Home > Untamed (House of Night #4)(7)

Untamed (House of Night #4)(7)
Author: P. C. Cast


 “She’s not actually as bad as she pretends to be,” I told the Twins. They gave me disbelieving looks and I shrugged. “It’s just that she pretends to be bad a lot.”

 “Well, we say please, just please, to her crappy attitude,” Erin said.

 “Aphrodite makes us understand why women have drowned their babies,” Shaunee said.

 “Just try to give Aphrodite a chance,” I said. “She’s started letting me in past that hateful crap she puts up. You’ll see. She can be nice sometimes.”

 The Twins didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds, then they looked at each other, and at the same time they shook their heads and rolled their eyes. I sighed again.

 “But on to a much more important topic,” Erin said.

 “Yeah, the new hottie,” Shaunee said.

 “Check out his butt,” Erin said.

 “I wish he’d sag them jeans a little so I could get a better look,” Shaunee said.

 “Twin, sagging is seriously lame. It’s so clichéd gang-wannabe circa 1990s. Hotties should just say no to it,” Erin said.

 “I’d still like to see his butt, Twin,” Shaunee said. Then she glanced over at me and smiled. It was a reserved version of her old, friendly grin, but at least it wasn’t the sarcastic wariness she’d been treating me with for the past couple days. “So, what do you think? Is he Christian Bale hot, or just Tobey Maguire hot?”

 I wanted to burst into happy tears and yell, Yea! You guys are starting to talk to me again! Instead I acted like I had some sense and joined the Twins in checking out the new kid.

 Okay, so they were right. Stark was cute. He was medium tall, not quarterback tall like my human ex-boyfriend, Heath, or abnormally gorgeous Superman tall like my fledgling-turned-vampyre ex-boyfriend, Erik. But he wasn’t short, either. Actually, he was about Damien’s height. He was kinda on the thin side, but I could see muscles through his old T-shirt, and his arms were definitely yummy. He had cute, messy guy hair, that sandy color between blond and brown. His face was okay, too, with a strong chin, straight nose, big brown eyes, and nice lips. So, dissected into separate parts, Stark was an okay-looking kid. As I watched him, I realized that what took him from meh to hot was his intensity and his confidence. He moved like everything he did was deliberate, but that the deliberateness was tinged with sarcasm. It was like he was a part of the world, and at the same time he was flipping it off.

 And, yes, it was weird that I got that about him so quickly.

 “I think he’s definitely cute,” I said.

 “Ohmigod! I just realized who he is!” Jack gasped.

 “Do tell,” Shaunee said.

 “He’s James Stark!” Jack said.

 “No shit,” Erin said, rolling her eyes. “Jacky, we already know that.”

 “No, no, no. You don’t get it. He’s the James Stark who is the best archer in the whole world! Don’t you remember reading about him online? He kicked butt in the track and field Summer Games this past year. Guys, he competed against grown vamps, actual Sons of Erebus, and he beat them all. He’s a star . . .” Jack ended on a dreamy sigh.

 “Well, shit! Slap me and call me impaired, Twin. Jacky’s right!” Erin said.

 “I knew his hotness was of major proportions,” Shaunee said.

 “Wow,” I said.

 “Twin, I’m gonna try to like his dog,” Erin said.

 “Of course we are, Twin,” Shaunee said.

 Naturally, all four of us were staring at Stark like total morons when he and Damien came back to the table.

 “What?” he said, mouth filled with a bite of sandwich. He glanced from us down to Duchess. “Did she do something while I was gone? She kinda likes to lick toes.”

 “Eesh, that’s—,” Erin began, but shut up when Shaunee kicked her under the table.

 “No, Duchess was a perfect lady whilst you were gone,” Shaunee said, giving Stark a very, very friendly grin.

 “Good,” Stark said. When everyone continued to stare at him, he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. As if on cue, Duchess moved so that she could lean against his leg and gaze up at him lovingly. I watched him relax as he automatically reached a hand down and ruffled her ears.

 “I remember hearing about you beating all of those vamps in archery!” Jack blurted; then he squeezed his lips shut and blushed bright pink.

 Stark didn’t look up from his plate. He just shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, I’m good at archery.”

 “You’re that fledgling?” Damien said, just now getting it. “Good at archery? You’re amazing at archery!”

 Stark looked up. “Whatever. It’s just something I’ve been good at ever since I’ve been Marked.” His eyes went from Damien to me. “Speaking of famous fledglings, I see the rumor about your extra Marks is true.”

 “It’s true.” I really hated these first meetings. It made me uncomfortable as hell when I met someone and all they could see about me was the uber-fledgling and not the real Zoey.

 Then I got it. What I was feeling was probably a lot like what Stark was feeling.

 I asked the first thing I could think of to get the subject away from how “special” he and I both were. “Do you like horses?”

 “Horses?” The sarcastic smile was back.

 “Yeah, well, you seem like you might be an animal lover,” I said lamely, jerking my chin in the direction of his dog.

 “Yeah, I guess I like horses. I like most animals. Except cats.”

 “Except cats!” Jack squeaked.

 Stark shrugged again. “I’ve never really liked them. They’re too bitchlike for my tastes.”

 I heard both the Twins snort.

 “Cats are independent creatures,” Damien began. I heard the schoolteacher lecture tone in his voice and knew my mission to change the subject had been successful. “We all know, of course, that they have been worshipped in many ancient cultures of the world, but did you know that they were also—?”

 “Uh, guys, sorry to interrupt,” I said, standing and shifting my grip on Nala so that I wouldn’t drop her on Duchess’s back. “But I gotta go see what Aphrodite wants before the Council Meeting. I’ll see you there, ‘kay?”

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