Home > Betrayed (House of Night #2)

Betrayed (House of Night #2)
Kristin Cast

Chapter One

"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 caf? 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 nod ded 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 bullshit," Erin fin ished 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 defini tions 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 ei ther," 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 night- mare."

"Zoey? I thought I'd bring my new roommate over to meet you. Diana, this is Zoey Redbird--the leader of the Dark Daugh ters." Glad to be perted from having to talk about my own horrid parental issues, I looked up, smiling, at the sound of Sarah's ten tative, 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 any thing ..." 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 finger nails. "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 ig nored. 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 tra ditional 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 school teacher 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 ges tured 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. Actu ally, 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 real ized what she was saying and my stomach started to clench. "Students and professors, please make your way to the recep tion 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 ordi nary 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. John son. 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 mar ried John Heifer 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 com pletely 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 be tween us as if he were some testosterone-filled general leading a death march, I figured the odds were probably good for a night mare 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 beau tiful 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 un conditional 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 inter rupted in his usual I'm-so-superior voice. "Well, actually, that would be our fine girl you would be com plimenting." 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 mid dle 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 awk ward little group, hand extended directly to my step-loser. Nef eret 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 God dess, 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.

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