Home > Lost (House of Night Other World #2)

Lost (House of Night Other World #2)
Author: P. C. Cast

 

1

   Other Kevin

   The instant Kevin passed between worlds, he felt it: that awful, panicked sense of being lost. The strangeness that was the effect of Zoey’s spell—the one which had pulled him from and then returned him to his own world—was overwhelming. The feeling of being hopelessly lost was so strong, so urgent, that it took him back to a spring day when he was seven years old and he’d gone shopping with his mom at the Seventy-First Street Super Target in Tulsa. He’d wandered away while his mom and his sisters had been looking at girl clothes. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in the middle of the home appliances department sobbing uncontrollably.

   This was the same awful feeling, only now there would be no friendly employee to comfort him while waiting for his mom to respond to the lost-child page. Yeah, he was a fully Changed vampyre—a lieutenant in the Red Army—but there definitely were times he wished someone would save him.

   “Not possible, Kev. Get it together,” he muttered to himself.

   With a great whoosh, like an exhalation of breath, the bizarre hole between worlds disappeared, leaving only a rowan tree, out of place with its greenery, in the space where the tear in the fabric between worlds had been. As his lifeline to his sister Zoey—and her world, which had felt more like home than his own—closed, Kevin wished more than anything else that he could devolve to his seven-year-old self, sit down, and cry for his mommy to save him.

   But he wasn’t a child anymore, and his mother had stopped being a mommy years ago, so Kevin did what he’d told himself to do—he got himself together. He reassuringly touched the pouch that hung from the leather cord around his neck and took comfort that it had made the trip with him. He checked the inside pocket of his jacket to be sure the copy of Neferet’s journal was still there, and then he studied his surroundings.

   It was dark, just as it had been when he’d left Zo’s world, and cold—though here there wasn’t any snow covering the winter-brown grass. He looked to his right. There was no stone wall enclosing High Priestess Neferet’s tomb. There was only a rocky grotto and a small, half-frozen pond.

   Because in this world Neferet is free and in charge. Just the thought had his stress level spiking.

   Kevin cracked his knuckles as he lifted his gaze and followed the ridge overlooking the grotto. Sure enough, ancient oaks formed a backdrop to huge clumps of sleeping azaleas.

   “This is definitely Woodward Park, but not the one I just left.” Kevin sighed. Okay, one thing at a time—that’s all I can do—but I have to actually do something, and not just stand here cracking my knuckles and feeling miserable.

   Kevin did have a plan, but it was one that made his stomach clench with nerves. He needed to see someone, and he wasn’t sure how well it would go over. People were the same yet disturbingly different here, and he hadn’t seen her in over a year.

   What if she wouldn’t see him at all? Or worse, what if she saw him, but rejected him—refused to see he was different than the others and wouldn’t invite him in? Then what the heck will I do? And how will I bear it if she turns her back on me?

   “I have to take the chance. If I want to try to make things right I don’t have much choice. I need allies, and she’s the best one I can think of,” Kevin told himself as he made his way across the brittle brown grass to the sidewalk that edged Twenty-First Street and bordered the park. Walking quickly, he turned right, heading up the little rise in the street for the soft glow ahead that was Utica Square.

   It was a short walk to the upscale stores and restaurants that made up the square, though Kev found himself wishing it would take him longer. Utica’s big old four-faced clock, which stood proudly in front of the Russell Stover Candies store, said that it was past midnight, but the square was humming with activity. Since Neferet had taken control of Tulsa and most of the Midwest, human business hours had changed drastically to reflect the fact that vampyres, not humans, were in charge. Utica Square’s stores, as well as any store or restaurant in Tulsa and the surrounding area that vampyres might want to patronize, opened at dusk and closed at sunrise.

   There were, of course, a few stores that opened for humans during the day—mostly groceries, gas stations, and other necessities. But compared to vampyre-patronized businesses, they were shabby remnants of a dying past.

   This cold Christmas Eve, Utica Square was dressed with lights—not in celebration of Christmas, but rather because Neferet liked everything to look bright and shiny and beautiful on the surface, no matter what went on just under the pretty veneer.

   Blue vampyres and fledglings passed Kevin on the sidewalk, hardly giving him a look, which he found comforting. If an alert had been sounded when he, General Dominick, and the others from his Red Army squad had gone missing, Sons of Erebus Warriors would have been posted at all public venues in Tulsa and Kevin would definitely have been stopped.

   The few humans who were out and about reacted normally to him as well. They didn’t make eye contact and gave him a wide berth, leaving the sidewalk or darting into whatever restaurant or boutique was close by to avoid him and the possibility that he was hungry enough to snatch one of them up and have a quick bite. Though Neferet’s “official” stance was to discourage red vamps feeding on humans in public, the truth was the only reason the High Priestess wanted the Red Army to show any self-control was that public feeding tended to cause panic. Neferet considered human panic ugly and distracting. So, basically, if it happened … well, it happened. There were usually no consequences for the vamps except a mild verbal rebuke.

   It used to upset Kevin that humans were so obviously and justifiably terrified of him, but this night it relieved him. He knew he smelled different—or, specifically, not grave-like—since Nyx had gifted him with his humanity again, but the people of Tulsa were so used to monsters in the night they didn’t get close enough to him to realize he was no longer the boogeyman.

   Kev didn’t let his guard down, though. He considered taking the bus to the depot where his car was parked, but just the thought of facing ravenous red fledglings and curious red vampyres had his stomach clenching. What the heck would he tell them when the inevitable happened—when they realized he’d irrevocably Changed? He needed time and a plan.

   But mostly Kevin needed help.

   He could easily walk the block to the House of Night, but there was no help waiting there, and he had no desire to return to this House of Night. Not now. Not after he’d spent time at the other House of Night, where his sister was High Priestess and humans were welcome as friends, not abused as slaves and walking blood refrigerators.

   There was only one place Kevin wanted to go, and only one person he wanted to see. Again, his hand went to the lump that rested under his shirt near his heart. He pressed his palm against the little hand-beaded leather bag, finding comfort in its presence.

   Kevin made his way through Utica Square to the rear of the village-like shopping center, past Fleming’s Steakhouse and Ihloff Salon to the darker, quieter parking lot beyond. It was crowded, so it didn’t take long for Kevin to find what he needed.

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