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I followed Kyle upstairs. We entered his and Anna’s bedroom, where he closed the door behind us. I followed him out onto the balcony, and we both stood holding onto the banister looking out at the star-speckled sky.

“I’m so sorry.” Breaking down, I sank to the floor, my head in my hands. “If Ben and I hadn’t escaped, none of this would have happened.”

Kyle stared down at me, frowning. “I suspected that you were blaming yourself for this,” he said, his voice hoarse. “But you mustn’t, Rose. Anna wouldn’t want you to, and neither do I. If we each thought about all the possible consequences of our actions, we’d never do anything in life. Sometimes things happen that we could never predict.”

“I’m sorry all the same,” I said.

He walked over to me and held out a hand. I took it and he pulled me to my feet. Even though I still felt a weight on my chest, hearing this from Kyle, Anna’s husband, made it a little easier to bear.

“Nobody can blame you for acting your age. For wanting a taste of life outside what your parents have chalked out for you. And certainly, nobody can blame you for not suspecting that Caleb was a fraud. Hell, he even fooled your father.”

I gulped, nodding. Again pain tore through my chest at mention of the vampire’s name.

“Yes,” I murmured. “I suppose I couldn’t have suspected that.”

Chapter 13: Rose

When our parents still didn’t return the following day, Eli and Corrine dispatched a group of half a dozen witches to check both Stellan and Caleb’s islands. Other than Corrine and Adelle, they were some of the most powerful witches we had left on the island. Many of them were teachers, so substitutes had to be found among the human population. Abby and Adelle were left managing the school along with some of the humans. It was important that we maintained a sense of normalcy for the children as much as we could.

Ben and I were there in the courtyard outside the Sanctuary as Corrine called the meeting with the witches selected.

“Remember,” she said, looking at each of them sternly, “we have no idea what awaits you on these islands. And the fact that my husband seems to have been overpowered doesn’t bode well. He is the strongest among all of us. So it is vital that all of you work together and coordinate. And remember, you are not to do anything—just report back to us what you see. We can’t afford to lose you too. Do you understand?”

Although the witches looked nervous, they looked resolutely at Corrine and nodded. “Understood.”

“Please return as soon as you can,” I begged.

“I’ll expect you all back here within four hours.” Corrine turned to face the tallest witch. “You remember the location of these islands, Patricia? You were there alongside Derek and Sofia when they first stormed both islands searching for Ben and Rose?”

“Yes, Corrine,” Patricia replied. “I recall.”

“Good.” Corrine took one last look at them before saying, “Well, be gone.”

They all brushed shoulders and vanished from the spot faster than I could blink.

That left Corrine, Eli, Ben and myself standing alone in the courtyard. I shivered, imagining what they might meet at their destination, and prayed that they would return when Corrine had ordered them to.

If all goes to plan, just four hours and we will know what has happened.

The prospect of finding out what had happened was both relieving and terrifying. Something in my gut told me that they would bring back bad news.

But as it turned out, they didn’t return after four hours. Nor after twelve hours. Ben and I sat with Corrine and Eli in the Sanctuary waiting anxiously. But by the time the next day arrived and they still hadn’t shown up, each of us knew that they wouldn’t be returning.

“This time, I will go alone,” Eli said to Corrine, rubbing his head in his hands. “I’ll take the submarine. And since you can’t come with me, I will need one witch in case there are any spells to break through. How likely it is that one witch will be able to do it by herself, I don’t know. But we’ve no choice but to try.”

Corrine eyed him dubiously. “I think it would make more sense for me to go with you.”

Eli shook his head. “No. You’re the most powerful witch on the island right now. We need to leave at least that safety in place. As it is, we’ve lost our strongest forces. Without that, we’re vulnerable.”

When she opened her mouth to argue, Eli bulldozed over her. “Corrine, you can’t let your longing to see Ibrahim again blind you about this.”

She nodded and swallowed back her arguments.

“And if something happens to the two of you too?” I asked.

“Then it happens,” Eli said grimly. “But we’ll be as careful as can be. The second we suspect we’re in danger, we won’t wait around. There are only two of us to worry about so we’ll be more nimble. I suggest Adelle comes with me.”

“If you’re going with her,” Corrine said, “why do you even need the submarine? Won’t it be more likely to attract attention?”

“I need something to call base. Just in case—God forbid—something happens to Adelle, and I need to retreat.”

“I’m coming with you,” Ben interrupted. “It’s driving me mad just sitting here not knowing. Even if I end up in whatever fate they’re in right now, at least it will be less torturous than sitting here in the dark.”

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