The main character's name is Cassia, but she goes by Cass. She lives in modern day Mississippi (I had originally set this in the 1890s, but again, Clockwork Angel made me change my mind, and I think things are going to be much better this way now, except it's technically not steam-punk. Whatevs. It's still going to kick butt. Once I figure out how it ends) with her mother, who is a witch. An honest to goodness, spell-casting witch. Sixteen year old Cass, however, isn't. But it still affects her whole life. As you'll see when chapter 2 opens...
Sunday night, only two days into my vacation from Ma and the coven, I was watching t.v. and finishing up a Spanish lesson to email back to one of my junior college professors. The classrooms there were the first I’d ever sat in. The nearest elementary or high school was over thirty miles away, but that wasn’t the real reason Ma had home-schooled me. She always worried about me, that I’d be teased because of her.
Everyone in town thought she and her sisters were silly women playing with Wiccan incantations, but I knew better. And as a kid, I promised Ma I’d be able to handle school, that I wouldn’t let anything anyone said get to me. I wanted to meet other kids, kids who maybe didn’t have a witch for a mother. Sit at a cafeteria table, kiss a boy who wasn’t Jody. He’d been a lot cuter when I was thirteen, and kissing him had been kind of exciting at the time. That excitement quickly faded. Especially since Ma never gave in.
I could’ve held my ground and at least convinced her to let me go to high school for a few years, but instead, I decided to take the fast track to college. I’d be matriculating before my seventeenth birthday. I was taking junior college classes in calculus and Spanish, which I needed to get into a good school, and I couldn’t learn all by myself. My calculus professor was actually the one who convinced me to apply to MIT, her alma mater. She wrote me a recommendation letter and everything, which was hidden in my sock drawer next to a plane ticket. I had an interview scheduled there in October, which I had to go to if I wanted the kind of financial aid I’d need.
I turned off the t.v. and pulled up the MIT admissions page on my laptop. Ma didn’t want me to go so far away. She didn’t get that this was my dream. Maybe because I hadn’t exactly told her. She’d never understand.
So focused on the laptop, on the cheery MIT freshmen and erudite faculty, it took me a few seconds to realize the lamp next to the couch was off. Had the bulb burned out? No, all the lights on the entertainment center had gone dark, too. How could we have lost power on such a calm night?
The moonlight coming through the windows was pretty bright, but I held the open laptop in front of me on my way to the kitchen to find a flashlight. A sound like a creak came from behind me. I turned, washing the weak glow of the computer screen over the living room. Empty, just like I left it.
As I turned back around, the light didn’t shine on the open doorway of the kitchen. A guy, not even twenty, stood in the door.
I clutched the laptop to my body. Who the hell was he? Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, and a cleft chin, he stood completely still.
Just as I was about to work up the balls to tell him to get his ass out of my kitchen, another small creak sounded behind me. I slammed the laptop closed and swung it at the guy’s head. He staggered into the kitchen. I didn’t stick around to find out what kind of damage I’d done, I just raced toward the kitchen door. I’d locked it at sunset, I knew I had, but I was betting it’d be open now. It was. My keys were right by the door and I grabbed them.
The warmth of the laptop was reassuring under my arm as I ran to my truck. I slid in the cab, turned the key in the ignition, and… nothing. Baby’s engine was dead.
A shiver ran up my spine. I grabbed the Maglite from behind the seat and ran into the garage. I slammed my palm against the button to lower the garage door and hurried toward the back, where there was another entrance. It was really an old barn that had been converted decades ago by my grandfather. Swallows nested in the rafters and over the years Ma had packed the rear half of the building with junk. Cutting through the garage with only a flashlight would take longer than I thought.
I’d left the laptop in my truck. My cell was in the house. The coven was gone, and the nearest neighbor who might be home was a good eighteen miles away. A part of my brain wanted to hide in the garage, hoping these assholes would take the t.v. and the silver and whatever else they wanted, and go. The more cynical part of my brain knew they’d done something to my truck, which meant they weren’t after Ma’s paltry gemstone collection.
They were after me.