Authors: Katie Cross
Tags: #Nightmare, #Magic, #Witchcraft, #Young Adult
THE NETWORK SERIES
by Katie Cross
Miss Mabel's School for Girls
The Isadora Interviews
• visit The Network Series online at
BOOK TWO IN THE NETWORK SERIES
Young Adult Fantasy
Text copyright © 2014 by Katie Cross
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, events, or incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarities or resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or places, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.Except as permitted under the US Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the author. For information regarding permission, send a query to the author at
Published by Antebellum Publishing. Visit
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E-BOOK EDITION • ISBN 978-0-9915319-4-3 • VERSION 1.4
Also available in a hardcover edition (ISBN 978-0-9915319-5-0) and a paperback edition (ISBN 978-0-9915319-3-6)
For my second grade teacher Terry Felts
Who loved an awkward, frizzy-haired little girl.
itting down to write the acknowledgements is quite honestly the most difficult part of writing a book. I’m a little more than terrified that I’m going to forget someone pivotal.
Let’s be honest here. The biggest thanks of all certainly goes first to the Miss Mabel’s School for Girls fans that kept the book going. Without your excitement and enthusiasm, this would be a much lonelier process. I’ve said it once, and I’ll certainly say it a hundred thousand times more: Bianca has the coolest fans.
No author is an island. I have the most magnificent team of designers, editors, proofreaders, typesetters, bloggers, and beta readers that a girl could ask for. Jenny, Robin, Catherine, Bailey, Atthis Arts LLC, and all the others that helped, thank you for bringing your honesty and talents to my door. Your awesomeness helped make Antebellum Awakening as perfect and beautiful as it is today. To all the many beta readers that contributed, thank you for your selfless time donation and honest opinions.
To the artists of Read Write Muse LLC, and now my new family of Blue Monkeys. Thank you for all your unfaltering love, support, beta reading comments, and giggles when we’re all staying up far too late to chat on Facebook. I love each and every one of you. There’s no one else I’d rather go into business with than you.
To the followers at KCrossWriting that keep me endlessly entertained with your witty comments about my frizzy, out-of-control hair that closely resembles Camille’s: thanks for the love and support! A special thanks to Sam-Bam for her young prowess with words and helping me refine and hone the blurb on the back. She deserves the credit for the chills and glitter the last line gives.
Then there are the people who not only put up with me in a professional regard, but in every other facet of life. I can’t name everyone in my family that has supported me, or else I’d have to write another novel, but know that I love you and think of you always.
Husband, love yer face.
he carriage rolled away from the graveyard with a
of wheels on the rocky dirt road. I stared out the window, watching the trees of Letum Wood fade by in spears of gray and black, like the shadows in my heart. Low clouds blew over from the south in a blanket of gray foam.
Mama’s gone now.
The dark gloom I felt stirred the magic near my heart.
It’s time to move on. Don’t think about her death anymore. Keep the past in the past.
Sometimes I wished I wasn’t so honest with myself. Perhaps I could pretend that Mama would come back from death, that I could delay going on with my new life without her. But no, I couldn’t. The pain would never let me forget her entirely, though I knew I’d try.
“Does your father know that Miss Mabel did not remove your Inheritance Curse?” the High Priestess asked, breaking our stony silence with her gravelly voice. She sat across from me, her beady eyes black in the fading daylight, her short gray and white hair swept back from her face in little wisps. The mention of Miss Mabel tightened my stomach.
“I don’t know,” I said. Wrapping up my old life, closing the cottage I’d grown up in, and reeling from the shock of Mama’s death had sapped all of Papa and my strength. I hadn’t even thought about the curse that would kill me on my seventeenth birthday just six months away. What did it matter? Mama was dead, and so was my heart. My own death would certainly hurt less than the moment she died in my arms. “I don’t think we’ve talked about it.”
“Yes or no?”
The High Priestess fell quiet for so long I thought she’d forgotten the subject. She could have easily used magic to transport back to Chatham Castle and resume her duties as leader of the Central Network, but she stayed with me. I wondered why. I’d chosen the lengthy carriage ride simply because I didn’t want to go back to the castle. Without Mama there, it wasn’t home.
Close the door, Bianca. Stop thinking about her.
“Would you lie to your father and tell him that Miss Mabel removed the curse if I asked you to?” the High Priestess asked.
My eyes lifted to hers in surprise.
“Lie to him?”
She nodded, as if she asked this kind of thing every day. I couldn’t believe it. Tell my father a lie? I’d never lied to him before, and couldn’t even fathom how to successfully go about it. He was a master of disguise, a man who lived in the shadows to protect those living in the light. I’d have to live with my falsehood every day, remember my guilt every time I saw his face.
“Why would you want that of me?” I asked in a hoarse voice.
“The Central Network is walking into a war,” she said in her crisp, punctuated inflections. For a woman as powerful as the High Priestess, nothing got in the way of business, not even mourning. “Your father is one of our greatest hopes for getting out of it intact. If he knows that Mabel still has power over you, he’ll throw all his attention into stopping the curse, even at the cost of the Network. I can’t let that happen.”
“What about me?” I asked. The High Priestess locked her sharp eyes with mine. “I’m just supposed to let the curse kill me?”
“Of course not. If you lie to your father, I will promise to personally find a resolution to your Inheritance Curse. You will not die at seventeen.”
“You can’t promise anything when it comes to Miss Mabel,” I said in a bitter whisper. Just saying that name sent a tremor through my heart, like a lion waking with an indignant bellow.
“There are ways around your curse, I think. In fact, I’m confident enough that I’ll take a vow,” she said, her eyes as serious as they’d ever been. Surely she wasn’t considering such a thing! Could anyone stop a witch as cunning and powerful as Miss Mabel? The longer I studied the High Priestess, the more convinced I became. If anyone could defeat my old teacher, it was the High Priestess. I may not understood her, but I respected and trusted her.
“Yes. I’ll take a vow—this moment—to resolve your Inheritance Curse before you turn seventeen.”
The vow would seal her to the promise. Not with her life, like a binding, but with a part of her magic. If she didn’t complete the vow, a portion of her power would wither away inside her. For a witch with responsibilities like the High Priestess, an unfulfilled vow could be devastating.
But lie to Papa? Just thinking about it made my heart ache, even if I couldn’t deny the truth of her words. He’d throw his life into saving me, perhaps try to find a way to offer himself up as an exchange. Miss Mabel would grasp at such an opportunity.
I sucked in a sharp breath at the thought.
Offer himself as an exchange for my life.
That’s exactly what he’d do. He’d hunt down Miss Mabel and give himself for my freedom. I’d lose the last of my family. My own resolve hardened in a flash, thick as a stone. I wouldn’t fail another parent.
“Yes,” I said, resolute. “I’ll lie to Papa.”
She nodded once, and I saw a flicker of relief pass through her eyes.
“Do not speak of this without my express permission. There are ears at Chatham Castle that are not friendly to us. Of the ten Council Members, I only trust a few.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
She leaned forward and extended her right arm. I lifted my hand and gripped her forearm; she held onto mine.
“I vow to resolve your Inheritance Curse by your seventeenth birthday,” she said. Magic, flowing from the place her skin touched my fingertips, zipped through my fingers and arm, into my shoulder. It settled in my heart and my head. Both of our arms glowed with a warm, yellow light.