“It’s not a problem, Corrine.” Anna smiled gently. “I’ve always told you that I don’t mind giving blood. I’m glad that it’s so useful.”

“Yes.” Corrine squeezed her hand. “And this island owes you too much already, Anna. We don’t want to take anything more from you than we absolutely need.”

“It’s fine, Corrine,” Anna said, waving a hand in the air. “You’re all my family.”

Corrine sighed and stood up. “Well, I won’t keep you any longer, dear,” she said, eyeing Anna’s huge stomach. “You take it easy, all right?”

Anna nodded and walked over to the exit at the other side of the room, while Corrine made her way toward me. “Ah, Sofia. I’ve been expecting you.” She looped an arm through mine and we left the dining hall. “Let’s go back to my place.”

“So you definitely won’t need to take any more of Anna’s blood after this?” I asked.

“That’s correct. We have enough to recreate more doses, so long as we guard our supply carefully.”

I sighed heavily.

Corrine looked up at me. “Anna’s at peace with her life,” she said. “You fret more about her than she does for herself. You do realize that?”

I nodded. “I just can’t stand the thought of losing her one day. It will be like losing a sister.”

“I know,” Corrine replied, clenching her jaw. “There’s not a person on this island who won’t grieve her loss. That one’s special. Kyle’s a very lucky man.”

We walked in silence for the rest of the walk to the Sanctuary. Once we were sitting in Corrine’s lounge, I tried to tear my mind away from Anna. From her fate that I had no power over.

“So,” I said, clearing my throat. “About the twins’ birthday…”

Corrine’s eyes lit up with excitement as she began explaining to me the ideas she had for their party this year.

I held up a hand.

“Corrine, this is what I’m here to talk to you about. They don’t want us to throw them a big party this year.”

Her face fell in disappointment.

“Why ever not? We always have so much fun.”

“They’re… maturing. They don’t like the idea of their parents still organizing parties for them. I’m already making them go on that adventure course. They won’t want a big party as well. We can just arrange for a picnic for all the children and teenagers on this island.”

Corrine swallowed back her disappointment and nodded.

“Well… all right then.”

I squeezed her shoulder. The witch—still holding out on having children of her own with Ibrahim, since, being a witch, she still had lots of youthful years ahead of her—lavished all her attention on the twins and enjoyed every moment of it. I knew how much my twins meant to her—especially Rose—and I saw the pain in her eyes as it dawned on her that they no longer were the young children who lapped up all her attention eagerly.

I stayed for about half an hour longer with her discussing the picnic, and then I returned to the penthouse.

Once the twins are gone, we’ll all have much more important things to discuss than birthday parties.

Chapter 2: Rose

“He could wear my grandma’s pants and still look sexy,” Becky said, looking longingly at my brother who was sitting across the lawn with a group of friends.

“I love that he’s growing his hair out a bit,” Jessica said, staring at him dreamily, her chin resting in her palms. “Damn, it looks good.”

“Seriously, what do your parents feed him?” Silvia asked, turning toward me.

“The same as me,” I muttered, rolling my eyes at my friends.

“Who do you think he’ll date next, now that he’s no longer going out with Yasmine?” Jessica asked.

“No idea.”

“Does he still do martial arts training with your dad?” Becky asked.

“Yeah,” I said, stretching my legs out on the grass and yawning. “My dad makes us both do it.”

“Ahh… Prince Benjamin Novak,” Silvia whispered, sighing. “When will you be mine?”

I looked at the three friends who had stayed back with me after the picnic just so they could continue to ogle my brother. Ben was the heartthrob of all the girls on the island. Whenever I was with them while Ben was around, it felt like I might as well not exist.

It was my birthday as well as Ben’s, yet throughout the whole picnic my friends had done almost nothing but stare at and gossip about my brother. Occasionally I found myself wondering how many of them were friends with me just so they could get the inside scoop on my brother.

I, on the other hand, didn’t seem to get as much attention from the boys my age. Sure, I caught them looking at me, but it was rarely more than that. My girlfriends thought that maybe I intimidated them, being princess of The Shade. My theory was that they were intimidated by the males in my family. I thought that perhaps the prospect of having both Derek and Ben Novak breathing down his neck was just too daunting for a young man to bother. Because my brother was just as protective of me as my father. There were after all plenty of other pretty girls on the island with less obstacles.

I couldn’t say that any of this bothered me much though. My life didn’t revolve around finding a boyfriend as my friends’ seemed to.

I didn’t know if it was just my imagination, but my girlfriends’ gossiping seemed to have become worse in recent months and I found myself spending more and more time with Griffin. When he wasn’t around, I’d got into the habit of hanging out with my parents’ friends instead. I realized that I had more in common with them than most of my contemporaries, who were all still human.

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