My throat went dry as he removed his shirt, revealing his ripped torso.

“So, baby. What would you like to do first?”

“I… I, uh…”

He cocked his head to one side.

“Sofia Novak tongue-tied? What’s wrong?” He ripped off his jeans in one sudden movement, revealing his underwear. “Do I intimidate you?”

I swallowed hard.

He knelt down on the bed and pushed me back. Crawling over me until his face was above mine, he held my arms over my head.

What is wrong with me? I was breathless as a teenager whose first crush had just walked into the room.

I closed my eyes as his lips found the softest, most sensitive part of my neck, just beneath my ear. He ran his tongue against it, then I sensed the slightest scrape of his fangs.

I exhaled sharply.

“Do you want this, Sofia?” he whispered, reaching behind my back and unzipping my dress.

“Yes,” I breathed.

“Do you really want it?” he asked, pulling the dress over my head and unclasping my bra.

“Yes.”

Gripping the front of my bra between his teeth, he tossed it over his shoulder. Then he lowered his head to my panties and, biting through the elastic, disposed of them too.

“And you want me to do it to you?” he asked, now running his wide palms along my thighs.

“Duh,” I gasped.

The shadow of a smile crossed his lips.

I shivered as he positioned himself over my hips.

“All right,” he whispered. “If you insist.”

Chapter 1: Sofia

Twelve years later…

"Summer camp at seventeen. Are you serious, Mom?"

I stared at my daughter. Her long dark hair was tied up in a ponytail, her beautiful green eyes fixed on me.

My Rose. Princess of The Shade.

“Ben!” she called.

The door swung open and her brother came storming into the dining room.

“You’re not going to believe this,” she said, rolling her eyes in my direction. “Mom wants us to go to summer camp again this year.”

“What?”

Ben, my prince. He looked so much like his father it was uncanny. He towered above us, looking from me to Rose. As soon as he laid eyes on his sister, his expression mimicked hers. He turned on me.

“Seriously, Mom? Last year, okay, but this year? We’re way too old.”

I couldn’t help but giggle at their outrage. “Oh, I’m sorry, old man,” I said, patting his shoulder. “Are your knees playing up again?”

“Dad!” Ben called. When Derek didn’t answer, Ben went storming back out of the room in search of him.

“Hey, Mom. Can I have an early birthday present?” Rose asked, looking up at me innocently through her long dark lashes.

“What?”

“Don’t send me to summer camp,” she deadpanned.

“You two!” I said. “It’s not the same one you went to last time. It’s not even called a summer camp. It’s a survival training course. It’ll be heaps of fun. It’s on a little island off the coast of Scotland. Look, here’s the brochure. As you can see on the first page, this is for ages seventeen to twenty-five, so you’ll be the youngest ones there. Granddad’s already booked it and—”

“Oh, so it’s old enough for both of my parents to go. That’s great,” Rose said, eyeing the brochure. “How about you two go instead of us?”

“Watch it,” Derek said, as he entered the room with Ben. He was still dressed in his pajamas and was carrying a book under his arm. “The two of you aren’t going to make it to seventeen if you’re not careful.” Derek bared his fangs at Rose. “You’ll forever be almost-seventeen-year-old vampires.” He caught hold of Ben and nuzzled him.

Ben ducked out of Derek’s grip and walked over to his sister, standing at the opposite side of the table from us. “Did you agree to this?” Ben stared at his father accusingly.

“Oh, yes,” Derek said. “In fact, I was the one who suggested it.”

They both groaned.

“Why do you want us to go so much?” Rose asked.

“We’ve been through this before, sweetheart.” I sighed. “This is going to be your last year of having the opportunity to go outside and be normal. You keep saying you want to turn into vampires. Well, this is the price we’re making you pay, because you’ll thank us for it five hundred years from now. You’ll think back on this time fondly.”

“Five hundred years stuck with you two,” Ben muttered under his breath. “Maybe I’ll stay a human.”

“You’ve been begging us to turn you since you were eight years old,” I reminded him.

He fell silent.

“Now,” I said. “You’re leaving the day after your birthday. That’s in three days’ time. So I suggest you start packing now. Look at this list of stuff to take and let me know if there’s anything we don’t have.”

With that, I caught Derek’s hand and we left the room.

“They complain every year,” I said to him. “But when they come back they’ve had the time of their lives. Teenagers. They have to find something to complain about or their day isn’t complete.” I kissed Derek’s cheek and said, “I’m going to see Corrine.”

“All right, baby,” he said, retreating into his study.

***

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