I sat straight up in bed, screaming like someone had just tossed me into a pit of spiders. My ears were ringing and my body was shaking so hard that I thought I would be sick, but somewhere through my panic I realized mine wasn’t the only voice screaming. I peered around in the darkness, made myself shut up, sucked air, and tried to get my bearings. Where the hell was I? At the bottom of the sea? Smashed dead on the rocks of the island?
No… no… I was at the Benedictine Abbey… in the dorm room they’d assigned me with Aphrodite… who was currently in the bed across from me screaming like a crazy woman.
“Aphrodite!” I yelled over her shrieks. “Stop! It’s me. Everything’s okay.”
Her scream broke off, but she was breathing in short little panicky gasps. “Light! Light!” she said, sounding like she’d taken up residence in the Land of Panic Attacks. “I need light! I need to see!”
“Okay—okay! Hang on.” Remembering the pillar candle on the end table between our beds, I fumbled awkwardly around until I felt a lighter. I had to steady my right hand by grasping my wrist with my left so that I could get the candle lit, and still it took five tries before the wick caught and the warmth of candlelight illuminated Aphrodite’s ghostly white face and completely blood-filled eyes.
“Ohmygod! Your eyes!”
“I know! I know! Shit! Shit! Shit! I still can’t see,” she sobbed.
“Don’t worry—don’t worry—this happened last time. I’ll get you a wet cloth and a drink of water, just like I did before and—” my words shut off as I realized the exact meaning of Aphrodite’s scarlet eyes, and I froze halfway between the bed and the sink. “You had another vision, didn’t you?”
She didn’t say anything. She just put her face in her hands and nodded while she sobbed.
“It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay,” I kept repeating over and over as I hurried to the sink, grabbed a hand towel, soaked it in cold water, and filled up one of two nearby glasses. Then I rushed back to Aphrodite. She was still sitting on the edge of the bed with her face in her hands. Her sobs had gone from hysterical snot-crying to pitiful little gasps. I reached around behind her and plumped her pillows. “Here, drink this. Then I want you to lie back so I can put this wet towel across your eyes.”
She took her hands from her face and reached blindly for the glass. I guided her to it and then watched as she guzzled down the whole thing. “I’ll get you more in a second. Lie back first and put this over your eyes.”
Aphrodite leaned back against the propped-up pillow. She blinked blindly up at me. She looked scarily horrible. Her eyes were completely bloody and looked bizarre and ghostly framed by her too-white face.
“I can see the outline of you, just a little,” she said faintly. “But you’re all red, like you’re bleeding.” Aphrodite finished on a hiccupy sob.
“I’m not bleeding; I’m fine. This happened before, remember? And you were okay after you closed your eyes and rested for a while.”
“I remember. I just don’t remember it being this bad.”
She closed her eyes. I folded the towel and placed it gently across them. Then I lied, “It was this bad last time, too.”
Her hands fluttered by the towel for a second before they dropped to her sides. I went back to the sink and filled up the glass again. Watching her reflection in the mirror I said, “Was the vision terrible?”
I saw her lips quiver. She drew a long, shaky breath. “Yes.”
I came back to the bed. “Do you want more water?”
She nodded. “I feel like I’ve just run a marathon through a blazing desert—not that I ever would. All that sweating is so unattractive.”
Glad she was sounding more like herself, I smiled and guided her hand to the glass of water again. Then I sat on my bed facing her and waited.
“I can feel you looking at me,” she said.
“Sorry. I thought I was being patient by not saying anything.” I paused. “Do you want me to go get Darius? Or maybe Damien? Or both of them?”
“No!” Aphrodite said quickly. I saw her swallow a couple of times, and then, in a calmer voice, she continued. “Don’t go anywhere for a little while, okay? I don’t want to be alone right now—not when I can’t see.”
“Okay. I won’t go anywhere. You want to tell me about the vision?”
“Not particularly, but I suppose I have to. I saw seven vampyres. They looked important—powerful, all obviously High Priestesses. They were in a seriously gorgeous place. Definitely old money and none of that nouveau riche crap that tends to decorate with questionable taste.” I rolled my eyes at her, which she, sadly, couldn’t see. “At first I didn’t even know it was a vision. I thought it was a dream. I was watching these vamps sitting in chairs that looked like thrones and waiting for something freakily dreamish to happen, like they all turn into Justin Timberlake, jump up, and start stripping for me and singing about bringing sexy back.”
“Huh,” I said. “Interesting dream. He is totally dorkishly hot, even though he’s getting old.”
“Oh, give it a rest. You already have way too many boys to even dream about another one. Leave Justin to me. So, anyway, they didn’t turn into Justin, nor did they strip. I was just wondering what was going on when it became mega-obvious I was having a vision because Neferet walked in.”
“Yeah. Kalona was with her. She did all the talking, but the vamps weren’t watching her. They couldn’t stop gawking at Kalona.”
I didn’t say so, but I knew how they felt.
“Neferet was saying something about accepting the changes she and Erebus brought, moving everything, bringing old ways back… blah… blah…”
“Erebus!” I interrupted her blah-blahing. “She’s still claiming Kalona is Erebus?”
“Yeah, and she was also calling herself Nyx Incarnate, which she shortened to just Nyx, but I didn’t catch everything she was saying because it was about then that I started to burn up.”
“Burn up? Like you caught on fire?”
“Well, it wasn’t
“Do you mean they just caught on fire?”
“Yeah, but it was real strange. One second I could tell that they were thinking negative things about Neferet, and the next they were on fire, but when they burned they were in the middle of a field. And it wasn’t just them burning.” Aphrodite paused and drained the rest of the glass of water. “Lots of other people burned with them—humans, vamps, and fledglings. All of them were burning in this same field, which seemed to expand to include the whole damn world.”
“Yeah, it was seriously bad. I’ve never had a vision about vamps dying. Well, except those two I had about you, and you’re just a fledgling so I don’t count them.”
I wasted energy frowning at her, which she couldn’t see. “Did you recognize anyone except the burning vamps? Were Neferet and Kalona there, too?”
Aphrodite didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she reached up and took the damp towel from her eyes. She blinked. I could tell the red was already starting to fade. She squinted at me. “That’s better. I can mostly see you now. So, here’s the end of the vision: Kalona was there. Neferet wasn’t there. Instead, you were there. With him. And I do mean you were
I rubbed a shaky hand across my face, like I could wipe away the memory of me as A-ya in Kalona’s arms. “I’m never going to be with Kalona.”
“Okay, what I’m getting ready to say is not because I’m being a bitch—at least not this time.”
“Go ahead, just say it.”
“You’re A-ya reincarnated.”
“We’ve already established that,” I said, my voice sounding sharper than I intended.
Aphrodite put up her hand. “Hang on. I’m not accusing you of anything. It’s just that this ancient Cherokee girl whose soul you’re kinda sharing was created to love Kalona. Right?”
“Yes, but you need to understand that I. Am. Not. Her.” I enunciated each word slowly and distinctly.
“Look, Zoey, I know that. But I also know you’re a lot more attracted to Kalona than you want to admit to anyone, and that probably includes yourself. You’ve already had one memory of being A-ya that was so strong it made you pass out. What if you’re not completely able to control what you feel for him because the attraction’s been hardwired into your soul?”
“You think I haven’t already thought about that? Hell, Aphrodite, I’ll stay away from Kalona!” I yelled my frustration. “
“It’s not that simple. The vision where you’re with him wasn’t the only one I had. Actually, now that I think about it, it was a little like those stupid visions I had of your death where first I saw you get your throat slit and your head basically cut off, then in the same damn vision I got to drown with you. Talk about stress.”
“Yes, I remember. It was
“Yeah, but so far
“Would you please finish telling me about your visions?”
She gave me a long-suffering look, but continued. “So, the vision split, like what happened with the two different deaths I saw for you. One minute you’re sucking face and doing nasty stuff with Kalona. Oh, and I felt agony, too.”
“Well, yeah, that makes sense. You were burning,” I said, frustrated that she couldn’t just tell the darn vision.
“No, I mean I felt
“Duress? That sounds really bad.” My stomach was hurting again.
“Yep. Seriously uncomfortable. One minute people were burning, I felt lots of agony, blah, blah, and you were doing it with the evil angel. Then everything changed. It was obviously a different day—in a different place. People were still burning and I still felt the weird agony stuff, but instead of doing the dirty with Kalona you stepped out of his arms. Not very far, though. And you said something to him. Whatever you said changed everything.”
“You killed him and all the fire and such stopped.”
“I killed Kalona!”
“Yep. At least that’s what it looked like to me.”
“Well, what did I say to him that had the power to do that?”
She shrugged. “Don’t know. I couldn’t hear you. I was experiencing the vision from the burning peoples’ perspective and feeling stupid agony from wherever; I was just a tad bit busy being in unbearable pain to pay attention to every little syllable you uttered.”
“Are you sure he died? He’s not supposed to be able to die; he’s immortal.”
“It looked like it to me. Whatever you said made him disinte-grate.”
“Actually, it was more like he exploded. Kinda. It’s hard to describe because, well, I was
“Is that all that happened?”
“No. You cried.”
“Yeah, after you killed Kalona, you cried. Major snot and everything. Then the vision ended and I woke up with a horrendous headache and my eyes hurting like crazy. Oh, and you were screaming like you’d lost your damn mind.” She gave me a long, considering look. “Speaking of, why were you screaming?”
“I had a bad dream.”
“I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Too damn bad. You have to talk about it. Zoey, I saw the world burning while you and Kalona partied. That’s not a good thing.”
“What happened in your dream?” she asked insistently.
“He offered me the world. He said he’s going to change things back to the ancient ways and he wants me to rule by his side, or some such bullpoopie. I said not no, but hell no. He said he’d burn—”
Aphrodite shrugged. “I suppose. Fields pretty much all look the same to me.”
My chest felt tight and my stomach hurt. “He said he was going to separate the chaff from the wheat, and burn the chaff up.”
“What the hell is chaff?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with wheat. Okay, try to remember. The field they were burning in—did it have tall golden grassy stuff in it, or was it green, like hay or corn or something, well, not wheatlike?”
“It was yellow. And tall. And grassy. I suppose it could have been wheat.”
“So what Kalona threatened in my dream basically came true in your vision.”
“Except in your dream you didn’t give in and start a big make-out session with him. Or did you?”
“No, I did not! I hurled myself off the top of a cliff, which is why I was screaming my brains out.”
Her red-tinged eyes widened. “Seriously? You really jumped off a cliff?”
“Well, I jumped off the top of a castle, and the castle was on the top of a cliff.”
“That sounds really bad.”
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t as bad as staying there with him.” I shivered, remembering his touch and the terrible, soul-deep longing he made me feel. “I had to get away from him.”
“Yeah, well, you’re going to need to rethink that in the future.”
“Would you try to pay attention? I saw Kalona taking over the world. He was using fire to kill people, and by people I mean vamps
“No! I’m not going to him.”
Aphrodite gave me a look that was full of pity. “You have to fight against this reincarnation thing and destroy Kalona once and for all.