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A good number of the humans jumped at the opportunity and left, but a surprising number stayed.

Vampires remained vampires for the time being. They’d always have the opportunity to turn at a later time. And I certainly wasn’t ready to subject Abby to such pain. I drew comfort knowing that turning was always a possibility in the future should she insist upon it.

As for my father, he set out on a mission with Zinnia and Gavin to disperse the hunters seeing that there was now nothing left to hunt for. The Elders had gone and the Hawks, for whom they had been unknowing puppets, were exiled too. The hunters’ already shaky mission statement had just lost its last legs.

We still hadn’t figured out if there was a way to turn Aiden back into a human. Ibrahim could give him the appearance of a human temporarily, but even he didn’t know how to truly turn my father back. However, as Aiden himself pointed out, there was no hurry to find a cure for him, other than to save him from the terrible shame and embarrassment of having Abby permanently nickname him “Beak Face”.

Derek and I, along with the twins, split our time between our Californian dream home, where Derek indulged in his newfound hobby of cooking, and ruling The Shade. Xavier and Vivienne managed the island whenever we took breaks away from it.

Although our life seemed like it couldn’t be more perfect, I never grew complacent. I never forgot for a moment all that we had suffered and sacrificed to achieve what we had.

I also knew that nothing in this life was certain. When Shadow discovered a strange creature washed up on the shores of The Shade, during a morning walk with Eli, it confirmed that belief for me. Eli declared it to be the body of a werewolf.

Ibrahim confirmed that it was possible the Ancients had accidentally opened more portals between Earth and other unknown realms than even they themselves had realized. But he also offered us assurance that most supernatural creatures were not domineering and aggressive like the Hawks and Elders. He said that many were harmless to humans.

Harmless or not, whatever the case, I know that I can’t control the future.

I can’t control the world. I can’t make the world a safe place for my children.

They may face trouble and they may struggle. They may even encounter darkness and evil. I cannot change that. That is beyond my control.

What I can do, however, is show them that where there is darkness, there is light. Where there is evil, there is good.

They may face disturbance and conflict, yes… but they can also encounter beauty and bliss. I can assure them that no matter what happens, they can always hope that there’s something worth living for in this world.

All of the bad and good things that come with living become worthwhile once we find love. I should know.

I found it in the most unlikely of places, didn’t I?

Epilogue: Kiev

Why did I let her go?

It was a question that had been plaguing my mind ever since I’d placed that kiss on her forehead.

I just let her… slip through my fingers. Why?

I lay on the damp floor and looked up at the wooden ceiling. The heat and humidity of the cell I’d been locked in weighed down on my chest.

I reached for my back and traced my fingers across the deep wounds Arron had inflicted on me for allowing them to escape.

Then I let my eyelids fall shut. Emerald-green irises flashed before me in my mind’s eye.

You don’t care about her. Just like you never cared about Natalie.

And yet I wanted her still. Even though I knew from the way she’d looked at me that I disgusted her.

Part of me had wanted her to save me from myself.

But then I’d caught the vision of my own red eyes reflected in her teary pupils.

And I’d known that she couldn’t save me.

I would only end up dragging her down with me, just as I had done with Natalie. And the countless other women who’d crossed paths with me.

As I lay in the darkness, I wondered if there truly was anyone, in any realm, whom I could love without ruining.

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