CHAPTER 28

Zoey

“I don’t like it,” Stark said.

“You already said that,” Aphrodite said. “And none of us like it, but that doesn’t make the stupid poem go away.”

“Prophecy,” Damien corrected her. “Kramisha’s poems are prophetic in nature.”

“Which is not necessarily a bad thing,” Darius said. “If we have a prophecy that also means we have forewarning.”

“So these poems plus Aphrodite’s visions combine to create a powerful tool for us,” Lenobia said.

“If we can figure them out,” I said.

“We figured out the last one,” Lenobia reminded me. “We’ll decipher this one, too.”

“No matter what, I think all of us agree that Zoey has to follow Kalona,” Darius said.

“It’s what I was created for,” I said, which definitely got everyone’s attention. “I hate it. I don’t know what to do about it. Most of the time I feel like I’m a giant snowball rolling down a mountain in the middle of winter, but I can’t ignore the truth.” I remembered Nyx’s whispers and added, “There’s power in the truth, just like there’s power in making the right choice. The truth is that I’m connected to Kalona. I remember the connection, and remembering it makes Kalona hard for me to deal with, but something inside me defeated him once. I think I have to find that something and make the choice to defeat him all over again.”

“This time maybe for good?” Stevie Rae said.

“I seriously hope so,” I said.

“Well, this time you won’t be alone,” Stark said.

“That’s right,” said Damien.

“Absolutely,” Shaunee said.

“Yep,” Erin added.

“All for one and one for Zoey!” Stevie Rae said.

I looked at Aphrodite. She sighed dramatically. “Fine. Where the nerd of herd goes, I’ll go, too.”

Darius put his arm around her. “You won’t be alone, either, my beauty.”

It was only later that I realized Stevie Rae hadn’t said anything about joining us.

“All of this solidarity is good, but we can’t act because we don’t know where Kalona is,” said Lenobia.

“Well, in my dream I found him on an island. Actually, on top of a castle on an island,” I specified.

“Did anything look familiar about it?” Damien asked.

“No. It was really pretty, though. The water was incredibly blue, and there were orange trees everywhere.”

“That doesn’t exactly narrow it down,” Aphrodite said. “Oranges are all over—Florida, California, the Mediterranean. All those places have islands.”

“He’s not in America.” My response was automatic. “I don’t know how I know that, but I do.”

“Then we’ll take it as truth,” Lenobia said.

Her confidence in me made me feel good, but nervous, and kinda sick all at the same time.

“Okay, well,” Stevie Rae said. “Maybe you know more stuff about where he is, but you just need to not think about it for a while so you can think about it.”

“Bumpkin, you make no damn sense,” Aphrodite said. “Here, I’ll translate from countrified Okie to English.” Aphrodite turned to me. “Without thinking about it you knew he wasn’t in America. Maybe you’re trying too hard to figure this out. Maybe you just need to relax and it’ll come to you.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” Stevie Rae muttered.

“They’re Twin-like,” Shaunee said.

“Hilarious,” Erin agreed.

“Shut up!” Aphrodite and Stevie Rae said together, which made the Twins convulse into laughter.

“Hey, what’s so funny?” asked Jack as he came into the room. I noticed that he still had tear tracks on his cheeks and his eyes looked haunted.

He went to Damien and sat close beside him. “Nothing’s funny. The Twins are just being the Twins,” he told Jack.

“All right, enough of this. It’s nonproductive and absolutely not helping us figure out where Kalona might be,” Lenobia said.

“I know where Kalona is,” Jack said, matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean, you know where Kalona is?” Damien said while we all gawked at Jack.

“Well, him and Neferet, that is. Easy.” He held up his iPhone. “Internet’s back up, and my Vamp Twitter has been going crazy. It’s all over the Net about Shekinah dying all sudden and mysterious, and Neferet showing up in Venice at the High Council saying that she’s Nyx Incarnate and Kalona’s Erebus come to earth, so she should be the next Vampyre High Priestess.” We stared at him. I know my mouth was definitely flopped open. Jack frowned at us. “I’m not making it up. Promise. You can see it all right here.” He offered up his iPhone again, which Darius took. While he poked at the screen, Damien put his arms around Jack and kissed him smack on the mouth. “You are brilliant!” he told his boyfriend.

Jack smiled and everyone started talking at once.

Everyone except Stark and me.

In the middle of the chaos Heath came into the room. He hesitated for only a second, and then he walked around the bed and flopped down next to me on the side Stevie Rae wasn’t taking up. “So, what’s happening, Zo?”

“Jack found Kalona and Neferet,” Stevie Rae told him.

“That’s good,” Heath said. His gaze met mine and he added, “Hang on, maybe it’s not good.”

“Why wouldn’t it be good?” Stevie Rae asked.

“Ask Zoey,” Heath said.

“What’s wrong, Zoey?” Damien asked, shutting everyone up.

“It wasn’t Venice,” I said. “I’m sure about that. In my dream Kalona wasn’t in Venice. I mean, I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen pictures and, correct me if I’m wrong, but there are definitely no mountains in Venice, right?”

“None at all,” Lenobia said. “I’ve been there several times.”

“Maybe it’s not bad that you didn’t actually go where he is in your dream. Maybe that means that the dreams aren’t as real as you think they are,” Aphrodite said.

“Maybe.”

“It doesn’t feel right,” Stark said.

I suppressed a sigh of irritation because it was obvious he’d been psychically eavesdropping on me.

Aphrodite ignored Stark and kept talking. “Remember in my visions how I saw Neferet and Kalona in front of a group of seven powerful vampyres?”

I nodded.

“The Vampyre High Council!” Lenobia interjected. “I don’t know why I didn’t think of it right away.” She shook her head, clearly annoyed at herself. “And I agree with Aphrodite. Zoey, perhaps you’ve given these dreams too much importance. Kalona is manipulating you,” she said gently, as if she expected me to freak out.

“No, I’m telling you, Kalona wasn’t in Venice, he was—” I broke off as a memory surfaced and felt like smacking myself in the forehead. “Holy crap! Kalona wasn’t in Venice in my last dream, but I think I did dream he was in Venice in one of my dreams. He said he liked it there, that he felt the place’s power and…” I rubbed my forehead as if trying to massage my brain into working better. “I remember—he said he felt some kind of ancient power there and he understood why they chose it.”

“He must have been referring to us—to vampyres,” Lenobia said.

I thought about the dream and frowned in confusion. “But I don’t think where we were in the dream was actually in Venice. I mean, I saw that famous place with the gondolas and the big clock thing in the distance, but it was in the distance. We weren’t actually there.”

“Z, not to be mean or anything, but don’t you ever do any homework?” Stevie Rae said.

“Huh?” I said.

“San Clemente Island,” Lenobia said.

“Huh?” I repeated brilliantly.

Damien sighed. “Do you have your Fledgling Handbook 101 around here anywhere?”

I jerked my chin at my desk. “It’s over there. I think.”

He got up, dug around in the mess that was my desk, and then pulled out my Fledgling Handbook. He paged through it for, like, two seconds (Did he have the entire thing memorized?), and then handed me the open book. I blinked in shock as I recognized the beautiful, salmon-colored palace that had been a backdrop for one of my Kalona dreams.

“This is definitely where Kalona was in one of my other dreams. Actually, we were on this bench, right there.” I pointed to the picture.

Aphrodite suddenly detached herself from Darius and came to peer over my shoulder. “Damn it! I should have recognized this place. I swear making me human has moroned me.”

“Aphrodite, what is it?” Stark asked, stepping close to me.

“It’s the palace she saw in the second vision she had of my death,” I answered for her. I sighed. “I know this is going to sound stupid, but until now I forgot. I mean, I remember realizing in my dream that it could be the place you’d described where I’d drowned, but when I woke up… well…” I paused and met Stark’s eyes. “I woke up and I got distracted.” I saw the realization pass through his eyes as he understood he’d been the one to wake me up from the dream—the first time he’d slept with me—when he was just beginning to choose good over evil. “Plus,” I added hastily, “you saw me drowning because I was all alone. That was when everyone was mad at me. I’m not alone anymore, so that vision won’t come true.” I looked from Stark to Aphrodite when she didn’t say anything, and saw that she was staring at Stark.

“You weren’t completely alone in the second death vision I had of you,” Aphrodite said slowly. “I got a glimpse of Stark’s face right before you were killed. He was there.”

“What! That’s bullshit! I’d never let her get hurt,” Stark practically exploded.

“I didn’t say you were responsible. I just said you were there,” Aphrodite said coldly.

“What else did you see?” Heath asked, sitting straight up and looking as warriorlike as Stark ever had.

“Aphrodite had two visions of Zoey being killed,” Damien spoke up. “In one she was decapitated by a Raven Mocker.”

“That almost happened!” Heath blurted. “I was there. She still has the scar.”

“The point is my head wasn’t cut off. And now that my brain is working, we’ll be sure I don’t drown. And Aphrodite didn’t see much in either vision.”

“But you’re sure the second death vision happened on San Clemente Island at the site of the High Council?” Lenobia asked.

Aphrodite pointed at the book that was still open on my lap. “There. That’s the palace I saw when she was dying.”

“Okay, so, I’ll just be extra careful,” I said.

“We’ll all have to make sure you are,” Lenobia said.

I sat there trying not to show how claustrophobic I was already feeling. Did that mean no one was ever going to leave me alone?

Stark didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. His body language telegraphed frustration.

“Hang on. I just realized something.” Damien took the Fledgling Handbook from me and flipped the page. When he looked at me, his smile was victorious. “I know where Kalona’s island is, and you’re right. It’s not Venice.” He turned the book to face me and said, “Is this where you were in your dream?”

Damien had opened the book to a page that had a bunch of text (that I clearly hadn’t read), and an illustration of part of a pretty island, all hilly and blue-tinged by the color of the sea surrounding it. On the drawing I could see the outline of a castle that was all too familiar.

“That’s it,” I said solemnly. “That’s where I was in my last dream. Where the hell is it?”

“Italy, the island of Capri,” Lenobia answered for him. “It’s the ancient site of the first Vampyre High Council. It only moved to Venice after 79 A.D.”

I was glad to see several faces with question marks on them. Damien obviously didn’t have one of them. In his schoolteacher’s voice he said, “Vampyres were the patrons of Pompeii. Vesuvius erupted in August of 79 A.D.” Everyone was still blinking like big, dumb gold-fish at him, so he sighed and continued. “Capri is an island not far from Pompeii.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember reading somethin’ ’bout that in the history chapter,” Stevie Rae said.

I didn’t remember because I hadn’t ever read the chapter, and by the way Shaunee and Erin were fidgeting, they hadn’t either. Big surprise.

“Okay, that’s interesting, and, yeah, that’s the island. But why would he go there if the High Council hasn’t been there for a bazillion years?” I asked.

“He wants to bring back the ancient ways,” Stark said. “He’s said it over and over.”

“So is he at the palace in San Clemente or Capri?” I said, still confused.

“Twitter says he went in front of the High Council with Neferet just a couple of hours ago. So he’s there now,” Jack said.

“But I’ll bet his base is on Capri,” Stark said.

“So it looks like we’ll be making a trip to Italy,” Damien said.

“I hope you peasants have your passports in order,” Aphrodite said.

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