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If you did, you should be aware it is stolen property as it was reported unsold and destroyed by a retailer. Neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this book. First Published 2013 First Australian Paperback Edition 2013 ISBN 978 174356276 5 BANISH 2013 by Nicola Marsh Philippine Copyright 2013 Australian Copyright 2013 New Zealand Copyright 2013 Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilisation of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises, Locked Bag 7002, Chatswood D.C. N.S.W., Australia 2067. This book is sold subject to the condition that shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published in arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Published by Harlequin TEEN An imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Level 5 15 Help Street CHATSWOOD NSW 2067 AUSTRALIA and are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its corporate affiliates and used by others under licence. Trademarks marked with an are registered in Australia and in other countries. Contact admin_legal@Harlequin.ca for details. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.. All rights reserved. Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

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Banish
NICOLA MARSH
Untitled-2 1 16/05/13 4:35 PM

PROLOGUE
Time to put the past to rest. I edged towards the door leading to freedom and clasped the knife, its weight reassuring in my hand. Ignoring the pain in my palm where it had accidentally sliced as Id bolted to escape, I focused on the kitchen doorway and waited. Waited for him to come after me. A shadow fell across the doorway and using both hands I raised the knife, holding it high and extended, like a Samurai. He stopped at the kitchen door, malevolence radiating off him. He raised a finger and drew it across his throat in a slow, deliberate slit. Youre dead. He stepped into the kitchen, the absence of emotion in his icy glare almost as terrifying as the slow curling and unfurling of his fingers. I had no doubt those fingers would end up wrapped around my throat. Give me the knife, bitch. The insult didnt freak me out as much as the uncanny timbre of his voice; how much he sounded like my dead ex. Wish Id noticed the resemblance sooner. Would have saved me the hassle of carving up his ass. For there was one thing

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I was sure of: Id managed to endure this god-awful week so far, no way would I go down without a fight. My trembling fingers convulsed around the knife, gripping the handle tighter as I lowered it to chest level. Make me. The eyes of the guy Id once trusted glowed with hatred. A second before he lunged at me. I feinted to the right, slammed my hip against the sink and cried out in pain. He laughed, a chilling sound that had me scrabbling faster as he came straight for me. I swept the glass on the draining board to the floor and dodged to the left. He kept coming. Panic clogged my throat as I rebounded against the wall, hard enough to rattle the crockery in the dresser. I should have baulked, should have screamed, should have run. Instead, an inner strength I hadnt known I possessed snapped its leash. Clawed its way to the surface, howling for freedom. He must have seen something in my expression because he hesitated. I didnt. I screamed my fury, desperate to lash out. Unable to rein in my rage, I slashed.

CHAPTER ONE

One Week Earlier All the times Id sabotaged Moms spells as an adventurous kid, hidden Aunt Angies althame or used runes to pelt the snotty brat next door had come back to haunt me. Maybe there was something to my familys Wicca Threefold Law after all: whatever you dished out would come back three times worse. My history assignment on pagans definitely fell into this category. I didnt want to research paganism. Id lived it growing up and witchcraft wasnt for me. Not after Id seen the results on my mom. Staring at that paper isnt going to get it done. My head snapped up and I tried not to gawk at Ronan. Id done enough of that while trailing after him, filming his after-hours tutoring with high school kids for another assignment. Hed noticed. Assumed my interest was for his incredible sax playing and not for his all-round hotness, thank goodness. Wed been emailing ever since. General stuff. Music chatter.Video clips. Casual.

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If hed been the music teacher at school I would have signed up for extra tuition in a flash. Instead, I made do with admiring him from afar twice a week when he came in to tutor kids after school. Then again, if he was a teacher here, we probably wouldnt be corresponding via cyberspace and striking up what Id like to think of as a friendship. Hed been so patient answering my assignment questions and, like me, was a bit of a geek for facts. Kinda inevitable Id developed a monster crush. Not that I remotely thought for one moment it was reciprocated. Why would a guy like him be interested in a beanpole strawberry blonde with blah-blue eyes, no curves and a nasty habit of picking at her cuticles? I pushed the paper away with the tip of my pen. The subjects pretty boring. Especially after Id had firsthand experience with dancing around a maypole on Beltane, constructing a broom with aromatic herbs, bright foliage and finishing with a spritz of glycerol to make it last, and sneaking a copy of Moms The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, a witchs must-read. I braced at Ronans nearness as he tilted his head to one side. Pagans: Witches Or Whackos by Alyssa Wood, he read aloud. Witches sound cool to me. Not if you grew up with them, I muttered, mortified hed heard. He laughed and slid onto the seat next to mine. The school library, a cosy cavernous haven I loved for the quiet, shrunk with him sitting so close. He stared at me, assessing. Youd be the least likely person Id pick to be a witch. Thats because Im not. Heat flushed my cheeks as he raised an eyebrow at my vehement denial. Good to know. He winked. In case you had an urge to turn me into a toad.

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Not a bad idea, if I got to kiss him to turn him back. Like that thought helped my blush. Im not into magick. I made a mockery of the statement by knowing the correct spelling added a K on the end, as I twirled a pen between my fingers. It slipped and landed in the centre of my blank page. Of an assignment comprising the bulk of my grade this semester. Due tomorrow. That Id deliberately ignored the past two weeks in the hope it would vanish. Pity I didnt believe in wands. Why dont you write it from a sceptics viewpoint? That would be interesting. Because paganism exists. Worse luck. Its a part of history and Jackass Jackman wants facts, not a debate. Trust me to land the only history teacher on the planet who was into Wicca stuff as much as my family. He held up his hands in surrender. Hey, just an idea. I winced. Sorry. Ill be pulling an all-nighter to get this done and Im a little tense. What can I do to help? I struggled not to gape at this cool, twenty-one year old, part-time music tutor offering to pitch in on a high school paper. Thanks, but youve probably got band stuff on Ill research, you write. He flipped open the nearest text in my pile of books and I slumped into my chair, content to watch him, wondering what hed do if I hugged him in gratitude. When I continued staring, he glanced up, a smile crinkling the corners of his warm hazel eyes. Youre not writing. Im thinking. The crinkles fanned outwards. By the lack of words on that page, youve been doing a lot of that.

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If he only knew. Thinking about Wicca raised other issues Id rather not face; issues Id run from when Id left Broadwater for New York City six months ago. This assignment didnt scare me. The repercussions of acknowledging my past did. I managed a tight smile. Start reading. Bossy as well as witchy. I better watch out. I opened my mouth to protest but he laughed and I ducked my head so my hair draped across my face. Besides, what could I say? My mom used to be devout Wicca, my aunt is a renowned high priestess urban witch and I was certified mundane? I didnt believe in magick. Not any more. Okay, heres your beginning. His finger trailed under the text and I stared at his hand, fascinated by his long, strong fingers and clean, square nails. Wicca is a modern religion based on ancient pagan practices. Paganism refers to all nature-based religions. His low voice soothed, leaving me mesmerised rather than studious. Says here all Wiccans are witches and all witches are pagans, but not all witches are Wicca. He glanced up, his frown comical. My moms Wicca. Its a spiritual thing based in nature, where she follows changing seasons of the year. He pointed at the text. Wheel of the Year? I nodded. Yeah, its all wrapped up in the cycle of life, death and holidays. The holiday part doesnt sound so bad. Easy for him to say. He hadnt seen his mom dance naked in the moonlight on Samhain. Youve got a little crease right here. He touched the skin between my eyebrows, a fleeting graze of his fingertip

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that had me leaning towards him. Whats up? Apart from cramming two weeks worth of homework into a few hours? What could I say? That Id fled the only home Id ever known because my boyfriend Noah killed himself the day after I dumped him? That my mom had morphed from eccentric witch to air-talking alcoholic when I hit puberty? Flattered by his interest and enjoying the attention, I settled for a sedate version. Im just dealing with some stuff. I picked at the cuticle on my thumb, a habit Id tried to ditch and failed. I havent seen my mom in six months, and the aunt I live with isnt her greatest fan.Theyve had their differences over the years. Most of them centring on me. I had to give Mom credit in not bowing to Angies pressure. My mom respected my wish to be mundane; Angie kept pushing to educate me in witch ways. Thankfully, as Mom deteriorated over the past few years, Angie had backed off. I loved them both dearly but being caught between two witches? Not a good place to be. Must be tough. I shrugged, not willing to divulge more than that. Thankfully, he didnt pry or offer advice. Shall I keep reading? I nodded and picked up my pen, content to listen to his voice as he read, rather than dwell on a home situation I couldnt change. After ten minutes, the information snippets Id jotted covered five pages. There are some pretty cool pictures accompanying this stuff. He pointed to a chalked pentagram on rocky ground, a gold chalice and an altar covered in rabbits, chicks and eggsfertility symbols to celebrate Ostara. You want to knock old Jackmans socks off, why dont you make a trailer of this stuff?

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He swung the book my way.You choose the pics online, Ill do the backing music. I stared at him like hed hung the moon and stars. Heck, the whole damn solar system. Thats genius. His bashful smile made something shift in my chest something bordering on painful and wonderful and hopeful. We can do it at my place, if you like? A perfectly innocent invitation considering he gave private music lessons to kids there all the time, but the small part of me that had a major crush did a happy dance. Sure, that sounds great. I shoved the books into my satchel, wondering when I could text Angie to let her know where Id be without looking like a kid who had to check in. Here, let me carry that. Before I could protest, hed slung the satchel over his shoulder, the faded, worn buttercup leather accentuating his mussed funkiness rather than detracting from it. The thing weighed a ton so I didnt mind. What I didnt like so much was the way I felt around him: comfortable, safe, more than a little yearning. He hadnt made a big deal about me tagging along filming him for my music assignment. He hadnt treated me like a kid, and he hadnt hesitated to answer the many questions Id fired at him. Best of all, he hadnt mentioned my less-than-subtle crush. The guy played nightly gigs in a band, so he was probably used to girls gazing at him with blatant adoration. Not that Id done anything so obvious. Not much anyway. Dont you have to check in with your aunt? I shrugged, hoping to hide my gaucheness beneath nonchalance. Like I got invited to older guys apartments every

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day of the week, albeit to study. Shes at a coven meeting tonight. Ill text her later. He whistled long and low. Covens really exist in New York City? Yeah, tonnes. And thats not counting the ones she mentors online. His mouth curved into a smile that slam-dunked any residual guilt at hanging out with a cute guy I could seriously like given half a chance. Wonder if I can buy an online spell for a new bass player. I rolled my eyes. You have no idea what some people ask for in those online forums. Try me. Surprised by his genuine interest in a topic I usually avoided, I had no option but to elaborate. The guy was helping me out; the least I could do was educate him. There are covens all around the country and overseas. Angies highly respected, so she runs forums for spell casting, divination, invocations, rituals, ordinations. You name it, she does it. Witchcraft 101, in ten easy steps. I like it. He snapped his fingers. Maybe Ill get me a new bass player after all. Dont count on it. Spells only work if you believe, theyre not for mundanes like us. His grin widened. Are mundanes like Muggles? Did everyone in the known universe associate magick with Harry Potter? Yeah. Were ordinary, practical, of this world apparently. While pagans are more involved in otherworldly stuff. He made a spooky noise and wiggled his fingers at me. I swatted them away as we left the library, enjoying his banter. It was refreshing to have someone take a light-hearted view on the alternate belief system Id been brought up with.

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Most guys would have made snide remarks or squirmed uncomfortably or changed the subject. Ronan had done none of those things. Then again, as Id come to appreciate over the past few weeks, Ronan wasnt most guys. With his shaggy brown hair tied back in a low ponytail, long-lashed hazel eyes and laid-back smile that made me want to grin right back at him, he was cute rather than gorgeous.Throw in the low-slung skinny jeans, white T-shirt and black leather jacket he perpetually wore, and he channelled a lot of average guys. But thats where comparisons to a typical guy ended. For Ronan possessed that certain something that set him apart: sincerity. Hed genuinely wanted to help me any way he could with my music assignment. Hed invested time and effort. And hed been incredibly nice doing it. Swoon. Hey, after we finish your assignment, want to grab a bite to eat? He didnt break step and I had a hard time not sprawling at his feet in shock. Was he asking me out? Ive got a gig at nine but that should give us plenty of time. Yeah, sure. My acceptance came out as a croak and I cleared my throat. Great. He patted the satchel bumping against his hip in time with every step. Added incentive to get this done quickly. Why, are you hungry? Not really. He paused and darted a loaded glance my way I had no hope of interpreting. Questions pinged around my brain. Was this more of his characteristic niceness? Was he being polite and asking me for a meal because it seemed natural after doing homework together? Was he a tiny bit into me?

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His fingertips grazed my arm, a fleeting touch that made my nerves jump and added to my confusion. Thought it might be cool to hang out for a while away from the assignment stuff, you know? I didnt know, but I nodded and grinned like an idiot, hoping my tumultuous nerves and bewilderment would give way to assuredness and poise when I sat near him for the next few hours. Goddess, help me. I instantly wiped the silent plea, an unconscious invocation from years of hearing Mom say it. It meant nothing. Unlike Moms illness and the ongoing effect it had on my life. Spending a few hours with Ronanperplexity at his motivations notwithstandingwould be a welcome break from my constant mulling over Moms problems. She wouldnt talk about them and Id given up trying to make her. Easier to put Noah and Mom and Broadwater behind me, and move on. Starting now.

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