Chapter 17: Derek

I wanted nothing more than to scorch that man to ashes. The fire burning in my fingertips was begging for release. But I had to reel in my temper. I had to see the bigger picture.

As soon as Corrine vanished with my wife, I threw myself against the car nearest to me and peered over the roof. I caught sight of the man’s blond head hurrying away down the pavement. I wasn’t going to let him get away. Ignoring the commotion behind me that was forming at a bullet having just been shot through the window of the police department, I raced across the road and began chasing the man.

He looked over his shoulder and stopped as he saw me. He didn’t raise his gun again as I had expected him to, perhaps because I was clearly not a vampire.

I closed the distance between us quickly and grabbed him by the collar. I pulled him away from the pavement and took a right down a narrow cobbled street filled with market stalls and teeming with people. Wrestling the gun out of his hands, and checking him for any other weapons he might have been carrying, I pulled him through the crowds. I stopped at the other end of the street where there were fewer people and hauled him down a narrow alleyway. I slammed him against the wall, pinning him there by his shoulders.

“Who are you?” I hissed as he struggled beneath my grip. “You’re a hunter?”

He nodded, scowling at me. “Who the hell are you?”

“Derek Novak.”

His jaw dropped. “Novak?” he croaked.

“That will be the last word you utter if you don’t listen to me,” I whispered, digging my fingertips into his flesh. He winced as I applied heat.

“What are you?” he whispered.

“Human. Hunter. Vampire. Fire-wielder. I have, and have had, many titles. But none of them define who I am.” I shook him. “Do you understand me?”

He cried out as a surge of heat passed through my fingertips and seeped into his flesh. Sweat dripped from his forehead.

“You almost killed a person who was trying to accomplish the very thing that you spend your days fighting for,” I snarled. I picked him up and slammed him against the opposite wall. “Not all supernaturals are the same, just as not all humans are the same. There are evil and good among all races.” I bashed his head against the wall again. “Get that into your thick skull before you go shooting at an innocent person again.”

“What are you doing here?” he gasped.

“We have just spent all day traveling through countries trying to protect the lives of humans,” I said through gritted teeth. “Something you almost killed my wife for doing.”

He looked shaken enough by now, his face drained of all color, so I let go of him, though not without first jolting him with another wave of heat.

He staggered back further down the alleyway, stopping and staring at me.

“My family and my people are your allies, not your enemies,” I said, trying to calm the storm raging within me. “The black witches are the ones you need to focus your energy on ending. They are the root of all this trouble now.”

“Black witches,” he breathed, “they are the ones who stole those teenagers from the school?”

I nodded grimly.

He frowned. “But some vampires are still our enemies. You forget about the incident in Chile. It was caught on camera, a vampire tearing through innocents’ throats. Do you know the vampire who did that?”

My voice caught in my throat. The hairs at the back of my neck stood on end. Clenching my jaw, I shook my head.

“I don’t know that vampire.” I breathed out heavily. “But what I’m saying is that the black witches are the primary threat now. They are the ones we need to be focusing on. So just… don’t just go shooting at any vampire you see, all right? Especially if you suspect that they are one of my people.”

The hunter nodded. I stepped aside, handing him his gun back, before he raced away.

“I don’t know that vampire.”

The words echoed around in my head long after the hunter had disappeared. It pierced my heart to realize that it was true.

The man I’d seen in that footage was not my son.

At least, not the son I knew.

Chapter 18: Ben

The Oasis. Once the home of the Maslens.

I stared around at the lavish atrium, barely believing what Jeramiah had just told me. My parents had told me about this place, the history it held. My mother had been imprisoned here by Borys Maslen. It was also where Benjamin Hudson had lost his life, as well as my uncle, Lucas Novak. The Oasis held a lot of meaning for my family. None of it good.

I was already unsure about the decision I’d made to join Jeramiah’s clan. Now the situation just seemed even more inauspicious. I glanced at Jeramiah, who seemed to be watching my reaction closely. I did my best to conceal my shock.

“You have a very impressive place here,” I said.

Jeramiah smiled. “Shall I give you a tour?”

“Sure,” I said, my mouth dry.

Jeramiah began leading me forward along the ground level that encompassed the beautiful gardens in the center of the atrium. Most of the doors we passed by were closed, but Jeramiah pushed the occasional one open to reveal luxuriously furnished chambers and apartments. They were all decorated similarly—opulent Egyptian furniture, shiny marble flooring, bright murals on the walls, warm, soothing lighting. A few of the doors Jeramiah pushed open were dark and I could hear snoring coming from them.

“Most of these scoundrels are sleeping now,” Jeramiah said. Letting down his dark shoulder-length hair, he shook it out before gathering it up above his head and tying it back in a bun. “You’ll get to meet them soon enough.”

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