Derek stroked my head. “You’re right for wanting this, darling. We’re doing what’s best for them. We’re keeping them safe.”

I nodded, although my throat still felt parched.

“We’ll send them to summer camp once a year as soon as they’re old enough,” he continued. “Aiden can take them to Europe—far away from these kidnappings.”

I nodded again. I couldn’t deny that the idea of them going to summer camp made the weight on my chest a little lighter.

“I just want to shelter our children during these first few years,” I said. “I want them to live without struggling or fearing. We owe them that much after the rough start they had in life.”

Derek stood up, and, pulling me up toward him, placed both hands on the small of my back and drew me close to him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and held tight.

“One question that still remains is,” he whispered, caressing my bare shoulder with his lips, “are we finished having children? Is two enough for us? Because… well, you know how it works.”

I nodded. We would no longer be able to conceive once we were vampires.

Derek and I had discussed this before over the past five years. We’d gone back and forth on whether we wanted more children. But it always came down to the same fact: we both felt blessed with the children we had and hadn’t felt the urge to have more. They were five years old now, and we still hadn’t made plans for more.

Still, it was a heavy question to answer, knowing that now it would be final. Unless of course we were both willing to take the cure again and turn back into humans.

We both stood in each other’s arms in silence for what felt like an eternity. Finally we looked into each other’s eyes.

“I think we are,” I said quietly.

He nodded in agreement.

Then an obvious question struck me. “But do we even know you can be turned?”

“We’ll have to consult with Ibrahim and get his opinion.”

“Because if there’s a risk, then—”

“There’s no point speculating,” Derek said, holding up a hand. “We’ll ask him what the risks are.”

I nodded and gulped down the lump in my throat.

“Derek,” I said, removing my arms from round his neck and clutching his hands in mine. “If you can be turned and we go through with this, we must promise not to tell our children why we left the outside world and moved to The Shade. I don’t want them growing up in fear.”

“I don’t like the idea of them growing up naive,” Derek said, looking down at me seriously. “Oblivious to the world around them. That’s dangerous.”

“I know,” I said, sighing. “I know we can’t hide them away from the world forever. But I want to wait at least until they’re older, in their late teens.”

Derek paused and continued looking at me. Eventually he nodded.

“Seventeen,” he said. “We’ll wait until they’re seventeen. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

We continued staring at each other, the gravity of what we were planning to do settling upon us.

“Have you considered that, unless Rose and Ben turn too, they could end up older than us?” Derek said.

“Oh. That would be… strange,” I said slowly, trying to wrap my head around the notion. “Really… really strange.”

“They would have to turn before they reached our age,” he said, running a hand through my hair. “But what if they’re immunes, like you used to be?”

“That’s unlikely. According to the witches, immunity to vampirism normally skips a generation. But still, it’s something we’ll have to discuss with them when they’re older,” I said. “There’s no point thinking about it now. So much could happen between now and then. We still have a good few years ahead of us before that time comes.”

“Hm.” A grin spread across Derek’s face, mischief sparking in his eyes. “So you’ll be my forever sexy twenty-three-year-old wife.”

I smirked.

“And you my forever sexy twenty-four-year-old husband… well, technically you’re also twenty-three, actually—”

“Enough with pedantries.”

Before I could object, he swept me off my feet and carried me up the stairs to our bedroom. Laying me down on our bed, he began slipping off my nightdress. He paused, the smile on his face fading.

“If we’re really planning to go through with this, it ought to be sooner rather than later. Because…” He trailed off and looked down at me seriously, so much that I held my breath, wondering what was wrong. He leant down, as though examining me. “I can already see a wrinkle forming in the corner of your eye.”

I giggled and slapped him on the shoulder.

“Derek! We shouldn’t be making light of this situation. We still have a lot to—”

“Yes, we still have a lot to do,” he whispered, his voice husky, “While we’re both still warm.”

He finished pulling off my nightdress and then ripped off his own clothes. My skin tingled as his heated body slid beneath the sheets next to me.

Sometimes when we made love, in Derek’s abandon, he would become almost too fiery for me to touch and we had to stop until he calmed down a little. On a few occasions, the sheets he had been gripping had become singed.

No, a change of temperature wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for my husband.

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