An exclusive excerpt of Loved...
“I’m not sick.” With a trembling hand Aphrodite wiped at the sweat beading her brow, automatically flinching from the pain spearing through her temples. “I’ll be okay. Just get me back to the House of Night as soon as possible. Call a black car Uber. I can’t bear to think about riding in another Prius or Corolla. It’s just barbaric. And keep in mind that I don’t think it’s a problem to mix Xanax and wine.” Two months, she told herself. In two months it would have been a year since my last vision. Nyx, I don’t mean to complain, but sometimes – most of the time – visions suck ass and–
Aphrodite collapsed, covering her pain-seared eyes with her hands and pressing her palms into them, trying to keep them from exploding as the vision took her and pulled her under, submerging her in dark currents of semi-consciousness.
Then Aphrodite was no longer in her pain-wracked body. There was a terrible ripping sound, like a giant had torn a house-sized piece of cloth apart. She opened her eyes and was immediately overwhelmed with feelings of terror, despair, and loss.
And all around her blood bubbled from an enormous tear in the ground, and with the geyser of blood figures emerged – swimming up – hooking hands with long, claw-like fingers into the earth and pulling themselves out of what looked like a bloody pit in the ground.
The feet of the body she inhabited began to stumble back.
Focus! She ordered herself. You’re not part of what’s happening. You’re just an observer.
She blinked, trying to clear her eyes of the tears cascading down her face. She knew her shoulders shook with sobs, and she was making a strange keening sound.
But it’s not me! Snap out of it, girl! Get your shit together and figure out what’s going on!
This time when she blinked she also rubbed at her eyes, and she noticed the body she inhabited dropped something.
Aphrodite forced her gaze down. There was a yellow candle at her feet.
Yellow candle? Air. With a start she realized who she must be inhabiting. Damien!
She tried to maintain control over the vision, and over the terror that was drowning Damien, but because she was experiencing the events with him, his fear was debilitating. And that single fact was the biggest problem with Aphrodite’s visions. Because she didn’t just see them, but actually experiencedwhatever was happening in them – which usually included a horrible death – the emotions her host felt tended to screw up the fact-gathering she tried desperately to do.
Just let me look around and see where the hell we are, and what the hell is happening!
For a moment – just a sliver of a breath – Aphrodite controlled Damien’s body. She made it stand still and she looked around, trying to decipher where he was.
The place was familiar. Rocks – winter brown grass – more rocks, but everything was covered by the expanding torrent of blood, turning it alien and nightmarish.
“Get out of there! RUN!”
Z’s voice! Aphrodite tried to make Damien turn his head so she could look at Zoey, but his gaze was trapped by the things emerging from the scarlet geyser.
OMGoddess! They’re red vampyres! But they weren’t like any red vampyres or fledglings Aphrodite had ever seen. These creatures seemed barely human. They moved with a feral, hunched stride, growling and hissing softly at one another. As she watched through Damien’s eyes, the creatures turned their heads to face him. Like a hunter who had just caught sign of his prey, their red eyes seared into Damien and they began to stalk toward him.
“RUN!” Zoey’s voice again.
Yes, Damien, for shit’s sake, RUN! Aphrodite agreed. But then the truth hit her as one more figure emerged from the tear in the ground. This circle hasn’t been closed. If Damien runs, that disgusting blood fountain is going to keep vomiting those zombie vamps!
Just then Damien was, indeed, unfreezing and scrambling backwards, rushing blindly for the stone stairway behind him. Aphrodite blinked frantically along with Damien, trying to clear his vision. And it worked. Damien’s vision cleared – just in time to see a terrible familiarity in that last emerging figure. The creature stood and his head swiveled, beast-like, to focus on Damien.
“Jack!” Aphrodite thought the name the exact moment the body she was in shouted it.
Then Damien ignored Zoey’s screaming to run, and Aphrodite’s mental screaming to stay and close the damn circle. He ignored his own terror. He knew only one thing, and Aphrodite knew it with him – Jack was standing before him.