The House Of The Night Series

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The House Of The Night Series

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The House Of Night Series Official Group_By Casabella Lily _Zoey_ _Erik_ _Aphrodite_ _Stevie Rae_ _Nerferet_ After she is Marked, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny— with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

MARKED (Chapter 1)
Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. Kayla was talking nonstop in her usual K-babble, and she didn’t even notice him. At first. Actually, now that I think about it, no one else noticed him until he spoke, which is, tragically, more evidence of my freakish inability to fit in. “No, but Zoey, I swear to God Heath didn’t get that drunk after the game. You really shouldn’t be so hard on him.” “Yeah,” I said absently. “Sure.” Then I coughed. Again. I felt like crap. I must be coming down with what Mr. Wise, my more-than-slightly-insane AP biology teacher, called the Teenage Plague. If I died, would it get me out of my geometry test tomorrow? One could only hope. “Zoey, please. Are you even listening? I think he only had like four—I dunno—maybe six beers, and maybe like three shots. But that’s totally beside the point. He probably wouldn’t even have had hardly any if your stupid parents hadn’t made you go home right after the game.” We shared a long-suffering look, in total agreement about the latest injustice committed against me by my mom and the Step-Loser she’d married three really long years ago. Then, after barely half a breath break, K was back with the babbling. “Plus, he was celebrating. I mean we beat Union!” K shook my shoulder and put her face close to mine. “Hello! Your boyfriend—” “My almost-boyfriend,” I corrected her, trying my best not to cough on her. “Whatever. Heath is our quarterback so of course he’s going to celebrate. It’s been like a million years since Broken Arrow beat Union.” “Sixteen.” I’m crappy at math, but K’s math impairment makes me look like a genius. “Again, whatever. The point is, he was happy. You should give the boy a break.” “The point is that he was wasted for like the fifth time this week. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go out with a guy whose main focus in life has changed from trying to play college football to trying to chug a six-pack without puking. Not to mention the fact that he’s going to get fat from all that beer.” I had to pause to cough. I was feeling a little dizzy and forced myself to take slow, deep breaths when the coughing fit was over. Not that K-babble noticed. “Eww! Heath, fat! Not a visual I want.” I managed to ignore another urge to cough. “And kissing him is like sucking on alcohol-soaked feet.” K scrunched up her face. “Okay, sick. Too bad he’s so hot.” I rolled my eyes, not bothering to try to hide my annoyance at her typical shallowness. “You’re so grumpy when you’re sick. Anyway, you have no idea how lost-puppy-like Heath looked after you ignored him at lunch. He couldn’t even . . .”
Then I saw him. The dead guy. Okay, I realized pretty quick that he wasn’t technically “dead.” He was undead. Or un-human. Whatever. Scientists said one thing, people said another, but the end result was the same. There was no mistaking what he was and even if I hadn’t felt the power and darkness that radiated from him, there was no frickin’ way I could miss his Mark, the sapphire-blue crescent moon on his forehead and the additional tattooing of entwining knot work that framed his equally blue eyes. He was a vampyre, and worse. He was a Tracker. Well, crap! He was standing by my locker. “Zoey, you’re so not listening to me!” Then the vampyre spoke and his ceremonial words slicked across the space between us, dangerous and seductive, like blood mixed with melted chocolate. “Zoey Montgomery! Night has chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!” He lifted one long, white finger and pointed at me. As my forehead exploded in pain Kayla opened her mouth and screamed. When the bright splotches finally cleared from my eyes I looked up to see K’s colorless face staring down at me. As usual, I said the first ridiculous thing that came to mind. “K, your eyes are popping out of your head like a fish.” “He Marked you. Oh, Zoey! You have the outline of that thing on your forehead!” Then she pressed a shaking hand against her white lips, unsuccessfully trying to hold back a sob. I sat up and coughed. I had a killer headache, and I rubbed at the spot right between my eyebrows. It stung as if a wasp had bit me and radiated pain down around my eyes, all the way across my cheekbones. I felt like I might puke. “Zoey!” K was really crying now and had to speak between wet little hiccups. “Oh. My. God. That guy was a Tracker—a vampyre Tracker!” “K.” I blinked hard, trying to clear the pain from my head. “Stop crying. You know I hate it when you cry.” I reached out to attempt a comforting pat on her shoulders. And she automatically cringed, and moved away from me. I couldn’t believe it. She actually cringed, like she was afraid of me. She must have seen the hurt in my eyes because she instantly started a string of breathless K-babble.
“Oh, God, Zoey! What are you going to do? You can’t go to that place. You can’t be one of those things. This can’t be happening! Who am I supposed to go to all of our football games with?”
I noticed that all during her tirade she didn’t once move any closer to me. I clamped down on the sick, hurt feeling inside that threatened to make me burst into tears. My eyes dried instantly. I was good at hiding tears. I should be; I’d had three years to get good at it. “It’s okay. I’ll figure this out. It’s probably some . . . some bizarre mistake,” I lied. I wasn’t really talking; I was just making words come out of my mouth. Still grimacing at the pain in my head, I stood up. Looking around I felt a small measure of relief that K and I were the only ones in the math hall, and then I had to choke back what I knew was hysterical laughter. Had I not been totally psycho about the geometry test from hell scheduled for tomorrow, and had run back to my locker to get my book so I could attempt to obsessively (and pointlessly) study tonight, the Tracker would have found me standing outside in front of the school with the majority of the 1,300 kids who went to Broken Arrow’s South Intermediate High School waiting for what my stupid Barbie-clone sister liked to smugly call “the big yellow limos.” I have a car, but standing around with the less fortunate who have to ride the buses is a time-honored tradition, not to mention an excellent way to check out who’s hitting on who. As it was, there was only one other kid in the math hall—a tall thin dork with messed-up teeth, which I could, unfortunately, see too much of because he was standing there with his mouth flapping open staring at me like I’d just given birth to a litter of flying pigs. I coughed again, this time a really wet, disgusting cough. The dork made a squeaky little sound and scuttled down the hall to Mrs. Day’s room clutching a flat board to his bony chest. Guess the chess club had changed its meeting time to Mondays after school. Do vampyres play chess? Were there vampyre dorks? How about Barbie-like vampyre cheerleaders? Did any vampyres play in the band? Were there vampyre Emos with their guy-wearing-girl’s-pants weirdness and those awful bangs that cover half their faces? Or were they all those freaky Goth kids who didn’t like to bathe much? Was I going to turn into a Goth kid? Or worse, an Emo? I didn’t particularly like wearing black, at least not exclusively, and I wasn’t feeling a sudden and unfortunate aversion to soap and water, nor did I have an obsessive desire to change my hairstyle and wear too much eyeliner. All this whirled through my mind while I felt another little hysterical bubble of laughter try to escape from my throat, and was almost thankful when it came out as a cough instead. “Zoey? Are you okay?” Kayla’s voice sounded too high, like someone was pinching her, and she’d taken another step away from me. I sighed and felt my first sliver of anger. It wasn’t like I’d asked for this. K and I had been best friends since third grade, and now she was looking at me like I had turned into a monster. “Kayla, it’s just me. The same me I was two seconds ago and two hours ago and two days ago.” I made a frustrated gesture toward my throbbing head. “This doesn’t change who I am!” K’s eyes teared up again, but, thankfully, her cell phone started singing Madonna’s “Material Girl.” Automatically, she glanced at the caller ID. I could tell by her rabbit-in-the-headlights expression that it was her boyfriend, Jared.
“Go on,” I said in a flat, tired voice. “Ride home with him.” Her look of relief was like a slap in my face. “Call me later?” she threw over her shoulder as she beat a hasty retreat out the side door.
I watched her rush across the east lawn to the parking lot. I could see that she had her cell phone smashed to her ear and was talking in animated little bursts to Jared. I’m sure she was already telling him I was turning into a monster. The problem, of course, was that turning into a monster was the brighter of my two choices. Choice Number 1: I turn into a vampyre, which equals a monster in just about any human’s mind. Choice Number 2: My body rejects the Change and I die. Forever. So the good news is that I wouldn’t have to take the geometry test tomorrow. The bad news was that I’d have to move into the House of Night, a private boarding school in Tulsa’s Midtown, known by all my friends as the Vampyre Finishing School, where I would spend the next four years going through bizarre and unnameable physical changes, as well as a total and permanent life shake-up. And that’s only if the whole process didn’t kill me.
Great. I didn’t want to do either. I just wanted to attempt to be normal, despite the burden of my mega-conservative parents, my troll-like younger brother, and my oh-so-perfect older sister. I wanted to pass geometry. I wanted to keep my grades up so that I could get accepted into the veterinary college at OSU and get out of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. But most of all, I wanted to fit in—at least at school. Home had become hopeless, so all I was left with were my friends and my life away from my family. Now that was being taken away from me, too. I rubbed my forehead and then messed with my hair until it semi-covered my eyes, and, with any luck, the mark that had appeared above them. Keeping my head ducked down, like I was fascinated with the goo that had somehow formed in my purse, I hurried toward the door that led to the student parking lot. But I stopped short of going outside. Through the side-by-side windows in the institutional-looking doors I could see Heath. Girls flocked around him, posing and flipping their hair, while guys revved ridiculously big pickup trucks and tried (but mostly failed) to look cool. Doesn’t it figure that I would choose that to be attracted to? No, to be fair to myself I should remember that Heath used to be incredibly sweet, and even now he had his moments. Mostly when he bothered to be sober. High-pitched girl giggles flitted to me from the parking lot. Great. Kathy Richter, the biggest ho in school, was pretending to smack Heath. Even from where I was standing it was obvious she thought hitting him was some kind of mating ritual. As usual, clueless Heath was just standing there grinning. Well, hell, my day just wasn’t going to get any better. And there sat my robin’s egg–blue 1966 VW Bug right in the middle of them. No. I couldn’t go out there. I couldn’t walk into the middle of all of them with this thing on my forehead. I’d never be able to be part of them again. I already knew too well what they’d do. I remembered the last kid a Tracker had Chosen at SIHS. It happened at the beginning of the school year last year. The Tracker had come before school started and had targeted the kid as he was walking to his first hour. I didn’t see the Tracker, but I did see the kid afterward, for just a second, after he dropped his books and ran out of the building, his new Mark glowing on his pale forehead and tears washing down his too white cheeks. I never forgot how crowded the halls had been that morning, and how everyone had backed away from him like he had the plague as he rushed to escape out the front doors of the school. I had been one of those kids who had backed out of his way and stared, even though I’d felt really sorry for him. I just hadn’t wanted to be labeled as that-one-girl-who’s-friends-with-those-freaks. Sort of ironic now, isn’t it? Instead of going to my car I headed for the nearest restroom, which was, thankfully, empty. There were three stalls—yes, I double-checked each for feet. On one wall were two sinks, over which hung two medium-sized mirrors. Across from the sinks the opposite wall was covered with a huge mirror that had a ledge below it for holding brushes and makeup and whatnot. I put my purse and my geometry book on the ledge, took a deep breath, and in one motion lifted my head and brushed back my hair. It was like staring into the face of a familiar stranger. You know, that person you see in a crowd and swear you know, but you really don’t? Now she was me—the familiar stranger. She had my eyes. They were the same hazel color that could never decide whether it wanted to be green or brown, but my eyes had never been that big and round. Or had they? She had my hair—long and straight and almost as dark as my grandma’s had been before hers had begun to turn silver. The stranger had my high cheekbones, long, strong nose, and wide mouth—more features from my grandma and her Cherokee ancestors. But my face had never been that pale. I’d always been olive-ish, much darker skinned than anyone else in my family. But maybe it wasn’t that my skin was suddenly so white . . . maybe it just looked pale in comparison to the dark blue outline of the crescent moon that was perfectly positioned in the middle of my forehead. Or maybe it was the horrid fluorescent lighting. I hoped it was the lighting. I stared at the exotic-looking tattoo. Mixed with my strong Cherokee features it seemed to brand me with a mark of wildness . . . as if I belonged to ancient times when the world was bigger . . . more barbaric. From this day on my life would never be the same. And for a moment—just an instant—I forgot about the horror of not belonging and felt a shocking burst of pleasure, while deep inside of me the blood of my grandmother’s people rejoiced.


Zoey has managed to settle in at the House of Night and come to terms with the vast powers the Goddess Nyx has given her. Just as she finally feels she belongs, the unthinkable happens: human teenagers are being killed, and all evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey’s old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves.

BETRAYED (Chapter 1)
“New kid. Check it out,” Shaunee said as she slid into the big boothlike bench we always claim as ours for every school meal served in the dining hall (translation: high-class school cafeteria).
“Tragic, Twin, just tragic.” Erin’s voice totally echoed Shaunee’s. She and Shaunee had some kind of psychic link that made them bizarrely similar, which is why we’d nicknamed them “the Twins,” even though Shaunee is a café latte-colored Jamaican American from Connecticut and Erin is a blond-haired, blue-eyed white girl from Oklahoma.“Thankfully, she’s Sarah Freebird’s roommate.” Damien nodded toward the petite girl with seriously black hair who was showing the lost-looking new kid around the dining hall, his sharp, fashion-wise gaze checking out the two girls and their outfits—from shoes to earrings—in one fast glance. “Clearly her fashion sense is better than Sarah’s, despite the stress of being Marked and changing schools. Maybe she’ll be able to help Sarah out with her unfortunate ugly shoe propensity.”“Damien,” Shaunee said. “Again you are getting on my damn—”“—last nerve with your unending vocab b*******,” Erin finished for her.Damien sniffed, looking offended and superior and gayer than he usually looked (even though he is definitely gay). “If your vocabulary wasn’t so abysmal you wouldn’t have to carry a dictionary around with you to keep up with me.”The Twins narrowed their eyes at him and sucked air to begin a new assault, which, thankfully, my roommate interrupted. In her thick Oklahoma accent, Stevie Rae twanged the two definitions as if she was giving clues for a spelling bee. “Propensity—an often intense natural preference. Abysmal—absolutely horrible. There. Now would y’all quit bickering and be nice? You know it’s almost time for parent visitation, and we shouldn’t be acting like retards when our folks show up.”“Ah, crap,” I said. “I’d totally forgotten about parent visitation.”Damien groaned and dropped his head down on the table, banging it not-so-gently. “I’d totally forgotten, too.” The four of us gave him sympathetic looks. Damien’s parents -were cool with him being Marked, moving to the House of Night, and beginning the Change that would either turn him into a vampyre or, if his body rejected the transformation, kill him. They were not okay with him being gay.At least Damien’s parents were okay with something about him. My mom and her current husband—my step-loser, John Heffer—on the other hand, hated absolutely everything about me.“My ’rentals aren’t coming. They came last month. This month they’re too busy.”
“Twin, once again we prove our twin-ness,” Erin said. “My ’rentals sent me an e-mail. They aren’t coming either ’cause of some Thanksgiving cruise they decided to take to Alaska with my Aunt Alane and Uncle Liar Lloyd. Whatever.” She shrugged—apparently as unbothered as Shaunee by her parents’ absence.“Hey, Damien, maybe your mama and daddy won’t show either,” Stevie Rae said with a quick smile.He sighed. “They’ll be here. It’s my birthday month. They’ll bring presents.”“That doesn’t sound so bad,” I said. “You were talking about needing a new sketch pad.”
“They won’t get me a sketch pad,” he said. “Last year I asked for an easel. They got me camping supplies and a subscription to Sports Illustrated.”“Eeesh!” said Shaunee and Erin together while Stevie Rae and I wrinkled our noses and made sympathetic noises.Clearly wanting to change the subject, Damien turned to me. “This’ll be your parents’ first visit. What’re you expecting?”“Nightmare,” I sighed. “Total, absolute, and complete nightmare.”“Zoey? I thought I’d bring my new roommate over to meet you. Diana, this is Zoey Redbird—the leader of the Dark Daughters.”Glad to be diverted from having to talk about my own horrid parental issues, I looked up, smiling, at the sound of Sarah’s tentative, nervous voice.“Wow, it’s really true!” the new girl blurted before I could even say hi. As per usual she was staring at my forehead and blushing bright red. “I mean, uh…sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude or anything….” she trailed off, looking miserable.“That’s okay. Yeah, it is true. My Mark is filled in and added to.” I kept my smile in place, trying to make her feel better, even though I truly hated that it seemed like I was the main attraction at a freak show. Again.Thankfully, Stevie Rae chimed in before Diana’s staring and my silence could get any more uncomfortable.“Yeah, Z got that cool lacy spiral tattoo thing on her face and down along her shoulders when she saved her ex-boyfriend from some scary-assed vampyre ghosts,” Stevie Rae said cheerily.
“That’s what Sarah told me,” Diana said tentatively. “It just sounded so unbelievable that, well, I uh…”“You didn’t believe it?” Damien said helpfully.“Yeah. Sorry,” she repeated, fidgeting and picking at her fingernails.“Hey, don’t worry about it.” I worked up a fairly authentic smile. “It seems pretty bizarre to me sometimes, and I was there.”“And kicking butt,” Stevie Rae said.I gave her my you-are-so-not-helping-me look, which she ignored. Yes, I might someday become their High Priestess, but I’m not exactly the boss of my friends.“Anyway, this whole place can seem pretty strange at first. It gets better,” I told the new kid.
“Thanks,” she said with genuine warmth.“Well, we better go so I can show Diana to where her fifth hour class will be,” Sarah said, and then she totally embarrassed me by getting all serious and formal and saluting me with the traditional vampyre sign of respect, closed fist over her heart and bowed head, before she left.
“I really hate it when they do that,” I muttered, picking at my salad.“I think it’s nice,” Stevie Rae said.“You deserve to be shown respect,” Damien said in his schoolteacher voice. “You’re the only third former ever to have been made leader of the Dark Daughters and the only fledgling or vampyre in history who has shown an affinity for all five of the elements.”“Face it, Z,” Shaunee said around a bite of salad while she gestured at me with her fork.
“You’re special.” Erin finished for her (as usual).A third former is what the House of Night called freshmen—so a fourth former is a sophomore, et cetera. And, yes, I am the only third former to be made leader of the Dark Daughters. Lucky me.“Speaking of the Dark Daughters,” Shaunee said. “Have you decided what you want the new requirements for membership to be?”I stifled the urge to shriek, Hell no, I still can’t believe I’m in charge of this thing! Instead I just shook my head, and decided—with what I hoped was a stroke of brilliance—to put some of the pressure back on them.“No, I don’t know what the new requirements should be. Actually, I was hoping you guys would help me. So, do you have any ideas?”As I suspected, all four of them got quiet. I opened my mouth to thank them very much for their muteness, but our High Priestess’s commanding voice came over the school intercom. For a second I was happy about the interruption, and then I realized what she was saying and my stomach started to clench.“Students and professors, please make your way to the reception hall. It is now time for this month’s parent visits.”Well, hell.“Stevie Rae! Stevie Rae! Ohmygosh I have missed you!”“Mama!” Stevie Rae cried and flew into the arms of a woman who looked just like her, only fifty pounds heavier and twenty-some years older.Damien and I stood awkwardly just inside the reception hall, which was starting to fill up with uncomfortable-looking human parents, a few human siblings, a bunch of fledgling students, and several of our vampyre professors.“Well, there’re my parents,” Damien said with a sigh. “Might as well get this over with. See ya.”
“See ya,” I mumbled and watched him join two totally ordinary people who were carrying a wrapped present. His mom gave him a quick hug and his dad shook his hand with exuberant masculinity. Damien looked pale and stressed.I made my way over to the long, linen-draped table that ran the length of one wall. It was filled with expensive cheese and meat platters, desserts, coffee, tea, and wine. I’d been at the House of Night for a month, and it still was a little shocking to me that wine is served so readily here. Part of the reason they do is simple—the school is modeled after the European Houses of Night. Apparently, in Europe wine with meals is like tea or Coke with meals here—so no big deal. The other part is a genetic fact—vampyres don’t get drunk—fledglings can barely get buzzed (at least on alcohol—blood, unfortunately, is a-whole other issue). So wine literally is no big deal here, although I thought it would be interesting to check out how Oklahoma parents reacted to booze at school.“Mama! You have to meet my roommate. Remember I told you about her? This is Zoey Redbird. Zoey this is my mama.”“Hi, Mrs. Johnson. It’s good to meet you,” I said politely.“Oh, Zoey! It is just so nice to meet you! And, oh my! Your Mark is as pretty as Stevie Rae said it was.” She surprised me with a soft mom hug and whispered, “I’m glad you’re taking care of my Stevie Rae. I worry about her.”I squeezed her back and whispered, “No problem, Mrs. Johnson. Stevie Rae’s my best friend.” And even though it was totally unrealistic, I suddenly wished my mom would hug me and worry about me like Mrs. Johnson worried about her daughter.“Mama, did you bring me any chocolate chip cookies?” Stevie Rae asked.“Yes, baby, I did, but I just realized that I left them in the car.” Stevie Rae’s mom twanged in an Okie accent that was identical to her daughter’s. “Why don’t you come out with me and help me carry them inside. I made a little extra for your friends this time.” She smiled kindly at me. “You’re more than welcome to come on out with us, too, Zoey.”“Zoey.”I heard my voice spoken like a frozen echo of Mrs. Johnson’s warm kindness, and looked over her shoulder to see my mom and John coming into the hall. My heart fell into my stomach. She’d brought him. Why the hell couldn’t she have come alone and let it be just her and me for a change? But I knew the answer to that. He would never allow it. And his not allowing it meant that she wouldn’t do it. Period. End of subject. Since she’d married John Heffer my mom didn’t have to worry about money. She lived in a gihugic house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. She volunteered for the PTA. She was majorly active in church. But during the past three years of her “perfect” marriage she’d completely and utterly lost herself.“Sorry, Mrs. Johnson. I see my parents now, so I better go.”“Oh, honey, I’d love to meet your mama and daddy.” And, like we were at any normal high school function, Mrs. Johnson turned, smiling, to meet my parents.Stevie Rae looked at me, and I looked at her. Sorry, I mouthed to her. I mean, I wasn’t absolutely sure anything bad would happen, but with my step-loser closing the distance between us as if he were some testosterone-filled general leading a death march, I figured the odds were probably good for a nightmare scene.Then my heart lifted way out of my stomach and everything suddenly got much, much better when my favorite person in the world stepped around John and held her arms out to me.
“Grandma!”She enfolded me in her arms and the sweet scent of lavender that always moved with her, as if she carried a piece of her beautiful lavender farm everywhere she went.“Oh, Zoeybird!” She held tight to me. “I have missed you, u-we-tsi -a-ge-hu-tsa.”I smiled through my tears, loving the sound of the familiar Cherokee word for daughter—it meant security and love and unconditional acceptance. Things I hadn’t felt in my home for the past three years—things that before I’d come to the House of Night I’d only found at my grandma’s farm.“I’ve missed you, too, Grandma. I’m so glad you came!”“You must be Zoey’s grandmamma,” Mrs. Johnson said when we’d quit clinging to each other. “It’s so good to meet you. You have a fine girl, here.”Grandma smiled warmly and started to reply, but John interrupted in his usual I’m-so-superior voice.“Well, actually, that would be our fine girl you would be complimenting.”As if on a Stepford Wives cue, my mother finally managed to speak. “Yes, we’re Zoey’s parents. I’m Linda Heffer. This is my husband, John, and my mother, Sylvia Red—” Then, in the middle of her oh-so-polite introductions, she bothered to actually look at me and her voice came to a breath-gulping halt midword.I made my face smile, but it felt hot and hard, like it was poured plaster and had been sitting in the summer sun and would crack all to pieces if I wasn’t careful.“Hi, Mom.”“For the love of God what have you done to that Mark?” Mom said the word Mark like she’d say the word cancer or pedophile.“She saved the life of a young man and tapped into a Goddess-given affinity for the elements. In return Nyx has touched her with several unusual Marks for a fledgling,” Neferet said in her smooth musical voice as she walked into the middle of our awkward little group, hand extended directly to my step-loser. Neferet was what most adult vampyres are, stunningly perfect. She was tall, with long waves of dark auburn hair and brilliant, almond-shaped eyes an unusual shade of moss green. She moved with a grace and confidence that was clearly not human, and her skin was so spectacular that it looked like someone had turned a light on inside her. Today she was wearing a sleek, royal blue silk suit with silver spiral earrings (representing the path of the Goddess, but it’s not like most parents knew that). A silver form of the Goddess with upraised hands was embroidered over her left breast, as it was over all the other professors’ breasts. Her smile was dazzling. “Mr. Heffer, I am Neferet, High Priestess of the House of Night, although it might be easier if you would just think of me as you would any ordinary high school’s principal. Thank you for coming to parent visitation night.”I could tell that he took her hand automatically. I was sure he would have refused it if she hadn’t caught him by surprise. She shook his hand quickly and then turned to my mom.“Mrs. Heffer, it is a pleasure to meet Zoey’s mother. We are so pleased that she has joined the House of Night.”“Well, uh, thank you!” my mom said, clearly disarmed by Neferet’s beauty and charm.
When Neferet greeted my grandma, her smile widened and became more than just polite. I noticed that they shook hands in the traditional vampyre greeting style, grasping each other’s forearms.“Sylvia Redbird, it is always a pleasure to see you.”“Neferet, it makes my heart glad to see you, too, and I thank you for honoring your oath to look after my granddaughter.”“It is an oath that is not a burden to fulfill. Zoey is such a special girl.” Now Neferet’s smile included me in its warmth. Then she turned to Stevie Rae and her mother. “And this is Zoey’s roommate, Stevie Rae Johnson, and her mother. I hear that the two of them are practically inseparable, and that even Zoey’s cat has taken to Stevie Rae.”“Yeah, it’s true. She actually sat on my lap while we watched TV last night,” Stevie Rae said laughingly. “And Nala doesn’t like anyone except Zoey.”“Cat? I don’t remember anyone giving permission for Zoey to get a cat,” John said, making me want to retch. Like anyone except Grandma had bothered to talk to me for an entire month!“You misunderstand, Mr. Heffer, at the House of Night cats roam free. They choose their owners, not the other way around. Zoey didn’t need permission when Nala chose her,” Neferet said smoothly.John made a snorting noise, which I was relieved to see everyone ignored. Jeesh, he’s such an ass.“May I offer you some refreshment?” Neferet waved graciously at the table.“Oh, golly! That reminds me of the cookies I left in the car. Stevie Rae and I were just on our way out there. It was really nice to meet y’all.” With a quick hug for me and a wave for everyone else, Stevie Rae and her mom escaped, leaving me there, even though I wished I were anywhere else.I stayed close to Grandma, lacing my fingers through hers as we walked over to the refreshment table, thinking how much easier this would be if it was just she who had come to visit me. I snuck a look at my mom. A permanent frown seemed to have been painted on her face. She was looking around at the other kids, and hardly even glanced in my direction. Why come at all? I wanted to scream at her. Why seem like you might actually care—might actually miss me—and then show so obviously that you don’t?“Wine, Sylvia? Mr. and Mrs. Heffer?” Neferet offered.“Thank you, red please,” Grandma said.John’s tight lips registered his displeasure. “No. We don’t drink.”With a superhuman effort I didn’t roll my eyes. Since when didn’t he drink? I would bet the last fifty dollars in my savings account that there was a six-pack of beer in the fridge at home right now. And my mom used to drink red wine like Grandma. I even saw her throw Grandma a narrow-eyed, envious look as she sipped the rich wine Neferet had poured for her. But no they didn’t drink. At least not in public. Hypocrites.“So, you were saying that the addition to Zoey’s Mark happened because she did something special?” Grandma squeezed my hand. “She told me that she’d been made leader of the Dark Daughters, but she didn’t tell me how exactly that happened.”I felt myself tense up again. I really didn’t want to deal with the scene it would cause if my mom and John found out that what had actually happened was that the ex-leader of the Dark Daughters had cast a circle on Halloween night (known at the House of Night as Samhain, the night the veil between our world and the world of spirits is thinnest), conjured some very scary vampyre spirits, and then lost control of them when my human ex-boyfriend, Heath, stumbled up looking for me. And I so didn’t want anyone to ever mention what only a couple of people knew—that Heath was looking for me because I’d tasted his blood and he was fast becoming fixated on me, something humans do pretty easily when they get involved with vamps—even vamp fledglings, for that matter. So the then leader of the Dark Daughters, Aphrodite, totally lost control of the ghosts and they were going to eat Heath. Literally. Worse—they were also acting like they wanted to take a chomp out of the rest of us, too, including totally hot Erik Night, the vamp kid who I can happily report is definitely not my ex-boyfriend, but who I’ve sorta been dating this past month so he’s my almost-boyfriend. Anyway, I had to do something, so with some help from Stevie Rae, Damien, and the Twins, I cast my own circle, tapping into the power of the five elements: wind, fire, water, earth, and spirit. Using my affinity for the elements, I managed to banish the ghosts back to wherever it is they live (or unlive?). When they -were gone I had these new tattoos, a delicate collection of lacelike sapphire swirls that framed my face—totally unheard of for a mere fledgling to have—and matching Marks interspersed with cool runelike-looking symbols on my shoulders, something no fledgling or vamp has ever had. Then Aphrodite was exposed as the rotten-assed leader she was, causing Neferet to fire her and put me in her place. Consequently, I’m also in training to be a High Priestess of Nyx, the vampyre Goddess, who is Night personified.None of that would go over well with ultra-religious, ultra-judgmental Mom and John.
“Well, there was a small accident. Zoey’s quick thinking and bravery made sure no one got hurt, and at the same time she connected with a special affinity she has been given to draw energy from the five elements.” Neferet’s smile was proud and I felt a wash of happiness at her approval. “The tattooing is simply an outward sign of the favor she’s found with the Goddess.”
“What you’re saying is blasphemy.” John spoke in a tight, strained voice that managed to sound condescending and angry at the same time. “You are putting her immortal soul in danger.”
Neferet turned her moss-colored eyes on him. She didn’t look angry. Actually, she looked amused.“You must be one of the Elders of the People of Faith.”His birdlike chest swelled up. “Well, yes, yes I am.”“Then let us come to an understanding quickly, Mr. Heffer. I would not think of coming into your home, or into your church, and belittling your beliefs, though I disagree profoundly with them. Now, I do not expect you to worship as I do. In truth, I would never even think to attempt to sway you to my beliefs, even though I have a deep and abiding commitment to my Goddess. So all I insist upon is that you show me the same courtesy I have already awarded you. When you are in my ‘home,’ you respect my beliefs.”John’s eyes had become mean little slits and I could see his jaw clenching and unclenching.
“Your way of life is sinful and wrong,” he said fiercely.“Thus says a man who admits to worshipping a God who vilifies pleasure, relegates women to roles that are little more than servants and broodmares, though they are the backbone of your church, and seeks to control his worshippers through guilt and fear.” Neferet laughed softly, but the sound was humorless and the unspoken warning in it made the hair on my forearms prickle. “Have a care for how you judge others; perhaps you should look to cleaning your own house, first.”His face reddening, John sucked in a breath and opened his mouth for what I knew would be an ugly lecture on how right his beliefs are and how wrong everyone else’s are, but before he could respond Neferet cut him off. She hadn’t raised her voice, but it was suddenly filled with the power of a High Priestess and I shivered in fear, even though her wrath was not directed at me.“You have two choices. You may visit the House of Night as its invited guest, which means you will respect our ways and keep your displeasure and judgment to yourself. Or you may leave and not return. Ever. Decide now.” The last two words washed against my skin and I had to force myself not to cringe. I noticed that my mom was staring with wide, glassy eyes at Neferet, her face pale as milk. John’s face had gone the opposite color. His eyes were narrow and his cheeks were flushed a very unattractive red.“Linda,” he said through his teeth. “Let’s go.” Then he looked at me with such disgust and hatred that I literally took a step back. I mean, I knew he didn’t like me, but until that moment I hadn’t realized how much. “This place is what you deserve. Your mother and I won’t be back. You’re on your own now.” He spun around and started for the door. My mom hesitated, and for a second I thought she might actually say something nice—like she was sorry about him—or that she missed me—or that I shouldn’t worry, she’d be back no matter what he said.
“Zoey, I can’t believe what you’ve gotten yourself into now.” She shook her head and, as usual, followed John’s lead and left the room.“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry.” Grandma was there, instantly hugging me and whispering reassurance. “I’ll be back, my little bird. I promise. And I’m so proud of you!” She held me by my shoulders and smiled through her tears. “Our Cherokee ancestors are proud of you, too. I can feel it. You have been touched by the Goddess, and you have the loyalty of good friends,” she glanced up at Neferet and added, “and wise teachers. Someday you might even learn to forgive your mother. Until then remember that you are the daughter of my heart, u-we-tsi -a-ge-hu-tsa.” She kissed me. “I must leave, too. I drove your little car here, and I will leave it for you, so I must ride back with them.” She handed me the keys to my vintage Bug. “But remember always that I love you, Zoeybird.”“I love you, too, Grandma,” I said, and kissed her back, hugging her hard and taking deep breaths of her scent like I could hold her in my lungs and exhale her slowly over the next month as I missed her.“Bye, sweetheart. Call me when you get a chance.” She kissed me again and then left.
I watched her leave, and didn’t realize I was crying until I felt the tears drip from my face onto my neck. I’d actually forgotten Neferet was still standing beside me, so I jumped a little in surprise when she handed me a tissue.“I am sorry for that, Zoey,” she said quietly.“I’m not.” I blew my nose and wiped my face before I looked at her. “Thanks for standing up to him."“I did not mean to send your mother away, too.”
“You didn’t. She chose to follow him. Just like she’s been doing for over three years now.” I felt the hotness of tears threaten the back of my throat and spoke quickly, willing them away. “She used to be different. It’s stupid, I know, but I keep expecting her to turn back into what she was before. It never happens, though. It’s like he’s killed my mom and put a stranger in her body.”
Neferet put her arm around me. “I like what your grandma said—that maybe someday you can find the ability to forgive your mother.”
I stared at the door the three of them had just disappeared through. “That someday is far away.”
Neferet squeezed my shoulder sympathetically.
I looked up at her, so glad she was there with me, and I wished—for about the zillionth time—that she was my mom. Then I remembered what she had told me almost a month ago, that her mom had died when she was a little girl, and her dad had abused her, physically and mentally, until she had been saved by being Marked.
“Did you ever forgive your father?” I asked tentatively.
Neferet looked down at me and blinked several times, as if she were slowly coming back from a memory that had taken her far, far away. “No. No I didn’t ever forgive him, but when I think of him now it is as if I’m remembering someone else’s life. The things he did to me he did to a human child, not a High Priestess and vampyre. And to a High Priestess and vampyre he, like most humans, is completely inconsequential.”
Her words sounded strong and sure, but as I looked into the depths of her beautiful green eyes I saw a flicker of something old and painful and definitely not forgotten, and wondered how honest she was being with herself…

Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and Zoey Redbird's adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Her best friend, Stevie Rae, is undead and struggling to maintain a grip on her humanity. Zoey finds herself in the very unexpected and rare situation of having three boyfriends. Mix a little bloodlust into the equation and the situation has the potential to spell social disaster. Just when it seems things couldn't get any tougher, vampyres start turning up dead. Really dead. It looks like the People of Faith are tired of living side-by-side with vampyres. But, as Zoey and her friends so often find out, how things appear rarely affects the truth...

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CHOSEN (Chapter 1)

“Yep, I have a seriously sucky birthday,” I told my cat, Nala.

(Okay, truthfully she’s not so much my cat as I’m her person. You know how it is with cats: They don’t really have owners, they have staff. A fact I mostly try to ignore.)

Anyway, I kept talking to the cat as if she hung on my every word, which is soooo not the case. “It’s been seventeen years of sucky December twenty-fourth birthdays. I’m totally used to it by now. No big deal.” I knew I was saying the words just to convince myself. Nala “mee-uf-owed” at me in her grumpy-old-lady cat voice and then settled down to lick her privates, clearly showing that she understood I was full of b.s.

“Here’s the deal,” I continued as I finished smudging a little liner on my eyes. (And I mean a little—the line-your-eyes-till-you-look-like-a-scary-raccoon is definitely not the look for me. Actually, it’s not the look for anyone.) “I’m gonna get a bunch of well-meaning presents that aren’t really birthday presents—they’re stuff that’s Christmas themed because people always try to mush my birthday with Christmas, and that seriously doesn’t work.” I met Nala’s big green eyes in the mirror. “But we’re going to smile and pretend we’re fine with the dorky birthmas gifts because people do not get that they can’t mush a birthday into Christmas. At least not successfully.”

Nala sneezed.

“Exactly how I feel about it, but we’ll be nice ’cause it’s even worse when I say something. Then I get crappy gifts and everyone’s upset and things turn all awkward.” Nala didn’t look convinced, so I focused my attention on my reflection. For a second I thought I might have gone too heavy on the eyeliner, but I looked closer and realized that what was making my eyes look so huge and dark wasn’t anything as ordinary as eyeliner. Even though it had been two months since I’d been Marked to become a vampyre, the sapphire-colored crescent-moon tattoo between my eyes and the elaborate filigree of interlocking lacework tattoos that framed my face still had the ability to surprise me. I traced one of the curving jewel-blue spiral lines with the tip of my finger. Then almost without conscious thought I pulled the already wide neck of my black sweater down so that it exposed my left shoulder. With a flick of my head I tossed back my long dark hair so that the unusual pattern of tattoos that began at the base of my neck and spread over my shoulder and down either side of my spine to the small of my back was visible. As always, the sight of my tattoos gave me an electric thrill that was part wonder and part fear.

“You’re not like anyone else,” I whispered to my reflection. Then I cleared my throat and continued in an overly perky voice. “And it’s okay not to be like anyone else.” I rolled my eyes at myself. “Whatever.” I looked up over my head, half surprised that it wasn’t visible. I mean, I could definitely feel the ginormic dark cloud that had been following me around for the past month. “Hell, I’m surprised it’s not raining in here. And wouldn’t that be just great for my hair?” I sarcastically told my reflection. Then I sighed and picked up the envelope I’d laid on my desk. the heffer family was embossed in gold above the sparkling return address. “Speaking of depressing . . . ,” I muttered.

Nala sneezed again.

“You’re right. Might as well get it over with.” I reluctantly opened the envelope and pulled out the card. “Ah, hell. It’s worse than I thought.” There was a huge wooden cross on the front of the card. Staked to the middle of the cross (with a bloody nail) was an old time scroll-like paper. Written (in blood, of course) were the words: He IS the reason for the season. Inside the card was printed (in red letters): MERRY CHRISTMAS. Below that, in my mom’s handwriting, it said: I hope you’re remembering your family during this blessed time of the year. Happy Birthday, Love, Mom and Dad.

“That’s so typical,” I told Nala. My stomach hurt. “And he is not my dad.” I ripped the card in two and threw it into the wastepaper basket, then stood staring at the torn pieces. “If my parents aren’t ignoring me, they’re insulting me. I like being ignored better.”

The knock on my door made me jump.

“Zoey, everyone wants to know where you are.” Damien’s voice carried easily through the door.

“Hang on—I’m almost ready,” I yelled, shook myself mentally, and gave my reflection one more look, deciding, with a definitely defensive edge, to leave my shoulder bare. “My Marks aren’t like anyone else’s. Might as well give the masses something to gawk at while they talk,” I muttered.

Then I sighed. I’m usually not so grumpy. But my sucky birthday, my sucky parents . . .

No. I couldn’t keep lying to myself.

“Wish Stevie Rae was here,” I whispered.

And that was it, what had me withdrawing from my friends (including boyfriends—both of them) during the past month and impersonating a large, soggy, disgusting, rain cloud. I missed my best friend and ex-roommate, who everyone had watched die a month ago, but who I knew had actually been turned into an undead creature of the night. No matter how melodramatic and bad B movie that sounded. The truth was that right now, when Stevie Rae should have been downstairs puttering around with my lame birthday details, she was actually lurking about somewhere in the old tunnels under Tulsa, conspiring with other disgusting undead creatures who were truly evil, as well as definitely bad-smelling.

“Uh, Z? You okay in there?” Damien’s voice called again, interrupting my mental blahs. I scooped up a complaining Nala, turned my back on the terrible birthmas card from my ’rentals, and hurried out the door, almost running over a worried-looking Damien.

“Sorry . . . sorry . . . ,” I mumbled. He fell in step beside me, giving me quick little sideways glances.

“I’ve never known anyone before who was as not excited as you about their birthday,” Damien said.

I dropped the squirming Nala and shrugged, trying for a nonchalant smile. “I’m just practicing for when I’m old as dirt—like thirty—and I need to lie about my age.”

Damien stopped and turned to face me. “Okayyyy.” He dragged the word out. “We all know that thirty-year-old vamps still look roughly twenty and definitely hot. Actually one-hundred-and-thirty-year-old vamps still look roughly twenty and definitely hot. So the whole lying about your age issue is a nonissue. What’s really going on with you?”

While I hesitated, trying to figure out what I should or could say to Damien, he raised one neatly plucked brow and, in his best schoolteacher voice, said, “You know how sensitive my people are to emotions, so you may as well just give up and tell me the truth.”

I sighed again. “You gays are freakishly intuitive.”

“That’s us: homos—the few, the proud, the hypersensitive.”

“Isn’t h*** a derogatory term?”

“Not if it’s used by a h***. By the by, you’re stalling and it’s so not working for you.” He actually put his hand on his hip and tapped his foot.

I smiled at him, but knew that the expression didn’t reach my eyes. With an intensity that surprised me, I suddenly, desperately wanted to tell Damien the truth.

“I miss Stevie Rae,” I blurted before I could stop my mouth.

He didn’t hesitate. “I know.” His eyes looked suspiciously damp.

And that was it. Like a dam had broken open inside me the words came spilling out. “She should be here! She’d be running around like a crazy woman putting up birthday decorations and probably baking a cake all by herself.”

“A really awful cake,” Damien said with a little sniffle.

“Yeah, but it’d be one of her mama’s favorite recipes.” I gave my best exaggerated Okie twang as I mimicked Stevie Rae’s countrified voice, which made me smile through my own tears, and I thought how weird it was that now that I was letting Damien see how upset I really felt—and why I felt that way—my smile actually reached my eyes.

“And the Twins and I would have been pissed because she would have insisted we all wear those pointed birthday hats with the elastic string that pinches your chin.” He shuddered in not-so-pretended horror. “God, they’re so unattractive.”

I laughed and felt a little of the tightness in my chest begin to loosen. “There’s just something about Stevie Rae that makes me feel good.” I didn’t realize that I’d used the present tense until Damien’s teary smile faltered.

“Yeah, she was great,” he said, with an extra emphasis on the was while he looked at me like he was worried about my sanity.

If only he knew the whole truth. If only I could tell him.

But I couldn’t. If I did it would get either Stevie Rae or me, or both of us, killed. For good this time.

So instead I grabbed my obviously worried friend’s arm and started pulling him toward the stairs that would lead us down to the public rooms of the girls’ dorm and my waiting friends (and their dorky presents).

“Let’s go. I’m feeling the need to open presents,” I lied enthusiastically.

“Ohmygod! I can not wait for you to open mine!” Damien gushed. “I shopped for it forevah!”

I smiled and nodded appropriately as Damien went on and on about his Quest for the Perfect Present. Usually he isn’t so overtly gay. Not that the fabulous Damien Maslin isn’t actually gay. He totally is. But he’s also a tall, brown-haired, big-eyed cutie who looks like he’d be excellent boyfriend material (which he is—if you’re a boy). He’s not a fluttery-acting gay kid, but get the boy talking about shopping and he definitely shows some girlish tendencies. Not that I don’t like that about him. I think he looks cute when he gushes about the importance of buying really good shoes, and right then his babbling was soothing. It was helping me to get ready to face the bad presents that (sadly) waited for me.

Too bad it couldn’t help me face what was really bothering me.

Still talking about his Shopping Quest, Damien led me though the main room of the dorm. I waved at the various clumps of girls clustered around the pods of flat-screen TVs as we headed to the little side room that served as a computer lab and library. Damien opened the door and my friends broke into a totally off-key chorus of “Happy Birthday to You.” I heard Nala hiss and from the edge of my vision watched her back from the doorway and trot away down the hall. Coward, I thought, even though I wished I could escape with her.

Song over (thankfully), my gang swarmed me.

“Happy-happy!” said the Twins together. Okay—they’re not genetically twins. Erin Bates is a very white girl from Tulsa and Shaunee Cole is a lovely caramel-colored girl of Jamaican-American descent who grew up in Connecticut, but the two are so freakishly alike that skin tone and region make absolutely no difference. They’re soul twins, which is way closer than mere biology.

“Happy birthday, Z,” said a deep, sexy voice I knew very, very well. I stepped out of the twin sandwich and walked into the arms of my boyfriend, Erik. Well, technically, Erik is one of my two boyfriends, but the other is Heath, a human teenager I dated before I was Marked and I’m not supposed to be dating him now, but I kinda sorta accidentally sucked his blood and now we’re Imprinted and so he’s my boyfriend by default. Yes, it’s confusing. Yes, it makes Erik mad. Yes, I expect him to dump me any day because of it.

“Thanks,” I murmured looking up at him and getting trapped all over again in his incredible eyes. Erik is tall and hot, with Superman dark hair and incredibly blue eyes. I relaxed in his arms, a treat I hadn’t allowed myself much of during the past month, and temporarily basked in his yummy smell and the sense of security I felt when I was close to him. He met my gaze and, just like in the movies, for a second everyone else went away and it was just us. When I didn’t move out of his arms his smile was slow and a little surprised, which made my heart hurt. I’d been putting the kid through way too much—and he didn’t even really understand why. Impulsively, I tiptoed and kissed him, much to the general merriment of my friends.

“Hey, Erik, why don’t you spread some of that birthday sugar around?” Shaunee wagged her eyebrows at my grinning boyfriend.

“Yeah, sweet thang,” Erin said, and in typical twin fashion mirrored Shaunee’s eye waggle. “How about a little b-day kiss over here.”

I rolled my eyes at the twins. “Uh, it’s not his birthday. You only get to kiss the birthday boy or girl.”

“Damn,” Shaunee said. “I lurve ya, Z, but I don’t want to kiss ya.”

“Just please with the same-sex kissing,” Erin said, then she grinned at Damien (who was gazing adoringly at Erik). “I’ll leave that to Damien.”

“Huh?” Damien said, clearly paying more attention to Erik’s cuteness than the Twins.

“Again, we say—” Shaunee started.

“Wrong team!” and Erin finished.

Erik laughed good-naturedly, gave Damien a very guy-like punch on the arm, and said, “Hey, if I ever decide to change teams, you’ll be the first to know.” (Yet another reason why I adore him. He’s mega-cool and popular, but he accepts people how they are and never gets an I’m-all-that attitude.)

“Uh, I hope I’ll be the first to know if you change teams,” I said.

Erik laughed and hugged me, whispering, “Not something you ever need to worry about,” in my ear.

While I was seriously considering sneaking another Erik kiss, a mini-whirlwind in the form of Damien’s boyfriend, Jack Twist, burst into the room.

“Yea! She hasn’t opened her presents yet. Happy birthday, Zoey!” Jack threw his arms around us (yes, Damien and me) and gave us a big hug.

“I told you that you needed to hurry up,” Damien said, as we untangled.

“I know, but I had to make sure it was wrapped just right,” Jack said. With a flourish that only a gay boy can pull off, he reached into the man purse looped over his arm and lifted out a box wrapped in red foil with a green sparkly bow on it that was so big it practically swallowed the package. “I made the bow myself.”

“Jack’s really good at crafts,” Erik said. “He’s just not good at cleaning up the crafts.”

“Sorry,” Jack said sweetly. “I promise I’ll clean up right after the party.”

Erik and Jack are roommates, further proving Erik’s coolness. He’s a fifth former (in normal language that’s a junior) and he’s also easily the most popular guy at school. Jack is a third former (a freshman), a new kid, cute but kinda dorky, and definitely gay. Erik could have made a big deal about being stuck with a queer and could have gotten out of rooming with him, and made Jack’s life hell at the House of Night. Instead he totally took him under his wing and treats him like a little brother, a treatment he extends to Damien, who has been officially going out with Jack for two point five weeks as of today. (We all know because Damien is ridiculously romantic and he celebrates the half-week anniversaries as well as the weekly ones. Yes, it makes the rest of us gag. In a nice way.)

“Hello! Speaking of presents!” Shaunee said.

“Yeah, bring that overbowed box over here to the present table and let Zoey get to opening,” Erin said.

I heard Jack whisper to Damien, “Overbowed?” and caught Damien’s help look, as he assured Jack, “No, it’s perfect!”

“I’ll carry it over to the table and open it first.” I snatched the package from him, hurried to the table, and started to carefully extract the ginormous green sparkly bow from the red foil saying, “I think I’m going to save this bow because it’s so cool.” Damien gave me a thank-you wink. I heard Erik and Shaunee snickering and managed to kick one of them, which shut both of them up. Putting the bow aside I unwrapped and opened the little box and pulled out . . .

Oh, jeesh.

“A snow globe,” I said, trying to sound happy. “With a snowman inside it.” Okay, a snowman snow globe is not a birthday present. It’s a Christmas decoration. A cheesy Christmas decoration at that.

“Yeah! Yeah! And listen to what it plays!” Jack said, practically hopping up and down in excitement as he took the globe from me and wound a knob in its base so that “Frosty the Snowman” started tinkling out around us in painfully cheap and off-key notes.

“Thank you, Jack. It’s really pretty,” I lied.

“Glad you like it,” Jack said. “It’s kinda a theme for your birthday.” Then he shot his eyes over to Erik and Damien. The three of them grinned at each other like bad little boys.

I planted a smile on my face. “Oh, well, good. Then I’d better open the next present.”

“Mine’s next!” Damien handed me a long, soft box.

Smile wedged in place, I started to open the box, though I couldn’t help wishing I could turn into a cat and hiss and run from the room.


What if the hottest guy in the world was hiding a nameless evil, and all he wanted was you? At the start of this heart-pounding new installment of the bestselling House of Night series, Zoey’s friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren’t Neferet’s secrets any longer. But an unexpected danger has emerged. Neferet guards her powerful new consort, Kalona, and no one at the House of Night seems to understand the threat he poses. Kalona looks gorgeous, and he has the House of Night under his spell. A past life holds the key to breaking his rapidly spreading influence, but what if this past life shows Zoey secrets she doesn’t want to hear and truths she can’t face?

Hunted Chapter One

The dream began with the sound of wings. In retrospect I realize I should have known that was a bad sign, what with the Raven Mockers being set loose and all, but in my dream it was just background noise, kinda like a fan whirring or the TV turned on to the QVC.

In my dream I was standing in the middle of a beautiful meadow. It was night, but there was an enormous full moon hovering just above the trees that framed the meadow. It cast a silver blue light strong enough to throw shadows and made everything look like it was underwater, an impression that was strengthened by the gentle breeze blowing the soft grasses against my bare legs in sweeps and whirls like waves lapping sweetly against a shore. That same wind was lifting my thick dark hair from my naked shoulders and it felt like silk floating against my skin.

Bare legs? Naked shoulders?

I looked down and let out a little yip of surprise. I was wearing a seriously short buckskin minidress. The top of it was cut in a wide V, front and back, so that it hung off my shoulders, leaving lots of skin visible. The dress itself was amazing. It was white and decorated with fringe, feathers, and shells and seemed to glow in the moonlight. All over it was beaded with intricate designs that were impossibly beautiful.

My imagination is so darn cool!

The dress tickled a memory, but I ignored it. I didn’t want to think too hard— I was dreaming! Instead of pondering déjà vu moments I danced gracefully through the meadow, wondering if Zac Efron or even Johnny Depp was going to suddenly appear and flirt outrageously with me.

I peeked around as I twirled and swayed with the wind and thought I saw the shadows flicker and move oddly within the massive trees. I stopped and was trying to squint so I could get a closer look at what was going on in the darkness. Knowing me and my weird dreams, I’d created bottles of brown pop hanging from the limbs like bizarre fruit, just waiting for me to pick them.

That’s when he appeared.

At the edge of the meadow, just inside the shadows of the trees, a shape materialized. I could see his body because the moonlight caught the smooth, naked lines of his skin.

Naked?

I stopped. Had my imagination lost its mind? I wasn’t really up to frolicking around a meadow with a naked guy, even if he was the amazingly mysterious Mr. Johnny Depp.

“You hesitate, my love?”

At the sound of his voice a shiver passed through my body, and terrible, mocking laughter whispered through the leaves of the trees. “Who are you?” I was glad that my dream voice didn’t betray the fear I was feeling.

His laughter was as deep and beautiful as his voice, and as frightening. It echoed in the limbs of the watching trees until it drifted almost visible in the air around me.

“Do you pretend you do not know me?”

His voice brushed against my body, making the little hairs on my arms stand up.

“Yeah, I know you. I made you up. This is my dream. You’re a mixture of Zac and Johnny.” I hesitated, peering at him. I spoke nonchalantly even though my heart was beating like crazy because it was already obvious this guy was not a mixture of those two actors. “Well, maybe you’re Superman or Prince Charming,” I said, reaching for anything but the truth.

“I am no figment of your imagination. You know me. Your soul knows me.”

I hadn’t moved my feet, but my body was slowly being drawn toward him, like his voice was pulling me. I reached him and looked up and up . . .

It was Kalona. I’d known him from the first words he’d spoken. I just hadn’t wanted to admit it to myself. How could I have dreamed him?

Nightmare—this had to be a nightmare and not a dream.

His body was naked, but it wasn’t completely substantial. His form wavered and shifted in time with the caressing breeze. Behind him, in the dark green shadows of the trees, I could see the ghostly shapes of his children, the Raven Mockers, as they clung to the limbs with the hands and feet of men and stared at me with men’s eyes from the mutated faces of birds.

“Do you still claim not to know me?”

His eyes were dark— a starless sky. They seemed the most substantial thing about him. That and his liquid voice. Even though this is a nightmare, it’s still mine. I can just wake up! I want to wake up! I want to wake up!

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wasn’t in control. Kalona was. He’d built this dream, this dark, nightmare meadow, and somehow brought me there, closing the door to reality behind us.

“What do you want?” I said the words quickly so he couldn’t hear my voice shaking.

“You know what I want, my love. I want you.”

“I am not your love.”

“Of course you are.” He moved this time, stepping so close to me that I could feel the chill that came from his unsubstantial body. “My A-ya.”

A-ya had been the name of the maiden the Cherokee Wise Women had created to trap him centuries ago. Panic spiked through me. “I’m not A-ya!”

“You command the elements,” his voice was a caress, awful and wonderful, compelling and terrifying.

“Gifts from my Goddess,” I said.

“Once before you commanded the elements. You were made from them. Fashioned to love me.” His massive dark wings stirred and lifted. Beating forward softly, they enfolded me in a spectral embrace that was cold as frost.

“No! You must have me mixed up with someone else. I’m not A-ya.”

“You’re wrong, my love. I feel her within you.”

His wings pressed against my body, drawing me closer to him. Even though his physical form was only semi-substantial, I could feel him. His wings were soft. Winter cold against the warmth of my dreaming self. The outline of his body was frigid mist. It burned my skin, sending electric currents through me, heating me with a desire I didn’t want to feel but was powerless to resist.

His laugh was seductive. I wanted to drown in it. I leaned forward, closing my eyes and gasping aloud as the chill of his spirit brushed against my breasts, sending shooting sensations that were painful but deliciously erotic to places in my body that made me feel out of control.

“You like the pain. It brings you pleasure.” His wings got more insistent, his body harder and colder and more passionately painful as it pressed against mine. “Surrender to me.” His voice, already beautiful, was unimaginably seductive as he became aroused. “I spent centuries in your arms. This time our joining will be controlled by me, and you will revel in the plea sure I can bring you. Throw off the shackles of your distant goddess and come to me. Be my love, truly, in body as well as soul and I will give you the world!”

The meaning of his words penetrated through the haze of pain and pleasure like sunlight burning away dew. I found my will again, and stumbled out of the embrace of his wings. Tendrils of icy black smoke snaked around my body, clinging . . . touching . . . caressing . . .

I shook myself like a pissed cat shaking off rain and the dark wisps slid from my body. “No! I’m not your love. I’m not A-ya. And I’ll never turn my back on Nyx!”

When I spoke Nyx’s name, the nightmare shattered.

I sat straight up in bed, shaking and gasping. Stevie Rae was sleeping soundly beside me, but Nala was wide awake. She was growling softly. Her back was arched, her body was totally puffed up, and she was staring slit- eyed at the air above me.

“Ah, hell!” I shrieked and bounded off the bed, spinning around and looking up, expecting to see Kalona hovering like a giant batbird over us.

Nothing. There was nothing there.

I grabbed Nala and sat on the bed. With trembling hands I petted her over and over. “It was just a bad dream . . . it was just a bad dream . . . it was just a bad dream,” I told her, but I knew it was a lie. Kalona was real, and somehow he was able to reach me through my dreams.



So…you’d think after banishing an immortal being and a fallen High Priestess, saving Stark’s life, biting Heath, getting a headache from Erik, and almost dying, Zoey Redbird would catch a break. Sadly, a break is not in the House of Night school forecast for the High Priestess in training and her gang. Juggling three guys is anything but a stress reliever, especially when one of them is a sexy Warrior who is so into protecting Zoey that he can sense her emotions. Speaking of stress, the dark force lurking in the tunnels under the Tulsa Depot is spreading, and Zoey is beginning to believe Stevie Rae could be responsible for a lot more than a group of misfit red fledglings. Aphrodite’s visions warn Zoey to stay away from Kalona and his dark allure, but they also show that it is Zoey who has the power to stop the evil immortal. Soon it becomes obvious that Zoey has no choice: if she doesn’t go to Kalona he will exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. Will Zoey have the courage to chance losing her life, her heart, and her soul? Find out in the next spectacular installment in the House of Night series, TEMPTED.

TEMPTED

Chapter One

The night sky over Tulsa was alight with a magical crescent moon. Its
brilliance made the ice that coated the city, and the Benedictine Abbey
where we’d just had our showdown with a fallen immortal and a
rogue High Priestess, shimmer so that everything around me seemed
touched by our Goddess. I looked at the moonlight-bathed circle
that stood in front of Mary’s Grotto, the place of power where not
long ago Spirit, Blood, Earth, Humanity, and Night had been personified
and then had joined to triumph over hatred and darkness.
The carved image of Mary, surrounded by stone roses and nestled
within a ledge high in the grotto, appeared to be a beacon for the silver
light. I stared at the statue. Mary’s expression was serene; her ice covered
cheeks glistened as if she wept in quiet joy.

My gaze lifted to the sky. Thank you. I sent a silent prayer up to the
beautiful crescent that symbolized my Goddess, Nyx. We’re alive.
Kalona and Neferet are gone.

“Thank you,” I whispered to the moon.

Listen within . . .

The words swept through me, subtle and sweet like leaves touched
by a summer breeze, brushing my consciousness so lightly that my
waking mind barely registered them, yet Nyx’s whispered command
imprinted itself into my soul.

I was vaguely aware that there were a lot of people (well, nuns,
fledglings, and a few vampyres) around me. I could hear the mixture
of shouting, talking, crying, and even laughing that filled the night,
but it all felt distant. At that moment the only things that were real to
me were the moon above and the scar that sliced from one shoulder
all the way across my chest to the other shoulder. It tingled in response
to my silent prayer, but it wasn’t a tingle of pain. Not really. It
was a familiar warm, prickling sensation that assured me Nyx had,
once again, Marked me as hers. I knew if I peeked under the neck of
my shirt I would find a new tattoo decorating that long, angrylooking
scar with an exotic filigree of sapphire—a sign that proved I
was following my Goddess’s path.

“Erik and Heath, find Stevie Rae, Johnny B, and Dallas—then
check the perimeter of the abbey to be certain all the Raven Mockers
fled with Kalona and Neferet!” Darius shouted the command, snapping
me out of my warm, fuzzy prayer mode, and once I’d been
shocked out, it was like an iPod had been cranked too high as sound
and confusion flooded my senses.

“But Heath’s a human. A Raven Mocker could kill him in a second.”
The words burst from my mouth before I could clamp it shut,
proving beyond all doubt that being moonstruck wasn’t my only
moronic skill.

Predictably, Heath puffed up like a cat-smacked toad.

“Zo, I’m not a damn p****!”

Erik, looking very tall and full-grown, kick-your-butt vampyre-like,
snorted sarcastically and then said, “No, you’re a damn human.
Wait, that does make you a p****!”

“So, we defeat the big baddies and inside five minutes Erik and
Heath are banging their chests at each other. How totally predictable,”
Aphrodite said with her patented sarcastic sneer as she joined
Darius, but her expression completely changed when she turned her
attention to the Son of Erebus Warrior. “Hey there, Hotness. You doing
okay?”

“You need not worry about me,” Darius said. His eyes met hers,
and they practically telegraphed the chemistry between them, but
instead of going to her like he usually would and doing some very
gross kissing, he remained focused on Stark.

Aphrodite’s gaze went from Darius to Stark. “Okay, eew. Your
chest is totally crispy crittered.”

James Stark was standing between Darius and Erik. Okay, well,
standing wasn’t exactly what he was doing. Stark was swaying and
looking extremely unsteady.

Ignoring Aphrodite, Erik spoke up. “Darius, you should probably
get Stark inside. I’ll coordinate the reconnoitering with Stevie Rae
and make sure everything runs smoothly out here.” His words seemed
okay, but his tone was all I’m-the-big-guy-in-charge, and when he followed
up with a condescending “I’ll even let Heath help out,” he really
sounded like a pompous butt.

“You’ll let me help out?” Heath snapped. “Your mom will let me
help out.”

“Hey, which one of them is supposed to be your boyfriend?” Stark
asked me. Even in the terrible shape he was in, he caught my glance
with his. His voice was scratchy, and he sounded scarily weak, but
his eyes sparkled with humor.

“I am!” Heath and Erik said together.

“Oh, for crap’s sake, Zoey, they’re both idiots!” Aphrodite said.

Stark started to chuckle, which turned to a cough, which changed
again to a painful gasp. His eyes rolled back and, like a slinky, he collapsed.

Moving with the quickness that came naturally to a Son of Erebus
Warrior, Darius caught Stark before he hit the ground. “I need to get
him inside,” Darius said.

I felt like my head was going to explode. Sagging in Darius’s arms,
Stark looked well on his way to being dead. “I-I don’t even know
where the infirmary is,” I stuttered.

“Not a problem. I’ll get a penguin to show us,” Aphrodite said.
“Hey, you, nun!” she yelled at one of the nearby black-and-white–clad
sisters who had scurried out of the abbey after the night had gone from
battle chaos to aftermath chaos.

Darius hurried after the nun, with Aphrodite following him. The
warrior glanced over his shoulder at me. “Aren’t you coming with us,
Zoey?”

“As soon as I can.” Before I could deal with Erik and Heath, from
behind me a familiar twang saved the day.

“Go on with Darius and Aphrodite, Z. I’ll take care of Dumb and
Dumber and be sure there’s no booger monsters left out here.”

“Stevie Rae, you are the Best Friend of All Best Friends.” I turned
and hugged her quickly, loving how reassuringly solid and normal
she felt. Actually, she seemed so normal that I got a weird twinge
when she stepped back and grinned at me and I saw, as if for the first
time, the scarlet tattoos that spread out from the filled-in crescent in
the middle of her forehead and down either side of her face. A sliver
of unease threaded through me.

Misunderstanding my hesitation, she said, “Don’t worry about these
two dorks. I’m gettin’ used to jerking them apart.” When I just stood
there staring at her, the bright smile she’d been wearing dimmed.
“Hey, you know your grandma’s okay, right? Kramisha got her back
inside right after Kalona was banished and Sister Mary Angela just
told me she was goin’ inside to check on her.”

“Yeah, I remember Kramisha helping her into the wheelchair. I’m
just . . .” My voice trailed off. I was just what? How could I put into
words that I was haunted by a feeling that everything wasn’t right
with my best friend and the group of kids she’d allied herself with,
and how do I say that to my best friend?

“You’re just tired and worried ’bout a bunch of stuff ,” Stevie Rae
said softly.

Was that understanding I saw flicker through her eyes? Or was it
something else, something darker?

“I get it, Z, and I’ll take care of things out here. You just be sure
Stark’s okay.” She hugged me again, and then gave me a little push in
the direction of the abbey.

“'Kay. Thanks,” I said lamely, starting toward the abbey and totally
ignoring the two dorks who were standing there staring at me.

Stevie Rae called after me, “Hey, remind Darius or someone to
keep an eye on the time. It’s only about an hour until sunrise, and
you know me and all the red fledglings gotta be inside out of the sun
by then.”

“Yeah, no problem. I’ll remember,” I said.

The problem was it was getting harder and harder for me to forget
Stevie Rae wasn’t what she used to be.









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Discussion Forum

burned

hey as most of u ppl kno the 7 th book burned comes out on april 27yh. thats only 3 days b4 mi 16 birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 yay i cant wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Started by caster girl <3 Mar 3, 2010.

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Comment by Jeanette midnight pack on October 20, 2009 at 10:30am
i love this series it is very good to get in just like twilight, true blood, and Vampire Diaries i cant wait for tempted to come out on October 27
Comment by Kiana Lee on October 19, 2009 at 8:01pm
i absolutely love this series! I can't wait for tempted to come out!
Comment by Alison Genet on October 19, 2009 at 7:51pm
I love the HON series. When does the next book come out? I thought this month!
Comment by ginatapia on October 19, 2009 at 7:12pm
Thanks for the invi damm that some book :)
Comment by Jazper Zavior on October 17, 2009 at 10:45am
Wow I really should read the books first, Lol!
 

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