Hidden (House of Night #10)(2)


by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast

He might not be Martin, she told herself firmly, logically. Travis Foster, the new human hired by Neferet to assist her in the stables, was simply a handsome distraction-him and his big, beautiful Percheron mare. "Which is probably exactly what Neferet intended when she hired him," Lenobia muttered. "To distract me. And his Percheron is just an odd coincidence." Lenobia closed her eyes and blocked the memories that lifted from her past, and then repeated aloud, "Travis might not be Martin reincarnated. I know my reaction to him is unusually strong, but it has been a long time since I have taken a lover." You have never taken a human lover-you vowed not to, her conscience reminded her. "So it's simply past time I took a vampyre lover, even if briefly. And that type of distraction will be good for me." Lenobia tried to busy her imagination with considering and then rejecting a list of handsome Son of Erebus Warriors, her mind's eye not seeing their strong, muscular bodies, but instead envisioning whisky brown eyes tinged with familiar olive green and a ready smile ...

"No!" She would not think of it. She would not think of him.

But what if Travis could really hold Martin's soul? Lenobia's errant mind whispered enticingly. He gave his word he would find me again. Perhaps he has. "And then what?" Lenobia stood and began to pace restlessly. "I know all too well the fragility of humans. They are too easily killed, and today the world is even more dangerous than it was in 1788. My love ended in heartbreak and flame once. Once was too much." Lenobia stopped and put her face in her hands as her heart knew the truth, and pumped it through her body and soul, becoming reality. "I am a coward. If Travis is not Martin I do not want to open myself to him-to take a chance on loving another human. And if he is Martin returned to me, I cannot bear the inevitable, that I will lose him again."

Lenobia sat heavily in the old rocking chair she'd placed beside her bedroom window. She liked to read there, and if she couldn't sleep her window faced east so she could watch the rising of the sun and look out at the grounds beside the stables. Though Lenobia appreciated the irony, she couldn't help but enjoy the morning light. Vampyre or not, at her core she would eternally be a girl who loved mornings and horses and a tall, cappuccino skinned human who had died long ago when he had been far too young.

Her shoulders slumped. She hadn't thought of Martin so often in decades. His renewed memory was a double-edged sword-on one side she loved recalling his smile, his scent, his touch. On the other his memory also evoked the void his absence had left. For more than two hundred years Lenobia had grieved for a lost possibility-a wasted life.

"Our future was burned away from us. Destroyed by flames of hatred and obsession and evil." Lenobia shook her head and wiped her eyes. She must regain control over her emotions. Evil was still burning a swath through Light and goodness. She drew in a deep, centering breath and turned her thoughts to a subject that never failed to calm her, no matter how chaotic the world around her had become-horses-Mujaji, in particular. Feeling calmer now, Lenobia reached out again with that extra special part of her spirit that Nyx had touched, and gifted with an affinity for horses, the day sixteen-year-old Lenobia had been Marked. She found her mare easily, and instantly felt guilty at the mirrored agitation she sensed in Mujaji.

"Shhh," Lenobia soothed again, repeating aloud the reassurance she was sending through her bond with the mare. "I am only being foolish and self-indulgent. It will pass, I give you my vow, sweet one." Lenobia focused a tide of warmth and love on her night-colored mare, and, as always, Mujaji regained her own calm.

Lenobia closed her eyes and released a long breath. She could envision her mare, black and beautiful as the night, finally settling down, cocking a back leg, and falling into a dreamless sleep.

The Horse Mistress concentrated on her mare, shutting out the turmoil that the young cowboy's arrival at her stables had caused within her. Tomorrow, she promised herself sleepily, tomorrow I will make it clear to Travis that we will never be more than employer and employee. The color of his eyes and the way he makes me feel, all of that will begin to ease when I distance myself from him. It must ... it must ...

Finally, Lenobia slept.

Neferet

Even though the feline was not bonded to her, Shadowfax came willingly at Neferet's call. Thankfully, classes were over for the night, so when the big Maine coon met her in the middle of the field house it was dimly lit and empty-no students were about; Dragon Lankford himself was also absent, but probably only temporarily. She had seen only a few red fledglings on her way there. Neferet smiled, satisfied at the thought of how she added the rogue reds to the House of Night. What lovely, chaotic possibilities they presented-especially after she ensured Zoey's circle would be broken and her best friend, Stevie Rae, would be devastated, grieving the loss of her lover.