Prologue: Sofia

“What did you just say?”

I didn’t answer Derek for several moments as I continued staring at the television. Although the screen had changed, the image of two missing blonde twins remained etched in my mind.

Truth be told, I’d been considering this for some time now.

“You heard me,” I said.

My husband sat bolt upright on the sofa next to me, his electric-blue eyes staring into mine. “But why?” He reached for my knee and gripped it.

“Because I’m worried, Derek.”

He ran a hand through his thick dark hair, an exasperated expression on his face. “But how would this help?”

“After all we’ve been through… I just hate to feel powerless. Especially now that we have Ben and Rose.”

“But after everything…” He trailed off, still staring at me disbelievingly. He glanced back at the television, which was showing photo after photo of missing people. Victims of kidnappings, the police assumed. Kidnappings that had become worse over the last couple of years.

We had been used to such things when the Elders and Hawks had a foothold on Earth. But they were banished now.

“We don’t even know who is taking these people.” Derek reached out to brush my cheek. “It could be humans at the bottom of this.”

Even he seemed to lose conviction in his own words.

I raised a brow at him in disbelief.

“Eli and Ibrahim would disagree with you there,” I said.

“Maybe.” He sighed. “But they’re not sure either.”

“They’re damn sure that whatever force is at work here isn’t human. Something strange is going on. Derek, these people are just disappearing without a trace.”

“But they still don’t have any evidence that this is anything supernatural. This is all pure suspicion. And I’d say we’re all biased to assume supernatural causes, wouldn’t you agree?”

I sighed and leaned back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed the top of my head.

“You’re right,” I said. “We don’t have any evidence. But I still feel uneasy living here. We’re smack-bam on one of the coastlines where these disappearances are going on.”

We both fell silent. I snuggled closer against him, listening to the steady beat of his heart.

“You know what that would mean, right?” he asked finally.

I nodded and my throat went dry as all the implications washed over me. We both looked around the sitting room of our Californian dream home.

We’d have to sell this house and live in The Shade full time. Ben and Rose would have to leave all their friends. We’d say goodbye to making sandcastles on the beach together every Saturday afternoon. No more running around with them outside in the sunshine. Derek and I would once again become vampires.

I’d had this urge to turn back for a while. The main problem was that if I became a vampire again, Derek would have no choice but to do the same. Otherwise, I’d have to watch as Derek aged and passed away. He had fire-wielding capabilities and he still had superhuman strength thanks to Cora. But he didn’t have immortality.

“I suppose it won’t be that much of an upheaval for them,” Derek muttered. “They’re still young. The Shade is already their second home during the summer holidays. And—”

I held a finger to Derek’s lips. He was avoiding the subject.

“I know what this means for you,” I whispered as he looked down at me. “I know how much you despised what you were before.”

“I can’t deny that the idea of being a vampire is associated with some pretty traumatic stuff in my past,” he replied, smiling slightly at his understatement. “But you can’t compare what it was like before to now. I’ll have you to tame me.” He kissed my cheek.

I looked wistfully again around the room. “And what will happen to this place?”

“Well, this is no longer your dream home if you’re scared living in it.” He shrugged. “And it’s certainly no longer my dream home if you’re unhappy here. We’ll sell it.”

I looked into his eyes again. Despite his trying to ease my guilt, I knew that turning back into a vampire would be a sacrifice. I couldn’t have loved him more than at that moment for what he was willing to do to make me feel safe.

“Rose and Ben will have to get used to having vampires for parents,” I muttered. “No more coming to us in the middle of the night for cozy time. We’ll be the ones craving their warmth.”

I thought again of our beautiful five-year-olds tucked in bed upstairs. Rose with her long straight black hair, Ben with his shorter cut that stopped just above his ears, both sharing the same sparkling green eyes and long dark eyelashes. Derek was right that they were still too young for this to be too much of an upheaval. They made friends easily at this age. And they were used to The Shade. They had so many wellwishers back there—more than they even knew about. They were the sweethearts of the island, the little prince and princess. And everyone spoiled them rotten—especially Corrine.

Still, I couldn’t shake the worry that I would be depriving them by sheltering them for the rest of their childhood on that small island. I would be depriving them of the more varied experiences they would have had if we’d stayed here and they’d attended a regular school, rather than the one run by the witches of The Shade. Although I had no doubt that those witches were far more knowledgeable and qualified than any junior-school teacher could be, I craved a life of normalcy for my children. Because normalcy was what I had always craved growing up. Normalcy was what I’d never had.

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