Redeemed (House of Night #12)(8)

Neferet whirled around to face the girl, whose face had paled so dramatically that her brown eyes looked like dark bruises within it.

“Miss Neferet, please don’t hurt me!” she said, beginning to cry.

“Kylee, my dear, my first human supplicant, this really is for the best. Free will is a terrible burden. I had free will when I was a girl, not much younger than you, and yet I was trapped in a life not of my choosing and abused. Too often that happens to humans. Look at yourself—this menial job, that substandard clothing. Do you not want more from your life?”

“Y-yes,” Kylee said.

“Well, then, it is settled. If I take away your free will, I also take away the unexpected terrors life can bring. From this moment on, Kylee, I will protect you from unexpected terrors.” Neferet captured the girl’s wide-eyed gaze and bored into her mind. She was too focused on Kylee to look down, but she knew a strong, faithful tendril had obeyed her and was slithering up the girl’s body. Though she couldn’t see what was crawling up her leg, Kylee could definitely feel it. She opened her mouth and began to scream. “End her terror and enter her!” Neferet commanded, and the tendril shot up and into her open mouth.

Kylee gagged convulsively, and only Neferet’s grip on her mind kept her from fainting. “So very human. So very weak,” the Goddess muttered as she probed the girl’s mind, feeling the familiar presence of Darkness following. When she found the center of Kylee’s will—her soul, her consciousness—Neferet commanded, “Encase it!” With that extra sense—the one gifted to her by another Goddess more than a century before—Neferet witnessed Darkness imprisoning Kylee’s will.

The girl slumped, her body twitching spasmodically. “Remember well the pathway I just showed you, children. Kylee is only the first of many.” Neferet clapped her hands together quickly. “Come now, Kylee. Pull yourself together, my dear. Your life has just become so much more, and I have other commands you must obey.”

Kylee jerked upright as if she were a puppet on a string.

“There, that is so much better. Now, tell me how many guests are in the hotel, and remember, no more of that irritating screaming.”

“Yes ma’am,” Kylee responded instantly and mechanically.

Neferet’s smile returned. She was filled to overflowing with power! Humans must worship her—with their feeble wills and their easily manipulated minds, they really had no choice. “And stop calling me ma’am. Call me Goddess.”

“Yes, Goddess,” Kylee repeated automatically, her voice utterly devoid of emotion. Then she began tapping at her keyboard while she stared, stone-faced, at her computer screen. “We currently have seventy-two guests, Goddess.”

“Well done, Kylee. And how many residents are living here?”


Neferet took one long finger and turned Kylee’s chin so that she had to meet her gaze again. “Fifty, what?”

Kylee shivered, as a horse would to dislodge clinging insects, but her gaze remained open, blank, and she corrected herself immediately by saying, “Fifty, Goddess.”

“Very well done, Kylee. I am going to retire to my penthouse. Remember, this building is now my Temple, and I insist on having my privacy, as well as my divine body, protected. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Goddess.”

“You understand that means that if anyone comes looking for me, you tell them that you are absolutely certain I am not here, and then you send them on their way.”

“I understand, Goddess.”

“Kylee, you have been exceedingly helpful. I am going to allow you to live long enough to worship me properly.”

“Thank you, Goddess.”

“You are most welcome, my dear.”

Neferet began to glide toward the gleaming elevator. She lifted her hand, beckoning. “Come, my children. I have a feeling we are going to need to redecorate.”

Bloated and pulsating with the blood on which they had so recently fed, the tendrils of Darkness slithered eagerly after their mistress.

*   *   *

“Just as I thought. It has been left in ruins! This is utterly unacceptable.” Neferet stalked around the overturned chairs and stained rugs of the living room that had once been a meticulously kept luxury penthouse apartment. “Stale blood! The room reeks of it. Clean it!” she commanded. The tendrils obeyed her, albeit more slowly than they did when the meal she provided was fresh. “Oh, don’t be so picky. Some of that blood is from Kalona. Even stale, immortal blood carries power.” That seemed to perk up the tendrils, and they slithered with more enthusiasm.

While they worked, Neferet went to her wine bar, only to find it empty. Not one bottle of the dark, expensive cabernet she preferred remained. “This is what happens when I am not here to oversee those lazy humans—they neglect their duties. I have no wine and my penthouse is left in a shambles!” Neferet’s annoyed gaze found the scattered pile of turquoise dust that had sifted from the cage of Darkness in which her tendrils had encased the tediously stubborn Sylvia Redbird. “And that! Get rid of that horrible blue dust. It mars the beauty of the onyx marble floor even more than those stained Persian rugs.” Several tendrils attempted to obey her command, but they shied away from the blue rubble, as if it still had the power to repel them. The boldest of the slithering threads scooped into the rock dust, only to shiver and cringe away, its slick, rubbery flesh smoking and oozing dark, fetid liquid. Neferet frowned, beckoning to the tendril. With one sharp fingernail, she pierced the flesh of her palm. “Come, feed from me and heal yourself,” she murmured, welcoming the cold, painful touch of the tendril’s mouth, stroking it fondly as it fed from her, quivering beneath her touch.

P.C. Cast, Kristin C's Books