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That Witch!

That Witch!, May 2013
Secrets of Majestic Hills #1
by Zoe Lynne

Dreamspinner Press
Featuring: Cassidy Ryan; Brynn Michaels
ISBN: 1623806925
EAN: 9781623806927
Kindle: B00CTEMKAS
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"Two girls with nothing in common - find they have a lot in common"

Fresh Fiction Review

That Witch!
Zoe Lynne

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted August 16, 2013

Gay / Lesbian Paranormal | Gay / Lesbian

This high-school girl story contains a lot of classroom terms, so get ready for someone mentally facepalming herself, an emo girl from Loserville, and whatevs. If you can read through that and see the characters behind the talk, you'll find the nub of the story. Brynn loves music and studies hard, intending to escape the claustrophobic school atmosphere as soon as she can. She's got pink hair and multiple-pierced ears, one friend, no designer labels and no desire to be popular. Cassidy is the popular girl, blonde hair, expensive clothes and arrogant attitude to the fore, with eager jocks following her around. The two girls never speak if either of them can help it.

THAT WITCH is a part of herself that Cassidy keeps firmly hidden, an inheritance that she has no intention of using. California has plenty of weird people, and she has no wish to be one. But the class teacher pairs her with Brynn for an ongoing literature project, to their dismay. Brynn's mother doesn't believe she's going to Cassidy's house, while both girls shamefacedly alter their dress style to make the other feel more comfortable. They discover that they're both into Steinbeck, but that's not all they have in common. Both girls are gay, and keep the closet door firmly shut. As the story moves on LGBT issues are discussed, and prejudices aired, but even without that dimension there are problems because Brynn's friend Laura now accuses Brynn of never sitting with her anymore and wanting to be friends with cheerleaders.

The witchcraft is actually a red herring because no serious witchcrafting occurs, though changes do. But the advantage is that Cassidy's family are prepared for and accepting of unconventional lifestyles. While Cassidy often feels that she could just explode with the tingling power that fills her when she's angry, she's responsible enough to restrain it and deal with the problem in an appropriate way.

Zoe Lynne is a pen name for an author already successful in adult romance, who wants to give young people characters and stories they can relate to and support young LGBT adults. THAT WITCH is a good introduction to her stories and all sorts of girls will find it an entertaining read.

Learn more about That Witch!

SUMMARY

Cassidy Ryan and Brynn Michaels attend the same high school, but they live in different worlds. Cassidy’s a popular cheerleader, and Brynn’s the social leper. One is all sunshine and rainbows, while the other could’ve been carved from an Edgar Allan Poe book.

Both girls have their problems, though. Cassidy is coming into her birthright—a long line of ancient magic Cassidy isn’t ready to have. Brynn is coming into her sexuality— something that will definitely cause problems with her very conservative family.

When a teacher assigns Cassidy and Brynn to work together on a project, the girls find themselves in a heap of trouble, because what they feel for each other can’t be denied. If they have any hope of changing ignorant and frightened minds, they’ll have to listen to their own hearts first.

Excerpt

Chapter One

JEEZ, Brynn just wanted to hide in her corner of the lunchroom, away from the preppy-populars and the nerd-herds, the drama club geeks and the overachievers, and listen to the new Donnas album while she crammed for her calculus exam. But nooooo, her BFF, Miss-Nancy-Drew-Wannabe, kept nudging her arm every five minutes just to point out something Brynn really had, like, zero interest in. She played along, though, peeking through the cotton-candy-pink bangs covering her face to see what Laura wanted. This time it was Cassidy Rivers, and the queen of the in-crowd looked like she was on the prowl, with her bleached blonde clones loyally in tow, as always.

Brynn rolled her eyes and buried her head back in her book. She didn’t care about Cassidy. The chick didn’t even hit Brynn’s radar, well… except for the fact she was probably the most gorgeous girl Brynn had ever seen. She had these startling steel-blue eyes and pouty pink lips, bright blonde hair that was obviously really hers because her perfectly shaped brows were about the same shade of blonde. Her cheeks were rosy and round, and when she smiled, the cutest dimples formed at the edges of her mouth.

Brynn mentally facepalmed herself. Was she seriously admiring Cassidy Rivers—of all freakin’ people?

Maybe on some level she would’ve liked to have been accepted by Cassidy and the in-crowd. Those kids lived in the nicest houses and had the best cars. They shopped in all the swanky Majestic Hills shops, wore designer everything, and had the best life had to offer. Brynn had the means to fit in. She came from money like the rest of them, but those shops didn’t appeal to her. Name brands didn’t mean anything either. Her favorite boots came from an army thrift store. She listened to bands like My Chemical Romance and The Used, not Bruno Mars and Britney Spears. Still, it would’ve been nice to fit in, but there was no way she would admit that to anyone. No, it was totally more hardcore to pretend the preppy-popular kids were a vapid waste of space, and she could do soooo much better… with her one friend.

One earbud plopped out of her ear and landed in the crease of her book. Laura had her finger hooked around the white cord. The noise from the lunchroom chatter and the object falling in the line of her sight distracted her. Brynn hated being distracted when she was focused on something important, like making the grades she needed to get into the college of her dreams. She turned her eyes up to Laura who sat beside her, purple ponytail high on her head, black-lined, brown-eyed stare set on Cassidy and the pom-pom squad.

“Beware, she’s headed this way,” Laura said.

“Why do I need to beware?” Brynn mumbled as she stuck her earbud back in her left ear. The music was low enough she could still hear Laura without missing out on track five, which would totally go onto a playlist when Brynn got home and could sync her iPod. “She never stops at our table. We’re so not on her radar.”

“Don’t sound so disappointed,” Laura teased.

“Who said I was disappointed? I kinda like it.” Brynn looked up and tilted her head, considering what would happen if Cassidy Rivers actually noticed her existence.

Hmm… probably nothing.

They both watched as Cassidy I’m-destined-to-be-prom-queen Rivers swished on by their table, her bleach-bottle-blonde besties flanking both sides. A few of the brain-dead jocks that always followed them around fell in behind the three girls. It was so tragically cliché and so After School Special.

Brynn couldn’t stand it, or so she kept telling herself.

Keep on walking, girl. Keep on walking, she thought as Cassidy and her clique rounded the edge of the table. Brynn pulled in a deep breath, kept her head low, and only watched them through the part in her pink, chin-length, straight-as-a-freakin’-board hair. She reached up and tugged at one of the six silver loops hanging from either ear—a nervous habit she’d recently developed—and casually kept her black-lined eyes fixed on Cassidy.

A white cashmere sweater clung to Cassidy’s slight curves and met at the pink skirt hugging her waist and thighs. The skirt stopped just above the knee, and below that was a pair of white, high-heeled boots that reached all the way up past her calves. The outfit had to be designer. It had that classy look to it. But what really caught Brynn’s eye was the golden pendant hanging from Cassidy’s neck. It looked Celtic—a knot of some sort—with lots of loops and weaves. Brynn had seen something like it before in one of her cool Gothic jewelry catalogs, but the one around Cassidy’s neck didn’t look like a cheap knockoff. It looked like the real deal—maybe priceless, maybe even antique. It definitely gave Miss Better-Than-Everyone-Else a depth she didn’t have before.

Cassidy and crew kept walking but not without smirking down at Brynn like she was the scum of the earth. Something wicked flickered in that girl’s big blue-gray eyes, something mean and totally deceiving to the rest of the world—the ones who believed Cassidy was as innocent as the Virgin Mary or something.

Pfft!

“Looks like we got lucky again,” Laura whispered as soon as the in-crowd cleared the table.

Brynn finally exhaled, little strands of pink hair fluttering in the breeze. Yeah, they got lucky again, but they always got lucky. They were such an insignificant blip Cassidy didn’t even bother, not like the poor nerd-herd the jocks loved to bully three tables back.

Something stupid and curious came over Brynn. For some dumb reason, she glanced over her shoulder to see what they were doing. The jocks were hovering over the nerds. Cassidy and the blonde squad worked their way over to the table where the cheerleaders and the other popular kids always sat, but for some messed-up reason, Cassidy kept watching her. If Brynn didn’t turn around now and mind her own business, she knew she would be on the receiving end of some snarky comment, and honestly, Brynn would rather study calculus than get into a battle of wits with the unarmed.

“Why is she staring at us?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know.” Brynn turned back to her book. “Just don’t look at her, and maybe she’ll forget we exist.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

“Hey, it’s worked for two years, hasn’t it? I mean like, we’re seniors now, and we haven’t been bullied by her or her friends. She doesn’t even waste her time with us. So, let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing and pretend she doesn’t exist either.”

“Right,” Laura said as she looked down at her lunch tray and the massive helping of beef surprise that had started out as meatloaf at the beginning of the week.

Jeez, Brynn didn’t see how Laura could eat that crap. It smelled like something died on a plate, and the lovely Lunch Lady Brigade couldn’t wait to serve that slop up to the unsuspecting masses. She cringed and began gathering up her books, then grabbed her backpack from the chair beside her. Brynn tucked her iPod into the pocket of her black hoodie and said to Laura, “See you in sixth period.”

“Yeah. Totally. Good luck on the exam.”

“Thanks,” Brynn muttered before heading out of the cafeteria.

She wandered down the nearly empty hallway, past all the bright red lockers, platform boots thumping against the white linoleum. The bell hadn’t rung yet, so most of the other students were still in their classes or hanging out in the cafeteria. Brynn liked the halls like that. She didn’t have to push through the crowds, didn’t have to fight her way through the cliquey circles just to get to her locker. She could take her time and just… chill.

Brynn hugged her black hoodie tight around her body as she headed up the stairwell to the second floor. The Donnas’ latest album played from her iPod and spilled some of her favorite music into her ears. She’d made it all the way to track eleven, and it would probably end right before she made it to her class.

She thought about Cassidy, about how mean and snarky the girl could be. Brynn wondered if that was the real Cassidy or just a show she put on to be the popular girl, because being part of the in-crowd came with certain responsibilities—which apparently included walking all over everyone else in the school. Whatever. It wouldn’t matter much longer. They had one semester left before they graduated. She would go off to college, and Cassidy would… do something with her empty, narcissistic life. Not that Brynn cared what Cassidy did after high school.

Or wait, did she?

Ugh!

The bell rang just as Brynn hit the second floor. Doors opened. Chatter filled the halls. People came barreling by as they went to their lockers. Brynn dropped her backpack off at hers. She tucked everything away in the cramped metal locker, then slammed the door and twisted the knob to lock it back into place. Just as she spun on her two-inch platform heels, she came face-to-face with the one person in the entire school she’d done a real good job of avoiding.

Cassidy Rivers.

“Why were you staring at me, freak?” Cassidy all but spat at Brynn—manicured brows arched, arms crossed over her chest, perfect pink nails tapping against her upper arms.

“I… um…,” Brynn stuttered, hugging herself a little tighter.

“‘I… um…’ what? Did you see something you like?”

“Your necklace,” Brynn blurted for God only knew what reason.

Cassidy laid her palm over the golden knot, but she didn’t look away from Brynn, didn’t look any less put off by Brynn’s presence. Her pink lips pursed, but she didn’t say a word. In fact, neither of them said anything. They just kept staring at each other because apparently, neither of them knew how to speak anymore.

“Well,” Cassidy finally said, nostrils flaring, upper lip curling in disgust, “maybe you should find something else to ogle, because I don’t appreciate being the object of your affection.”

And with those last biting words, Cassidy pushed by Brynn with so much force it made her stumble to the side. Brynn swung back around, glaring at the back of Cassidy’s body as she sauntered over toward her clique.

“You don’t have to be so mean,” Brynn yelled across the way. “I mean, I was going to tell you the necklace was neat… that’s all, but really, it looks ridiculous on you.”

Cassidy twirled around again. The kids surrounding her all laughed. She kicked out one booted foot and cocked her hip to the side, one hand resting at her waist while the other arm held her pink purse.

“Jealous, Nightmare On My Street?”

“What?” What the hell did that mean?

“Are. You. Jealous. Of. Me. Brynn?” she asked slowly, enunciating every word.

“No, as a matter of fact, I’m not. I pity you.” What a lie.

“You”—Cassidy pointed to Brynn, then thumbed back at herself—“pity me? You have to be kidding. I have what everyone wants. What do you have?”

Well, as a matter of fact, Brynn had brains, and she was cute but not vain. She had the best friend anyone could ask for and two very loving parents. She had good grades and a ticket out of suburban California. She had everything she wanted… except the one person she’d been most fascinated with her entire high school career.

Instead of some biting, snarky comeback, Brynn hugged her book tighter and looked away. She absolutely refused to play this game with Cassidy, especially in front of all Cassidy’s friends. She would only be laughed at, and right now, she had more important things to worry about.

She pushed through the group of popular kids as they laughed and teased her. Despite their bullying, she didn’t let them get to her. She ignored them as she continued down the hall to her calculus class, and she sat down at her desk as if none of that had ever happened. Brynn painted a smile on her face—as fake as it was—pulled out her pencil and her book, and readied herself for that stupid exam. Soon enough, the day would be over, and she could drown her miseries in a little music, maybe even a Tim Burton classic.

Yes, she really was that stereotypical.


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