Sofia didn’t stop urging me either.

So here I stood.

So this is the day Aiden, one of the most feared hunters the world has ever known, becomes the very creature he hunted.

Clearing my throat, I knocked on the door.

Footsteps sounded and the short blonde vampire appeared in the doorway.

“Oh, Yuri,” she called. “Look who’s here for your, ahem, services.”

She winked at me and opened the door fully for me to step inside.

Yuri entered the hallway and, rolling his eyes at her, walked up to me and gripped my hand in a firm shake.

“You’ll have to excuse my wife,” Yuri said, eyeing Claudia with mock disdain. “As much as I’ve tried over the years, I still haven’t quite managed to rescue her mind from the gutter.”

Claudia reached up and grabbed Yuri’s ear between her fingers, yanking him down to her level to kiss him full on the mouth.

“Baby,” she whispered as their lips parted. “Stop pretending you’d want me any other way.”

Yuri’s cheeks flushed. He pulled away from her and stood up straight, clearing his throat.

“I’ll leave you two to it,” she said, winking and floating out of the room.

“Well,” Yuri said, raising his eyes to me and grinning sheepishly. “Follow me through here.”

I followed him into their spare bedroom, which he had stripped of all furniture, curtains and carpets. Anything that could be stained with blood or ruined in case I was overcome by a violent fit, as was often the case with newly turned vampires.

“You sure you want me to be the one to do this?” he asked, eyeing me dubiously.

Yuri had come to be my best friend on that island—the level of friendship I’d struck up with the young vampire had surprised even me. Somehow, I felt more comfortable with him turning me than my own daughter. I didn’t know what state I would wake up in, and exposing my daughter to that side of me before I got control of myself made me very uncomfortable. I trusted Yuri and developed a level of comfort of him over the years that I felt I could discuss things with him—man to man—that I felt embarrassed discussing with others. He just seemed to be the logical choice, the first person to spring to mind, when I thought about who should turn me.

I nodded and lay down on the wooden table in the center of the room.

“Let’s just get this over with,” I said, grimacing.

“All right. Man, this ain’t gonna be pretty.”

Splashing cold water over my face, I looked up at myself in my bathroom mirror. Even after eleven years of being a bloodsucker, my reflection still shocked me sometimes.

Those first few years had been harrowing. That all-consuming greed to feed on human blood. To hunt, to harm, to devour. I hadn’t allowed myself to even go near the part of the island where my grandchildren lived for the first month after turning. The whole experience had made me more sympathetic toward vampires than I could have ever been before.

Somehow, it had also given me renewed emotional strength.

The day I’d pushed my wife into the pit knowing she’d be burnt alive, I’d thought my ability to feel for anyone else ever again had burned alongside her.

Then along came Adelle. The shy, soft-spoken witch who through her devotion to teaching the children of The Shade soon became appointed headmistress.

The striking red-haired beauty had called to me like a siren the moment I’d laid eyes on her. But I’d still felt too numb inside to do anything about it.

But then, when I’d turned… something had shifted inside me. Perhaps it was a renewal of confidence. Confidence to open up again in ways that I hadn’t thought I was capable of while still a human. I supposed that confidence was a natural consequence of knowing you’d live forever.

My daughter had encouraged me ever since I’d first turned. “You’ve got forever now, Dad. You need to find someone to live it with other than just me and the kids.”

I’d come to realize that I’d been through enough heartbreak and pain in my mortal life already for much more to make a difference, especially since I now had an eternity to recover from it.

I took a shower and got dressed. Although I dressed casually, inwardly, my stomach was in knots as I prepared myself for what I was about to do. Today was a big day. The day that I was going to ask a girl out on a date. The day I would hopefully escape the dreaded friend zone, as Sofia would have referred to it.

I hadn’t told Sofia yet that I was pursuing Adelle. Sofia would find out if and when we became lovers. I smiled as I imagined the smile on Sofia’s face if it actually happened.

Leaving my penthouse, I headed toward the Vale and stopped once I reached the town square, in clear view of the entrance to the school where I was due to meet Adelle.

I had to catch myself from exhaling too audibly as she stepped out onto the steps. Her long wavy hair hung loose down her shoulders, and she wore a pretty floral summer dress that stopped just above her knees.

“Aiden! There you are.”

“Hi, Adelle.”

She walked up to me and greeted me with a peck on the cheek.

“Shall we?” I held out my arm for her to grasp and led her away from the clearing and into the forest.

“Well, I’m intrigued, to say the least, about what you might want with me on this fine summer’s evening.”

“I thought it’d be nice to take a walk after school for a change, rather than always chatting in the classrooms.”

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