Home > Burned (House of Night #7)

Burned (House of Night #7)
Author: P. C. Cast



House of Night series
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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 (caymancottontree). 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 expert(s), 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 pccast.net as well as houseofnightseries.

 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!

 

 

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.

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