Home > Loved (House of Night Other World #1)

Loved (House of Night Other World #1)
Author: P. C. Cast




   The dream started innocently enough. I mean, really, don’t most of them? One second you’re happily flying across the sky like Superman, and the next spiders are raining all around you while Yoda, Tim Gunn, and Beyoncé play strip poker in the middle of an episode of America’s Next Top Model as you keep score for them—naked.

   So when my dream-self realized I was back at Capri, standing in the rooftop garden of the ancient Vampyre High Council, looking out at a Mediterranean Sea illuminated so brilliantly by a full moon that it almost hurt my eyes, my subconscious didn’t scream, Nightmare! If it screamed at all it was something like, Ooooh, pretty, as my dream-self strolled over to the grove of potted orange trees in full bloom and waited for my imagination to conjure something awesome like a tea party (and by tea, I mean brown pop) with Zac Effron and Michelle Obama. It wasn’t until I heard his voice behind me that I began to wonder if something might be wonky.

   “It’s been a long time, Zoey Redbird.”

   I sighed and didn’t turn around. “I thought you were done creeping in people’s dreams.”

   “Creeping?” He chuckled softly. “Why must I be creeping? Can we not simply call this a visit? I thought we had become friends.”

   He joined me at the edge of the balcony and I glanced at him. “Friends wear shirts when they visit other friends—unless the dream visit is, well, a different kind of friendly.” Kalona started to speak, and I held up my hand. “And that’s a kind of friendly I thought you’d reserved only for Nyx.”

   “You misunderstand my intent. I simply thought you would enjoy the familiar scenery. We have been here before, Zoey. Remember?” He smiled at me with all the force of his ridiculous immortal gorgeousness and, even though I am absolutely not interested in anything even vaguely romantic with Kalona, there was no denying his beauty. But just because there was no denying it, that doesn’t mean I had to give in to what Grandma would call his shenanigans.

   I turned to face him, rolling my eyes so dramatically even Aphrodite would’ve approved. “Oh, yeah, I remember this place. This was where you snuck into my dreams and tried to get me to join you in one of your sneaky, sexy ‘let’s take over the world together’ plots.” I air quoted. “So that’s what this setting reminds me of.”

   The eternally charming smile slid from his face. “Perhaps I did misjudge the setting for this little conversation. And my clothing choice.”

   “Ya think?”

   He cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable, then with a snap of his fingers his muscular chest was covered in a simple black tee (that had slits for his amazing white wings). “Yes. And I apologize. Is that better?”

   “Absolutely,” I said. Noting how chagrined he looked, I added. “And I didn’t mean to be overly sensitive.”

   “Thank you.” He paused. “Would you be more comfortable if I changed this as well?” Kalona gestured at the incredible scene surrounding us.

   “No, never mind. It’s no biggie. Oh, and I do like your new white wings.” I studied them as I spoke. “But they’re really not white. They’re more like the inside of an oyster shell—all sorts of pretty shades of light merged together to form white. They suit you better than the black ones.”

   He glanced behind him, as if he was shocked that the huge wings tucked against his broad back were no longer black. Then he met my eyes, his expression unreadable. “I appreciate the color change as well. White pleases me.”

   The silence stretched between us, becoming awkward until I finally broke it with a sigh and said, “Well? Why are you here?” When he just frowned and wouldn’t meet my eyes, I started to get worried. “Is Rephaim okay? Did something happen to Stevie Rae? I just talked to her yesterday. She said the Chicago House of Night was having some growing pains, but—”

   “They are fine. I apologize again. I don’t seem to be making myself clear.” He ran his hand through his thick hair. “In my mind this went much better.”

   “Look, whatever it is, just say it.”

   He drew a deep breath. “I believe danger is coming.”

   Ah, hell. “What kind of danger?”

   “I do not know. I can feel something stirring, though, and I had to warn you—no matter what Nyx says.”

   I felt a jolt of shock. “Nyx doesn’t know you’re talking to me?”

   “Not exactly.”

   “What the hell does ‘not exactly’ mean? And be exact,” I said.

   “The goddess has given me the freedom to visit the mortal realm whenever I wish,” Kalona said.

   “I need more exactness than that.”

   “I didn’t need to tell her I was going to speak with you because she already made it clear I could visit whenever I so desired.”

   “But you did tell her you felt danger coming to the House of Night?”

   “Yes. And when I could not be more specific, she didn’t believe worrying you was worth it,” Kalona said.

   “And yet here you are.”

   “Yes, here I am. I wanted you to be forewarned and prepared,” Kalona said. “After what you’ve been through—what we’ve all been through—I decided to err on the side of being a worrier.”

   He looked so uncomfortable, vulnerable even, that I realized this was probably difficult for him. He and I definitely had a past, and since he’d died and then been reconciled with Nyx almost a year ago, I could imagine that it would be super awkward for him to step outside his comfort zone and come to me with a warning his consort and goddess believed wasn’t necessary. Of course, that probably meant that his warning wasn’t necessary since Nyx knows her stuff—but still. I had to give him some credit for having his heart in the right place.

   “Okay, well, that’s nice of you. So, I’ll keep my eyes open for trouble. And I’ll tell Stark, too. Thanks for the heads up.”

   “There’s something else you can do,” he said. “You can read Neferet’s childhood journal.”

   My body suddenly went cold. “Whoa, wait! Neferet has something to do with this feeling of yours?”

   “Yes. No. I’m just not sure. And because I’m not sure, you need to be prepared for anything. That is why I want you to read her journal.”

   “I don’t understand. What is this journal you’re talking about?”

   “When Neferet was a child—before she was Marked, she was a human named Emily Wheiler.”

   “Yeah, yeah, I know that. She lived in Chicago and when she was young, before she was Marked, her father raped her.”

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