Luce soul has been shattered by watching Kalona kill Heath. Her spirit left her soul and went to the Otherworld with Heath. If Zoey soul dos not returns to her body in seven days, then she will be dead. Its up to Stak to bring her back to our world. How h
burned a house of night novel p c cast and kristin cast st martin s griffin new york this is a work of fiction all of the characters organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the authors imaginations or are used fictitiously burned copyright © 2010 by p c cast and kristin cast all rights reserved printed in the united states of america for information address st martin s press 175 fifth avenue new york n.y 10010 www.stmartins.com isbn 978-0-312-60616-9 first edition may 2010 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
acknowledgments p c this book would not have been possible had three very special men not opened their history their lives and their hearts to me i owe a debt of gratitude to seoras wallace alain mac au halpine and alan torrance any errors in my fictionalization and retelling of their scottish/irish mythos are mine and mine alone warriors i thank you in addition thank you denise torrance for saving me from all that clan wallace testosterone while i researched on the isle of skye my home base was the lovely toravaig house i d like to thank the staff there for making my stay so pleasant even if they couldn t do anything about the rain sometimes i need to go into what my friends and family call my writer s cave to finish a book that was the case with burned and my cave was made verrrry bearable by paawan arora at the grand cayman ritz carlton as well as heather lockington and her wonderful staff at the amazing cotton tree www.caymancottontree.com thank you thank you for helping me make cayman my second home and hiding from the world so i could write and write and write i ve used a little gaelic in this book yes it s hard to pronounce kinda like cherokee and there are many different versions of it again kinda like cherokee with the help of my scottish experts i ve used gaelic mainly from the ancient dalriadic and gallovidian languages from the west coast of scotland and northeast coast of ireland this dialect is commonly referred to as gal-gaelic or galgael any mess-ups are mine kristin thanks to coach mark with bootcamp tulsa and precision body art for helping me feel strong empowered and beautiful and thank you to the shawnus for giving me some peace and quiet both as always we appreciate our team at st martin s press jennifer weis matthew shear anne bensson anne marie tallberg and the amazing design team that keeps coming up with such fabulous covers we heart smp thank you to mk advertising who does such cool web site work for www.pccast.net as well as www.houseofnightseries.com as always kristin and i send our love and thanks to our wonderful agent and friend meredith bernstein the house of night would not exist without her and finally thank you to our loyal fans y all are absolutely the best!
contents chapter one chapter two chapter three chapter four chapter five chapter six chapter seven chapter eight chapter nine chapter ten chapter eleven chapter twelve chapter thirteen chapter fourteen chapter fifteen chapter sixteen chapter seventeen chapter eighteen chapter nineteen chapter twenty chapter twenty-one chapter twenty-two chapter twenty-three chapter twenty-four chapter twenty-five chapter twenty-six chapter twenty-seven chapter twenty-eight chapter twenty-nine chapter thirty chapter thirty-one
p c this one is for my guardian i love you kristin she means you shawnus
chapter one kalona kalona lifted his hands he didn t hesitate there was no doubt whatsoever in his mind about what he had to do he would not allow anything or anyone to get in his way and this human boy was standing between him and what he desired he didn t particularly want to kill the boy he didn t particularly want the boy alive either it was a simple necessity he didn t feel remorse or regret as had been the norm during the centuries since he d fallen kalona felt very little so indifferently the winged immortal twisted the boy s neck and put an end to his life no the anguish of that one word froze kalona s heart he dropped the boy s lifeless body and whirled around in time to see zoey racing toward him their eyes met in hers were despair and hatred in his was an impossible denial he tried to formulate the words that might make her understand might make her forgive him but there was nothing he could say to change what she had seen and even if he could work the impossible there was no time zoey threw the full power of the element spirit at him it hit the immortal striking him with force that was beyond physical spirit was his essence his core the element that had sustained him for centuries and with which he had always been most comfortable as well as most powerful zoey s attack seared him it lifted him with such force that he was hurled over the huge stone wall that separated the vampyres island and the gulf of venice the icy water engulfed him smothering him for an instant the pain within kalona was so deadening that he didn t fight it perhaps he should let this terrible struggle for life and its trappings end perhaps once again he should allow himself to be vanquished by her but less than a heartbeat after he had the thought he felt it zoey s soul shattered and as truly as his fall had carried him from one realm to another her spirit departed this world the knowledge wounded him worse than had her blow against him not zoey he d never meant to cause her harm even through all of neferet s machinations through all of the tsi sgili s manipulations and plans he d held tight to the knowledge that in spite of everything he would use his vast immortal powers to keep zoey safe because ultimately she was the closest he could come to nyx in this realm and this was the only realm left to him fighting to recover from zoey s attack kalona lifted his massive body from the clutching waves and realized the truth because of him zoey s spirit was gone which meant she would die with his first breath of air he released a wrenching cry of despair echoing her last word no had he really believed since his fall that he didn t truly have feelings he d been a fool and wrong so very wrong emotions battered him as he flew raggedly just above the waterline chipping away at his already wounded spirit raging against him weakening him bleeding his soul with blurred blackened vision he stared across the lagoon squinting to see the lights that heralded land he d never make it there it would have to be the palace he had no choice using the last reserves of his strength kalona s wings beat against the frigid air lifting him over the wall where he crumpled to the frozen earth he didn t know how long he lay there in the cold darkness of the shattered night as emotions overwhelmed his shaken soul somewhere in the far reaches of his mind he understood the familiarity of what had happened to him he d fallen again only this time it was more in spirit than in body though his body didn t seem his to command any longer either he felt her presence before she spoke it had been like that between them from the first whether he truly wished it or not they simply sensed one another you allowed stark to bear witness to your killing of the boy neferet s voice was more frigid than the winter sea kalona turned his head so that he could see more than the toe of her stiletto shoe he looked up at her blinking to try to clear his vision accident finding his voice again he managed a rasping whisper zoey should not have been there accidents are unacceptable and i care not one bit that she was there actually the result of what she saw is rather convenient you know that her soul shattered kalona hated the unnatural weakness in his voice and the strange lethargy in his body almost as much as he hated the effect neferet s icy beauty had on him i imagine most of the vampyres on the island know it typically for her zoey s spirit wasn t exactly quiet in its leave-taking i wonder though how many of the vampyres also felt the blow the chit dealt you just before she departed neferet tapped her chin contemplatively with one long sharp fingernail kalona remained silent struggling to center himself and draw together the ragged edges of his torn spirit but the earth his body pressed against was too real and he had not the strength to reach above and feed his soul from the wispy vestiges of the otherworld that floated there no i don t imagine any of them felt it neferet continued in her coldest most calculating voice none of them are connected to darkness to you as i am is that not so my love we are uniquely connected kalona managed though he suddenly wished the words were not true indeed she said still distracted by her thoughts then neferet s eyes widened as a new realization came to her i have long wondered how it was that a-ya managed to wound you such a physically powerful immortal badly enough that those ridiculous cherokee hags could entrap you i believe little zoey has just provided the answer you ve so carefully withheld from me your body can be damaged but only through your spirit isn t that fascinating i will heal he put as much strength as possible in his voice return me to capri and the castle there take me to the rooft op as close to the sky as i can be and i will regain my strength i imagine you would were i so inclined to do that but i have other plans for you my love neferet lifted her arms extending them over him as she continued to speak she began weaving her long fingers through the air creating intricate patterns like a spider spinning her web i will not allow zoey to interfere with us ever again a shattered soul is a death sentence zoey is no longer any threat to us he said with knowing eyes kalona watched neferet she drew to her a sticky blackness he recognized all too well he d spent lifetimes battling that darkness before he embraced its cold power it pulsed and fluttered familiarly restlessly under her fingers she shouldn t be able to command darkness so tangibly the thought drifted like the echo of a death knell through his weary mind a high priestess shouldn t have such power but neferet was no longer merely a high priestess she had grown beyond the boundaries of that role some time ago and she had no trouble controlling the writhing blackness she conjured she is becoming immortal kalona realized and with the realization fear joined regret and despair and anger where they already simmered within the fallen warrior of nyx.
one would think it would be a death sentence neferet spoke calmly as she drew more and more of the inky threads to her but zoey has a terribly inconvenient habit of surviving this time i am going to ensure she dies zoey s soul also has a habit of reincarnating he said purposefully baiting neferet to try to throw off her focus then i will destroy her over and over again neferet s concentration only increased with the anger his words evoked the blackness she spun intensified writhing with swollen power in the air around her neferet he tried to reach her by using her name do you truly understand what it is you are attempting to command her gaze met his and for the first time kalona saw the scarlet stain that nested in the darkness of her eyes of course i do it s what lesser beings call evil i am not a lesser being and i too have called it evil ah not for centuries you haven t her laughter was vicious but it seems lately you ve been living too much with shadows from your past instead of reveling in the lovely dark power of the present i know who is to blame for that with a tremendous effort kalona pushed himself to a sitting position no i don t want you to move neferet flicked one finger at him and a thread of darkness snaked around his neck tightened and jerked him down pinning him to the ground again what is it you want of me he rasped i want you to follow zoey s spirit to the otherworld and be sure none of her friends she sneered the word manage to find a way to coax her to rejoin her body shock jolted through the immortal i have been banished by nyx from the otherworld i cannot follow zoey there oh but you are wrong my love you see you always think too literally nyx ousted you you fell you cannot return so you have believed for centuries that is that well you literally cannot she sighed dramatically as he stared at her blankly your gorgeous body was banished that s all did nyx say anything about your immortal soul she need not say it if a soul is separated from a body for too long the body will die but your body isn t mortal which means it can be separated indefinitely from its soul without dying she said kalona struggled to keep the terror her words filled him with from his expression it is true that i cannot die but that does not mean i will remain undamaged if my spirit leaves my body for too long i could age go mad become a never dying shell of myself the possibilities swirled through his mind neferet shrugged then you will have to be sure you finish your task soon so that you may return to your lovely immortal body before it is irreparably damaged she smiled seductively at him i would very much dislike it if anything happened to your body my love neferet don t do this you are putting into motion things that will require payment the consequences of which even you will not want to face do not threaten me i released you from your imprisonment i loved you and then i watched you fawn over that simpering teenager i want her gone from my life consequences i embrace them i am not the weak ineffective high priestess of a rule-following goddess any longer don t you understand that had you not been so distracted by that child you would know it without me telling you i am an immortal the same as you kalona her voice was eerie amplified with power we are perfectly matched you used to believe that as well and that is something you will believe again when zoey redbird is no more kalona stared at her understanding that neferet was utterly truly mad and wondering why that madness only served to feed her power and intensify her beauty so this is what i have decided to do she continued speaking methodically i am going to keep your sexy immortal body safely tucked away underground somewhere while your soul travels to the otherworld and makes sure zoey does not return here nyx will never allow it the words burst from him before he could stop them nyx always allows free will as her former high priestess i know without any doubt that she will allow you to choose to travel in spirit to the otherworld neferet said slyly remember kalona my true love if you ensure zoey s death you will be removing the last impediment to us reigning side by side you and i will be powerful beyond imagining in this world of modern marvels think of it we will subjugate humans and bring back the reign of vampyres with all the beauty and passion and limitless power that means the earth will be ours we will indeed give new life to the glorious past kalona knew she was playing on his weaknesses silently he cursed himself for allowing her to have learned too much about his deepest desires he d trusted her so neferet knew that because he wasn t erebus he could never truly rule beside nyx in the otherworld and he was driven to re-create as much of what he d lost here in this modern world you see my love when you consider it logically it is only right that you follow zoey and sever the link between her soul and her body doing so simply serves your ultimate desires neferet spoke nonchalantly as if the two of them were discussing the choice of material for her latest gown how am i even to find zoey s soul he tried to match her matter-of-fact tone the otherworld is a realm so vast only the gods and goddesses can traverse it neferet s bland expression tightened making her cruel beauty terrible to behold do not pretend you don t have a connection to her soul the tsi sgili immortal drew a deep breath in a more reasonable tone she continued admit it my love you could find zoey even if no one else could what is your choice kalona to rule on earth at my side or to remain a slave to the past i choose to rule i will always choose to rule he said without hesitation as soon as he spoke neferet s eyes changed the green within them became totally engulfed in scarlet she turned the glowing orbs on him holding entrapping entrancing then hear me kalona fallen warrior of nyx by my oath i shall keep your body safe when zoey redbird fledging high priestess of nyx is no more i swear to you i will remove these dark chains and allow your spirit to return then i will take you to the rooftop of our castle on capri and let the sky breathe life and strength into you so that you will rule this realm as my consort my protector my erebus as kalona watched helpless to stop her neferet drew one long pointed fingernail across the palm of her right hand cupping the blood that pooled there she held her hand up offering by blood i claim this power by blood i bind this oath all around her darkness stirred and descended on her palm writhing shivering drinking kalona could feel the draw of that darkness it spoke to his soul with seductive powerful whispers yes the word was a moan torn deep from his throat as kalona yielded himself to the greedy darkness when neferet continued her voice was magnified swollen with power it is your own choice that i have sealed this oath by blood with darkness but should you fail me and break it i will not fail her smile was unworldly in its beauty her eyes roiled with blood if you kalona fallen warrior of nyx break this oath and fail in my sworn quest to destroy zoey redbird fledgling high priestess of nyx i shall hold dominion over your spirit for as long as you are an immortal the answering words came unbidden by him evoked by the seductive darkness which for centuries he d chosen over light if i fail you shall hold dominion over my spirit for as long as i am an immortal thus i have sworn again neferet slashed her palm creating a bloody x in her flesh the copper scent wafted to kalona like smoke rising from fire as she again raised her hand to darkness thus it shall be neferet s face twisted in pain as darkness drank from her again but she didn t flinch didn t move until the air around her pulsed bloated with her blood and her oath.
only then did she lower her hand her tongue snaked out licking the scarlet line and ending the bleeding neferet walked to him bent and gently placed her hands on either side of his face much as he had held the human boy before delivering his deathblow he could feel darkness thrumming around and within her a raging bull waiting eagerly for his mistress s command her blood-reddened lips paused just short of touching his with the power that rushes through my blood and by the strength of the lives i have taken i command you my delicious threads of darkness to pull this oath bound immortal s soul from his body and speed him to the otherworld go and do as i order and i swear i will sacrifice to you the life of an innocent you have been unable to taint so thee for me i mote it be neferet drew in a deep breath and kalona saw the dark threads she d summoned slither between her full red lips she inhaled darkness until she was swollen with it and then she covered his mouth with hers and with that blackened blood-tainted kiss blew darkness within him with such force that it ripped his already wounded soul from his body as his soul shrieked in soundless agony kalona was forced up up and into the realm from which his goddess had banished him leaving his body lifeless chained oath bound by evil and at the mercy of neferet.
chapter two rephaim the sonorous drum was like the heartbeat of an immortal never-ending engulfing overwhelming it echoed through rephaim s soul in time with the pounding of his blood then to the beat of the drum the ancient words took form they wrapped around his body so that even as he slept his pulse allied itself in harmony with the ageless melody in his dream the women s voices sang ancient one sleeping waiting to arise when earth s power bleeds sacred red the mark strikes true queen tsi sgili will devise he shall be washed from his entombing bed the song was seductive and like a labyrinth it circled on and on through the hand of the dead he is free terrible beauty monstrous sight ruled again they shall be women shall kneel to his dark might the music was a whispered enticement a promise a blessing a curse the memory of what it foretold made rephaim s sleeping body restless he twitched and like an abandoned child murmured a one-word question father the melody concluded with the rhyme rephaim had memorized centuries ago kalona s song sounds sweet as we slaughter with cold heat slaughter with cold heat even sleeping rephaim responded to the words he didn t awaken but his heartbeat increased his hands curled into fists his body tensed on the cusp between awake and asleep the drumbeat stuttered to a halt and the soft voices of women were replaced by one that was deep and all too familiar traitor coward betrayer liar the male voice was a condemnation with its litany of anger it invaded rephaim s dream and jolted him fully into the waking world father rephaim surged upright throwing off the old papers and scraps of cardboard he d used to create a nest around him father are you here a shimmer of movement caught at the corner of his vision and he jerked forward jarring his broken wing as he peered from the depths of the dark cedarpaneled closet father his heart knew kalona wasn t there even before the vapor of light and motion took form to reveal the child what are you rephaim focused his burning gaze on the girl begone apparition instead of fading as she should have the child narrowed her eyes to study him appearing intrigued you re not a bird but you have wings and you re not a boy but you have arms and legs and your eyes are like a boy s too only they re red so what are you rephaim felt a surge of anger with a flash of movement that caused white-hot shards of pain to radiate through his body he leaped from the closet landing just a few feet before the ghost predatory dangerous defensive i am a nightmare given life spirit go away and leave me in peace before you learn that there are things far worse than death to fear at his abrupt movement the child ghost had taken one small step backward so that now her shoulder brushed against the low windowpane but there she halted still watching him with a curious intelligent gaze you cried out for your father in your sleep i heard you you can t fool me i m smart like that and i remember things plus you don t scare me because you re really just hurt and alone then the ghost of the girl child crossed her arms petulantly over her thin chest tossed back her long blond hair and disappeared leaving rephaim just as she had named him hurt and alone his fisted hands loosened his heartbeat quieted rephaim stumbled heavily back to his makeshift nest and rested his head against the closet wall behind him pathetic he murmured aloud the favorite son of an ancient immortal reduced to hiding in refuse and talking to the ghost of a human child he tried to laugh but failed the echo of the music from his dream from his past was still too loud in the air around him as was the other voice the one he could have sworn was that of his father he couldn t sit anymore ignoring the pain in his arm and the sick agony that was his wing rephaim stood he hated the weakness that pervaded his body how long had he been here wounded exhausted from the flight from the depot and curled into this box in a wall he couldn t remember had one day passed two where was she she d said she would come to him in the night and yet here he was where stevie rae had sent him it was night and she hadn t come with a sound of self-loathing he left the closet and his nest stalking past the windowsill in front of which the girl child had materialized to a door that led to a rooftop balcony instinct had driven him up to the second floor of the abandoned mansion just after dawn when he d arrived at the end of even his great reservoir of strength he d thought only of safety and sleep but now he was all too awake he stared out at the empty museum grounds the ice that had been falling for days from the sky had stopped leaving the huge trees that surrounded the rolling hills on which sat the gilcrease museum and its abandoned mansion with bent and ruined branches rephaim s night vision was good but he could detect no movement at all outside the homes that filled the area between the museum and downtown tulsa were almost as dark as they had been in his postdawn journey small lights dotted the landscape not the great blazing electricity that rephaim had come to expect from a modern city they were only weak flickering candles nothing compared to the majesty of the power this world could evoke.
there was of course no mystery to what had happened the lines that carried power to the homes of modern humans had been snapped just as surely as had the ice-burdened boughs of the trees rephaim knew that was good for him except for the fallen branches and other debris left on the roadways the streets appeared mostly passable had the great electric machine not been broken people would have flooded these grounds as daily human life resumed the lack of power keeps humans away he muttered to himself but what is keeping her away with a sound of pure frustration rephaim wrenched open the dilapidated door automatically seeking open sky as balm to his nerves the air was cool and thick with dampness low around the winter grass fog hung in wavy sheets as if the earth was trying to shroud herself from his eyes his gaze lifted and rephaim drew a long shuddering breath he inhaled the sky it seemed unnaturally bright in comparison to the darkened city stars beckoned him as did the sharp crescent of a waning moon everything within rephaim craved the sky he wanted it under his wings passing through his dark feathered body caressing him with the touch of the mother he d never known his uninjured wing extended itself stretching more than a grown man s body length beside him his other wing quivered and the night air rephaim had breathed in burst from him in an agonized moan broken the word seared through his mind no that is not a certainty rephaim spoke aloud he shook his head trying to clear away the unusual weariness that was making him feel increasingly helpless increasingly damaged concentrate rephaim admonished himself it s time i found father he still wasn t well but rephaim s mind though weary was clearer than it had been since his fall he should be able to detect some trace of his father no matter how much distance or time separated them they were tied by blood and spirit and especially by the gift of immortality that had been rephaim s birthright rephaim looked up into the sky thinking of the currents of air on which he was so used to gliding he drew a deep breath lifted his uninjured arm and stretched forth his hand trying to touch those elusive currents and the vestiges of dark otherworld magick that languished there bring me some sense of him he made his plea urgently to the night for a moment he believed he felt a flicker of response far far off to the east and then weariness was all he could feel why can i not sense you father frustrated and unusually exhausted he let his hand drop limply to his side unusual weariness by all the gods rephaim suddenly realized what had drained his strength and left him a broken shell of himself he knew what was keeping him from sensing the path his father had taken she did this his voice was hard his eyes blazed crimson yes he d been terribly wounded but as the son of an immortal his body should have already begun its repair process he d slept twice since the warrior had shot him from the sky his mind had cleared sleep should have continued to revive him even if as he suspected his wing was permanently damaged the rest of his body should be noticeably better his powers should have returned to him but the red one had drunk of his blood imprinted with him and in doing so she had disturbed the balance of immortal power within him anger rose to meet the frustration already there she d used him and then abandoned him just like father had no he corrected himself immediately his father had been driven away by the fledgling high priestess he would return when he was able and then rephaim would be at his father s side once more it was the red one who had used him then cast him aside why did the very thought of it cause such a curious ache within him ignoring the feeling he raised his face to the familiar sky he hadn t wanted this imprint he d only saved her because he owed her a life and he knew all too well that one of the true dangers of this world as well as the next was the power of an unpaid life debt well she had saved him found him hidden him and then released him but on the depot rooftop he had returned the debt by helping her escape from certain death his life debt to her was now paid rephaim was the son of an immortal not a weak human man he had little doubt he could break this imprint this ridiculous byproduct of saving her life he would use what was left of his strength to wish it away and then he would truly begin to heal he breathed in the night again ignoring the weakness in his body rephaim focused the strength of his will i call upon the power of the spirit of ancient immortals which is mine by birthright to command to break the wave of despair crashed over him and rephaim staggered against the balcony s railing the sadness radiated throughout his body with such force that it drove him to his knees there he remained gasping with pain and shock what is happening to me next an odd alien fear filled him and rephaim began to understand these are not my feelings he told himself trying to find his own center within the maelstrom of distress these are her feelings rephaim gasped as hopelessness followed fear steeling himself against the continued onslaught he struggled to stand fighting the waves of stevie rae s emotions resolutely he forced himself to refocus through the onslaught and the weariness that tugged relentlessly at him to touch the place of power that lay locked and dormant for most of humanity the place to which his blood held the key rephaim began the invocation anew this time with an altogether different intent later he would tell himself that his response had been automatic that he d been acting under the influence of their imprint it had simply been more powerful than he had expected it was the damnable imprint that had caused him to believe that the surest quickest way to end the horrible wash of emotions from the red one was to draw her to him and thus remove her from whatever was causing her pain it couldn t be that he cared that she was in pain it could never be that i call upon the power of the spirit of ancient immortals which is mine by birthright to command rephaim spoke quickly ignoring the pain in his battered body he pulled energy to him from the deepest shadows of the night and then channeled that power through him charging it with immortality the air around him glistened as it became stained with a dark scarlet radiance through the immortal might of my father kalona who seeded my blood and spirit with power i send you to my there his words broke off his she wasn t his anything she was she was she is the red one vampyre high priestess to those who are lost he finally blurted she is attached to me through blood imprint and through life debt go to her strengthen her draw her to me by the immortal part of my being i command it so the red mist scattered off instantly flying to the south back the way he d come back to find her rephaim turned his gaze to look after it and then he waited.
chapter three stevie rae stevie rae woke up feeling like a big ol pile of poo well actually she felt like a big ol pile of stressed-out poo she d imprinted with rephaim she d almost burned up on that rooftop for a second she remembered the excellent season two true blood episode where goderick had burned his own self up on a fictional roof stevie rae snorted a laugh it looked way easier on tv what did sweet weeping puppies dallas you nearly scared me spitless stevie rae clutched at the white hospital-like sheet that covered her what in the sam hill are you doin here dallas frowned jeez settle down i came up here a little after dusk to check on you and lenobia told me it d be okay to sit here for a while in case you woke up you re awful jumpy i almost died i think i have the right to be a little jumpy dallas looked instantly contrite he scooted the little side chair closer and took her hand sorry you re right sorry i was real scared when erik told everyone what had happened what did erik say his warm brown eyes hardened that you almost burned up on that roof yeah it was really stupid i tripped and fell and hit my head stevie rae had to look away from his gaze while she spoke when i woke up i was almost toast yeah bullshit what save that load of crap for erik and lenobia and the rest of em those assholes tried to kill you didn t they dallas i don t know what you re talkin about she tried to take her hand from his but he held tight hey his voice softened and he touched her face pulling her gaze back to his it s just me you know you can tell me the truth and i ll keep my mouth shut stevie rae blew out a long breath i don t want lenobia or any of them to know especially not any of the blue fledglings dallas stared at her a long time before he spoke i won t say anything to anyone but you gotta know i think you re makin a big mistake you can t keep protecting them i m not protectin em she protested this time she held tight to dallas s safe warm hand trying through touch to get him to understand something she could never tell him i just want to deal with this all of this my own way if everyone knows they tried to trap me up there then it ll all be out of my hands and what if lenobia grabs nicole and her group and they tell her about rephaim the sickening thought was a guilty whisper through stevie rae s mind what are you gonna do about them you can t just let them get away with this i won t but they re my responsibility and i m gonna take care of them myself dallas grinned you re gonna kick their butts huh somethin like that stevie rae said clueless about what she was going to do then she hastily changed the subject hey what time is it i think i m starving dallas s grin changed to laughter as he stood up now that sounds like my girl he kissed her forehead and then turned to the mini-fridge that was tucked within the metallic shelving across the room lenobia told me there s baggies of blood in here she said as fast as you ve been healing and as deep as you ve been sleeping you d probably wake up hungry while he went for the blood baggies stevie rae sat up and gingerly peeked down the back of her generic hospital gown wincing a little at how stiff the movement made her feel she expected the worst seriously her back had been like nasty burned hamburger when lenobia and erik had pulled her from the hole she d made in the earth pulled her from rephaim don t think about him now just focus on ohmygoodness stevie rae whispered in awe as she stared at what she could see of her back it wasn t hamburgered anymore it was smooth bright pink as if she d gotten sunburned but smooth and new-looking like baby skin that s amazing dallas s voice was hushed a real miracle stevie rae looked up at him their eyes met and held you scared me good girl he said don t do that again kay i ll try my best not to she said softly dallas leaned forward and carefully with just the tips of his fingers touched the fresh pink skin at the back of her shoulder does it still hurt not really i m just kinda stiff amazing he repeated i mean i know lenobia said you d been healing while you were sleepin but you were hurt real bad and i just didn t expect anything like how long have i been asleep she cut him off trying to imagine the consequences of dallas s telling her she d been out for days and days what would rephaim think if she didn t show up worse what would he do it s just been one day relief flooded her one day really yeah well dusk was a couple hours ago so you ve technically been sleepin longer than one day they brought you back here yesterday after sunrise it was pretty dramatic erik drove the hummer right across the grounds knocked down a fence and floored it straight into lenobia s barn then we all scrambled like crazy to carry you through the school up here to the infirmary
yeah i talked to z in the hummer on the way back here and i was feelin almost okay but then it was like someone turned out the lights on me i think i passed out i know ya did well that s a dang shame stevie rae let herself smile i woulda liked seeing all that drama yeah he grinned back at her that s exactly what i thought once i got over thinkin you were gonna die i m not gonna die she said firmly well i m glad to hear it dallas bent cupped her chin in his hand and kissed her tenderly on the lips with a strange automatic reaction stevie rae jerked away from him uh how about that blood baggie she said quickly oh yeah dallas shrugged off her rejection but his cheeks were unnaturally pink when he handed her the bag sorry i wasn t thinkin i know you re hurt and ya don t feel like er well you know his voice trailed off and he looked super uncomfortable stevie rae knew she should say something after all she and dallas did have a thing together he was sweet and smart and he proved he understood her by standing there looking all sorry and kinda lowering his head in an adorable way that made him look like a little boy and he was cute tall and lean with just the right amount of muscles and thick hair the color of sand she actually liked kissing him or she used to didn t she still an unfamiliar sense of unease kept her from finding the words that would make him feel better so instead of speaking stevie rae took the baggie from him tore open the corner and upended it letting the blood drain down the back of her throat and expand like a mega shot of red bull from her stomach to energize the rest of her body she didn t want to but somewhere deep inside her stevie rae weighed the difference between how this normal mortal ordinary blood made her feel and how rephaim s blood had been like a lightning strike of energy and heat her hand shook only a little when she wiped her mouth and finally looked up at dallas that better he asked looking unfazed by their strange exchange and like his familiar sweet self again could i have one more he smiled and held another baggie out to her already ahead of you girl thanks dallas she paused before slurping down the second one i don t feel totally one hundred percent right now ya know dallas nodded i know we okay yep he said if you re okay we re okay well this ll help stevie rae was upending the baggie when lenobia came in the room hey lenobia check out sleeping beauty finally waking up dallas said stevie rae guzzled the last bloody drop and turned to the door but the hello smile she d already put on her face froze at her first glimpse of lenobia the mistress of horses had been crying a lot ohmygoodness what is it stevie rae was so shaken by seeing the usually strong professor in tears that her first reaction was to pat the bed next to her inviting lenobia to sit with her just like her mama used to do when she d hurt herself and come crying to be fixed lenobia took several wooden steps into the room she didn t sit on stevie rae s bed she stood at the foot of it and drew a deep breath as if readying herself to do something really terrible do you want me to go dallas asked hesitantly no stay she might need you lenobia s voice was rough and thick with tears she met stevie rae s eyes it s zoey something s happened a jolt of fear zapped stevie rae in the gut and the words burst from her before she could stop them she s fine i talked to her remember when we were leavin the depot before all that daylight and pain and stuff caught up to me and i passed out that was just yesterday erce my friend who serves as assistant to the high council has been trying to contact me for hours i d foolishly left my phone in the hummer so i didn t speak to her until just now kalona killed heath shit dallas gasped stevie rae ignored him and stared at lenobia rephaim s dad had killed heath the sick fear in her gut was getting worse and worse by the second zoey s not dead i d know it if she was dead zoey s not dead but she saw kalona kill heath she tried to stop him and couldn t it shattered her stevie rae tears had started to leak down lenobia s porcelain cheeks shattered her what does that mean it means her body still breathes but her soul is gone when a high priestess s soul is shattered it is only a matter of time before her body fades from this world too fades i don t know what you re talkin about are you tryin to tell me she s going to disappear no lenobia said raggedly she s going to die stevie rae s head started to shake back and forth back and forth no no no we just gotta get her here she ll be fine then even if her body returns here zoey isn t coming back stevie rae you have to prepare yourself for that i won t stevie rae yelled i can t dallas get me my jeans and stuff i gotta get outta here i gotta figure out a way to help z she didn t give up on me and i m not givin up on her this isn t about you dragon lankford spoke from the open doorway to the infirmary room his strong face was drawn and haggard with the newness of the loss of his mate but his voice was calm and sure it s about the fact that zoey faced a grief she could not bear and i do understand something about grief when it shatters a soul the path to return to the body is broken and without the infilling of spirit our bodies die no please this can t be right this can t be happening stevie rae told him you are the first red vampyre high priestess you have to find the strength to accept this loss your people will need you dragon said we don t know where kalona has fled nor do we know neferet s role in all of this lenobia said what we do know is that zoey s death would be an excellent time for them to strike against us dragon added zoey s death the words echoed through stevie rae s mind leaving behind shock and fear and despair your powers are vast the swiftness of your recovery proves that lenobia said and we will need every power we can harness to meet the darkness i feel certain is going to descend upon us control your grief dragon said and take up zoey s mantle no one can be zoey stevie rae cried we re not asking you to be her we re only asking you to help the rest of us fill the void she leaves lenobia said i have i have to think stevie rae said would y all leave me alone for a while i want to get dressed and think of course lenobia said we will be in the council chamber meet us there when you are ready she and dragon left the room silently grief-stricken but resolute hey are you okay dallas moved to her reaching out to take her hand.
she only let him touch her for a moment before she squeezed his hand and withdrew i need my clothes i found em there in that closet dallas jerked his head toward the cabinets on the opposite side of the room good thanks stevie rae said quickly you gotta leave so i can get dressed you didn t answer my question he said watching her closely no i m not okay and i m not gonna be as long as they keep sayin z s gonna die but stevie rae even i ve heard about what happens when a soul leaves a body the person dies he said obviously trying to say the harsh words gently not this time stevie rae said now go on outta here so i can get dressed dallas sighed i ll be waiting outside fine i won t take too long take your time girl dallas said softly i don t mind waiting but as soon as the door shut stevie rae didn t jump up and throw on her clothes like she d meant to instead her memory was too busy flipping through her fledgling handbook 101 and stopping at a super-sad story about an ancient soul-shattered high priestess stevie rae couldn t remember what had caused the priestess s soul to shatter she didn t remember much about the story actually except that the high priestess had died no matter what anyone had tried to do to save her the high priestess had died the high priestess died stevie rae whispered and zoey wasn t even a real grown high priestess she was technically still a fledgling how could she be expected to find her way back from something that had killed a grown high priestess the truth was she couldn t it wasn t fair they d all been through so much hard stuff and now zoey was just gonna die stevie rae didn t want to believe it she wanted to fight and scream and find a way to fix her bff but how could she z was in italy and she was in tulsa and hell stevie rae couldn t figure out how to fix a bunch of pain-in-the-ass red fledglings who was she to think she could do anything about something as terrible as z s soul shattering from her body she couldn t even tell the truth about being imprinted with the son of the creature who had caused this awful thing to happen sadness swept over stevie rae she crumpled in on herself hugged the pillow to her chest and twirling a blond curl around and around her finger like she used to do when she was little began to weep the sobs wracked her and she buried her face in the pillow so dallas wouldn t hear her crying losing herself to shock and fear and complete overwhelming despair just as she was giving in to the worst of it the air around her stirred almost as if someone had cracked the window in the small room at first she ignored it too lost in her tears to care about a stupid cold breeze but it was insistent it touched the fresh pink skin of her exposed back in a cool caress that was surprisingly pleasant for a moment she relaxed allowing herself to absorb comfort from the touch touch she d told him to wait outside stevie rae s head shot up her lips were pulled back from her teeth in a snarl she meant to aim at dallas no one was in the room she was alone absolutely alone stevie rae dropped her face in her hands was shock making her go totally batshit crazy she didn t have time for crazy she had to get up and get dressed she had to put one foot in front of the other and go out there and deal with the truth about what had happened to zoey and her red fledglings and kalona and eventually rephaim rephaim his name echoed in the air another cold caress against her skin wrapping around her not just touching her back but skimming down the length of her arms and swirling around her waist and over her legs and everywhere the coolness touched it was like a little bit of her grief had been washed away this time when she looked up she was more controlled in her reaction she wiped her eyes clear and stared down at her body the mist that surrounded her was made of tiny sparkling drops that were the exact color she d come to recognize in his eyes rephaim against her will she whispered his name he calls you what the hell is going on stevie rae muttered anger stirring through despair go to him go to him she said feeling increasingly pissed off his dad caused this go to him letting the tide of cool caress and red anger make her decision stevie rae yanked on her clothes she would go to rephaim but only because he might know something that she could use to help zoey he was the son of a dangerous and powerful immortal obviously he had abilities she didn t know about the red stuff that was floating around her was definitely from him and it must be made of some kind of spirit fine she said aloud to the mist i ll go to him the instant she spoke the words aloud the red haze evaporated leaving only a lingering coolness on her skin and a strange otherworldly sense of calm i ll go to him and if he can t help me then i think imprint or no imprint i m going to have to kill him.
chapter four aphrodite seriously erce i m only going to say this one more time i don t care about your stupid rules zoey is in there aphrodite paused and pointed one wellmanicured fingernail at the closed stone door and that means i m going in there aphrodite you are a human one who isn t even the consort of a vampyre you cannot simply burst into the high council chamber with all of your youthful mortal hysteria especially during a time of crisis such as this the vampyre s cool look took in aphrodite s messed-up hair tear-stained face and reddened eyes the council will invite you to join them probably until then you must wait i am not hysterical aphrodite spoke the words slowly distinctly and with forced calm attempting to totally make up for the fact that the reason she d been left outside the high council chamber when stark followed by darius damien the twins and even jack had carried zoey s lifeless body inside was entirely because she had been exactly what erce had called her a hysterical human she hadn t been able to keep up with the rest of them especially since she d been crying so hard the snot and tears had kept her from doing much breathing or seeing by the time she d pulled herself together the door had been closed in her face with erce acting as fucking gatekeeper but erce was super wrong if she thought aphrodite didn t know how to handle a stick-up-her-ass bossy adult she d been raised by a woman who made erce look like mary fucking poppins so you think i m just a human kid do you aphrodite got all into the vamp s personal space which made erce take an automatic step back think again i m a prophetess of nyx remember her nyx as in your goddess who is the boss of you i do not need to be some guy s refrigerator to have the right to go before the high council nyx herself gave me the right now move the hell out of my way though she could have phrased it more politely the child makes a valid point erce let her pass i ll take responsibility for her presence if the council disapproves aphrodite felt the small hairs along her forearms lift as neferet s smooth voice came from behind her it is not customary erce said but her capitulation was already obvious neither is it customary for the soul of a fledgling to be shattered said neferet i must agree with you priestess erce stepped aside and opened the thick stone door and you are now responsible for this human s presence in the chamber thank you erce that is gracious of you oh and i am having a few of the council warriors deliver something here be quite sure to allow them to pass too would you please aphrodite didn t so much as glance back as erce murmured a predictable of course priestess instead she strode into the ancient building isn t it odd that once again we are allies child neferet s voice followed close behind her we ll never be allies and i m not a child aphrodite said without looking at her or slowing down the entry foyer opened to a huge stone amphitheater that spread around her in circular row after row aphrodite s eyes were drawn up immediately to the stained-glass window directly before her that depicted nyx framed by a brilliant pentagram graceful arms upraised and cupping a crescent moon it s really lovely isn t it neferet s voice was easy and conversational vampyres have always been responsible for creating the greatest works of art in the world aphrodite still refused to look at the exhigh priestess instead she shrugged vamps have money money buys pretty things whether they re made by humans or nonhumans and you don t know for sure that vamps made that window i mean you re old but not that old as aphrodite tried to ignore neferet s soft condescending laughter her gaze moved down to the center of the chamber at first she didn t really comprehend what she was seeing and then when she got it it was as if someone had punched her in the gut there were seven carved marble thrones on the huge raised platform that made up the inner floor of the chamber vampyres were seated in the thrones but they weren t what caught aphrodite s gaze what she couldn t stop staring at was zoey lying on the dais in front of the thrones like a dead body stretched out on a funeral slab and then there was stark he was on his knees beside zoey he was turned just enough so that aphrodite could see his face he didn t make one sound but tears were falling freely down his cheeks and pooling on his shirt darius was standing next to him and he was saying something she couldn t quite hear to the brunette sitting in the first throne whose thick hair was streaked with gray damien jack and the twins were huddled together typically sheeplike in a nearby row of stone benches they were bawling too but their loud messy tears were as different from stark s silent misery as was the ocean from a babbling brook aphrodite automatically started forward but neferet grabbed her wrist and that finally made her turn to look at her old mentor you really should let go of me aphrodite said softly neferet raised one brow have you finally learned to stand up to a mother figure aphrodite let the anger burn quietly within her you are no one s mother figure i learned to stand up to bitches a long time ago neferet frowned and let loose her wrist i ve never liked your coarse language i m not coarse i m real two different things and you think i fucking care what you like or dislike neferet took a breath to respond but aphrodite cut her off just what the hell are you doing here neferet blinked in surprise i am here because there is a wounded fledgling here oh that s such shit you re only here because somehow it s gonna get you something you want that s how you work neferet whether they know it or not aphrodite jerked her chin at the high council members be careful aphrodite you may need me in the very near future aphrodite held neferet s gaze and felt a sense of shock as she realized the eyes that met hers had changed they were no longer brilliant emerald green they had darkened was that red that glowed from deep in the middle of them as quickly as the thought came to aphrodite neferet blinked her eyes cleared and were once again the color of expensive gemstones aphrodite drew a shaky breath and the small hairs on her arms lifted again but her voice was flat and sarcastic when she said that s okay i ll take my chances without your `help she air quoted around the last word neferet the council recognizes you
neferet turned to face the council but before she descended the stairs to them she paused and made a graceful gesture which included aphrodite i ask that the council allow the presence of this human she is aphrodite the child who makes claims of being nyx s prophetess aphrodite stepped around neferet and looked squarely from one council member to another i don t claim to be a prophetess i am nyx s prophetess because the goddess wants me to be the truth is if i had a choice about it i wouldn t want the job she kept speaking even though several of the council members had gasped in shock oh and just fyi i m not telling you anything nyx doesn t already know the goddess believes in aphrodite even though she is not quite as sure about herself darius said aphrodite smiled at him he was more than her big hot mountainlike warrior she could count on darius he always saw the best in her darius why do you speak for this human asked the brunette duantia i speak for this prophetess he enunciated her title carefully because i have pledged myself to her as her warrior her warrior neferet couldn t keep the shock from her voice but that means that means that i can t be completely human because it s impossible for a vampyre warrior to swear an oath bond with a human aphrodite finished for her you may enter the chamber aphrodite prophetess of nyx the council recognizes you proclaimed duantia aphrodite hurried down the stairway leaving neferet to follow behind her she wanted to go straight to zoey but instinct made her stop in front of the brunette named duantia first she formally fisted her hand pressed it over her heart and bowed respectfully thank you for letting me come in here these extraordinary times call for us to accept unusual practices this came from a tall thin vampyre who had eyes the color of night aphrodite wasn t sure what to say to the vamp so she just nodded and moved to zoey she slid her hand in darius s and squeezed hard trying to borrow some of her warrior s amazing strength then she looked down at her friend she hadn t imagined it zoey s tattoos really were gone the only mark left on her was an ordinary-looking crescent-moon outline in sapphire in the middle of her forehead and she was so damn pale zoey looks dead aphrodite stopped the thought immediately zoey wasn t dead she was still breathing her heart was still beating zoey was not dead does the goddess reveal anything to you when you look at her prophetess asked the tall thin woman who had spoken to her before aphrodite dropped darius s hand and slowly knelt next to zoey she glanced at stark then as he was kneeling directly across z from her but he didn t move he hardly blinked all he did was weep silently and stare at zoey is this what darius would be like if something happened to me aphrodite shook away the morbid thought and re-focused on zoey slowly she reached out and rested her hand on her friend s shoulder her skin was cool to the touch as if she were already dead aphrodite waited for something to happen but she got not even the slightest twinge of a vision or a feeling or anything with a sigh of frustration aphrodite shook her head no i can t tell anything i can t control my visions they just hit me whether i want them to or not and the truth is it s usually a case of not you aren t using all of the gifts nyx has given you prophetess surprised aphrodite looked up from zoey to see the dark-eyed vampyre had risen and was gracefully approaching her you are a true prophetess of nyx are you not she asked yeah i am aphrodite said with no hesitation but with equal parts confusion and conviction in a flutter of silk robes the color of the night sky the woman knelt beside aphrodite i am thanatos do you know what my name means aphrodite shook her head wishing damien was sitting closer so she could peek at him for the answer it means death i am not leader of the council duantia has that honor but i have the unique privilege of being unusually close to our goddess as the gift she gave me long ago was the ability to aid souls as they pass from this world to the next you can talk to ghosts thanatos s smile transformed her stern face and made her almost pretty in a fashion yes i can and because of that gift i know something of visions seriously visions aren t anything like talking to ghosts are they not from what realm do your visions come no perhaps more accurately in what realm do you exist when you receive your visions aphrodite thought about how she d had too many damn death visions and how she d started actually seeing the shit that was happening from the dead people s points of view she drew in a fast breath and in a rush of understanding admitted i m getting visions from the otherworld thanatos nodded you traffic with the otherworld and the realm of spirits much more than i prophetess all i do is guide the dead as they transition and through them i glimpse beyond aphrodite looked hastily down at zoey she is not dead not yet no but her body will not last more than seven days in this soulless state so she is close to death close enough that the other-world has a strong hold on her stronger even than it has on the newly dead touch her again prophetess this time focus and use more of the gifts you ve been given but i annoyingly enough thanatos cut her off prophetess do what nyx would want you to do i don t know what that is thanatos s stern expression relaxed and she smiled again oh child simply ask for her help aphrodite blinked just like that yes prophetess exactly like that slowly aphrodite placed her hand back on zoey s cold shoulder this time she closed her eyes and drew three long deep breaths just like she d watched zoey do before casting a circle then she sent a silent but fervent prayer up to nyx i wouldn t ask if it wasn t important but you know that already because you know i don t like to ask for favors not from anyone plus i m not really good at this supplication bullshit but you already know that also aphrodite sighed internally nyx i need your help thanatos seems to think i have some kind of link to the otherworld if that s true could you please let me know what s happening to zoey she paused in her silent prayer sighed and bared herself to nyx goddess please and not just because zoey s like the sister my mom was too selfish to have i need your help with this because so many people depend on zoey and sadly that is more important than me aphrodite felt a warmth begin to build under her palm and then it was like she d slipped from her own body and slid into zoey s she was only within her friend for a moment no longer than one heartbeat but what she felt and saw and knew shocked her so badly that in the next instant she found herself back in her own body she cradled the hand she d been pressing against zoey to her chest gasping with fear then with a moan she doubled up with vertigo dry heaving while tears and spit spewed from her face what is it prophetess what did you see thanatos asked calmly as she wiped aphrodite s cheeks and steadied her with a strong hand around her waist she s gone aphrodite bit back the sob and began pulling herself together i felt what happened to her just for a second zoey threw the full power of spirit at kalona she tried to stop him with everything inside her and it didn t work heath died in front of her that ripped her spirit to pieces feeling weirdly light-headed she looked hopelessly through her tears at thanatos you know where she is too don t you i believe i do you must confirm it though the pieces of her spirit are with the dead in the otherworld aphrodite said blinking hard against the stinging of her red-tinged eyes zoey is completely gone what happened out there she just couldn t handle it she still can t you saw nothing more nothing that might help zoey aphrodite swallowed back rising bile and lifted her trembling hand no but i ll try again and