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Beltane, 1962, San Francisco
Today I met my future, and I’m dancing on sunlight!
This a.m. I celebrated Beltane in the park downtown, and all of us from Catspaw made beautiful magick right there in the open while people watched. The sun was shining, we wore flowers in our hair, and we wove our ribbons around the fertility pole and made music and raised a power that filled everything with light. We had elderflower wine, and everything was so
open and beautiful. The Goddess was in me, her life force, and I
was awed by my own power.
I knew then that I was ready to be with a man—I’m sev
enteen and a woman. And as soon as I had that thought, I looked up into someone’s eyes. Stella Laban was giving him a paper cup of wine, and he took it and sipped, and my knees
almost buckled at the sight of his lips.
Stella introduced us. His name is Patrick, and he’s from Seattle. His coven is Waterwind. So he’s Woodbane, like me, like all of Catspaw.
I couldn’t stop looking at him. I noticed that his chestnut brown hair was shot through with gray, and he had laugh lines around his eyes. He was older than I thought, much older, maybe even fifty.
Then he smiled at me, and I felt my heart thud to a stop. Someone grabbed Stella around the waist, and she danced off, laughing. Patrick held out his hand, and without thinking I put mine in his and he led me away from the group. We sat on a boulder, the sun warm on my bare shoulders, and talked forever. When he stood up, I followed him to his car.
Now we’re at his house, and he’s sleeping, and I am so, so
happy. When he wakes up, I’ll say two things: I love you.
Teach me everything.
I had been to Sharon Goodfine’s house once before, with Bree Warren, back when Bree and I were best friends. Tonight Sharon was hosting Cirrus’s usual Saturday-night circle, and I was curious to see how it would feel different from other circles we’d had. Each place had its own feeling, its own atmosphere. Every circle was different.
“Nice pad,” said Robbie Gurevitch, my other best friend from childhood. He squinted at the landscape lighting, the manicured shrubs with their caps of snow, the white-painted brick of the colonial house. The landscaping alone probably cost more than what my dad makes in a year at IBM. Sharon’s dad was an orthodontist with a bunch of famous clients. I’d heard a rumor that he’d straightened Justin Timberlake’s teeth.
“Yep,” I answered, pushing my hands into my pockets and starting up the walk. I’d gotten a ride with Robbie in his red Beetle, and I saw other cars I recognized, parked along the wide street. Jenna Ruiz was here. Matt Adler had come in his own car, of course, since he and Jenna were broken up. Ethan Sharp was here. Hunter was here, I noticed. I shivered inside my coat with a blend of excitement and dread. More cars were parked nearby, but I didn’t recognize them and figured one of the neighbors was having a party.
On the porch Robbie stopped me as I started to ring the doorbell. I looked at him questioningly.
“You okay?” he asked quietly, his gray-blue eyes dark.
I opened my mouth to indignantly say, “Of course,” but then I shut it again. I’d known Robbie too long and had been through too much with him to fob him off with white lies. He had been one of the first people I’d told about being a blood witch, about being adopted, about being Woodbane. Of the Seven Great Clans of Wicca, Woodbanes were the ones who sought power at all costs, the ones who worked with dark magick. When I’d found out about being a blood witch, I hadn’t known my clan and had hoped that I was a Rowanwand, a Wyndenkell, a Brightendale, a Burnhide. Even a mischievous Leapvaughn or warlike Vikroth would have been fine. But no. I was Woodbane: tainted.
Robbie and Bree had saved my life three weeks ago, when Cal, the guy I’d loved, had tried to kill me. And Robbie’s friendship had helped give me the strength to continue searching for the truth about my birth parents. He could read me well, and he knew I was feeling fragile right now.
So I just said, “Well, I’m hoping the circle will help.”
He nodded, satisfied, and I rang the doorbell.
“Hi!” Sharon said, opening the door wide and ushering us in, the perfect hostess. I caught sight of Jenna and Ethan standing behind her, talking. “Dump your coats in the living room. I’ve set up a space in the media room. Hunter told me we’d have a real crowd tonight, and he was right.” She pointed to a doorway on the far side of the large living room. Her fine, dark hair swirled around her shoulders as she turned to answer a question from Jenna. Her trademark gold bracelets jangled.
I was standing there, wondering how small the room must be if the seven members of Cirrus would crowd it, when Robbie caught my eye. “Media room?” he mouthed silently, shrugging out of his coat. I couldn’t help smiling.
Then I felt a prickle of awareness at the back of my neck, and knowing what it meant, I looked around to see Hunter Niall coming purposefully toward me. The rest of the room faded, and I suddenly heard my own heartbeat loud in my ears. I was only vaguely aware of Robbie walking away to greet someone.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Hunter said softly in his English accent.
“Yes,” I admitted, looking into his sea green eyes. I knew he’d called my house at least twice since the last time we’d seen each other, but I hadn’t returned his calls.
He leaned back against the door frame. I was five-six, and Hunter was a good seven inches taller than me. I hadn’t seen him since a few days ago, when I’d had witnessed him stripping one of my friends of his magickal powers. He’d done it because it was his job. As a Seeker and the youngest member of the International Council of Witches, Hunter had been obligated to wrest David Redstone’s power from him and to bind him magickally so that he couldn’t use magick again for any reason. It had been like watching someone being tortured, and I’d had trouble sleeping since then.
But that wasn’t all. Hunter and I had kissed the night before the ritual, and I’d felt a longing for him that astonished and disturbed me. Then, after the ritual, Hunter had given me a spelled crystal into which he’d put my image, through the sheer power of his feelings. We both knew there was something between us, something that might be incredibly powerful, but we hadn’t explored it yet. I both wanted to and didn’t want to. I was drawn to him, but what he had done still frightened me. Unable to sort out my own feelings, I’d resorted to a tried-and-true tactic: avoidance.
“I’m glad you came tonight,” he said, and his voice seemed to smooth away some of my tension. “Morgan,” he added, sounding uncharacteristically hesitant. “It was a hard thing you saw. It’s a hard thing to be part of. It was the third one I’ve done, and it only gets harder each time. But the council decreed it, and it was necessary. You know what happened to Stuart Afton.”
“Yes,” I said quietly. Stuart Afton, a local businessman, was still recovering from the stroke David Redstone had caused by working a dark spell. Now David was in Ireland, at a hospice run by a Brightendale coven. He would live there for a long time, learning how to exist without magick.
“You know, some people join Wicca or are born into it, and it’s more or less smooth sailing,” Hunter went on. Ethan passed us on the way to the media room, and I heard the fizzy pop of someone opening a soda can. Hunter lowered his voice, and the two of us were alone in our conversation. “They study for years, they work magick, and it’s all just a calm acknowledgment of the cycle, the circle, the life wheel.”
I heard a burst of laughter from the media room. I glanced over Hunter’s shoulder, catching a glimpse of a boy I almost recognized. He wasn’t part of our coven, and I wondered why he was here.
Hunter was making me nervous, jumpy, as he often did—he had always affected me strongly, and I didn’t understand our connection any more than I understood the surprising, even frightening attraction I had to him.
“Yes?” I said, trying to follow his thought.
“With you,” he went on, “it hasn’t been a smooth ride. Wicca and everything associated with it has been one huge trauma after another. Your birth mother, Belwicket, the dark wave, Cal, Selene, now David . . . You haven’t had much of a chance to revel in magick’s beauty, to appreciate the joy that comes from working a perfect spell, to experience the excitement of learning, finding out more and more. . . .”