Excerpt from Dark Secret
The house is silent save for the howling wind outside. It threatens us
with the commotion of an incoming storm—its strength and fury already enough to
send the occasional tree branch crashing against my windowpanes.
This is the first time I’ve had to sneak out to go on patrol. The thought
doesn’t sit well with me. I’m used to trust and freedom, not the threat of
Tossing my covers aside, I sit up and allow my legs to dangle over the
side of my bed. I’m already dressed. I began preparing for this moment as soon
as Mamá told me I wasn’t allowed to
Instinctively, I reach for my necklace. I run my thumb down the length of
the cross, my strength rejuvenated by its mere presence. The metal is cold to
my touch. This two-inch silver cross is the last thing Papá gave me before he sacrificed himself to save Mamá and me from vampires. I
never take it off.
I glance around my room in search of his portrait, but I don’t find it.
For the first time, I’m thankful Mamá is having the frame redone. I can’t bear the thought
of him watching—not tonight. Not until I have proof.
I tiptoe across the room, careful not to step on loose floorboards, and
slip into my combat boots. I’ve strategically placed them in front of my
dresser, which is directly to the right of my bedroom door.
I’m just feet from my escape now. My breath comes in shallow huffs, and
my hands are clammy. I can’t wait to feel the cool breeze against my skin. I
wipe my palms against my jeans and try to shake off the fear of being
I stare at my reflection in the large mirror that hangs on the wall above
my dresser and replay each scenario in my mind. Mamá will not be pleased when she
discovers I’ve disobeyed her order to retire early and skip my patrol. But I
must ignore her. I can’t skip even one night of patrol in favor of rest before
our upcoming full moon ritual.
For weeks now, I’ve been burdened by the truth. Nestled deep within the
pit of my gut is the feeling that something horrible will soon befall my coven.
When I told Mamá,
she simply made me a potion mixed with dandelion, wormwood, and calendula herbs
to aid my clairvoyance and encourage psychic development. Her disbelief stings.
Being the only other spirit witch in our coven, she is supposed to trust my
instincts. I may be a novice compared to her, but I still know the signs of
Quickly, I tie my hair back and assess my look. I carefully choose my
attire for every patrol. Tonight, I’m wearing all black—not unusual for me. My
clothes are tight, yet loose enough to sidestep attacks. My jeans are tucked into
my boots, and my long-sleeved shirt has small holes that loop around my thumbs,
keeping it in place. My exposed neck is protected by my cross.
Missing only two things, I’m nearly ready to begin my patrol.
I grab the small mesh baggie. Last night, I filled it with horehound and
mugwort. They’re strong herbs used in protection spells. These aren’t a
guarantee, but they can’t hurt. And I’ll take anything I can get. Usually I try
to patrol with another witch, but tonight I’m going alone. It’s reckless, but I
don’t have another choice. I must hunt until this uneasy feeling goes away.
A long, narrow black box rests atop my dresser. I open the lid. Something
washes over me every time I see it, touch it. I run a finger down the long,
cool metal, and a jolt of energy shoots down my spine.
What started as plain, bright, and reflective silver is now a formidable
weapon. On one end, it’s thick and fits firmly in my hand. On the other, it’s pointed
into a sharp dagger.
Forged by witches, the metal was melted into its liquid state and mixed
with the strongest protection elixirs. No longer shiny, the weapon, my stake,
is a matte dark gray and etched with runes that represent magic, the elements,
death, and power.
When I grasp at it to pick it up, it rolls into the palm of my hand as if
it somehow knows it should be there. It’s
nothing but metal and magic, but it feels alive. It feels like it’s part of me,
and as a spirit witch, with little control over the elements, I rely heavily on
this stake. It’s saved my neck more times than I care to admit.
I tighten my grasp around it, and suddenly I’m no longer afraid to sneak
away and hunt vampires.
I don’t fear Mamá’s reaction or care what the coven thinks. All I can think
about is driving this stake into a vampire’s heart and ridding the world of another
I slip the stake into its sheath, which hangs comfortably against my
side. Hidden by my arms, blissfully unaware humans don’t notice it. Of course,
vampires do. Their senses are far greater than mine. Their strength and speed
are unmatched. But they haven’t access to the earth’s magic, and that, in the
end, is always the reason why they bite the dust and I make it home for dinner.
I consider staging my room so it looks like I’m sleeping. I could adjust
my pillows to make them mirror the shape of my body, but I shrug away the
thought. I’m only planning a quick loop around the village. I should be back
long before Mamá wakes.
My door creaks as I open it, and I freeze. Seconds tick by. I poke my
head past the threshold and scan the hallway. Mamá’s door is still closed. I
listen for her soft snoring, my racing thoughts slowing with each exhale.
I tiptoe down the hall and press my ear to her door. If she catches me, I
will tell her I am just going to the bathroom. Or maybe I’ll say I can’t sleep,
so I’m going downstairs for a snack. Of course, she’d see through both lies. Mamá
is a natural lie
detector. But I’d have to try.
No noise comes from her room, save for her heavy breathing. I rub my
cross for strength and dash through the hall and down the stairs, skidding to a
stop at the front door. Before I even realize what I’m doing, I’m grasping the
doorknob, twisting, yanking, and pulling the solid oak open and then closed
The cool breeze sends a shiver down my spine. I pull my jacket tighter
around me to keep out the cold night air and wipe the sweat that’s beaded at my
temple. Slowly, I turn to face the outside world.
Our house is still dark. Every other step, I toss a glance behind me
until I’m so far down the street I can’t see home anymore. There’s nothing but
dark space, guilt, and dread between Mamá and me now.
I don’t cherish the thought of upsetting her. Some of my worst memories
are from times when she’s told me I’ve disappointed her. My very worst memory
is when I was too young to help her and Papá. I was the ultimate disappointment.
I kick the pebbles at my feet. I tried explaining how important patrols
are right now, but Mamá wouldn’t listen. It’s frustrating that she believes in my
magic as a spirit witch, but she doesn’t believe in me.
Something dark is coming, I know it, and it’s heading straight for our coven.
If she won’t protect them, I will, even if it means lying, sneaking out,
keeping secrets, and breaking promises.
The streetlights are bright at this time of night, illuminating the world
around me in rays of light, showcasing all the things I don’t notice during the
day. That’s my favorite part about patrolling. Mamá doesn’t understand why I
love it so much—the hunting, tracking, killing. But there’s something about the
way the moon speaks to me. It’s like she sings songs for my ears alone. She
calls to me in ways Mamá doesn’t understand. I am destined for the night. For the
The witches aren’t very good at training me to fight. Rather than using
hand-to-hand combat, they rely on their magical affinities for one of the five
elements—earth, air, water, fire, and spirit. Even as a coven at full strength,
the slightest hiccup can prevent a successful ritual.
Since witches are earthly vessels, our power is finicky and dependent on
too many outside factors. To perform a ritual properly and to cast even a
simple spell, timing matters. We’re servants to the moon, to the sun, and to
Our magic is so much a part of us, it affects witches on a cellular and
A naturally masculine element, fire witches are passionate and creative,
and harness a fierce temperament. Fire witches can ignite a flame within their
victims, burning them alive, but the element is only at its strongest during
midday on a summer afternoon.
The other masculine element is air. Air witches are wise, intellectual
beings who rationalize even the most chaotic of times. They can hack through
skin with forceful blasts of wind, but they’re only at their most powerful at
night in the winter, when the moon is high and the air is cold.
Water is a feminine element. These witches are mysterious, intuitive
beings who can turn water droplets into ice shards. They are at their strongest
at dusk in autumn.
The final feminine element is earth. Users desire stability,
practicality, and materialism in the physical world, but with the snap of their
fingertips, earth witches can wield bullets made of stone. Their power is most
potent during sunrise in the spring.
Four of the five elements have weapons at their disposal to easily disarm
prey. Together, at their strongest hour, they would be unstoppable—but this
would never happen. It can’t be midday in the summer and dusk in autumn at the
same time. Mamá
says the earth can only handle so much magic at once, which is why witches have
natural limits and time boundaries.
As a spirit witch, my powers are mental. I have prophetic dreams and can
visit the astral plane. Basically, I can feel when something bad is going to
happen, and occasionally, I can see snippets of the future when I sleep. These
really aren’t the greatest powers to have when I’m facing a vampire in real
I keep my mind sharp and focus on the world around me. Darkhaven is a
small village in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by the sea on one side and
forest on the others, it is a safe haven for the witch covens that call this
home. Humans don’t seem to notice when we make our way into the forest for a
ritual or to collect plants and berries for elixirs.
The sun won’t rise for hours, so I have plenty of time to loop around
town, making sure I hit all the spots vampires are likely to search for food.
Evernight Bar and Grill is Darkhaven’s local restaurant and pub. It’s closing
in an hour or so, and drunken humans will be stumbling their way through the
dimly lit streets like they’re meals-on-wheels. Most of the walking blood bags
will be lucky to make it home.
The soft smack of heels alerts me.
I am not alone.