Avoiding Alpha (Alpha Girl) (8 page)

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Weird. Were there even enough witches to warrant such a book? “How many witches are there?”

“A lot. Nearly a hundred times the current amount of wolves,” Chris said.

“What? Seriously?” I twisted to look at Dastien.

He nodded. “Almost every culture has some sort of witchcraft in it. To some it’s so watered down that it’s more like a normal religion and not all of them have powers. But there’s a pretty solid number of covens that do. Besides the coven here, the strongest ones are in Peru and Mexico. And the one in India is pretty good, too.”

“And the Egyptian one,” Chris said. “That one’s badass. But yours is really well known.”

And they were thinking about taking on the pack. Being that grossly outnumbered didn’t sit well with me. I’d have to see what I could do about mending things between the pack and the coven before the situation with Luciana got out of control.

I flipped through some more pages. If I was a betting girl, which I wasn’t, I’d bet this was the one that Luciana and the others didn’t want me to have.

“Anything good?” Chris asked.

“It’s too soon to tell. I’ll need help going through everything, but maybe. If there’s a way to fix to what’s going on with Meredith, we’ll find it in here.”

“Can I see that one?” Dastien asked. I handed the newest book to him, and went back to the one with no title. Something about it called to me.

Unfortunately, every word was gobbledygook.

Rise to the west, and the soul to the east…Light the candles clockwise to find the one you seek
.

I understood the words and maybe the sentiment behind them, but I didn’t quite get what they were accomplishing.

By the time Chris pulled into the St. Ailbe’s parking lot, I knew more about spells, but none of it was exactly helpful. Hopefully one of the other books would be marginally less confusing.

I slipped the books into my bag and hopped down from the car. Chris tossed me the keys, and I caught them. A few weeks ago, this would’ve been a shocker—my coordination used to be less than fantastic—but being a Were was good for some things. Dastien walked so close beside me that our arms brushed. If it’d been anyone else, I’d tell them to take a step to the side, but with Dastien, it was comforting.

When we got to the edge of the parking lot, Adrian, Shannon, and Dr. Gonzales were waiting. Adrian and Shannon were the other two people—besides Dastien, Meredith, and Chris—that I hung out with.

I was really glad to see Adrian. Since he had more experience with the magic stuff, my first mission was going to be pulling him from class, but since he was here, we could dig right in.

Dr. Gonzales stepped forward first.

Oh no… My heart stuttered. “Is Meredith—”

“No change.”

I shoved my shaking hands in my pockets. “That’s good.” I guessed.

“We were more concerned with you. When Dastien ran off and we realized you were missing, we thought you might be coming back injured.” Dr. Gonzales patted her black messenger bag. “But you look fine.”

“We had a little scare, but she’s okay.” Dastien put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to his side. “I might not ever be fine again, but Tessa’s snarky as ever.”

“Shut up.” I elbowed him.

Shannon’s eyes were red, making her green eyes bright. She tucked a piece of her curly red hair behind her ear. “Did you get Meredith sorted?” Her singsongy Irish accent rang clear. Shannon still had a thing for Dastien and it’d been tense between us. This was the first time she’d directly spoken to me in a week.

“Maybe. It was worth the trip.” I paused. “I tried to talk them into breaking the curse, but Luciana won’t unless I let her curse me and move in with the coven.”

Shannon narrowed her eyes. She’d probably like it if I accepted Luciana’s terms.

“That’s never going to happen.” I left no room for argument. “Anyway…I got some books from my cousins. They said the books might be helpful, so I’m hoping that’s code for
definitely
helpful. If all of you wouldn’t mind looking through them with me, that would be awesome.”

“I have to go back to teaching, and you need to eat,” Dastien said.

“I’ll eat later.”

“Tessa.”

I sighed. I wanted to keep working on this, but needed to stay level-headed, which made eating a priority. “Okay. I’ll go by the common room and grab some sandwiches, and then we can meet in the admin building in a few?”

The others nodded and Dastien agreed. With that figured out, I made my way across campus. I wanted to run to the common area, but made myself walk. It was a fast walk, but I was keeping it together.

I was banking on these books, because Plan B was not an option.

But if the magic doesn’t work…

I silenced my inner doubt. It would work. I’d spend every second I had to make sure Meredith was okay.

That was the only option.

Chapter Six

After grabbing food, I reconvened with Shannon, Adrian, and Chris on the first floor of the administration building. Shannon led the way to a conference room. Most of the space was taken up by a long rectangular table surrounded by chairs. A buffet table in the back held a stack of yellow legal pads, a cup of pens and highlighters, and a case of water bottles. Maybe this was where they held the pack meetings? For some reason, I’d pictured them taking place in the woods around a campfire, like where we voted whether or not to keep Imogene in the pack, but maybe they were usually more conventional than that.

We spread out around half the table. I sat on one side with Adrian and Shannon across from me. Chris took a seat at the head. I took the three books out of my bag and placed them on the tabletop. “This is what we’ve got to work with.”

Chris reached behind him and grabbed a legal pad for each of us, then put the cup with pens and highlighters in the center of the table.

Adrian snatched up the nameless brown book. “I can’t believe they actually gave you this one.” His dark brown eyes were wide with wonder as he looked through it.

With all the scribbling, I knew the book was different, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. “What’s the deal? Why is it all handwritten?”

“It’s a Book of Shadows.”

Whoa. I’d heard of those. Only because I watched
Charmed
. It was a guilty pleasure.

On the show, the Book of Shadows was a family’s spell book handed down from generation to generation. “I didn’t know people had those in real life.”

He carefully closed the book and ran his hand over the cover. “Yep. Every family has different spells, different ways of doing things. At least that’s what I was always told. It gets passed on to the oldest child from each generation.”

That didn’t make sense. “Newsflash. I’m not the oldest in my family. Axel is. And I’m pretty sure Claudia and Raphael are older than me, too.”

Adrian shrugged. “I guess I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not the oldest, but the most powerful?”

I moved uncomfortably in my seat. If that were true, then Claudia had taken a huge risk by giving me the book. No wonder Raphael had been against it.

Adrian opened the book again and Shannon scooted closer to him to read.

I started with
Chapter One
of mine. It had great information on the basics of witchcraft, explaining how magic was a test of one’s will and faith. But none of that specifically helped Meredith. When I had a few days, I’d start at the beginning, but for now, I flipped to the back of the book.

The index had an entry for “breaking curses.” That sounded much more applicable.

I started reading it and things got interesting. For all intents and purposes, the book implied that messing with anyone else’s curses was a bad idea. Apparently it caused ‘adverse effects,’ which included illness, wasting diseases, and painful death.

That sounded like a bunch of not cool.

I scribbled down “NEVER try breaking a curse” on my notepad. Not that I needed the note to remind me, but it was good to keep in mind if I ever got desperate.

The chapter went into some gruesome details—pictures included—of people who had tried and failed to break a curse. At the end was a note.

Although it is inadvisable to break another’s curse or spell, counteracting it can be achieved. If the caster’s will and faith be stronger than those of the original caster, then the effects of the curse or spell may be lessened or even overridden
.

The relief I felt was tangible. Now, all I needed to do was find a spell to counteract the curse on Meredith.

I flipped back to the index and searched for anything that sounded helpful. The way I figured, there were two real options. Breaking the curse wasn’t one of them. We either needed to put Meredith’s wolf back to sleep or we needed a spell strong enough to override the original curse, which would release her wolf. Everyone else at the table was all about finding the latter, but getting Meredith’s wolf to chill seemed like the safest option. Then this new spell wouldn’t have to be stronger than Luciana’s spell or even override it. It just had to work alongside it.

I lost all track of time. The scratch of my highlighter against the glossy finish of the crisp textbook pages and the scraping sound of pens against paper filled the room. Occasionally Adrian and Shannon whispered to each other about possible spells, but I tuned them out. I was determined to find answers.

After a while, my eyes were watering and my back was stiff. I stood and stretched, my joints popping as I leaned back. “Do you see anything in the books for a spell about either releasing or quieting a wolf?”

“Shannon and I found a couple possible spells to try,” Adrian said.

That was promising. “Chris?” I said.

He was reading the blue book, his nose nearly pressed into the spine. He held up a finger.

Okay. He needed more time. “Well, mine is about as useless as meta class.” I had to take metaphysics with the freshmen. The class tried, and, in my opinion, failed miserably to explain magic in scientific terms. “It’s got all these theories about how magic works, which is great, but no actual spells that could be helpful.” I sighed.

“What does it say about breaking spells?” Shannon asked.

I flipped through the pages to find a passage that I’d marked. “The meat of it boils down to this passage. ‘The abilities of one witch will determine the abilities of each work of magic.’ It has a bunch of junkola after that and then the next part is good. ‘The longevity of the work is determined by the strength of the will enforcing said work. The potency and sustainability of a work can be partly determined by the strength of the witch’s will. Most works of magic wear out in time, but when breaking a particular work, the abilities of the caster must be weighed against those of the breaker.’” I glanced up from the book. “So if I want to break the spell, then I have to have stronger willpower than Luciana. If I don’t, the whole thing could backfire.”

Now it was time to share my crazy idea.

“We basically need Meredith’s wolf to not fight her anymore, right? But we’re thinking like wolves—about freeing Meredith from the spell. If we can’t do that safely, then why not try to put her wolf back to sleep? We wouldn’t have to worry about anything backfiring then. Or who’s stronger than who.”

“Might not be such a horrible idea,” Chris said. “I was reading about the dangers of breaking a spell, too, but this one says it differently. Basically, if you want to break the spell that she put on Meredith, then all you have to do is want it more. But it’s hard to quantify how badly someone wants something. It’s a huge risk. Do you think you want to break it more than Luciana wants to keep it?”

I slammed my book closed. “How the hell should I know?”

Chris rocked back in his chair. He ran his fingers through his blond wavy hair, making it fro-out a little. “Well, if you try to break it by will, and fail, then you could end up making her much worse. Not to mention that it could rub off on you, too. You could get sick in the process.”

Great. I didn’t want to make Meredith’s curse any worse than it already was, but I had to do something. Breaking the curse was still the option I liked the most, but it might not be the safest.

“How was the other book?” I asked Shannon and Adrian, stalling.

“We found a couple contenders that could maybe break a spell.”

Nice. I leaned toward them. “And?”

“Aaaand I’m not sure where we’d find some of the components for some of these potions,” Adrian said as he tapped his pen on his notepad.

“One of them even calls for the blood of the caster,” Shannon said.

Luciana had to give me her blood? Yeah, that would never happen. “Not in a million years would she give us her blood.”

We were quiet afterwards, each of us lost in our own thoughts.

I would’ve felt better about trying a spell if I could talk to Donovan. He knew more about dealing with this than any of us. It would be nice to get his opinion before attempting anything, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Screw it. I wasn’t going to try anything that would be even more dangerous for Meredith. “As much as you all might not like it, I think we drop the idea of breaking the curse, and instead focus on finding one that will work alongside the curse to quiet her wolf.”

Shannon’s face was red as she yelled a stream of curses at me. I sat there quietly, letting them vent their anger and frustration. When I had enough I stood up. “Stop.” The word had enough power to get them to instantly shut up.

“Here’s the problem. Anything we try to counter the spell with has big repercussions. Meredith is extremely sick. We cannot make it worse for her or she’ll die. Something made her wolf fight against her curse. The two parts that make up Meredith are at war after three years of being totally fine. So, we put the wolf back to sleep and she should go back to being fine.” I sat back down. “Maybe one day we can find a way to break the curse for good,” I said softly. “But right now, none of us know enough to fix this. So, we do our best to keep Meredith alive.”

“I agree.” Chris slid his chair back from the table. “It’s our best shot.”

“No! I refuse to believe that. It’s because she’s one of them.” The disgust was clear in Shannon’s voice. “Look at her. She hasn’t even accepted her own wolf. Why would she help one of us?”

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