I hoped to God that she’d just done us all a favor and drowned in the lake or gotten swallowed whole by a giant anaconda. Or perhaps the spider venom has finally claimed her.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was just an attention-seeking stunt. It wouldn’t have surprised me if she was hiding somewhere, hoping to draw a reaction from Caleb.

Well, even if that is the case, I don’t care anymore. Because Caleb is mine.

Chapter 13: Annora

As I’d floated in the lake, trying to wash out the green filth that was still plaguing the roots of my hair even after its sixth scrub, I’d sworn that I was done with this game. I wasn’t going to mess around with this girl any longer.

It was time that I cut to the chase.

Then the next morning, when I woke up alone to find my nose swollen from the spider bite, and then climbed out of bed to spot them standing in each other’s arms across the lake, I knew I couldn’t wait another day to do it.

My first attempt at finishing her off had failed. It was just as well, I supposed. Caleb had seemed to suspect that it was me. This time I needed to be more careful. Because, once I was successful at getting rid of her, if Caleb blamed me for it, it would take longer to make him fully mine again. For him to forgive me. I’d hoped that Rose was just a distraction, to take his mind off me. Now I feared that she had come to mean more to him than that. The situation had to be handled delicately.

I was sure that, with time, Caleb would forget her and lose himself to me again. I just needed the chance to remind him who I was and why he’d fallen in love with me to start with.

But to do that, I had to eliminate Rose.

It might be true that I had lost Caleb’s heart, but I would stop at nothing to reclaim it now.

The screams from the night before still playing in my ears, I left our tree and headed deeper into the jungle, toward where I thought the noise had emanated from. My progress through the trees was slow enough without shoes. I didn’t want to waste time stopping to treat my nose.

The moment I’d heard those screams, I’d had a sneaking suspicion what this island might be. And if my suspicions were correct, I was very, very lucky that we ended up on this island. Of all the places we could have washed ashore, this couldn’t have been a more perfect arrangement.

It was afternoon by the time I finally got confirmation of my suspicion. Although my throat was parched, my feet bleeding, I felt a sense of euphoria I hadn’t felt since first finding Caleb again in my heart that day I’d woken up as myself on Lilith’s island.

As I stood in the midst of the jungle, staring into an old stone well, I couldn’t keep the smile from my face as a plan formulated in my mind.

Yes… Yes. This will be a much more fitting ending for Rose than even handing her over to the black witches. They only want her blood, after all…

Chapter 14: Aiden

The moment Kyle and Anna discovered the bloodied bedsheets of their neighbors, Caroline and Thomas, the island was in an uproar. Kyle and Anna were both a bag of nerves as they came running to inform Derek and Sofia what had just happened. They’d been through such loss and trouble recently, and for this to happen just next door shook them both deeply. Kyle and Anna took Caroline and Thomas’ two children—now orphans—into their home.

A large number of vampires and humans on the island were still convinced that the werewolves—in particular, Micah—were responsible for Rose’s kidnapping. Many had held a grudge against the werewolves ever since.

Now, with the bloody mess that Caroline and Thomas had left behind, it was just another stab to an already gaping wound. All the doubt resurfaced again tenfold.

Derek and Sofia were forced to call a meeting in the Great Dome. The Shade’s council, consisting of vampires, humans, and now werewolves alike—except for Eli, who for some reason had refused to attend—argued for hours. I remained silent throughout, listening to the arguments for and against a werewolf being responsible for this. The whole time, I kept looking at Sofia. I couldn’t have felt more proud of and sorry for my daughter and son-in-law at the same time. Their daughter was missing, their son was still having a tough time recovering as a vampire, and now they had to deal with this new outrage that was threatening to overrun the island with animosity.

The entire time we were sitting there, we had to be aware primarily of Mona—we knew the werewolves were her family, and for that reason Derek and Sofia simply could not side with those opposed to the werewolves, even if they were responsible for this. The werewolves had to stay on the island, be they innocent or guilty. I saw it in my daughter’s eyes as she struggled with this conundrum. She and Derek were supposed to be completely impartial, searching only for the truth for the protection of the humans on the island, yet at the same time they had to maintain a partiality toward the werewolves. Even if it was unjust.

No, the meeting was not intended to get to the truth. It was intended to reach balance and compromise, trying to appease opponents on both sides of the issue. Because if the culprit was found to be a werewolf, the situation would become even more tense. Neither Derek nor Sofia were used to ruling their kingdom this way, and yet now, dependent on Mona as we were, they had no choice. I could see Derek close to losing his temper on several occasions, and having to pause to reel himself in.

Back and forth the arguments went all day. By the time evening came and Derek adjourned the meeting until tomorrow, I was exhausted. I was relieved for Derek and Sofia. They had dark shadows under their eyes—far too dark even for vampires—and worry lined their faces. Now that the torturous meeting was over for the day, they had to return to more worries. Worries much closer to home.

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