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Surprisingly, they didn’t appear to be that fazed by this.

“Animal blood,” Matteo muttered. “Our vampires and wolves are used to living on this. Humans are a rare commodity in the realm of supernaturals, you see.”

I breathed out again in relief. “So your werewolves, are they safe around humans?”

Saira chuckled and looked fondly at Mona. “This witch wasn’t always as powerful as she is now. She used to be not much different than a regular human and she lived among us for years. So yes… we’re house-trained.”

This was turning out to be easier than either Derek or I had been expecting.

“What about that ogre of yours?” Vivienne asked. “He’s now lurking in one of the caves by the beach.”

“Oh, Brett.” Saira smirked. “He’s the least harmful of all of us. He was even kicked out by his own kind because he was too soft. He’s the last person you need to worry about. He’s also the easiest to feed. He’ll eat anything you put in front of him… as long as it’s not green vegetables.”

“Yes,” Matteo said. “He’s a gentle soul, old Brett. A decent cook, too. And if you ever need any woodwork done, he’s your man.”

We all fell silent as we stared at each other.

What we’d just come to an agreement about still felt so surreal, I found it a struggle to pay attention as more details were discussed. But I managed to pay attention to accommodation. Although Saira had claimed that they were all house-trained, I wanted them as far away from the human population as possible. It was decided that Kiev and his people would inhabit the forest in the far north-east of the island. That was the least densely populated area. Witches would build more penthouses in the trees for them. And since Brett’s accommodation of choice was a cave, there was no problem there. There were plenty scattered along our beaches.

Once we’d finished discussing details, we all stood up around the table. My eyes travelled from the Novalics at the opposite end of the table, to the Novaks next to me.

So that’s what this is… A bond of blood.

Chapter 39: Sofia

After the meeting was over, I followed Derek as he made his way over to the other side of the table to talk more with Matteo. Mona stood next to us, in conversation with Saira. I cast my eyes around for Kiev and spotted him making his way toward the exit.

Leaving Derek’s side, I held my breath and walked up to Kiev. I reached out and touched his arm. He stopped short and turned round, his eyebrows raising slightly as his eyes settled on me.

Wordlessly, I walked with him out of the Great Dome and into the clearing outside. We stopped by a cluster of trees.

His breathing became heavy as I stood next to him. I was thankful for the cool evening breeze drifting through our hair, making the silence feel a little less congested.

“What the hell happened to you, Kiev?” I blurted out.

He smirked, brushing his rough jaw with his thumb. “How much time do you have?”

* * *

We ended up walking down to the Port together, away from everybody, so that our conversation wouldn’t be interrupted. We sat on the edge of the jetty. He was tall enough for his feet to graze the water.

I stared out at the dark ocean as he recounted everything that had happened to him since he’d been gone.

We must have been sitting alone for hours. And by the end, I was speechless. At least now I could finally justify how he could have changed.

“I still don’t understand how you knew to look in the werewolf realm for the gate,” I said.

“We have a map,” he replied.

“A map?”

“Mona managed to get hold of it. It lists gates that were created between this human realm and the world of the supernaturals. Gates that were originally opened by the Ancients. Of course, we’ve no way of knowing if it’s a conclusive list.”

I breathed out. This meant that the Ageless had lied when she’d said she’d closed the only gates. Even if they were hidden and little-known about, some gates had been left open.

“I want to see this map. Derek will too. We need to know where all these entrances are.” I paused, my mind whirring at this revelation.

I thought about the way he’d described the black witches. Stronger than those of The Sanctuary and abiding by completely different rules. Trying to regain the sinister powers their Ancients once had and the modern witches of The Sanctuary had lost due to complacency.

I shivered at the few things he’d told me about them. They were ruthless and would stop at nothing for their cause even if it meant sacrificing their own lives.

I began to worry what would happen if more black witches came down into this realm to assist Annora. I wondered if Mona was powerful enough to resist them all.

We had to hope that she was. Or that The Shade wasn’t valuable enough to them to go to this trouble—but somehow I doubted that. Humans were valuable to them and they seemed to be in constant need of them. With us having such a huge stock of them, it would be too tempting.

As I voiced my concerns to Kiev, he looked down at me seriously. He ran a hand through his hair, which had grown out of the short cropped hairstyle I’d grown used to him having.

“I don’t know,” he said. “And I don’t think Mona knows either. These powers are still new to her, remember.”

I nodded, though his words hardly soothed my unease.

We both drifted off into our own thoughts.

We just have to do the best we can. And hope that Mona’s powers combined with the witches we already have will be enough to keep us safe.

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