“Good Goddess,” Cooper exclaimed. “Was it this cold last year?”

She was standing at the edge of the water in the cove at Ryder Beach. The waves washed gently over her bare feet, wetting the hem of the white robe she was wearing.

“It was colder,” answered Kate from behind her. Kate was attempting to start a fire in the circle of stones they had just finished making, and the matches were giving her a hard time. The wind wasn't helping, either. Every time she got a match lit a little breath of air would come along and blow it out again. It was as if the wind was teasing her, and it was becoming annoying.

Annie was having better luck with the candles. Those at least were in glass holders, which made things easier. It also made it easier to stick them in the sand, forming a larger ring around the makeshift fire pit.

Soon Kate was encircled by a ring of flickering light.

“Finally,” she said as she struck yet another match and held it to the newspaper she was using as kindling. This time the flame held, and soon the paper was crackling away. Shortly thereafter the driftwood that formed a pyramid over the paper caught fire as well.

Cooper dipped the bowl in her hands into the waves and let the water fill it. She carried it back to the circle and set it near the fire. Another bowl already sat there, filled with salt, and a bundle of white sage leaves tied with red string lay beside it.

“I think that's everything,” said Cooper. “Are you witchlets ready to get this party started?”

“By all means,” Kate said.

“Let's do it,” added Annie.

The three of them stood around the fire Kate had started, looking at one another happily. Above them a perfectly round, full moon gazed on as they began their ritual.

Cooper picked up the bowl of salt. Taking a pinch in her fingers, she walked clockwise around the circle of candles, sprinkling the salt behind her as she went.

“With the power of earth I cast a circle,” she intoned. “May it be as strong as the mountains and as fertile as a garden.”

She returned to the center of the circle and placed the bowl of salt back on the ground. Then Annie picked up the bundle of sage. She held it to the fire's flames until it began to smoke. Then she walked around the circle, just as Cooper had done. The smoke filled the air with its pungent scent as Annie waved the sage gently from side to side.

“With the power of air I cast a circle,” she said. “May it be as wild as the wind and as loving as a whisper.”

When she returned and placed the still-burning sage beside the bowl of salt, it was Kate's turn to strengthen the circle. She took a piece of driftwood that she'd set aside and lit it in the fire. As she carried it around the circle she said, “With the power of fire I cast a circle. May it be as fierce as a wildfire and as warming as the sun.”

When she had come back to the others, Cooper picked up the bowl of seawater. They each dipped their hands into it, cupping some of the water in their fingers. Then they each turned to face outward in a different direction.

“With the power of water we cast a circle,” Cooper said, sprinkling the water around her area of the circle.

“May it be as mysterious as the ocean,” Annie continued as she spread the water in her hands over the sand in front of her.

“And as healing as rain,” Kate added, completing the circle by sprinkling the ground around her.

The three friends turned to face one another once more.

“The circle is cast,” said Annie.

“We are between the worlds,” Kate said.

“And we are very chilly,” added Cooper solemnly.

The three of them cracked up. “I don't think that's part of any circle-casting ritual I've ever read,” said Kate admonishingly.

“Hey,” Cooper said. “It's all about being spontaneous, right? There's no right or wrong way to do this stuff.”

The three of them knelt in the sand around the fire, making themselves comfortable. Annie picked up the bundle of sage leaves and tossed it into the flames, where it burned slowly, emitting clouds of smoke.

“That was a nice addition,” commented Kate.

“I picked it up at the bookstore,” explained Annie. “Sage is good for cleansing sacred space. Dixie used it in the ritual we did at my old house,” she added, referring to a Wiccan friend who had helped her try to send the ghosts of her parents through the veil when Annie had mistakenly believed that they were angry with her.

“Now we're all cleansed and cast and sitting here in sacred space. Can you guys believe we've been doing this for a year now?” Kate asked.

“Yes and no,” Annie replied. “It seems like just yesterday that you came and asked me why I had checked out that book of spells.”

It had, in fact, been almost a year since Kate had discovered Spells and Charms for the Modern Witch in the school library while doing research for a history class assignment. That was the book that had started it all. First Kate had done the Come to Me Love Spell, with disastrous results. Then she'd enlisted first Annie and then Cooper -- who had both previously checked out the same book -- to help her fix her mistake. They'd made an even bigger mess of things, and ultimately they'd been forced to ask for assistance from some local witches before things were finally straightened out.

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