{Blog Tour} Excerpt and Giveaway: The Promise (Coven #1)

The Promise

Welcome to my stop on The Promise blog tour hosted by YA
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The Promise (Coven #1)
by Apryl Baker
Release Date: 08/25/13

Summary from Goodreads:

Armed with kick-ass shoes, can CJ stop a maniacal coven leader, save the town, and still get Mr. Melt In Your Mouth Gorgeous while surviving the darkness coming for her?

The smoke from the fire burned her eyes, its heat caressed her skin and the taste of fear choked her. She was going to burn just as her ancestor did all those centuries ago in New Salem Village. How could she have been so wrong about everything?

Cassie Jayne Bishop grew up the only non-believer in town of Coven. When a stranger comes to the sleepy town of New Salem, everything she thought was true unraveled around her. Ethan made her question everything, even her sister’s death. Clues start to pile up and Cassie is determined to find out if the Coven was the real reason her sister died.

What she uncovers terrifies her to the very depths of her soul….

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***Excerpt***

Everyone always asks me what my favorite part in the book is. Well, there’s a story attached to it. When I went into my local library, I need to do some research on Wiccan Initiation Rituals. The librarian behind the desk had to be seventy if she was a day with her silver hair and grandmotherly glasses. When I asked if they had any books on that subject, she looked at me as if I’d just grown horns right there on the spot. She informed me, “They didn’t carry books on any such blasphemy.” Suffice to say, all my research was done online and through books I could order online. To this day, when I go in and she’s on duty, I get the heathen looks.

So that being said, here is my favorite chapter from the book.

The trees became thicker the farther in we walked, knitting overhead to block off any light from the moon. It should have been dark, but it wasn’t. I could see the path clearly in front of me. A soft light permeated the entire area, but I couldn’t find its source.

“What’s with the light?” I asked Ethan. “Where’s it coming from?”

He smiled. “Magic.”

I rolled my eyes.

The ground around me yielded no clues. I couldn’t so much as detect a wire anywhere. It was just a soft glow that covered the forest floor. The harder I looked, the more confused I became. Where was the stupid light coming from?

“We’re here,” Ethan whispered.

My head jerked up. I’d been so busy looking for the source of the light, I’d failed to notice we had come upon a large clearing. I knew this place. Emily and I had come here often growing up, more so after she’d joined the Coven. She’d always said she got her best ideas here, that it was her special place. She would usually let me tag along with her and I’d enjoyed it as much as she had. This place had a hushed, quiet feel to it that managed to soothe and calm a person. I loved it here. I still came here to think. It had become my own private thinking place after she died.
But not tonight. There was nothing hushed or quiet about it. Practically the whole town mingled in and around the circular clearing. Our entire town was a part of the Coven and the only people not in attendance were those who were too young to be here and their unfortunate babysitters. I smiled, my hand reaching up to touch Emily’s locket as I remembered again my agitation at being left at home the night of Emily’s induction.
I recognized everyone. They were laughing and talking with each other, some in heated debates. Everyone had dressed in their best. Ball gowns, tuxedos, expensive shoes, and pricey jewelry were mixed in with Target and JC Penny dress clothes and evening wear. All I could think was…WOW.

I glanced up at Ethan. He grinned down at me. “Not what you were expecting?”

I shook my head. Definitely not what I was expecting. In truth, I had expected people to be wearing long, hooded robes and to be standing all quiet and hushed while they waited for the Coven Master to begin the ceremony. This, however, was bright and airy, full of smiles and laughter. The atmosphere gave off a sense of home, of belonging. It felt familiar to me, like I was coming home after a long trip. Was this what Emily had meant when she’d said I’d understand when I was older? Was this what she’d felt? Was this why she had loved the Coven so much? There was just so much I didn’t understand.

“Are we going to stand here all day or are we going in?” Ethan whispered against my ear. It caused a shiver to run down my spine. He chuckled.
“We enter the circle one at a time,” he told me as we walked closer.

“But I thought you couldn’t cross a circle once it had been cast.”

“This one isn’t closed yet,” he explained. “Kay will close it when she begins the ceremony.”

Oh, well, I guess that made sense. He pushed me forward. I dragged my feet. I’d come, but a part of me wanted to turn tail and run. An insane feeling gripped me. If I entered that clearing, I would never be the same. The sane part of my brain told me I was being ridiculous, but the deeper part of my brain that still pulsed with primitive instincts said to run as far and as fast as I could away from this place.

I needed answers, though. If these people had played any part in Emily’s death, I would find out. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself forward and crossed into the circle.

Time stopped.

I couldn’t breathe.

Hurricane force winds crashed into me and I staggered under their force.

The ground rumbled beneath my feet and a misty rain started to fall around me.

The air blazed hotter than the August sun.

I felt dizzy, but then the world righted itself and a sense of peace settled within me. The same calm that this place always offered me was back and air filled my lungs again.

“Very good, Cassie,” Ethan told me and took my arm.

“What the hell was that?” I gasped. I felt weird, excited…sick.

“The five Elements greeted you,” Kay laughed and pulled me into a fierce hug. “You came! I can’t believe you came!”

“What are you talking about?” I’d spent a lot of time here and that had never happened before.

“We began the invocation of a circle,” she explained and pulled me along with her towards the front of the clearing. “The five Elements we use for our spelling are present and when you came into the circle, they said hello and welcome.”

“Is it always that…disorienting?” I still wasn’t so sure about the Element thing, but I had definitely felt something. Even I couldn’t deny that.
“They don’t greet everyone, CJ,” she sighed. “Only a handful of people have received that kind of welcome since the founding of the town. Emily was the last to receive it until now.”

“But you…”

“Can manipulate them and get them to do my bidding, yes, but have never been greeted by them.” A look of sadness crossed her face, but she pushed it aside and beamed at me. I felt her sadness stab through me. It made me feel guilty. Insane, as I never asked for the Elements to greet me, but Kay wanted their greeting. I felt no malice or envy from her, just a deep sadness. It made me feel all the more guilty. “I’m so glad you came. Megan is going to flip when she sees you.”

I glanced over her shoulder and saw my mom. She was talking to Kay’s dad and leaning in very close. I frowned. They looked more than just friendly. What was that about?

“CJ?” Kay moved and blocked my view of them.

“I had a reason for coming,” I told her distractedly. Why did Mom and Mr. Martin look so cozy? “I need to talk to you later.”

“What’s wrong?” she frowned and threw her heavy mane of hair over her shoulder.

I opened my mouth and then closed it as I got a good look at her. She wore a white dress similar to the one Emily had given me, but hers was made of satin and lace. It came to about three inches below her bottom and was held up by two spaghetti straps. Small crystals were sewn into the bodice and shimmered in the light. The stark contrast to her dark hair and skin created a devastating effect. A sort of energy radiated off her. She stood tall and proud, every inch the Coven leader she was.

“Kay, you look amazing.”

She smiled. “Thanks, but don’t deter. What’s wrong?”

“Later,” I told her as I was knocked over by Megan as she hurled herself at me. Jeff caught me from behind and steadied me.

“You’re here! At my initiation! I can’t believe it!”

“I think she gets the point, Meg,” Jeff laughed. “She might turn around and leave if you don’t let go. You’re choking her.”

“Sorry!” She turned me loose, her blonde hair swaying as she bounced on her feet. “I’m just so excited you came.”

“I wouldn’t have missed your initiation for the world, Meg,” I told her. “Now, shouldn’t you be getting ready?”

“Oh, yeah!” Her eyes widened and she hurried back to where her mom waited with an indulgent expression on her face. Kay followed her over.
“Thanks for that,” Jeff told me. “It meant the world to her to think you came just for her initiation.”

I nodded and looked up at him. He wore an expression of concern tinged with a sprinkle of fear. His blue eyes were wary as he gazed around us. He leaned down. “You shouldn’t have come, though.”

“What?” I asked, but Kay was back and Jeff’s perpetual smile was firmly in place. His eyes warned me not to say anything. I pasted a smile on my own face and made a mental note to grill Jeffrey later. Why wouldn’t he want me here? He’d always been one of the worst hagglers trying to get me to attend a meeting.

“Come on.” Kay grabbed my hand and pulled me to the front where Ethan and Billy waited. Jeff trailed behind us. “You’ll be able to see everything here.”

“The prodigal daughter returns,” Billy winked at me.

“Hardly,” I scoffed, aware of every eye in the place on me. My mom beamed at me from across the clearing. People whispered, pointed, and just plain stared. I shifted, uncomfortable with all the attention. It creeped me out.

“Behave,” Kay warned Billy and gave him a quick kiss before she went back to her own preparations.

“CJ, welcome.”

I turned to see Kay’s dad standing to my left. He was the head of the Senior Coven now that my father had stepped down. Kay bore a remarkable resemblance to her father with his jet black hair and dark, olive skin. They might look alike, but that’s where the resemblance ended. The biggest difference was that Mr. Martin was only out for himself. While Kay could be, and was the Queen Bitch of the school, she was also fiercely loyal and would defend her friends to the death. Her father wouldn’t think twice about throwing his friends under the bus to save himself.

“Thank you, Mr. Martin.”

“We are all delighted that you have finally joined us, CJ, and it will give me great pleasure to formally welcome you into the Coven tonight.”
“No, you won’t,” I told him. “Tonight is about Megan and only Megan.” It would crush her if they tried to make it about me and I wouldn’t put it past Kay’s father to do just that.

“Yes, of course it is,” he frowned, “but we can still welcome…”

“NO. If you try to take this night away from her, I will leave this minute.”

He sighed. “You’re right. We can welcome you at the next meeting.”

“I don’t think so,” I shook my head. “My coming doesn’t mean I’m joining anything. It just means I’m curious.”

His nostrils flared and his eyes hardened with anger even as his face turned an ugly puce color. Definitely mad.

“Kay is trying to get your attention.” Ethan cut off whatever he was about to say. “I think it’s time to start.”

“He’s such an ass,” Billy growled. “I don’t know how Kay puts up with his crap.”

She gets dead dog drunk, I thought to myself.

“Yeah, he is,” Jeff agreed. “Thanks, CJ.”

“It’s her night. No one, especially me, should take it away from her.”

“Why especially you?” Ethan asked.

“Because I don’t believe in it.”

“Are you sure about that?”

No, I wasn’t sure, but neither was I about to admit it. Fortunately, Mr. Martin saved me from answering when he called everyone to attention.

“Welcome.” His voice boomed throughout the clearing and the noise died down instantly. Everyone turned to look where he stood beside the makings of a smaller circle. “It is my honor and privilege to open tonight’s meeting on this very special occasion. A child has been decreed ready to join us. She stands on the verge of change and growth. We welcome you to our circle, little one, and greet you with open arms and open hearts.”

Megan stepped forward wearing a gown of white lace that seemed to flow and ripple as she walked forward. It had long billowy sleeves that ended just at her fingertips. It looked old, but very beautiful. I’d bet anything it had been worn by all the women in her mother’s family before her. It had a certain Old World feel to it. Megan looked radiant as she curtsied before him. Wait, she curtsied?

“Merry meet, sir.”

“Merry meet, Megan Allison Parker,” Mr. Martin bowed to her. “Now, our Junior Coven Leader will guide you through the Rite of Initiation.”

He’d used her full name as was our habit. It was a witch’s greeting. A person’s full name held power.

Kay stepped forward and held out her hands.

“I call upon the guardians of the watchtowers to the north, the east,
the south, and the west to aide us this night.
Earth, Fire, Air, and Water I summon thee to do my bidding.
Spirit I call upon thee to bind them together and close this circle.”

A snap reverberated and a tingle went through me. I felt the circle close. Not good.

Kay turned to Megan, her expression becoming hard and unyielding. It was a look I’d only ever seen on her father’s face. I frowned, unable to shake a sudden queasy feeling in my stomach. Why would that expression set off alarm bells?

“Do you enter this circle with an open mind, an open heart and a purity of purpose?”

“I do,” Megan nodded, her face alight with joy.

“Do you agree to pledge yourself to learning the craft of your people?”

“I do.” Megan’s answer came out strong and proud.

“Do you agree to respect and abide by the laws of this Coven?”

“I do.”

Kay’s face turned harsher, more demanding.

“Do you agree to protect the secrets of our Coven from all others, even if that means forfeiting your own life?”

Oh, what was this juicy little tidbit? I leaned forward.

Megan’s eyes widened and she swallowed.

“I do.”

By the nervous look on her face, I’d guarantee Megan hadn’t expected that question either.

“Then come forward, Megan Allison Parker, and follow me into my circle. If you have answered truthfully, you have nothing to fear.”

Kay stepped into the circle of candles. Megan took a deep and steadying breath and followed her in. Kay nodded in approval. “Now we will set our circle and let the Elements decree your worthiness, Megan Allison Parker.”

Megan looked nervous, but she walked to stand directly in the center of the small circle outlined by candles. She squared her shoulders, held her head up, and nodded for Kay to begin.

“Earth, enter our circle and judge this novice for stability of purpose.”

The green candle flared to life.

“Air, enter this circle and judge this novice for the intelligence needed to learn our craft.”

The blue candle flared to life.

“Fire, enter our circle and judge this novice for the strength needed to protect us.”

The red candle flickered.

Megan took a shaky breath and closed her eyes, concentrating hard.

The red candle flared to life.

“Water, enter our circle and judge this novice for the wisdom needed to guide us.”

The yellow candle flared to life.

“Spirit, enter this circle and judge this novice for the purity of all and nothing.”

The purple candle flared to life.

Lights, like hundreds of fireflies, appeared around Megan and she stood, tall and proud, as they swirled around her. The circle closed and the flames of all five candles shot at least ten feet into the air. I felt a rush of power as the circle closed. It spread outward and settled into…me. I twitched as it coursed through my body. My legs gave out as it pushed into me. Ethan grabbed me before I fell. No one else seemed to notice, thankfully, as all eyes were on Megan. He wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me into his side, his gaze questioning. I shook my head at him and motioned to Megan.

“The Elements have decreed you worthy for entrance into our craft, Megan Allison Parker,” Kay told her formally. “We welcome you into the field of apprenticeship.”

“I thank thee for the welcome, Mistress, and pledge to honor the creed of our Coven,” Megan replied, barely able to suppress the grin that kept trying to explode.

“Spirit, Water, Fire, Air, and Earth, we thank all of thee for thy service,” Kay stretched out her hands. “You may leave these circles.”

Again, there was a large pop as the circle broke and it almost knocked me to my knees. Ethan’s arm around me kept me from falling. This was so not good.

“Are you okay?” he whispered against my ear.

“No,” I whispered back. No point in lying. He knew I wasn’t okay.

Kay’s face changed into an expression of joy. “I present thee, Megan Allison Parker, to the Coven. Friends, please join me in welcoming our newest member.”

The crowd converged on them. Ethan and I stayed where we were. He looked concerned. I wanted to run. Instead, I took deep breaths and felt the strength creep back into my legs. After a few minutes, I was able to stand again. I pulled away from Ethan just to test myself. Good, no falling down.

“Better?” he asked, his gray eyes burning with worry.

“Yes, thank you.”

“What happened to you, Cassie?”

“Here you are!” Kay grabbed my hand and pulled me along with her. I tossed Ethan a helpless look and he stared after me, worried. “So, what did you think?”

“It was interesting.”

She stopped and turned to stare at me in amazement. “Interesting? Is that all you can say?”

“Kay, I’m not about to convert after seeing one ceremony,” I told her. I knew by the look on her face she’d half expected that. I also knew how important the Coven was to her so I tried to soothe her. “The ceremony was really beautiful and whatever trick you used to make the candles shoot up like that was wicked cool.”

“It wasn’t a trick, CJ,” she told me quietly. “It was the Elements accepting Megan. The flames gave them a voice.”

I frowned at her. I’d needed it to be a simple trick. That way I could explain away everything I’d seen.

“And I don’t expect you to convert, not really,” she smiled half-heartedly. “I know you need time. You have to think things to death before you make a decision.”

“Hey!”

“But I count on that, CJ.” She hooked her arm in mine. “If you didn’t over think things, we’d both be SOL. I’m glad you’re the way you are, and that you’re my best friend even if you don’t believe in all this nonsense.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think anyone else would put up with either one of us for long,” I laughed. “So, I guess we’re stuck with each other.”
“Speaking of stuck with each other…”

I rolled my eyes. I knew where this was going.

“Tell me what’s going on with you and Ethan.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

I laughed. “That’s not going on.”

She sighed wearily. “Have I taught you nothing?”

“I barely know him.”

“You know him well enough to be kissing him on your front porch.”

I groaned. Damn that nosy old woman!

“So, dish, girl. Is he a good kisser?”

“He makes me forget where I am,” I confessed. I wasn’t really sure I liked that fact.

“Billy does that to me,” she smiled. “I’ve never met anyone who could do that before.”

“He really loves you. He went so far as to ask me what to get you for your birthday.”

“Ohhh, what did you tell him?”

“Uh-uh,” I shook my head. “It’s a surprise.”

She sighed. “Since I know you’re not going to divulge secret information, back to Ethan. Do you like him?”

“More than I should. He makes me so mad sometimes, but then he says or does something that just makes me melt.”

“I think you’re starting to fall in love, CJ,” Kay whispered.

“I think maybe I am,” I sighed.

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know, Kay. It just seems too soon, too sudden. I thought love was supposed to take longer.”

“Nope,” she said. “I knew I loved Billy after three dates.”

“How?” I asked, curious.

“Well, the way I felt when he kissed me was a huge sign. When I think about him, I get all…gooey on the inside. I need to hear his voice when I wake up or before I go to sleep. He makes me feel special and loved. No one else ever has. Usually guys just want to go out with me because they think I’m hot or because my dad’s the Coven leader. Not Billy. He likes me, CJ, for me. He sees past the drinking and the smartass attitude. He sees me.”

“Damn.”

“Ethan makes you feel the same way?” she grinned down at me as we approached the boys from behind. We’d made a full circle of the clearing as we talked and were back to where we started.

“Yup.”

“I can’t believe you did it, man,” Billy told Ethan. “I didn’t think anyone would ever manage to get her to come anywhere near the Coven.”
I saw Ethan shrug. “I told you I’d get her here and I did. You guys went about it the wrong way. You have to know how to handle Cassie.”
Handle Cassie? What the hell?

“You can’t push her. You have to let her make the decision on her own. All I did was just point out a few things to make her think about it.”

Jeff looked up and saw us standing behind Ethan and Billy. “Well, you did promise to get CJ here. Was it hard to do?”

“No,” Ethan shook his head. “I just kept her distracted like Billy suggested and asked the right questions.”

Billy reached out and slapped him on the back. “Welcome to the Coven, man. You did the impossible and earned your place.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Kay shouted, outraged.

Billy and Ethan turned around to see us standing there. They both looked alarmed, but Jeff stood with a vindictive smile on his face. Wait. Had he known what Ethan and Billy were up to? My eyes narrowed as they focused on Neighbor Boy. His smile faded and he too began to look alarmed, realizing how much trouble he was in.

Had this entire week been about getting me to a stupid Coven meeting so he could prove something to the two jerks standing beside him? Had everything he said just an hour earlier been a lie? It hurt to think that, but it also pissed me off. Anger was easier to deal with at the moment, so I let it out.

“So, let me get this straight,” I snarled and the wind started to howl. It ripped through the trees and whipped around us. “You were manipulating me to get me to come to a damn meeting? Is that right?”

“Cassie, let me explain…”

“Shut it!” I tried to keep from yelling, everyone was already staring at us. The wind tore through the trees and lashed out at us all. “At least you got what you wanted. I’m here.”

“Cassie…”

“Don’t,” I told him. “Just don’t.”

“It was Billy’s idea!” Ethan pointed a finger at him.

“Billy’s idea?” Kay rounded on her boyfriend. “You put him up to this? How could you do that? She’s my best friend. How could you hurt her like that?”

“Kay…”

“Oh no, Billy, don’t even try it. I’m so mad I might just break up with you right now if you say another word to me.”

“Kay, I’m sorry. It was stupid.”

“No, it was more than stupid, you assholes!” She glared at all three of them.

“Cassie, please…”

“No,” Kay cut Ethan off. “Leave her alone. You’ve done enough. Come on, CJ, let’s get you home.”
“I’ll drive you,” Billy offered, his voice desperate.

“I don’t think so,” Kay told him, her own voice as cold as a winter’s frost. “I have my own car. What you did was horrible and I can’t stand to look at you right now, William James Howe, so fuck off.”

She turned us away from them and I didn’t start to cry until we were in the car.

***GIVEAWAY***

1 audiobook of The Promise & 5 ebooks (mobi/PDF) of The Promise -> a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

So who am I? Well, I’m the crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up. I LOVE scary movies. My friends laugh at me when I scare myself watching them and tell me to stop watching them, but who doesn’t love to get scared? I grew up in a small town nestled in the southern mountains of West Virginia where I spent days roaming around in the woods, climbing trees, and causing general mayhem. Nights I would stay up reading Nancy Drew by flashlight under the covers until my parents yelled at me to go to sleep.
I love books, I love writing books, and I love entertaining people with my silly stories.

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2 thoughts on “{Blog Tour} Excerpt and Giveaway: The Promise (Coven #1)

  1. Nicki B says:

    Ooh Ethan is mean! I actually liked him at the beginning of the excerpt but I’ve changed my mind. I must read this book to find out what happens

    Like

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