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That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.
Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world-the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a risky procedure that will either destroy her powers forever – or kill her.
But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Acher to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?
BOOKS BY RACHEL HAWKINS
THE HEX HALL SERIES
At a normal high school, having class outside on a gorgeous May day is usually pretty awesome. It means sitting in the sunshine, maybe reading some poetry, letting the breeze blow through your hair….
At Hecate Hall, a.k.a. Juvie for Monsters, it meant I was getting thrown in the pond.
My Persecution of Prodigium class was gathered around the scummy water just down the hill from the school. Our teacher, Ms. Vanderlyden—or the Vandy, as we called her—turned to Cal. He was the school’s grounds-keeper even though he was only nineteen. The Vandy took a coil of rope from his hands. Cal had been waiting for us at the pond. When he’d seen me, he’d given me a barely perceptible nod, which was the Cal version of waving his hands over his head and yelling, “Hey, Sophie!”
He was definitely the strong and silent type.
“Did you not hear me, Miss Mercer?” the Vandy said, twisting the rope in her fist. “I said come forward.”
“Actually, Ms. Vanderlyden,” I said, trying not to sound as nervous as I felt, “see this?” I gestured to my mass of curly hair. “This is a perm, and I just got it done the other day, so…yeah, probably shouldn’t get it wet.”
I heard a few muffled giggles, and next to me, my roommate Jenna muttered, “Nice one.”
When I first came to Hecate, I would’ve been too terrified of the Vandy to talk back to her like that. But by the end of last semester, I’d watched my great-grandmother kill my best frenemy, and the boy I loved had pulled a knife on me.
I was a little tougher now.
Which was something the Vandy apparently did not appreciate. Her scowl deepened as she snapped, “Front and center!”
I muttered a few choice words as I moved through the crowd. When I reached the shore, I kicked off my shoes and socks to stand next to the Vandy in the shallows, grimacing at the slimy mud under my bare feet.
The rope scratched my skin as the Vandy first tied my hands together, then my feet. Once I was all trussed up, she rose, looking satisfied with her handiwork. “Now. Go all the way into the pond.”
I was afraid she was going to make me hop out into the water until it was over my head, an image too mortifying to even contemplate. Cal stepped forward, hopefully to come to my rescue.
“I could toss her off the pier, Ms. Vanderlyden.”
“Good,” the Vandy said with a brisk nod, like that had been her plan all along. Then Cal leaned down and swept me into his arms.
There were more giggles, and even a few sighs. I knew most girls would give up a vital organ for Cal to hold them, but my face flamed red. I wasn’t sure this was any less embarrassing than flopping out into the pond on my own.
“You weren’t listening to her, were you?” he asked in a low voice.
“No,” I replied. During the part where the Vandy had been explaining why someone was about to go into the pond, I’d been telling Jenna that I had not flinched just because some kid had called me “Mercer” yesterday, the way Archer Cross always did. Because I hadn’t. Just like I hadn’t had a dream last night that re-created in vivid detail the one kiss Archer and I had shared last November. Only, in the dream, there was no tattoo on his chest, marking him as a member of L’Occhio di Dio, so there was no reason to stop kissing, and—
“What were you doing?” Cal asked. For a second, I thought he was talking about my dream, and my whole body flushed. Then I realized what he meant.
“Oh, I was, uh, talking to Jenna. You know, making monster small talk.”
I thought I saw that ghost of a smile again, but then he said, “The Vandy said that real witches escaped trial by water by pretending to drown, then freeing themselves with their powers. So she wants you to sink, then save yourself.”
“I think I can manage the sinking part,” I muttered. “The rest…not so sure.”
“You’ll be fine,” he said. “And if you’re not up in a few minutes, I’ll save you.”
Something fluttered inside my chest, catching me by surprise. I hadn’t felt anything like that since Archer had disappeared. It probably didn’t mean anything. The sun was shining through Cal’s dark blond hair, and his hazel eyes were picking up the light bouncing off the water. Plus, he was carrying me like I didn’t weigh anything. Of course I’d feel butterflies when a guy who looked like that said something so swoon-worthy.
“Thanks,” I said. Over his shoulder, I saw my mom watching us from the front porch of what had been Cal’s cabin. She’d been staying there for the past six months while we waited for my dad to come get me and take me to Council Headquarters in London.
Six months later, and we were still waiting.
Mom frowned, and I wanted to give her a thumbs-up to let her know I was okay. All I could manage was raising my bound hands in her general direction, clocking Cal on the chin as I did so. “Sorry.”
“No problem. Must be weird for you, having your mom here.”
“Weird for me, weird for her, probably weird for you since you had to give up your swinging bachelor pad.”
“Mrs. Casnoff let me install my heart-shaped Jacuzzi in my new dorm room.”
“Cal,” I said with mock astonishment, “did you just make a joke?”
“Maybe,” he replied. We’d reached the end of the pier. I looked down at the water and tried not to shudder.
“I’ll be pretending, of course, but do you have any advice on how I’m supposed to not drown?” I asked Cal.
“Don’t breathe in any water.”
“Oh, thanks, that’s super helpful.”
Cal shifted me in his arms, and I tensed. Just before he tossed me into the pond, he leaned in and whispered, “Good luck.”
And then I hit the water.
I can’t say what my first thought was as I sunk below the surface, because it was mostly a string of four-letter words. The water was way too cold for a pond in Georgia in May, and I could feel the chill sinking all the way into my bones. Plus my chest started burning almost immediately, and I sunk all the way to the bottom, landing in the slimy mud.
Okay, Sophie, I thought. Don’t panic.
Then I glanced over to my right, and through the murky water, made out a skull grinning back at me.
I panicked. My first impulse was a human one, and I bent my body, trying to tear at the ropes across my ankles with my bound hands. I quickly realized this was profoundly stupid, and tried to calm down and concentrate on my powers.
Ropes off, I thought, imagining the bindings slithering off me. I could feel them give a little, but not enough. Part of the problem was that my magic came up from the ground (or something beneath the ground, a fact I tried not to think about too often) and it was hard to get my feet on the ground while I was trying not to drown.
ROPES OFF, I thought again, stronger this time.
The ropes snapped violently, unraveling until they were nothing more than a big ball of floating twine. If I hadn’t been holding my breath, I would have sighed. Instead, I untangled myself from what was left of the ropes, and made to kick for the surface.
I swam up about a foot, and then something jerked me back to the bottom.
My eyes went to my ankle, half expecting to see a skeletal hand grabbing me, but there was nothing. My chest was on fire now, and my eyes were stinging. I pumped with my arms and legs, trying to swim up, but it was like I was being held underwater even though nothing was holding me.
Real panic set in as black spots danced before my eyes. I had to breathe. I kicked again, but just bobbed in place. Now the black spots were bigger, and the pressure in my chest was agonizing. I wondered how long I’d been down here, and if Cal was going to make good on that promise to save me anytime soon.
I suddenly surged upward, gasping when I broke the surface, the air burning as it rushed into my chest; but I wasn’t done yet. I kept flying until I was completely out of the water, landing on the pier in a heap.
I winced as my elbow connected painfully with the wood. I knew my skirt was probably hiked up too high on my thighs, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. I just took a second to enjoy breathing. Eventually, I stopped gulping air and started to breathe normally again.
I sat up and pushed my wet hair out of eyes. Cal was standing a few feet away. I glared at him. “Awesome job with the saving.”
Then I realized Cal wasn’t looking at me, but up toward the head of the pier.
I followed his gaze and saw a slender, dark-haired man. He was standing very still, watching me.
Suddenly, it was hard to breathe all over again.
I rose to my feet on shaky legs, tugging my soaked clothes back into place.
“Are you all right?” the man called out, his face clearly worried. His voice was more powerful than I would’ve expected from such a slight man, and he had a soft British accent.
“I’m fine,” I said, but the black spots were back in front of my eyes, and my knees seemed too wobbly to hold me. The last thing I saw before I fainted was my father walking toward me as I crashed back to the pier.
For the second time in six months, I found myself sitting in Mrs. Casnoff’s office, wrapped in a blanket. The first time had been the night I’d discovered that Archer was a member of L’Occhio di Dio, a group of demon hunters. Now my mom was next to me on the couch, one arm wrapped around my shoulders. My dad was standing by Mrs. Casnoff’s desk, holding a manila folder overflowing with papers, while Mrs. Casnoff sat behind that desk in her great purple throne of a chair.
The only sounds were Dad flipping through all that paper and my teeth chattering, so I finally said, “Why couldn’t my magic get me out of the water?”
Mrs. Casnoff looked up at me like she’d forgotten I was even in the room. “No demon could escape from that particular pond,” she answered in her velvety voice.
“There are protection spells in it. It…holds anything it doesn’t recognize as a witch, faerie, or shifter.”
I thought of the skull and nodded, wishing for some of that spiked tea I’d had last time I was here. “I kind of figured that. So the Vandy was trying to kill me?”
Mrs. Casnoff’s lips puckered a little. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “Clarice didn’t know about the protection spells.”
She might’ve been a little more believable if her eyes hadn’t slid away from mine as she’d said that, but before I could press the issue, Dad tossed the folder down on Mrs. Casnoff’s desk and said, “Quite an impressive file you’ve amassed, Sophia.” Clasping his hands, he added, “If Hecate offered classes in complete mayhem, I have no doubt you’d be valedictorian.”
Nice to see where I got my snarkiness. Of course, that seemed to be all I’d gotten from him. I’d seen pictures of him before, but this was the first time I’d seen him in person, and I was having a hard time not staring. He was so different from what I expected. He was definitely handsome, but…I don’t know. In a fussy way. He looked like the kind of guy who had a lot of shoe trees.
I glanced over at Mom and saw that she was having the opposite problem from me. She was looking anywhere but at Dad.
“Yeah,” I said, turning my attention back to him. “Last semester was intense.”
Dad raised both eyebrows at me. I wondered if that was on purpose, or if, like me, he couldn’t lift just one. “‘Intense?’” He picked up the file again and studied it over the top of his glasses. “On your first day at Hecate, you were attacked by a werewolf….”
“It wasn’t really an attack,” I muttered, but no one seemed to pay any attention.
“But of course, that’s paltry compared to what came after.” Dad flipped through the pages. “You insulted a teacher, which resulted in semester-long cellar duty with one Archer Cross. According to Mrs. Casnoff’s notes on the situation, the two of you became ‘close.’” He paused. “Is that an accurate description of your relationship with Mr. Cross?”
“Sure,” I said through clenched teeth.
Dad turned another page. “Well, apparently you two were…close enough that at some point you were able to see the mark of L’Occhio di Dio on his chest.”
I flushed at that, and felt Mom’s arm tighten around me. Over the past six months, I’d filled her in on a lot of the story with Archer, but not all of it.
Specifically, not the whole me-making-out-in-the-cellar-with-him part.
“Now, for most people, nearly being murdered by a warlock working with the Eye would be enough excitement for one semester. But you also became involved with a coven of dark witches led by”—he ran his finger along the page—“ah, Elodie Parris. Miss Parris and her friends, Anna Gilroy and Chaston Burnett, murdered the other member of their coven, Holly Mitchell, and raised a demon who just happened to be your great-grandmother, Alice Barrow.”
My stomach twisted. I’d spent the past six months trying not to think about all that had happened last fall. To have it all read out to me in Dad’s emotionless voice…well, let’s just say I was beginning to wish I’d stayed in the pond.
“After Alice attacked Chaston and Anna, she killed Elodie, and then you killed her.”
I saw his eyes drift from the paper and to my right hand. A puckered scar ran across my palm, a souvenir of that night. Demonglass leaves quite a mark.
Clearing his throat, Dad dropped the papers. “So yes, Sophia, I would agree that you did have quite the intense semester. Ironic considering the fact that I sent you here to be safe.”
Sixteen years’ worth of questions and accusations flooded my brain, and I heard myself snap, “Which I might have been if someone had filled me in on the whole my being a demon thing.”
Behind Dad, Mrs. Casnoff frowned, and I thought I was about to get a lecture on respecting one’s elders, but Dad just watched me with those blue eyes—my eyes—and gave a tiny smile. “Touché.”
The smile threw me, and I looked at the floor when I said, “So are you here to take me to London? I’ve been waiting since November.”
“We can discuss that at some point, yes. But first I’d like to hear about the events of last semester from your perspective. I’d like to hear about the Cross boy.”
Resentment surged up in me, and I shook my head. “No way. You want those stories, you can read the accounts I wrote up for the Council. Or you can talk to Mrs. Casnoff, or Mom, or any of the other people I’ve told the story to.”
“Sophia, I understand that you’re angry—”
“It’s Sophie. No one calls me Sophia.”
His lips thinned. “Very well. Sophie, while your frustration is perfectly valid, it’s not helpful at this moment. I’d like to spend time talking with you and your mother”—his eyes flickered to Mom—“as a family before we proceed to the subject of your going through the Removal.”
“Too bad,” I retorted, tossing off the blanket and Mom’s arm. “You’ve had sixteen years to talk to us as a family. I didn’t ask you to come here because you’re my dad and I wanted some kind of tearful reunion. I asked you to come here as head of the Council so I can get my stupid powers removed.”
All of that came out in a rush. I was afraid if I slowed down, I might start crying, and I’d done enough of that over the past few months.
Dad studied me, but his eyes had gone cold, and his voice was stern when he said, “In that case, in my capacity as head of the Council, I reject your request to go through the Removal.”
I stared at him, dumbfounded. “You can’t do that!”
“Actually, Sophie, he can,” Mrs. Casnoff interjected. “Both as head of the Council and as your father, he’s well within his rights. At least until you’re eighteen.”
“That’s over a year away!”
“Which will give you enough time to understand the implications of your decision to the fullest,” Dad said.
I whirled on him. “Okay, first of all, no one talks like that. Secondly, I do understand the implications of my decision. Removing my powers will keep me from potentially killing someone.”
“Sophie, we’ve talked about this,” Mom said, speaking for the first time since we’d come into Mrs. Casnoff’s office. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that you will kill someone. Or that you’ll even try. Your father has never lost control of his powers.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes with one hand. “And it’s just so drastic, honey. I don’t think you should risk your life for a ‘what if?’”
“Your mother is right,” Mrs. Casnoff said. “And bear in mind that you decided to go through the Removal less than twenty-four hours after watching the death of a friend. More time to weigh your options might be a good thing.”
I sat back down on the couch. “I get what you guys are saying. I do. But…” I looked at the three of them, settling finally on my dad, the only person I thought might understand what I was about to say. “I saw Alice. I saw what she was, what she did, what she was capable of.” I dropped my eyes to the faded cabbage roses on Mrs. Casnoff’s carpet, but I was seeing Elodie, pale and streaked with blood. “I don’t ever—ever—want to be like that. I really would rather die.”
Mom made a choked noise, and Mrs. Casnoff suddenly became fascinated by something on her desk.
But Dad nodded. “All right,” he said. “I’ll make you a deal.”
“James,” Mom said sharply.
Their eyes met and something passed between them before Dad continued. “Your year here at Hecate Hall is almost over. Come spend the summer with me, and at the end of that time, if you still want to go through the Removal, I’ll allow it.”
My eyebrows shot up. “What, like at your house? In England?” My pulse sped up. There had been three sightings of Archer in England.
Dad paused, and for one awful moment I wondered if he could read minds. But he just said, “England, yes. My house, no. I’ll be staying with…friends for the summer.”
“And they won’t care if you bring your daughter?”
He smiled at some private joke. “Trust me. They have room.”
“What exactly is this supposed to accomplish?” I was trying to sound haughty and disdainful, but I’m afraid it just came off as petulant.
Dad began fishing in his coat for something, but when he pulled out a thin brown cigarette, Mrs. Casnoff made a disapproving cluck. He sighed and put the cigarette back.
“Sophie,” he said, sounding frustrated, “I want to get to know you, and have you get to know me, before you decide to throw your powers—and possibly your life—away. You don’t even fully comprehend what it means to be a demon yet.”
I thought about Dad’s offer. On the one hand, I was not exactly his biggest fan right now, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend time on a whole other continent with him.
But if I didn’t, I’d be stuck as a demon for a lot longer.
Also, my mom had given up the house she’d been renting in Vermont, so I’d probably be spending all summer at Hecate with just her and the teachers. Ugh.
And then there was England. Archer.
“Mom?” I asked, wondering if she had some motherly input. She seemed pretty shaken up, which was understandable, what with watching me nearly get killed, then having to deal with Dad.
“I’d miss you like crazy, but your dad makes a good point.” Her eyes were bright with tears, but she blinked them back and nodded. “I think you should go.”
“Thank you, Grace,” Dad said quietly.
I took a deep breath. “Okay,” I told him. “I’ll go. But I want to bring Jenna.”
She didn’t have anywhere to go this summer either, and I wanted at least one friendly face if I was going to spend a whole summer embracing my demon-ness or whatever.
“Fine,” Dad said, without hesitation.
That took me by surprise, but I tried to seem nonchalant as I said, “Awesome.”
“That reminds me,” Dad said to Mrs. Casnoff. “I was wondering if it would be all right for Alexander Callahan to come with us as well.”
“Who the heck is Alexander Callahan?” I asked. “Oh, right. Cal.”
It was weird to think of him as Alexander. It was such a formal name. Cal suited him a lot better.
“Of course,” Mrs. Casnoff said, all business again. “I’m sure we can manage without him for a few months. Although without his healing powers, we’ll certainly have to invest in more bandages.”
“Why do you want to bring Cal?” I asked.
Dad’s fingers strayed to his suit pocket again. “Council business, mostly. Alexander’s powers are unique, so we’d like to interview him, possibly run a few tests.”
I didn’t like the sound of that, and something told me Cal wouldn’t either.
“And it will give the two of you a chance to get to know one another better,” Dad continued.
A sense of dread slowly began creeping up my spine. “Cal and I know each other well enough,” I said. “Why would I want to know him better?”
“Because,” Dad said, finally meeting my eyes, “you and he are betrothed.”
It took me a good thirty minutes to find Cal. That was actually a good thing, because it gave me plenty of time to come up with something to say to him that wasn’t just a string of four-letter words.
There are a lot of freaky things witches and warlocks do, obviously, but the arranged marriage thing was one of the grossest. When a witch is thirteen, her parents hook her up with an available warlock, based on things like compatible powers and family alliances. The entire thing is so eighteenth century.
As I stomped across school grounds, all I could see was Cal sitting with my dad in some manly room with leather chairs and dead animals on the wall, chomping on cigars as Dad formally signed me away to him. They probably even high-fived.
Okay, so it’s not like either of them are exactly the cigar-and-high-fives type, but still.
I finally found Cal in the potting shed behind the greenhouse, where our Defense classes were held. His talent for healing extended to plants, and he was running his hands over a browned and drooping azalea when I flung open the door. He squinted as a shaft of late afternoon sunlight flooded in behind me.
“Did you know I’m your fiancée?” I demanded.
Cal muttered something under his breath and turned back to the plant.
“Did you?” I asked again, even though I clearly had my answer.
“Yes,” he replied.
I stood there waiting for him to say something else, but that was apparently all Cal had to say.
“Well, I’m not going to marry you,” I said. “I think this whole arranged marriage thing is gross and barbaric.”
There was a bag of potting soil by the door, and I scooped up a handful to fling at his back. Before it hit, he raised his hand and the dirt froze in midair. It hovered there for a moment before floating slowly back to the bag.
“I just can’t believe you knew and didn’t tell me,” I said, sitting on an unopened bag.
“I didn’t see the point.”
“What does that mean?”
He dusted his hands off on his jeans and turned to face me. He was streaked with sweat, and his damp T-shirt was clinging to his chest in ways that would have been interesting if I wasn’t so irritated with him. As usual, he looked more like an all-American high school quarterback than a warlock.
His face was blank, but Cal always held his cards pretty close to his chest. “It means that you didn’t grow up in a Prodigium family, so I knew you’d think arranged marriages were—what did you say?”
“Gross and barbaric.”
“Right. So what was the point in making you all freaked out and hostile?”
“I’m not hostile,” I protested. Cal gave a pointed look to the potting soil, and I rolled my eyes. “Okay, yes, but I was mad that you didn’t tell me, not that we’re…engaged. God, I can’t even say it. It sounds too weird.”
“Sophie, it doesn’t mean anything,” he said, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. “It’s like a business contract. Didn’t anyone explain that to you?”
Archer had. He’d been betrothed to Holly, Jenna’s old roommate, before she died. Of course, now that I knew he was an Eye, I wondered how legit that had ever been. But I didn’t want to think about him right now.
“Yeah,” I said. “And we can, you know, break it off, right? It’s not a done deal.”
“Exactly. So are we cool?”
I drew a pattern on the dirt-covered floor with my toe. “Yeah. We’re cool.”
“Great,” he said. “So there’s no need for things to be awkward.”
Then we sat there awkwardly for a moment before I said, “Oh! Almost forgot. Dad wants you to come to England with us this summer.” Briefly, I told him everything that had happened in Mrs. Casnoff ’s office. He looked surprised when I told him about the Vandy, and he scowled when I mentioned the interview-and-testing part of his summer vacation, but he didn’t interrupt me. When I was finished, he said, “Well, that sucks.”
“A bunch,” I agreed.
He got up and walked back to the azalea, which I guess was my cue to leave. Instead, I said, “Sorry I tried to throw dirt at you.”
- On Sale
- Feb 7, 2012
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers