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Even Kiev seemed speechless as he picked me up and carried me upstairs to our bed. I was glad that he didn’t say anything. That he didn’t try to comfort me as I wept in his arms. Because I didn’t deserve to be comforted. I deserved to feel this pain.

I smiled bitterly as I realized that only a short while ago, I would have done anything to be accepted back into the fold of my people. To be welcomed back home, no longer seen as a traitor. Now, even if they invited me back, I’d have to bear this guilt on my shoulders each and every day that I lived there. I supposed they might even forgive me if I’d explained the circumstances in which I’d found myself. They might still allow me to live with them in exchange for lending my powers to them as a Channeler…

I stopped myself short.

What am I thinking?

How can I even imagine returning home?

I was getting carried away with the fantasy I’d had for so long.

But it was out of the question.

The safety of this whole island depended on me. I couldn’t abandon the people here. And I couldn’t do that to Kiev, not after all he’d been through to get here. I knew what his place on this island with his family meant to him, how hard he’d fought for redemption. I couldn’t bring it all crashing down.

I had to stay strong not just for Kiev, but for everyone here. Because as much as my heart ached to visit home, even if only briefly, I’d come to love The Shade’s people far too much to risk breaking them.

Chapter 33: Csilla

“Love. It’s a flickering flame. So easily swayed by doubt…”

As I stood by the window of the cabin, taking in the magnificent view, I recalled the words my mother had spoken to me when we’d first arrived outside the island’s boundary.

We didn’t know how long it would take for Derek and Sofia Novak to come to a decision. But the longer we spent in The Shade, the better.

Our pitch to the queen had been that we sought an alliance between their people and ours. But really, we were only here for one purpose and one purpose only. To reclaim Mona as our own.

I guessed that Sofia and Derek might even suspect this. But it didn’t matter, as long as we were able to drag out our stay long enough to complete our assignment. It helped that their son had just turned, and they had lost their daughter. We couldn’t have arrived at a better time. They were distracted and desperate.

Now that Mona had left Rhys, we needed her. The power of the black witches only grew day by day, and without a Channeler on our side, we had little hope of defending our freedom. We needed one of their own to help us navigate their dark minds.

Of course, Mona couldn’t be forced to come with us. She was far too powerful for that. That was why my mother and I had been chosen for this task. We were the two witches in The Sanctuary whom Mona held the greatest weakness for.

And we were off to a good start, it seemed. My mother was pleased by our initial encounter with Mona. She’d already sensed a weakness in her. A leaning toward what we were planning to propose to her, once we’d set all our pieces in place.

“Doubt. Such an easy seed to sow. So troublesome to dig out…”

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