Chapter Four

Hey, guys! Sorry about being so late- I haven't had a chance to get connected to the Internet in the last few days. When my connection came back, I instantly went to my computer and decided to give you guys another whopping, satisfying, story-beginning chapter. This one will surprise you.

Also... guys. Something big is happening- soon, in exactly seven days. I'm talking bigger than the apocalypse. Can you guess what it is?

The release of HIDDEN, House of Night book 10! *jumps for joy* I just can't wait! I have a poll for you. Will you:

A) Buy the book.

B) Get an e-version.

Thanks for your continued support. Here's chapter five of REVEALED!

Aphrodite

As the great pink clouds hailed in the sky, carefully marking the beginning of another day, Aphrodite awakened and wondered where in the hell she was.

The last thing she remembered was packing her stuff, and thinking about Aurox. Not in that way, of course. He was Zoey's boy toy, and she could never have something that was used- she wanted fresh and new. Plus, she was fine with her Darius. She was already in love. No, Aurox was more like her brother, and she was perfectly fine with that. He'd been helping her pack. They'd been talking and laughing, and she'd gotten in the car...

And she'd awakened here. Aphrodite looked around her and realized she was on yet another plane. Great- just great. She was tired of being on planes all her life. It seemed like since she'd left for San Clemente Island the first time, she couldn't just stay in one part of the world for more than a week.

Aphrodite looked at the seat beside her. Aurox was sitting there. His electric blue eyes were open, as he stared straight ahead. She had to admit, he was handsome. His wavy blond hair was messy, and it made him look much older. She could see his muscles through his shirt, and it reminded her of Darius...

"Aurox," she groaned, stretching. "Where's Darius?"

"Back there." Aurox gestured to the seat behind them, where Darius was snoring peacefully. It was the daytime, and she knew he'd probably just fallen asleep- he'd be out for a while.

"Where are we? I mean I know we're on a plane, but where are we going?"

"Iran, remember?" He smiled at her. "We can't have our Prophetess forgetting stuff."

"Oh, she won't," she responded immediately, smiling back. "Trust me."

"I trust you," he admitted. "I've never trusted anyone as much as I trust you and Zoey."

"Zoey..." As Aphrodite repeated the name, a pang of pain shot through her. She missed her friend dearly, and hoped this trip to Iran would be worth the while- she only had four days to find out how to save Zoey and bring her back. And then they had to stop Neferet from destroying the world. Which she wasn't entirely convinced wouldn't happen.

The vision she'd had a couple days ago shot through her- the world burning as Neferet laughed maniacally. Suddenly, the Darkness of the vision fell away and parted- she could now see through to Light and kindness. She could see what would have been happening if Neferet had never been tainted by Darkness. She could see a beautiful future, guided by an immense level of Light. A future without Zoey Redbird.

"Everything happens for a reason." The saying had never made sense to her, but now it did. If Neferet had never come into power, or had never been tainted by Darkness, Nyx would have seen no reason to Mark Zoey Redbird.

"I've always liked that saying." He smiled gently down at her. "It's mysterious but true. I like stuff like that."

"I know you do. Heath did too." As she stared into his eyes, she was captivated by the sight of what had been- and what could still be. A passionate connection between Zoey and Heath, continued through the body of Aurox. The two were destined to be together- forever and ever. But Heath was only a part of Zoey's destiny- Aurox was only a part of Zoey's destiny. She couldn't just forget about Stark. Her destiny only went on depending on who she chose.

"It's so weird that Z only has two guys to choose from now." Unexpectedly, Aphrodite giggled. "I'm so used to seeing her with three or four. Not to be rude, but she kinda has some sluttish tendencies."

"A High Priestess can have whatever she wants," he said, staring straight ahead. "Let's just hope she wants me." His face was an emotionless mask, derived of love and filled with hope. She knew he wanted nothing more than Zoey- he'd given up Darkness for her, and would continue to do so as long as she chose him.

But who said she would choose him?

As Aphrodite thought about the possibilities, the Darkness watched her, calculating its every move. It would attack when the time was right.

Shaunee

With an open heart and an open mind, Shaunee stared up at the sky, waiting for her Raven Mocker to come- it was time for his daily lesson.

She'd agreed to teach Nisroc every day, at about 8 o'clock, and it was 8 right now. She knew he wasn't going to come on time, but she wondered if he'd show up at all. She hoped so. Something about the Raven Mocker struck her as different- intriguing. It was more interesting to be with him than her friends, and that was saying a lot. She liked him as much as she liked Rephaim.

"Nisroc," she called, staring up at the sky. "You're late."

Just at that moment, he fell from the sky, landing only a few feet away from her. He looked different, as if he'd gotten his feathers cut a little bit. His image was less ragged, and more smooth- more like the Raven Mockers she was used to seeing. His dark red eyes stared back at her like she was a bat out of hell, even though he wasn't far from that either.

"Hello," he said after a long moment of silence.

"Hey," she responded, smiling at him.

"Hey?" he questioned. "You taught me hello."

Her eyebrows raised in surprised. "You actually said that properly. Have you found another teacher?"

He shook his head, one quick jerk. "No. I wait for you."

Somehow, she felt like this was a compliment, but she didn't want to say anything because she knew he wouldn't get it, so she just kept her mouth shut.

"Okay, well, we can learn some more today. Sit here." Shaunee sat cross-legged before Nisroc, who quickly complied, even though he looked so awkward doing it that she laughed, a quick bubble of laughter that faded as soon as his eyes jerked with hers.

"Okay. We'll start on some more complex stuff today. Repeat after me: I want to talk."

"I want to talk," he responded with ease.

"I can talk if I want to."

"I can talk if I want to," he said. He didn't seem to be having as much difficulty as last time.

"Shaunee Cole is my teacher."

"Shaunee Cole is my teacher."

"Kalona is my father."

"Kalona is my father."

"Good job," she said, smiling at him. "You have to remember to keep your prepositions in the sentence."

"Prepositions?" he inquired.

"Prepositions are words that complete a sentence. You always have to use them, or else you sound really stupid. Instead of saying 'Shaunee teach me', you'd say, "Shaunee is my teacher."

"Why?"

"That's just the way we talk," she said.

"Well, that's strange," he said.

"See, that was a proper sentence." She folded her arms across her chest, smiling. "You're getting it."

"I'm just talking like you. It's hard, but I do- I can do it," he said softly.

"Keep doing it." She sat forward. "We're gonna make you say a whole paragraph now."

"Oh, no," he groaned, sounding so much like Rephaim that Shaunee almost smiled again.

"Repeat after me: My name is Nisroc and I'm a Raven Mocker. I'm on the House of Night campus, and Shaunee's my teacher. I love flying high and soaring the skies. Kalona is my father, and I haven't seen him in a while."

Nisroc took a deep breath, staring agilely at her. "Are you sure?"

She nodded encouragingly. "Just because you're a Raven Mocker doesn't mean you're any different. If I can do it, you can."

He took another deep breath, and repeated the words she'd said. "My name is Nisroc, and I'm a Raven Mocker. I'm on the House of Night campus, and Shaunee's my teacher. I love flying high and soaring the skies. Kalona is my father, and I haven't seen him in a while."

"Yay, you did it!" She threw her arms around him, reacting on impulse and responding to her true happiness. The two fell into the grass, laughing.

"I did it," he repeated, looking amazed. "I really did it."

"You did," she smiled, pulling away from him. "Good job. If you can say that, you can say pretty much anything. You know how to talk, and you know how to say the words- you just don't know what order to put them in. But I think you finally get it. You're a quick learner, Nisroc."

"My father always told me I was the one who would rule in Rephaim's stead," he admitted. "He said I was his second choice, the second powerful."

"Second most powerful," she corrected. "And I believe you. You're almost as big as Rephaim."

"I know." He smiled, looking away from her almost guiltily. "Enough about me. I want to get to know you better, Shaunee."

"Why don't you?" She grinned, gesturing to herself. "I'm right here. Anything you want to know, ask."

"Okay," he agreed. "When did you become fledgling?"

"A fledgling," she corrected. "I was Marked about three years ago, on a field trip. A couple of weeks ago, I'd just lost the one I love." She closed her eyes, remembering Tanner and the way he'd held her so softly right before he'd died. Tears brimmed in her eyes as she forced herself not to think about her dead love.

"You can talk to me," he said softly, suddenly sounding so much like Tanner that Shaunee looked up into his eyes, staring straight into their red depths. She would swear she saw a flicker of Tanner's honey-colored eyes.

"I will," she admitted. Something inside Nisroc's eyes was making her want to trust him. Before she could stop herself, Shaunee opened her mouth and told him her most carefully guarded secret...

...

Shaunee's eyes widened as the car veered off the road, smashing into the tree. Sparks flew everywhere and her head jerked back, hitting the headrest behind her. The airbags exploded before her, cushioning her fall and saving her life. But Tanner wasn't so lucky. Beside her, a large piece of glass flew at him, cutting his eye so thickly the glass was stuck. A piece of the tree flew into the window, broken from the branch. Just as she opened her mouth to scream, the branch shoved itself deftly into his chest, smashing his heart and killing him instantly.

"Tanner!" she screamed, but it was too late. The one she loved was already dead.

Above her, the bright crescent moon shined in the sky.

...

"Your... Consort was killed, and since it you haven't taken love seriously," Nisroc said after a long moment of silence.

"Since it happened," she corrected earnestly. "And yes, you're right. It's too painful to find love again."

"When Kalona chose Light, he thought his sons would stay Dark. But that wasn't true. We're slowly being affected by love, even though the rules of time are against it. Love can find you again if it's pure. Trust me." He sounded so normal and proper that Shaunee wanted to hug herself. She'd taught him to talk like that.

"Love can touch anyone, even those who are so deep into Darkness they can't think," Shaunee said, thinking about Neferet.

"You think love can change anyone?" Nisroc nodded. "I agree."

"Love is the only thing that lasts through hatred and Darkness." Shaunee stared up at the setting sun, looking so beautiful in the sky. "I think I need another dose."

Neferet

Neferet stared gleefully at Theseus as he brought the black sword down on the Raven Mocker's neck.

The bird squealed once before its head was amputated, shoved into the fields of Darkness, and forgotten, like any dead Dark creature. Neferet laughed to herself as Theseus sheathed the sword and stood at her attention. He was her perfect, sexy warrior, and he would do whatever she said.

"At your service, Queen," he said, nodding gently to her. Her laugh faded as she realized that once again, she heard Johnny in him- the sound of his voice, the way he was speaking.

"Theseus, may I ask you a question?"

He looked confused, but he nodded.

"Do you believe you have a soul?"

Once again, he nodded, even though his confusion had grown. "I can feel the soul of Darkness within me."

"Do you think that soul has a name?"

He furrowed his brow. "Darkness, of course."

"Okay." Neferet smiled evilly at him. "You may leave my presence now."

Theseus turned and walked away. She stared diligently after him. Her smile faded when she realized that she was leading herself on. She knew something was amiss. She hadn't thought of Johnny in over two hundred years, and he was suddenly on her mind.

She closed her eyes, leaning her head back, and remembered simpler times when her love was as easy as breathing, even amongst all the danger and abuse around her. Like a diaphanous blanket, a phalanx of air seemed to wrap around her, tightening as if tethered to her like invisible chains of commanding Light. With eyes that she had not known she had, Neferet truly saw the sight that was before her, and with everything in her soul she gasped, eyes widening.

"Johnny?"

He didn't look different from the last time she'd seen him- maybe a bit taller, and a bit older looking. His dark brown hair fell in ringlets to his eyes, and his electric blue eyes seemed to shine with animation- or were those tears? His lips pulled up into a sad smile as he stared back at her. "Hey, Neferet."

"Johnny," she choked. Not wanting to ruin the image, Neferet stood, staring him down. Love vibrated through her. She'd been on the side of Darkness for so long that this felt... alien. Weak.

"Yes, it's me," he said, smiling more happily. "I came to see you. Nyx said I could."

"What do you mean? You died hundreds of years ago," she snapped. "My father killed you."

"Neferet, you have an important part in the fate of the earth. It could only go two ways. Either you are at the helm of the universe, or Nyx is. Pretty soon you're going to have to fight what's right, and you may or may not win. I want you to think about what you're up against. If you challenge the Goddess, you'll be disrupting the world order and you know that's wrong. Remember me? Love was the only thing that kept you going through the Darkness in your life. Don't let it ruin you again." Surprising her, Johnny leaned forward and planted a tender kiss on her lips. The kiss was every bit as warm and real as the last kiss she'd shared with him. Before she could say anything, he disappeared, and with him the rest of the diaphanous image faded, flying away into the cold, dark night.

Back in the office sat Neferet, frozen, eyes wide. Everything she thought she knew about her life had been challenged. For so long, she'd given into Darkness.

What if she tried to fight it?

...

Thank you!

XOXO,

Casey