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Who is this Kiev Novalic? It was as if he’d had a personality transplant. Maybe he has a twin brother of the same name and this is all some gross misunderstanding.

“O-okay,” I said, fighting to compose myself. It was obvious that Anna just wanted to return to her home and be with her family now. I wasn’t about to restrain her any longer.

I let go of her and stood next to Derek, whose jaw was still on the floor.

“All of you should come round later tonight,” Anna said. “We’ll talk then. I just need a few hours.”

“We will, Anna,” I said. “Thank you.”

She smiled and walked off with her family back toward the humans’ residential area.

Derek and I both stood rooted to the spot, watching Anna and her family until they’d disappeared beneath the trees.

“Well,” I said, looking up at Derek and then at the twins, who looked just as surprised as us, “I say we take a few hours’ break too.”

Derek looked down at me, rubbing his forehead. “I won’t be able to relax until I figure out exactly what that bastard is doing on this island and why everyone seems to trust him. Corrine, Anna… it’s as if he’s cast a spell on everyone—”

I held a finger to Derek’s lips. “Derek,” I said softly. “It’s been seventeen years. Maybe everyone seems to trust him because he can be trusted now.”

I knew Derek didn’t want to believe it. He wanted to continue hating Kiev for what he’d done, because Derek had never gotten release. He’d never gotten a chance to mete out vengeance on Kiev for all he’d done. We were both too blinded by our prejudices to see the situation for what it was.

Derek scoffed and looked away, worry written on his face as he brushed a hand through his hair.

“He and Mona returned Anna to us,” I said. “They saved us from Annora, they helped protect the island during Annora’s attack. What else could he do to prove he’s had a change of heart? Oh, and he didn’t want to fight you when you attacked him in the dungeon. I saw it in his eyes… his eye color is no longer that demon red. Maybe he’s telling the truth that he really is family… and maybe, just maybe he really has changed and wants to make amends now. We don’t know what’s happened to him in seventeen years. People change. You did.”

Derek still refused to look at me. I reached my arms around his neck and forced him to face me, kissing his jawline.

“I’m not saying that he has changed,” I assured my stubborn husband, “I just think that it’s something we should at least consider. Right now it feels like we’re living in denial.”

Finally he looked reluctantly into my eyes.

“I suggest we all have a few hours downtime,” I said. “I’m so exhausted, I can hardly think straight any more.”

“Sofia,” he said, heaving a sigh. “You can go home and rest, but I can’t just switch off now. Even leaving aside Kiev’s motivations for helping us, our security on this island is hanging in the balance. Corrine and Ibrahim are powerless against Annora. We still don’t know how we’re going to secure this island. She’s not going to stop until she’s broken down our defenses. I need to call an urgent—”

“Mona is here right now,” I said, hushing him. “And she will be for at least a few days. Corrine said so. She’s given them rooms in the guest houses in the north-east of the island. While Mona is here, the island is protected.”

Ben let out a yawn behind us.

“We’ll both be able to think more clearly and make better decisions once we’ve had some rest.” Not allowing Derek to protest further, I caught his hand and we walked with the twins back toward our penthouse.

As we walked, Ben began telling us all that had happened since we’d been gone. I was both shocked and horrified as he recounted everything.

I couldn’t believe that both of them had ended up disobeying us again so soon after their Hawaii fiasco. Though this time, at least with Ben, there wasn’t much I could chastise him about because if he hadn’t taken his initiative, then Kiev and Mona never would have been able to save us and return Anna.

It also dawned on me while talking to my son that perhaps Mona’s entrance into this realm through the gate had caused Annora’s powers to falter temporarily, allowing us to escape the dungeon. From what Ben was telling me, it had happened around the same time as his and Abby’s trip to Mikau Cave. If just Mona’s appearance caused Annora to falter, then Mona must be more powerful than any of us imagined. I voiced my speculation to Derek. He agreed that it was the only explanation we had for the strange occurrence right now.

Ben asked what had happened to us. I was loath to tell him the details of the torture the witch had put us through, so I omitted that part. I just explained that, other than our failed attempt to rescue Anna through the gate we’d found, we’d been kept prisoners in a dungeon the whole time.

We reached the penthouse and gathered in the living room. I looked at Rose as we sat on the living room couch. She’d barely uttered a word since we returned. Her face was pale, her eyes distant.

“Are you all right, Rose?” I asked, reaching for her hand and squeezing it.

She exhaled and nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

Whatever she was, she clearly wasn’t fine. But I decided not to press, figuring that perhaps she was just shocked after all that had happened and needed rest just as Derek and I did.

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