“Please, feed me! My stomach is burning! I’ll do whatever you want!”

She was a young woman wearing a torn black gown. Her face was brown with dirt and she looked like she hadn’t eaten in days.

“Silence, witch!” my cold voice said.

If she was a witch, I wondered to myself why on earth she allowed them to treat her this way. The Elder answered my curiosity within my own head.

Not all witches are as powerful as your Corrine.

It was disturbing to know that my every thought was exposed to this kind of evil.

I continued to speak: “I will feed you. But in return, you must polish my vessel. The same treatment as the last vessel we sent to you.”

The witch lost no time in gathering herself up from the ground. She staggered to the corner of her cell and started mixing some kind of concoction together—what exactly, I couldn’t see. Then she murmured a chant for several minutes, walked back over to the bars and threw a handful of powder into my eyes. The powder felt like acid and in my head, I cried out in pain. But after a few seconds the stinging subsided and my vision was as clear as it had been before my possession.

She held up a mirror. My eyes were exactly as I remembered them. My face also looked the same as when I first discovered I’d been turned, back in the white chambers. No crooked expression. I certainly didn’t look like an Elder was inhabiting me.

I reached for a black box that was lying on the ground in the empty cell next to the witch’s. I withdrew a piece of dry bread and threw it toward her. She snatched it and began eating ravenously.

Then, without another word, I turned around and headed toward the exit. The second time we passed by the humans, they were far more subdued. Most didn’t bother calling my name. Instead I heard low mutterings. It cut me to the core to realize that they must have already accepted that I had abandoned them.

Once we’d exited The Cells, the Elder started speaking to me again.

“Now, help me understand where your lover could have gone.”

Memories flashed before my eyes; all of them involving locations. After a few seconds, it dawned on me. He’s accessing my memories. The flashing stopped, leaving a vision of a small beach hut. But I’ve never been to this place. This isn’t even my memory.

“Aha,” the Elder hissed. “He wouldn’t be fool enough to go running to the Hawks’ protection. He was with the witch on the night of the birth. This would have been the natural option.”

Then I remembered that the memories contained within my head were not all my own. Vivienne’s memory.

“Once we have arrived there, I will give you back control of your body. You are to follow my every command. And never forget, I’m right here with you.”

Chapter 6: Sofia

Not my husband… and my babies…

Panic set my mind on fire. I couldn’t think straight. Fear, despair and rage consumed me all at once. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.

Instead, I rushed toward the port. Waiting for us there, peeking out of the hatch of a small submarine, was Liana. I climbed in and we both took a seat near the controls. I grabbed a map from the dashboard and hovered my finger over it for a few moments until I pointed to a coastal area in southern Costa Rica. I picked up a pen and drew a mark against it, then handed it to Liana.

“This is the location. If we wish to reach there before the next century, you must loosen control of your vessel so that she can navigate the ship. But keep close watch on her. She is loyal to the Novaks and we have no time for detours.”

You bastard. You snake.

I stood up and made my way to the back of the submarine. We had barely sat down on one of the benches when we lurched forward. The Elder’s mind must have been preoccupied with other matters since it chose not to respond to my insults.

My thoughts turned to Liana. The submarine is moving. My dear friend is back in control of herself again. I feared she’d risk her life by attempting to veer us off course, hoping that her Elder wouldn’t notice. She’d be a fool to even try; she’d be caught the moment she entertained the thought.

I wished that I could walk back into the control room and embrace her. It felt like an eternity since I’d come in contact with even a shred of humanity. I longed for a warm embrace, the squeeze of a hand, reassuring me that we would make it through this ordeal. I’d been frozen with fear and doubt for so long, I was desperate for anything that could help keep my fire alive. Darkness threatened to close in on me at any moment. Every second was a battle to prevent the haze from settling over me again.

The fact that I had no clue as to what the Elder planned to do with my family once we arrived caused my mind to spiral into a black abyss of terrifying possibilities. Do they want to turn my children too, or keep them for their blood? Will they bring them back to Cruor and make them grow up in the darkness of the storage chambers? What will they do to Derek? Will they harm him just to spite me, or will they find use for him as a vessel?

Several hours must have passed while I remained seated in the same spot, quivering slightly. The reason for my parasite’s silence dawned on me. The Elder is taking pleasure in my fear. My despair is its strength. I can’t give it that.

The thought of depriving the Elder of pleasure summoned a strength that I’d thought I had lost. I forced myself to imagine living happily with my family, sheltered from harm. Derek bought that beautiful beachfront villa. When I find my way back to him, he’ll be waiting on the porch. He’ll be holding our children, one in each arm. I’ll run up and shower them with kisses… I smiled internally. A warm feeling of peace spread through me.

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