A Question of Faith

By: Nicole Zoltack

(Magic Incarnate Book 1)




It’s not every day you learn you’re the incarnation of magic.



After learning her birth mother sought the help of witches to conceive her, fifteen-year-old Crystal’s previously unwavering faith is shaken. God hasn’t been answering her prayers like she thought--she was.



Crystal’s limitless magical potential is put to the test when her boyfriend’s mother is in a life-threatening accident. Surely God won’t mind her using magic to help people, but the miraculous outcome leaves Crystal wondering what she is capable of and worrying that her magic will damn her to Hell or, worse, prove she has no soul to condemn.



After her aunt is threatened, Crystal sets out to master her power, but flying and conjuring fireballs attracts dangerous attention. A witch hunter kidnaps her boyfriend, and shamans and witches hunt Crystal, desperate to use her to end a centuries-old war between the supernatural races. Her magic is an uncontrollable time bomb. If Crystal can’t figure out what she’s capable of, she won’t just fail to protect those she loves and end the war—she might start the apocalypse.





Dedication





To those who think magic and faith don’t have to be mutually exclusive.





Chapter One





Our attic door is always padlocked. Always. Mom does it to keep the mice up there. We don’t exact have the money for an exterminator, and since mice freak me out like snakes do Indiana Jones—which is a more legit fear, I know—and Mom’s not the bravest either, lock it is.

I stand beneath it in the upstairs hallway. Never really gave it much thought before, but it’s ugly, if you ask me.

“Crystal, there you are. I’m off to the bakery. Want to come?” She brushes strands of dyed strawberry blonde hair behind her shoulder with her small fingers.

I shake my head, surprised she’s giving me a choice. “I’ll pass.”

Her lips purse.

“Come on. I’m turning sixteen in two days. Don’t you trust me? I mean, you’ll be gone, what, a half hour?” I follow her to the kitchen.

“Of course I trust you.” She tousles my short chocolate brown hair and grabs her purse from the counter.

“Then it’s past time you leave the house in my very capable hands.” I grin and stare out the window above the sink. It’s a beautiful Saturday, the buds on the apple trees promising warm spring breezes and sunny days. The sun catcher I painted years ago hangs from the top corner of the window, a butterfly so faded and sad-looking I can’t believe Mom keeps it. “Besides, it’s almost time for Vince’s cookout.”

Her eyes narrow in a disapproving way. “Didn’t you mention you have a report due soon?”

“Yep.” I rub the worn spots on the counter. “A huge one for Mr. William’s class. Lydia and I were assigned The History of Witches. I wanted to do it on religion versus magic, but he vetoed it, said it wouldn’t be impartial.”

“Some people do consider themselves witches.”

I can’t help my scoff. “Magic’s just a bunch of stupid hocus pocus mumbo jumbo.”

Mom straightens the sun catcher, her lips a thin line that relaxes when she chuckles. “Impartial, huh?”

My cheeks grow hot, and I look away, fingering a not quite ripe apple in the fruit bowl on the counter.

“Have you finished it?” she asked.

“Just about.” It needs to be typed up. Lydia and I haven’t decided who gets that honors yet.

“I really shouldn’t let you go to the barbeque without having your report done… Just make sure you finish it in time. I’m off,” she says with a waggle of a short index finger.

We hug, and I walk out to the small living room and watch as she leaves. Wow. Almost can’t believe I’m here alone. She’s the world’s most overprotective mom. We might not have a lot, but we have each other.

Geez, that’s sweet enough that we don’t need desserts.

Chuckling, I head back upstairs to the hallway and pause beneath the attic door. Wonder if she braved the mice to hide my birthday presents up there.

Speaking of, her birthday is coming up too. She’s a little behind on paying me my meager allowance—actually, I think she owes me for an entire year. I slip inside her room. Maybe she has a few extra dollars in here. I’m not that crafty so making her something is out. Besides, she deserves something nice.

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