Awakened House of Night - By Kristin Cast

Chapter One

A disquieting sense of irritation awakened Neferet.

Before she had truly departed that amorphous place between dreams and reality, she reached out with her long, elegant fingers and felt for Kalona. The arm she touched was muscular. His skin was smooth and strong and pleasing beneath her fingertips. All it took was that small, feather-like caress. He stirred and turned eagerly to her.

"My Goddess?" His voice was husky with sleep and the beginnings of renewed desire. He annoyed her. They all annoyed her because they were not him.

"Leave me ... Kronos." She had to pause, and search her memory to remember his ridiculous, overly ambitious name.

"Goddess, have I done something to displease you?"

Neferet glanced up at him. The young Son of Erebus Warrior was reclining on the bed beside her, his handsome face open, his expression willing, his aquamarine eyes just as striking in the dimness of her candlelit bedroom as they had been earlier that day when she'd watched him training in the castle courtyard. He'd stirred her desires then, and with one inviting look from her, he'd willingly come to her and futilely, though enthusiastically, attempted to prove that he was god in more than namesake alone.

The problem was that Neferet had been bedded by an immortal, thus she knew all too intimately just how much of an imposter this Kronos truly was.

"Breathe," Neferet said, meeting his blue eyes with a bored glance.

"Breathe, Goddess?" His brow, decorated by a tattoo pattern that was supposed to represent ball and mace weaponry, but to Neferet appeared more like frilly Fourth of July fireworks, furrowed in confusion. "You asked what you'd done to displease me and I told you: you're breathing. And in much too close a proximity to me. That displeases me. It's time you depart my bed." Neferet sighed and flicked her fingers at him in dismissal. "Go. Now."

She almost laughed aloud at his undisguised look of hurt and shock. Had the youth really believed he could replace her pine Consort? The impertinence of the thought fueled her anger.

In the corners of Neferet's bedchamber, shadows within shadows quivered in anticipation. Though she didn't acknowledge them, she felt their stirrings. It pleased her.

"Kronos, you were distracting, and for a brief time you gave me a measure of pleasure." Neferet touched him again, this time not so gently, and her fingernails left twin raised welts down his thick forearm. The young warrior didn't flinch or pull away. Instead he trembled beneath her touch and his breathing deepened. Neferet smiled. She'd known this one needed pain to feel desire the instant his eyes had met hers.

"I would give you more pleasure, if you allowed it," he said.

Neferet smiled. Her tongue flicked out slowly, licking her lips as she watched him watch her. "Perhaps in the future. Perhaps. For now what I require of you is to leave me and, of course, to continue to worship me."

"Would that I could show you how much I long to worship you again." The last word was spoken as a verbal caress, and--mistakenly--Kronos reached for her.

As if it was his right to touch her.

As if her wishes were subservient to his needs and desires.

One small echo from Neferet's distant past--a time she thought she'd buried with her humanity--seeped from the entombed memories. She felt her father's touch and even smelled the reek of his rancid, alcohol-soaked breath as her childhood invaded the present. Neferet's response was instantaneous. As easily as breathing, she lifted her hand from the warrior's arm and held it, palm outward, at the closest of the shadows lurking at the edges of her chamber.

Darkness responded to her touch even more quickly than had Kronos. She felt its deadly chill and reveled in the sensation, especially as it banished the rising memories. With a nonchalant motion, she scattered the Darkness at Kronos, saying, "If it is pain you so desire, then taste my cold fire."

The Darkness Neferet hurled at Kronos penetrated his young, smooth skin eagerly, slicing ribbons of scarlet through the forearm she had so recently caressed.

He moaned, though this time more in fear than passion.

"Now do as I command. Leave me. And remember, young warrior, a goddess chooses when and where and how she is touched. Do not overstep yourself again."

Gripping his bleeding arm, Kronos bowed low to Neferet. "Yes, my Goddess."

"Which goddess? Be specific, Warrior! I have no desire to be called by ambiguous titles."

His response was instantaneous. "Nyx Incarnate. That is your title, my Goddess."

Her narrowed look softened.