Home > Redeemed (House of Night #12)(9)

Redeemed (House of Night #12)(9)
Author: P. C. Cast


“Six housekeepers, two bellboys, four room service personnel, and myself. Rachel should be working the front desk with me, but she called in sick.”

“Poor, unfortunate Rachel. But that leaves a lucky thirteen as my staff. Of course that doesn’t count the restaurant, though. Is it open today?”

“Yes, we are open for brunch until two o’clock every Sunday.”

“And how many staff are there today?”

Kylee paused and then counted off, “The chef, his sous chef, another cook who works the line, the bartender, who is also the manager, and three waitresses.”

“For a total of twenty. Here is what you will do, Kylee. Close the restaurant immediately, but do not allow any of the workers to leave. Tell them there has been a change in the management of the hotel and the new owner has called a meeting of all the staff.”

“I will do as you say, Goddess, but the restaurant is not owned by the Snyders.”

“Who are the Snyders?”

“The family who bought and renovated the Mayo in 2001. They own the building.”

“Correction, Kylee, my dear, they owned the building that was known as the Mayo Hotel. I control the Temple it has become. No matter. It will all be made very clear, very soon. All I need you to do for me right now is to gather every one of the staff members, restaurant and hotel, and direct them to report to my penthouse in thirty minutes. Afterward, I will do away with the staff meeting title and call it what it truly will become: an opportunity to worship your Goddess. Doesn’t that sound much more pleasant than a staff meeting?”

“Yes, Goddess,” Kylee repeated.

“Excellent, Kylee. I shall see you and the rest of my new supplicants in thirty minutes.”

“Goddess, I cannot leave the front desk unattended. What will happen if someone tries to check in or out?”

“The answer is simple, Kylee. Chain all of the doors through which one may enter or leave my Temple, lock them, and then join me with the keys.”

“Yes, Goddess.”

* * *

Neferet was going to have to find a different place in which to receive the supplications of her subjects. Her penthouse was far too intimate for so many humans. Nevertheless, she would have to make do temporarily. She’d positioned herself standing within the stained-glass doors that had been broken, now newly replaced by one of the two blond boys. She’d turned off all of the garish electric lights and commanded the housekeepers to bring candles to her chamber. Pillars and pots and votives covered the granite bar, the fireplace mantel, the marble art deco coffee table, and the large wooden dining room table. She’d also ordered the lanterns on either side of the doors to have the garish lightbulbs ripped from them and replaced with the warm, flickering light of two white tapers. She made a mental note to send one of her minions out for more candles—many, many more candles.

Neferet’s gaze swept around her penthouse, and she was pleased. Everything looked so much better, and she was so enjoying her second bottle of cabernet, thinking how much more she would enjoy it later, privately, when one of her supplicants offered to mix his—or her—blood with it.

Neferet had dressed carefully, glad none of her clothes had been disturbed while she’d been gone. She chose a dressing gown made of golden silk that clung to her body as if it were caressing her. As usual, Neferet left her thick auburn hair falling free in glistening waves around her waist. She did not adorn herself with a symbol of any other goddess. No upraised, silver embroidered images would ever be allowed on her person again—she’d ripped the last of those threads out herself.

Neferet had a new symbol. She had been considering it carefully, and she could hardly wait until one of her supplicants ordered the custom piece from Moody’s jewelry store and “surprised” her with a six-carat ruby shaped like a perfect teardrop. She would be effusive in her thanks and wear it always on a solid gold chain.

It was, indeed, going to be good to be Goddess of Darkness—Goddess of Tulsa—Goddess of Chaos.

The elevator chimed. “Children, come to me!” The threads of Darkness rushed to her, surrounding her, lapping against her naked feet with their comforting coldness. “Oh, and supplicants, you may return to my presence,” she called over her shoulder to where she’d sent her servants to wait until she wished to command them again. They shuffled past her just as the elevator doors opened and Kylee led the rest of the staff into the penthouse.

“Welcome!” Neferet raised her glass and lifted her arms. “You are blessed to be in my presence.”

Most of the group looked confused. Two women, dressed as waitresses, muttered questions to one another. Neferet’s sharp eyes took note of them. One of the men, the one wearing the silly white chef’s hat, spoke up. “Can you tell us what’s going on here? We had to close the restaurant and make our patrons leave—even though they weren’t finished with brunch. I can tell you, there are some pissed off ex-customers out there right now.”

“What is your name?” Neferet asked him, keeping her voice pleasant.

“Tony Witherby, but most people call me Chef.”

“Well, Tony, I am not most people. You see, most people call me Goddess.”

He barked a patronizing laugh. “You’re kidding, right? I mean, I can see your tattoos and I know you’re a vampyre and all, but vampyres aren’t goddesses.”

Neferet was pleased to see that Kylee had stepped away from the chef as if she didn’t want to be contaminated by his disobedience. Kylee really was becoming an excellent supplicant.

Neferet didn’t waste even a glance at the chef. Instead she smiled down at her writhing children. “So eager,” she half chided, half encouraged. “So smart.” She bent to stroke a particularly precocious tendril that had wrapped itself around her leg and crawled almost to her thigh. “You will do nicely.”

“Okay, you’re gonna have to let us in on the joke or I’m gonna call the owner of the restaurant,” the chef said. When she continued to ignore him, he began to bluster, “This really is ridicu—”

“Take him!” Neferet commanded. “And let yourself be seen.”

The tendril became visible as it flew at the chef. It was so large that it easily coiled around his thick waist, moving quickly upward.

“What the fuck! Get it off me!” the chef shrieked, and lurched backward, beating impotently at the tendril with both of his thick hands.

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