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With that, Ibrahim turned on his heels and made his way back toward the direction of the witch’s temple.

Sofia and I stared blankly at each other for several minutes. Eventually it was Sofia who broke the silence.

“Derek,” she croaked, “what confuses me is that we keep imagining our son being in Aviary, but it makes no sense. How on earth would he have gotten there? We seem to be forgetting that it was Kiev who kidnapped him. Not one of the Hawks. Our hunt for him there could turn out to be some wild goose chase.”

“I know. I know. But it’s all we have. Also we do know that your father is there, along with Ian, Anna and Kyle.”

“Barely a moment has passed that I don’t think of them. But if we’re considering this—undertaking this gargantuan task within the span of twelve hours—we need to be laser-focused on who our actual target is. We may not have time to look for everyone…” Her voice broke off.

“I know. I know.” I rubbed my fingers over my eyes, wondering if I was mad to even consider doing this. “I don’t know why you keep saying ‘we’, Sofia. There will be no ‘we’. Only myself. We can’t run the risk of Rose losing both of her parents in one fell swoop.”

“No.” Sofia started shaking. “I can’t let you do this alone. You will have no powers there. No chance of surviving even a minor attack. At least I’ll have my fangs and claws. If you decide to do this, I’m coming with you.”

“But Rose! We can’t…”

“And I can’t let you go alone. The chances of you surviving on your own are probably half of what they would be if I accompanied you. You going alone risks your life and that of our son… if we really think he’s there somewhere. Rose is safe with Corrine and Ibrahim.”

My mind was so jumbled I didn’t know what to think anymore. I leaned against a rock and slid down to the floor, placing my head against my knees. Sofia slid down next to me.

I was aware of the minutes passing by. Our hour would soon be up.

“I don’t know that I could stand living such a life of regret. If we let the gate disappear… knowing it could have been in my power to save my father or son…” Sofia murmured. “The thought of risking Rose growing up without us slices my heart in two. But I know Corrine and Ibrahim would be good parents to her. Corrine’s already become more of a mother to her than I am.”

I wrapped my arms around Sofia and pulled her close to me, staring intensely into her green eyes that were several shades more vibrant now that she was a vampire. Do we really want to take this risk, Sofia? What if only one of us survived? What if I lost you? I’d already experienced losing Sofia more than my fair share of times and it was an experience I had no desire to repeat.

Suddenly her face lit up. “What if Ibrahim put a spell on us before we went through the gate? What if he gave us the appearance of Hawks? Surely that would lessen our risk?”

“What if the spell wore off the moment we entered Aviary? He already said his powers aren’t effective there.”

Sofia caught hold of my hand and pulled me up. She tugged on me to start following her away from the clearing and back through the woods. We didn’t stop until we’d reached the temple where Ibrahim sat alone in the moonlight by the fountain.

“If you put a spell on us before we entered the gate and made us look like Hawks, would it last once we reached Aviary?”

Ibrahim raised his eyebrows, and then frowned. “If we cast the spell before you entered the gate, then in theory our magic should remain intact at least for a few hours. I say in theory because we’ve never tried such an experiment. Worst-case scenario, you’d risk your disguise rubbing off before you managed to complete your mission.”

Sofia looked up at me, eyes blazing. “Well, we’d be better off with that. We could better hide ourselves and even be stronger, and we’d have the advantage of flight…”

“No, you wouldn’t,” Ibrahim said. “We can give you the appearance of a Hawk. But we’re not skilled enough to give you the strength and powers of a Hawk. Our spell would be useful for disguise purposes only.”

“Well, we’d still be better off. If the spell lasted long enough, nobody would know we weren’t Hawks.”

A silence followed for at least several more minutes as we considered Sofia’s proposal.

“Are you sure about this? You’ve considered that we may…” I said.

“Yes. I’ve considered all sides of this situation. I won’t be able to live with myself if we don’t at least try. At least the risks aren’t as high if Ibrahim puts this camouflage spell on us.”

Ibrahim raised his eyebrow again at this last assumption of Sofia’s, but he remained silent, allowing us to come to our final decision without his influence.

“We could give ourselves four hours,” she continued, “four hours to get at least a hint of where our son or Aiden or Ian, Anna and Kyle could be situated. If we’ve had not even the faintest hint where to even start looking after four hours, we’ll consider returning back through the gate. I-I just can’t sit here and not at least try to do something, Derek!”

I looked across the courtyard, now completely cleared of bodies. There was no sign of Ashley or what had become of her. Vivienne lurked around the entrance of the temple. Her shoulders sagged as she looked around. To my dismay, she caught my eye and cocked her head in question. I didn’t want her knowing what we were about to do. She had enough troubles to bear as it was. Knowing that she might be about to lose the last close member of her family, her twin brother, was too much for me to inflict on her.

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