Yuri’s smile faded, his jaw tensing just at the thought. “No. Please, don’t.”

“Then you’d better kiss me again before I start getting ideas,” she whispered.

Yuri clutched the sides of her head and crushed his lips against hers. She jumped up against him, wrapping her legs around his waist and making him stagger back. They were so consumed in each other as Yuri carried her toward the cave’s exit, they bumped into several vampires and werewolves along the way. Leaping down from the rocks outside and disappearing from our view, they headed straight for a bedroom somewhere, I supposed… if they made it that far.

“Hey.” Eli approached us from behind, one arm wrapped around Adelle.

“Eli!”

We took turns in hugging him.

“Did you see Yuri?” Aiden asked.

“Yes.” He smirked. “Before my sister-in-law got hold of him.”

“Good,” Aiden said. As he cast his eyes across the cave, his face lit up. “Kailyn,” he whispered.

With the early signs of dawn showing in the sky outside the island’s boundary, the werewolves were already back in their human forms. Kailyn fought her way through the crowd and reached my father. He drew her against him and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. But Kailyn was having none of that. She gripped his hair and pulled him down to kiss him full on the mouth.

Finally, Dad…

I couldn’t stop a goofy grin splitting my face. I almost let out a laugh at the sight of Rose. Her jaw had dropped as she stared at her grandfather. She looked at me in bewilderment.

“When did this happen?” she mouthed.

I just shrugged. Then, for some reason, I looked toward Adelle. Eli was in conversation with Derek, but her gaze… it was fixed on my father and his new werewolf girlfriend. I wasn’t sure the redhead was even aware that I was watching her. It was as if she was in a daze.

“Sofia.” Derek’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “We should finish scoping out the damage around the island so that people can start getting housed… And then we’ll have to meet with those dragons.”

“Agreed,” I said, ungluing my eyes from the witch.

We knew the Vale and the witches’ mountain cabins were okay, but we still didn’t know whether the fire had reached the vampires and werewolves’ homes. We gathered together a group and set off.

We were all relieved to discover that most of the treehouses had been spared—thanks to their distance from the Port and our witches’ haste in putting out the flames. There were only three in total that had been affected: Aiden’s, Gavin and Zinnia’s, and Ashley and Landis’. We’d accept our witches’ help in rebuilding those quickly.

This lack of damage gave me reassurance that the homes of the werewolves and the vampires who’d arrived at The Shade with Mona and Kiev, northeast of the island, would also be mostly undamaged. I was wrong. Somehow the flames had spread there faster than I could have imagined and what was once a long row of townhouses was now a pile of rubble and ash.

“Well,” my father said, surveying the scene as he stood next to Kailyn, “I see this as a good opportunity to finally integrate all these vampires and werewolves into the Residences. I doubt even the humans are in fear of them anymore, as some were when they first arrived.”

“I agree,” I said. I raised an eyebrow at my husband.

“I don’t see a reason why not,” he replied.

“Then we should get started,” Ibrahim said. “We’ve a lot of construction to do. The Port is also a wreck.”

As we all began to move toward the Residences, I stopped in my tracks, gripping Derek by the hand.

“We’ll join you all later,” I said. “Derek and I have to meet with the dragons, and also check on something else.”

“Dragons?” Everyone who’d been paralyzed whirled around in shock.

“Yes,” Derek said. “They’re still on the island.” He proceeded to briefly explain what had happened. Once he’d finished and everyone moved away, he turned to me and asked, “Check on what else exactly?”

“Quick, come with me.” Pulling him along behind me, I sped up into a sprint. It didn’t take long for him to catch on to where I was headed and soon, he was leading the way.

Turning the final corner, we both let out sighs of relief.

Our lighthouse. Our sanctuary. Our sacred space. It stood among the rocks, as tall as it ever had.

“I’m not sure what I’d do if this was ever destroyed,” I said, twining my fingers with Derek’s. “I’m starting to think of it as the only constant thing about The Shade.” I shuddered, recalling the trauma I’d experienced only a few hours ago of believing my father to be dead.

Derek shook his head. “I disagree. We are constants.”

“But our lives, even as supernaturals… they are so fragile.”

“Yet we survive.”

I looked Derek straight in the eye. “But this isn’t the kind of survival that I want for us, Derek. Not for our people, or our family. Recently, we’ve been living on the edge of our seats, in tension and fear… hell, this isn’t a life I’d wish upon anyone.”

My husband gathered me closer to him. His gaze intensified as he said, “It won’t always be like this, Sofia. I promise.”

I didn’t know how he could promise such a thing, but my heart lightened at his words.

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