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“It’s all right, Derek,” Ibrahim said calmly. “My brother is there in my place. He’s just as capable of protecting them as I am. I left them for Headquarters because the Ageless called on me to assist with The Sanctuary’s orders.”

“What orders?”

“Do you want me to stand here talking or do you want me to help your dying wife?” He approached Sofia’s bed and looked down at her. “Only magic can help her body now… maybe. And I can’t make any promises as to her mental condition even if we manage to heal her physically. A lot will depend on how much she fended off the darkness while the Elder was inhabiting her.”

“So just… just… hurry up and do something!” I had my fingers against Sofia’s pulse and could barely feel it anymore.

Ibrahim walked round the bed until he was standing above Sofia’s head. He placed his hands either side of her face, then muttered a chant beneath his breath. He blew gently against Sofia’s forehead. For ten excruciating minutes, nothing happened. No matter how much Ibrahim blew against Sofia, she remained unchanged, her pulse fading closer to nonexistent with every second that passed.

But then it happened. The spot where Ibrahim had been blowing on Sofia’s forehead became smooth; all cracks and signs of bruises, bleeding and yellowing disappeared. Then this smoothness began to spread across the rest of Sofia’s face, first down along her nose, then across her cheeks, around her mouth, down her chin and then further down her neck. Soon her arms smoothed out and her fingers and hands also gained fresh skin. The nurse ripped open her dress and we could see the healing travelling down her chest, to her stomach, then toward her legs, and finally her feet and toes.

I looked up at the warlock, who was watching intently. Despite the worry that was weighing me down, I couldn’t help but marvel at his knowledge as a healer. I wondered if even Corrine could have worked that kind of magic on Sofia. Corrine normally needed potions to treat a patient.

But why is he helping Sofia? I wasn’t naïve enough by now to think that the Ageless didn’t have some kind of ulterior motive for wanting Sofia’s body healed. But whatever the motive, it didn’t matter now. All I could think about at that moment was getting Sofia to open her eyes again so I could lose myself in their beautiful green color.

And after several more minutes, I got my wish. Her eyes fluttered open, those stunning emerald-green irises I missed so much.

I knew as soon as she looked at me that she was back. My Sofia had returned to me.

“Derek,” she whispered, reaching up and placing her hand on my cheek. Although it was still cold, I could somehow feel the warmth of her soul transcending the coldness of her skin.

All the emotions that had been pent up in me for so long in the pain of her absence, set themselves free all at once.

Seeing that Sofia now appeared to be in a stable condition, Ibrahim and the nurse left us alone in the compartment. Wordlessly, I rolled the stained nightgown off of Sofia’s shoulders and pulled it away from her body. I fetched a warm towel from the sink and wiped her down. Then I grabbed a blanket and helped her into a sitting position, rolling it securely around her. Placing one arm around her waist and the other beneath her thighs, I lifted her off the bed and sat down there myself, placing Sofia on my lap. I buried my head against her chest and closed my eyes, relishing the sweet sound of her now steadily beating heart, reassurance that her healing a few moments ago had not been some kind of hallucination. My Sofia was back.

This was the first time since the night she’d given birth that I’d held her in my arms. The real Sofia. The love of my life. The person without whom all would be for nothing. My ever-burning light. My break of day.

She clutched my hair between her fingers and brushed her soft lips against my forehead. Her kisses made their way down the arch of my nose and then to my jawline. A small smile spread across her face as she said, “It’s okay, Derek. I’m back.”

Lifting my hands to her face, I pulled her toward me and tasted her lips, slowly at first, but then with more heat and passion than ever before. To have her respond in kind, unhindered by the Elder, was an ecstasy I wanted to lose myself in forever.

Chapter 26: Sofia

“Sofia… you have no idea how much I’ve craved you… how hungry I’ve been… to have you back in my arms… the real you,” he whispered inbetween lavishing me with kisses. “Please, don’t leave me again.”

He’d carried me out of the emergency room and brought me back to his bedroom where he laid me down on the double bed. Unraveling me from the blanket, he tucked me beneath his sheets.

“You didn’t find the fake one so hot, huh?” I allowed myself a small grin as he tore off his shirt so fast that it might as well have been on fire.

He climbed into bed and lay next to me. Shivers ran through me as the warmth of his bare skin pressed against the coldness of mine.

I recalled all the times during my possession that I’d wanted to reach out my hand and touch him, reassure him, apologize for my behavior, for leaving him, for causing him pain and suffering. Now that I was free from my prison, I could barely contain myself. All these repressed emotions erupted at once as my form melded with his.

I relished every slow caress, each heavy breath against my skin, each brush of his heated body against mine. Every sensation was heightened now that I could return in kind all that my heart felt for him. I quivered, this time my own pleasure manifesting.

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