I left the penthouse and made my way toward the Sanctuary. I knocked on the door. Ibrahim answered, holding a mug of some type of exotic-smelling spiced tea in his hand.

“Hi, Ibrahim.”

“Hello, Sofia. How can I help?”

“I’m here for Corrine. Is she in?”

“No, she’s at the school.”

I thanked him and walked back through the woods until I reached The Shade’s bustling town center—the Vale. The school was in a large white building in the middle of the main square. I entered and walked through the corridors, scanning each classroom as I went. I stopped suddenly as I caught sight of my father—now a vampire—leaning against a desk in one of the classrooms. He was talking to Adelle, the headmistress of the school. She was a tall, striking auburn-haired witch who looked as though she was in her mid-thirties.

She’d arrived on the island seventeen years ago, along with Ibrahim and a group of other witches who’d abandoned The Sanctuary in favor of living with us. We were indebted to these witches in so many ways. We could not have rebuilt The Shade into what it was today without them. Before they arrived, thanks to The Elders and their children, our island had been a complete wreck. Now, the island was better and more beautiful than ever before.

“Oh, hi, Sofia,” Aiden said, noticing me by the door.

It was still bizarre to see him as a vampire. He had finally caved in about a year after Derek and I had become vampires. He’d detested himself at first, but over the years he’d grown used to it. Recently I’d noticed him having some particularly long conversations with Adelle. I hadn’t dared ask him about their friendship yet, but I couldn’t miss the attraction that sparked in his eyes every time he laid eyes on her. It warmed my heart that he might finally be opening up to another woman. And this time, to a woman who deserved him.

“Hi, Dad,” I said. “Don’t mind me.”

I smiled to myself as I left them in privacy. I continued walking along the corridors in hopes of spotting Corrine. That was when I saw Abby. She was sitting behind a desk in a small office, shuffling papers and making notes.

She looked up as soon as I entered. Abigail Hudson was now a beautiful young woman, her long blonde hair wrapped in a neat bun above her head, her light blue eyes gazing at me. Her resemblance to her brother was so striking I often found myself needing to take a few moments aside after speaking to her, as tears threatened to spill down my cheeks.

Years ago, we’d turned her back into a human so she could grow up. She’d remained as one until she reached eighteen, and then she’d wanted to turn back into a vampire. I’d turned her myself. Now she worked here alongside the witches as a school teacher, and she clearly adored every moment of it.

“Hi, Sofia,” she said, grinning. “How can I help?”

“Do you know where Corrine is?” I asked. “Ibrahim said she was here in the school somewhere.”

“She’s with Anna in the dining hall.”

“Thanks, Abby.”

I turned and left the room. Arriving in the dining hall—a large high-ceilinged room with long wooden tables running the length of it—I saw Corrine sitting with Anna in the far corner.

They appeared deep in conversation, so I waited by the door, but my acute sense of hearing couldn’t help but pick up on their conversation.

“I think we’ll only need one more round of blood,” Corrine said. “After that, I’m sure we have enough to recreate more samples from what you’ve given us over the years. We’ve stored it all carefully.”

Of course. Corrine had mentioned to me that she’d be having this conversation with Anna. Since Anna was now the only immune that we had on this island, her blood was immensely valuable.

She’d given us generous amounts of her blood so that we could store it and use it for any vampires who wanted to turn back into humans. Over the years, the witches had managed to develop a way to duplicate her blood and mix it with animal blood that would have the same effect when consumed by a vampire. Had they not done this, too much of Anna’s blood would have been needed to ensure that we would never run out. The witches stored the samples securely in three separate parts of the island—that way even if disaster happened, it was unlikely that we’d lose everything. Vampires would continue to have the option to turn back into humans, even after Anna died.

Anna’s straight black hair flowed down her shoulders, her eyes on Corrine. When she wasn’t giving blood or spending time with her family, she assisted in the island’s pre-school. She was well into her thirties now, and a large bump protruded from her stomach. This would be her third child with Kyle.

It was strange to think that I would be her age now had I not asked Derek to turn me. My heart ached as I looked at her. I owed her more than I could ever repay. Yet I felt powerless to hold on to her.

Since Anna was immune to the vampire curse, there was no way she could ever become one of us. Immortal. The only way we knew to cure an immune of their immunity was to take them to Cruor—as I had been kidnapped there. That was a fate worse than death, and it wasn’t even possible, since the gates to that realm had been closed for almost two decades.

We all had to accept the fact that she would pass away. It was for that reason that Kyle hadn’t changed himself back into a vampire. He couldn’t stand the idea of living on without her, so he’d decided that he would pass away naturally with her when nature took them both.

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