Eventually we strayed from the levels of staircases and the man opened the door to a dark room. I walked straight in. The scent of fresh blood invaded my nostrils. Then the door slammed shut behind me. I looked around frantically. It didn’t take me long to realize that the room was bare.
I ripped at the lock. I scratched against the door. I screamed for release. But my desperation was only met with silence.
How I knew the blood was fresh I didn’t fully understand. It was just instinct. I could feel its heat seeping through the walls. Its proximity plagued me.
I slumped to the floor and closed my eyes, trying to forget the hunger. But I couldn’t; my senses were all too aware. The empty room offered no distractions, so all I could do was sit on the cold stone and pray someone would put me out of my misery.
When the door finally opened, it felt like an eternity had passed. I flew to the door and again found myself face to face with the man with sagging skin.
“You promised me blood!” I screamed, reaching for his neck.
“And I will give you more blood. Orders were that you needed to be ready for it.” He remained calm as he knocked my hands away from his throat.
I barely paid attention to his words. He allowed me to step out into the corridor and then withdrew keys from his cloak. He opened the door to the next room.
There lay the source of my torture: a young man with blond hair sleeping in a corner. Without even thinking, I hurled myself toward him and was about to sink my teeth into his neck when his eyes shot open. I gasped as their sharp blue sent a searing pain through my chest.
These eyes. I know these eyes.
The vision of a different blue-eyed stranger, looking down on me with tears and holding me in his arms, flashed through my mind.
Waves of memories crashed over me all at once. Complete remembrance settled over me for the first time since arriving at that strange place. Derek, the birthing, the man with red eyes… where are my babies? It was all I could do to not fall to the ground and let my emotions take hold of me.
I staggered back, away from the man now huddled in the corner.
“What’s wrong, Ivana?”
I’m not Ivana. Sofia. Sofia is my name. Sofia Novak.
“I can’t,” I breathed out.
“What are you saying, Ivana? You told me you wanted blood.”
“My name is Sofia… and I can’t drink this man’s blood.”
I knew at that moment that I had to starve myself of blood. If I let it consume me again, I would lose all my memories. I would forget Derek. I would forget myself. And once I had tasted hot blood gushing directly from a human’s throat, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to not do it again, and again. I couldn’t let the haze envelop me again. I had to fight it.
Now I know what it feels like, Derek. This is what you struggled with. This is why you were so desperate for a cure.
“Oh, you’re still not ready for this?” Anger flashed in the man’s eyes. “Well, then it’s all the more for our little friend here.”
Before I could make sense of what was happening, the door swung open and a short vampire rushed into the room. The young man’s screams were quickly stifled as the vampire tore through his neck.
I rushed to the corner and gasped when the vampire lifted her head to catch a breath.
Her skin was as pale as mine and a darkness had taken over her baby-blue eyes. Hot blood dripping from her lips, she gave me a manic grin before once again drinking from the man’s neck.
Seeing Abby, my little sister, this way… I was petrified, but more than that, I was deeply enraged.
They had no right to do this to Abby.
They had no right to do this to me.
Chapter 2: Derek
The sound of the ocean waves did little to help me fall asleep, although Rose had dozed off in my arms hours ago. She breathed gently and her round face had an expression of serenity, as if all was right with the world. As if I was cradling her brother in my arms alongside her… as if her mother…
I choked. I could feel another wave of heat about to come over my body. I placed Rose down on the mattress and walked out onto the terrace outside the beach hut.
Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, I steadied myself against the banister. I gazed out at the ocean, breathing deeply. The first signs of daybreak were beginning to show on the horizon.
Stay strong, Sofia. Keep your light ablaze. Don’t let it die out. I whispered the words, hoping she would somehow hear them through whatever darkness she was now trapped in. It was a mercy that she had passed out before she could witness her son being taken.
Since our separation, although my heart, mind and body were screaming with despair, I’d had to find the strength within myself to still smile each day for Rose. Her obliviousness was her blessing; it sheltered her from pain. I needed to keep it that way.
My immediate concern had been getting far away from the hunters, Hawks and vampires. Corinne had suggested an old Costa Rican beach hut that she still owned from her student days. I just needed time away from everything to try to patch myself together as much as I could, and gather my thoughts on what I could possibly do next.
Without Corrine, I wasn’t sure how I would have handled the situation. Her female instincts and medical knowledge allowed her to help care for Rose in ways that wouldn’t have been obvious to me.
My little Rose Red… I looked back to check on my baby. Despite our remote location, I was always in fear for her safety. Corinne had taken my place on the mattress, now cradling Rose in her arms and kissing her forehead. Corinne gave me a weary smile, which I tried to return.