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I felt uncomfortable about turning their daughter. I looked at Derek, and he understood. “I can turn Jason,” he said, “but I think Vivienne should turn Ariana. Sofia doesn’t have as much experience.”

Kyle and Anna looked happy with Vivienne as an alternative. We exchanged a few more words, then got up to leave. I cast one more glance at Kiev before heading out completely. My heart broke to see him sleeping there in Anna’s arms, so calm, so serene, oblivious to the danger surrounding him.

I just prayed that nothing bad would happen to that baby.

Chapter 23: Vivienne

I walked to the edge of the cliff and looked down on our island. The thick forests of sequoia. The sprawling beaches. The dark ocean, sparkling in the light of the moon.

I still came up here every so often, when I couldn’t stand anyone’s company but my own. It was the same cliff where I’d first told Xavier I loved him. The same cliff we’d gotten married on all those years ago.

News had spread quickly about the plans to turn Ben, Ariana and Jason. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. While I knew it would take the heat off them as targets, I couldn’t help but feel our solution wouldn’t be as simple as that.

A restlessness had stirred within me as soon as Derek had told me of their decision. Ben was about to be turned into the creature I no longer wanted to be. It triggered a sense of despair in me that I was finding impossible to ignore.

Xavier and I had agreed to wait two weeks before turning back into humans. Today was the fourteenth day. I supposed Xavier had been hoping that things would have become clearer. But they had only become murkier.

We’d agreed not to broach the subject again for two weeks. I felt conflicted as to whether we should speak of turning back at all. While I had made my wishes clear—I wanted to have Xavier’s child whether or not things calmed down on our island—Xavier had shown discomfort. Now I didn’t know where we stood. Telling him that my feelings hadn’t changed would feel like I was forcing him into a situation he didn’t want to be in. And yet I couldn’t shake the primal urge within me to bear a child. To finally have a baby of my own.

I sat down on the edge of the cliff, my legs hanging over the edge. I’d stayed out most of the day. Xavier had given me my space, which I was grateful for. But now I suspected that he’d be worried about me. I should return. And yet I sat frozen. I didn’t know what I would say to him. Or how I could continue living with this desire eating me away inside.

It seemed that whatever I did in this situation would be a mistake. Any way we turned would cause pain to either of us, perhaps even both of us. I dug my nails into the soil, trying to ground myself.

As midnight approached, so did Xavier.

“Viv, what are you doing up here?” he whispered. His arms wrapped around me, his chest pressing against my back as his legs slid either side of mine. “I’ve been waiting for you in bed.” He kissed the side of my neck.

I trembled beneath his touch. “I don’t know what will become of us, my love,” I breathed. My eyes were still fixed on the sparkling ocean, but now my vision was beginning to blur with tears.

Placing an arm beneath my knees, he twisted me round on his lap until I faced him. His left arm behind my back, he rested his right hand against the side of my face, brushing my cheek with his thumb.

“I know exactly what will become of us.”

The certainty in his beautiful eyes made me forget the heaviness in my chest for a moment, and I smiled. “Tell me.”

“At the end of this week, while Ben turns, we’ll both take the cure. We’ll turn into humans. And then we’ll take the honeymoon we never had. We’ll travel somewhere far away from here… from all of this. And we won’t return until you’re bearing my child.”

My breath hitched. His words painted a picture of heaven in my mind. Of a bliss I’d never quite believed I’d ever be able to reach out and touch. A future that I’d thought would forever elude us.

“But Xavier—”

“Derek and Sofia took their honeymoon when the island was in turmoil. It’s time we had our turn. They can manage without us for a few months… or however long it takes us.”

“But—”

“No more buts, Vivienne. We’ve stood by your brother all these years. He’ll agree that it’s time we took time for ourselves. And you know he will. That’s why you’re resisting.”

As always, my husband saw through me. Even after all these years, I still found it hard to come to terms with the idea of abandoning responsibility. But it seemed that Xavier, my beloved Xavier, wasn’t going to put up with my excuses.

“And… you really want this? You’re not just doing this for me? Because you feel pressured?”

He leant closer to me, his lips inches from my own. “I wouldn’t agree to this if I didn’t want it. Remember, I told you exactly how I felt about this two weeks ago. That’s why we put it off. Now I’m telling you that I want this. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

I closed my eyes as he caught my lips in his. He reached down and touched my stomach, caressing it as he kissed me.

“Vivienne Vaughn,” he whispered into my ear, “I want to make a baby with you.”

Even after all this time, I still shivered whenever he spoke my name with his. When I opened my eyes, my tears of uncertainty, tears of doubt, had transformed to tears of ecstasy. As I looked up into his handsome face—the dark stubble lining his strong jawline, the starry night sky behind him—a wave of déjà vu washed over me. I felt like bellowing into the wind, declaring my love for this man all over again. And again. And again. Until my voice broke and my lungs burst. This time not out of despair, but out of bliss. Out of the ecstasy that only my man, Xavier Vaughn, could bring me.

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