“That doesn’t mean you get to help. This isn’t about revenge.”

“Then what is it about?”

“It’s about … stopping her.”

“Well, you haven’t exactly done a great job of that. And from what I saw, it didn’t even look like you were trying.” Carmel has her eyebrow raised at me. The look is giving me some kind of hot feeling in my cheeks. Holy shit, I’m blushing.

“This is stupid,” I blurt. “She’s tough, okay? But I have a plan.”

“Yeah,” Thomas says, rising to my defense. “Cas has it all worked out. I’ve already got the rocks from the lake. They’re charging under the moon until it wanes. The chicken feet are on backorder.”

Talking about the spell makes me uneasy for some reason, like there’s something that I’m not putting together. Something that I’ve overlooked.

Someone comes through the door without knocking. I barely notice, because that makes me feel like I’ve overlooked something too. After a few seconds of prodding my brain, I glance up and see Will Rosenberg.

He looks like he hasn’t slept in days. His breathing is heavy and his chin is lolling toward his chest. I wonder if he’s been drinking. There are dirt and oil stains on his jeans. The poor kid’s taking it hard. He’s staring at my knife on the table, so I reach up and take it, then slide it into my back pocket.

“I knew there was something weird about you,” he says. The scent of his breath is sixty percent beer. “This is all because of you, somehow, isn’t it? Ever since you came here, something’s been wrong. Mike knew it. That’s why he didn’t want you hanging around Carmel.”

“Mike didn’t know anything,” I say calmly. “What happened to him was an accident.”

“Murder is no accident,” Will mutters. “Stop lying to me. Whatever you’re doing, I want in.”

I groan. Nothing is going right. Morfran comes back into the kitchen and ignores all of us, instead staring into his coffee like it’s super interesting.

“Circle’s getting bigger,” is all he says, and the problem that I couldn’t think of snaps into place.

“Shit,” I say. My head falls back so I’m looking at the ceiling.

“What?” Thomas asks. “What’s wrong?”

“The spell,” I reply. “The circle. We’ve got to be in the house to cast it.”

“Yeah, so?” Thomas says. Carmel gets it right away; her face is downcast.

“So Carmel went into the house this morning and Anna almost ate her. The only person who can be in the house safely is me, and I’m not witchy enough to cast the circle.”

“Couldn’t you hold her off long enough for us to cast it? Once it was up, we’d be protected.”

“No,” Carmel says. “There’s no way. You should have seen him this morning; she swatted him like a fly.”

“Thanks,” I snort.

“It’s true. Thomas would never make it. And besides, doesn’t he have to concentrate or something?”

Will jumps forward and grabs Carmel by the arm. “What are you talking about? You went in that house? Are you crazy? Mike would kill me if anything happened to you!”

And then he remembers that Mike’s dead.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to cast that circle and do that spell,” I think out loud. “She’ll never tell me what happened on her own.”

Morfran finally speaks. “Everything happens for a reason, Theseus Cassio. You’ve got less than a week to figure it out.”

* * *

Less than a week. Less than a week. There’s no way I can become a competent witch in less than a week, and I’m certainly not going to get any stronger or more able to control Anna. I need backup. I need to call Gideon.

We’re all standing around in the driveway, having disbanded in the kitchen. It’s a Sunday, a lazy, quiet Sunday, too early even for churchgoers. Carmel is walking with Will to their cars. She said she was going to follow him home, hang out with him awhile. She was, after all, the closest to him, and she couldn’t imagine that Chase was being much comfort. I imagine she’s right. Before she went, she took Thomas off to the side and whispered with him for a few moments. As we watch Carmel and Will walk away, I ask him what that was all about.

He shrugs. “She just wanted to tell me she was glad that I told her. And she hopes that you’re not mad at me for spilling, because she’ll keep the secret. She just wants to help.” And then he goes on and on, trying to draw attention to the way that she touched his arm. I wish that I hadn’t asked, because now he won’t shut up about it.

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