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“I can put the spell back up, stop my father’s vampires from attacking The Shade… Basically get all your troubles to disappear. I am even powerful enough to hold back the hunters or even distort their lines if I have to. We can definitely put up quite a defense against the hunters should they try to attack. Better yet, we can work together to destroy the hunters once and for all.”

“Then why don’t you just do it, Emilia?” I shrugged a shoulder. “Why don’t you just help without anything in exchange?”

“Why? Because I want something in exchange for it… I love you, Derek. That’s why I can’t just let you go off with Sofia when I know that it’s me you belong to… I need to do this in order to get us both to where we belong.”

My jaw tightened as I stared right at her. “What exactly do you want in exchange for making all of this go away?” My stomach turned at the notion that she could possibly ask for me or maybe even Sofia in exchange.

I shuddered at the way she smiled. I felt like a piece in a game and she was the game master controlling my every move. Her request, however, was something I couldn’t quite comprehend.

“Let me prove my love to you, Derek. Give me one week. All I want is one week with you, Derek. One week where I can have you all to myself.”

I couldn’t help but crease my brows in surprise. “Just one week?”

“Yes. One week with me. At the Blood Keep…”

“The Blood Keep?”

“The Elder’s castle.”

I knew it was a trap, but when another explosion rocked the kingdom, I knew that it was a trap I was finding hard to resist. The bait she set in front of me was far too good. At that moment, staring at the lovely, but terrifying woman in front of me, all I could think of was, don’t do anything you will regret, Derek.

Chapter 22: Sofia

My jaw dropped the moment I stepped into my father’s cell. I’m ruined for life was the first thought that came to mind when I saw Aiden making out with Ingrid in one corner of the cell. In the midst of all the chaos going on in The Shade, my parents were busy kissing and making up.

When they realized I was there, my father’s cheeks turned red as a beet as he exclaimed, “Sofia!”

If vampires could blush, I was sure that Ingrid would already have been blushing as much as Aiden was.

I stood frozen on my spot as I stared at them, trying to remember why I was there in the first place.

Sam, who was standing behind me, cleared his throat, successfully bringing me back to my senses. “Sofia, the hunters…”

I snapped out of my surprise and blinked my eyes so I could get back to my senses. “Is your tracker on?”

“What’s going on?” Aiden creased his brows.

“Just answer my question,” I snapped at him.

“Yes,” he nodded. “It’s always on.”

“I need you to make a call to the hunters to figure out if they’ve located The Shade. Try and hold back any attacks they’re planning to throw on The Shade for now.”

“I thought you said that the island’s protective spell will keep them from detecting the tracker.”

I swallowed hard, wondering if I ought to trust my father with the information I had at hand. Realizing that I didn’t have much of a choice, I just blurted it out, “The spell is down. The Shade is under attack by the other covens and apparently, the original vampire is also involved. If the hunters attack now, it’s the end of The Shade.”

I looked at him, searching for any sign that that was exactly what he wanted to hear – for The Shade to end, but I was surprised when he took one look at my mother and immediately nodded toward me. “I’ll make the call.”

As if that weren’t enough of a surprise, Ingrid approached me. I couldn’t help but flinch when she brushed her fingers over my cheek and looked at me with concern. “Are you alright, Sofia?”

No, I’m not alright! The Shade is under attack and Derek is facing off with a crazy witch vampire woman he is admittedly deeply attracted to and you and Aiden are acting like a weird couple. You’re acting like actual parents for crying out loud. A muscle in my jaw twitched as I nodded at Ingrid. “I’m fine. I’m not sure I should be trusting either of you though.”

At that, Aiden smiled bitterly. “Can’t blame you there, but I won’t let you down.”

Sam handed him a phone and Aiden quickly dialed a number. I listened as he began talking on the phone.

“Zinnia? It’s me, Aiden. I’m fine… Do you know where I am right now? Are you able to track me down?” He paused and waited for a response. “Ok, great. I need you to hold off on all plans to attack The Shade… Because I said so… Well, I’m talking to you now… I’m alive and well, and as far as I know, that means I’m still in charge… so do as I say and tell them that all plans to attack the island is on hold…” Aiden’s eyes widened with fury before he sealed his lips tight.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Zinnia, his right-hand person at hunter territory, could’ve said to cause such a reaction in him. During the time I spent at hunter headquarters, Zinnia was almost like his little pet. She did everything he told her without question. Now, it seemed like she was no longer under his every beck and call.

When Aiden hung up, I knew immediately that we were in deep trouble. He shook his head. “Zinnia said she’s going to have to ask my superiors regarding my command. She’ll call me back when she hears word from them.”

So much for not letting me down. I heaved a sigh, hating the idea of going back to Derek with this news. “We can’t afford an attack from the hunters, Aiden. Not now,” I said with as much conviction as I could mutter. The earth once again shook after another explosion. The battle raging outside the Black Heights was enough indication of the trouble The Shade was in.

“I know Sofia, and I’m going to try and do everything I can to hold the hunters back, but I can only do so much.” Aiden shrugged. “They think that I’ve gone weak, that I’m now siding with the vampires.”

“Are you?” I couldn’t help but ask, wondering how much sway The Shade now had with Aiden.

“No. I can never side with the vampires, but I’m no longer on the hunters’ side either. I’m on yours. I’m siding with my family.”

I didn’t miss the way his hand sought after Ingrid’s and I didn’t miss seeing the sorrow in Ingrid’s eyes when their fingers clasped together. I don’t understand what’s going on. For a moment, I stared at my parents holding hands, wondering what could’ve happened to bring about this change. I looked at Ingrid, hope surging within me. Could it really be possible that she wants to change? That she wants to become Camilla again? I shoved the thoughts away, knowing that I didn’t have the luxury of wallowing in my family drama.

I turned toward Sam. “Take me to Derek.”

Sam pointed at Aiden and Ingrid. “And them?”

I faced Aiden and looked at the phone. I wanted to see Derek. I wanted desperately to know what was going on at The Sanctuary, but as much as I hated to admit it, I still couldn’t trust Aiden. Half of me still believed that he would divulge every secret, every weakness he learned about The Shade in order to further compromise it.

“You can trust me, Sofia,” he assured me after noticing my hesitation.

It broke my heart to do it, but I shook my head. “I should be with Derek right now or even fighting alongside the citizens of The Shade, but I can’t. I want to trust you, but I’ve heard you say that before and then you stabbed me in the back right after.”

It wasn’t so long ago when Aiden told me to trust him, to believe that the cure the hunters found was legitimate, only to find out that he had lied to get into The Shade and figure out its weaknesses, perhaps even end Derek through it.

I could see the hurt in his eyes at my refusal to trust him, but this was his doing, not mine and he also knew that, so Aiden just nodded and sat back on the cot, Ingrid sitting beside him, their hands still clasped together while Aiden toyed with the phone using his free hand.

I shifted my weight from one foot to another, unsure what to do. To ease my tension, I began fidgeting with my fingers and tried to make small talk with Sam. “I feel like I have to be out there doing something… anything…”

“You’re in here doing what you can do, Sofia,” Sam assured. “The vampires can hold their own ground without your help.”

I laughed wryly at his statement. Of course they can, but can Derek really say no to this attraction he feels for Emilia? I was desperately trying not to be paranoid. I meant it when I said that I trusted him, but if she was as powerful a witch as she seemed to be, then could she not somehow control him and make him return her affections? Who knows what she wants?

I practically jumped at least a foot from where I was standing when the phone began to ring. Aiden picked it up and just listened, his facial expression growing grimmer and angrier by the second. “This is unbelievable, Zinnia…” he muttered in a calculated and controlled tone that was more menacing than I’d ever heard him speak before. “After all those years I’d given to the order, you just turn away from me like that?” Zinnia must’ve said something that lit up his fuse because he began muttering one curse word after another. “Don’t give me that crap, Zinnia! I deserve more than that!”

When he hung up, I didn’t need him to tell me what was going on. The hunters were coming for us. We had to face the inevitable.

I reached my hand forward, palm up. “Give me the phone…”

“Sofia, I tried…” Aiden croaked out, most likely surprised by what happened. “I did what I could.”

I nodded. It was hard for him to realize that he wasn’t indispensable to the hunters. He gave his entire life to the cause of the hunters and they screw him over. He’s loyal to them, but the hunters seem to be loyal to no one. “I know you did, Dad, but right now, we have a lot to deal with… Please give me the phone.”

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