I looked at Derek nervously.

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. I’m serious,” he said, staring back. “Vivienne will turn you, and then you’ll turn me.”

My stomach writhed.

“Why doesn’t Vivienne just turn you after me?”

He looked at Vivienne, then back to me. “I just think that it would be more interesting if you turned me.” He raised a brow at me, a small smile curling his lips.

“Actually, what if you can’t be turned? You need to go first, because if you don’t turn, then I can’t turn.”

“Well, let’s see what Ibrahim says,” he replied. “If he says I can be turned, then we’ll take his word for it.”

“But, Derek,” I spluttered. “I’ve never turned anybody before. What if I do something wrong?”

He stared at me for a moment, considering the possibility.

“Well, Xavier and Vivienne will be there to guide you… and haul you off of me if necessary.”

Barely had the hatch of the submarine opened when cheers erupted. I picked up Rose, while Derek carried Ben, and we all climbed out of the submarine.

A small crowd was standing by the port to welcome us. Tears welled in my eyes as I looked around at the familiar faces.

I had to quickly hand Rose over to my father as Shadow was the first to reach us. His tongue wagging, he jumped up at me to lick me, almost knocking me over in the process. He had broken free from Eli, who now came hurrying over with a wide grin on his face.

“I hear you’ve decided to come back over to the dark side again, Sofia.” Claudia smirked and winked at me. “Welcome.”

Zinnia bared her fangs at me and chuckled. Gavin gave me a friendly punch on the shoulder. “Good to have you back, girl.”

“Rose!”

Griffin, their four-year-old son, stepped out from behind Gavin. His curly red hair reminded me so much of his father, while his hazelnut brown eyes were decidedly his mother’s. He made a dash for Rose and wrapped his arms around her, placing a kiss on her cheek. I smiled as Rose blushed.

“Hello Griffin,” she mumbled.

Griffin had been a surprise for Zinnia and Gavin. He’d been conceived while they were travelling and helping Aiden disband the worldwide organization of hunters. Only recently had the couple decided to turn into vampires, once they’d deemed their little human boy old enough to handle the shock of mom and dad sprouting fangs.

It saddened me to think of two vampires who would not be waiting to greet us: Liana and Cameron. Even though it had been years, we still missed their company. They had taken the cure to become humans and left the island. Their children and grandchildren had passed away, but they’d had a burning desire to search out any family living today. They’d told us they would likely return to The Shade after a few years, but we were still waiting for them.

Once we’d finished greeting everyone who’d been waiting at the Port, Derek and I took the twins’ hands and led them toward the forest. But as we were about to enter the woods, something stirred in the trees. A small vampire walked out. Abby.

She looked at me and smiled faintly. Something about her was off.

“Abby!” I said.

She came to us and I put my arms around her, hugging her close. I pulled her away so I could examine her face more closely.

“What’s wrong?” I asked quietly.

A tear rolled down Abby’s cheek and her lip trembled.

“I want to turn back into a human, Sofia,” she said. “I want to grow up.”

I breathed in deeply. I felt the pain in her voice. I’d actually been expecting this day to come sooner. She should be reaching her adolescent years by now, yet she was still trapped in the body of a child.

“We’ll do it, Abby. I promise. We’ll turn you back into a human before this month is over.”

I placed a kiss on her head and she smiled more fully, reassured by my promise. She kissed my cheek and drew away from me, allowing me to continue forward with Derek, Vivienne, Xavier and the twins.

“Sofia! Derek!”

I turned around yet again. Anna walked toward us, her long black hair flowing down her back as she carried her and Kyle’s one-year-old daughter, Ariana, in her arms. Kyle followed closely behind her. I kissed them all and while Anna stayed to talk with me, Kyle walked over to Derek, who started talking animatedly with him.

Ariana reminded me of Rose when she was younger. She was a beautiful child and had similar features–green eyes and dark hair.

“Anna!” Ben shouted. He left Derek’s side and wandered over to us.

Anna beamed and bent down to cuddle him. It warmed my heart to see the special bond the two of them had, and I felt an eternal sense of gratitude. If it wasn’t for Anna’s initiative to take care of Ben when he was still a newborn trapped in Aviary, I doubted I ever would have seen him again.

Rose also skipped over and tugged on Anna’s sleeve.

“Hey Anna and Ariana,” she said, smiling sweetly.

“Hey beautiful.” Anna kissed Rose’s cheeks.

“Sofia,” Anna said, after she’d finished greeting the twins. “Ian left.”

I stared at her. “Already?”

She nodded. “He finally proposed to Katrine about a month ago, and they decided it was time to leave the island and start their new life outside. He was sorry you weren’t here to say goodbye.”

I smiled. Ian and Katrine—one of the human girls who used to live a few doors along from him in the Catacombs—had started seeing each other three years ago.

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