Home > These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn #1)(2)

These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn #1)(2)
Author: Isabel Sterling

   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.

 

 

      2


   AFTER I CLOCK OUT for the day, I swing by the dance studio to pick up Gemma from her ballet class. She’s easy to spot, standing nearly a head taller than her classmates. When Gemma hit five ten in ninth grade, everyone tried to get her to join the basketball team, but her body is built for dance. Even walking is a performance; she practically floats into my car.

   “You ready to rock the hell out of this bonfire?” Gemma slides on her seat belt and pulls her blonde hair loose from its bun.

   I shrug and pull into traffic.

   Gemma scowls. “I know that face, Han. What’d Veronica do?”

   There isn’t a single subject change that’ll distract Gemma when she’s wearing that expression, so I fill her in on the Veronica Incident. Minus the whole Veronica-doing-magic-in-public thing. The only secret I’ve ever kept from Gem is my status as an Elemental Witch, and that’s a secret I’ll take to my grave.

   When I finish my story, there’s a murderous gleam to Gemma’s eyes. “You should ask your boss to ban her from the store.”

   “That seems a little extreme,” I say as I make the final turn down my street.

   “Everything about Veronica is ‘a little extreme.’ You need space.” Gemma reaches for my hand when I throw the car in park. “At the very least, promise you’ll enjoy the bonfire tonight? Party until you forget all about her?”

   “Promise.”

   A few short hours later, as the sun dips and the sky blushes, Gemma has succeeded in step one of our mission. We’re ready to party.

   The crackle of the bonfire greets us moments before we step through a thicket of trees into the hidden clearing that has hosted generations of Salem High students. Beside me, Gemma scans the party. “Is it me, or does everyone look hotter out here than in class?”

   I survey the dancing teens. I’ll say one thing for sure: there’s a lot more skin showing here than in school. “How do you have beer goggles already? I’m pretty sure you have to drink first.”

   “I’m serious. Maybe it’s the firelight.” Gemma heads for the keg, where she fills a cup, takes a swig, and grimaces.

   “That good, huh?”

   “The first drink is the worst. You’re too sober to forget how shitty it tastes.” She raises the cup but pauses before taking another sip. “Are you okay?”

   “I’m fine.” I force myself to focus on Gemma instead of the growing crowd around us. I refuse to spend the entire night searching for Veronica and What’s-Her-Face. Gem levels me with a look, and I sigh. “I will be. Promise.”

   Behind us, someone adds more wood to the bonfire. The flames snap and crackle along the logs, and I turn to look. My skin tingles with untapped magic as I near the fire, drawn forward like a bug to a zapper. I can’t let myself give in to its song. Not here, surrounded by Regs. Gemma follows, and we stand together beside the bonfire, swaying to the music pouring from someone’s truck.

   I step closer to the flames, until I feel the lick of heat against my face. The energy cascades over me, through me, driving out the lingering hurt from seeing Veronica. Numbing bad memories like a magical novocaine.

   Gemma touches my elbow. I turn, half-dazed, and she nods in the direction of Nolan Abbott. Nolan will be a senior next year, like us, and the new soccer captain has his eye on my best friend.

   “Looks like someone has an admirer tonight.” I nudge Gem in the shoulder. “Are you interested?” I waggle my eyebrows.

   She returns Nolan’s appraising look. “Not my usual type,” she says at last, “but what the hell. A summer fling never hurt anyone.” But then she pauses, biting her lip. She glances back at me. “I can’t abandon you.”

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