I paused, looking from one face to another, before averting my eyes to the ground. I found it difficult to hold eye contact for too long, especially with my brother. But I would’ve given anything to know what was going through his mind—heck, through all of their minds. Even despite Vivienne’s affection, I still didn’t know if I was welcome here. That had been why I was so hesitant to come to this island in the first place. I hadn’t thought I could handle the stress of seeing my family again. But now that I was here, surrounded by them, I couldn’t be more thankful that Ben had insisted I follow him. It was cathartic. And I realized that I needed this for my own sanity—to confront my past, no matter how uncomfortable it was.

Sofia cleared her throat, drawing my eyes to her beautiful green ones even despite myself. I found myself quickly exhausted as she eyed me intently, her gaze far stronger than mine.

Then, when she spoke, her voice sent tingles down my spine. I’d almost forgotten what her voice sounded like.

“All of us have learned to forgive on this island, Lucas,” she said.

Derek’s jaw tightened. Although he didn’t say anything to the contrary, I couldn’t help but sense he was less generous in his thinking than Sofia.

“If you’ve changed,” Vivienne continued, looking up at me through her glistening violet-blue eyes, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t all welcome you back with open arms.”

There was a span of silence as I considered how to respond, or maybe not to respond at all. I had changed, even against my own will; that much was undeniable. But it didn’t feel like mere words sufficed in this situation.

Gulping, I nodded. Even though my words were in response to Vivienne, it was Derek whom I looked straight at as I replied, “I suppose you will be the judge of that.”

Ben

Corrine, Aisha, River and I arrived at the Port to find Lucas and Jeramiah standing in the same position, but now with the rest of my family surrounding them: my father, mother, aunt and sister. Marcilla, Nolan and Chantel still hung some distance away, wandering around by the trees and gazing at our island in wonder.

I guessed from the looks on my family’s faces that Lucas had explained to them what had happened, at least in part. That was good. It saved us time. Sensing us approach, they twisted around, eyes bulging as they spotted Aisha hovering next to me and River.

“This is Aisha,” I addressed my parents. “One of the Nasiris. In case Lucas hasn’t mentioned, we have less than three days to present a gang of fae with an army of jinn, or these bodies will be stripped from us forever… and then there’s no saying what will become of me. We need to retrieve the Nasiris from the Drizans so I can take them to the fae.”

My mother tensed with fear. “The Drizans,” she murmured.

“We must call an emergency meeting,” my father said, never one to skip a beat, even as he still appeared to be in shock. “Corrine, would you fetch the rest of our Council?”

The witch nodded before vanishing.

Five minutes later, we were seated in the Great Dome, waiting for the rest of the Council to arrive. I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of Lucas as my mother and father took seats at the head of the table. I wished I could glimpse into his mind. Jeramiah sat next to Lucas, and I was still burning to know how he’d gotten here. I’d deliberately been avoiding meeting my cousin’s gaze because I knew that I would only end up glaring at him. It would take me a long time to forgive Jeramiah “Stone” for what he’d done to my family.

River sat beside me, while Aisha perched on my other side. Nolan, Chantel and Marcilla had also come with us and they sat further up the table. We watched the door as, one by one, the new arrivals gaped at Lucas, looking as though they’d been winded. And when Claudia, one of the last to enter, entered with Yuri, her belly protruding beneath a light pink dress, she positively shrieked on laying eyes on her old flame. She stared at Lucas, wide-eyed and gasping.

Then her eyes shot toward my father, digging into him for an explanation. Derek merely shrugged, and gestured for her to sit down with the rest of us.

As if Claudia would do that. She turned on Lucas again, daring to move closer to him.

“Lucas?” she breathed, blinking rapidly as though she were attempting to wake up.

Lucas nodded, a grimace on his face. “It is I,” he murmured.

Claudia clutched Yuri’s arm for support. The blood drained from her face, and it looked like she was about to faint. “Oh, Lord…”

Yuri ushered her to a seat on the opposite end of the table.

“There will be time for questions later,” my father said, as the last of our Council—Jeriad—entered.

From what I could see, the only member missing was Aiden, who would no doubt be overwhelmed in a teary reunion with Kailyn.

As the door snapped shut and Jeriad took his seat, my father began, “First, acknowledging the elephant in the room.” He pointed toward Lucas and Jeramiah. “Yes, these men you see before you are indeed Lucas and his son Jeramiah.”

Questions erupted but my father steamrolled over them. “We need to set our immediate attention on freeing the Nasiris from the Drizans.” My father went on to explain our predicament and my promise to the fae. “There could be great danger involved,” he went on, eyeing everyone sternly. “And even if all of you were willing, I think we should make this a party of no more than ten. What do you say, Aisha?” He turned on the teenage jinni. “You should tell us everything you know about the Drizans.”

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