Even in my drunk state, I found this odd. I stopped in my tracks. It was only now in the natural light of the full moon that I noticed just how pale his face was.

My breath hitched.

I’d seen enough vampires in my life. There were small differences in the formation of the upper jawbone—extremely subtle, but noticeable.

“A-are you a vampire?”

I felt crazy saying the words out loud. But his eyes widened and he took a step back from me. “What?”

“I’ve never seen you before in The Shade, but—”

“The Shade?”

He gripped my arms so tightly it hurt, his deep brown eyes narrowing on me.

“Who are you?” he whispered, barely breathing.

“Rose Novak. My parents are—”

Before I could even finish my sentence, he swore and let go of me with such force that I stumbled onto the sand.

He called out to the other men, “Do it now! We need to leave!”

The men pulled out needles from their pockets all at once, and in a whir of motion, the girls lay limp in their arms. They all ran into the ocean, carrying their victims over their shoulders. I could barely shout out before a black submarine emerged from the waters. They piled in through the hatch.

Caleb glared down at me and, without another word, raced into the water and leapt through the hatch after them.

Seconds later, the submarine was gone.

Chapter 5: Rose

Ben didn’t believe me last night when I told him. He said that I was just drunk out of my mind and hauled me back to the condo, leaving Kristal and Jake to continue partying until dawn.

Only when we switched on the local news the following morning to find out that almost a dozen girls had gone missing from that beach that very night did he start to take notice of what I was saying.

He pulled me into his room and shut the door.

“So you’re telling me that vampires are responsible for this?”

“Yes,” I said irritably, rubbing my head as I tried to relieve my hangover. “I saw a group of vampires steal them away. The guy—Caleb, his name was—would have stolen me away too if I hadn’t told him that I was a Novak.”

Ben heaved a sigh and sat down on the bed next to me, resting his own head in his hands.

“And you are sure that you didn’t recognize any of these vampires from The Shade?”

“No way.” I shook my head, recalling how hot Caleb was. “Trust me, I would have remembered them.”

“Then who the hell are they? And why are they going around stealing people?”

I paused and continued to massage my temples with my fingers.

“Ben, we should call Mom and Dad to tell them about this.”

He stared at me.

“You do realize that if we do that, our two months of freedom will be over before they’ve even begun?”

“Obviously. But what other option do we have?”

“What would Mom and Dad do about this even if they knew?”

Ben had a point. We couldn’t dictate that another coven should live without human blood like everyone did in The Shade. Drinking human blood was just a part of life for most vampires—no different than humans eating animals for their flesh.

I supposed that I would have been more horrified by the thought of all those girls being kidnapped had I not grown up all my life around vampires. Although the vampires of The Shade no longer fed on humans, it was part of their nature to crave human blood and I knew that it was a daily struggle for The Shade’s vampires to exercise restraint and sustain themselves only on animal blood. It was rather macabre to realize how desensitized I was to the situation.

“I suppose there’s not much they could do about it,” I began slowly. “Though I still think that we should tell them when we return. Mom and Dad have never mentioned any other covens still existing today except for our own. They always told us that the other vampires were taken back through the portal into Cruor—and those who weren’t joined us in The Shade. It’s really very odd.”

“Okay, I agree,” Ben said. “We’ll tell them when we get back.”

There was a knock on the door. Ben got up to open it and Kristal walked into the room in her bathrobe.

“How did you both sleep?” she asked.

I rubbed my throbbing head and muttered, “Good.”

“You really scored last night,” she said, sitting down on the bed next to me and squeezing my knee.

“Yeah.” I sighed. “I did.”

Chapter 6: Aiden

As I approached the front door of Yuri and Claudia’s penthouse, my hands trembled. Exhaling deeply, I reached for the front door but paused just before I knocked.

Pressing my head against the door, I shut my eyes tight.

What am I doing?

I’d been feeling crazy ever since I seriously began to entertain Sofia’s suggestion that I turned, but now I felt downright bonkers.

Do I really want to become the creature that killed my father? That ripped my family apart? How will I even look myself in the mirror?

I’d spent enough time around the vampires of The Shade for my prejudices that all these creatures were the same to disappear. But some things that were associated with the pale bloodsuckers—like the horrific images from my past—just couldn’t be undone.

But then my darling Sofia had turned into one. Along with Derek. And they even spoke of turning their children once they were old enough to make an informed decision. And something had stirred within me. A desire to live on past my natural lifetime. I felt blessed to have the family that I had, and somehow, my limited human lifespan didn’t feel enough. Knowing that they would go on to live eternally while I passed away after a few more decades was haunting.

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