I gulped and nodded.

My heart began to race as Derek stepped back and Vivienne leant down so that her face was level with mine.

As she brushed the hair away from my neck and bared her fangs, I looked up at Derek once more and locked eyes with him.

That was when it hit me what was truly bothering me about this whole situation.

“Wait!” I gasped, pushing Vivienne away just before she broke skin.

“What?” She frowned at me.

I sat up and rushed over to Derek, taking him by the hand. “I need to have a quick word with Derek first, okay? We’ll be right back.”

Derek looked just as bewildered as Vivienne as I dragged him back into the woods. I walked with him until we were out of view of the others, then stared up at him.

“I want you to turn me, Derek.”

His eyes widened.

“Huh? Why? We already agreed that you would turn me.”

Oh, God. How do I say this?

I paused and felt my cheeks blush crimson. I had to avert my eyes to the ground as I stuttered, “It’s a… fantasy I have. You turning me. Ever since the beginning.”

It was a fantasy that I’d kept hidden deep within my subconscious ever since I’d first met him. I’d always imagined that if I ever turned, he would be the one to do it. I’d never even admitted this to myself until now.

The words sounded so awkward that my face burned with embarrassment.

He reached beneath my chin and pushed it up so I was forced to face him. His intense eyes bored into me.

“What if I have a fantasy about you turning me?” he asked softly.

I couldn’t help but giggle at the seriousness of Derek’s questioning glare.

“Then you’ll be a gentleman and grant your lady her fantasy.”

He frowned at me for a moment, studying me closely. Then he nodded in defeat. “Hm.”

He wrapped an arm around my waist and led me back into the clearing.

“Change of plan, everybody,” he announced. “I’ve decided that I want to turn Sofia. So Vivienne will turn me first.”

Vivienne looked surprised, as did everybody else. But Derek didn’t leave time for questions. He walked straight over to the slab and lay down.

Vivienne looked down at him, frowning. Then she sighed and lowered herself down to her brother’s level.

My heart raced as Vivienne bared her fangs and in one sharp movement dug them into Derek’s neck. I rushed over to the other side of the stone, where I could get a clearer view of Derek. But Xavier gripped my arm and pulled me back.

“We don’t know what state he’ll be in once he’s turned. Best you keep your distance.”

I stepped back to stand with everyone else. Ashley reached for my hand and squeezed it.

“Stop worrying,” she whispered. “Derek’s a warrior. He’ll get through this.”

Her words did little to ease my nerves as Derek began to shake violently.

Vivienne would never harm her brother, but I couldn’t stop my heart palpitations as Derek’s convulsions worsened. By the time Vivienne drew away from him, wiping his blood away from her lips, he was shaking so violently that Xavier and Yuri had to grip his arms to hold him down against the slab.

And then the blood came. Derek began heaving up mouthfuls of it. Ashley’s hold around me tightened as I once again tried to run forward.

“The blood is a good sign, Sofia,” she whispered. “It means that Vivienne’s venom is working.”

I tried to breathe more calmly.

It’s a good sign. It’s a good sign. I repeated the words in my head like a prayer.

Finally, Derek stopped coughing and his body flattened on the stone. Though his hands and feet still twitched, Xavier and Yuri let go of him and stepped away. Ashley’s hold on me also loosened as I relaxed.

His eyes remained shut tight. His body now seemed too still for comfort. Before when he was shaking, at least he was giving obvious signs that he was alive. But now that he lay so deathly still…

Before Ashley could stop me, I broke away from the crowd and ran toward the slab.

Xavier and Yuri whirled around.

“No!” they shouted. “Don’t come so close. Your blood—”

Ashley grabbed me by my midriff and dragged me backward.

“Stop it, Sofia!” she hissed against my ear. “Xavier already told you we don’t know what state he’s going to be in when he wakes up.”

But it was too late.

Derek’s eyes shot open and he sat bolt upright, wiping away the blood from his face with his sleeve.

He turned his head toward my direction and his blazing eyes—now several shades brighter—settled on me.

The lion had smelt its prey.

Xavier and Yuri hurled themselves at him, but he threw them out of his way with force I’d forgotten Derek ever possessed.

Ashley and Claudia jumped forward to shield me from him, but he brushed them aside too. Grabbing hold of my waist, he flung me over his shoulder and raced into the woods.

“No!” I screamed. “Derek, stop!”

He continued moving forward with frightening speed. Only once I could no longer hear the others chasing after us did he stop beneath the foot of a tree. He lowered me to the ground and, gripping my neck between his strong hands, pushed me back against the tree. Then he placed one hand over my mouth to stifle my scream, using the other to brush the hair away from my neck, giving him clear access. His eyes gleamed with a hunger that made me believe he could suck me dry within minutes.

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