Home > Untamed (House of Night #4)(2)

Untamed (House of Night #4)(2)
Author: P. C. Cast

 After slipping inside, I slammed the thick wooden door behind me and, panting for breath, turned to peer through the little arched window in the center of it. The night shifted and swam before my eyes, like black paint poured down a dark page. Still, the terrible feeling of icy fear lingered within me. What was going on? Almost without realizing what I was doing, I whispered, “Fire, come to me. I need your warmth.”

 Instantly the element responded, filling the air around me with the soothing heat of a hearth fire. Still staring out the little window, I pressed my palms against the rough wood of the door. “Out there,” I murmured. “Send your heat out there, too.” With a whoosh of warmth, the element moved from me, through the door, and poured into the night. There was a hissing sound, like steam rising from dry ice. The mist roiled, thick and soupy, giving me a sense of dizzy vertigo that made me a little nauseated, and the strange darkness began to evaporate. Then the heat completely beat away the chill, and as suddenly as it had begun, the night was once again quiet and familiar.

 What had just happened?

 My stinging hand drew my attention from the window. I looked down. Across the back of my hand there were red welts, as though something with claws, or talons, had scraped across my flesh. I rubbed at the angry-looking marks, which stung like a curling iron burn.

 Then the feeling hit me strong, hard, overwhelming—and I knew with my Goddess-given sixth sense that I shouldn’t be here by myself. The coldness that had tainted the night—the ghostly something that had chased me inside and welted my hand—filled me with a terrible foreboding and for the first time in a long time, I was truly and utterly afraid. Not for my friends. Not for my grandma or my human ex-boyfriend, or even for my estranged mom. I was afraid for myself. I didn’t just want the company of my friends; I needed them.

 Still rubbing my hand, I made my legs move and knew beyond any doubt that I would rather face the hurt and disappointment of my friends than whatever dark thing might be waiting for me in the concealing night.

 I hovered for a second just outside the open doors to the busy “dining hall” (a.k.a. school cafeteria) watching the other kids talk easily and happily together, and I was almost overwhelmed with the sudden wish that I could be just another fledging—that I didn’t have any extraordinary abilities or the responsibilities that went along with those abilities. For a second I wanted to be normal so bad that it was hard for me to breathe.

 Then I felt the soft brush of wind against my skin that seemed warmed by the heat of an invisible flame. I caught a whiff of the ocean, even though there is definitely no ocean near Tulsa, Oklahoma. I heard birdsong and smelled new-cut grass. And my spirit quivered with silent joy within me as it acknowledged my powerful Goddess-given gifts of an affinity for each of the five elements: air, fire, water, earth, and spirit.

 I wasn’t normal. I wasn’t like anyone else, fledgling or vampyre, and it was wrong of me to wish otherwise. And part of my not-normal-ness was telling me that I had to go in there and try to make peace with my friends. I straightened my spine and looked around the room with eyes that were clear of self-pity, and easily found my special group sitting at our booth.

 I drew a deep breath and then made my way quickly across the cafeteria, giving a little nod or small smile to the kids who said hi to me. I noticed that everyone seemed to be reacting to me with their usual mix of respect and awe, which meant that my friends hadn’t been talking crap about me to the masses. It also meant that Neferet hadn’t launched an all-out, open attack against me. Yet.

 I grabbed a quick salad and a brown pop. Then, holding on to my tray with such abnormal tightness that it was turning my fingers white, I marched straight to our booth and took my usual seat beside Damien.

 When I sat down, no one looked at me, but their easy chatter instantly died, which is something I totally hate. I mean, what’s more awful than walking up to a group of your supposed-to-be friends and having them all shut up so that you knew for sure they were all talking about you? Ugh.

 “Hi,” I said instead of running away or bursting into tears like I wanted to.

 No one said anything.

 “So, what’s up?” I directed the question at Damien, knowing that my gay friend was naturally the weakest link in the don’t-talk-to-Zoey chain.

 Sadly, it was the Twins who answered me and not gay, and therefore more sensitive and polite, Damien.

 “Not shit, right, Twin?” said Shaunee.

 “That’s right, Twin, not shit. ‘Cause we can’t be trusted to know shit,” Erin said. “Twin, did you know we’re totally untrustworthy?”

 “Not until recently I didn’t, Twin. You?” Shaunee said.

 “Didn’t know till recently either,” Erin finished.

 Okay, the Twins aren’t really twins. Shaunee Cole is a caramel-colored Jamaican-American who grew up on the East Coast. Erin Bates is a gorgeous blonde who was born in Tulsa. The two met after being Marked and moving to the House of Night on the same day. They clicked instantly—it’s like genetics and geography never existed. They literally finish each other’s sentences. And at that moment they were glaring at me with twin looks of angry suspicion.

 God, they made me tired.

 They also made me mad. Yes, I’d kept secrets from them. Yes, I’d lied to them. But I’d had to. Well, mostly I’d had to. And their twin holier-than-thou crap was getting on my last nerve.

 “Thank you for that lovely commentary. And now I’ll try asking someone who doesn’t have to answer in a stereo version of hateful Gossip Girl Blair.” I turned my attention away from them and looked directly at Damien, even though I could hear the Twins sucking air and getting ready to say something I was hoping they would one day regret. “So, I guess what I really wanted to ask when I said ‘what’s up’ is if you’ve noticed any scary, ghostlike, flappy weirdness outside lately. Have you?”

 Damien’s a tall, really cute guy with excellent bone structure whose brown eyes were usually warm and expressive but were, at this moment, wary and more than a little cold. “A flappy ghost thing?” he said. “Sorry, I have no clue what you’re talking about.”

 My heart squeezed at the strangerlike tone of his voice, but I told myself that at least he’d answered my question. “On the way here from the stables, something kinda attacked me. I couldn’t really see anything, but it was cold and it put a big welt on my hand.” I lifted my hand to show him—and there was no welt there anymore.

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