Ben clenched his jaw, but his eyes continued to blaze into the vampire’s. I was impressed by his courage. Though of course, he was a Novak. If there was one thing we were known for, it was fortitude. “Then why don’t you?”
What is he doing? Despite my brother’s confidence, I couldn’t help but feel afraid for him. He was still only human. Deliberately provoking this monster seemed foolish.
Kiev reached out and gripped Ben’s collar, pulling him closer to him so that their faces were barely an inch apart. Kiev’s whole body heaved intensely.
“What makes you think that I won’t?”
Ben pulled at Kiev’s hands, but of course he was no match for his strength.
“Kiev!” A young female vampire emerged from the crowd who had gathered to watch the standoff. Black hair flowed down her back and her eyes were green—the same shade as Kiev’s. She didn’t look much older than me, and I realized that our features were similar. She reached for Kiev’s hands, still gripping Ben, and tugged on them.
Kiev’s eyes bored into Ben’s for several moments longer before he released him. Glancing at me once again, Kiev turned on his heel and disappeared into the crowd.
The young woman looked at both of us apologetically. “Don’t mind my brother,” she said.
Ben and I stared at her in disbelief. “Your brother?” Ben stuttered.
Kiev has siblings?
She smiled. “Yes, Kiev is my brother. And so is Erik.” She turned around and pointed to another tall vampire standing in the crowd. Erik resembled Kiev so much I wondered why I hadn’t spotted it before, with his strong jawline and dark features. The only thing different about him was his brown eyes.
“My name is Helina.” She fixed her eyes on Ben, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Look, Ben,” she said. “I don’t know you. And I don’t know everything that Kiev has done to you and your family in the past. Truth be told, I’d rather not know. God knows most of Kiev’s life is still a mystery even to Erik and I. But I assure you one thing. Kiev is not the man he was.” She paused, looking at both of us earnestly. There was a warmth in her eyes that I couldn’t understand given that we were strangers to her. “He wouldn’t have brought Anna all the way back here if he wasn’t trying to make amends for something. And you have no idea how much trouble and sacrifice we went through to do that. So please, try not to make this more difficult for him than it already is. I can see how he struggles with this.”
That made Ben fall silent. Neither of us could deny how grateful we were to have Anna back. A smile broke out on my face just thinking about the tears of joy that would be in Kyle’s eyes right now as he was reunited with his wife. As he met his new baby boy for the first time.
Clearly, Kiev still had a monstrous temper, but perhaps a part of him really had changed.
“So will you help us get our parents back?” I asked.
Helina paused, then nodded slowly. “I think that Kiev and Mona will agree to help you. But given how much he despises your father… watch your tone.”
Erik had approached by now. He stood beside Helina, looking at the two of us, curiosity in his eyes. He held out his hand to each of us and we shook it.
Helina reached out and touched my shoulder. She looked at my face, apparently scrutinizing me. Though I wasn’t sure what for. “It seems that you don’t know,” she said finally, looking from me to my brother.
“Know what?” Ben asked.
“That we’re family.”
“What?” I blurted. Ben’s face contorted with disbelief.
“You heard right,” Erik said, a smile creeping onto his lips.
“Your father and aunt are our distant cousins,” Helina explained.
Ben and I stared at each other, both sharing the same shocked expression.
“Another reason why Kiev wanted at least some semblance of reconciliation,” Helina said.
My mind reeled. I wondered if my parents even knew about this. They certainly had never mentioned it to us.
While Ben and I were still letting this statement sink in, another vampire approached. He too had dark features—deep brown hair, warm brown eyes. But he didn’t look like a Novalic and when he spoke, it was with a distinct Italian accent. “You are Derek Novak’s children?”
Ben and I nodded. “Who are you?” I asked.
“My name is Matteo Borgia. My sister, Natalie… she knew your father well.”
Natalie Borgia. The name rang a bell.
“Natalie Borgia,” Ben repeated, following my own train of thought. “She used to be a diplomat among vampires…”
I stared at Ben. I understood why his voice had trailed off, and why he now looked so dumbstruck as he stared at Matteo.
If what our parents had told us was true, Kiev Novalic had murdered Natalie Borgia. He’d tortured her in front of a crowd—right here by the Port, in fact—and then he’d ripped her heart out.
So to see Matteo seemingly one of Kiev’s comrades, or at least traveling companions, was utterly bewildering.
Matteo cleared his throat. Perhaps he noticed how awkwardly we were looking at him, but he didn’t offer any explanation.
Perhaps he doesn’t know Kiev killed Natalie?
I wasn’t given much time to ponder it, however, before Ben and I were distracted by heavy breathing behind us. We both turned.
Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any more far-fetched, it did.