"Infused with page-turning suspense, bittersweet romance, shocking twists, and tragic turns, Sterling has written a standout debut." Dana Mele, author of People Like Us
Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah's concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah's sure it's the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she's going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem's witches become deadlier by the day.
Isabel Sterling's delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her covenand any chance she has with the new girlis destroyed.
About the Author
Isabel Sterling is a queer writer of young adult novels. Before finding her way to the world of books, Isabel channeled her love of storytelling into a music composition degree, where she dreamed of scoring Disney films. These days, Isabel works in student housing and writes stories about magic and murder. She lives in central NY with her wife and their brood of furry children: cats Oliver and December, and a mischievous puppy named Lily.
Read an Excerpt
They say there’s a fine line between love and hate.
I used to think They were idiots. Most people are. What could some faceless They know about love? Or hate for that matter. But then I dated Veronica Matthews.
The girl who pulled me out of the closet so fast and so completely my head was still spinning weeks later. Our first kiss was life-changing. Identity-altering. Even after a year, I still don’t have the right words to describe it.
My parents were surprised, though they recovered quickly, when I walked into the kitchen the day of the kiss to announce, “Mom. Dad. Turns out, I’m gay.”
Dad dropped his sauce spoon on the floor. He blinked a few times, then shrugged. “Oh, well, okay then.”
Mom picked up the sauce spoon and rinsed it in the sink. “Want to talk about it?”
I remember shrugging. Dad and I do that a lot. “Nope. Just thought you should know.”
And that was that.
Veronica Matthews taught me about love, and I guess They were right. There really was a fine line to cross to hate. The same girl who dragged my ass out of the closet later tore my heart from my chest with her meticulously manicured nails.
I hate her. The stupid, self-centered—
Someone clears their throat in front of me. I tear my gaze away from Veronica, who’s in the back of the shop by the prepackaged potions, flirting with a girl whose name I can’t remember. She looks familiar, with her warm brown skin and a tumble of tight black curls. I think she was on the cheerleading squad with Veronica, but her name eludes me.
Evan Woelk, a tall, skinny white boy with guyliner thick around his dark brown eyes, stands on the other side of the counter. He smiles when I finally turn my attention his way. “Hey, Hannah.” He drops a pile of merchandise next to the register and shoves his hands deep in his front pockets.
“Find everything okay?” I ask, stifling a cringe as Veronica giggles. Even the lavender incense burning on the counter behind me can’t calm my nerves when she’s around.
Evan nods and watches the total go up and up as I scan his items. Black candles. Twine for binding rituals. A book on hexes. Incense. An all-black athame, both edges of the knife sharp even though the blade is only used for directing energy. I fight the urge to roll my eyes. Yet another Reg playing at being a witch.
I ring up the last item and glance at Evan. He has the whole goth thing going on—black jeans, a tight black shirt, and rings on every finger—which makes this all the more ridiculous. “Eighty-four ninety-five.” I bite my lip as he swipes his card. Part of me wants to warn him. Even if Wiccan magic is child’s play compared to what I can do, it’s still dangerous to mess with forces you don’t understand.
Not that I’ll actually say anything. To expose my secret is to risk banishment.
Evan accepts his bag with a tight smile. He shifts on his feet, not leaving. I plaster on my work smile, but I’m itching for him to go. Veronica’s still giggling over something What’s-Her-Face has said. I don’t want to deal with her, but I can’t leave the counter with a customer in the shop. I never considered myself the jealous type, but if those two don’t get out of here soon, I’ll—
“Is that Veronica?” he asks, pointing at the pad of paper in front of me. The one with my half-finished Veronica-turned-evil-demon sketch. “I heard you two broke up.”
Heat burns at my cheeks. I crumple the page and toss it in the trash. “I really don’t want to talk about it.” Of course he’s heard. The whole school gossiped about our public breakup for weeks.
“Forget I asked.” Evan brushes his dark hair out of his eyes. It’s a wasted effort, as it flops right back into place. “Are you going to the bonfire tonight?”
I offer a half smile, my thanks for the subject change. “I think Gemma wants to go.” And if my best friend wants to go to the annual end-of-school-year bonfire in the woods, there’s no way she’ll let me skip it. “I take it you’re going?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” He raises his bag of magic supplies, the athame poking out through a small tear in the plastic. “See you tonight.”
“Later,” I say, but I roll my eyes once Evan is gone. I get enough of the wannabes from the tourists who visit Salem. It’s even more annoying when the locals do it, too. They act like it’s all about the wardrobe and accessories. Here, buy a necklace and a few candles. That totally makes you a witch. If they had any clue what real witches were like, what we’re capable of . . .
They probably wouldn’t sleep very well at night.
Veronica’s laugh trickles through to the front of the store. Familiar pangs of desire work down my spine, but the ice in my veins squashes the feeling. I want her out of this shop. I want her out of my life long enough for me to get over her.
But no. If only I were so lucky. The selfish, gorgeous bane of my existence belongs to the same coven as my family. Which was great while we were dating, but now . . .
“Oh, Hannah. I forgot you work here.” Veronica sidles up to the counter with a small basket of candles and incense, the lie falling effortlessly from her glossy lips. “How are you?”
I reach for the candles she deposited on the counter and ring them up. “What are you doing here?”
“Shopping.” She smirks and shares a look with What’s-Her-Face, who snaps her gum.
“This tourist trap overcharges, and you know it.” I shove the candles into a paper bag, letting my shoulder-length brown hair fall past my face. It creates enough of a barrier to keep from looking at her.
“Maybe I wanted to see you.” Veronica’s voice is sweet like honey, but I can hear the poison beneath her words. “You’re not returning my texts.”
“Yeah, well, take a hint.” I place the last of the incense in the bag. “That’ll be forty-four ninety-three.”
She hands over cash, her fingers lingering on mine. A shiver crawls along my skin, but I won’t let her see that. I can’t let her know she still affects me that way. “It doesn’t have to be like this, Hannah.” She almost seems sincere.
And the way my name sounds rolling off her tongue? I have to swallow around the lump in my throat before I can speak. “Thank you for visiting the Fly by Night Cauldron. Have a nice day.”
“Come on, Ronnie, let’s go.” What’s-Her-Face, who Veronica never bothered to introduce, pivots and hurries toward the exit, her heels clicking against the floor.
But Veronica pauses. Lingers. As if there’s more she came to say. My heart pounds in my chest, and I’m sure she must hear it.
I tug at my uniform again. “Since when do you let people call you Ronnie? You hate that.”
My ex watches her friend leave, and when she’s sure we’re alone, she leans against the counter, staring up at me through her lashes. “Be careful, Hannah. I might think you’re jealous.” A deliberate breeze brushes my neck, laced with a current of Veronica’s power. The smoke from the incense swirls its way between us, caressing my cheek and slipping along Veronica’s collarbone, drawing my eye to the bit of exposed skin.
“What the hell are you doing?” Even though I don’t see anyone else in the shop, I keep my voice low so no one overhears. “If Lady Ariana caught you using magic in public—”
“Relax, Hannah. It’s not like she’d ever step foot in a place like this. No one’s going to know.” She fixes me with her emerald stare, but I back out of reach. Using magic in public is a surefire way to lose coven privileges. And I, for one, don’t want my training delayed because my obnoxious ex is careless.
Veronica sighs and pushes away from the counter, releasing her hold on the air. The wind dies and resumes a more natural path. “Happy?”
I don’t dignify her with an answer. She knows what would happen if a Reg caught us. If our high priestess found out.
“Listen, Hannah.” Veronica fusses with her bag of candles. “I wanted to know . . . Are you coming to graduation tomorrow? I think I finally perfected my speech.”
“Really?” I cringe at the encouragement in my voice. Instincts from a lifetime of friendship are hard to quell, no matter how much she hurt me. I cross my arms and glance around the shop to make sure we’re still alone. “No, I’m not. I’d rather let the Council strip my magic than sit through that.”
The words hang in the air between us, charged with more power than Veronica’s manipulated wind. Her lips part, but nothing comes out. I wonder if she’s thinking about the day we went shopping for her graduation dress. If she remembers what we did the night she was officially named valedictorian, after her parents went to bed. Guilt clutches at my chest, but I push it away.
It’s her fault we’re not together anymore. She’s the one who hurt me.
Veronica shifts the bag to her other hand, and a mask settles over her features. Gone is the hurt. Gone is the girl I loved, replaced by the one who broke my heart.
What’s-Her-Face leans back into the shop. “Everything all right in here?”
“Of course.” Veronica smiles her perfect smile, brandishing it like a weapon. “Just thought I forgot my receipt. Let’s go.” She turns away, loops her arm through her friend’s, and disappears out the door.
As the bell jingles their departure, my heart threatens to burst. The tears sting, but I won’t let them fall. I won’t give Veronica the satisfaction.
If she thinks she can show up at my work all summer, she’s sorely mistaken. Because when it comes to holding a grudge, I’m an Olympic champion.