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Authors: Lucy A. Snyder

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Spellbent

BOOK: Spellbent
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Spellbent

LUCY A. SNYDER

BALLANTINE BOOKS • NEW YORK

“Lucy Snyder hooks you from the beginning, delivering a strong protagonist and a fresh, engaging world of magic.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

—ALICE HENDERSON

“An exhilarating ride of magic and mayhem.”

—SEPHERA GIRON, author of
Mistress of the Dark

“In her thrilling trial-by-fire debut, Snyder’s heroine—Jessie Shimmer—is transformed from young apprentice to first-class magical butt-kicker. . . the same transformation the author herself has undergone in the creation of this fully realized new urban mythology. I can’t wait for book two!”

—CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN, author of
The Myth Hunters

Look for Lucy A. Snyder’s next thrilling novel featuring Jessie Shimmer, coming in Summer 2010!

Books published by The Random House Publishing Group are available at quantity discounts on bulk purchases for premium, educational, fund-raising, and special sales use. For details, please call 1-800-733-3000.

Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as “unsold or destroyed” and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it.

Spellbent
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Del Rey Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2009 by Lucy Snyder

Excerpt from
The Devil in Miss Shimmer
by Lucy A. Snyder copyright © 2009 by Lucy Snyder

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

DEL REY is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
The Devil in Miss Shimmer
by Lucy A. Snyder. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

ISBN 978-0-345-51209-3

Printed in the United States of America

www.delreybooks.com

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Freed from his harness, the ferret clambered up the door’s spongy weatherstripping to the roof of the car so we were seeing eye-to-eye.

“So do
you
have any idea what’s going on here?” I asked.

“His true body is coming through into this plane,” the ferret told me, staring wide-eyed at Smoky’s increasingly monstrous form. The ferret sounded smart, his voice like that of an excitable middle-aged librarian inside my head. Finally, some good luck.

“It’s what?” I asked.

“This animal body. . . it’s just a flesh vessel for my consciousness. I am not a ferret, and the entity that has inhabited Smoky’s body is most assuredly not a cute little doggy. If I’m not mistaken, he’s changing into something close to his true form,” the ferret said. He had a little bit of an accent, I realized. A Canadian librarian.

“But why?”

“Clearly the magic from the portal has … altered him.”

“But how?” I did realize I was starting to sound like a three-year-old.

“I’d hazard to say it’s a side effect of whatever disastrous magic caused that portal to open.”

“Which is a fancy way of saying you don’t know?” The pain was making me crabbier than usual.

The ferret reared back, looking offended.

dedication

For Carol,

who always believed

acknowledgments

Although writing is inevitably a solitary occupation, making a book is anything but.

First, big thanks go to my husband, Gary A. Braunbeck, for his encouragement and advice over the years.

I’d also like to thank my first readers: Sara, David, Greg, Dan, Trista, Jerry, and the other members of Writeshop. And, of course, I must thank my agent, Robert L. Fleck, for getting my novel out into the world, and I must thank my editors at Del Rey (Liz Scheier and Shauna Summers) for taking my book and helping me make it even better.

And finally, I’d like to express my appreciation for Laura Jorstad’s sharp-eyed copyediting, Jessica Sebor’s always prompt assistance, Dreu Pennington-McNeil’s fine cover design, and Dan Dos Santos’s truly spectacular cover art.

prologue

My name is Jessie, and I’m the reason why your life is about to change forever. Maybe you’re only just starting to realize that the world is spinning strange, and you’re looking for answers. But maybe you already know what’s happened, and you’re looking for
me
so you can either buy me a drink or kick my ass.

God help me, I could have stopped them. I’m sure of that. My only defense is that I honestly thought I was doing the right thing, but my best intentions are black pavement now.

All I can do now is tell you my story and let you decide for yourself whether I’m a heroine or a villain or just another tool. I’ve had some time to gather my thoughts, and other people’s thoughts for that matter; it’s amazing what magic can coax from the dead. So if I start telling you about events I wasn’t around to see, know that my memories are solid even if the original owners are dust. I’ll be happy to give you the eyewitness tour if you bring good beer.

Begin at the beginning, right? I still can’t find memories from the ancients who planted this disaster, so let’s start with the night my own life went off the rails...

chapter one

A Simple Storm-Calling

Cooper woke me up before the nightmare did. He caught me square in the shin with a jerking kick and I bolted up, my heart hammering like a small demon trying to break through my rib cage. Already the dream had slipped from my mind, leaving nothing behind but my wrecked nerves. Cooper twitched and ground his teeth. Sweat plastered his curly black hair against his forehead, and his tattooed arms shook as he crushed the pillow against his chest.

I wanted to hold him close, wake him up. I hated seeing the man I loved in that kind of pain. It didn’t matter that he was the teacher and I, his apprentice. But I knew he’d lash out at anyone near him when he came out of the dream. So I wiped the sweat Out of my eyes and scooted away from him on the bed.

“Cooper,” I called. My throat felt like it was lined with steel wool, and I could taste pennies where I’d bitten the inside of my lip. “Wake up.”

No response.

My heart was slowing, finally, but my hands still shook as I wiped my eyes again. I’d never had nightmares before I started sleeping with Cooper. The first couple of times we’d both gotten bad dreams the same night, I dismissed it as coincidence. But after a dozen nights? It was pretty clear that the terror I saw in his fractured sleep mirrored the terror fading inside my own head.

We were having the same damn nightmare. . . and lately I was having it whether I was sleeping beside him or not.

He writhed and groaned.

Cooper’s white fox terrier, Smoky, was cowering under my computer desk, whining. The dog was giving me a scared look:
Wake him up before something bad happens.
I’d seen the dog take on creatures ten times his seventeen pounds when he thought his master was in danger; he’d once torn the ear off an ogreish no-neck who was preparing to brain Cooper with a tire iron in a bar parking lot. But when the nightmare came on, fierce little Smoky was helpless.

I could hear the rustling of my six-month-old ferret racing around in his cage in the corner.

What’s
going on inside your head?
I wondered, staring down at Cooper.

I slid off the bed, took a deep breath, and let loose a shout that shook the floor:
“Cooper!”

He jerked awake, arms windmilling, punching the air, kicking the sheet off the bed. “No, I won’t, I won’t, get away from me—”

“Cooper, calm down! You’re okay, you’re okay.”

“What? Where—where am I?” he gasped, staring around in the dimness.

“In our apartment. Remember?” I climbed back onto the bed and crawled to him across the twisted bedclothes.

“J-jessie?” he stammered, his eyes finally seeming to focus. “Oh man am I glad to see you.”

He caught me in a strong hug and kissed me. His naked skin was slick with sweat, and beneath his usual pleasantly garlicky smell was the faint, sharp odor of brimstone. Smoky padded out from under the desk and hopped up onto the bed.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah. Think so. Dream can’t really hurt me, right? I can’t even remember what it was all about.” He laughed nervously and patted Smoky’s smooth head. “Serves me right for falling asleep when I didn’t need to.”

“You almost
never
get enough sleep. You go till you finally pass out from sheer exhaustion. Then you get REM rebound and a worse nightmare than you’d have gotten otherwise.”

I chose to ignore the little voice inside my head reminding me that I, too, had been going without sleep. When things got bad, I’d been taking sleeping pills to blunt the dreams. But not very often; the drugs left me groggy and stupid the next day.

“Hmm, much sense you make, young Jedi,” he said. “But sensible man I am not.”

He stretched, his spine popping. I couldn’t help but admire the play of muscles across his lean torso. He was thirty-eight but easily passed for thirty; there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him. Some dumb relationship calculator I’d found online—the kind that divides your age by two and adds seven years and tells you that’s the youngest you can date—said that I wasn’t old enough for him.

I know I’m immature in some ways, but inside me there’s a cranky old lady yelling at the damn kids to get off her lawn. She’s been there awhile. I’ve decided to call her Mabel.

When I was a teenager, most of the other girls got on my very last nerve—all the stuff they obsessed over just seemed stupid and trivial to me. I mean, seriously, who gives a shit about what shade of eye shadow to wear to a pep rally? I’d rather skip the whole thing and read a book. I thought Ohio State would be better than high school, but mostly it was just bigger.

Maybe I’d have felt different about things if my mom hadn’t died when I was eleven. After she was gone, there was nobody around to make me feel particularly excited about makeup and shoe shopping. I started the existential angst early, started feeling like I was way older than the other kids, and that never got better. The day I turned twenty-three, I felt ancient, even with Cooper there to celebrate with me.

Cooper, on the other hand, is nothing if not bubbling with youthful energy. He could be fifty and would still be hotter than half the twentysomething guys I’ve met. Of course, most of the guys I’ve seen at OSU would only have six-packs if they bought them at the 7-Eleven. And the boys I’ve dated didn’t have Cooper’s brains, or his heart, or his guts. And his southerly anatomy isn’t too shabby, either. Top that with him being the real thing when it comes to magic. . . well, whoever made the relationship calculator can kiss my rosy pink butt.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“A little past nine—the sun’s just gone down.”

Cooper rubbed his face and scratched his chin through his short dark goatee. “How’s the sky?”

“Dry. The nearest cloud is in Indiana, I think.”

“Well, then it’s time for us to earn our rent money.” He reached over the side of the bed to retrieve his jeans. “Three thousand from the farmers for a nice little rainstorm—not a bad payment for a night’s work, huh?”

The doorbell rang downstairs.

“I’ll get it,” Cooper said, slipping on his Levi’s. He thumped downstairs. I peeled off my sweat- soaked T-shirt and panties, tossed them in the hamper, then started digging through the dresser for some fresh clothes. Everything in there was a hopeless jumble, but at least it was clean. A year back, Cooper pissed off a syiph and she nixed all his housecleaning charms; it took us forever to get our laundry mojo working again. As curses go that one was pretty minor—probably the faery equivalent of writing on your face in Sharpie marker while you’re passed out—but there are few things more embarrassing to a modern witch or wizard than being forced to use a Laundromat.

BOOK: Spellbent
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