Witch Fury

ONE

SARAFINA MIGHT’VE BEEN NAMED FOR THE ANGELS, but she’d always known one day she’d end up in hell. Her mother had told her that a hundred times while she’d been growing up. She just never figured it would be while she was still breathing. But here she was—broke, dumped, and grief-stricken. It couldn’t get any worse.

Her fingers white and shaking, she released the yellow rose she held and let it fall onto Rosemary’s casket. It came to rest on the polished poplar top, followed by many more roses released by those around her. Yellow roses had been Rosemary’s favorite. They match your hair, buttercup. That’s what Rosemary had always said, holding one of the flowers up to Sarafina’s nose.

Sarafina had scraped together every last cent for that shiny coffin. She hadn’t been able to afford it. The funeral had almost beggared her. However, her foster mother had deserved the best. And since Rosemary had never had what she deserved in life, Sarafina had made sure she’d had it in death. The only problem was that now Sarafina had ninety-five dollars left in her bank account and rent had been due last week. She’d make it through, though, she always did.

She couldn’t cry. It was like all the tears were caught up inside her, stoppered tight. It would be good if she could. It would relieve this awful pressure in her chest. Sometimes crying was like bleeding, it helped cleanse a wound. That’s what Rosemary had always said.

“Bye, Rosemary,” she whispered.

Reverend Evans droned on, but Sarafina hardly heard him. She barely noticed the others around her, either, all of Rosemary’s friends who’d come to say their farewells. They clasped her hands after the funeral was over, squeezed her shoulder, and offered condolences. Her foster mother had had lots of friends.

If Sarafina had still lived here in Bowling Green, she knew she’d have half a million sympathy casseroles on her doorstep by now. As it was, she was headed back to Chicago right after the funeral. Back home.

She couldn’t wait.

Still in a daze, she turned away from the grave and came face-to-face with Nick. His dark brown eyes regarded her solemnly from the handsome face she’d known for years. “You’re not fit to drive seven hours today, Sarafina. Stay the night and head out in the morning. You can crash at my place.”

A smile flickered over her mouth. “Oh, really? Amanda said that would be all right?”

She and Nick had been sweethearts during high school. Although that fire had long since flickered out and faded to friendship, Sarafina had lost her virginity to Nick. She strongly suspected his wife, Amanda, didn’t want her on their couch.

Robin, another friend from childhood, came to stand near Nick. “If you don’t want to stay with him, you can stay with me.” She tilted her blond head to the side in a gesture Sarafina knew meant she was concerned.

Sarafina couldn’t swing a cat in Bowling Green and not hit someone from her past. As soon as she’d arrived, she’d been beset by old friends—and other people. Those other people were why she wanted to leave so badly. Like, now.

Whispers.

In Bowling Green there were whispers wherever she went. Hey, that’s the girl who . . . Isn’t that the daughter of the woman who . . . She was a walking freak show. Even fifteen years after it had happened, people still recognized her. High school had been hell.

She leaned forward and hugged Nick, then Robin. “You-all are sweet to offer, but I have to go into the office tomorrow. I can’t miss any more work than I