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Now what? I asked in my head, as my body stretched itself out on the king-sized bed.

We wait until dark, the Elder replied.

Chapter 17: Sofia

As each hour brought us closer to nightfall, I became more and more nervous about what the Elder was planning. I hoped more than anything that Derek wouldn’t get in our way. I didn’t know what the Elder would make me do to him should Derek obstruct its plans.

Once the clock had struck two am, I opened the drawer of my dressing table and took out the keys Aiden had left for me, save for those to the personal apartments of Derek and Aiden. I put them into my pocket and then headed for the front door. The doorknob didn’t budge. I shook it, but it didn’t move.

Your husband’s doing, no doubt. He thought that sneaking back to lock you in at night would stop you roaming about. Never mind, there are other ways out of this room.

Dread filled me as we approached the large windows.

Have you lost your mind? I screamed at the Elder.

My parasite ignored me and drew open one of the windows. The sky was clear and a cool wind blew into the room. The full moon shone down over the landscape.

I found myself lifting one foot and placing it on the windowsill before hoisting my body up so that I was now inches away from a deadly fall. I braced myself as I anticipated the jump. I gripped the sides of the window frame and swung my legs out so that they now dangled down the side of the building. But, to my relief, instead of flinging myself to the ground, I lowered myself until my feet hit a metal pipe sticking out of the brick wall. I balanced precariously as my hands let go of the window. My heart raced as I wobbled, my bare feet almost losing my grip on the pipe.

Great move, monkey man. Christ. There’s nothing else here I can grip on to…

With one powerful leap, I hurled myself sideways, toward the ledge of an adjacent window. But my hands slipped off the sill and I hurtled downward in a free fall. Just as I was bracing myself, my arms hit something and the next thing I knew, I was hanging from another metal pipe. I looked wildly around me. Just beneath my feet was another window that had been left ajar. My feet knocked against it and pushed it open. Then I swung my body through it and landed on my feet at the end of a quiet hallway.

I was still dizzy with shock and the last thing I wanted to do was race forward. But that was exactly what I found myself doing. I ran past countless doors and down dozens of staircases. I had no idea where the Elder was taking me. At one point I wondered whether he even had a destination in mind; he seemed to be taking me on a tour of the entire main building. But eventually we took a sharp left turn and ended up standing right outside Aiden’s office. I entered the empty room.

I knelt on the floor and started rummaging through drawers and cupboards filled with documents. Noticing a key at the bottom of one of the cabinets, my hand reached down and put it into my pocket.

At least another hour passed by, and the Elder was still searching. Finally, as I got to work on the only drawers we hadn’t touched, I uncovered a piece of yellowing paper with a map printed on it. A map of Headquarters. I hovered a finger over it for a couple of minutes before the Elder hissed in frustration.

This is not the map.

I tidied up all the papers and closed the drawers and cupboards until the room appeared to be back to its original state. Then I retreated out of the room and into the hallway, locking the door behind me.

I ran along half a dozen more corridors until I reached the reception area. Two male hunters sat on night duty behind the large desk. I approached them and my face split into a smile. I had never seen these men before, so I assumed that they were new and therefore didn’t recognize me as Aiden’s daughter. The lighting of the room was also dim, so it was possible that they hadn’t even yet noticed that I was a vampire.

“Oh, don’t mind me,” I said to them. “I’ve just got insomnia so I’m having a bit of a walkabout. I wondered if you had a spare guest map and a phone sheet you could give me?”

One of them nodded and reached beneath his desk for two sheets of paper.

“Oh, and I’m just curious where the boss stays… you know, Arron?” I asked.

“Arron is in the detached building ‘H’, right at the bottom of the fields where the woods begin.” The hunter picked up a pen and drew a black mark against the location for me. “But knowing that won’t do you any good.” He peered at me through his glasses. “Arron is an extremely busy man and when he does permit meetings, it’s by appointment. His assistant’s number is on the phone sheet.”

“Oh, that’s fine. Thank you.”

I stuffed both pieces of paper into my pocket and walked away.

Arron… Why does the Elder want to seek out Arron?

It seemed that I wasn’t about to get an answer as my legs headed back to my apartment. Thankfully, I’d packed the key to the exterior lock with me so we weren’t forced to experiment any further with the Elder’s skills as a gymnast.

On entering the apartment, I retrieved the map and the phone sheet from my pocket, unfolded them carefully, and placed them on the table next to the phone.

Now we wait once again, the Elder said.

Chapter 18: Sofia

Despite having fallen into a deep slumber after the night’s escapades, I woke up feeling as if I hadn’t slept at all. I looked at the alarm clock on my bedside: eleven am. As I turned in bed, I became aware of the ache that had returned to my muscles and joints. Realizing that the Elder had given me temporary control back over my movements, I took the opportunity to visit the bathroom and examine myself in front of the mirror.

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