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“Ohhh… so you and Mr. Derek made a baby?” Abby looked up at me in wonderment.

“Yes, darling.” I smiled, kissing her head. “We made two babies actually.” I stood up and caught her hand, walking her over to Aiden. “See? This is my other baby, Rose. She’s a girl, and this one’s a boy.”

“Oh my…” Abby’s mouth hung open as she stared at the two identical babies as though they were aliens from another planet. Then, after a few moments’ thought, she seemed to reconsider.

“That’s gross, Sofia. Because this means that you and Mr. Derek…”

Her voice trailed off and I was thankfully spared whatever embarrassment she was about to subject me to in front of my father. She had taken a look at Aiden. She let out a high-pitched scream.

“Oh! What happened to your dad, Sofia?”

Aiden chuckled as he met Abby’s eyes. “I could ask the same of you, little vampire.”

“You look like a bird!”

Aiden nodded and stretched out his wings for her.

“Whoa.” Abby took a few steps back. “That’s so cool. How come you got to be a bird and I didn’t?”

“I think being a vampire is better,” Aiden said. “You don’t get stuck with an ugly beak face.”

Abby giggled at that and nodded. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be a Beak Face.”

I took her hand before she could ask more questions and walked her back toward Ashley. Ashley was smiling, but I knew that seeing me with children was a bittersweet experience. She must have been thinking of the family she could have one day had with Sam.

“Hey!” Zinnia’s voice sounded out from across the open space. She jogged toward us, Gavin by her side.

“Sweet Jesus, what happened?” Gavin said on seeing the two babies and Aiden as a Hawk.

I recounted the details of our adventure to them as they listened in awe. After I’d finished, Zinnia went up to Aiden and gave him a hug.

“I’m glad you’re back, sir.” She grinned. “I missed you.”

“I guess I missed you too, kiddo.” He smiled.

“Um… Sofia?” Gavin’s voice now took on a serious tone. “I hope you don’t mind, but we held a funeral ceremony while you were gone. All the bereaved families, we needed to do something for them to help soothe their pain. And we didn’t want to wait around, what with all the bodies…”

It cut me to the core that I hadn’t been there for it. I thought of all the innocent lives lost at the hands of the Elders, people Derek and I were duty-bound to give protection to. I thought of the immunes those evil spirits had managed to sneak through to Cruor already, lives we could never reclaim.

I thought of Sam.

And I thought of Xavier.

I knelt down on the ground and said a prayer, holding a small ceremony of my own for them.

Chapter 40: Vivienne

A gust of sea wind blew against my face, drying the tears and making my eyes sting.

I sat on a high mountain plateau overlooking the most magnificent view of the island. The waves crashing against the shore and the gentle swaying of the redwoods seemed to dance to some kind of untold rhythm.

Peace.

That was what this was. A peace was settling over the ravaged island, slowly drawing its inhabitants back to comfort. Inviting them back to the routine of daily life.

I had a choice whether to let it draw me in too, or whether to continue stirring up the storm within me and cling on to dreams of an impossible future.

I shifted on the ground, moving closer to where I remembered last sitting with Xavier the night he was possessed. I touched the grass next to me, hoping to feel the shape of Xavier’s body molded there.

Then I stood up and walked over to the edge of the cliff. And I wondered if, had I not been such a fool and instead given myself to Xavier years before, he would have been stronger in resisting the Elders. I wondered whether my constant resistance had weakened his spirit and resolve to live.

There are some cliffs that are just too late to jump from, Vivienne.

I sat down and dangled my legs off of the edge of the mountain. Then I lay back and gazed up at the stars.

I replayed in my head those last few words we’d exchanged that fateful night, as I’d already done a hundred times since.

“You said you’d wait until I’m ready.”

“And I’d do that, Vivienne. You know I would, but…”

But…

“What were you going to say, Xavier?” I whispered out loud, looking up at the stars, hoping his spirit was somehow watching over me. “But… you just wanted to hear it from me? You just wanted to hear me say those three simple words?”

Tears began to stream more heavily down my face.

“Well, I’ll say them now to you, Xavier… my love. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.” I felt like a crazy person repeating the words over and over again. I’d started in a whisper but soon worked myself up into a frenzy, bellowing against the harsh wind.

“I LOVE YOU, XAVIER!” I screamed until my voice cracked. I broke down, my body utterly exhausted and racked with sobs.

“I love you too.”

The smooth baritone voice I ached to hear.

I smiled, my eyes still closed. Is this what happens when you cherish a memory of someone so much—you start to hear their voice in your head? Then I will cherish you forever, my love, to continue hearing that sweet voice of yours…

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