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       Circle of Blood: A Witch Hunt Novel, p.1

           Debbie Viguié
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Circle of Blood: A Witch Hunt Novel


  PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF DEBBIE VIGUIÉ

  The Last Grave

  “Fascinating . . . the series [feels] fresh and interesting, earning a place on my ‘must read’ list.”

  —RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

  “The troubled protagonist and sense of brooding danger are enough to seduce paranormal fans.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Plenty of magical action . . . another strong addition to the series.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  “An intriguing mystery heavily seasoned with witchcraft.”

  —The Book Swarm

  “An incredibly thrilling ride full of suspense and danger, The Last Grave is not to be missed.”

  —A Book Obsession

  “Interesting, different, and keeps you hooked.”

  —Dew on the Kudzu

  “A dark thriller. It has a lot of fantastic description and action.”

  —Paranormal Haven

  “[This] series is absolutely amazing and we highly recommend it to everyone. It’s an amazing paranormal thriller and just keeps getting more intense.”

  —Literal Addiction

  The Thirteenth Sacrifice

  “This novel is . . . so darn well written that, even though you may be a bit afraid to read it right before you go to sleep, it’s almost impossible to put it down. . . . Samantha is such a smart, likable, vulnerable, and yet entirely fresh heroine that, even with her extraordinary abilities and the impossible choices she must make, it’s easy for the reader to identify with her character. . . . This novel is an insanely good read. . . . Debbie Viguié just keeps getting better and better. Creepy and compelling, The Thirteenth Sacrifice is scary plot perfection. With a little something for everyone and a whole lot of awesome to hook you in, this new series is sure to shock, delight, repel, intrigue, and keep readers glued to the edge of their seats as they await the sequel.”

  —USA Today

  “One of the most beautifully written and scariest books I’ve ever read. Samantha, the main character, wrestles with fear and faith in an unputdownable heart-stopper of a supernatural thriller. This is one of my top ten EVER.”

  —New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder

  “A well-written book that hearkens back to the Salem Witch trials. Readers who enjoy a good mystery with historical undertones will enjoy this book. Horror readers who love books that creep them out will enjoy this book. Thriller and mystery readers will find this book full of enjoyable police procedures and suspenseful moments. The combination of all of these ideas in one book is nothing short of amazing! . . . A heart-stopping read.”

  —Debbie’s Book Bag

  “The Thirteenth Sacrifice . . . was up there with early Stephen King.”

  —Dangerous Romance

  “Elements of a police procedural, with a paranormal mystery that keeps the pace moving. . . . You’ll be fascinated by Viguié’s former witch.”

  —RT Book Reviews (41/2 stars)

  “An exciting paranormal thrill ride. . . . The pace is just fast enough, the evil plenty scary, and the emotional turmoil heartfelt.”

  —Dark Faerie Tales

  “Samantha is a character you can really get behind. . . . [I was] completely engrossed in the story. . . . The next installment as well as other Debbie Viguié novels will be definitely going on my watch list.”

  —A Book Obsession

  “In one sitting I had devoured the 368 pages and wanted more. . . . It was an incredible story. . . . Samantha is an amazing character. . . . [This] was dark and dangerous and incredibly thrilling with tons of action, more intrigue than I knew what to do with, surprises around every corner, and psychological and theological undertones that made me as a reader think, which just immersed me in the story even further. . . . I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in the Witch Hunt series.”

  —Literal Addiction

  “Viguié’s writing in The Thirteenth Sacrifice is so sharp, you could cut yourself turning the page. It’s got everything: humor, a splash of romance in the air, an undercurrent of magic, and a pure charm that fills every wonderful line of the story. . . . [This] is the kind of book you’ll read again. And again. And again.”

  —Steven Savile, author of Machineries of Silence

  “[An] excellent thriller. . . . The story draws readers in right from the start, then quickly picks up speed as murder victim investigations and connections begin taking shape.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  “The action is well done, and the plot as a whole is exciting. I would recommend it to someone who was into thriller-mysteries with a paranormal twist.”

  —Paranormal Haven

  “A dark and intense supernatural suspense thriller . . . a haunting tale.”

  —Smexy Books

  Also by Debbie Viguié

  Witch Hunt Novels

  The Thirteenth Sacrifice

  The Last Grave

  CIRCLE OF BLOOD

  Debbie Viguié

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014

  USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

  penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  Copyright © Debbie Viguié, 2014

  Excerpt from The Thirteenth Sacrifice copyright © Debbie Viguié, 2012

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

  ISBN 978-1-101-61761-8

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Version_1

  Contents

  Praise

  Also by Debbie Viguié

  Title page

  Copyright page

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Excerpt from The Thirteenth Sacrifice

  To Juliette Cutts, my sister in spirit. The family you choose is just as important as the family you’re born with.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  There are so many people that I need to thank. First, thank you to my magnificent agent, Howard Morhaim, who always has my back. Next, I have to thank my fantastic editor, Danielle Perez; it has been an honor and a privilege to work with you, and your insight and dedication continue to astound me. You are truly one of the great ones. Thank you to the entire team at Penguin for their continued support of this series. Thank you to my husband, Scott, for all the love and support. Tha
nk you also to the circle of friends and family who love me and keep me safe: Rick and Barbara Reynolds, Ann Liotta, Calliope Collacott, and Chrissy Current.

  1

  The room was dark. No one was home, but that didn’t mean that she was alone. Shadows slithered down the walls and voices whispered all around her. They told her to stop, told her that she was a fool and that she didn’t know what she was doing. Something deep inside her was thrashing like a dying animal, and it took everything she had to keep her concentration.

  Sitting on the floor of her bedroom, she sliced her hand open with a butcher knife she’d gotten from the kitchen. It wasn’t a ceremonial object, but the important part wasn’t the blade itself but the blood. Her blood.

  She smeared the blood on the floor around her until it formed a circle. When it was completed she wiped her hand on her skirt and took a deep breath.

  It was now or never. If she didn’t do this, she’d be a prisoner forever, and she wanted so desperately to be free. But the thing that slithered around inside her hated the very word. It made her hands shake so bad she almost couldn’t light the candles that were around her.

  On the circle she placed two candles. One was blue for protection. The other was yellow for memory. Then she lit a white candle and placed it inside the circle in front of herself. The candle represented her, her higher self, who she wished to be.

  Next she lit three black candles and placed one on the other side of the candle from her and the other two to the left and right of the white candle. Black candles repelled negativity, were used for protection and binding.

  Her hands were shaking so badly now she knocked the third candle over. She quickly snuffed the flame that leaped to life on the carpet. And she understood exactly what the thing that was clawing at her stomach wanted. If it couldn’t have her, it would kill her.

  But she wouldn’t let it, not today of all days. It was her birthday. She was thirteen. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan were at work, but they had already given her the present she had asked for. She picked up the necklace that had been sitting next to her on the floor. It was a silver cross and they hadn’t even balked when she’d asked for it to be made for her based on a centuries-old design.

  She twisted the top of it off, revealing a tiny, hidden chamber in the heart of the cross. It wasn’t large, but it didn’t have to be.

  She shuddered as she could feel the shadows reaching out to her, touching her with icy hands that inspired dread and sorrow and terror as they always did. But now, for the first time, they also inspired anger.

  She wouldn’t let them control and manipulate her anymore. Everyone was dead: her mother, Abigail; all killed when their coven had tried raising that demon that had destroyed them.

  She would not be joining them. She was choosing life. A new life. New family, new religion. Even a new name.

  “I put away the old self, the old life. I renounce the witchcraft and the acts of evil I have witnessed and participated in.”

  Around her she could hear screaming. Inside her belly the creature that had been with her for what felt like a lifetime writhed in agony. It needed her fear, her will to survive, and she was going to deny it.

  “I seal myself to God and as Christ shed His blood on the cross, I, too, shed my blood on this image of the cross to bind my life to Him.”

  She lifted her injured hand and squeezed three drops of blood into the hidden chamber of the cross. Three, a holy number, a sacred number to so many different peoples. She screwed the top of the cross back on and put it around her neck.

  She could feel heat radiating from the cross into her skin.

  “I turn my back on the darkness.”

  Things were throwing themselves at her now, but her circle of protection kept them at bay. There was howling and scratching outside the circle. Inside the circle the thing within her was making her sick, trying to confound her mind so she couldn’t remember what it was she was doing, so she couldn’t remember how to rid herself of it once and for all.

  “I choose a new life, a new world. And nothing of the old belongs in it. I am no longer Desdemona Castor. I choose to forget the evil that she has done. I am Samantha Ryan. Behold, I am become new.”

  She blew out the white and black candles and then immediately doubled over in pain. She wretched and something black oozed out of her mouth and slid across the floor, seeking escape. She picked up the blue candle and set fire to the black slime, incinerating it. And slowly the screams faded from her mind.

  When it was gone she blew out the flame on the blue candle and then the yellow candle. Yellow, for memory. Very deliberately she took the knife and cut the candle in half. The two pieces toppled to the floor and she slid to the ground as tears of relief burst from her.

  • • •

  Desdemona Castor sat up with a shriek. She had been dreaming about the moment when she ceased to be and the imposter known as Samantha Ryan had taken her place. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and put her hands together, forming a ball of energy between them that grew and twisted until finally Freaky, in the form of a sleek black panther, was sitting on the floor staring at her with eyes that glowed red. She reached out to pet his head as she shook off the remnants of the nightmare.

  “Never again,” she promised the big cat.

  They were in an abandoned house on the outskirts of New Orleans. A little magic when they arrived the night before had made it habitable and obscured them from detection. On the nightstand was a picture of the cross necklace from her nightmare. Come and get it was written in blood on it. The cross had been stolen by witches months before when she was a homicide detective in Boston and had still been going by the name Samantha Ryan.

  Whoever had stolen it had left the picture for her in a grave in Salem, taunting her, daring her to come and find them. When she did, she would destroy both the cross and the witch who had stolen it.

  The night before, when they had arrived in New Orleans, she had attempted a summoning spell to bring the witch to her. It had failed. The witch in question was either very powerful or had taken precautions against such spells. It was no matter; Desdemona would find her, and when she did, nothing on earth would save the witch who had crossed her.

  Desdemona rose and got dressed. It was time to hunt a witch.

  An hour later she was haunting the dark streets of the French Quarter. The bars and clubs had emptied out and the shadows reigned supreme. She stalked through them, unafraid of anything that might be lurking within. No mere mortal was a match for her, and few witches had enough power to pose any kind of threat to her.

  A gunshot rang out through the air and she tensed. She started to turn toward the sound, but she forced herself to continue walking on her path. She wasn’t a cop. That was the usurper’s job and self-identity, not hers. That wasn’t who she truly was. Local police could handle the human drama just fine. Besides, what did she care?

  As she walked she searched for evidence of the witch she was seeking. She would head to the Garden District next if she couldn’t find what she was looking for. Witches by their very nature loved places steeped in history. A police car sped by a few minutes later, followed by an ambulance.

  The streets were grimy, and without throngs of people the place felt desolate. She stepped over a puddle on the ground that seemed to be congealing blood. The energy in the place was palpable and so very different from that of other places she had been.

  There was no sense of the earth beneath her, just concrete. Instead the energy was pulsing off the buildings, the collected fears and dreams of so many creative and desperate people. Life was one big party until you died; here, sex, death, and jazz seemed to permeate the air.

  It was nearly dawn when she finally felt power shimmering in the air. Those with the talent for magic interacted with the flow of energy around them and they could sense others with the same ability. She turned into a small café that was open for early-morning breakfast. She took a table and her eyes zeroed in on an older man with gray
hair who was engrossed in his meal. She ordered beignets and coffee.

  When her food came a few minutes later, she was still closely watching the man. So far he had refused to acknowledge her presence, even though he most surely had felt her power as well.

  She considered confronting him then and there, but the importance of keeping magic a secret had been well drilled into her as a child. She had once blinded a schoolyard bully only to be tortured by her mother as punishment. She could wait until the man left the café.

  The coffee was only lukewarm, but she had no need of distracting herself by yelling at the waiter. Instead, keeping her eyes focused on her quarry, she wrapped her hand around the cup and pushed energy out of her body through her hand and into the cup. She could hear the liquid begin to boil and she released it.

  Twenty minutes later, she was finished eating. The man finally got up and exited the café in another ten minutes. She waited a beat and then rose to follow him.

  She stayed about a block behind. He couldn’t help knowing that she was following him. She would let him choose the place of their confrontation. Finally she saw him turn up an alleyway between two buildings.

  She tensed, the energy ebbing and flowing through her. She debated briefly about how to enter the alleyway in case he was waiting to ambush her. Finally she took it slowly, hand raised, fire dancing along her fingertips.

  She stopped a couple of feet in.

  The man was standing over the body of someone else sprawled on the ground. The stench of blood filled the air and she could feel the life energy leaving the man on the ground as he died.

  She stared with narrowed eyes at the man she’d been following. He just shrugged and looked at her with steely eyes. “And what, then, is it you’ll be wanting of me?” he asked in a lilting Irish accent.

  “What are you?”

  “A man, last I checked,” he said, a smile twisting his lips.

  “Are you a witch?”

  “Druid, actually,” he said shortly.

 
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