I lowered my voice and said, “Craig, switch off the boat’s lights immediately and navigate us as near to the vessel as possible without bumping into it. And stay close to it until we return. Now, everyone except Sofia follow me up to the roof.”
We took it in turns to lean out of the window and pull ourselves onto the metal rack above, now fully exposed to the powerful wind and cold spray.
“Hold on tight, guys. We can’t afford to have anyone falling overboard,” Zinnia warned.
Craig did as I had instructed and a few moments later, we were close enough to the ship to risk the leap. I fixed my eyes on the rail lining the deck and jumped. My hands hit the iron and I managed to grab hold of it. I pulled myself over the barrier and my feet landed on the wooden floor. My comrades were waiting on the roof of the speedboat.
“Be careful,” I hissed. “It’s slippery. One at a time.”
Zinnia jumped next. I grabbed hold of her wrists the minute she hit the side of the ship and lifted her over. Next came Liana. Then Yuri. And finally, Gavin.
Once our feet were all planted firmly onboard, Zinnia led the way to a trapdoor and we descended a set of steps. “Good,” she whispered. “I know this ship. I’ve been on it before.”
Liana waved at us for attention.
“Vampires,” she mouthed, sniffing the air. Yuri looked at her and nodded in agreement. She pointed to the ground.
“Okay, the lowest floor,” Zinnia said. We descended another narrow flight of stairs and found ourselves in a long unlit room whose walls were lined with small cells.
“Claudia!” Yuri darted to the first cell on our right. A few seconds later, Liana had rushed to the third cell along, spotting Cameron. And then it was my turn; I saw my beloved sister. She’d been huddled in the corner but on seeing me, she rushed to the bars and her face lit up.
“Derek!” she choked. “I thought you might never find us.”
“We’re going to get you out of here.” I reached for her hands through the bars and squeezed them tight. “Zinnia!” I called. “Have you found the keys?”
“Not yet,” she said from across the room. She’d been foraging through the drawers of a desk in the far end of the room.
“The keys are up there!” Vivienne said, pointing to a hook in the ceiling from which hung a dozen keys. “One of the hunters hung them right in front of us, just out of reach. A nice form of torture.”
I jumped and unhooked the keys. I started fumbling with each one until the lock to Vivienne’s cell finally clicked and the door swung open.
She flung herself into my arms. We hugged briefly, but then I pulled away to move on to the next cell. Eli had been put next door to Vivienne. He looked up at me with weary eyes, but his face broke out into a smile.
“Good job, Derek. We were really starting to worry,” Eli said.
Once I’d freed Eli, he rushed out to greet his brother Yuri. I quickly moved on to the others: Cameron, Landis and Claudia.
Just as we’d gathered everyone together, a snarl emerged from the far corner of the prison. The snarl grew into a bark. Oh, no. No. I’d forgotten about the dog in my frenzy and we were about to leave without him. He continued to bark and jump against the bars.
“Shut that dog up!” Zinnia seethed. “He’s going to get us all caught!”
I bolted over to his cell and unlocked it. He immediately jumped up at me and began licking my face. I grabbed his collar and led him to Eli, who bent down and tried to calm the huge animal.
But it was too late. Footsteps sounded over our heads. Gavin, who had been keeping watch on the floor above, came rushing down the staircase.
“Listen to me! All vampires, get back into your cells! Yuri and Liana, find cells of your own and shut the doors behind you! Just do as I say!”
Although they all looked bewildered, they obeyed. I took Shadow from Eli and shoved him back into his cell too, pushing the door until the lock clicked. Quickly catching on to Gavin’s train of thought, I swung the keys back over the hook on the ceiling.
Everyone returned to their places just in time before two burly young hunters came staggering down the steps.
Zinnia moved forward and greeted them. “Oh, hey, Joshua. Hey, Tyler,” she said smoothly. “How are you two? We just came to add a couple more vampires to the lot. Arron’s orders, ya know. Sorry we disturbed you. I didn’t realize you had a noisy dog down here too. He got a bit over-excited.”
She walked over and wrapped an arm around both men’s shoulders, kissing them each on the cheek.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you two. I’ve missed you.”
The clenching of Gavin’s jaw didn’t escape my notice. But otherwise, he was doing a good job at keeping his face expressionless.
“I missed you too, Zinnia,” Joshua said, returning the kiss. From the slur of his voice and the redness of both men’s eyes, the two had poured themselves a glass of wine too many.
Tyler looked a little more suspicious as he glanced around the room. “Who are those two? And what are they doing here?” He narrowed his eyes on Gavin and me, who were the only others outside of the cells.
“Oh, don’t mind them,” Zinnia purred. “They’re new recruits at Headquarters and helped me bring the vamps here.” She snaked her arm around Tyler’s waist and stood on her tiptoes so her face was barely an inch away from his. “Mmm. I’m pretty thirsty actually. I fancy some of what you two have been having. Smells good. And, God knows, it’s been ages since I’ve spent a night in good company.”