A WITCH’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING A DEMON
Berkley Romance Trade Original
On sale March 7, 2023
Mariel Spark knows not to trust a demon, especially one that wants her soul, but what’s a witch to do when he won’t leave her side—and she kind of doesn’t want him to?
Mariel Spark is prophesied to be the most powerful witch seen in centuries of the famed Spark family, but to the displeasure of her mother, she prefers baking to brewing potions and gardening to casting hexes. When a spell to summon flour goes very wrong, Mariel finds herself staring down a demon—one she inadvertently summoned for a soul bargain.
Ozroth the Ruthless is a legend among demons. Powerful and merciless, he drives hard bargains to collect mortal souls. But his reputation has suffered ever since a bargain went awry—if he can strike a bargain with Mariel, he will earn back his deadly reputation. Ozroth can’t leave Mariel’s side until they complete a bargain, which she refuses to do (turns out some humans are attached to their souls).
But the witch is funny. And curvy. And disgustingly yet endearingly cheerful. Becoming awkward roommates quickly escalates when Mariel, terrified to confess the inadvertent summoning to her mother, blurts out that she’s dating Ozroth. As Ozroth and Mariel struggle with their opposing goals and maintaining a fake relationship, real attraction blooms between them. But Ozroth has a limited amount of time to strike the deal, and if Mariel gives up her soul, she’ll lose all her emotions—including love—which will only spell disaster for them both.
“Oh, no.” Mariel Spark stared at the startled chicken that had materialized on her kitchen counter. “That wasn’t what I meant to do.”
At the kitchen table, Calladia Cunnington nearly choked on her tea. “Well, that’s surprising. At least they both have wings.”
Mariel gave her friend a look. She’d recited a summoning spell for an air sprite, not poultry. “Literally the only thing they have in common.”
“Points for creativity?” Despite the joke, Calladia’s wince was sympathetic. As a witch and Mariel’s longtime friend, she knew how upsetting it was for Mariel to mess up a spell yet again.
“It’s a basic summoning spell, not a Jackson Pollock painting.” Mariel blew a stray curl out of her face, frowning at the surprise avian guest currently preening its ruffled feathers next to her toaster. Her spells often backfired, but this was a new level of fucked-up-ness.
“Well, I think it’s cute,” their other friend Themmie-short for Themmaline-Tibayan said from where she sat cross-legged in midair. The pixie’s iridescent wings fluttered as she took pictures of the bird with her smartphone.
“Sure, but what do I do with it?” The chicken was now scratching at the chalked pentagram beneath it. What would soothe an alarmed bird that had been teleported into a witch’s kitchen?
“Can you send it back where it came from?” Calladia asked, tightening her blond ponytail. She looked disgustingly peppy for a Friday morning, her blue tank top damp with sweat from a recent gym visit.
Mariel bit her lip, trying not to snap. Calladia was the best person in the world, even if she set unreasonable fitness standards, but she’d never struggled with magic the way Mariel did. “Maybe. If I had any idea where it came from.”
She wasn’t sure how she’d summoned a chicken to begin with. Granted, her mind had wandered to her grocery list while chalking the spell, but it had been a brief distraction, hardly worth noting. And why a live chicken, rather than chicken cutlets or brussels sprouts or a gallon of milk?
Themmie cooed at the chicken as she took more photos. “Cluck for the camera, cutie. Strike that pose!” As a social media influencer, the Filipino American pixie documented everything, and her look changed constantly. This week, her straight black hair had been bespelled green and pink, and a nose ring winked in the sunlight cascading through the kitchen window.
Calladia rolled her eyes. “What is this, America’s Next Top Chicken?”
America’s Next Top Witch was a popular national TV show among both magic and nonmagic humans. The America’s Next Top Model spinoff focused more on lingerie than spellcraft, but the models still cast illusions or shape-shifted during photo shoots. Mariel had enjoyed the show up until she’d realized as a teenager that she was way, way behind even those reality TV disasters in terms of magical competency.
“On the bright side,” Themmie said, “you probably rescued it from the cruel world of cage farming.” Environmental activism was never far from Themmie’s mind, and her face lit up. “We can build it a coop.”
“I’m not keeping it,” Mariel said. Even though it did look adorable as it goggled at her air fryer.
“Try reversing the symbols,” Calladia suggested. “That should send it back.”
Normally her friends didn’t sit in on her spellcraft practice sessions, but in this case, Mariel was glad they’d come. They didn’t judge her for mucking up magic the way her family did.
Mariel took a deep breath, then marked the counter with chalk again. A pentagram, then the reversed summoning marks in each arm of the inverted star. Her handwriting wobbled with the attempt. Hecate, why was writing backward so hard? At least this was a fairly simple summoning and wouldn’t require any of the big witchy guns like salt, sage, or newt sperm. The more complex the spell, the more opportunities to fuck it up.
For the billionth time, Mariel wished magic was as easy as baking or gardening. But while Mariel had perfected a killer cranberry tart and raised beautiful flowers, she couldn’t manage even a simple cleaning spell without making a horrible mistake. Embarrassing for any witch, but doubly so for the prophesied Spark heir. Before Mariel’s birth, the wind, earth, and stars had all signified that she was going to be the strongest witch in generations of the famed magic family.
Joke’s on them, Mariel thought as she marked another uneven rune into the pentagram. I suck.
The chicken flapped awkwardly, then plummeted to the floor in a rustle of feathers. It started clucking, pecking perilously close to her ankles.
Mariel closed her eyes and thought about her spell. Magic incantations weren’t spoken in Latin, much to her chagrin, since at least Latin had a logical structure. Magic had a language all its own-one that was frustratingly complex. It was full of roots pulled from dozens of languages, as well as some that seemed made up wholesale, and the rules of grammar and conjugation were chaotic at best. Sometimes she was tempted to light the dictionary on fire.
“Uh, Chanticleer just took a dump on your floor,” Themmie said.
“Chanticleer was a rooster,” Mariel said, eyes still closed.
“Excuse me, Chaucer enthusiast. And ew, that chicken apparently eats a lot of fiber.”
Great. Mariel scrunched up her nose and dug for the words that would send the chicken back home before it sullied her kitchen further. “Adolesen di pullo!” she proclaimed.
The chicken exploded.
Excerpted from A Witch’s Guide to Fake Dating a Demon by Sarah Hawley Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Hawley. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Sarah Hawley is an author of romance and fantasy novels. She was a winner of #RevPit 2018, and her short stories and articles have been published by Hooked, Slackjaw, the Belladonna Comedy, and Points in Case. She cohosts the Wicked Wallflowers Club podcast about romance fiction, which was featured on Entertainment Weekly. Sarah has both a BA and an MA in archaeology. Learn more at sarahhawleyauthor.com!