Prologue: Derek

We stormed in like a blaze of light, armed not only with swords and guns, but also rage and vengeance. The Elder didn’t even see us coming.

When the Ageless had taken me out of The Blood Keep many months ago, I’d promised myself that I would be much stronger when I came back. My vulnerability as a human had only strengthened my resolve to harness and develop whatever power had awakened in me, but I had difficulty focusing without Sofia by my side.

She had always been my calm, my center, and my peace. Without her, all was for naught. The thought that she was still in this godforsaken place, vulnerable because of her pregnancy, pained me beyond measure.

The majority of Elders were still at The Shade when we attacked The Blood Keep. Perhaps they thought that their lair was impervious to any invasion, but this pride had become their downfall.

We showed no mercy as we raided the walls, killing every vampire who didn’t belong to our hastily assembled army. If I weren’t so desperate to find my wife, I would have marveled at the irony of it all. We had all been enemies. Vampires had always gone after human blood. Hunters had always gone after vampires’ heads. And because both of our species combined could not come close to the power and might of the Elders, we had allied ourselves with yet another species; the Hawks, or Guardians as they liked to call themselves.

I still knew little about them, save that they were as ancient and old as the Elders and witches themselves. I didn’t trust them one bit, but if they would aid me in rescuing my Sofia, I would take any help that I could get.

I roamed the halls, searching for Sofia. She had been gone from my arms for so long. When I’d found out that we were going to have a child, I’d become even more bent on getting to her. We were going to have a family. Something we wanted for ourselves, maybe after all this havoc.

I didn’t know how many I’d felled, or how many had managed to maim me. My entire focus was Sofia. Corinne, powerless as she was, stayed close to me even in the heat of battle. She was the only one who could provide medical assistance to Sofia.

“The Elder has escaped!” Aiden called out as he ran toward me. Although Aiden was one of the most feared hunters the world had ever known, worry for his daughter had worn him down. He was barely able to catch his breath. “It’s gone, Derek. It’s taken most of the immunes. And I can’t find Sofia anywhere!”

My heart stopped beating for a second, but I would not give up until I had Sofia in my arms once again.

I found my hope when one of the hunters ran to me, telling me that Sofia had somehow managed to contact her phone. Even Aiden looked as if he’d regained strength.

“She’s somewhere outside,” the hunter said. “I’m trying to track her location.”

The few minutes it took for her to track Sofia were the longest of my life. It didn’t even matter that a bloody battle was happening all around me. Finally, the phone pinged, indicating her location.

My Sofia is alive. It was the only thought that kept me going. The entire world could crumble for all I cared. My wife was alive, and with her, our child.

We rushed to her location and found her lying on the floor of a hut in a puddle of her own water. She was on the verge of giving birth. I ran to her, desperate to feel her within my arms once again.

Corinne immediately took command of the situation and delivered twins. Knowing I had one child with Sofia would have been enough to bring me bliss. Two was a piece of heaven I’d never known I would be given a taste of. In that one moment, I had my family with me—the love of my life and my twins, all within my reach.

But then the devil with the red eyes came to take my son away. And barely a moment later, the Ageless came to whisk my Sofia away too.

To have Sofia taken from my arms sent me spiraling into a pit of despair and sorrow that I could not even begin to describe. I could sense her need for me. Her desperation to be reunited with me mirrored my own, but there was nothing I could do. I could have had all the powers and might in the world, vampire or human, but I was powerless to defend her.

I had failed her. Again.

I wondered then if there was any possible way to escape the nightmares that continued to plague me. They were starting to unfold right in front of my eyes.

The thought made me shudder.

What happened to a king when he was forced to battle with his queen?

Chapter 1: Sofia

As I stood in the white chambers, a haze descended over me. The flavor of blood was still alive on my tongue, and all I could think about was drinking more. I stooped down to Clara’s body and smelt the hot liquid still spilling from her chest. I took a sip but spat it out. Bitter. Disgusting. Nothing like the sweet delicacy she had brought to me.

I stood and was about to search elsewhere when someone seized my arms from behind. I spun around to see a tall man holding me. His eyes were a translucent white and his sagging skin had a yellow tinge.

“Want more blood, Ivana?” His voice was coarse.

“Please!” Ivana must be my name.

“Follow me.”

He led me into a dark hallway. The décor had changed to black, from the stone floors to the high ceilings—a stark contrast to the room we had just left. I could see perfectly despite the lack of lighting. We walked toward a wide staircase and descended it. The whole place reeked of mold. On the lower floor, we descended another staircase. And another. And another. By the twelfth, I began to smell blood. I was so consumed with anticipation, I stopped noticing my surroundings. The further down we went, the stronger the alluring scent grew.

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