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My eyes widened with surprise. Anna hadn’t been out of The Catacombs for the longest time. She was mostly kept in there, because she was someone who would be an easy target for attack by the vampires. “Ash, what were you thinking? How do you intend to defend her in case an Elite vampire attacks her?”

The sharpness of my tone made Anna withdraw in fear, backing up a couple of steps away from me.

Ashley’s face deadpanned as she cast me a sharp glare. “What is wrong with you?” she mouthed. “She’s here safe, isn’t she?”

I approached Anna who seemed to recoil with every step I took to draw closer to her. “You’re safe with me, Anna,” I assured her.

At first, she just whimpered in response, but then as I took slow steps forward, careful not to scare her, she drew close, held my hand and led me to the dock of the lake, where we both sat over the edge. I could hear Ashley mumbling something about not being needed anymore, but my focus was on Anna and how beautiful and serene she looked as she blankly stared at the lake.

I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. I simply wanted to enjoy that one moment - that one snapshot of time where I felt like Anna belonged to me and me alone. We sat there in silence, simply enjoying each other’s company, our legs dangling over the water below.

Anna then began nodding before breaking the silence. Her words meant the world to me. “Yes. I’m safe with you.”

All eyes were on me as I sat across Sofia on the dining table inside her quarters. I didn’t bother finding out who exactly was surrounding me. I was too overwhelmed by the stare Sofia was throwing at me, her fascination of me clearly showing on her face.

Corrine and Vivienne sat on either side of her, while Aiden sat at the head of the table. They were making me feel uncomfortable, simply because they were staring at me like I had somehow committed a crime.

The elephant in the room, of course, was that I was once again a normal, mortal man, and no longer an immortal vampire. They’d already done every test possible to check if I had indeed turned back into a human, and it was evident that I had.

“How is it possible?” Aiden muttered beneath his breath, but still loud enough for everyone to hear.

Sofia leaned forward. “What happened, Kyle?” There was a sense of hope and excitement in her voice, although it was still laced with worry and concern.

I tried to recall what had occurred. After the ordeal I went through inside the pit Rex trapped me in, I felt like everything was a blur. I began to recount exactly what happened as I remembered it.

Drinking Anna’s blood was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I didn’t want to do it, because I knew that I would crave her every day after, but it was pure ecstasy just to taste the red liquid and feel it pounding within me. I felt amazing, powerful, unstoppable and I couldn’t even wrap my senses around why I felt that way. My conscience was nagging at me for what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop it, once her blood ran through my throat, there really was no way I could resist.

She didn’t seem to mind. She did it so that I would heal and heal I did – faster than I ever have before. Just then, in such rapid succession, Rex showed up and pushed Anna away from me. She screamed as she fell to the ground. Her scream was followed by a loud thud as her head hit the stone wall.

I gasped with horror, but before I could go to her, Rex lunged toward me, picking me up in the air before speeding with me in tow into some other part of the cave. I tried to get away from his grasp in an attempt to check if Anna was alright, but Rex was one of the Elite, which were the vampire clans that helped Derek establish The Shade hundreds of years ago. He was far more powerful than I was. Still, I put up a fight until he just stopped and pushed me into a cell in The Catacombs that had what looked like a sunroof.

He quickly shut and locked the door. He smirked as he began to speak from the other side of the door. “This is the Pit. Not many know about this room. Only Gregor, Lucas, Felix and a select number of men… We used it to punish vampires before Derek took over and began running The Shade. You can’t get out. The sun will rise and you will feel the pain. If you get exposed to more than eight hours of sunlight, you will surely die. That’s what sunlight does to a vampire. If I change my mind, I might return before you die, but be warned, boy… never ever interfere in my affairs again. Felix’ girl is mine.”

I grimaced at him. I never really spent much time with Rex. He wasn’t a very important person in The Shade and he mostly kept to himself, but he was one of Felix’s men – one of those who surrendered to Derek after the siege at the Port.

When he left, I tried to take down the door, but it didn’t work. I figured it might be the same kind of doors they were using at The Cells. I screamed for help, but none came, so I just waited and waited and waited, dreading the moment when the sun would finally come up and destroy me.

When it did, I already lost all hope that anyone would come for me, so I braced myself for the agony that was to come. Just as expected, it was a painful, excruciating experience – so much so that after the first hour, I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I saw Ashley leaning over me, shaking me awake, her eyes wrought with deep concern.

“Kyle? Are you alright?”

I felt weak and fragile – like I could easily break with the slightest touch. “What happened?” I asked.

Gavin shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He was standing behind Ashley. He shook his head as he responded, “We should be the ones asking you that.”

I checked my arms to see if the skin had completely peeled off and if my flesh had burned. I was wondering if I was numbed by the experience, because I wasn’t experiencing any pain. I was surprised to find my arm completely intact – only with one major difference. It was no longer the pale white it used to be. My complexion returned to the bronzed one that I had before I was turned.

I saw Ashley swallow hard as she stared at me before asking a question that I wasn’t sure how to answer. “Kyle, are you human?”

“Well, are you?” Ashley butted in after I finished my story. “I’m sorry, but I’m still finding it hard to believe.”

“We’re all finding it hard to believe,” Aiden seconded, before glancing at Ingrid, almost as if he were hoping he could put her through what I went through.

“Have you ever seen someone die under sunlight, Vivienne?” Sofia asked.

Vivienne took a moment to search her thoughts before shaking her head. “No. I don’t remember anyone ever dying from sunlight. We just always stayed away from it, because getting exposed to it was awfully painful.”

I nodded in agreement. “There’s no describing the pain. It’s torment.”

Sofia swallowed hard as she tried to process the information we’d just given her.

Claudia then spoke up, her brows furrowed in thought. “Ingrid was once exposed to sunlight. Perhaps we should ask her what that was like.”

Sofia narrowed her eyes at the vampire. I could swear that I saw a hint of pain in her eyes at the mention of her mother, but it quickly faded way. “Someone please get Ingrid here.”

Yuri stood up to fetch Ingrid and returned within a couple of minutes. After being asked about whether or not she had been exposed to the sun, Ingrid recounted to us the details of her experience.

“When I escaped hunter territory, I had to spend time running under direct sunlight. It was an awful experience, but I managed to survive it.”

“How long were you under sunlight?” Sofia asked.

Ingrid shrugged. “I was just under the sun’s rays for about a half hour or so, but it felt a lot longer.”

Sofia directed her attention to me. “You must’ve been under sunlight for over a day…”

Ingrid eyed me. Her eyes widened with horror when she realized what had become of me. “You’re human…” She looked so horrified by the idea, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the recollection of the painful experience or if it was because she was terrified by the idea that she could’ve turned back into a human had she stayed in the sun long enough.

I shrugged when the others looked to me perhaps expecting me either to validate or refute Ingrid’s statements or perhaps give Sofia a better estimate of how long I was under the sun. “There’s no way for me to know. I wasn’t conscious after the first hour.”

“We need to figure this out… What if this is it?” Sofia asked. “What if the sun is the cure?”

“How are we going to test that theory?” Corrine spoke up. “What vampire would want to be exposed to sunlight for more than a day to see if this ‘cure’ works?”

“The one who doesn’t have a choice, because he’s been very bad,” Xavier spoke up from behind us, pushing into the room the man who tried to kill me – Rex.

“No…” Rex shook his head, terror filling his eyes. “You can’t do this to me. First off, I don’t want to turn back into a human. Besides, I’ve seen vampires die under the sun – isn’t that why those UV rays hunters use are so deadly?”

Vivienne raised a brow at him. “You’ve seen a vampire die under the sun? Who? As far as I know, no vampires were killed in The Shade during the entirety of my father’s rule. Besides, The Shade had no sunlight until Emilia took Derek away. How could you have used the cell then?”

Rex grimaced, knowing that he couldn’t possibly argue with Vivienne. He also knew that he was digging himself deeper and deeper into his own self-induced nightmare of a hole. “Very well then… The Pit is in some corner of the island where sunlight streams through. I don’t understand why either, but it seems to be unprotected by the spell. I’ve never actually seen anyone die. We always took them out of the Pit before they died. I’d seen them in pain, and I don’t want to go through that… It’s merciless and none of us are even certain that this could possibly be the cure. Please…”

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