The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 1
Adam’s car windows were foggy with the heat of their breath. It was a balmy night at dusk, and the air was scented with early signs of spring – a perfect night to roll down the windows and enjoy the breeze while they kissed.
But Cassie insisted the windows stay closed, for privacy.
Besides, she liked the feeling of being cocooned in such close quarters with Adam, insulated from the outside world by the steamy glass. They were going to be late for their meeting, but inside this cloud, she didn’t care.
“We should go in,” she said halfheartedly.
“Just five more minutes. It’s not like they can start without you.”
Right, Cassie thought, because I’m a leader. All the more reason not to be late because I’m making out with my boyfriend.
Boyfriend. The notion still made her giddy, even after all these weeks. She watched the way the setting sun brought out the multicolored highlights in Adam’s tangled hair –
shades of burgundy and orange – and the crystal ine sparkle in his blue eyes.
He leaned in and softly kissed that spot on the side of Cassie’s neck just below her ear. “Fine,” she said. “Three more minutes.”
Their first kiss as a couple had changed everything for Cassie. It meant something. Adam’s lips on hers felt deliberate and momentous, like an agreement, and Cassie’s whole body became aware of that fact. This was love, she’d realized.
Cassie assumed the sensation would lessen as the days passed, that their kissing would become routine and habitual, but it hadn’t. If anything, its intensity increased over time. Parked now just outside the old lighthouse on Shore Road, Cassie knew they had to stop kissing, but she couldn’t. And neither could Adam. The quickening of his breath and the pressing urgency of his grip on her hips made that obvious.
But it wouldn’t look good to walk in late to her first meeting as a Circle leader. “We really have to go in,” she said, pulling away and placing her hand up against Adam’s chest to hold him still.
He took a deep breath and exhaled through his mouth, trying to cool himself down. “I know.”
Reluctantly, he let Cassie disentangle from his embrace and make herself more presentable. After a few more deep breaths and a swift patting down of his wild hair, he followed her inside.
Walking across the long-grassed meadow that led to the old lighthouse, Cassie couldn’t help but be struck by its worn, rustic beauty. Melanie had told them it dated back to the late 1700s, and its age was evident in its dilapidated appearance. The tower itself was constructed of grayed stone and brick reaching almost ninety feet high, but at its base was a small, crumbling wooden house – the lightkeeper’s cottage. It had been built for the lightkeeper’s wife and children, so they could be close to him while he saw to his duties upstairs. According to Melanie, the cottage was passed down through several generations until the lighthouse was finally decommissioned in the early 1900s. Since then, there had been talk of converting it into a museum, but it had remained abandoned for decades.
Adam smiled at her, and her breath caught in her throat.
She unlatched the cottage door and stepped inside, Adam just behind her. With an almost audible whoosh, the Circle’s focus shifted to her grand, belated entrance.
It was immediately obvious that they’d kept the group waiting for too long, and that the group knew exactly what she and Adam had been doing. Cassie examined all of their faces, absorbing their different reactions and silent accusations.
Melanie’s usually cool eyes contained a heated impatience, and Laurel shyly giggled. Deborah, sitting on the edge of the wooden bench in the corner, appeared ready to make a snide comment, but before she had the chance, Chris and Doug Henderson, who’d been playing catch with a tennis ball by the window, said in unison, “Well, it’s about frigging time.”
Nick, sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, looked at Cassie with a subtle pain in his eyes that forced her to turn away.
“Adam,” Faye said, in her lazy, husky voice, “your lip gloss is smudged.”
The room broke out with uncontrollable laughter, and Adam’s face reddened. Diana stared straight down at the floor, humiliated for them, or perhaps for herself. She’d been gracious about Adam being with Cassie now, but there was only so much a girl could take.
“We call this meeting to order,” Diana said, regaining her poise. “Everyone, please be seated.”
Diana spoke as if the laughter had died down, but it was still loud and raucous. “The first order of business,” she continued, “is what we’re going to do with the Master Tools.”
That quieted the group. The Master Tools – the diadem, the silver bracelet, and the leather garter – had belonged to Black John’s original coven. They’d been hidden for hundreds of years until Cassie figured out they were concealed within the fireplace in her grandmother’s kitchen.
The Circle had used the Tools to defeat Black John, but they’d put off making any decisions regarding them since.
Tonight, the time had come to determine their fate.
“That’s right,” Cassie said, joining Diana in the center of the room. “We have real power now. And we need to – ” What? What did they need to do? Cassie turned to Diana. Her green eyes and shining hair were radiant, even in the ghostly lantern light of the old cottage. If anyone knew what the Circle should do next, it was Diana.
“I think we should destroy the power of the Master Tools somehow,” Diana said in her clear, musical voice. “So no one can use them.”
For a moment, nobody spoke. They were all too shocked by this suggestion. Then Faye broke the silence. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said. “You and Adam have spent half your lives trying to find the Master Tools.”
“I know,” Diana said. “But after all we’ve been through, and now that we’ve defeated Black John, I feel like that much power can’t be good for us, or for anyone.” Cassie was as surprised as Faye. These words didn’t sound like Diana at all, or at least not like the Diana that Cassie had known.
Adam appeared taken aback as well, but he kept quiet.
Leaders spoke first. Those were the rules.
Cassie felt the attention of the group settle upon her.
They were a triumvirate now, which meant her power was equal to both Diana’s and Faye’s. She wanted to use her authority well, to state her opinion openly and intelligently, but she didn’t want to go against Diana.
“What made you change your mind?” she said.
Diana crossed her thin arms over her chest. “People change their minds all the time, Cassie.”
“Well,” Faye said, focusing on Diana with her honey-colored eyes, “I disagree entirely. It would be a waste to not use the Tools. At the very least, we should experiment with them.” Her mouth formed a cruel smile. “Don’t you agree, Cassie?”
“Um,” she said. It was weird. Cassie kind of agreed with Faye on this one, which may have been the first time she ever agreed with Faye on anything. She didn’t want to side with Faye over Diana, but how could they just destroy the Tools? What if Black John came back? These were their only means of self-defense. She wished Diana had discussed this with her before now.
“We can talk to Constance for help getting rid of them,” Diana offered. “If that’s what we decide to do.” Melanie’s great-aunt Constance had been helping the Circle with their magic. Since she’d tapped into her powers to nurse Cassie’s mother back to health last winter, she’d become more willing to share her knowledge of the old ways.
“Constance probably knows a spell we can use,” Diana said. “And with Black John gone for good, I bet she’ll agree it’s time to put the Tools to rest.”
Cassie could see Diana felt strongly about this. As did Faye – that familiar fiery anger had snuck its way into her sharp features.
“We should take a vote,” a strong voice called out. It belonged to Nick, who rarely spoke at Circle meetings.
Hearing him express an opinion on this caught Cassie off guard.
“Nick’s right,” Melanie said. “We should all have equal say in a decision so important.”
Diana nodded. “I’m fine with that.”
Faye dramatically swept her red nails at the group. “Vote then,” she said, with the confidence of someone who’d already won.
Melanie stood and stepped to the center of the room.
She always called out Circle votes, Cassie noticed. “All those in favor of destroying the Master Tools,” she said,
“raise your hands.”
Diana’s hand went up first, followed by Melanie’s own, then Laurel’s. After a second long pause, Nick raised his, and then finally Adam.
Cassie couldn’t believe it. Adam had voted with Diana, even though she knew he’d rather experiment with the Tools.
“All those in favor of keeping the Tools,” Melanie said,
“raise your – “
“Wait,” Cassie called out. She’d gotten distracted and lost the chance to choose Diana’s side.
Faye laughed. “You snooze, you lose, Cassie. And a vote against Diana is a vote for me.”
“Wrong,” Cassie said, surprising herself as she said it.
“It’s a vote for me.”
She paused to look at Adam and saw he was smiling proudly.
“I propose a third option,” she said. “We keep the Tools, in case we need them. We don’t destroy their power, but we also don’t experiment with them.”
“In that case,” Faye said, “I’d be happy to keep the Tools safe until we need them.”
“Not a chance,” Adam said.
Cassie raised her hand. “I wasn’t finished.” She eyed Faye and then Diana. “I propose that each leader hide one of the three relics, so they can only be used if the whole group knows about it.”
Everyone got quiet then, as they mulled over this new possibility in their minds.
It was a good idea, and Cassie knew it. What she didn’t know was how she’d come up with it right there on the spot like that. When she took control of the floor, she hadn’t had the slightest idea what she was going to say.
Diana spoke first. “That does seem like a fair compromise,” she said. “Melanie, I call for a revote.”
“I second the call for a revote,” Nick said gall antly.
Melanie raised her eyebrows. “Okay then. All those in favor of . . . Cassie’s idea, raise your hands.” All hands went up, except for Deborah’s, Suzan’s, and Faye’s.
“It’s decided then,” Melanie said.
Faye stood perfectly still. She didn’t move a muscle, but a dark shadow fell over her face.
Suzan bounced out of her chair. “Oh, well,” she said. “I guess that’s that. I’m starving. Can we go eat now?”
“Yeah, let’s go get tacos,” Sean said.
One by one, everyone stood up and began gathering their things, talking about meeting at Melanie’s great-aunt Constance’s later to practice their invocations. Diana snuffed out the candles and turned down the lanterns. All the while, Faye remained motionless.
“You,” she said.
Instinctively, Cassie took a step back even though Faye was across the room.
“Don’t be too proud of yourself.” She sauntered over to Cassie and leaned in close. Cassie could smell her heady perfume, and it made her dizzy. “You may have won the battle,” Faye said. “But . . . well, you know.” Cassie drew away from Faye’s reach. Her fear still got the best of her every time Faye threatened her. Whether or not Faye was actually stronger was beside the point. She had the singleness of mind of a sociopath and a complete lack of conscience. Faye couldn’t be reasoned with, and that was what made her dangerous.
“We’re on the same side,” Cassie said weakly. “We want the same thing.”
Faye narrowed her honey-colored eyes. “Not really,” she said. “Not yet, anyway.”
It sounded like a threat, and Cassie knew Faye never made an empty threat.