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Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the trunk and climbed out. I tried to stand up, but I crumpled to the floor. My legs had fallen asleep. I waited for the pins and needles to fade before getting to my feet again.

Bending down, I sifted through the weapons. I picked out two small stakes, a dagger, and a UV-ray gun. After checking that the gun was loaded, I scooped up a handful of extra bullets and poured them into my pocket. I fastened the weapons to the belt in my jeans and then left the room.

I crept upstairs and climbed up the ladder toward the hatch. Taking a deep breath, I pushed it open slowly, just enough for me to peek through.

We were back on Caleb’s icy island.

Even as I climbed out, I couldn’t help but feel confused as to how we had gained entrance so easily. Caleb had told me that there were heavy spells protecting this place, and I’d barely felt any turbulence. I could only assume that either Adelle was a more powerful witch than we had thought or they were now welcoming visitors.

I lowered myself down the side of the vessel until my feet landed on the jetty. I shivered as a harsh wind whipped past me, and pulled my collar up. I wished that I had had time to bring warmer clothes. I was still dressed to suit The Shade’s temperate climate: a t-shirt covered by a light sweater and jeans. My shoes were made of light cotton—the freezing snow was already seeping through them.

I hurried away from the harbor and dove into the first patch of shrubbery I came across. I looked around, squinting as I tried to detect even the slightest movement.

On seeing and hearing nothing, I hurried into the woods. I kept off the main path, sprinting from one tree trunk to the other and pausing to look around each time.

I managed to reach the end of the forest without bumping into anyone. However, when I looked up at the mountain upon which the castle was perched, I swore.

I was now in clear view of anyone who happened to look out of the front windows. And I had forgotten how high up the building really was. These shoes I was wearing hardly had any more grip than the slippers I’d worn during a walk with Caleb.

But now wasn’t the time for second thoughts.

I wondered where Adelle and Eli would be right now—whether Adelle would have been able to transport them directly inside the castle with her magic.

I began climbing the steps. Although I was sweating after barely a fifth of the way up, I kept going, my breathing more painful with each step I took.

My main worry throughout the ascent was that someone would notice me. I was wearing dark clothes amidst all this crisp white snow.

A quarter of the way up, I stopped, my eyes wide with terror. The creak of heavy doors echoed down through the cold air. I dropped to the ground, spreading myself out flat against the steps. I gathered up snow and tried to cover myself with it. I crawled to the edge of the staircase and looked down. There was a small overhanging ledge a couple of feet down. My heart hammering in my chest, I lowered myself down onto it. I gasped at how high up I was, and how narrow this ledge felt now that I was perched on it. I shuffled myself as far away from its edge as possible.

Now I just have to hope whoever has exited the castle doesn’t stop short at the scent of my blood.

After covering myself with snow, I closed my eyes. I barely dared breathe as I waited for the vampire to pass by. Quick footsteps grew louder and louder. The moment the vampire was level with me, I sat bolt upright.

It was Frieda, the ebony-skinned vampire Caleb had instructed to bring me food while I’d been staying in the castle.

I whipped out my gun, aimed it at the vampire’s back and hissed, “Don’t take a step further.”

Frieda froze. Whirling around, she locked eyes with me, her lips parting in shock.

Adrenaline coursing through me, I said, “This bullet will lodge itself in your chest and burn you alive from the inside out. Do as I say, and I won’t pull the trigger.”

Her eyes darkened. “I’m not in the habit of being threatened. Least of all by a human wench.”

I gulped, steeling myself against her glare. One wrong move could see me dismembered and the remains of my body left to freeze in the snow. I tightened my grip around the gun, my hands beginning to sweat despite the fact that my whole body was shivering from the cold.

Slowly, I sat up, careful to keep the gun steady. She continued glowering at me. But perhaps she’d witnessed the power of one of these guns before, because she didn’t try anything.

“Just do as I say,” I repeated, my eyes boring into hers, conjuring up confidence I didn’t possess. I made the jump back onto the steps, my heart leaping into my mouth as I almost slipped. By some mercy, I was able to gain balance. “Don’t make me prove this thing works,” I growled.

“What do you want?” Frieda hissed, staring at the barrel of the gun.

“First, hand me your cloak,” I said.

She scowled, but unfastened her cloak and chucked it at me. It almost knocked the gun right out of my hands. But I held on tight and aimed it at her once again.

Using one hand only, I tied the cloak around me and fastened it, pulling the hood over my head. I was already feeling warmer with it, but of course warmth wasn’t the reason I had asked her to give it to me.

“Now,” I continued, “you are going to carry me on your back up to that castle. Do you know of any side entrances?”

She kept her lips sealed, her eyes narrowing on me.

“Don’t push me, Frieda,” I said, attempting to make my voice sound deep and menacing. “Answer my question.”

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