By: Nikki Jefford

Book Three in the Spellbound Trilogy


Fourteen years ago

It is a truth universally known that a magician who performs solo, no matter how magnificent, is no match for a man assisted by a woman possessed of beauty and an adventurous spirit.

Fortunately for Adrian Hedrick Montez, his big sister Liliana had a flair for theatrics. Five minutes before show time she snapped into the blue dress she’d worn to her first Homecoming dance, with its shimmery tulle skirt and sequin top.

Adrian wore a black blazer, white gloves, and a top hat. The hat had taken weeks of practice to balance on his head and now nothing short of a physical push could dislodge it. True, the kids at Duke’s Elementary were always knocking if off his head and laughing—Dad said that’s what he got for wearing such a ridiculous thing to school—but Adrian had patience. Those kids couldn’t help being normal, whereas he, Montez the Magician, had access to powers beyond their wildest dreams. What a pity to be normal.

Tonight was a special performance. Their aunt and uncle were in town . . . along with Cousin Sergei. Mom herded their guests into the living room. A white sheet hanging from two ceiling hooks hid Adrian and his props from his awaiting audience. Beneath the small foldout table with its draping cloth, Adrian kept his prized treasure chest of tricks.

The click of Nan’s knitting needles alerted Adrian that at least one of his family members had taken a seat.

“Not another magic show,” Cousin Sergei said with a groan. “Please tell me there’s at least magic in this one.”

The voices of Adrian’s aunt and uncle were drowned out by his mother yelling, “Dimitry!”

“What?” Adrian’s father called back.

“The show is about to begin.”

“Go ahead.”


Adrian’s lip curled back like the skin on a baked apple until he noticed Lili fighting back laughter. He looked at the sheet as though he might see through it to Mom with her eyes flashing anger and impatience. Their mother was an American witch through and through unlike the demure and obedient Aunt Fotina. Mom had a voice, and she liked to use it. She was also the kindest woman Adrian knew aside from Lili.

Stomping footsteps announced their father. “I’m here.”

“Okay, we’re ready,” Mom said.

Lili looked over and flashed Adrian a big grin before stepping in front of the sheet. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls . . .”

“What girls?” Cousin Sergei asked.

Lili ignored him. “What you are about to see will shock and bedazzle you. Wonders beyond your greatest imagination. Prepare yourselves for the most amazing show on earth. Without further ado, I present to you the world’s greatest magician: Montez!”

The sheet fluttered to the floor. Lili stood to the side, arms outstretched toward Adrian. He looked into the audience, a grin emerging on his face. Mom began clapping followed by Aunt Fotina, Uncle Oleg, and Father—after a look from Mom. Nan kept knitting, but that was just Nan. And Cousin Sergei was too jealous to do anything other than fold his arms across his chest.

“Good evening,” Adrian said in his performer’s voice. “I see we have a full house.” His grin widened following Mother’s musical laughter. “For my first trick I will need a deck of cards.”

Lili swept an arm gracefully over the table and snatched Adrian’s card deck.

“Now, I’m going to ask my assistant, the lovely Liliana, to shuffle the deck.” Adrian paced as he spoke. This was part of the act. He found that a performer who moved around was more apt to engage his audience. “Have you shuffled the cards, Lili?”

“I have,” she said firmly.

“Then bring them to me.”

Once the cards were in Adrian’s hands he fanned them out, suits facing the floor. “And now I’ll ask a member of the audience to choose a card.”

Mom lifted her hand. Adrian walked up to her and held the cards out. “Pick any card in the deck. Have you found the one you want?”

“Yes,” Mom said, pulling out a card.

“I’m going to ask you to show your card to the audience. Have you shown them? Good. Have you got it memorized? Now put your card back inside the deck.” Adrian began shuffling the deck once Mom slipped her chosen card back inside. He thumbed small stacks together and shuffled them. Adrian plucked a card and held it up. “Is this your card?”

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