Redeemed (House of Night #12)(6)

“Always love,” I finished for her, taking her stone in my hand and feeling its smoothness.

“Hold as tightly to your true self as you do this stone, and remember that I will always believe you are stronger, wiser, and kinder than you know you are.”

I put my arms around her and hugged her tightly. “I love you, Grandma. I always will.”

“As I will always love you.”

“Time’s up!” The guard’s voice made me reluctantly let go of Grandma. “Hey, what’s going on in here? What’s that you’re burning?”

Grandma turned to him, smiled, and in her sweetest voice said, “Nothing you need worry about, dear. Just a little cleansing and clearing. Do you like chocolate chip cookies? I have a secret ingredient that makes mine irresistible, and I just happen to have a dozen tucked into my basket.” Patting him on the arm she herded him from the doorway, lifting a paper plate full of cookies from her magical basket and winking at me over her shoulder. “Now, dear, why don’t we get you some coffee to go with these while you send that nice young vampyre named Stark in to visit with my granddaughter?”


I sat on my bed, nervously straightening my clothes and trying to comb my fingers through my super-crazy hair. And then he was in the doorway, and I forgot about the way I looked. I forgot about everything except how glad I was to see him.

“Can I come in?” he asked hesitantly.

I nodded.

It didn’t take any time at all for him to walk those six steps to me. I couldn’t wait another second, though. As soon as he got within grabbing range, I threw my arms around him and buried my face in his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry! Don’t hate me—please don’t hate me!”

“How could I hate you?” He held me so tightly that it was hard for me to breathe, but I didn’t care. “You’re my Queen, my High Priestess, and my love—my only love.” He let go of me enough to look into my eyes. “You can’t commit suicide. I can’t survive it, Zoey. I swear I can’t.”

He had dark circles under his eyes and his red vampyre tattoos looked especially brilliant against the unnatural paleness of his skin. He looked like he’d aged a decade in one day.

I hated how tired and sick he looked. I hated that I had caused it.

I met his gaze and spoke with all the kindness and compassion within me. “That was a mistake. I won’t do it again. I’m sorry I put you through that—I’m sorry I’m going to put you through all of this.” I gestured at the jail cell.

He touched my cheek gently, almost reverently. “Where you go, I go. We are Oath Bound for this lifetime and beyond, Zoey Redbird. And all of this is bearable if we have each other. Do we still have each other?”

“We do.” I kissed him, long and hard. I thought I was comforting him but realized that his touch—his taste—his love was really comforting me.

It was that moment that I truly understood how much I love Stark.

“See,” he said, covering my face in fast little kisses and brushing away the tears that were slipping down my cheeks. “Everything’s better now. It’s going to be all right.”

I didn’t want to tell him that I wasn’t sure anything was ever going to be all right again. That wouldn’t have been compassionate. Instead I led him to my hard, narrow bed. We sat, and I curled against him, resting in the crook of his arm.

“We’re going to take turns staying here so that you don’t start rejecting the Change again. From today on there will always be a vampyre just outside your door,” Stark began explaining softly while he held me close to him. “They’re putting a cot in the hallway.”

“Really? You get to stay that close to me?”

“Yeah, Detective Marx made them let me. He’s a really good guy. He told the chief of police that not letting a vampyre stay with you would be like giving a human prisoner a razor blade and then turning a blind eye to whatever he did afterward. He said it was inhumane, and that by turning yourself in you had the same rights as any of them.”

“That was nice of him.” I suddenly realized what time it had to be—midday at the latest. “Wait, you shouldn’t be here. It’s daylight outside.” I sat up and began looking over his body, checking him for burns.

He smiled. “I’m fine. So’s Stevie Rae. We drove here in the back of the school’s van—you know, the one with no windows.”

I nodded and smiled. “The Chester the Molester van.”

“Yep, that’s how I roll now.” His smile turned cocky. “Marx let us pull into the covered parking attached to the sheriff’s building. No sunlight got to any of us.”

“Well, be careful, okay?”

He raised his brows at me. “Really? You’re telling me to be careful?”

“Asking, actually,” I said, remembering kindness.

He laughed and hugged me. “Zoey Redbird, you’re a hot mess, but I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Too soon he let go of me and his expression sobered. “Okay, I want you to tell me everything. I already know you got pissed at the two humans and threw some kind of power at them, but I need specifics.”

“Stark, can’t we just—” I began, not wanting to waste a second of being with him to talk about the terrible mistake I’d made.

P.C. Cast, Kristin C's Books