Spell Cat by Tara Lain

Chapter One

“Witches burned at the stake!” Killian Barth looked out over the eager students who crowded the lecture hall. Okay, that got their attention. Nearly one hundred pairs of young, bright eyes stared at his face. “No one is certain how many people, mostly female, were murdered during the three-plus centuries of the witch trials that we’ll be covering in this course.”

“Jeez.” The soft voice came from somewhere near the front.

“Jeez, indeed. Sadly, they were all murdered in the name of God.”

The girl shuddered. Good for her. This might be one of the most popular classes at the university, but all his students had different reasons for being here. Some were serious historians; others were looking for titillation or an easy A. Then there were the girls who wanted to marry him or at least fuck him. What had the girl said? Jeez.

Marriage was a particularly sore subject at the moment.

Okay, concentrate. He flipped his long hair over his shoulder and got a giggle from a couple of the girls. Professor Killian Barth, sex symbol. What a joke. He input a command on his laptop, and the projector began to flash a series of images onto the big wall screen behind him. “While churches have been trying to cover up the actual numbers for centuries, moderate estimates say one hundred thousand individuals were killed in the time between the fourteen hundreds and seventeen hundreds. Women’s groups and modern-day witch covens maintain the number is far higher.”

A male voice called out from somewhere in the crowd. “Why would anybody believe someone who claimed they were a witch?”

Killian turned slowly. The kids shifted in their seats. He tried not to smile. The speaker hadn’t gotten the unwritten memo. “Will the person who spoke stand, please?”

A tall, handsome boy with dark brown hair stood slowly. He didn’t look anxious to be embarrassed or thrown out of the class. Good. It gave Killian the chance to do his required speech early.


The boy shrugged. “Janx. Jimmy Janx.”

“Yes, Mr. Janx. I want you and the entire class to know that I welcome all sincere questions relating to the subject of witchcraft, the history of the witch trials, or related issues. But note that I said ‘sincere.’ I do not teach this class as a joke or to give any of you an ‘easy A.’ If you’ve done your homework, you should already know that this class is anything but easy and that I expect you to take the death of somewhere between thousands and millions of people very seriously indeed. Especially since it impacted the future of the entire Western world.” He smiled slightly. No sense in being too hard on the kid. “Now, Mr. Janx, would you like to rephrase your question?”

“Yes, sir. Why would modern-day people still believe in witches? Is there any reason to think such people aren’t crazy?”

Killian smiled. The front row sighed again. “Ah, that is the question. Well done, Mr. Janx.” The bell sounded, and students began gathering their papers. “We’ll address your question in a future session.”

As the class filed out, Killian turned his back and packed his briefcase. Normally he’d linger and encourage their questions, but his impending dinner with his mother to discuss her marriage agenda was driving him crazy. Soon he’d meet Lavender Karonoff, his mother’s choice—no, everyone’s choice—for his bride. Everyone’s choice but his. He sighed. Power was no substitute for love, no matter what anybody said—and he ought to know.

He needed to get home and prepare.

“I meant no disrespect, sir.”

Killian turned to see Jimmy Janx standing at the foot of the dais. “None taken.”

“I’m really looking forward to this class.”

Killian looked at the boy’s open face and felt his energy. Yes, he was the type. Probably having strange psychic or out-of-body experiences he couldn’t explain that scared him witless. Many people did. No wonder the young man seemed spooked. “I hope the class is very worthwhile for you, Mr. Janx.”

“Thanks, Professor.” The boy hurried to catch up with his friends. Had to give him points for being willing to address the terrifying teacher. Killian’s presence could be formidable to someone with psychic sensitivity like this kid.

Okay, home. He packed his laptop into the briefcase, then gathered the fall of hair from his lower back and wrapped it into a queue at his neck. A clip from his jacket pocket held the hair in place. He snatched up his motorcycle helmet from the chair and started toward the door.

Halfway across the room, he stopped. Who’s that?