Redeemed (House of Night #12)(11)

It was, indeed, going to be good to be Goddess of Darkness—Goddess of Tulsa—Goddess of Chaos.

The elevator chimed. “Children, come to me!” The threads of Darkness rushed to her, surrounding her, lapping against her na**d feet with their comforting coldness. “Oh, and supplicants, you may return to my presence,” she called over her shoulder to where she’d sent her servants to wait until she wished to command them again. They shuffled past her just as the elevator doors opened and Kylee led the rest of the staff into the penthouse.

“Welcome!” Neferet raised her glass and lifted her arms. “You are blessed to be in my presence.”

Most of the group looked confused. Two women, dressed as waitresses, muttered questions to one another. Neferet’s sharp eyes took note of them. One of the men, the one wearing the silly white chef’s hat, spoke up. “Can you tell us what’s going on here? We had to close the restaurant and make our patrons leave—even though they weren’t finished with brunch. I can tell you, there are some pissed off ex-customers out there right now.”

“What is your name?” Neferet asked him, keeping her voice pleasant.

“Tony Witherby, but most people call me Chef.”

“Well, Tony, I am not most people. You see, most people call me Goddess.”

He barked a patronizing laugh. “You’re kidding, right? I mean, I can see your tattoos and I know you’re a vampyre and all, but vampyres aren’t goddesses.”

Neferet was pleased to see that Kylee had stepped away from the chef as if she didn’t want to be contaminated by his disobedience. Kylee really was becoming an excellent supplicant.

Neferet didn’t waste even a glance at the chef. Instead she smiled down at her writhing children. “So eager,” she half chided, half encouraged. “So smart.” She bent to stroke a particularly precocious tendril that had wrapped itself around her leg and crawled almost to her thigh. “You will do nicely.”

“Okay, you’re gonna have to let us in on the joke or I’m gonna call the owner of the restaurant,” the chef said. When she continued to ignore him, he began to bluster, “This really is ridicu—”

“Take him!” Neferet commanded. “And let yourself be seen.”

The tendril became visible as it flew at the chef. It was so large that it easily coiled around his thick waist, moving quickly upward.

“What the f**k! Get it off me!” the chef shrieked, and lurched backward, beating impotently at the tendril with both of his thick hands.

Neferet thought he sounded like a young girl who had been frightened by a spider.

A tall, handsome black man dressed in a bellman’s uniform moved to go to the chef’s aid.

“Stay where you are or your fate will be the same as his!” Neferet snapped.

The man froze.

“Nooooo!” The chef’s shrieks echoed with hysteria, and Neferet was relieved that it was at that moment the tendril slithered up his neck and surged into his mouth, causing it to open so impossibly wide that the corners of his lips split open and began to bleed before the thick length of it disappeared within the human’s body. The chef slumped to the floor.

“I do think it is unfortunate when a grown man sounds like a frightened little girl, don’t you?”

The humans who were not possessed by her children stared at her with mixed expressions of horror and disbelief. The whispering waitresses had begun to sob. Another woman, one of the housekeepers who hadn’t answered Neferet’s earlier summons, was praying in Spanish and clutching the crucifix that dangled around her neck from a rather cheap-looking silver necklace. The entire group, except for misguided Tony, were backing, herd-like, toward the elevator doors.

“No,” Neferet said mildly. “You may not leave until I release you.”

“Are you going to kill us, too?” one of the women asked, holding her friend’s hands and trembling spasmodically.

“Kill you? Of course not. Tony isn’t dead.” Neferet addressed the chef, who was still slumped on the floor. “Tony, my dear, stand up and tell the others that you are perfectly fine.”

Woodenly, Tony stood. He jerked around until he was facing Neferet. Then, with no expression on his florid, blood-spattered face he said, “I am perfectly fine.”

“You forgot something,” Neferet said.

Tony’s body twitched spasmodically, as if he had been electrified from within, and he hastily repeated, “I am perfectly fine, Goddess.”

“There, you see? It is just as I said. What is your name, my dear?” she asked the trembling woman.

“Elinor,” she said.

“What a lovely old name. You don’t hear names like that anymore, and it is such a shame. Where have all the Elinors and Elizabeths, Gertrudes, Gladyses, and Phyllises gone? No, no need to answer me. They have been overrun by the Haileys and Kaylees, Madisons and Jordans. I loathe modern names. You know, Elinor, I must thank you. Your tasteful name has helped me come to a decision about you, my new supplicants. I am going to rename any of you who have overly perky names.” Neferet glanced at Kylee and smiled. “Except for you, Kylee. I like your gold name tag too much to change your name.”

“Goddess?” Elinor whispered the name as a question.

“Yes, my dear.”

“Are—are we working for you now?”

P.C. Cast, Kristin C's Books