~ Hazel Beck is the pen name for two authors (Megan and Nicole Helm) writing together ~
Big Little Spells
Book 2 in the Witchlore Series
Is her magic a threat to witchkind…or is she simply powerful enough to save the world?
Rebekah Wilde was eighteen when she left St. Cyprian, officially stripped of her magic and banished from her home. Ten years later she’s forced to return to face the Joywood Coven, who preside over not just her hometown but the whole magical world. Rebekah is happy to reunite with her sister, and with her friends, but the implications of her return are darker and more dangerous than they could have imagined.
The Joywood are determined to prove Rebekah and her friends are a danger to witchkind, facing an impending death sentence if they can’t prove otherwise. Rebekah must seek help from the only one who knows how to stop the Joywood—the ruthless immortal Nicholas Frost. Years ago, he was her secret tutor in magic, and her secret impossible crush. But the icy immortal is as remote and arrogant as ever, and if he feels anything for Rebekah—or witchkind—it’s impossible to tell.
“An absolute delight of a magical tale.” —Louisa Morgan, author of The Age of Witches
Hazel Beck is the pen name for two authors (Megan and Nicole Helm) writing together. Find out more.
Big Little Spells
You don’t have to be an exiled witch under threat of the death penalty should you cast the faintest little spell to feel the magic in Sedona, Arizona.
But it doesn’t hurt.
The full moon is shining, high and bright, making the red rocks glow outside my little bungalow. The air is soft and dry instead of swollen with Missouri’s trademark humidity, which I’m not sorry to leave behind.
If it was up to me, I would never have gone back to Missouri at all.
Because one thing exile has taught me is that magic is as much a habit as anything else. Unnecessary at best. Dangerous at worst. An addiction, in other words.
These days I am all about recovery.
Except for tonight. Tonight, admittedly, has been a bit of a relapse.
I breathe out and try to blow away the past while I do.
I’m standing out in my little yard, my head tipped toward the Arizona sky and my shoes kicked off so I can feel the earth and as many vortexes as possible. Because I’m a hippie, I tell myself. Just a run-of-the-mill Sedona hippie. Hair down, feet bare, crystals hanging all around like every other New Ager around here.
Not magic, just vibes.
But before I manage to fully ground myself here, I feel something grab me, like a huge, magical hook around the center of me—but inside out. It’s dark. Hard. Kind of slimy, really—and it makes my stomach heave.
This particular magical tug is a summons, yanking me out of the life I fought so hard to build, all on my own. Not for the first time.
Not even for the first time tonight.
Though this summons is harsher than the one before. Meaner.
I know instantly it’s not him.
Because he yanked me back to St. Cyprian too, but it didn’t hurt when he did it. It’s not supposed to hurt at all, and he made it feel almost good—
But I stop thinking about the maddeningly beautiful, impossible immortal witch who ruined my life once already, and start worrying about me.
There’s only one reason for me to be dragged back home against my will. And it’s been a long night already. My sister, Emerson, who I haven’t seen in person in a decade, formed her very own coven made up of our closest friends and one obnoxious immortal. Then, together, we all fought off a major, magic-induced flood that would have submerged the town of St. Cyprian and most of Missouri.
The final jerk makes Sedona disappear into a blur of red, then there’s a whooshing sensation while whispered words fill the air around me.
Rebekah Wilde, come before us, the voices command me.
And I’m back.
Right where I don’t want to be.
I’m standing outside a farmhouse across the river from my hometown. And instead of the terrifying wave of water and my sister ready to dive into the middle of it all like the first time I showed up here tonight, the river has settled down. The fight is over.
Or…maybe it’s only just begun.
Because a quick glance around shows me that Emerson is standing outside in the cool April night, looking like the fierce Warrior she is, her eyes blazing gold with all her newly rediscovered power. Jacob North, our old friend and a Healer—and, I think, my sister’s new love—stands with her and doesn’t look any worse for the intense healing he did when we came much too close to losing Emerson earlier.
Behind them is Zander Rivers, my cousin, looking uncharacteristically grim for a guy who used to make the role he was born into—a Guardian—seem a lot more fun than the name suggests. Next to him is Georgie Pendell, Emerson’s best friend, whose entire family has been witch Historians—and actual historians who run the town’s local-interest museum—as long as anyone can remember. And last but never least, Ellowyn Good. My best friend. And also the Summoner who helped Emerson contact me once Emerson remembered she was a witch, despite the Joywood spell that took those magic memories away from her for ten whole years.
Across from them stands all the members of the Joywood, the ruling coven based here in my hometown of St. Cyprian, MO. The authoritarian, bullying, small-minded coven that cheated me out of the life I was supposed to have.
Seven dictatorial witches I had no intention of laying eyes on again.
I feel a rush of a very old, too-dark fury inside me—but stop myself. It’s practically a reflex at this point. I don’t do outsize emotion or high drama anymore. I don’t do dark. That would lead directly to my death, and I’ve always been pretty clear about wanting to stay alive.
If I hadn’t wanted to live—my life on my terms—I would have stayed here. I would have let these petty Joywood tyrants wipe my mind the way they wiped my sister’s, taking away any hint of ever knowing magic.
I tell myself that I’ve forgiven them. I chant it inside me, not like one of the spells forbidden to me, but like a mantra. They were only doing their jobs, following their laws, as stupid as those laws might be. I forgive them because forgiveness is mine to give. I don’t need to carry the bitter taste of St. Cyprian and its ruling coven with me. I chose to leave all of this behind. I still choose it.
Something—not quite a shadow—moves in my peripheral vision, and I see him too. Nicholas Frost, the one and only immortal witch. Some people call him a traitor.
I call him all kinds of things and unlike most, have done it to his face. But now is not the time to air all my oldest grudges.
His gaze from halfway across a field makes everything inside me…change. Not so much that dangerous black fury any longer. This is something else. A different kind of heat.
I don’t want to acknowledge it. Or him. Especially not with this audience.
Even if, for a moment, it feels as if the two of us are all alone here.
I have to remind myself that we’re not.
I forgive you, I think at him, in my smuggest internal voice. The best of a decade of recovery programs right there. And even though I can’t—won’t—use a witch’s usual telepathic version of conversation, I suspect he hears me anyway. Because his dark blue eyes gleam.
From all the way across the tall grass.
“Rebekah Wilde,” booms a voice I recognize entirely too well, even though I haven’t heard it in a decade. Carol Simon, the Joywood coven’s Warrior and therefore the leader of…everything involving witches the world over.
I force myself to look at her, hopefully without my feelings all over my face, and decide that teenage me was right. Her frizzy hair really is unforgivable.
“You have been summoned here, to the site of your infraction, to answer for your offense,” she intones.
I finally take note of the fact that she and her cronies hauled me into this field, but not into the group of my friends and family who also infracted tonight. I’m standing halfway between them and the Joywood. As tempting as it is to think that’s just carelessness, I know better.
They don’t do careless.
I slouch where I stand, because even being across the river from my hometown makes me want to behave like the sulky teenager I was when I lived here. That’s what Carol and her buddies likely see anyway, so why not live down to their worst expectations? I’ve always been excellent at that.
I lock eyes with Felicia Ipswitch, the Joywood’s Diviner and my personal nemesis, and smirk a little. And just like that, it might as well be tenth grade when Felicia was the high school principal and I was a problem. A problem she thought she could solve with draconian detentions and the kind of punishments that would send human teachers to jail—but witch students heal up better.
Turns out I’m not over high school, which doesn’t really do a lot for the sullen peace and love vibe I’m trying to exude here.
I look away from that evil old hag to find Emerson looking at me like I’m an answer. That’s not unusual. My sister always thinks there is one. And better yet, that she can find it and implement it.
I know better, because I made my own way out in the world, relying on nothing and no one but me. I learned the hard way that life and the world often have no answers, no neat little bows. For anyone, witch or human.
I tell myself that it gives me great internal peace to accept this knowledge, and maybe it will, someday. I grit my teeth and think peace, please.
Especially when Carol starts to speak again. Peace, love, light, I chant inside me. No spellwork here. No witchcraft. Just words of power that anyone could use while anointing themselves in essential oils and rearranging their houses for better feng shui.
“I know you must think you did something big here tonight,” Carol is saying, as if she’s never heard anything dumber in her life. Her voice is so persuasive that I have to pinch myself to remember that no, we weren’t giggling over a Ouija board, pretending we weren’t pushing it while we clearly were. We actually fused together the way all the books say true covens should, fought some gnarly dark magic, and won. Almost at the expense of my sister’s life.
“But I’m afraid all you really did, Emerson and Rebekah, is break the terms set down before you when you failed your pubertatum.” She glances around. “And the rest of you broke several laws aiding them.”
The word pubertatum has not gotten any less obnoxious in the ten years I haven’t heard it spoken aloud. It’s an ugly Latin word for a coming-of-age ceremony where witches in their eighteenth year are required to demonstrate their powers so they might take their places in witch society. Pass the test and you answer a few questions to be herded into one of the seven witchkind designations. Warrior, Guardian, Summoner, Healer, Historian, Praeceptor, or Diviner.
Fail the test, like Emerson and I did, and you get to be a zombie or an outcast.
“I have power, Carol. You can’t deny that,” Emerson says, with her usual bouncy forthrightness, like she’s flabbergasted at the possibility that Carol would bother trying to deny such a thing. When it’s so obvious.
I really have missed my sister.
“You told me I had none.” Emerson points to me now. “You told us we have no power at all. You were wrong. And then, all this power inside me you said I didn’t have fought off your obliviscor.”
I expect rage. Carol has never been one for being told she’s wrong. Her mind wipe spell wasn’t supposed to have failed. But Carol surprises me.
She titters, and her cronies all laugh along with her. I remind myself that it’s supposed to make me feel wrong and stupid and vaguely humiliated. That’s what they do. Better to rule us by making us hate ourselves.
“And you’ve turned a simple testing error into some…nefarious plot? I do worry, Emerson, that fighting off the obliviscor addled your senses.”
“We just saved St. Cyprian and possibly all of witchkind, Carol,” my sister says, and not angrily. Just like she’s reciting facts, inviting Carol to come aboard. She even smiles. “You’re welcome.”
And I know hate is for the weak. Forgiveness is power. Blah, blah, blah.
But Carol Simon makes the case for blood feuds, forever. Especially when she rolls her eyes.
“We saved witchkind with no help from you,” Emerson continues, as if she doesn’t see any eye-rolling. Because she won’t give up. Emerson never, ever gives up.
Even when she should.
“As a concerned, dedicated St. Cyprian citizen who also happens to be chamber of commerce president, I have to wonder,” Emerson tells Carol. But she also casts an eye over the rest of them, these fixtures of St. Cyprian and my witchy past that I did not miss at all. Like Maeve Mather, the Joywood’s Summoner, who used to go out of her way to be mean to my grandmother. Just because she could. “Why, I’m asking myself, did the ruling body of all witchkind not only turn a blind eye to the obvious imbalance in our power source that’s been making the rivers rise so dangerously, but also fail to help us fix it? Why did we have to stop it?”
“I assume because you wanted attention,” Felicia says. It is a familiar sentence, meant to be pure condemnation. She used to use it all the time as a precursor to her nasty little punishments. My gaze moves across the dark field to find Ellowyn’s, and I can tell from my best friend’s expression that she’s remembering the same thing I am.
All of high school, basically. When Principal Ipswitch dedicated herself to what she called our reprehensible, attention-seeking behavior.
What amazes me is how little I’ve thought about high school since leaving Missouri. Deliberately. And tonight, it’s like I never left.
“I saw the darkness at the heart of the confluence myself,” Emerson says with a great calm I certainly don’t feel. Especially since I saw it too. That terrible, encroaching dark, eating the world whole. It had hunkered there where the three rivers meet, waiting malevolently. And then, tonight, it exploded. Emerson, with our help, destroyed it. My heart starts kicking at me again, a riot of panic, like it’s still happening.
“Are you accusing us of something?” Carol asks, and she’s scarily good at this. She sounds on the verge of laughter, yet somehow almost hurt. As if she cares deeply what Emerson thinks of her. Of them.
I worry this will work on my sister. Because the truth is, Emerson has no power here. She’s too honest, and this is politics. Power. It’s ego and control. Emerson is a lot of things I roll my eyes at all the time, but she’s never been ruled by ego or greed.
Not like these witches.
“I’m pointing out facts,” Emerson says, sounding patient now. My sister has never met a windmill she didn’t try to charge head-on. “And the facts are, we saved St. Cyprian. You could have helped us, Carol. But you didn’t.”
“Oh, Emerson.” Carol sounds sad. Legitimately sad, which would require emotions on her part. And I’m pretty sure velociraptors don’t have emotions. “Why would we deliberately choose not to help save the place where we live? How does that make sense?”
Emerson blinks. “You tell me.”
I want to give a short TED talk on gaslighting and master manipulators, but this is not the time. It’s still not clear whether this is an execution or not. Carol did mention infractions of the pubertatum rules, and last I heard, me using magic the way I did tonight is a capital offense. Emerson wasn’t supposed to be able to do it. I claimed I could do it, but was exiled because they said I had no real power—only the shameful, unsafe urge to use borrowed force. Either way, using witchcraft as an exile is about as forbidden as you can get.
I can always be counted on to rebel when it will do me the most harm.
There’s a part of me that wants to turn to Nicholas Frost, the only other being here who isn’t standing with a group. He’s the one who came up with the goddamned pubertatum back when the earth was young, or so they taught us in school. He is considered the first Praeceptor—the teacher of all teachers, but not in a safe little classroom way. Praeceptors in his day taught armies of witches, then wielded them.
But I know better than to look to him for help.
Looking at him at all is fraught enough when you were once a teenage girl with a teenage girl’s unwieldy crush. Those things are hard to vanquish.
“We saved St. Cyprian,” Emerson says again, as if saying it enough will get through to Carol when as far as I know, nothing has ever gotten through to Carol.
“Maybe you did save the town,” Felicia says, with her little sniff of disdain that I remember all too well. “But if you did, it was for your own gain and nothing more.”
I want to say that at least that’s better than doing it for attention, but I don’t, because I’m evolved as fuck.
My sister’s eyes narrow. And here’s the thing that most people don’t know about Emerson Wilde. She expends a lot of energy trying to convince the people around her to see the error of their ways. She embodies the notion that if you lead a horse to water in the right way, it really will drink.
But when she’s done, she’s done.
As her little sister, I know this better than anyone. So, I step in to stop the impending storm. “This seems straightforward to me,” I say, doing my best to sound as if all this carrying on is a waste of energy, and I low-key resent it. And as if I’m some kind of authority here. “Emerson has some magic. Let her take the test again.”
End of excerpt
Rebel Heart Books is my absolute favorite bookshop. I'd love it if you'd support this woman-owned, delightful place where you can also get signed copies. See if this book is available through them. Thanks!
Big Little Spells
is available in the following formats: