Over the next month, we arranged the sale of the house—which thankfully wasn’t difficult due to its location—and made final arrangements for leaving. We packed up all of our belongings and made sure that Ben and Rose had an opportunity to bid farewell to all their pre-school friends.

When asked by our neighbors and other parents where we were going, we told them that we had decided to relocate to Europe to be close to an ailing relative.

My father, Aiden, arrived on the doorstep the night before the new owners were due to take possession of the house. He was dressed casually in a loose short-sleeved shirt and jeans. I’d told the twins to sit by the door on some suitcases so that they were out of the way, but they jumped up as soon as their grandfather walked through the door.

“It’s Grandpa!” Rose squealed.

“Grandpa!” Ben yelled.

Aiden’s face lit up as soon as he saw them. He had gotten rid of his Hawk form thanks to Ibrahim who, after several years experimenting with a combination of spells and potions, had finally managed to transform him back into a human with the help of several other witches.

My father wrapped his arms around each of them, planting kisses on their foreheads. I walked over to him and kissed his cheek.

“Thanks for being on time,” I said. I turned around and called, “Derek, Grandpa’s here.”

Derek walked out of the kitchen with our final suitcase. He put the case down on the floor and smiled at Aiden, “Hello, Grandpa.”

“Hello,” Aiden said, smiling back. “Xavier and Vivienne are waiting in the sub in the usual place.”

It had been four months since we’d last visited The Shade. Excitement bubbled up inside me at the prospect of seeing my sister and brother-in-law again.

Aiden headed straight to the submarine to drop off Ben and Rose. Then he returned to help Derek and I carry the rest of our luggage down to the harbor. It took us several shifts until we had it all moved. We’d included all our furniture in the sale of the house, but it was amazing how many personal belongings we had accumulated after having children.

Once we’d finished, we knocked on the hatch and Vivienne pushed it open. She looked radiant as she smiled down at me, happiness showing in her laughter lines, her violet-blue eyes sparkling.

Derek, Aiden and I lowered ourselves inside and fastened the hatch above us.

“I’ve missed you so much!” Vivienne gushed.

She pulled Derek and I into an embrace and kissed our cheeks. She led us into the control room at the front of the submarine and we each took a seat.

I smiled on seeing Ben and Rose already there sitting on Uncle Xavier’s lap. They loved the control room. Their eyes were filled with wonder as they fiddled around with different buttons and muttered to each other.

“Welcome to my abode.” Xavier grinned.

Derek gripped Xavier’s shoulder and ruffled his hair, while I placed a kiss on his cheek. Then Derek turned to his sister and, pointing at Xavier, asked, “Has this scoundrel been treating you right since I’ve been away?”

Vivienne grinned and placed a hand on Xavier’s shoulder. “Oh, yes. He has.”

“Good.”

Vivienne turned to the twins, “Hey, Rose. Ben. Aren’t you going to give Aunty a hug?”

They pried their eyes away from the controls. Toothy smiles spread across their faces as they looked up at Vivienne. They reached out their arms so she could pick them both up. She showered their faces with kisses and carried them out of the control room toward the back of the submarine.

“We’re all… uh… intrigued, to say the least, to hear that you’ve decided to become creatures of the night once again,” Xavier said, as he began to navigate the vessel away from the harbor.

I looked at my father. I’d discussed our plans with him already over the phone, and he’d seemed to understand my reasons for wanting to turn back. Apparently sensing my uncertainty about his true feelings, he reached out and gripped my knee, smiling.

“I think we were all surprised,” Aiden said. “But I’m sure everyone in The Shade will be glad to have their queen and king return to their full-time duties.”

Vivienne entered without the twins. When I looked up, she pointed toward the back of the sub where Rose and Ben sat on a bench munching their way through a bowl of strawberries.

“Corrine insisted on sending a snack for them for the journey,” she said, smiling.

Vivienne took a seat in the front row next to Xavier and we spent the rest of the trip answering questions about our decision.

Finally, Xavier raised a brow and looked at me and Derek.

“So… assuming Ibrahim says that it’s safe to try turning Derek back into a bloodsucker, have you decided who will turn you both?”

Derek and I exchanged glances.

“That should be obvious,” Derek said, looking back at Xavier and raising an eyebrow. “You shall have the great privilege of turning me, while Vivienne will turn Sofia.”

“Oh…” Xavier said, a look of mock disappointment crossing his face. “I think I’d have more fun turning Sofia. I’m not overly keen on the idea of biting into your thick neck.”

Vivienne elbowed Xavier in the gut and said, “No, Sofia’s mine. All mine.”

I giggled and, looking at Derek, shrugged.

“Seems nobody wants poor Mr. Derek. Maybe I’ll have to turn you myself.”

I’d meant it as a joke, but his eyes lit up. “Yes, Sofia. Why not? Why don’t you turn me? I’d much rather have you sucking at my neck than this ugly bloke,” he said, shoving Xavier in the shoulder.

***

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