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I stared at the empty space he’d just been standing in.

I wondered if Brisalia might have put Coen up to seeking me out.

I had mentioned Kiev briefly to her.

Perhaps it had been her idea to give me a distraction.

Whatever the case, I couldn’t deny now that I was desperate to start forgetting the vampire.

Although the last thing I felt like doing was attending a party, perhaps I owed it to myself to go.

I swam back to the opposite side of the gorge and climbed out.

Drying myself with magic, I pulled on the dress and climbed back up to the bridge.

I decided to walk the distance back to the palace.

It would give me time to think about Coen’s proposal.

I wasn’t paying much attention to the streets I was walking along as I made my way back.

I was too absorbed with weighing up the pros and cons.

But as I reached a particularly elevated area of the city, I snapped out of my reverie to realize I’d arrived at the end of my family’s old road.

I shuddered as my eyes fixed on my old home.

It was just as I’d remembered it—the gently sloping roof studded with crystals, the spacious verandas, the square lawn out front with a small toad pond in the corner… It took all I had to not break down again.

I fought to steady my breathing and forced my eyes away from the sight, and onto the house opposite—Coen’s house.

I hadn’t intended to arrive here.

Hell, I didn’t feel I’d even made up my mind yet.

But it seemed that my subconscious had decided for me: I was going to the party.

Drawing in a deep breath, I walked up to the Brymers’ front door and knocked.

Coen answered it after a few seconds.

A wide grin spread across his sun-kissed face as soon as he laid eyes on me.

“That was quick,” he said.

I smiled sheepishly.

“So you’re coming?” “Yeah… I’ll come.” “I’ll pick you up from your quarters later this evening, around nine o’clock.

Which apartment are you staying in?” “I… uh…” My mind went blank.

I hadn’t even noticed a number on my front door.

“I’m not sure.

It’s on the top floor.

You could just ask someone when you arrive—” “Are you heading back there now?” he asked.

“Yes.” “Then I might as well escort you,” he said.

Before I could even object, he’d stepped out onto the porch with me and closed the door behind him.

He gestured toward the street.

“Shall we?” I followed him away from his home and we continued walking together down the road.

I looked sideways to see Coen stealing a glance at me.

His cheeks flushed slightly as our eyes met and he cleared his throat.

Coen Brymer was cute.

That much I couldn’t deny.

As we made our way along the peaceful streets back toward the palace, I couldn’t help but wonder if he might turn out to be the distraction I needed to take my mind off Kiev.

Like I’d been the distraction Kiev had needed to take his mind off Sofia.

Chapter 19: Micah

Sitting still had never been something I was good at.

I’d lost track of how much time I’d spent on the boat, waiting and hoping for someone to come and navigate it away, but now all I knew was that I’d had enough.

Since the silence and boredom of the yacht was slowly driving me insane, anything seemed better than this—even risking my life.

I managed to gather just enough patience to wait until night fell beyond the boundary of the island before I adopted my wolf form.

Leaping from the deck, I landed on the frozen jetty.

I threw myself into the nearest cluster of bushes.

Straining all my senses, I tried to detect if anyone was within two miles of me.

Unable to, I began running through the forest, sticking to the undergrowth and trying to make as few rustling noises as possible.

I hurried toward the castle perched among the mountain peaks that loomed in the distance.

On reaching the borders of the forest, I stopped.

Once again, I utilized my sharp senses to evaluate the risk of moving closer to the castle.

There were certainly a number of vampires and witches moving about within the castle, but I couldn’t detect anyone outside of it at this late hour.

However, I had to be careful not to be seen.

My dark coat stuck out like a sore thumb amidst this white snow.

For that reason, I couldn’t take to the stairs.

Instead, I left the shelter of the trees and bounded right toward the steep rocky slope leading up to the right half of the building.

As I began to climb, I didn’t really have a plan.

I just wanted to try to get some understanding of when the next batch of inhabitants would be leaving in one of the vessels.

If I knew, there might be some way I could latch on to the vessel until it passed outside the boundary and then quietly slide off into the sea… Granted, I didn’t know what I’d do once stranded in the sea, but even that was a more hopeful situation than the one I was currently in.

Fortunately, my body as a wolf was uniquely equipped for this terrain and the cold didn’t bother me.

I was agile, even on the most treacherous of ledges, and it wasn’t long before I reached the base of the castle.

I pulled myself up onto the narrow pathway that ran around the circumference of the building.

I paused and looked around, straining my ears once again to hear snippets of conversations going on within the castle that might lead to a clue about when someone would next be departing from this place.

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