Chapter 15: Wait

When I woke up I had two text messages. My stomach clenched nervously as I opened them. The first was from Jason, telling me he had gotten home okay. The second was from Leslie, reminding me that we were meeting at eight-thirty tonight at Queenie's at Utica Square. After everything that had happened I had completely forgotten about meeting with Leslie. I wanted to text her and ask if we could push it to tomorrow, but I already hadn't seen her in a long time and didn't think that would be right.

I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower. Aphrodite had already left so I took my time. Oddly enough, I was nervous about meeting up with Leslie today. I felt a little jolt when I realized that apart from Jason, Leslie would be the first human I was really interacting with since I had been marked—the detectives didn't count. I hadn't even talked to my mom since the first day I had arrived at the House of Night.

I shook my head at myself as I dried my hair. I would call my mom on the way to meet Leslie. When I was done getting ready I almost walked right out of the dorm but then remembered that I had to cover up my mark. I went back into the bathroom and smeared concealer on my forehead.

When I was happy with it, I pulled on a jacket and left the dorm. I wasn't sure if I was still supposed to go and tell Professor Nolan when I was leaving, but I went to her office anyway. I didn't know if she'd be there since it was the weekend but I figured it was worth a shot. I was just about to knock when I heard voices inside and I hesitated.

"Patricia, she's dangerous and you know it." I recognized Dragon's voice.

"I know she is, but she needs to be stopped," Prof. Nolan said fiercely. "We don't know how much stronger she can get or what she's planning on doing. If we report her to the council—"

"The council won't believe us." That was Lenobia. "What proof do we have against her?"

"Then we must stop her ourselves," Prof. Nolan said. "The girls know something isn't right. Zoey Redbird, Aphrodite LaFont, and our newest student, Jessica Armstrong—I'm positive that Neferet cannot read any of their minds."

"How do we know she isn't listening in on us right now?" Dragon asked.

"She isn't on campus today," Lenobia said. "I saw her leave an hour ago."

"How do we even know what we're dealing with here?" Dragon asked. "Wouldn't it be best to just see how it plays out? Who knows, whatever it is could benefit us in the end."

"No, whatever Jessica and Aphrodite saw down in the tunnels when they saved Jessica's boyfriend was dangerous. I shouldn't have sent them there on their own. I should've gone with them," Prof. Nolan said.

"And risk Neferet catching you?" Lenobia asked. "Anyone in your shoes would've done the same thing. The human boy was saved and Neferet doesn't know that it happened."

"But we can't be sending our fledglings to do our dirty work," Dragon said quietly. "Jessica and Aphrodite could've gotten hurt down there. Patricia, in this situation your hands were tied, you couldn't have done any more, but we have to be more careful. We need to be stricter with them, especially those three. We know they're powerful and we know that they're important to Nyx. Neferet may try to harm them."

"Do you believe that Nyx has turned her back on Aphrodite?" Lenobia asked so quietly I almost didn't hear her.

"No," Prof. Nolan and Dragon said at the same time. Prof. Nolan continued, saying, "I saw her the other day, her eyes were bloodshot and she looked terrified. I'm sure she had just had a vision but before I could approach her another fledgling started talking to me. By the time I was done with him Aphrodite was gone."

"I can sense power within Jessica," Lenobia said. "Patricia, do you have any idea…?"

"Neferet thinks she has a connection to the dead," Prof. Nolan said. "She approached me and asked me about it. I didn't tell her anything, but I can sense it too. I don't think she's been able to use her powers yet nor do I think she knows how to use them."

"We'll keep an eye on her," Dragon said.

"We need to get more professors on our side," Lenobia said.

"Anastasia is," Dragon said. "She just couldn't come here today."

"What about Loren?" Prof. Nolan asked.

My stomach lurched. I wanted to burst into her office and scream that including him would not be a good idea, but I kept my feet planted and bit my lip from yelling at them. I prayed to Nyx that Lenobia or Dragon would say something against him.

"No," Lenobia said. "They're lovers. He won't be on our side."

Thank Nyx for Lenobia. I wanted to stay and listen to more but I really had to go meet Leslie. I fished through my purse and found a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote out a note explaining to Professor Nolan that I was leaving campus today and that her door had been closed when I had come to tell her and I hadn't wanted to interrupt. I felt like that was the easiest explanation to give. I stuck the note to her door and hurried off to the parking lot, hoping the professors in her office hadn't had any idea that I had been there.

As I drove to Utica Square, I called Aphrodite and told her what I had heard.

"So the teachers know," Aphrodite said. "Or at least some of them do. This is good."

"But it could be dangerous for them," I said. "We don't know what we're dealing with here with Neferet. What if they get hurt?"

"There's a chance that all of us will," she said quietly. "This is just going to get worse and worse. Something big is coming. I can feel it, Jess."

"Have you had any more visions?" I asked.

"One, but it was unrelated to Neferet," she said. "It wasn't anything major, don't worry. I would've told you if it was. Anyway, I'm glad that they know we know something's up and I'm glad they don't think Nyx has really turned on me. At least some of the teachers know that she's full of shit."

"Yeah, I'm glad we aren't the only ones who know," I said, but my mind was on something else. I chewed my lip, thinking about what Prof. Nolan had said about me; about how she thought I had a connection to the dead. I didn't know how I felt about that. I had heard Neferet and Loren talking about it but now hearing Prof. Nolan say it made it sound more official almost.

"Hello? Jess? Did you hang up on me?" Aphrodite asked, snapping me out of my reverie.

"Shit, sorry, I got distracted. What were you saying?"

"I was asking when you'll be back."

"I'm not sure, I shouldn't be too late since Leslie isn't, you know, nocturnal like us," I said. "I'll probably be back before eleven."

"Alright, see you then," she said just as I pulled into the parking lot of Utica Square.

"Yeah, see you later," I said. I pulled into a parking spot and walked over to Queenie's. I looked around the small bakery and didn't see Leslie anywhere, so I ordered brownies and cookies for both of us and two glasses of lemonade in to-go cups. I found a table that'd be in plain sight to her when she walked in and waited. Nervousness ate away at me as I sat alone at the table. What if she didn't show up? What if she decided that she didn't want to see me?

What if she was too afraid to see me?

That last unbidden question entered my mind and I stiffened. I didn't know what I'd do if she didn't show. I'd feel like a complete dumbass sitting here alone with enough food for two people. If she didn't show I'd just call Aphrodite and ask her to come sit with me.

Or maybe I'd call Jason.

The thought formed in my head before I could banish it. I took a deep breath. What was I going to do about him? I had told him that we could try to make it work, but now my head had cleared and I knew that wasn't a good idea. It was the same issue as before. It wasn't allowed. I had already disappointed Professor Nolan once, if she found out about what happened with Loren she'd be extremely pissed off.

But then a thought struck me. Would it be better to tell Professor Nolan about what happened with Loren? From what I had heard earlier, the teachers already had a feeling they couldn't trust him, if I told her about what had happened between him and I then they'd know for sure not to talk to him about Neferet. But then I also realized that telling her what happened would mean that I would have to explain everything to her. Would my rule-breaking be overlooked? I knew that the vamps were serious about the rules, but this was different.

I rubbed at my temples. As soon as Leslie and I were done—if she even showed up—I needed to call Aphrodite.

I was about to text Leslie asking her where she was when I heard the door to Queenie's open. My head snapped up and I tried not to let myself get too disappointed when I saw that it wasn't her. I looked up again as I realized that two guys from my high school had walked in.

I remembered that they were brothers and their names were Dustin and Drew. I also remembered that they were complete assholes. They had been in Leslie and my math class and Leslie had had a major crush on Drew but I had warned her against dating him. Jason had told me that they weren't good news. I hoped that they didn't recognize me. I grabbed my phone and kept my head low, hiding my face.

My stomach twisted in nerves when I heard one of them whisper, "Yeah, that's her."

Right away I sent a text to Jason saying, SOS. Come to Queenie's at Utica Square ASAP please. I still didn't look up as I heard them approach my table. I hoped that they would just walk right past me and leave me alone.

"I didn't know they let you freaks out into the real world," one of them said.

"Well your parents let you out, there really isn't much difference. I'm less of a freak than you are," I quipped. As soon as I said it I regretted it. I glanced up to see one of their faces—Dustin—turning beet red. He sucked air into his lungs as if to say more, but Drew cut him off.

"Leslie told me you were going to be here today," he said, mouth lifting into a smug smile. I felt my heart rate increase. Leslie had sent them here? "She also told me about when you warned her against dating me 'cause I'm such an asshole."

"Well, obviously I was right about that," I said, feeling anger burn through me. I felt betrayed by her. She was supposed to be my best friendand she had sent these two jerks here to harass me.

"What did you just say?" Dustin practically growled.

"Are you hard of hearing or something?" I asked. My brain was screaming at me to stop talking! But I couldn't shut up. "Jesus, can you guys just leave me alone? I got your message from Leslie loud and clear. You can leave now." Jason, please get here soon. I thought desperately. I felt like I was safe in the bakery. There weren't any people around, but the woman working behind the counter was watching us warily.

"Nah, we aren't finished yet," Drew said. Dustin grabbed my arm and tried to pull me up from the chair. That was when I snapped. I stood up and wrenched my arm out of his grasp and pushed him away from me. I must have pushed him harder than I had meant to because he fell on his ass to the floor.

"Don't you dare touch me again," I growled. I looked up at Drew and raised an eyebrow. "What were you saying about not being finished?"

Drew stood at his full height and towered over me, glaring down at me. Dustin said, "Dude, let's just leave." But Drew wasn't listening. He didn't say anything and then he raised his hand as if he was going to hit me, but was interrupted.

"Don't you dare touch her."

Drew's head whipped around and I looked over his shoulder to see Jason had just walked in. Relief poured into me and I almost collapsed back into the chair.

I glanced over at the woman working behind the counter and noticed that her hand was hovering over the phone and she was looking at me with wide eyes. I shook my head at her, telling her she didn't need to call anyone and I saw her shoulders slump in relief. She cleared her throat and said, "I think you two boys need to leave—and don't come back."

Drew pulled Dustin up off the floor and glared at me once more before stalking out of the bakery. I thanked the cashier and then fell into Jason's waiting arms, trying not to burst into tears. I kept repeating, "Thank you so much for coming."

He set me back down in my chair and pulled the other chair at the table up next to me. "Tell me what happened."

I took a deep breath and said the words that I had been dreading.

"I think Leslie sent them here."