Authors: P.C. Cast,Kristin Cast
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We would like to dedicate this book to (Aunty) Sherry Rowland, friend and publicist. Thank you, Sher, for taking care of us. Even when we're high maintenance and annoying (and especially when you give us “treaties”). We heart you very much.
As usual, we want to thank Dick L. Cast, Dad/Grandpa, for knowing everything biological and helping us with stuff.
Thank you to our amazing agent, Meredith Bernstein, who came up with the fabulous idea that began this series.
We would like to thank our St. Martin's team, Jennifer Weis and Stefanie Lindskog, for helping us create such a wonderful series. In particular a big WE HEART YOU to the talented artists who designed such beautiful covers.
And we'd like to note a special acknowledgment to Street Cats, a cat rescue and adoption service in Tulsa. We support Street Cats (and actually adopted Nala from them!) and appreciate their dedication to and love for cats. Please visit their Web site at
for more information. If you're interested in giving to a pet rescue charity we promise that they are an excellent choice!Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â
P. C. & KRISTIN
I would like to send thanks out to my high school students who 1) beg to be put in these books and then killed off, 2) provide constant comedic fodder for me, 3) and will actually leave me alone sometimes so I can write.
NOW GO DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Oh, and expect a quiz.
“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 cafÃ© latteâcolored Jamaican American from Connecticut and Erin is a blond-haired, blue-eyed white girl from Oklahoma.
“Thankfully, she's Sarah Freebird's roommate.” Damien nodded 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 outfitsâfrom shoes to earringsâin 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. “
you are getting on my damnâ”
“âlast nerve with your unending vocab bullshit,” Erin finished 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 definitions as if she was giving clues for a spelling bee. “Propensityâan often intense natural preference. Abysmalâabsolutely 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 husbandâmy step-loser, John Hefferâon 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 shruggedâapparently as unbothered as Shaunee by her parents' absence.
“Hey, Damien, maybe your mama and daddy won't show either,” 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
“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 nightmare.”
“Zoey? I thought I'd bring my new roommate over to meet you. Diana, this is Zoey Redbirdâthe leader of the Dark Daughters.”
Glad to be diverted from having to talk about my own horrid parental issues, I looked up, smiling, at the sound of Sarah's tentative, 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 anything . . .” 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 fingernails.
“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 ignored. 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 traditional 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
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 gestured at me with her fork.
“You're special.” Erin finished for her (as usual).
A third former is what the House of Night called freshmenâso 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 decidedâwith what I hoped was a stroke of brillianceâto put some of the pressure back on them.
“No, I don't know what the new requirements should be. Actually, 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 realized what she was saying and my stomach started to clench.
“Students and professors, please make your way to the reception hall. It is now time for this month's parent visits.”
“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 ordinary 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 simpleâthe school is modeled after the European Houses of Night. Apparently, in Europe wine with meals is like tea or Coke with meals hereâso no big deal. The other part is a genetic factâvampyres don't get drunkâfledglings can barely get buzzed (at least on alcoholâblood, 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.