Home > Omens Bite (Sisters of Salem #2)

Omens Bite (Sisters of Salem #2)
Author: P. C. Cast

 


Prologue


Hunter’s shriek matched the crack of lightning that lit Goodeville’s night sky. Each flash of white spotlighted her frenzied movements—chopping, shoveling, and screaming and crying—until she threw the ax onto the grass and the final log down beside it. Mud splattered against her face. She tilted her chin toward the sky, closed her eyes, and let the rain wash away the dirt. It was almost finished.

Hunter took a deep breath and wiped her cool, rain-soaked sleeve against her hot cheeks before she bent down and picked up the shovel she’d cast aside when digging had become too much and she’d chosen the ax instead. Chopping the skinny logs had felt good. The way the blade glinted in the flashes of lightning and made that chest-rattling thwack as it split the wood had momentarily dried Hunter’s tears. But then she had remembered the doum palm and how its tall stem had turned to ash under her sister’s touch. Mercy had made Hunter forsake her god in the name of a poem she had called prophecy. Hunter had always followed her twin sister’s lead. She had always wadded up her feelings and stuffed them down her throat so no words could escape. So her truth could not escape.

She’d lost her mother, her god, and soon she’d lose her sister, too. Letting go of Mercy was necessary. Letting go of Mercy would set Hunter free. Never again would she be forced to choke down her feelings. She’d let them loose, and she’d start now.

Hunter’s throat burned as she screamed and flung another shovel of dirt over her shoulder. She didn’t care where the mud went as long as it wasn’t here, in this space she made for her mother. The shovel’s wooden handle bit into the tear in Hunter’s palm. She spat out a curse and threw the shovel to the ground. She jumped into the pit and her bare feet sank into the mud. It squelched as she pulled out each foot and shook off the clumps of wet earth. She dropped to her knees and dug her fingers into the ground. Mud scraped against her bleeding palm and pressed into her nailbeds as she tore at the dirt and threw fistfuls out of the fresh grave. But the pain in her body was nothing compared to that of her broken heart.

Rain pooled around her toes and sloshed against her shins. Every muscle ached. Heat pricked her chest, and her vision swam in unshed tears—for her mother, for herself. Hunter’s fingers hit rock and what was left of her jagged nails bent and snapped against the unforgiving boulders. She reached out and grabbed the grassy lip of the grave and pushed herself to standing.

Hunter leaned forward and shoveled the split oak logs and snapped pine branches into the hole in the earth. She arranged the wood to cover the bottom of the grave as muddy water splashed against her knees and twigs scraped her calves. Pain splintered her body. It was almost too much, but was what she deserved for hiding in her twin sister’s shadow. It would hurt worse tomorrow, but the hurt would be a reminder. That’s always how it went for Hunter. Every scar, a lesson learned.

Hunter crawled out of the pit. She collapsed onto the grass next to the grave she’d dug for her mother, closed her eyes, and let sleep overtake her.

 

 

One


Hunter smoothed the hem of her white linen dress against her legs. She’d dug the dress out of the back of her closet and hadn’t bothered to iron it. A fact she knew would drive Mercy insane. Hunter also hadn’t bothered to mop up the dirty footprints she’d left behind as she’d dragged herself from the backyard, through the house, and up the stairs to her bathroom. She’d come in sometime after the rain had stopped and the crickets had swarmed, chirping and hopping as if they’d gotten drunk off the storm. Hunter collected her journal and pen from the kitchen counter and retraced her crusted mud footprints into the living room, parting from them to collapse onto the couch. Her gaze lingered on the muddy footprints. Her sister would hate them, too.

Hunter grinned and unclasped the lock on her journal as she stared out the living room window. The night sky had pierced the rising sun, which bled egg yolk yellow against the clouds. She set her journal on the side table and capped her pen before rubbing her eyes. Hunter had cried so much that her tears had dried up, along with any sense of compassion she’d had for her sister. Perhaps it hadn’t been compassion that she’d felt for Mercy, but pity. Hunter bit down on the tip of her worn fingernail. It didn’t matter now. She’d lost her mother and forsaken her god and Hunter didn’t have anything left to give the one person in her life who did nothing but take.

The screen door creaked open and Hunter loosed another smile as Jax balanced four paper cups in his hands and closed the door with his foot. His head-to-toe white was less wrinkled than Hunter’s, but was the same loose, cruise ship style. His crooked teeth poked out from the bottom of his sheepish half grin as he made a beeline for the side table.

Hunter dragged her fingernail along the mounds and bumps of her full pocket. Not wearing the traditional funeral black was understandable—this wasn’t a traditional funeral—but why white? It wasn’t the color of celebration. Heteronormative weddings had taught the entire country that white was the color of purity, virginity. And who wanted to think about sex at a funeral? But the Goode witches had worn white for mourning for ages, and it wasn’t a custom Hunter was interested in breaking.

Jax handed Hunter a cup and plopped down next to her on the couch. Hunter held the cup beneath her lips and blew into the open circle. Air whooshed like a muffled foghorn as Jax draped his arm across Hunter’s shoulders.

“You doing okay, H?” he asked, shaking his inky black hair away from his forehead.

NO. Hunter swallowed the word. It stuck inside her chest like a cocklebur. She took a drink. The tea scorched her mouth and burned all the way down to her belly.

There.

She leaned her head against Jax’s forearm.

That’s better.

The stairs announced Mercy’s arrival with a groan. She walked down two steps, stopped, adjusted the crown of white flowers braided into her hair, and ran her hands along the lacy bodice of her floor-length dress before she continued her descent. The gown pooled against the stairs, and with each step, the fabric slid behind her like a shadow.

A door closed upstairs, and hurried footsteps tapped against the wood floor. Emily stopped at the top of the stairs, clutching a bundle of dried herbs in her hands like a bridal bouquet. “Mag, you forgot this.” She waved the herbs in the air as she clicked down the steps and followed Mercy to the bottom of the staircase.

Jax slid his arm out from behind Hunter and reached for the side table and the two remaining drinks. He stood and walked to Emily and Mercy, his brow pinched as he watched the lids of the cups. “Two oat milk vanilla lattes.” The corners of his lips quirked. “I wasn’t sure what you’d want so I googled most popular coffee drinks.” He handed the girls their beverages and took a drink of his own.

“Thanks, Jax.” Mercy wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes as she squeezed him against her.

Hunter’s grip dented the flimsy cup. If she wasn’t careful, Mercy would steal Jax, too.

Mercy released Hunter’s best friend and looped her arm through Emily’s. “I’m so glad both of you are here.” She took a step. Dirt crunched beneath her feet. She paused and stared at the muddy footprints that trailed through the living room and disappeared into the kitchen. Her temples pulsed as she jerked her head up and narrowed her eyes at Hunter. “The wake. What will everyone think if the floor is so—” Another pulse of her dark temples. “Filthy?”

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