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Running my hands through his dark hair, I pulled myself up into kneeling position. Pushing him back against the grass, I climbed over him and kissed him harder.

As our lips parted for breath, I whispered, “Did I ever mention that I love you, Xavier?”

Chapter 24: Derek

I was surprised when Vivienne and Xavier turned up at our door. I’d been planning to visit them myself, to deliver Anna’s request that my sister turn Ariana.

Vivienne had been somber the past few weeks, but something was different about her today. She had more bounce in her step, and she looked like she was trying to suppress a smile. Her eyes shone as she threw her arms around my neck.

I raised a brow at Xavier for explanation. He gave me a small smile. “Let’s sit down first, shall we?”

We gathered in the dining area and I called Sofia to join us. She looked just as curious as me as to what could have caused this change in my sister.

Vivienne reached out and held Xavier’s hand. “Derek… Xavier and I want to have a child.”

I thought that I’d misheard her.

“A-Are you serious?”

Vivienne nodded, a smile lighting up her face.

“Oh, Vivienne!” Sofia flung her arms around my sister, pulling her close. “Derek, we’re going to be an aunt and uncle.”

The joy that I felt on seeing Vivienne finally give in to what I suspected she and Xavier had wanted all along was hard to contain. As I looked down at her beaming face, tears brimmed in my eyes. I didn’t know if I’d ever seen her so happy.

Despite the despair hanging over us, the anxiety that had been eating me away inside, Vivienne had just shed a ray of sunshine in the gloom.

“We want to leave The Shade,” Xavier said. “Go somewhere in Europe, perhaps… for however long it takes us.”

“Of course,” I said, even though none of us could even guarantee The Shade would still be in existence by then.

Vivienne shuffled on her feet. I could see that she felt bad suggesting that they leave us in this mess, but we could manage without them. Vivienne had sacrificed everything for us, for her family, for this island. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t even have Sofia.

“Take one of the subs,” I said. “And cash—Aiden can help organize that. Don’t come back until you’re ready. We’ll do all we can to hold down the fort in the meantime.”

“When do you plan to take the cure?” Sofia asked.

“We thought a fitting time would be at the end of this week, the same time Ben turns into a vampire,” Xavier said.

This timing didn’t sit well with me.

“I’d rather be there for it,” I said. “And I can’t be there for you when I’m worried about my own son. Can’t you turn a couple of days beforehand? That gives you time to take the cure, and then some more time to recover before I turn Ben.”

“Yes,” Vivienne said, looking up at her husband. “We could do that.”

“Another thing,” I said. “I was actually about to seek you out about this before you showed up here… Anna and Kyle have decided they want Jason and Ariana to turn into vampires. Anna has asked if you would turn Ariana.”

Vivienne raised a brow. “Yes, of course I will.”

“You can turn her tomorrow,” I continued. “And then the day after that, you can take the cure.”

Vivienne and Xavier posed no objections. They spent another hour with us before heading back to their own apartment. I sighed and looked at Sofia as they left.

Her smile looked as broad as mine felt, tears sparkling in her eyes. “There’s no one on this island who deserves a child more than Vivienne and Xavier.”

* * *

The next day, Vivienne arrived at Anna’s house at the appointed time. Sofia and I were already waiting in the living room. Sofia sat next to Anna, who’d just put Kiev to rest upstairs in his cot. Kyle stood behind the couch, shuffling on his feet as he watched us prepare.

Twelve-year-old Jason looked nervously up at me. Ariana, being older, seemed a little more at ease, though I didn’t miss the way her hairs stood on end as my sister walked into the room.

We’d cleared a space in the center of the room and laid down a pile of old carpets, as well as moved all the furniture out of the room except for a single couch.

Kyle and Anna gathered their two children and took a private moment with them. They took turns in hugging and kissing them, whispering words of reassurance in their ears, before Jason walked toward me, Ariana toward Vivienne.

I bent down to Jason’s level, hoping in doing so that I wouldn’t appear quite as intimidating. I smiled and ruffled his hair. He returned a small smile, but still looked deathly pale, as though I might have turned him into a vampire already.

I looked across the room toward Vivienne. She already had Ariana positioned flat on the rug, and was looking up at her parents for approval to go ahead and bite. We’d decided that it was best they turned simultaneously, or it would just increase the nerves of the sibling who had to wait and watch for his turn. As Vivienne dipped her head down, I did the same.

The poor boy was terrified. I made sure to find my mark quickly. When I punctured his skin, he moaned and tried to squirm away. Kyle hurried over and helped me hold him down as I gained more of a hold, sinking my fangs deep enough for the venom to inject into his bloodstream.

By the time I’d withdrawn from his neck, he was beginning to shake and convulse. I looked over at Ariana. Her transformation too was setting in.

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