria decor and breakups.
“They’re holding a meeting at the community center this weekend.”
“No way! The mayor’s a total pacifist. She’d never let that happen.”
“Well, it’s happening. Axel’s going, and so’s Brandon.”
“Speaking of . . . did you guys hear about the gravestones at the cemetery?”
“You mean the . . .”
The voices faded away.
Gravestones? A mystery meeting? But Iris didn’t have time to dwell on these distractions because she was this close to throwing up; she could taste acid and her breakfast (extra-pulp OJ, hot chocolate, blueberry oat- meal) in her throat. She made herself inhale deeply for six counts, hold for six counts, and exhale for six counts. Her skin buzzed and prickled. The pounding in her ears subsided by a micro-decibel. Crisis temporarily averted?
Her therapist—not her occupational therapist or her social skills ther- apist but her therapy therapist—had taught her the deep-breathing tricks and other techniques. Distract your brain! Touch something soft, like a silk scarf. Smell a bottle of perfume. Listen to classical music. Name ten European capitals. Calculate the square root of 14,400.
The tricks worked, sometimes. The daily one hundred of Zoloft helped, too. But what she really needed to make this panic-attack-from- hex go away was a nice little calming spell.
There was just one problem with that. Magic was forbidden. Illegal. So far, Iris had managed to stay out of trouble. In New York City where she used to live, and around the rest of the country as far as she could tell, the federal anti-witchcraft law, called 6-129, seemed to be only loosely enforced. Also, Iris, no doubt like most witches, had always been careful to keep her identity secret and do her craft on the Q.T. (most of the time, anyway).
Plus, the consequences for the witches who did get caught breaking 6-129 hadn’t seemed too end-of-the-world and horrible. Some girls at her old school had gotten suspended for making potions in chem class. Another girl had been expelled for trying to morph Principal Ellison into a hamster. The hygienist at Dr. Singh’s office had gotten fired for using spells to clean teeth. Stuff like that.
But . . . things were changing. A new president, David Ingraham, had taken office in January, and he was really, really anti-magic. (According to rumor, his youngest daughter had been a witch and died in some mysterious magic-related incident.) He said bad, untrue things about witches and witchcraft all the time, either in the regular media or on his social media. He’d announced recently that he was working with Congress on a bill to seriously beef up enforcement and punishment for 6-129 violators.
And his message had found an audience. After he became president, a national hate movement called Antima—“Anti-Magic”—started to sur- face. Iris had learned from the news and online that the Antima were made up of small local factions with one goal in common: eliminating witchcraft for good.
What would that even look like? Did they want to go around hunt- ing down everyone with the teeniest amount of magical powers, and . . . what? Iris was worried (okay, maybe more like terrified) that this was their goal, because lately, they’d begun to amp things up. A couple of their ral- lies in Washington, DC, had turned violent. Last week, Iris had seen on TV that a Texas witch was beaten up by an Antima gang called the Sons of Maximus and left for dead.
Iris hadn’t personally encountered any Antima members in New York City (that she was aware of, anyway). She hadn’t heard about any Antima incidents there, either. As for Sorrow Point, she and her family had just moved here, and she’d only visited a few times before, so she didn’t know it well. But it seemed like such a cute town (despite its name—seriously, it could use some Zoloft). She couldn’t imagine the Antima wreaking havoc here, holding rallies and harming witches. Still, she would be very discerning and super, super careful regarding if and when she used magic.
Like maybe now? The acidy oatmeal-OJ-hot-chocolate combo was ris- ing in her throat again. She had to get her anxiety level down, fast. She wouldn’t do anything dramatic—just an itsy, bitsy, under-the-radar spell from Callixta Crowe’s confidential witchcraft manual (a downloaded printout of which she’d accidentally stumbled upon in her old public library, hidden under a boring book jacket with the title: The History of the Finnish War 1808–1809).
She peered around to make sure no one was looking. A sea of pastel-clad girls swept by. Argh. Why had she settled on all-black after the multiple outfit changes? She looked like a lump of coal in a basketful of Easter eggs. Black had been the go-to in New York, but obviously not here.
The pastelly girls disappeared around the corner. The coast was clear. Iris reached into her backpack, pulled out her phone, and pretended to check it. With her free hand, she touched her smiley-face moonstone pendant.
“Cessabit,” she whispered. “I am peaceful. I am confident.”
The moonstone warmed. It sparked against her skin—tiny electric sparks like the fizzy emanations from a firecracker.
“Oh, come on. Cessabit! I am peaceful! I am confident!” she hissed through clenched teeth.
Seconds later, the nausea began to diminish. The pounding in her ears stopped. Her heartbeat slowed to normal. Her whole body calmed.
Buoyed by her success, she impulsively added another incantation.
Underneath her lump-of-coal sweater, her faded black 1984 tee— WHO CONTROLS THE PAST CONTROLS THE FUTURE— morphed imperceptibly into a cute, stylish pink top.
“With ruffles,” Iris whispered.
The neckline blossomed into a semi-circle of rose-colored ruffles. Nice! She wriggled out of her sweater and stuffed it into her backpack.
Someone bumped into her from behind, hard. Her backpack tumbled to the floor, spilling its contents.
Startled, Iris spun around. A guy stood there, glaring at her. He wore black jeans, black boots, and a black shirt with a shoulder patch. (So some people here did dress in all-black.) His dark hair was super-short and steaked with blue.
“Oh! I’m sorry!” Iris blurted out, although why was she apologizing? He’ d bumped into her.
The guy didn’t reply, just continued glaring at her. His shoulder patch had a stark, almost geometric design of what looked like a bird-cage suspended over a bonfire. It seemed familiar—and it was definitely creepy. Flustered, Iris dropped to her knees and grabbed at her belongings: her sweater, pens, notebooks, phone, and a tube of Pretty in Pomegranate! lip gloss. (Fortunately, she’d left her wand at home.) Her panic and nausea were seeping back. Had the guy seen her perform the calming spell?
As she reached for the lip gloss tube, the guy stepped on it. The sole of his boot just missed her fingers as he kicked it and stalked off. It skidded across the checkerboard floor and pinged against a locker.
Iris rose to her feet unsteadily. She realized that her hands were shak- ing, and that she had stopped breathing.
She remembered where she’d seen that shoulder patch before.
On TV. The story about the Texas witch. The Antima members the reporters had interviewed were wearing that same patch.
“Hey, are you okay?”
A tall, cute guy picked up her lip gloss and handed it to her.
“Um . . .” Iris’s throat felt dry.
He bent down and scooped up the rest of her stuff. “Are you new here? I don’t remember you from last year.”
“I . . .”
Iris took her backpack from him and made herself do more therapy- breathing—six in, six hold, six out. She was safe. The scary guy was gone. This guy seemed nice. And he wasn’t wearing an Antima shoulder patch—just a plain white polo shirt and khakis.
“Yup, I’m definitely a big ol’ newb. And thanks. Um, so, I think I’m supposed to go to my homeroom now. Can you tell me where—” She pulled her schedule out of the side pocket of her backpack, scanned it quickly, and flipped it around. “Sorry, upside down! Can you tell me where Room 125 is?”
“I can show you. By the way, I’m Colter. Colter Jessup.”
“Bond. James Bond,” Iris joked in a British accent. Yeah, could she be more awkward? “JK, I’m Gooding. Iris Gooding.”
“What year are you, Iris?”
“I’m a sophomore.”
“Me too. Hey, did you get Cram for algebra?”
“Cram? Hmm, let me see. . . .”
Iris adjusted her glasses and looked over her schedule as Colter gave
her the low-down on teachers—who was easy, who was difficult, who had perpetual bad coffee breath. As they rounded the corner and passed what appeared to be the library, Iris closed her eyes briefly, touched her moon- stone pendant, and mouthed the word cessabit. Everything was fine. The Antima guy probably hadn’t seen her perform the spell; and if he had, she could always track him down and do a memory-erase.
Still, the fact that he’d been wearing that shoulder patch upended her rosy assumptions about Sorrow Point being a witch-friendly (or at least not a witch-hostile) town. There were Antima here.
“Sanchez talks way too much about his cats in class,” Colter was saying.
Something grazed the back of Iris’s neck.
She slapped a hand against the spot. What the hex? She turned—but there was no one, nothing there. Except for a couple of students up ahead, this section of the hallway seemed to be deserted.
Or not? Iris turned the other way and spotted three girls in the door- way of the library. A girl in a Juilliard hoodie, a girl with pink hair and a
Hello Kitty backpack, and a girl in a green boho dress with soft auburn curls down to her waist.
They were staring at her.
“You’ll totally get A’s, though, if you do the extra credit labs,” Colter was saying. He paused and reached into his pocket. “Sorry, someone’s texting me.”
Iris inched closer to him as he checked his phone. She pulled out her own phone and typed a gibberish text while side-eying the three girls. Why were they looking at her?
Wait . . . could they be Antima, too? (There were female Antima mem- bers apparently, which was messed up, since Iris had heard that witch hatred might be related to men being scared of O.P. women.)
Then she noticed the auburn-haired girl holding something at her side, pressed into the velvety folds of her dress. Iris’s pulse began to go bonkers again. Not with panic, this time, but with excitement.
The girl pivoted slightly to whisper something to the two others. Now Iris could see the object more clearly.
It was just a fountain pen.
“Sorry ’bout that.” Colter tucked his phone away and smiled at Iris. “I can take you to Room 125 now.”
They continued walking. I am peaceful, Iris thought. I am confident. She touched the back of her neck, wondering.
Text copyright © 2020 by Paige McKenzie and Nancy Ohlin. Used by permission of Disney Publishing Worldwide.