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Adelle’s laughter. It was unmistakeable to my ears. Rich, musical, it called to me like a siren.

I followed the sound of her voice through the bushes for about half a mile until I reached the border of the lake… the same lake where I’d first tried to ask her out on a date. My eyes travelled further toward the direction of her voice and settled on the boathouse. The same boathouse we’d stood in together.

I saw her auburn hair through the window.

Then I heard a second laugh. A male laugh.

My heart skipped a beat. I ducked behind a bush and approached more cautiously, trying not to make a sound as I neared the open entrance of the boat house.

I saw her, dazzling as always in a short summer dress, her long hair streaming down her shoulders.

She sat against the wall of the boathouse. In the arms of Eli Lazaroff.

Disappointment gripped my chest, jealousy squeezing my heart.

Well, a tsunami wasn’t required. Just the island’s resident bachelor.

Chapter 37: Abby

Ashley and I sat in deck chairs beneath the shade of a wide umbrella. We were on the one stretch of beach on the island where the sun was allowed to shine. The beach was always crowded with the younger generation of humans at the weekend. Ashley was reading a book, while I was pretending to mark some of the juniors’ homework.

My seat was directly in line with the sea where Ben was taking a swim. I kept looking up whenever he stood up, beads of water dripping from his dark hair onto his chiseled torso.

I hadn’t spoken to him much since we’d returned to the island. Not that I’d really expected to. So much had been going on, we’d barely had a chance to catch a breath.

I hoped that our excursion to the cave had helped bridge the gap a little between Ben and I. Although we’d both grown up together, he felt like a stranger. Truth be told, I felt the same about many others on the island.

I’d grown used to living my life in the shadow of my family’s death. It was hard to look anyone in the eye without them feeling pity for me. Even Sofia. She still got teary sometimes when she talked to me. Perhaps it was my fault for looking so much like my brother. Like Sofia, most people on the island tried to be sensitive about it, but I always detected sympathy in their eyes.

I’d grown so sick and tired of people treating me like I was fragile. They didn’t know that this damaged me more than if they’d just behaved normally. This made it take longer to heal.

Eventually, I’d gotten fed up with it. I’d just retreated into my work. That was why, although I’d lived most of my life on the island, many of my peers felt like strangers. I’d distracted myself with study, and then once I was qualified under the tuition of the witches, I’d begun teaching others.

People assumed my retreating into myself meant that I was even more broken and sensitive than they had previously imagined. It was easier to just avoid people and let them think what they wanted. I spent time with children because they were too young to pity me. Most of the younger generation didn’t know about my past.

Then when tragedy had struck again on the island, with Anna disappearing, we’d all been touched by the mayhem. I’d been forced out of my shell as we all had to do what was needed.

And when I’d ended up teaming up with Ben… I’d realized that I’d been attracted to him for a while now. I’d just not admitted it to myself.

My mind drifted back to the hours we’d spent alone in the submarine.

After I’d told him how I felt about my past, he’d treated me like any other person his age. It wasn’t something that other people found easy. Nobody was blatant about my misfortune any more, but it was these subtle undercurrents of behavior—their softened tone, the way they looked into my eyes as I talked, the way they looked for excuses to brush my shoulder—that I’d become hypersensitive to.

But Ben hadn’t displayed any of these. He’d passed my test. I felt like I could let go with him, and I said things I wouldn’t normally say. I felt… free with him.

Looking at him swimming around in the sea now, I was embarrassed to feel butterflies swell in my stomach.

It would have been a lie to say that I wasn’t attracted to Ben Novak. There wasn’t a girl on the island who wasn’t. He was undeniably the best-looking guy of the younger generation on the island. But he was also smart, brave and kind. And despite his age, he was an old-fashioned gentleman that any girl couldn’t help but swoon over.

I knew there were too many other girls on the island swooning for his attention for me to have a chance. I was just boring school-teacher Abigail. At least, that was the persona I’d put out into the world.

People didn’t know that, inside, I was bursting with life.

I wanted to run through the meadows at midnight. Climb the highest tree. Go for a swim during a storm. I wanted someone to laugh with. More than anything, I wanted someone to treat me as their equal, and not like I was a china doll.

Throughout the years, Shadow had been the closest I had to this. I’d grown up with him and he never pitied me. When I wanted to unleash some energy, I’d take him for a long walk on the beach. I’d howl into the wind along with him, and play with him in the waves.

He probably still was the vampire on the island I felt closest to, despite him being a slobbering dog. At least, up until those hours I’d spent alone with Ben in the submarine…

A group of four girls in bikinis made their way toward Ben in the water.

I sighed, smiling bitterly and averting my eyes back to my papers.

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