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So it’s true. After all this time, there are gates to other realms still open.

What else could this hole be?

“Have you seen a pregnant woman? Black hair, green eyes?” I asked. “Anna, her name is.”

“No. Not seen a pregnant woman here. Then again, there are a number of dungeons in this castle. But you’re probably wasting your time. My guess is they already took her though the hole.”

“Where is this hole you speak of?” Derek asked, gripping the bars and staring at her intensely.

“It’s not far from the kitchen. A few hallways along.”

“So it’s near this dungeon?”

She nodded. “Quite near.”

The problem was, even if by some miracle we managed to break free from this dungeon and reach the gate, we had no idea where it would lead to and whether we would ever find Anna and her child in the limited time we’d have… assuming they were still alive.

Chapter 18: Sofia

Derek paced up and down the cell for what felt like hours. His demeanor was doing little to calm my own nerves as I sat next to Rose and my father. The other vampires had stopped talking. We were all weak—we hadn’t had blood for too long. As for Rose, I didn’t know when she’d last had a meal, but she looked pale.

Derek and I offered her some of our blood for strength, but she refused. Which came as no surprise. Even when she was ill she refused to drink it.

I suspected that we’d have to force her to drink it if we were trapped here much longer.

The other vampires in our cell huddled as far away from my daughter as possible. We were all starting to suffer from lack of blood and with our stomachs grumbling, the smell of Rose’s sweet blood wasn’t helping.

I leant my head back against the stone wall and shut my eyes.

“What in the world…”

I looked up to see Ibrahim shoot to his feet, flexing his fingers. A few seconds later, the lights fixed to the walls in the dungeon flickered and went out, plunging us into darkness.

“What?” Derek asked, staring at Ibrahim.

The other witches also rushed to stand up.

Ibrahim looked from me to Derek. “I feel my powers returning to me.”

“Huh?”

He turned to the gate and, gripping the bars, uttered a spell. It blasted open, sending pieces of sharp iron flying everywhere.

I scrambled to my feet, staring at the open gate, dumbstruck. We had no time to try to make sense of the situation. Somehow, Annora’s control over us had loosened. How long this would last, we had no idea.

Shock gave way to urgency. The rest of the witches hurried out and began breaking down the gates surrounding us, freeing the rest of the vampires.

Everyone paused in the hallway outside the cells, looking to Derek and I for instructions. Derek locked eyes with me. We had a split second to decide whether we would escape with the rest of them, or run the risk of seeking out Anna.

No words were required. We read each other’s expressions.

Derek turned to Ibrahim. “Lead everyone back to The Shade. Hurry!”

Ibrahim nodded and began leading everyone toward the exit.

Rose reached out and grabbed Derek’s arm. “Wait! What about you two?”

“We’ll be following soon after you, darling,” he said.

Before Rose could protest, Xavier approached her from behind and flung her over his shoulder. Ibrahim blasted open the dungeon’s heavy door and they all began rushing out.

“Yuri!” I called out. He was at the back of the crowd and turned to face me.

“What?”

“Wait a second.”

The elderly woman huddled by the bars watching us escape. I hurried over to her. “Tell us exactly where the dungeon with the hole is, and we will help you escape too.”

Her face contorted as she racked her brains. “If you go upstairs, you’ll find yourself in a large rectangular hall. Take the exit in the… far right corner. I think that’s the one. Then cross the entrance hall. The chamber you want is a few doors along from the main entrance to the castle. I-I think it’s the third door. Go through it, and you’ll see a Chinese carpet which covers the trap door. If you can break through the door’s bolts, you’ll find a staircase beneath it which leads directly into the dungeon with the hole.”

“Okay,” I breathed, trying to commit her instructions into my memory.

Claudia was now poking her head through the dungeon door, anxiety written all over her face.

“You can leave now,” I said to Yuri, “But take this woman with you.”

Derek and I tore down the door to her cell. Yuri scooped her up in his arms and hurried out of the dungeon with Claudia.

We followed immediately afterward. We both knew that the chances of finding Anna were practically nonexistent.

A wave of déjà vu hit me. We were in exactly the same position now as when Ben had been trapped in Aviary as a newborn. The chances of us surviving and returning in time with our son had been practically nil then too. But we had taken the chance anyway.

Can lightning strike us twice?

We parted ways with the others and raced across the marble floor, praying that we wouldn’t bump into anybody. Apparently, the lights had been knocked out not only in our dungeon, but throughout the castle. Thankfully, the woman’s instructions had been accurate. In no time at all, we found ourselves in a chamber near the main entrance with an ornate carpet in one corner. We slid it away and ripped open the trap door. We descended the steps until we found ourselves in a pitch-black dungeon.

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