It occurred to me that I’ve never posted the first chapter of THE BOOK OF LOST SOULS. I’ve always loved teen witch Ivy and company. They’re different from the darker books I tend to write. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud while writing this book. When I wrote the last page, I secretly vowed that one day, I’d write more about Ivy and her friends. Maybe one day, I will. I miss what I call the Ivy League. THE BOOK OF LOST SOULS is also where Devlin the Beelzepup made his debut. He’s the only character inspired by real life — my dog Ronan, who rightly earned the name Beelzepup before he was even three months old.
Without further ado, here’s today’s Sunday Sampler. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Going over it again sure brings back fond memories and a smile.
“I don’t know, Ivy. This borders on black magic,” Shayde said. “You are so dead when your mom finds out.”
For as long as Ivy could remember, Shayde had been the cautious one. The problem was, Raven’s take was different. From the intense expression of interest on her face, Raven thought the whole thing was a rush. Ivy should have counted on the obvious—as usual, her two best friends had conflicting viewpoints.
Great. Just freaking great.
Ivy tried to relax, to not let them sense how nervous she was. This wasn’t black magic. Not really. Just sort of… well, gray. Gray wasn’t so bad. Was it?
She tapped the glass in front of a lizard, a horned toad named Spike. “Who says she’ll find out?”
Shayde gave Ivy an incredulous look. “You’re a witch. Your mom’s a witch. We live in a small town where everyone knows practically everyone else and you think people won’t figure it out?”
“Lighten up! It’ll be fun,” Raven said as she adjusted her fake jewel-encrusted crown. Each girl had dressed in a different costume for the annual Northwick High Halloween party—Shayde as a pirate lass who would have turned any real pirate’s head, Raven as an elaborate, medieval version of the Red Queen, and Ivy in a simple Renaissance-style Juliet costume.
This year, Raven’s parents had agreed to host the event the week before Halloween. The location made for a very happy student body since Raven’s parents also owned the ideal place for such a party—the newly renovated Forever View Funeral Home and Mortuary.
Ivy wiped her perspiring palms against her dress, trying to ignore the growing tension between her friends. She stared into the terrarium. “I guess if I’m going to do this, I’d better get busy.”
Spike, who belonged to Raven’s younger brother, tilted his head at them, as though wondering which girl held his dinner of crickets or mealworms. If Spike had known what Ivy had in mind, he might have considered retreating behind the rocks at the far edge of his sunlamp-heated enclosure. But Spike was a lizard and therefore blissfully ignorant.
Spike’s terrarium sat on top of a bookcase next to a cherrywood study desk. A wrought-iron day bed was opposite the desk, covered with a gold and black coverlet and a single red pillow. A guys’ Renaissance costume in dark velvet lay on top of the coverlet.
Ivy reached inside the terrarium and scooped up Spike, who at the last minute tried to scramble to the safety of his river rock hideaway.
“You do know what happens when horned toad lizards feel threatened, right?” Raven chided.
“Yeah, I know. But everything will be fine,” Ivy said, more to reassure herself than her friends. She placed Spike on top of the costume and tried not to think about him freaking out enough that he’d actually squirt blood from his eyes. The chance of anything like that happening seemed minuscule at best. In her experience, Spike was a very calm lizard.
“He’ll be the perfect Romeo,” Ivy said, confident she had also managed a decent Juliet. It hadn’t come without some effort, though. The only Juliet outfit at the costume shop had been two sizes too large and a much brighter green than she liked. It took a couple spells—one to trim the dress down so she didn’t look like she was wearing a tent, and a second spell to change the color to sage instead of a Christmassy green. With her auburn hair, she’d end up resembling a life-sized holiday ornament, which was definitely not the look she was going for.
On the bed, her soon-to-be Romeo took a step forward and cocked his head, first to one side, then the other, eyes scanning the coverlet for insects.
“You think we should have fed him first?” Shayde asked.
If Shayde still thought this was a bad idea, then maybe it was. Maybe she should return Spike to his tank and forget the whole idea. Then she thought about Dean Matthews, one of the coolest, most gorgeous guys at Northwick High. After tonight, maybe he wouldn’t act like she was so invisible.
“Oh, this is going to be too cool!” Raven exclaimed.
Instead of encouraging her, Raven’s enthusiasm gave Ivy another moment of concern. Raven enjoyed living life on the edge. Shayde might be a little too far on the common sense and caution side, but Raven was the exact opposite. She was a vampire, and vampires were almost immortal. Which made a lot of them avid risk takers. At least the ones Ivy had met.
Ivy took Spectacular Spells Explained—the spell book she’d borrowed from her mother’s reading shelf—flipped it open to a bookmarked section, and scanned the page. From her pocket she retrieved a folded page torn from a magazine and drew a deep breath. Altering clothing by magic had been easy, but the Changing spell wasn’t something she’d done on a live creature before.
“Isn’t there a guideline that says witches aren’t supposed to change one living thing into another without a really good reason and Council approval?” the ever-cautious Shayde asked. “Won’t it seem, you know, like something your dad would’ve done?”
“Shut up, Shayde!” Raven hissed. “Ixnay on the evil wizard-ay.”
Ivy unfolded the paper in an attempt to ignore Shayde’s all-too-true comment about her father—a wizard who once had been associated with a very evil spell caster before leaving town—and studied the ad. In it, a sandy-haired model leaned against a brick wall. He was bare chested and barefoot, wearing only faded jeans and a seductive gaze.
“Yum!” Raven said, earning her a frown of disapproval from Shayde. “Not like that! I just meant he’s pretty hot for one of them.”
“You mean a Regular,” Shayde corrected.
“Right. My bad.” Raven rolled her eyes. “Humans. Regulars. Whatever you call them, they’re not Kindreds. There’s nothing about them that’s supernatural.”
“Half the town are Regulars,” Shayde reminded her.
Shayde and Raven’s friendly sparring was nothing new. But right now, it was a distraction Ivy didn’t need. “Cool it, guys, okay?”
Shayde and Raven exchanged looks and a shrug.
“I think he’s a little old for you,” Shayde said. “He’s definitely frat material. Your mom is gonna freak when she hears about this.”
“I’ll be seventeen soon.”
“Next spring,” Raven said, fidgeting with a lock of her black hair. “Besides, he’s not that old. What? Twenty, maybe? He’s supposed to look like he’s in college.” Raven smirked. “You’ll definitely get everyone’s attention with him.”
“He also looks kinda like an older version of Dean,” Shayde pointed out. “Come on, Ivy!” She folded her arms across her chest, looking more pouty than angry. “How much more obvious can you get?”
Ivy shut out her friends’ commentary, narrowed her eyes at Spike, and extended her hand, fingers spread wide as she concentrated on her spell. Spike jumped like he’d been prodded, and then ever so slowly the horned toad’s shape began to grow and twist. Small wisps of smoke that smelled faintly of old grease rose into the air, and Ivy wrinkled her nose.
Transformations didn’t impress Shayde—she was a werewolf, after all. On the other hand, Raven took a keen interest. “Wow. This is kinda gross,” she said. “I love it.”
Ivy agreed with the gross part. She found it repulsive as the lizard started to take more human form—a grotesque combination of scales and ever-shifting rubbery skin that reminded her of the piglets in formaldehyde she had dissected in biology last spring. As she continued focusing on the spell, Ivy felt an odd, sugar-like high race through her, and she concentrated even harder. Spike’s form slid, almost fluidly, into the surrounding clothing, sparing the girls from further having to watch much more of the half-lizard, half-human transformation. The lizard’s scaly head and reptilian claws shifted into human hands and feet. A wide mouth became the soft, sensuous lips of the model. When Ivy finally completed the spell, Spike really did look human. He lay there for a minute, blinking his dark-brown eyes.
Then he scanned his costume for bugs.
“I really think we should have fed him first,” Shayde repeated. “And what’s with his hair?”
Despite the spell’s success, Ivy had to agree that Spike’s blond hair resembled his name. It stuck out from his head at every imaginable angle.
Raven scrunched up her face. “He looks like Billy Idol.”
Ivy and Shayde looked at Raven, confused.
“A contestant on American Idol?” Shayde guessed.
“Nooo,” Raven said. “Billy Idol. He was a punk rocker back in the eighties.”
“Oh,” Ivy replied. Raven would know about that era. Vampires didn’t age like the rest of the Kindreds. At least most Kindreds. Raven and her brother had been turned into vampires when they were teens back in the early eighties and would still look and, for the most part, act like high school students when Ivy and Shayde were graduating college. It had to be weird to stay young for so long, to always feel pretty much the same. In some ways, it’d be great to never grow old. But to stay a teen practically forever? The thought was unbearable. Ivy shivered almost imperceptibly.
“Ivy,” Shayde said, concern sweeping across her face. “I think you forgot to make him think human. And he can’t go like that. I mean, really, just look at his hair. He looks like a porcupine with an excess of hair gel.”
Spike jerked his head around in short, quick movements—eyeing the girls, the bed, the room. The spell hadn’t worked quite as Ivy planned. She took another glance at the bare-chested model in the ad. His blond hair was wavy but at least under control. The model looked smug. Spike looked, well, mental.
“Hmmm. He loses something from the guy wearing the jeans to the guy in leotards, but not bad,” Raven said. “Shayde’s right, though. You need to make him more human. And we really do need to fix his hair. Sure you don’t want to make him a brunette?”
“Whatever you’re gonna do with him, you’d better hurry. The party starts at seven, and it’s already six thirty,” Shayde said, exasperated. “I still don’t know why you didn’t go with Nick. It would have been easier.”
“Ivy doesn’t want who she could have,” Raven said. “She wants who she can’t have.”
“What? Nick Marcelli too much of a heartbreaker for you, Ivy?” Shayde taunted. “Afraid you might really like him? Or maybe it’s the bad-boy reputation?”
“The rep’s sort of undeserved, don’t you think?” Raven said. “Kid stuff. Setting off fire extinguishers during exams, shrinking the girls’ gym uniforms—”
“Putting glamours on the freshman lockers to resemble the black pits of hell, hacking into the school computers. Should I continue?” Ivy replied.
“That was over a year ago,” Raven countered. “He’s grown past that.”
“Nick dated Phoebe. I heard she’s into black magic,” Ivy said. “Really dark stuff.” Besides, Mr. Marcelli had been a friend of her dad’s, not that Ivy would ever mention that as a reason, even if it was partially true.
Raven groaned. “Ugh! Phoebe! That was her story, not his. Anyway, Nick’s just… mischievous. You could do with a little adventure.”
“Uh-huh.” Ivy motioned to Spike. “Isn’t this adventurous enough?” She shook her head. “Forget I asked.”
“Besides, Nick is hot,” Shayde added. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
Ivy considered Nick. Sicilian complexion, dark, short hair. When he smiled, his coal-colored eyes had a way of smiling too. And he was tall, just over six feet.
“Ever notice,” Shayde said, interrupting Ivy’s visual, “Nick has a way of entering a room with all eyes on him and a way of leaving without being noticed when he wants? Nick is like smoke.”
Yeah, Ivy thought. She’d noticed. Nick was trouble in more ways than one. Her father had been like Nick, full of mystery, with a past full of rumors. She disliked anything or anyone who reminded her of her father. And that meant that every demon and bad-boy wizard in Northwick was on her do-not-trust list, which meant they’d never make it to her must-date list. No matter how hot they were. “Nick isn’t my type.”
Raven sighed. “Well, I can’t say you don’t set high goals, Ivy. You’re not the only one who lies awake at night thinking about Dean.”
Raven was right about Dean being a hot commodity. Without a doubt, Dean was red carpet, paparazzi material all the way: perfect smile, lean and muscular, thick blond hair, and eyes so blue the whites looked glacial. To top it off, he was captain of the football team and a fairly talented wizard. No black magic practitioners in his family. No mysterious rumors. No glamours on lockers.
Unfortunately, Dean wasn’t going to the party alone. It took both beauty and popularity to gain Dean’s attention. Ivy figured that if she showed up with an eye-catching, college-aged date, she just might stand half a chance against Dean’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Tara.
It took twenty minutes for Ivy to find a makeshift intelligence charm from the advanced section of Spectacular Spells Explained to make Spike act more human. She skimmed through the spell, frowning at the warning written above the incantation:
Important Note: The Intelligence spell accelerates over time. Please use caution. We suggest using a Hesitation spell (pg. 73) and a Reducing spell (pg. 119). Best practice is to remove this spell after a few hours. May cause headaches or nosebleeds with prolonged use. In some rare cases, severe depression and paranoia have been reported.
“Two more spells?” Ivy glanced at the small clock sitting on the desk. “I don’t have time for two more spells.”
“Ivy,” Shayde grumbled in cautious protest.
Ivy waved her off. “It’ll be fine, Shayde. Really. It’s not like Spike is going to be human more than a few hours. And this way, he’ll at least have an IQ. He’s not hanging around long enough that he’ll need to be Einstein.”
Shayde shook her head and went back to work on Spike’s hair.
Ivy felt a little better about ignoring the warning when the Intelligence spell didn’t start off so well. Spike’s conversational skills weren’t the best—he mostly just parroted what everyone said around him. She glanced at the clock.
“Okay, I’ve got time for one more incantation,” she said. “Feel better?”
Shayde didn’t comment.
“Well, hurry up!” Raven said. “Or we’re going to be the last ones there.”
Ivy flipped through the spell book and found a temporary charm to make Spike appear a bit more formal and reserved. “This should work.”
While Ivy worked on the last spell, Raven and Shayde finished up with Spike’s hair. They’d done a good job. He now looked just like the magazine photo. Sort of. From a distance. Maybe.
Spike had a strange look in his eyes Ivy couldn’t quite figure out.
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