I wrapped my arms around her neck and kissed her cheek.

“Thank you, Aunty Corrine.”

She frowned at me.

“I feel awful going behind your parents’ backs like this. Just promise me that you won’t get yourselves into trouble.”

“I promise,” I said, grinning and dashing out of the room.

Ben was waiting for me in his room when I returned to the penthouse. He raised his eyebrows expectantly and stood up from the bed.

“Well? Did she give them to you?”

I nodded and handed the passports over for him to inspect.

“And you?” I asked. “Did you do it?”

“Yes, I called them,” he replied, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a black mobile phone—one of the few phones on the island that Corrine had charmed to allow outside contact with the world. “Jake says we’re still welcome. They were planning to spend the summer in their dad’s condo anyway. And he says Kristal is looking forward to seeing you.”

I sat down on the bed next to him.

“Good. So that’s accommodation sorted. Now, let’s count the money… and we also need to think about plane tickets,” I muttered.

Ben reached under his bed. He pulled out a leather pouch stuffed full of cash. We both started counting up all the pocket money we’d been given by our parents and grandfather over the years that we hadn’t had an opportunity to spend. It amounted to several thousand dollars. Certainly more than enough for two months, especially considering that accommodation would be free of charge.

“So, here’s how this is going to work,” I said, once we’d tucked all the money back into Ben’s pouch and replaced it beneath his bed. I rubbed my temples as I tried to think the plan through. “Corrine will drop us off on the little Scottish island. It will be in the evening, so we may as well spend the night there. But the next morning, we’ll catch a boat out of there and head toward the nearest airport. The staff at the island won’t bat an eyelid on seeing us leave because we’ll have checked in as twenty-one-year-olds with these passports. So, we’ll arrive at the airport. We’ll pay for tickets in cash and book the first flights out of there.”

Ben nodded. “And we’ll take this phone with us as we usually do. They’ve never tried calling the camps we’ve stayed at before—they’ve always contacted us directly on the mobile. So they’re never going to know we’re not in Scotland.”

Ben and I stared at each other as the scale of the trick we were about to attempt settled upon us like a heavy weight.

The truth was, I didn’t enjoy lying to my parents. And Ben didn’t either. Yes, Ben and I threw our strops, but at the end of the day we didn’t like to see worry written all over their faces.

But the invitation of our friends from last summer camp—Kristal and Jake—had begun ringing in our ears as soon as our mother had mentioned we were to be going on this stupid adventure course. That, and the fact that this really was going to be our last summer as humans.

“It’s just this once,” Ben said quietly. “For two months. They’ll never know. We’ll just make sure to be back in Scotland on the date Corrine is due to pick us up.”

I nodded, though his words didn’t dissipate the guilt that had settled in my stomach. We had never perpetrated such a massive deception before. We’d be betraying not only our parents’ trust, but also Corrine’s.

I stood up and walked around the room, breathing deeply.

“Well,” I muttered. “Hawaii, here we come.”

Chapter 3: Derek

Once Corrine had left the island with Ben and Rose, the first thing I did was call a council meeting in the Great Dome.

Sofia and I sat at the head of the long table, Vivienne and Xavier either side of us. The room filled up with our most trusted comrades.

Once everyone had seated themselves, I cleared my throat and began.

“So, our children have turned seventeen. As you all know, Sofia and I vowed that we wouldn’t get entangled with any situation that was risky until this time.” I looked down at Sofia.

She nodded, reassuring me.

“Over the past decade, these beach kidnappings have remained steady, while the police have remained clueless. It should be apparent by now that there is likely some greater force at work than humans.”

“May I ask what these kidnappings have to do with us?” Claudia called out.

My eyes settled on the blonde vampire.

“If our suspicions are correct that these kidnappings are not being done by humans, then we ought to know who is behind them. Especially since they are going on so close to our own turf.”

I paused to look around the room.

“Also,” Sofia said, “I say that since we have knowledge of this hidden world of supernaturals—something normal people could never have—we ought to use this knowledge to get to the bottom of this. It’s our responsibility. Nobody else will solve this mystery unless we do.”

Her words sounded strange to my ears. Although we’d stopped kidnapping humans and drinking their blood almost two decades ago, this was the first time in centuries that the vampires of The Shade were opening their minds to the possibility that our responsibilities might stretch outside of our own little world.

“So, what’s the first step?” Yuri asked.

Eli turned to look at his brother.

“There’s only one option. Reach the latest kidnapping spot as soon as possible after the disappearance. I suggest that Ibrahim or another witch vanishes us to the location, and that way we can escape quickly if an official approaches. As I said, we may find nothing… or we may find something. I suggest we bring Shadow, since he has the best senses of all of us.”

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